Date: 12th November 2021
This Week’s Sting
1. Job More Than Done
The records will show we won 2-0 but Scotland didn’t just do the job.
We did it well and are in the play offs.
Tough play offs but we’re there.
The odds are still against us but the Kieran Tierney tackle after the penalty save shows just how much the team is gelling.
And a great goal from Patterson the young full back.
We’ll see how far we’ve really progressed on Monday night at a sold out Hampden.
2. Mark and Alex Calling it Wrong
In the fall out from Steve G’s ‘Shock’ move to Birmingham I heard today a quote from Mark Hateley about what he thinks was the real reason behind the decision and also a radio interview with Alex McLeish on the same subject.
Both gave answers to variants of the why question being asked in the Scottish media.
Basically – Why leave what many up here see as a bigger club?
I think most Rangers fans genuinely think and believe that.
Alex McLeish, who has by coincidence managed both clubs, said in a radio interview today that Villa were big, but Rangers were in his view bigger.
Mark Hateley was making more of a political point when he said, ‘Steven Gerrard moved to Villa because his ambitions had outgrown the ambitions of the Ibrox board’.
Nothing could be further from the truth, Mark.
After last week’s financials you can say many critical things about the board of a business which has collectively spent more than £100M more than they have generated over just 9 years.
But criticising them for lack of ambition wouldn’t be one of them.
I do however understand what Alex and Mark were trying to say but in my mind they both got it wrong.
Both views do encapsulate the real issues facing our game and got me thinking.
The Reality is ‘We’ve Been Left Behind’
And no amount of ambition by any board in Glasgow or anywhere else could have changed anything.
Scotland is not the only nation being left ahent.
Some other football nations maybe don’t even realise it yet and living in the same historic bubble view of the world as many of us up here.
It is a harsh reality but it is real.
As I write there is a bidding war by US networks for the rights to show English Premier League matches.
It looks like the deal will bring in $1.5Billion, from the USA.
It is a 6 year deal and an increase of circa 50% over the previous amount.
(As a wee aside last week the Premier League also struck a side-deal for $680K with Apple .It allows Apple to use Premier League footage, logos, and other images in the successful Apple TV series ‘Ted Lasso’).
Not bad for positive publicity that also works to promote the Premier League to audiences all over the world!
Right now, foreign Premier League rights bring in $1.7 Billion per annum.
Domestic rights are about the same.
Big, Big bucks that get shared out to the clubs.
Big bucks, way beyond anything that those ‘selling’ our product, or our clubs can even dream about.
Bigger than anything Deloittes can or will deliver to Ron Gordon.
A frustratingly different neighbour when you compare their monies and our Brochan Lom.
The Premier League is a money making machine and English football is hot all over the world.
Hotter than any other league and leaving everyone else failing, flailing, and trailing.
Somehow England has become the centre of the new ‘World-Soccer-World’.
It is an increasingly international league.
A showcase for the best talent, players and managers, in the world and that will continue.
A league that can beam to the Far East viewers late at night and at the same time entertain the USA and Latin America early on Weekend mornings.
Football, the product, delivers something most other televised programmes can’t.
It offers broadcasters good old-fashioned ‘appointment tv’ that attracts advertisers and their dollars.
It’s easy to see why TV companies want a world league.
We all saw the American-constructed and driven European Super League idea earlier this summer when the Big 6 from England threw their hats in.
It didn’t fly but the opportunity is still there.
It was right in front of their eyes all the time.
The old English ‘First Division’ has evolved and will slide effortlessly into position as first the ESL and then the WSL.
That is the draw for our managers and players.
Scotland and our big clubs got left behind years ago even if we collectively don’t or don’t want to admit it.
And, when you think about it, other countries who currently categorise themselves as “Big” may find the momentum behind the English Premier league is unstoppable.
Everyone wants a seat at the Premier League table.
Hence the Saudis buying Newcastle and the Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky paying £150M plus for only 27% of West Ham this week.
He also owns Sparta Prague.
So, back to Stevie G and his team and their decision.
They are now part of the most successful league in the world.
A ruthless money-driven machine.
A league where after just 11 games 25% of managers have already been sacked.
Not because they are bad managers but because no club can afford to be relegated and blind panic is only 2 bad results away.
But it is the only league to be in and all the top ‘managers’ now being touted for Steve’s Govan job would be there too if they could just find a way.
If they come north of Hadrian’s Wall it is because it might be a springboard despite what the Scottish red tops tell us.
Ces’t la vie.
Rangers are a big club.
But in crazy new world spinning out of the Premier League media kerching-ings, so are Brighton and Brentford.
And the world and the football world order has changed forever.
3. Carbon Neutrality is Everyone’s Business
We were invited to take part in a televised panel last Monday at Cop 26 with Football for Future and ‘After the Pandemic’.
We come on just after 29 minutes.
The show was chaired by Wolfgang Blau and the panel had big hitters including Chris Gaunt from Hibs, the greenest club in Scotland in more ways than one.
Iain McMenemy Stenhousemuir Chairman also spoke and spoke well and wisely.
He told the audience among other things of his clubs plans to utilise their pitch as a heat pump.
He spoke about how it is the right thing to do, how it can work for them, but also how there was no external help or guidance along the way.
We congratulated the SFA and the SPFL last week for signing the UN Pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040 and to cut emissions from energy, water and waste by 10% by the end of this season.
But words are easy.
The big test is always what happens to deliver the good intentions.
We Are All In It Together
Yes Cop 26 is probably more in our minds than Cops 1 – 25 ever were because it’s in Glasgow.
But I believe we have all come to see the madness of much of what we do to our planet.
Most of us can see past the politicians’ bluster and even though many of the pledges will be hollow, change will come.
From the grass roots and louder and louder till the leaders have nowhere else to go.
Football will have to address issues and change too.
It’s Time to Share Knowledge
Clubs need help and guidance about what the best paths to take and practices to adopt.
The SFA and SPFL have to play a leading role in setting out guidelines and sharing know how.
As of now we are starting with a blank canvas.
I do know that in the past they have not welcomed an approach to share information and expertise on matters affecting and impacting on the sustainability of the game.
Now I hope like they like many others have been deeply moved by the last two weeks and will be more amenable to accepting the help they need.
One starting point that I know is that Iain McMenemy will pursue is to set up a process and facility where clubs can pass on and share knowledge.
Climate change is non-competitive.
4. Rod’s River Tay Disaster?
The Tay the Tay, the silvery Tay, it flows frae Perth to Dundee awday.
It’s the first time I’ve had a William Topaz McGonagall type rhyme in this blog but it is a fitting partner to some news from the 6th floor at Hampden that needs a proper debate and a wholistic review.
I’ve been told by a wee mouse that the plan is that the River Tay will no longer be the division between the Highland League and Lowland League if and when teams drop out of the SPFL Division 2.
You may recall Brechin City wanted to join the Lowland League earlier this summer after losing their play- off to Kelty Hearts.
I’ve also been told this is a Rod Petrie initiative, he of the very secret and as yet uncharted, unavailable and unpublished 5 way agreement back in 2012.
Basically, Rod’s cunning new plan is that clubs will be able to decide themselves whether to play in the Highlands or the Lowlands.
Given the fact that most players in SPFL 2 come from the central belt the view is that clubs like Brechin would always choose the Lowland League.
This in turn will cause increasing mayhem in trying to balance the clubs at the bottom end and those in leagues feeding into that league.
Here is a for instance.
Just say this season Fraserburgh win the Highland League, defeat Bonnyrigg and then Cowdenbeath, and have one season in the SPFL but get relegated first time.
They could then choose to play in the Lowland League instead of going back to the Highland League.
Yes, that would be daft.
But as Cop 26 comes to an end and sustainability of the planet in everyone’s mind would Mr Petrie’s time not be better used in framing a genuinely regional structure for our game below the national top division(s)?
In the meantime, I’ve written a wee poem for Mr P with apologies to W.T. McG late of Dundee, North of Tay.
‘The boundary has long been the silvery Tay
It made sense to many to have it that way
But President Rod has promised a friend
Thus, the silvery barrier will come to an end’
5. Textbook Nonsense
The Cop 26 meeting I spoke at was at Strathclyde University and afterwards I was talking with some students about the current Scottish Unis leagues.
The good news is student football is booming especially the girls’ game.
It is also great football to watch, and I wonder why it has never been televised.
It would work.
Anyway one of the students told me a story told by one of their friends who plays for one of the Edinburgh Uni sides.
It seems that an exceptional crop of top youngsters arrived there, out of the blue, at Freshers trials in early September.
Boys who had played at a higher level before coming to Uni.
Really good players.
They had ‘signed on’ along the way so were in some system, somewhere, I think one is a Skandi, but to use a Connolyism that matters not a jot.
It seems that under Uefa rules, followed meticulously by the SFA, that these kids are allowed to only play in amateur leagues under the Scottish Amateur league forms but not in the Lowland League where their team is a member.
Something to do with them not being signed by the end of August, before they even came to their prospective new club.
And the next window doesn’t open till January.
So Scottish Football which is always looking for talent is effectively banning promising good kids for half a season.
Yes, there have to be rules but there also has to be sense and this is a nonsense.
6. November Sunshine
Some things just make you smile.
After all the talk about the business of football and its total domination of self-interested money it is great to see that football really can a power for good.
The Tartan Army Sunshine Appeal (Tasa) simply finds and funds a project in every country where our national team play a fixture.
Today £3000 is going to help Moldovans buy a farm north of the capital city where poor and disabled children and children with Down’s syndrome can engage with the animals.
Tasa started as a good idea discussed over a beer or two in Sarajevo, in 1999 and made its first donation in Lithuania 4 years later.
Since then every trip has seen project-focussed donations up to £5000 including £3000 last month in the Faroes for disabled access to a kids playground.
And it is all done with style.
Throw in a piper or two, some kilted foot-soldiers and Tasa makes us all proud to be Scots.
Well done guys.
Finally, as they say in Laphroaig country, ‘Opinions Welcome’.
And bottles of Laphroaig too.
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