Date: 13th May 2022
This Week’s Sting
Congratulations to Celtic and Good Luck to Rangers
1. “Colossally Bad Decisions”
My thanks to Graham Spiers of the Times for the heading.
His actual words were, “A colossally bad decision by a residue of the old guard” referring to the decision by the Scottish Football Writers annual awards organisers to employ Mr Copeland as the key after dinner speaker last week. (Graham didn’t furnish the names but should have).
“Time for a Teaching” or Two and Our Heartfelt Thank You to Eilidh
Ange Postecoglou said its time to move on and in the days since the ‘entertainment’ I read with interest that out of 95 full time sports writers in Scotland there are only around 3 quinies.
I suppose that is historical, but that hard fact did surprise me.
Every year clubs and guests convene to hear who our august band of football writers have voted to honour.
I heartily agree with Ange Postecoglou’s wisdom about moving forward.
It is time for both teachings and learnings.
Time to change the early date, the delivery and most important the style of their gongs.
Let’s start with the easy one first.
The Essence of Comedy is Timing
Last year’s manager of the year went to Steve Gerrard for stopping 10 in a row.
Fair enough at the time because the ‘boy done good’.
But then along came Callum Davidson delivering an unprecedented 2 cups to a wee club on a sliver of the Ibrox resources.
He wasn’t recognised by the SFWA and got Zilch.
Even though most would agree that ‘the Callum boy, on balance, done better’.
His problem was the second cup final was after the SWFA awards vote and dinner and somehow classed by our writers as ‘out of season’.
There was no retrospective move to award a special recognition and there should have been.
At the very least he should have been upgraded to ‘joint manager of the year’ or else given a ‘one-off’ award.
I don’t know why that didn’t happen.
Actually, I do.
Maybe not enough St Johnstone fans buy newspapers.
Maybe they are low down Editor’s lists of key target audiences.
The Saints certainly don’t get the two or three pages allocation, every day, or airtime that the two big clubs are given.
Self-perpetuation of the traditional dominance and all that.
A confirmation of a friendly, mutually entwined, and often complicit fourth estate relying on inside help and cooperation from their allocated clubs.
And an endless raft of spurious constant click-bait for the masses.
Insight, less so.
And advocates of change for the better, sadly, not very often.
May 8 Awards Day Season 2021 – 2022
This year awards were dispensed again ahead of some big outcomes.
By the end of this season, we could have a Europa League winner and I hope we do
And if Rangers win the cup in Seville, then I’d say Gio is deserving of an update and a gong.
And don’t forget Dick and his Arbroath magic were another unknown outcome at the ‘not quite the end of season’ awards.
How stupid is it that the ‘dinner date’ is driving the SFWA awards rather than the season.
That has been shown to be a nonsense for the last two years because the veracity of the awards is more important than the timing and the succulent-lamb or chicken dinner.
But timing is a relatively easy fix and to over 6000 fans in Ayrshire, “Houston we now know we have a bigger problem”.
There are deeper issues to address, and we have Eilidh Barbour and some others to thank for some ballsy walk-outs, tweets, and insights since.
Even wee Nicola praised Eilidh and her pals in Holyrood saying, “Sexism and misogyny still runs far too deep in our society”.
Those words stung and I hope she supports and helps change and changes because without political power the evolution will continue at snail’s pace.
John McLellan, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society was prompted to say, “it is not in the interest of publishers to perpetuate negative cultures”.
I believe John thinks that, but I’m not sure it is true, because in a scarily declining newsprint market commercial self-interest trumps doing the right thing.
In the meantime it is apology o’clock in some quarters and the SFWA came out with “apologies to anyone offended or upset”, and pledges future change.
There was also support and backing for the industry from some insiders.
Alison McConnell, an SFWA committee member, said “I think there is a danger conflating one after dinner speaker with a culture of misogyny within Scottish football writing.
And the Scotsman’s Moira Gordon spoke up for the lads saying, “Most are decent guys, some have been wonderful mentors, to me and other female sports writers over the years and many are friends who do not deserve to be portrayed as sexist dinosaurs”.
Moira didn’t actually say how many of her ‘supportive’ pals present actually walked out.
I don’t think many.
And I’ll give the last quotes to Women in Journalism Scotland, WJS.
“Dark corners where outdated attitudes that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere are still condoned and an intimidating atmosphere in the football press-box and more.
Sexist abuse, pay disparity, macho culture, male dominated meetings and management structures, lack of flexibility, and barriers to a career path are all reasons cited by our members as deterrents to sports journalism”.
Parallel Lines on the 6th Floor
Not a reference to Blondie’s best-selling album but a wee nudge to Rod Petrie’s SFA behemoth whose own fairly recent decisions suggest they can be equally out of touch and need to revisit and review.
I refer to their bizarre conclusion that David Goodwillie was not ‘bringing our game into disrepute’ after the Lord Armstrong civil case, the appeal to 4 judges and the fact that the victim hasn’t ever been paid.
An SFA decision maybe redolent of where football used to be, but out of touch with its future.
Learnings for Our Game
Looking back with clear hindsight, ‘stuff’ was deemed acceptable by the men in power in their smoke filled rooms.
It wasn’t the right thing in the past, and certainly isn’t now.
And whoever organised the SFWA’s after dinner speaker, Bill Copeland, got the wrong man, gave the wrong briefing, and did nothing while it all unfolded.
He probably didn’t even clock that it was deeply inappropriate.
The guest speaker’s jokes about Celtic’s Japanese players eyes, and his opinions about women from Paisley and sexual diseases were more redolent of the game and society that barred Rose Reilly from playing football than Scotland and Scottish football in 2022.
Women’s football and women in football are good for the game and are here to stay.
The changes they bring us are for the good.
In fact the female pound and everything else that comes with this relatively new football dynamic is the most important financial opportunity that our clubs need to capitalise on.
And with the discretionary spend of most traditional fans falling off a cliff our game needs more women and girls.
We Can Make This an Iwo Jima Moment
A rallying point for Scottish football to clean up its act.
We need to move further.
Stuff like: –
Why are ‘fans’ allowed to shout things in our grounds that would lead to prosecution if said in our streets?
Why are some of our football songs not just inappropriate to a family game but downright racist?
Why is nobody in positions of power doing anything other than just hoping it will just all go away on its own?
Thanks, Eilidh, for starting off what I hope is a snowball.
One we can all get behind.
2. Los Problemas Logisticas y Mas, Mucho Mas
Dateline Seville Wednesday 18th at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, the smallest of three stadia in the city.
A small city that has no real idea what is about to happen.
Already a Rangers delegation has been there, and it was no jolly in the sun.
I hope their input is given the time of day.
But worryingly mumblings abound of Seville organisers being unprepared, and naïve.
A beautiful city about to welcome two armies, one blue, one white, both big and both with ‘previous’.
Are there enough facilities, enough well briefed and good-natured stewards, enough polis?
Is there a proper plan?
Have the clubs been interacting with their 100,000 plus per team expected there?
We all hope for the best but deep down I hope the contingency planning has covered the worst too.
And there will be one massive army celebrating while one equally massive army is beered-up and belligerent.
Stewart Robertson, the Rangers CEO is said to be worried.
He must have read last week’s Sting and has now asked fans to be ‘ambassadors’ in a beautiful city.
“Respect the locals. We want to leave a positive impression of Rangers. We need to enjoy the occasion in a beautiful city in the right way and manner. Beyond the money it is about our profile and will help us strengthen the team, a fantastic boost to our club’s finances”.
The Good News.
Rangers fans there without tickets will be able to congregate together and watch the match at the 60,000 Estadio La Cartuja some 5 miles from the actual game.
60,000 may not be enough.
And Rangers fan group, Club 1872, have in the meantime asked for the game to be shown at Ibrox, something Robertson has knocked back.
Sounded like a good idea to me, Stewart.
3. “Shaking Hands with the Devil”
A quote from Sir Alex about football’s increasingly difficult relationship with money.
Our two biggest clubs are on the cusp of revenues that will increase the gap between them and everyone else, exponentially.
£30 – £40 Million plus, each.
It won’t make them as big as Bournemouth or Brentford with their incredible Premier League TV incomes, but it propels them away from Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, St Johnstone, Inverness and Arbroath.
Is it good for them?
Yes because they want to compete in Europe and the revenues from our domestic game don’t facilitate that.
Is it good for our game?
I’d say no.
Yes, some money will eventually percolate down in transfer fees but the reality is Scottish football is already dominated to an unhealthy degree by the financial power of our biggest clubs.
A duopoly that cannot be challenged on the pitch.
All other fans are being asked to buy season books to be also-rans with 3rd the best their club can deliver.
We are not unique.
Across Europe leagues are dominated by the big guys with their ever increasing Uefa and Big 5 tv monies.
Our kids are being lost and wearing Barca, Real, and Liverpool strips because that is their real team and their Scottish support is just to keep their grandparents happy.
It is a busted flush and not good for the game.
We can’t change Uefa because they are just ‘pipers to the tunes’ called by the big 5 countries and their clubs.
But we can do something about money at the bottom end and the politics of grass roots football.
Football should be free for all kids.
Here is a horror story from Cradlehall just outside Inverness this week but it could be any Scottish community.
Highland Council Impose £6,000 charge on Primary School Team
The school doesn’t have its own facilities unlike many schools and uses nearby Millburn Academy pitches and gyms.
In its ‘wisdom’ Highland Council now want, no, demand £6000 for usage by Cradlehall boys and girls from primary 2 – 7 for usage that used to be free.
Matt Smith the volunteer chairman of Cradlehall Primary FC thinks he will have to raise the per child subscription up from the current £30 per child.
“We have no idea how it will work out. Parents are supportive but increasing subscriptions will prevent children playing”.
This is political.
£30 per child is wrong.
More is obscene.
And how can kids at some schools use community owned facilities for free while others are getting hammered?
Football (and other exercise sports) should be free for all kids in Scotland.
4. Ukraine 2 Borussia Monchengladbach 1
On Wednesday Ukraine played their first game since November with a team made up of players just from their domestic league and won in front of 20,000 flag waving fans.
Next week they travel to Italy to play Empoli.
They will be ready for Hampden.
5. When Two’s Company but Three’s a Crowd
The Lowland League Board now don’t know what to do with the surfeit of Colts sides wanting to pay them money for the privilege of ‘enhancing’ the highest level SFA-controlled league which feeds into our SPFL-controlled league system.
None of the three Colts aspirants actually play their games at their club’s own stadia and all lodge elsewhere.
I have been told the planned grounds will make the LL decision easier.
Hearts Colts are proposing to play at boggy Rosewell, the home of Whitehill Welfare and it doesn’t winter well.
Two things are Wrong About This (And neither is the choice of ground)
The concept of ‘guest’ clubs in an SFA league that is part of a pyramidical structure.
Everything about it is wrong and no wonder every club in the West, East and South feeder leagues to the LL is disillusioned and angry.
If there is room for ‘guest’ clubs then there should be room for a bigger Lowland League and proper promotion and relegation.
The pyramid below the SPFL has never been thought through by the SFA and a review is overdue because the arrival of the Junior clubs has changed the population dynamics of Scottish lower-level Senior Football.
The current Highland/Lowland split means over 75% of the Scottish population is in the Lowland catchment.
Here is a suggestion and it is the kind of thing the Lowland League Board should spend time on, rather than pee-heeing and doing favours for their pals in big clubs.
i) Have 4 Equal Feeder leagues to the SPFL based on population and split Highland, East, West and Southern.
Less travel too, so greener.
ii) Have a season ending round-robin between the champions of the 4 leagues with the winner automatically promoted and the runners up in a play-off spot.
iii) Tell the big three clubs and others to solve their elite talent system creatively and long term. It might be starting at the bottom of the pyramid with colts allowed all the way up to the Championship, might be a reserve league, or might even be something more profound.
iv) Force the SPFL to look at bigger leagues above and a proper open pyramid and when they say no, which they will, make it political because fans are the real stakeholders.
v) Ensure all senior clubs are properly and deeply integrated into their communities to further scale up the political pressure.
6. Uefa Nonsense and Doublespeak
Let me start this with a bizarre Uefa quote.
“There is as much likelihood of 7 clubs from one country playing in the same Champions League as a “meteorite hitting this room”.
(Thoughts of Mexican dinosaur conversations before the meteorite hit Yucatan come to mind).
Anyway In their wisdom and partly to stymie last year’s breakaway ‘Super League’, Uefa have decided to change the Champions League format.
They have dropped the idea for club coefficient backdoors and instead the current 32 clubs will become 36, in a single 36 club league, with starting positions based on club rankings.
Clubs will then play a complicated set of 8 matches against opponents of different rankings.
Somehow this will lead to 16 clubs at the top then entering a knock out after Christmas.
Big countries like England will have 5 clubs with wee countries having none.
And if a big country has 5 qualifiers and also winners of the previous Europa League and Conference then they can have 7 in the same tournament in the same year.
Tell that to Iceland and others like them.
The PR bull from Uefa when asked about the small countries said, “This confirms Uefa’s strong commitment to the principle of open competition and sporting merit while recognising the need to protect domestic leagues”.
Here is a question for Sandy Ceferin and his lackeys.
“If you can handle a league based on rankings then why not start with the champions of every Uefa nation as part of it and the first names on the list”?
Then it really is a CHAMPIONS League.
Finally, as always, feedback and opinions welcome.
And thanks for the bottles of Barca Vella Red that were sent.
One from Jose and one was from an anonymous source.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.