Date: 14th May 2021
Some big stories in our game this week.
First we discuss the Lowland League’s ‘indicative vote’ to give a financially-greased leg-up to Celtic and Rangers Colts sides from nowhere into the level 5 league.
Straight in, juping the queue ahead of hundreds of aspiring clubs committed to and playing by the rules as set out by their associations.
Then we’ll look at the Government listening to the eleventh hour special request from the SFA for Fans to be at next week’s final and then allowing just 100 extra in what looks like a dismissive put- down, before today’s Glasgow announcement means no fans at the final.
What does this bode for the Euros and the 12,000 spectators agreement already in place and underwritten by somebody as yet unknown?
Then congratulations to Steven Gerrard for a wonderful season but is there a last minute challenger or two?
1. No Juping the Queue.
Where we are.
The Lowland League approached Celtic and Rangers a few weeks back, offered their colts teams a place in the league and then earlier this week asked their members to ratify this in an indicative vote.
The two Glasgow clubs will pay £25,000 each for entry and this will be shared, we believe, just amongst the Lowland League members, 16 or 17 clubs depending on whether Vale of Leithen get relegated and also the fate of Kelty in the hard-won play offs that we all supported.
So around £3K per club if they decide the spoils are for just their clubs.
Welcome enough in a pandemic-influenced and challenged world but not enough to change anyone’s business plan.
At this moment there are also 179 clubs in the pyramid below the Lowland League.
Most are upwardly aspirant.
Many are strong community clubs who have invested heavily in their infrastructures to facilitate licensing and progression.
Most if not all are not in favour of the colts being parachuted into this league above them.
Fans will never agree 100% about anything but most fans are also overwhelmingly against this move.
If the Lowland League decided their negotiated £50K entry money was to be allocated and equally shared each club in the Lowland League and their feeders each would get circa £250.
Enough for a few footballs or a strip for a kid’s side.
It is important to say that the feeder clubs were given no part in the LL’s indicative vote or the debate.
The driver behind this move seems to be the Lowland League Chairman, George Fraser also Chairman of BSC Glasgow a club from Broomhill, Glasgow who currently play at Recreation Park Alloa (while looking for a ground in Glasgow).
Kenny Moyes, sports agent and brother of West Ham’s manager and ex Celtic player David is listed as ‘Club Advisor’.
The LL Indicative Vote
11 clubs were in favour, 1 abstention and 5 were against.
The actual votes were not publicised but why would they need to be, it’s Scottish football and most people now know who voted which way).
A formal and binding vote is now planned for the Lowland League AGM in late May.
It’s a mess.
Go online, visit some of the pyramid clubs sites or just Google and read what is being said.
“The expansion of the pyramid provided a structured route through the tiers for clubs to aspire to. Why are they ditching that now for the old firm youngsters?”.
“This proposal on a smaller scale is like the European Super League plan where clubs are welcomed into the league with no prospect of promotion and no threat of relegation”.
“How can two guest sides fit in a competitive league?”
One Lowland League club board that I won’t name took the decision to vote for the proposal without speaking to its shareholders or fans and then made these points afterwards to explain/justify its decision.
“Much of what has been said in the media has been factually incorrect causing unnecessary confusion.
This one-year pilot has no commitment beyond that and doesn’t impact on the pyramid below because the feeder leagues were null and voided meaning no one could be promoted.
The feeder leagues were told all this and chose not to use points per game.
The B teams are not ‘full members’ and their league positions will be discarded at the end of the season. This would not be the same had Broxburn or Tranent been invited to join the Lowland League instead of Celtic and Rangers.
Also if Brechin win the play-off then Vale of Leithen can still be relegated.
This idea freshens up Scottish football and comes from an SFA ‘innovations group’. Scottish football is struggling and if we don’t start trying some innovation then we will move further behind.
The SPFL will not run a reserve league this season and this means a significant number of young Scottish players will not be playing football.
If the national team is going to sustain its improvement we need as wide a pool of players as possible”.
I was astounded to hear that The Lowland League is now ‘effectively and single handedly’ saving Scottish Football.
So well done guys from the whole nation who didn’t realise what a magnificent task you were undertaking on our behalf.
What utter bollocks!
After calming down a little I then spoke at length with an old friend, an SFSA member for some years and a long time football analyst who provided me with some logical insight.
“The email from the club reads like it’s trying too hard to justify a decision they already know is wrong.
Andy, rather than answer the basic questions about why the LL decided to make such an offer and why some clubs just want to take the money it just generates more questions.
Remember this is the same LL Board have already chosen to go down the points per game route to crown Kelty as champions and eligible for the play off despite previously agreeing in a vote with member clubs that PPG would not be used unless at least 50% of games had been played. (A figure that was never reached.)
This means Vale of Leithen as bottom LL club are in the relegation spot and could still be relegated despite the fact that 50% of games were never played and the East of Scotland League below agreed to null and void their season with no promotion or relegation and therefore no one to replace Vale.
(Indeed why have Vale not already been relegated or one club invited to join from below given that the Lowland League currently has an uneven 17 teams).
If the Lowland League feels there is scope to expand next season then why not invite their highest ranked and licensed sides from the feeder leagues, e.g. Jeanfield or Tranent.
That would generate wider interest and local diversity within their league as well as competitiveness.
And when the Lowland league members talk about B teams league positions being discarded at the end of the season.
This all reads like it has been scripted for them, albeit clumsily.
Will their results against teams in the promotion or relegation spots be taken into account if the commitment at the start of the season is different to the commitment at the end?
Who knows how the strength of the Colts sides will vary over a season”.
All good points.
My friend continued.
“I listened to George Fraser on BBC Sportsound and when he was asked why he only invited Celtic and Rangers he said no other club had expressed an interest.
Did the Lowland League actually ask any other clubs?
Given that some Premier League Clubs already enter Colts sides into the Challenge Cup you might have thought there would have been wider interest.
The mention of the lack of a reserve league next season being a justification is also interesting.
Is this the same reserve league that Rangers withdrew from (and helped collapse) in order to play ‘more challenging’ friendlies against English and international sides.
Does the Lowland League really believe that Celtic and Rangers will field their best youngsters in a tier 5 league when loan deals are available at all levels above from 1 to 4?
It was a Rangers loanee that scored St Johnstone’s second goal last weekend.
Fine strike too.
The reality is Celtic and Rangers have no interest in the Lowland League and see this as a stepping-stone to the SPFL at the expense of bona fide community clubs.
To use your Invernesian phrase they are Juping in!
I’m deeply concerned that the LL is adopting a similar stance to the SPFL in encouraging and backing self-interest and I am a little surprised having previously thought that George Fraser was good news and on the side of meritocracy.
I think he would be better working with his board to promote and facilitate proper relegation from the league above and the smooth and honest flow of teams though the league in both directions”.
A Welcome is Still Awaiting
Here is an SFSA roadmap for Colts teams in our game.
Football in Scotland simply has to agree the rules and regulations and then follow them without fear or favour.
Colts Teams Roadmap
i) Join at the same entry point as other clubs i.e the bottom rung that would apply to any and every entrant.
ii) Pay your way the same as other clubs (there is no need for bribes or to buy entry because entry is not for sale and never will be).
iii) Commit to and enjoy the journey.
Play by the rules and respect the integrity of the pyramid and how it is a power for good right through the football community. Make friends along the way.
2. Why Was Just 100 Extra (and very lucky) Fans The Plan Before Glasgow’s Indian Covid Upsurge Meant No Fans At Hampden?
(Sadly following this afternoon’s announcement The Hampden Roar is going to be a whimper)
On your behalf we’ve been on the SFA’s case for weeks.
The SFA had painted themselves into a corner with their plans and justifications for no fans at next Saturday’s cup final.
The world and his wife knew 500 had become possible across Scotland and Jason himself had said more could be there with an agreement.
But they (the SFA) were not for moving.
Our frustration was that nothing was being done and we lobbied everywhere and with anyone who would listen.
The SFSA campaigning was increasingly supported with a huge media push and Tom English in particular wouldn’t let it drop.
Every fan at the game owes you one even if it ultimately was in vain.
Until last weekend the SFA had been hiding behind the fact (which some think was over-egged to the point of being scrambled) that the stadium is ‘being handed over to Uefa” and they have consistently said ‘building works’ precluded any change’.
We also now know nobody at the SFA ever took the initiative to ask Uefa to change what had been agreed months ago.
That is a disgrace guys.
Anyway last week in a strange 48 hours that saw Wembley odds-on favourite to be given the Champions League final, Darryl Broadfoot, SFA retained PR Consultant, said on the BBC said this was now a material change and because of that said the SFA had now made a case to Uefa for fans to be present.
Dave Cormack had further set the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting Pittodrie as a possible venue too.
It all escalated, the SFA were outed and ‘posted missing in inaction’ and finally a request was made to the Scottish Government for between 2000 and 3000 fans.
Sounds a lot but in reality not a big number when compared to the 21,000 Wembley will host tomorrow at 5.15pm when Leicester play Chelsea.
600 Measly Seats Were Granted by Holyrood (Before Today’s Pushback) – Just 100 Extra Fans.
You’ve all heard about it.
At a time when 500 fans were planned to be allowed almost anywhere outside in Scotland we were given just 600 at our cup final.
So all the fuss had led to our government granting only 100 more than will watch our play offs in club grounds.
There were more fans (980) indoors at The Crucible.
There were more clubbers (6000) indoors in Liverpool.
And just 3 weeks after our cup final (with no fans) Hampden is scheduled to welcome 12000 for Scotland Vs the Czechs.
I’ve heard Hampden was being restricted to 2 metres distancing for the cup final and only 1.5 metres for the Euros and that was the difference between 600 and 12,000 but I think that is bull.
The SFA undoubtedly left it all too late and had seemed happy for long enough at zero fans.
Everything they subsequently did was too little and too tardy.
The government also don’t have a good relationship with our game so there is little trust.
But is something else happening and if there is are we facing more pain?
The new virulent Covid ‘Indian’ variant and its flourishing presence in Glasgow isn’t helping and today’s announcement was no big surprise.
I believe it is causing deep concern and that there is now a scientific school of thought that Scotland is opening up too much on Monday outside the Glasgow and Moray level 3 areas.
What government and health service needed the extra worry of football fans travelling in and out to a match in a city where an outbreak is already underway?
What Does All This Mean for Our Euros?
In a week when Wembley was due to get the CL final then ‘lost’ it Porto.
The sticking point was that the Westminster government wouldn’t agree to 3,000 ‘immunity’ passes for Uefa, its sponsors and the rest of the circus.
I totally agree with Westminister’s refusal.
Why spend months locked up then allow 3000 from a mix of countries including red listers into our communities?
We’ve all seen the over optimism for all things Euros taking place in a bid to dictate normality.
Our 12,000 and Wembley’s 22,500 for the Euros must include agreements on Uefa’s ‘immunity’ passes too.
That would be an interesting question to ask.
The initial reduction downwards of our request for 2000-3000 fans down to just 600 for our cup final has to make you start worrying about just what will happen on June 14.
The jump now looks too much.
The government decision to restrict fans certainly suggests it is way too much.
Three weeks is nothing.
I’d like to ask is who is liable for the costs of staging the tournament if 12,000 fans are not allowed into Hampden for our 4 scheduled games?
An interesting question.
We know the 48,000 tickets over 4 games are designed to just about allow Uefa to reach break even.
What if the Indian variant catches a real hold and no fans is the deal?
We’ll soon find out.
Despite our vaccination programme we are constantly on the edge of chaos.
3 A Well Deserved Award… But
This week saw our Scottish Football Writers Association Manager of the Year announced as Steven Gerrard.
A worthy winner any year with an undefeated season becoming a reality with just one game to go.
And some great football in Europe too, wonderful to watch and helping our coefficient.
Steven was part of a final short list also including Callum Davidson, David Martindale and Stevie Clarke.
The award was sponsored by William Hill.
Most fans I have spoken to think the award was voted on too early.
We don’t know how well Scotland will do in the Euros.
Calum Davidson, a rookie manager could end up with 2 cups in this same season and has worked with a significantly lower budget than Steven.
How would 2 cups and a lower budget for a rookie manager stand against winning the title?
This might indeed end up embarrassing.
So the SFSA have 3 ‘pretty-please’ requests to the Scottish Football Writers.
1 Please hold your vote electronically at the end of a season or at least after everything is resolved.
2 Please find a non-betting sponsor.
A company who doesn’t inflict a lifetime of addiction and pecuniary misery to a small percentage of its users.
3 Finally please consider additional awards depending on the result of next week’s cup final and the Euros.
As always thanks for the feedback, and feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
*Jupe is an inverness word meaning to get in front of those in front of you. A tribute to Andy ‘Jupy’ Mitchell who was the quickest player ever over 5 yards and who wouldn’t leave Inverness to sign for Celtic because he liked Inverness and didn’t want to live in Glasgow.
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