Date: 15th January 2021
150 days till Hampden*, 154 Days till Wembalee*
A week is a long time in football north of Hadrian’s Wall.
Looking for fast closure our SFA had quickly gone public with an embarrassing, in hindsight, “Nothing to see here, move along Hen” press briefing.
This was aimed at stopping our First Minister and others in their tracks as interest in the recent Dubai trip was escalating, becoming political and an easy media story too.
The typical hamfisted football attempt to close ranks on Celtic’s wee sunny sojourn backfired.
This is not a Celtic story just one that is an insight into how Scottish football works and how interlinked the narrative is.
I wrote last week that what started as a “Stooshie in a demitasse” would grow legs and it did.
From all I’ve since read and from conversations with people who know more than me it seems Celtic did nothing that actually broke the law in deciding to travel a few hours before the deadline.
At first the club were righteous in their innocence and they and the SFA quoted government approval as a justification.
They didn’t say this was the JRG a football coalition not a government department and it was back in November.
Nor did they reappraise the decision to fly after the situation across Scotland and the UK changed meaning the travel dates meant Celtic would effectively escape increased lockdown in Scotland and beat the curfew by just a few hours.
I think one week on most people now feel they broke the spirit of the new rules.
Is the media treatment fair?
This story featured all week with a pack of journos and politicians on their case.
Tom English at Auntie Beeb got tore in good style accusing the club of creating a “Soap opera of their own making”.
Not many after the media frenzy would disagree with him although I had one Celtic fan telling me he thinks it’s all a media conspiracy against his club.
A club that has made themselves very easy targets and he would agree with that.
The truth too is that there is an innate Scottish trait that likes to see success brought back to ground level with a bump and some in the media will be glad to jump on to any anti Celtic bandwagon.
It Took a While But…..
“It’s been an extremely difficult few days and on reflection, looking back with hindsight and the outcome of the trip it was clearly a mistake. For that I apologise to our supporters”.
Peter apologised on Celtic TV in 5 minutes of scripted narrative (and full control).
Many Celtic fans have changed their minds over the week and are now unhappy with both the decision to go and the apology.
Visiting a few fan sites this is typical, “Shocking apology from Peter that then just defends the reasons for going”.
Ex player now media presenter Andy Walker said Peter’s first 30 seconds were delivered with humility and sincerity but said, “Sadly the other four minutes were baloney”.
Some fans still disagree and said stuff like “How do we move forward, Stick together”.
The Celtic fan base mostly thinks the trip was an error of judgement given the significant change of circumstances from time of booking to time of departure.
Some think there is some schadenfreude spicing it all up.
I’d agree with that.
It was and will be always thus in our fishbowl.
Even SPFL Grand Fromage Neil Doncaster was brought into the confuffle. This I think was either because Hibs were affected by Celtic in two ways and were unhappy or perhaps because he was looking to pour oil on troubled waters for a friend.
The first issue Hibs were grumpy about was having a Saturday match moved to a Monday night because of their opponents planned sunshine trip.
Hibs were not happy that the request was granted.
The second was because Hibs subsequently asked for extra testing because of the Celtic player Christopher Jullien having tested positive.
Both requests refused by Neil and his team who subsequently told the media the reasons why both requests were turned down/not considered.
For me this is an insight into so much more.
The SPFL reasons stated were nothing to do with what is right for the game or the fans like most of us might hope.
Both decisions were because the SPFL say they followed their rules.
The same rules that are a testament to years of running the leagues and honed to within an inch of their lives by a self-interest voting system that will always preclude any narrative for sense or change.
“It is really important as a league that you apply the rules and you don’t get into value judgements on whether clubs should or shouldn’t be going on training camps” said Neil.
Dubai Outfall Aplenty
The ripples for the, just about legal, trip that didn’t break SPFL rules didn’t stop after the Hibs draw.
Scottish Cup, SWPL and Lower Leagues Were Then all Suspended
It was a move that reminded me of the way Hearts were barred from training for at least two or three days last year by the JRG after their appeal failed and they were no longer allowed in the Premiership life-raft.
The self same JRG had acted just fast after Nicola’s warning not to “Abuse privileges” back then and Hearts were an easy punchbag.
The usual heavy-handed decisions were again made this week and decreed to all and sundry.
And that was it.
Except there was pushback.
And still is real pushback and unhappiness.
Both Falkirk and Stenhousemuir were contacted by the press and confirmed there was no consultation from the governing bodies, as the closures were made public.
Gary Deans of Falkirk, a full time club, accused them of “Unfairness, inconsistency and double standards”, after an SPFL Zoom invitational meeting on Wednesday.
A member meeting where clubs were not allowed to ask questions.
Yes that would be a fair question about stopping members speaking in their own member’s organisation forum concerning decisions that affect their survival.
Rodger Morrison, Peterhead Chairman who spoke sensibly across last summer during our wee Pantomime Season called for “All games to be off” and said he was doubtful about whether the season will be finished.
Iain McMenemy of Stenhousemuir summed up the state of play saying, “Lower league clubs are paying for the Celtic training camp. We’ve been let down and made a sacrifice to appease an angry Scottish Government. I’m also unhappy with the SPFL who put out a statement saying they fully support the decision to suspend the leagues. We were never asked. They don’t have my support or any other chairman I’ve spoken to. The first we heard was the usual email statement going out to the media”.
I can’t even print the quote today from my source at Partick Thistle, a full time club who were a victim of some dreadful self-interest voting in the summer and subsequently lost £350K more in Rod Petrie’s wee divvy-up of tax payers bale-out money.
TV Deals Above Safety says Robbo
I missed the statements earlier this week from both the SFA and SPFL confirming that the reason to keep both top divisions open was to protect the media and commercial contracts in place.
This meant the championship clubs have had to find a way of joining the testing twice a week clubs in the top tier, without any warning. “I’m sorry, said Robbo, “they’re putting TV deals before players, support staff, and families”.
Ian Maxwell has now written to Championship clubs to gauge feelings and attitudes.
Replies by Monday night we’ve been told.
Embarrassed into action but well done Ian.
Neil’s Latest Attempts to Start to Control the Narrative
The Big Partnership is a PR agency.
More than that they are the SPFL PR agency.
My advice to them is if they they haven’t already increased their retainer from the SPFL then they should be looking for higher fees.
Stories and “interviews” were duly placed by this agency across the press today in a textbook attempt to bring back stability to the centre after a week of skirmishing.
I like Michael Grant in The Times and always find Keith Jackson at The Record has good insight too but today I feel both were boxing with one hand tied behind their backs as they wrote.
Almost like they were writing from a press release just handed to them.
Hope I’m wrong guys, let me know either way.
The Last Word, Henry Style
Former First Minister Henry Mcleish is one of my board at the SFSA.
We’re all volunteers.
We do it because we are all football people and want to leave football in a better place and will fight for the common good.
We’re not in the pocket of the SFA or the SPFL or any political party either and can be honest about the issues.
Hence this blog and its forthrightedness.
Anyway Henry was invited on to BBC Scotland Breakfast show the other day answering questions about a non-football topic when the interviewer at the end of the piece asked for his views about the Dubai trip.
Henry was honest and to the point saying he thought it was a mistake of judgement and basically cut to the core of the issue the way retired politicians find so easy.
It was good radio.
This got him an invite on to Sportsound that night and he hit the bell again with a perspective that sees this as more than a tiff about a training camp.
It’s worth a wee listen too with stuff like-
“Scottish Football’s relationship with government has hit rock bottom and the Scottish Government doesn’t trust the SFA and the SPFL”.
you can listen to Henry’s Piece here (48:30) BBC Radio Scotland – Scottish Football, Sportsound Podcast :11 Jan 21. Celtic’s stars & manager self-isolating as more points are dropped. And lower leagues suspended.
We’ve talked about that breakdown between both sides for weeks and this leads to our next wee vignette.
A story that will just get bigger and bigger until it is all out in the open.
Rod and Ian’s £11.35 Million Divvy Up
Sounds like a title for a TV game show and the reality might not be that far off with winners and losers like in any other game.
The new game involves an SFA plan to give away a lot of pound notes to our game and it’s the richest show in town too.
I’ve asked around and been told the money was allocated just by the SFA taking the initial confirmed total and ending with nothing left to give out.
Not even a brass razoo.
I’ve also been told the opposite and that the proposed allocations were shared with and endorsed by the Scottish Government.
Both stories doing the rounds can’t be correct.
I smell some attempts to cover the truth but so far don’t know why.
I say that because the actual published allocation proposals seem to be a format that takes no account of the real community status of those receiving the funds.
No basis in actual reality.
That’s what the minister wanted.
To me the current plan looks much more self interest rather than common good.
And why are our community clubs in the Premiership not part of the bale out?
For context the totals are
Championship. £5M (£500K per club)
League 1. £1.5M (£150K per Club)
League 2. £1M (£100K per club)
Tier 5. £1.1M
Tier 6. £0.65M
Tier 7. £0.950M
North Caledonian League. £24K
Scottish FA. £0.750M
Scottish Amateur FA £100K
Scottish Junior FA. £12.75K
Scottish Welfare FA. £12.75K
Scottish Women’s FA. £20K
Scottish Youth FA. £35K
Para ANA. £12.75K
Question Time About Public Money
As stakeholders let me first say SFSA are glad and relieved that the UK and Scottish governments have put in place a package to help our game.
However without transparency and more information this will become a cancerous sore rather than the desperately needed help it was and is intended to be.
There is an overwhelming need for transparency around the SFA process and plan because it is public money.
We have 7 simple questions for now that we have so far walked our civil servant through them and will now formally ask the Minister who is responsible for football.
1 Who agreed the plan for £20M loan fund and £10M in grants for all below the Premiership?
2 Who mandated the exclusion of Premiership clubs (many of which are community clubs) from grants?
3 Why was this particular decision made?
4 Who then allocated the £11.35M total into the categories subsequently briefed to the media (and listed above) including money for the SFA, use unspecified?
5 Was there any Scottish government involvement or input in how the government money for football was sliced up as some press reports state?
Were the Scottish government or civil servants involved in any other ways and if so are there records of any such discussions or planning in the public domain?
6 Was there any Government criteria for how the money allocated for football was to be used apart from the announced stipulation of no grants, just loans for Premiership clubs?
7 Did and do the Scottish government have any/final approval on how the three funds £10M, £1.35M and the £20M loan funs are to be used and is there any accountability process built in?
This will run and run.
150 Days Till Hampden*, 154 Days Till Wembalee*
The 12 city planned format for Euro 2021 might become a Covid victim.
Glasgow and London might therefore become Covid victims too.
UEFA will seemingly decide in March.
If they then choose to hold the tournament in a Covid bubble somewhere like Germany or Finland then fans like my son who has tickets for Hampden will get no refund.
“Outbloodyrageous” says Andy.
Fans have been informed that if they want a refund they must apply by the end of January, way ahead of UEFA making any decision.
You’ve already shared your views with us since this broke and we’ve already sent our views to Maxie at the SFA.
We’ll let you know if we get a response.
The SFA are not good at responding to fans though so don’t hold your breath but we feel they should be lobbying UEFA in union with other countries similarly threatened.
The Secret SFA Process Came to a Decision
The Killie and St Mirren SFA appeal met last night and was in secret.
We’ll never know who was on the panel, what was said or what rules were used.
That in itself is a nonsense and has no future in our sport.
Chick Young last week summarised it all well when he said “the SPFL punishment was like getting the death penalty for riding a bike with no lights”.
I laughed at that.
The outcome of the appeal is equally funny.
It is an SFA reversing of the earlier idiotic SPFL decision by the first secret panel in another secret process.
The games will be played.
The SPFL statement tonight on hearing the result is classic and made me laugh out loud;
“We note the decisions by the appellate SFA tribunal in relation to the sanctions imposed by an earlier independent SPFL tribunal”.
Nobody speaks like that Neil, not even in Bridgerton.
Publish and be praised guys, this is all bollocks!
Whitehill Should Appeal
Still out of the cup and damned by the same secret decision making process. Maybe Whitehill should appeal to the SPFL and get them to reverse the SFA decision to ignore the ineligible player playing for Hill of Beath in early December.
(I know that is a stupid thing to say so don’t write in to tell me).
Don’t ask though me what we have an SFA and an SPFL as parallel organisations.
I have no idea.
it makes no sense today, never did and gets in the way of real change for the good of the game.
How much in salary could that save us all?
Finally in a Week About Controlling the Narrative
Let me leave you with two quotes from others who have tried to do just that.
Both succeeded for a short time but eventually abjectly failed.
“The Name of the Game is to Control the Narrative”
“When I Can’t Control the Narrative I’ll Discredit the Press”,
The Donald Trump
So it doesn’t always work especially in the long term.
I wonder if Lance and The Donald had The Big Partnership on retainer too?
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.
I try to reply to everyone and as fans know we will never all agree about everything and sometimes anything.