Andy’s Sting In The Tale (15/10/21) “Hvad Gjorde de Rigtigt?”

Date: 15th October 2021

 

And What are We Doing Wrong?

 

This Week’s Sting

  1. Just How Wide is the Gap?
  2. VAR To the Rescue, Twice
  3. Who is Responsible for Policing Racism in Our Grounds?
  4. How to Beat the Bookie
  5. Three Must-Win Games on the Road to Qatar

 

 1. A Divergence in Collective Thinking as wide as the Oresund Bridge?

The records show that Germany and Denmark are the first two Uefa teams to qualify for Qatar next winter.
Two consistently good sides with the Germans current Fifa ranking 14 and Denmark 10.
Both are on the rise too.
While Germany have always been a world football power I can well remember when Denmark were rabbits.

One of my first internationals, as a youngster, was our 1-0 win over Denmark at Hampden in 1970 and while the Danes were well organised, we were all over them and much better.

The records also show that Scotland and Denmark were actually pitched against each other for three qualifying competitions in a row, the ’72 and ‘76 Euros either side of the ’74 World Cup.

We won 5 out of 6 games against them.

 

See the source imageThe reasons for the change in fortunes since were almost certainly sown back then and raise questions we have to ask if we ever really want to improve.

I’d start with: ‘What did Denmark do to revolutionise their game’?

I’d then follow up with: ‘What we have done, or not done to point and keep us in the wrong direction?’

One critical insight to throw in to the mix is the rise of the Danish International team has not been because their Danish League or top Danish clubs have become powers in Europe.
That never happened.

I have been told their change from rabbits to top 10 and continued success lies in their grass roots.

Those well paid to run our game actually saw it coming and privately predicted our ‘slide’, and to be fair to them acted by commissioning ‘strategic’ reports.
The first was the much vaunted Ernie Walkers uncompleted and unpublished ‘Think Tank’ and then the mostly ignored ‘McLeish 1 and 2’.

See the source imageBut at least these show there was a recognition and a will at the top.

Being Scottish football there were also several critical ‘disconnects’ that stopped these three, well intentioned. reports in their tracks.

Looking back that raises questions about what Park Gardens wanted to achieve and also what support they had from our clubs.

A good reminder that politics and self-interest are not recent inventions in our game which now as we have been told has an ongoing ‘Deloittes Review’.

This has been instigated by 5, mostly American owned or influenced, SPFL clubs with an unpublished, so therefore confidential or hidden brief.

It does have a ‘press-released’ objective of ‘doubling revenues’ into the game.

That could be good but depends where and how the revenues get spent.

See the source imageI do know if they just go on to fund higher player wages and agent fees, we won’t see a Denmark style turnaround.
It is also known some of the unsavoury elements in our game are a barrier to some sponsors who’d rather just keep away.

I still have an open mind, but it is being beset with nagging worries that any review without genuinely involving the target market, aka the fans, is just a rubber stamping process for a pre-determined outcome.

Indeed some fans I’ve spoken to think it is all just a pre-planned ‘Step 1’ in a move towards a franchised top league structure like the way sport is run over the pond.

A model that brings more financial stability to bigger clubs, for a while at least.

I can understand and see the benefits to big clubs in that.

Fans have long said our leagues of 10 and 12 are too small.
There is no real security for the majority of businesses/clubs trying to survive.
No long term thinking is possible.
No real investment in the future.

Ayr United’s ludicrous position near the end of last season, when they were facing play offs for promotion or relegation with just a few weeks to go but didn’t know which, proves what we have doesn’t work.

Anyway, time will tell what the Deloitte review is really about.

In the meantime, I do know that the revolution in the Danish game did not spring from a ‘Deloittes’ review on behalf of a few top clubs looking for more money.

The Danes changed their game, bottom up.

2. My ‘Friend in Black’ Sheds Some Light on Both Goal Awards

See the source imageI have to start by saying that I’ve never been such a fan of VAR as I was against Israel and then again against the Faroes.

I’ve also since learnt that one of the VAR rules is all goals are reviewed and if a goal is scored and chalked off then it is reviewed too.

On-pitch refs and assistants are also trained to avoid stopping play too soon and to give the benefit of the doubt knowing a review is coming. (Hence some delayed off side decisions)

The adopted mantra by the VARs is ‘Maximum Benefit, Minimum Interference’ and the only time the VAR should come into play is when there is a ‘Clear and Obvious Error’.

It is not there for normal decisions.

As an example here is a ref’s view of the six-step, logical sequence that helped Lyndon over the line.

(The critical piece of luck for us against Israel was that there was ‘A clear and obvious error’).

i) We ‘scored’ and since every goal awarded, or not, is checked by the VAR, that kicked in automatically.

ii) If the VAR is happy that the goal is allowable, he/she will immediately say ‘check complete’, the goal is awarded and play can restart. In most cases this takes seconds and there is no disruption.

iii) Lyndon’s goal however must have led to a discussion between the VAR and the ref.
Something like “Why did you disallow the goal?

iv) The ref will have said something like ‘Dangerous play by the scorer’ or whatever his reason was and that gives the VAR something to check against.

See the source imagev) VAR will then have looked at the replay several times and in slow-mo. and said “In that case, in my view you have made a ‘clear and obvious error’.
Look at it again on the monitor’.

vi) The ref came across to the monitor, agreed with the VAR that he has made a ‘clear and obvious error’, awarded the goal, and also rescinded the dangerous play yellow he had handed to Lyndon.

Against the Faroes it was much the same and a little more complex than most goals.

It was delayed a little because the Faroese were agitating for a handball, but the technology showed otherwise.

 

 

 

3. Who Polices Racism in Football?

 (This isn’t just exploding in Scotland)

See the source imageAt Wembley on Tuesday the Hungary fans hung their anti ‘taking the knee’ banner in full sight, booed the English team when they kneeled and then took out some of their hatred on a steward.
The Met’s finest took the decision to go in with batons to arrest the culprit and after a violent stooshie retreated with their man.
Six further people were also later arrested.

A Met spokesperson later said ‘A proportionate policing plan was in place to deal with arising incidents. In this instance, the imperative was to get the arrested suspect into custody. Once the suspect had been removed, police officers withdrew’.

The Met withdrawal was, for a worrying moment, under serious attack by a group of ‘fans’ pre-prepared and up for violence.

And the nonsense here was Hungary are currently under a ‘suspended’ stadium ban after the teams clashed in Budapest in September.
Why were their fans allowed at all?

Uefa will now hold a disciplinary hearing on Monday and England might also receive a closed-door stadium ban ‘because the Hungarian fans came looking for trouble’.

A double-dose of Uefa madness made worse by todays decision about the kids being ‘coerced into bullying Rangers and their players’  a couple of weeks ago.
Tonights Uefa statement which effectively says ‘Move along there is nothing to see here’ reads “The investigation has now concluded that there was insufficient evidence of racism or discriminatory conduct at the match to warrant the opening of disciplinary proceedings against AC Sparta Praha.”

A bit like the SFA announcement today about ‘An alleged incident at Tannadice’.

Fudged Football decisions that fester.

Football needs to learn some lessons.

For Police Scotland, Wembley this week was a reminder how hard and dangerous it is to take action during a match with crowds in place, and how difficult and dangerous it can be to try to work inside big hostile throngs.

For Clubs there is a new public demand that things that have been ‘shouted’ or ‘chanted’ or indeed ‘hurled’ and categorised as ‘banter’ in the past are no longer acceptable.

For Uefa and the SFA and the SPFL there has to be a new clear code of conduct and clear lines and guidelines of what is allowed.

 

See the source imageThere isn’t and that will lead to grief up here and elsewhere.

In conversations with clubs, it is clear that they feel that sorting out racism inside grounds is Police Scotland’s responsibility.
They see it as a societal problem, not theirs.

In conversations with politicians they feel football is encouraging/exacerbating social issues for financial gains and think football has to get its own house in order.

I now see clearly and understand that nobody wants to own this problem.

Everyone who can do something to eradicate it thinks blaming someone else is the best short term solution.

This nettle needs to be grasped guys because we need to start thinking long term.


4. How to Beat the Bookie?

 (There are actually only two ways. One is ‘cheating’, the other is ‘don’t give them any money’)

First Way –  Cheating

It is the only real way to beat the algorithm-driven mega-industry that is gaming.

And ‘cheating the bookie’ has become a worldwide industry.

I’d never heard of Sportradar before this week.

They are an organisation that has a match-fixing detecting system that monitors suspicious activity in the sports betting markets under its ‘Universal Fraud Detection System’ (UFDS) and offers people like the SPFL the service free in over 70 countries.

Their findings say that in Europe there have been 382 suspicious matches this year, mostly in third tier leagues and below.

It is one way organised crime sets out to beat the bookies.

I don’t know if any of the games were in Scotland, but I can confirm that I have been to many ‘criminal’ matches over the years.

Well-Done Paul Merson and Good Luck

See the source imageHis programme Paul Merson: Football Gambling & Me aired on BBC one last Monday and is on iplayer.
Watch it if you haven’t.

BBC iPlayer – Paul Merson: Football, Gambling & Me

We all knew he had issues and the programme fleshes out just what happened to him.

For me the scariest part was when we could see how the pleasure receptors in his brain reacted to stimuli.

For pictures of family and stuff – no reaction.

For gambling stimuli – whiz, wallop, crash and bang, and he was uber excited.

Meanwhile we let gambling companies crawl all over our sport, normalising behaviour that is not normal, and recruiting our youngsters for a lifetime obsession.

Yes Paul Merson is an extreme case, but this is a hidden pandemic that in the long term will cost more than the short term cash benefits the links ever delivered.

 

Second Way to Beat the Bookie –  Don’t Spend

Don’t bet at all or if you do avoid bookmakers.
Have a wee, honest sweep with you pals where all the money in the kitty gets paid out to the winner.

 

5. The Day the Tartan Army Saved the Whales

My earworm from a previous visit to Torshavn a few campaigns ago was sung to the tune of ‘Wemballee’.

‘Save the Whales,
Save the Whales,
We’re the Famous Tartan Army,
And we’re here to Save the Whales’.

Still makes me smile.

The only things from the Torsvollur Stadium on Tuesday that made me smile were our goal, the three points and the Faroese fans in white behind the goal ‘gieing it Laldy’ for the 100 minutes played.

The Faroes are an interesting country and one in football terms that we can learn from.

They have a population less than Inverness living mostly in small settlements.
Just one town, one village, several small villages, and several settlements.

That said, every place with more than a couple of hundred people seems to have a council owned all-weather football ground with floodlights at its heart and clubs of all ages play on them free.

You see them full of activity and youth football is a priority.

We can learn from that.

In the meantime, our trip to Qatar continues.

 

See the source imageNext up, on 12th November, we play Moldova ranked 180th by Fifa, 135 places below us at the Zimbru Stadium in Chisinau and then the Danes at home on the 15th.

Our task is to not just qualify, but to qualify as one of the top 6 second placers for a home semi tie.

That is not easy and probably means a point will be needed against Denmark because our goal difference is not good enough as it stands.

Any which way the play-off trail is the best we can hope for but it is not an easy route.

 

As always stay safe and feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.


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