Date: 16th October 2020
Scotland has now gone 8 games unbeaten for the first time since Andy Roxburgh was boss back in the dark ages when Maggie was PM, Ben Johnson had just won the 100 metres at the Olympics till his drug test and a Pan Am jet fell on Lockerbie.
Huge credit to Stevie and his boys from all of us and we can all look forward to a big game coming down the tracks.
Some of the outpourings ahead of the Serbia game are maybe a little reminiscent of our run-up to Argentina but there are also some grounded and fair opinions too and we Won’t get fooled again. (not till the next time Pete and Roger)
“The Czech republic were No 2 in the FIFA World Rankings as recently as May 2006 so any result against them shows the progress we are making”.
“Steve has quickly got to know the limitations of his players and created a club side mentality where our players are playing for each other and going way beyond what we used to get”.
“We’re dull, we’re riding our luck but we’ve a spirit that’s been lacking for so long and we’re improving”.
“We have moved on since Russia humiliated us at home but Serbia remain massive favourites and we are rank outsiders”.
“Well Who’d a Thunk it?
3 Scottish games in succession, one draw (won on penalties), and two wins.
For once we have it all to play for in both competitions”.
Yes there are things to improve but also a lot of plus points.
Our 33 year old rookie Andy Considine’s displays had me and others asking why we haven’t seen him in a blue shirt before and I loved our little and large strike force we’re starting to develop.
Dark Downsides from our International Gathering
It was the Covid episode that saw Stuart Armstrong’s positive test potentially skittle out Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie from important club matches.
Despite all the protocols in place and the fact that the two were said to be never closer than 2.8 metres from Stuart in a room in the hotel they have become innocent victims.
To rub salt in the wounds Stuart who had the positive test can now play, if fit, for Southampton this weekend while Kieran and Ryan are still testing negative yet in mandatory isolation.
Celtic who also have other international break Covid issues with Edouard, Bitton and Elhamed testing positive are meantime looking to see what they can do about Christie although a reprieve is unlikely because its not a football matter.
Its happened all over Europe and its becoming a right “old fashioned” clubs versus country disagreement, not confined to Scotland. Its also fair simmering now and due to get hotter.
What Exactly is Ryan Christie Missing Tomorrow?*
Is it a game of football between two old rivals or a red-flagged Covid risk event?
At its simplest Ryan is due to sit out a Sky Sports Main event at Celtic Park with a 12.30 kick off, John Beaton as referee, no crowd allowed into the ground, no pub telly access and visiting friends who have Sky TV prohibited by very recent (and seen by some as contradictory) laws.
As long ago as last Saturday and just two days after the rules and laws changed Saturday’s “Off The Ball” foresaw the blocking of pub venues and friends home’s as an issue on the horizon.
They rightly foresaw Skyless fans breaking Nicola’s guidelines and congregating in friend’s houses for the match or heading to hostelries south of the border.
Their solution was to somehow show the match on council telly.
Not easy to do but not easy times and anything everything is always possible.
In midweek the Green Party at Holyrood started campaigning for this too like it was their original idea.
Blow football, so to speak.
By yesterday Nicola had been dragged into the frame and agreed with Tam, Stuart and the Greens.
Allowing the match to be shown for free Sky could and would help limit the match induced spread of Covid across Scotland and the North West of England.
She very publicly asked Sky nicely but they were never going to agree and why should they?
The facts about Covid are indisputable however and technically she is correct.
The virus is gaining ground across Scotland.
Today (Friday) we have just been told that there were 9 deaths and 1196 positive tests in the last 24 hours.
Covid supports no team but as Jason has said likes football matches like we used to have. That is where the crowds are in close contact and unregulated whether they are watching in grounds or crowded pubs or homes.
Today we heard and saw hear Nicola and her team are not happy and smell real danger here.
She reminded fans and all those running our game that visiting other houses or pubs for a football match is a no no.
The last time she warned us we got a yellow card.
Inevitably this game will increase the spread of the virus .
By how much nobody knows but nothing is surer and the only real winner tomorrow will be the virus.
Is that acceptable to us as a community?
In the fall out from the media hype we now see people are out there protecting their own back yards to everyone who will listen.
My friend Neil D of the SPFL has been talking up how good Sky are for our game and how it would be unreasonable of them to have to share their rights. (without talk of compensation)
Strings of well prepared SPFL words like “Bought on an exclusive basis by Sky as part of a £125M multi year process” and “wholly unreasonable to be asked to give it away for free” makes his case well and in normal circumstances none of us could argue.
Publicans and health chiefs from up here, Carlisle and even Blackpool are confirming they are anticipating an upsurge and asking fans to stay away.
Its not difficult to see that fans deprived of many things for many months see little harm in meeting family or friends in no more proximity than is already allowed in those cafes still allowed to open on our high streets.
They shouldn’t meet up but nothing is black and white anymore.
Sky TV, in danger for a while of looking like the bad guys just want to show the game.
Truth is that deep down they don’t really care about football up here or anywhere and have in the basest of multinational terms simply bought an audience of subscribers and in turn sell them as watchers to advertisers trying to reach hard-to-reach target markets.
It’s a clever double act in a circle of cash flows created by billionaires.
Many of us have bought into their business plans because it is becoming the only way to see our sport.
In the meantime as the big build up continues and –
The health chiefs are right.
The Fans think they’re right.
But rightest of all is Ian Murray earlier today, who saw clean through all the various side shows and cut to the chase.
“If this game is a threat to public health it should be postponed.
Other businesses have been seen as threats and have or are being closed down.
If the First Minister’s concerned that Celtic v Rangers on Sky TV might facilitate the spread of Covid by tempting people to breach the strict rules that she has in place with households particularly in the central belt mixing and people moving around then surely postponement is the way to do this”.
Speaking before Ian Murray trumped us all with that insight I was invited on to the excellent Sports Show on Max Radio last night with Alex Horsburgh standing in for Bill Murray and with Gordon Smith as main guest.
Great show as always and we discussed the implications of fans wanting to see the game and the demise of council telly as an agent for live sport.
We got talking about how the game is more and more money driven and that leads me into this week’s economics section.
Keynsian Korner (aka Follow The Money).
Change Is Accelerating and Heading Our way
Last week we heard about the first public signs of movement for change of power and organisation at the top of the English Premiership.
Its not well reported up here but this week I read one particular headline “European League is endgame of the American owners” and things started to fall into place.
Basically the 6 biggest English clubs want to get bigger to stay bigger and to compete with other bigger clubs from other countries who feel the same.
In the self-interest world they live in they have offered 25% of broadcast revenues to the English lower leagues to buy more power and get their aspirations through.
It won’t be easy for them.
The Premiership has more clubs who would be left out rather than included in this or any breakaway and it is unlikely that the 14 out of 20 votes threshold will be reached.
Be aware this is a rising tide and driven by forces bigger than domestic football in any one nation and by owners sans frontieres.
The big European clubs are mostly a combination of multinational institutions with multinational ownership, fan bases and multinational aspirations.
When these people at the top want change and actively court it then change will come driven by money and fired up by the prospect of increased digital revenues.
A window of opportunity that is open for now and fanned by the Covid uncertainties.
A few weeks ago a friend sent me a report from one of the Irish broadsheets and I kept it knowing it would be relevant sooner rather than later.
This is a straight lift.
“Irish businessman Dermot Desmond, believes that the acceleration of changes in the broadcast and digital rights landscape brought about by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to prompt a rethink by English clubs of their opposition to the involvement of Celtic, Rangers in a reformulated Premier League.
Desmond says that while there are no talks on-going at present: “Everything now is about the size of clubs and their followings. It’s become a digital world – streaming, Zoom. This pandemic has changed things.
“Digital forces will, I think, make English clubs reconsider the construction of their leagues.
“Celtic and Rangers are in the top eight clubs in Great Britain by any metric – support, attendance, international appeal. At some stage, there’s going to be the realisation that if they want to maximise their revenues, then there’ll be a British Premier League. And there should be a British Premier League, because you already have a couple of Welsh teams in the English leagues. So why not?”
Desmond has much more recently invested in Shamrock Rovers and he expresses strong support for the All Island League.
“If the structure is on an all-island basis, we could progress,” he says. “We have to look at the size of the island and replicate the rugby model. They have provinces and clubs, north and south, and they face each other on a weekly basis. While there are political and cultural differences, they are unified in developing the sport of rugby on the island of Ireland. I’d like to see that happening (in football)”.
Welcome Back Girls
The SWPL kicks off tomorrow after last year’s aborted season.
With live TV matches on BBC agreed and a forward thinking agreement to expand the league by 2 with no relegation this season they are showing how to do it right.
Borrowing Times at Hampden
In the meantime back home The SFA asked the Santander man in the cupboard nicely and have taken £5m of funding as part of the “Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme” with a floating charge against “all the property or undertaking of the company”. (i.e. a good deal for all at no risk to Santander and we lose everything if we default.)
With no fans at international ties or major cup fixtures the association faces losing at least £3m of annual revenue if fans do not return soon.
Here is the SFA PR’s quote that makes this all sound a normal and positive move.
“The Scottish FA, like many other businesses affected by Covid-19, has successfully applied for a loan to help address the economic impact of the virus on the governing body via the [UK] government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme,” said an SFA spokesman.
My pal Mike sees it different.
“Andy its another demonstration that football without the fans is unsustainable and that like Old Mother Hubbard our Cupboards are bare too”.
I think that is true.
Mulholland £80M Cul De Sac Update
This is the £80M claim we’ve written about before being made against you, me, Nicola and everyone else in Scotland. It is for the already admitted failing by our Crown Prosecutors and the as yet denied failing by Police Scotland after various treatments of persons involved in the financial dealings after Rangers collapsed in 2012.
Serious yes and potentially very expensive.
You’ll find it on line if you dig a little.
Lord Tyre eventually continued the case (again) to another procedural hearing but here are some tasty snippets from this week’s Court of Session.
Andrew Smith, (not me just a namesake) QC said, “The prosecutors and the police are enemies in this case”.
“The crown needs to disclose documentation that shows that police officers failed to follow correct procedures in this case”.
“The crown should disclose a database of 100,000 emails known as “Charlotte Fakes” which was illegally obtained by someone hacking the email or server of Rangers then owner Mr Whyte”.
“We need top see if the former Lord Advocate (now Judge Mulholland) had his hand on the tiller or whether the staff on the case were on autopilot”.
These are all scary quotes from a QC about our legal and police system.
Gerry Moynihan QC for the Crown then asked for more time to prepare his client’ s case.
That is probably even scarier!
Wake Up and Smell The Pinewoods Joe
We asked Joe Fitzpatrick weeks ago about the JRG on September 16.
Our Reference is now 202000088184.
A reply was promised within 20 working days.
Promised but not forthcoming Joe………..
From the website I can see in July the last month quoted by our government only 81% of responses like ours were answered on time so we’ll hang on for a while and see how long it takes and how honest and helpful it is too.
In the meantime enjoy our new Laurel and Hardy link.
It is obviously what those handling the process at Victoria Quay get up to all day when not answering questions from us.
Maxie’s Groundhog Day
What does it take to get any answers to 4 simple and relevant questions from our SFA Grand Fromage?
Not a great way to treat the stakeholders and member clubs Ian.
As always if you want discuss any issues or share anything my email is:
* If someone with power at the top of our game doesn’t finagle an eleventh hour reprieve for the Inverness born player.