Date: 17th June 2022
This Week’s Sting
1. Winning International Games is Not Rocket Science
It is easy to say it is the manager to blame when we lose.
Ad infinitum for another 22 years, and more.
Allow those in ‘charge’ to always have the ‘get-out clause’ rather than address the big issues.
You know the clause.
The one where the well-paid person or committee sacking the manager can say it is always someone else’s fault and that we as a nation have been let down.
Yes, Groundhog Day is constantly unfolding in front of our eyes but unlike Phil Connors we are not learning from our day-to-day interactions with the rest of the Punxsutawney cast.
And Rita will never be won over.
We need a plan.
And we need to invest in it and stick to it.
Steve talked this week about realism, and I subscribe to his wisdom and insight.
Our expectations as a nation in retrospect have never been realistic and while in my lifetime we have dined out on a few good results, especially against our nearest neighbour, we have, more often than not, flattered to deliver.
And in a ridiculous sense we have often felt the team has let us down and not the other way.
Worse still – a few times fate has conjured up for us, a peculiarly Scottish facet, ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’.
It is a hard historical fact that we have delivered more than our share of underings, real and imagined along the way.
Underings that combine into a nasty combinations that stop the progress we all want.
If you can think of more add them under the list above.
We’re experts at them all.
Let’s Do Something Guys
While we currently have a great manager right now and a settled SFA and SPFL leadership team we should be using the momentum Steve has generated to future-proof our international game.
That means top down and bottom up.
It means change too.
Ultimately international success depends on more than we are putting in right now.
It needs a combination of fairly simple variables working together positively for common causes.
If we want to punch above our weight internationally (and by definition improve our game at all levels) we need to make the right changes, in thinking and action.
It can all become a win-win movement and be good for the business of Scottish football and our communities too.
Some variables we can change, some we’re stuck with.
Some will come, and some will go.
These variables include, Population size, Investment in infrastructure, Grass roots facilities, Coaching, Elite recognition and development, Leadership, Structure, Volunteers, Parents, Councils, Political support.
We need bigger thinking than our clubs alone can bring to the table.
The self interest model means they can’t see beyond their next signings and results.
You can’t blame them.
There are lots of questions to be asked and answered if we really want to improve.
It really is our choice.
But it is not one the clubs or the current system will ever take or make.
Countries with populations the size of Aberdeen, like Iceland already make us look like beginners and Canada are now leaving us behind with the power of ‘Soccer Moms” set against a community framework with intergovernmental support, building a wave of talent and not all of them can ‘granny’ for Scotland.
The Mac-diaspora kids soon won’t want to anyway.
In a week when The SPFL has proudly announced that it will deliver the 42 members £27.5 Million pound notes for season 2021- 2022, I wonder out loud how much of that will ever go into real grassroots activity and investment rather than players wages and agents fees.
And also, how much makes it down to all the clubs below Neil’s 42 members?
In their race to achieve whatever they think they are achieving, the 42 ignore the fact that they do not exist in isolation and can only exist in harmony with all other stakeholders.
Yes, we’re in this together.
Review, Rethink, Reset.
The simplest rules are the best in business planning and in planning for the future of our International team the questions we should be asking are.
Where are we now?
Where do we want to get to?
How do we get there?
(Like all simple questions they are never really simple and that is probably why nobody who can make a difference is looking at them)
Scottish football, even with Stevie in place needs help.
Winning International Games needs better long-term planning and a new kind of teamwork.
Our game should speak more and listen more to the fans, collectively for common good insights.
2. Fan Alienation
I know the results, but I haven’t actually seen a kick of our last three Scotland games.
Some of you are thinking I’m lucky.
Out of sheer bloody principal I won’t pay for Setanta and their coverage of the Nations League after the damage they did to our game a few years ago. (Setanta = Premier Sports).
I already pay enough in subscriptions to Sky who have been good for our game and BT too, who copied the Sky model.
I have more than enough football on my telly than I can ever watch, and I ration what I view.
I know and am not happy that our next world cup qualifiers will be covered by a new UK division of a Scandi outfit that doesn’t even exist yet and I’m cynical but open minded, just.
More worryingly my understanding of both macro and micro economics is shouting out that fans are being seriously over exploited and the PPV model is not as healthy as some think.
I’m also still disappointed at the lack of fuss made by the fact that Scottish fans are not treated the same as English Fans by Channel 4.
If only one of our ‘Off the Ball” commentators with clout there could pick up on this and start a wee campaign.
Our SFA is cynically hiding behind the fact that Uefa ‘sell the meeja’, not us, guvnor, but I would ask for some parameters to be agreed with the Scottish Government for international matches in the future.
I think the SFA could have done and should be doing more and we are here to help because the solution is probably political.
And in the meantime here is a wee idea for the council telly channels up here who don’t even take part in the current bidding.
Andy’s Wee Meeja Idea
Honour a previous Scottish Manager, permanently.
Screen Scottish International Football live on council telly with an 11-minute real-time delay, in parallel programming to the premium channels.
People who want to watch it as it happens can make the personal choice and pay Setanta or the Scandi Newco the premium.
Those fans like me who want to see the match but don’t mind a short delay and who are happy to switch off their phones and computers will no longer be left out.
We all join Jock’s 11.
The broadcast price to BBC Scotland or Scottish TV or Channel 4 Glasgow will be a lot less and bring it to the realms of affordability.
Maybe even a way for Uefa to increase revenues selling old product all over.
3. Sometimes a Short-Term Solution is Pragmatic
But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do
Last week’s ‘Sting’ was scathing about both the way the Lowland League have handled the recent auction to garner £120K from the Celtic, Hearts and Rangers Colts teams and the lack of an SPFL plan for the screaming need.
And yes our idea of a Scottish International Colts side buying its way into the Qatar World Cup in November highlights the inherent madness in “guest” clubs and made many of you laugh, a bit.
Both highlighted what is wrong and are part of the reasons that our whole domestic and international plan needs reset.
Our game, scathingly, scarily and scurrilously, has no plan or pathway to blood youngsters between age 18 and senior football.
We also have a pyramid that is designed to protect its 42, almost-closed shop members.
And how come those who run just one wee level in Scottish Football like the Lowland League can allow other clubs in to their own particular closed shop, charge them for the privilege and trouser the fees rather than share it equally among all senior clubs below them?
Finally let me confirm that if Senior clubs want their colts to join the pyramid, then that should be possible but they should join at the bottom like everyone else.
Anyway a discussion took place this week and my ears were burning.
An ex-Scotland manager, one of our best, and the last to take us to a world cup, had read our views and when in conversation with a friend of mine had said maybe it makes sense in the short term to allow the three clubs into the Lowland League.
For the short term good of the game.
I can’t disagree with that, Craig.
But the Lowland League Cuckoos are not the panacea.
In fact single dimensional panaceas, like Santa Claus, don’t exist.
I do know that if Celtic, Hearts and Rangers put their weight behind fixing the transition between youth and adult football then it would help.
They need to be part of the solution.
The game needs a reset and both our biggest clubs and also those below the SPFL organisations like the Lowland Leagues need to be part of it.
But none of these blue-sky discussions are happening.
Just like there is no current pathway to futureproof our international talent production line.
There bloody well should be.
4. “No Longer Required”
This week we heard the SPFL Cinch deal has been extended and will deliver more money.
And I also read this strange phrase.
“Rangers are no longer required to provide the sponsorship inventory that they have not so far provided. In the meantime, we will exceed our budget and deliver fees of more than £27.5 Million for season 21- 22”
Along the way some lawyers have made a lot of money in an unsavoury squabble that should never have happened.
I don’t have a problem with sponsorships, per se, nor sponsors like Cinch although I can see they seek to distort our second-hand car market and take business from local entrepreneurs from ‘Lerwick to Stranraer’.
It is screamingly obvious that Scottish Football needs ‘Wholesome Sponsorships’ that don’t damage its community fabric or fans.
We have not been good at leveraging the huge depth football has in our communities.
That needs to change, and one elephant in the room we all know about is that change is needed to create new opportunities.
In the meantime Celtic, Dundee United and Rangers have shirt sponsors whose products lead to fan suicides.
I’d have rathered any lawyer money was spent stopping clubs doing that to their fans.
How can we as a community allow stuff like harmful sponsors?
And Finally Answering my Titular Question
Is a New Age of realism like Steve wants ever going to happen?
Don’t be daft Andy,
At best same old same old and we know where that will take us.
Finally, as always, feedback and opinions welcome.
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