Date: 17th September 2021
And what has David Beckham’s wee project got to do with Deloittes?
Franchise leagues are normal in the USA and make business sense to club owners.
Over there professional sports leagues including Major League Soccer, ‘MLS’, comprise of a stipulated number of team, known as franchises, that have territorial rights, usually exclusive areas, so that they have no local rivals, unless their metropolitan zone is large enough to ‘carry’ more than one team.
Leagues are effectively closed-shops and new teams may enter only by a vote of current members and agreed criteria.
There are no pyramids.
No relegation and promotion.
Membership is on business criteria not what we would call sporting merit.
Clubs are separate corporate entities that can come and go but operate under league auspices.
Franchises can be sold and clubs have been known to relocate from one city to another and change their name at the same time leaving old fans behind.
League expansion has typically come from identifying ‘business opportunities’ and creating clubs to exploit them, like David Beckham’s shiny new ‘Club Internacional de Futball Miami’. (Inter Miami CF).
The European Super League proposals coming out of America earlier this year were all about American money men putting a package together for the creation of a super club European and in time a world Franchise league.
Many people I have spoken to know a Scottish top level franchise league is now firmly on the table and how better to introduce it than though ‘independent’ consultants like a respected firm of accountants?
This Week’s Sting
1. Restraint of Trade?
Last night Ally McCoist and David Weir were drafted in to replace Neil Lennon and Chris Sutton who had originally been scheduled to cover the double header of Scottish Europa League ties from one studio at Ibrox.
Normal BT practice, managed out of London, I have been told.
Late in the day Rangers told BT that ‘they could not guarantee the safety of their planned commentary team, i.e. Neil and Chris and the unspoken reason was it was because of their Celtic connection.
Ally McCoist and David Weir were drafted in at the 11th hour for the Rangers match and BT London covered the Celtic game.
(And just so you know Ally, Neil McCann, Kris Boyd, and Derek McInnes have all recently worked as pundits/commentators inside Parkhead with no reported ‘safety’ issues).
Sutton was immediately grumpy and vociferous, tweeting, “I’m not allowed to work as Stewart Robertson says we are a security risk. Good to see Rangers’ diversity and inclusion campaign ‘Everyone Anyone’ is working well’.
Some of the stuff on Twitter since has been revealing and to be frank ugly.
Lenny simply says he wants paid.
And this isn’t a snipe, but I wish that Ally and David had stood firm and turned the work down to make the point for the football family.
2. A Veritable Violation of Vernacular
When does banter at football matches cross the ever-moving and refining line of ‘acceptability’?
A good pal of mine has a great story from a while back when he was near the front at Dens Park with his pals as the Rangers players were warming up in front of them, well before the game started.
Spotting Ally McCoist stretching some 10 yards away he yelled something like “Hey McCoist you’re a useless wanker’. (Yes, I have uncouth friends in Dundee)
Pre-game the crowd was sparse, and his voice travelled.
Ally not only heard every word but looking up could see who his assailant was and staring him straight in the eye repeated the accusation mouthing in an exaggerated fashion, ‘Wanker, Useless wanker, who me?’ as he pointed at himself.
My friend was spellbound, hijacked, and about to be humiliated.
And then Ally mouthed No, shaking his head, and then exaggeratedly mouthed, pointing at my pal, ‘You, you’re the useless wanker’.
My pal stood looking stupid, surrounded by his mates who were all in stitches at the reversal.
Then a big smile from Mr McCoist, a wee wave, a thumbs up and he carried on stretching.
So mildly abusive banter from the past that would still be funny today, but it can be a fine line and a tradition of ‘humour’ right through our game has made it too easy to ignore some of the darker stuff that has been hiding in full view right in front of our eyes and ears.
And while the world has changed football has failed to move fast enough.
The ‘bus to Dingwall’ a couple of weeks ago was a reminder that social media means nothing that happens at or around football goes unrecorded.
At last week’s match against Chelsea, Villa and Scotland’s John McGinn was taking a corner when a tirade of racist-themed abuse came his way from an individual, as yet to be identified, but still starring on social media all over the world.
The gruff Scottish accent from the crowd said stuff that I have sadly heard at football matches many times.
Stuff that went way beyond humour and should never have been tolerated anywhere.
Most of what our Chelsea fan actually said would probably have gone ‘whoosh’ over the heads of the other fans around him who would not be familiar with the meaning of the anti-Irish racism inherent in his words.
But up here it struck a well stricken chord.
Scottish football for some reason has never seriously addressed and never really tried to address this problem and that makes just eradication all the harder.
Fair play to Chelsea.
The episode went viral, Chelsea were embarrassed, and now say they will identify and deal with the individual.
The press in Scotland went light on reportage because they know that similar outbursts still burst-out up here, bring more grief our way and continue to damage our game.
Here is a link to the wee cameo but if you are in a territory where the link doesn’t work then here is the particular insight that I think the Scottish fan thought Mr McGinn should be cognisant of.
‘Boo you f—ing Fenian Bastard.
McGinn you dirty c—.
F— off you Fenian Wanker.
We are the people.
Football needs a code of conduct to help players and clubs.
The moronic abuse of John McGinn during Aston Villa's match at Chelsea is depressingly predictable in these angry times. Some think they are free to free to jettison the rules of decent behaviour once they enter a football stadium. pic.twitter.com/kBvZ0SHtO5
— Lisbon Lion (@tirnaog_09) September 14, 2021
3. Can Deloittes Double Our Money (Hughie Green Style) and ‘Lift the Tide for All Other Boats’?
That is the question and the daft and inaccurate metaphor this week from 5 clubs who say they have commissioned an ‘Independent Review’ of the SPFL by well-known accounting giants Deloitte and they mean that ‘most sincerely folks’.
Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee Utd, Hearts and Hibs made a statement ‘With the endorsement of the SPFL we have commissioned independent advisers to assist in a ‘strategic and holistic’ review of the SPFL’.
The club chairmen say they want to increase the revenues they get from the game from £27M pa to at least £50M and have identified four areas, commercial growth, brand, structure, and strategic projects.
That is as much detail as was shared and yes they are quite ‘jargony’ words.
Neil Doncaster was not quoted as being part of the review but had been briefed and issued an open-minded press release saying, ‘We the SPFL wholeheartedly welcome and support any initiative that has the good of the game at its heart’.
Deloittes have ‘previous’ of facilitating stuff for the SPFL and were called in last year to ‘review’ the ‘Good Friday’ vote that never quite happened and surprise, surprise, subsequently found ‘no evidence of improper behaviour’.
Like other consultants they usually deliver what they are told to deliver.
This is a Big and Long Term Story
You may not have heard but in a galaxy not very far away and just pre-pandemic some American owners of Scottish football clubs had been asking the kind of questions that any new American Owner of a Scottish Football club would ask.
Stuff like: –
‘What on earth is this promotion and relegation bull, and why do we allow big businesses to be replaced by small businesses just because they got more points?’
‘Where is the business sense in that, guys?’
‘And why do the big teams like us have to share so much of the cake with the wee guys when we need it more anyway?’
‘Tell me why is it one club, one vote, when the clubs are all so different and the biggest ones are most important?’
‘So how can we work as a group to maximise our revenues and stabilise our businesses at the same time?’
I’m sure you can imagine other equally pertinent and self interested questions along the same lines.
4 of our club owners effectively come from a very different place and after the culturally-shocking realisation of how differently our game was run compared to the game back home they understandably want to accelerate change for their own club’s benefit.
And who can blame them in Scottish football as it currently is?
The ‘Franchise the Top League’ Process Hasn’t just Started with Last week’s Brief to Deloittes
The ‘Glenfinnan Landing’ was a Pre-Pandemic Email Around Like-Minded Owners
After some one-to-one conversations and some zoom calls the die was cast.
The summary and outline plan contained questions like: –
‘What if we had a league with no relegation, with only big, invited, like-minded businesses, grass pitches and no tails wagging the dog?’
‘What if we start at 10 clubs in a franchise model and increase the revenue per member from what comes now?’
‘What if, in time, we can look at other opportunities to expand like into Ireland or across the sea the other way?,
‘Just like happened back home across different franchised leagues, wouldn’t that be better for our investments, our clubs and our fans?
‘Our plans can become the new normal in Scotland because the game here is crying out for leadership and we can force that.’
Let’s All Fast Forward 20 months
Scottish Football is in a rut and has been for years.
Some good stuff happens and there are many good people doing great jobs but there is little vision beyond anyone’s next financial year.
The game is run by two organisations sitting uncomfortably side by side.
And somehow the revenue revolution south of the border never came here.
We are poor cousins in every way except through the turnstiles where we are still the biggest, per capita, supporters in Europe.
But it is thin porridge, every club want’s more of it and we have elephants in our room precluding wholesome commercial links.
Neil’s highly trumpeted SPFL ‘cinch’ 5 year sponsorship delivers less in total than one English Premierships squad player’s wages.
Our game is skewed with 2 dominant teams followed by a group of 3, then another big gap in an unbalanced scenario that frames ongoing, uneven, competition.
The sheer fact that we’ve only had two winners of our top league in the lifetime of all currently playing in it speaks volumes.
With football from all over the world now wall to wall and on TV live on 6 out of 7 days there are no easy media deals to mine.
And there is no queue of foreign TV execs purring over our product.
Some insighters also think we are managing a long term turnstile decline too as football is losing the relative interest and following of our kids.
Change is Needed and is Long, Long Overdue
Seven years ago, Barry Hearn was invited as guest speaker to the inaugural and now annual SFA Convention.
He opened saying ‘I’m not an expert on Scottish football and listening to your financial figures today neither are you.
My message to your leaders is, ‘Wake up and smell the coffee’.
Other memorable stuff from that night was
‘It’s not just the level of football that sells, two donkeys can make a great race’.
‘You are not moving with the times and are lazy and mired in self-pity’.
More recently, last summer, he made some even more cutting remarks in an interview in the good old Sunday Post that I had missed at the time, but they hit hard and are still relevant today.
Looking at our game and its turmoil he quipped ‘My train fare back then (to speak at the SFA convention) was obviously wasted’
‘You are still a business without direction’.
‘Anyone who has been involved in top level sport will confirm that in-fighting goes on all the time. Different people have different agendas and want to push their own causes’
‘And When I read that the leaders of the SPFL now say they are merely representatives of the clubs I shake my head. That is a big mistake, a seriously big mistake.
By doing that they simply concede power and direction to a load of businessmen with big egos, motivated by the self-interest of their clubs’.
‘Scottish Football desperately needs someone to take charge, to say ‘This is what we are doing so get in line’.
We All Know Deep Down That Change Won’t Come from Within nor from Some Bought-in Accountants
Deloittes will produce a nice report with some graphics and quotes too.
But they will give the gang of 5 simply what they asked for.
That’s what consultants do and when the 4 American clubs and Hearts use it to justify change their proposals will be hollow.
Self interest will still be the controlling factor and those with power will fight any move to progress if it doesn’t suit their own agenda.
Scottish Football needs and deserves bigger and more inclusive thinking.
As always stay safe and feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.