Andy’s Sting In The Tale (18/02/22) “Fan Spending Squeeze”

Date: 18th February 2022

(Photo: @HomesOfFootball)

 

This Week’s Sting:

  1.  Hard Choices on the Horizon
  2. What’s the Story?
  3. Champions League Ruminations
  4. Tax-Payers Foot the Bills
  5. The Streets of Raith and Cojones in Football?

 

1. Heat the Home, Feed the Kids, or Buy a Season Book?

 

It costs to be a football fan.

The money we use to watch our clubs is characterised as ‘discretionary spending’ by the economists.
Some of you might disagree but it is spend that is not essential for living and competes with things like entertainment, drinking alcohol, holidays, and other nice things in life.
Right now many of us are about to face tough choices.
We maybe can just about get by with the rises at the supermarket, but the real killer will be energy bills and they are all going one way after April.
They will hurt.
Many people’s discretionary spend will be recycled by necessity into essentials and businesses everywhere are worried.

See the source imageWill it impact a game that is heavily reliant on turnstile income?
Yes.
The only certainty is there will be less money heading into football because necessities will take first dibs.
Like all economic driven impacts it won’t happen to everyone overnight.
But it will increasingly bite in both little and more profound ways.
Not an easy time on the horizon for our clubs starting their financial planning for next year and beyond.

I was glad to come across one club today reaching out to occasional and lapsed fans.

Glory Glory to the Green Edinburgh Team

Well done Hibs for their fan-friendly initiative, ‘Football For A Fiver’.

A simple idea where every seat, outwith hospitality is £5 for the St Johnstone game on Saturday 5th of March.

It is a thank you to all Hibbees for the impact a jumping full Easter Road can make on the team.

See the source imageCEO Ben Kensell, said: ‘Football is all about the fans and being a football fan isn’t cheap.
We hope Hibs ‘Football For A Fiver’, will help us sell out Easter Road against St Johnstone who look after our fans well when we travel to Perth and also offer the cheapest away tickets for our supporters.’

Other clubs will be watching and this kind of thank you to occasional supporters is a great idea.

 

2. Just Why Have Female Clubs Jumped Ship?

This week we heard that our 17 SWPL clubs decided on a ‘majority’ vote to move from the SWF (Scottish Women’s Football) to the SPFL.

Their stated plan is to form a new league and cup competition within the existing SPFL structure from the start of the 22- 23 season.

The announcement said that an independent chair, a managing director, and an independent non-exec director will be recruited.

In a well coordinated series of media interactions Ian Maxwell of the SFA said he was delighted to see the SWPL, the SPFL and SWF come together following ‘months of talks between clubs,’ whatever that means.

See the source imageNeil Doncaster said ‘I have been struck by the ambition of all clubs involved to drive up standards, take the game to the next level and increase participation across the sport.
I would also send my thanks to everyone at SWF which deserves huge credit for the way it has progressed the women’s professional game in recent times.’

Aileen Campbell, SWF’s Chief Exec who was only recruited last August, is said to believe the move represents a great opportunity to push for change both in the sport and in society as a whole.
Her quote reproduced below, says quite a lot generally but in reality, not very much specifically about what has just happened.

‘SWF is committed to driving the woman’s and girls’ game in Scotland.
We are therefore determined to do everything to support the elite game as it transitions to the SPFL. Football can be a huge force for good and we want to maximise its potential to drive positive change across our sport and also society.
We need to shine a light on player wellbeing, to push for structural change and equality in boardrooms and to prioritise a respect agenda.
SWF stands ready and enthused to support the Scottish football family on that journey’

 

See the source imageI was a little confused and wondered what this all really meant and how the SWF and SPFL and SFA would interact going forward and what that would mean for both the elite and also those clubs and players outside it.

I wasn’t the only wonderer.

Some of you asked if it would it be like the current SFA and SPFL arrangement?

Many see a breakaway rather than a planned evolution.

I honestly don’t know so have been trying to find out.

The SWF Website Doesn’t Tell Us

It’s a good site.
Aileen Campbell, ex MSP and Cabinet Secretary was a banner signing for the SWF last August.
There was no talk or even the remotest hint of her ‘transitioning their elite leagues to the SPFL’ back then.

In November ’21 three new SWF recruits were unveiled, a Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer, and two Club and Competitions Coordinators taking the growing SWF headcount to 9, a fairly big overhead.
Again there was no talk of ‘transitioning any part of the SWF areas of operation to the SPFL’.

 

As recently as January 28 the SWF announced the appointment of Sam O’Donnell (pictured) as Commercial Partnership Manager.
SWF chair Vivienne McLaren said, ‘This is another sign of our ambitions and intent going forward’.

Again, she did not mention ‘transitioning the elite leagues to the SPFL or that it needed to be done for commercial reasons’.

Time will tell.

It will almost certainly have been about money.
Maybe it is a good thing to commercially sell all of Scottish Football together?
It might be less toxic.
And maybe the SPFL are the best people to organise the leagues and cup structures?

The reality is there is no right or wrong way to manage elite football – just different options and differing outcomes.
I know nothing about the politics behind the move but we’ll all find out soon.

In the meantime here are some insights from our very recent, and as yet unreleased, research.
It is what we fans, as a community, currently think about the SFA and the SPFL based on how we judge they run the men’s game.

See the source imageThe figures are stark and come with a ‘Popular Front of Judea’ warning because it is always easier to criticise, and the truth is that many of us don’t know the detail behind what happens on and from the 6th floor.

But the figures and therefore the opinions are stark and illustrative of fans feeling very much on the outside by an unchanging system.

The SPFL-bound women’s game should take heed and future proof their structure.
Transparency should be their bedrock.

And please don’t just do what is already being done elsewhere or all you’ll get back is the problems they already have.

 

See the source imageStark Figures

82.5% of us think that Scottish Football is controlled by just a few clubs.
Only 11.1% think Scottish Football being run ‘by clubs for clubs’ is the best management structure.
85% of us say they understand the difference between what the SFA and SPFL do for the game.
Just 12.9% of us think the SFA do a good job.
Less, 9.2% think the SPFL do a good job.
And only 4.1% of us feel valued by the SFA and SPFL.
Finally an unimpressive 12.8% of us think the SPFL and SFA run better as two disparate bodies rather than one, and the vast majority think they should be one organisation with specific specialisations.

3. Pariah States, Plastics and the Champions League

If you are a regular reader then you will know my thoughts on the Champions League by now.
It should just be for champions from all countries.
And the money should mostly go to associations for grass roots rather than the big clubs from the biggest 5 nations.

To forge changes all the wee guys like us should threaten ‘walking away’ to achieve fairness because our collective tv audience is actually bigger than the top 5’s when combined.

See the source imageOn Tuesday I watched Man City demolish Sporting Lisbon at their Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Man City were superb, but the 5 goals were not my abiding memory good as they were.

I came away with two niggly brainworms

The first was how professional the advert for Russian State Owned Gazprom was on Sky during each break.
They don’t sell direct to consumers.
We are not the Gazprom target market.
But they do ‘use’ football to reach out and influence ‘decision makers’, and the TV and trackside advertising is a spurious link that offers an ‘elite corporate entertainment programme at games’ and maybe even gilded further with foreign travel and wee extras on the side.

Uefa trousers circa £40M per annum for the partnership.

I couldn’t find what they pay Fifa and think it is project by project, but it will be substantial too.

See the source image

Their advert really struck me because it had production values that Disney would be proud of.

After seeing it and being aware of the tensions on the Russian/Ukrainian border I wondered.

What would Uefa and Sky have done if the game had been Ukrainian champions Dynamo Kiev playing Russian top side Zenit St Petersburg?

And also, if, or rather when, Russia enter Ukraine, ‘What will Uefa do about their links with Gazprom and the nice to look at but totally OTT ad?’

My second brainworm was watching the managers marching up and down their technical areas with their ubiquitous wee plastic bottles of water.
A year ago I’d not have given it any thought but after Glasgow’s COP 26 it didn’t seem right.
I’m not alone.
You agree.

In our recent research only 13.6% of us think single use plastics should be allowed in football grounds.

Football has a far reach through society and Uefa, Fifa and all who run our games need to be more aware.

4. Ten Fast, Confusing and Expensive Years

See the source imageIt was Valentine’s Day back in 2012 when I heard the news confirming the news that Rangers PLC had gone into administration.

It was a shock then even though the big tax case and the wee tax case were common fan parlance.

Deep down everyone knew that nobody ‘knighted for services to entrepreneurialism’ would ever have sold any valuable asset for £1, even to a ‘fan’ with ‘wealth off the radar’.

We’ve witnessed a messy slide with opportunism, anger, revenge and big bucks at the heart of complex ramifications still playing out in our courtrooms at our expense.

Administrations and receiverships bring out the worst in business but it is fair to say the tax payers lost out then and are still losing out now.

It wasn’t Scottish Football’s finest hour however you look at it.

Back then, commercially there was a new TV contract to protect and the fans of one of our big two clubs to consider.

I remember the Herald Front Page and headline in particular.

See the source imageBut football has ways.

The Secret 5 way agreement imagineered, amended and finally signed, or not, by the SPFL, SFA, SFL, Rangers PLC (in administration) and Sevco Scotland 2012, was followed by the need for a ‘temporary licence’ to allow a game at Brechin where the home side were seeded.

Some players tuped as was their right and some walked away for personal gain.

Since then, there has been much talk, debate, and court action about both the demise and the actions of individuals, our Crown Prosecution Service and Police Scotland.
Not Scotland’s legal system’s finest hour either.

 

 

Fast Forward 10 Years and 3 Days

Borussia Dortmund 2 Rangers 4

See the source imageA wonderful result for Scotland, our coefficient, and all Rangers fans.
And good luck to both our teams next week.


5. Fully Engaged at Making Up in Kirkcaldy?

It is probably the oldest trick in the boardroom.
If you have to make a difficult decision call in a consultant, tell them what you want and pay them for the job.
They will recommend what you told them you wanted.
Also known as ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’.
If you don’t have enough money to bring in a consultant then hold ‘consultations’ where you listen to everyone and then make the decision that you would have made in the first place.

This week, Chairman and absentee owner, John Sim, directors David Sinton, Tom Morgan and Steven MacDonald plus chief executive Karen MaCartney apologised and reached out to the Raith fans.
In a press release immeasurably superior to the David Goodwillie patchwork just two weeks ago they said.

See the source image‘We fully acknowledge that there is still a long journey ahead of us to reach a position where the many thousands of people in the Raith family feel that they have trust and confidence in those of us who take the day to day decisions at the club.
We have reached out to the supporters groups and meetings have taken place to begin discussions that will lead to the agreement on a plan to repair the reputational and financial damage.
We know this will not be easy.
We have also commenced consultations on a thorough review of the composition of the board of the club with a view to broadening the experience and expertise and to ensure that all stakeholders are fully represented’.

Some Raith fans feel the apology is not genuine and see some damage control and under the carpet sweeping.

Meanwhile we’ve been told the four remaining board members and the CEO and all club staff are fully engaged on keeping the club going through this difficult time’.

They made a dumb decision which at the time wasn’t even seen by everyone in the game as a dumb decision but thanks to Val the game and the country has moved on.

I don’t know what has happened to the two directors who did walking away.
I would be interested to hear their thoughts and mostly hope the reasons behind the second Battle of Raith forge real change for the good.
And I hope peace can break out.

Meantime More Power to the Sunday Post

Marion Scott at our national treasure really hit the nail on this one.
This is verbatim from last week’s front page.

See the source image‘Compelling evidence suggests Goodwillie rape victim was incapable of consent so why did a jury never hear it?’
‘The decision to drop the case in 2011 was taken by the then Lord Advocate Frank Mullholland on the recommendation of the late Derek Ogg QC who led the shiny new ‘National Sex Crimes Unit’.

A senior official said the decision to drop the Goodwillie case left a “nasty smell” and confusion, consternation and great unease.  The same official also highlighted the friendship of Ogg and the late Paul McBride QC who was representing Goodwillie.

Within days of the decision not to proceed, Scotland manager Craig Levein said Goodwillie would be considered for selection and a £2.8M transfer to Blackburn took place.

Football Collectively Let Ms Clair Down

Judge rules David Goodwillie & David Robertson raped woman | Daily Mail OnlineAfter Lord Armstrong, my fast as lightning right winger teammate, a long time ago, declared DG a rapist in his civil court, the SFA compliance officer decided to take no action and Company Secretary, Heather Barton said ‘after consideration no action would be taken against either guilty player’ .
A letter denying the game had been brought into disrepute was also sent to Ms Clair, fully 12 months after Lord Armstrong’s ruling.
Ms Clair told the Sunday Post ‘This letter is as disappointing now as it was then and shows the attitudes in the sport that allowed DG to continue his career with barely a murmur from clubs, players or fans.
If raping someone doesn’t bring the game into disrepute, what does?
(my emphasis)
It is nice to think that the response might be different today but there is nothing to suggest it would be’.

Financial Shenanigans and Facts

DG has never paid a penny of the compensation awarded by Lord Armstrong.
He is in line for a pay-off by Raith of up to £150K.

See the source imageVal Has Done us all a Favour

 

Football has to realise that it has deep responsibilities.

The right thing to do here is to apologise and to settle the amount that DG went bankrupt to avoid paying.
There must be a goodwill fund that exists for stuff like this.

Football has lots of balls but does it have the cojones to do the right thing?

More fan insights and opinion next week.

 

 

 

If you enjoy Sting tell your pals and make a happy man very old.

 

Andy

Andrew@scottishfsa.org

Comments and input always welcome

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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