Date: 18th March 2022
1. Glad to Be Mistaken
Last week I shared my fears that the Court of Arbitration in Sport would approve an interim, technical, ‘lifting’ of the current ban on Russia competing in the World Cup and Russian Teams in the Europa League.
I had thought it was a clever approach by the Russian legal team and you agreed, but today it was rejected, and the suspension remains in force ahead of the full hearing judgement.
No date for that yet.
Russia could still win and play in June, but word from Switzerland suggests it is unlikely.
2. Destination Braga April 7th.
Well done Gio and Rangers.
A wonderful result over two tough legs against Red Star.
And now just two years after a 4-2 aggregate win in the 2020 Europa League it’s back to SC Braga again.
A good side, 4th in the Primeira Liga behind Porto, Sporting Lisbon, and Benfica.
No easy games left with Leipzig or Atalanta waiting in the semi-finals.
3. Every Scotland Fan Wants to Play Ukraine in June
We were drawn part of a 4 team group; the prize is a trip to Qatar, and we want to play it fair and square.
Our ‘huge’ match next week is now changed and downgraded to a friendly against Poland.
Someone at Fifa has even optimistically scheduled our Ukraine game for June.
It won’t happen though.
Not in June.
Poland and Scotland who have agreed to play a Hampden friendly next week have effectively been given ‘byes’ into the final of our mini 4 team play off leagues making it an easier route for us both.
We’ve had a fair few contacts from members about the whole Ukraine situation.
Like me, as a group, fans are increasingly thinking Ukraine are out for no fault of their own and without a ball being kicked.
We’ve had no word from the SFA about how they see the situation either direct or though their usual press-release channels either.
Time is tight.
So on Tuesday morning I dropped a note to the Ian Maxwell at the SFA.
What I asked for was summed up in very few lines, basically seeking their intervention.
This is part of my letter.
“THE SFSA REQUEST THAT THE SFA URGENTLY PETITIONS FIFA TO GIVE UKRAINE A BYE DIRECT TO THE WORLD CUP FINALS IN QATAR
And later I also said –
And yes, our suggestion is not perfect in a tournament with tight schedules to stick to, but 1 qualifying group in Qatar having an extra team involved is not beyond the realms of organisation.
33 Teams there rather than 32.
We at Scottish Football, as the second oldest Football Association in the world should proudly take this kind of lead.
If we do, football elsewhere will rally to this cause, gather round, support Ukraine, and make a huge statement across the world.
This is the right thing to do.
Please help and work with us on this one.”
We didn’t get a response because I guess our SFA were dealing with so much concerning the hastily rescheduled Polish game.
On Wednesday night and aware of the urgency we put out a statement and press release about our request.
It caused a mixed reaction, some fans read it wrong and thought we were suggesting Scotland should withdraw and give up our chance in favour of Ukraine.
Not sure why, but in the way it does, twitter ‘lit up’ for a while.
Some thought we were disadvantaging Scotland, which in reality we were not, although one extra team at Qatar is technically one more to beat.
We were simply saying that Ukraine, through no fault of their own will not be able to play the qualifiers.
So why not unite football, do the decent thing and make a statement to the world and the Russian people?
Basically why can’t football take the initiative and do something for Ukraine that every individual country would want done for them, if they were in Ukraine’s position?
Our proposal got immediate media traction because many people like this idea and want it to happen.
A good on-air discussion with Gary Robertson on the BBC Radio Scotland GMS show at 7.17am on Thursday morning perfectly captured our thoughts.
Good Morning Scotland – 17/03/2022 – BBC Sounds (1:17:30)
We have had incredible support from those fans who took the two minutes to read and think about what we were saying and also cross party support from MSPs and MPs wanting Scotland and our SFA to be more proactive and to look for a positive outcome.
I still don’t actually know what Hampden thinks but unbeknownst to us we were not alone in articulating the thoughts that it would be the right thing for Ukraine to get a bye.
Last weekend, at a ‘National Lottery Football Weekends Event’, Noel Mooney the ex Cork City goalie who is now head of the Welsh FA said some interesting things.
He articulated that what we were asking for might even be pushing at an open door, albeit with hurdles.
He was talking about a conversation that had already taken place between Scotland, Wales, Austria and Fifa not long before our request to the SFA.
A conversation that never made it into the public domain.
This is some of what he said.
“When Fifa held talks with us over the play off final the idea of giving Ukraine a bye to what would only be their second world cup was considered.
A Welsh perspective is that if it could be accommodated then it would be a really good thing to do.
It’s something as a human being we would say, ‘OK if they’re not ready to play in June then give them a bye right through’.
It would mean an extra team in Qatar and there is the integrity of the competition, and it would be difficult.
The feeling was a 28 day tournament wouldn’t facilitate it.
We want to give Ukraine as much time to declare they are ok to play in June.
There are options floating around and we hope to have a decision in the next week or two.
We are in discussion with Fifa Uefa and other federations.”
So, reading between the lines.
Our idea has already been proposed and discussed in a group including the SFA.
Implementing it would not be easy and would need some flexibility by Fifa.
The same Fifa who flexibly moved the summer world cup to November/December.
If they can do that they can deal with a righteous ‘Bye’ for Ukraine.
It just needs more people like our Mr Petrie to talk about it positively to get it to happen.
Please Rod, let’s be part of the football world doing the right thing.
Maybe we need Val McDermid on the SFA?
In the meantime Well Done to the Same SFA
Credit where it is due.
We play Poland on Thursday at 7.45.
For every ticket sold £10 will be donated to UNICEF’s emergency appeal for Ukraine.
I can’t be there on the night but there is also a UNICEF donation option link on the ticket site for fans like me who have other arrangements.
4. “Long and Strong Conversations with the SFA”
The semi-final draw has given us Hearts v Hibs on Saturday April 16th at 12.15 and Celtic v Rangers on Sunday 17th at 4pm.
The pay per view TV sponsor of the cup chose ‘exclusivity’ for the Glasgow clubs game so the Hearts v Hibs lunchtime game will also be live on BBC as well as the ppv channel.
Neither Edinburgh side is happy at the pricing or the tv-dominated timing for their tie.
Hibs came out on the back of a sell-out, home game initiative with St Johnstone where tickets at £5 were snapped up and said “We explained in detail to the SFA how expensive it to be a football supporter following your team in the current climate. However, the SFA have not moved on their decision which is incredibly disappointing and has caused us great frustration”.
Hearts, equally unhappy said “Both clubs stressed that in the current climate we want to make football affordable for everyone”.
No surprise that we were deluged with complaints from members asking for help and Stuart Murphy our SFSA CEO wrote to Ian Maxwell at the SFA asking for a reconsideration.
Stuart’s a Dundee fan and season book holder and just last week had watched the quarter-final at Dens Park which was also live on TV.
For many Dundee fans the £30 tickets for that match didn’t hit the spot and left wide-open and empty spaces where there should have been Dundee fans and neutrals.
The big Rangers travelling support made it look like a home game.
But the small crowd was not a good advert for our game.
We’ll talk about the toxic songbook below too.
Ian Maxwell, CEO at the SFA is a decent guy and didn’t invent this annual semi-finals at Hampden problem which has played out many times before.
He responded to our Stuart and said, “the prices for the semi, which is in effect what the SFA see as a premium tie, are very similar to the normal prices at Easter Road” and also made the point that the Hampden concessionary ticket prices are actually more generous.
But the key issue is that didn’t stop empty spaces at Dens last week and won’t stop them for the Saturday semi in April.
It is a fact that times right now are tough and pricing levels are going to increasingly affect all professional sports.
Just last week, Wales couldn’t even sell out their Millennium Stadium for their match with France because of a stupid o’clock, late Friday slot, and eye-watering prices of around £100 per ticket.
Fan spend is not the bottomless pits some clubs and authorities think it is.
In economic terms we have a classic ‘elasticity of pricing’ issue because of the different demand levels at the clubs.
What that means is Hampden will be full for the Sunday game and indeed could have charged more.
But there will be empty spaces for the Saturday game on live tv.
Not great for a showcase.
We’d all prefer to see a full Hampden for both matches.
That should be the starting point and maybe change needs to be discussed round a table.
5. Why Does Australia Even Want Us?
In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot of discussion about fans of our two Glasgow giants and the proposed money spinner in Sydney.
Given the recent return of certain songs and chants from both sides at away games against other sides including Dundee and Dundee Utd, I hope the Sydney Super Cup goes ahead, that the away fans ‘gie it Laldy’ to each other and then stay there for a wee unwanted holiday courtesy of Corrective Services NSW.
Believe it or not the most common complaint and request for change we get is about the songs and chants heard regularly in our top division.
They were never acceptable and have no place now.
The Politicians, football authorities, clubs and Police Scotland duck this issue in a righteous circle going nowhere.
Two pennyworths from Andy.
The first is I really find it strange that things can be shouted or sung at football matches with no repercussions but would lead to arrest if shouted or sung in the street.
And secondly, I have to ask why the media seems to totally avoid calling this out as news because it should be given the full publicity Bhuna until it is brought to a stop.
The David Goodwillie episode has shouted out loud that Scotland has moved on.
We need another Val McDermid moment here too.
6. From Dnipro to Embra, (eventually)
Hibs played Dnipro in a Uefa tie in 2005 and the Dnipro Kids Charity was founded shortly afterwards by Hibs fans to help local Ukrainian orphans.
Fast forward and Steven Carr the chairman and his team have somehow managed to get 48 orphans out and they are now staying in a hotel near Poznan in Poland after fleeing Ukraine.
They were stuck awaiting Home Office paperwork.
That is until well-known Hibby, Ian Blackford waded in with his size 12s at PMQ’s on Wednesday and the good news according to Duncan MacRae of Dnipro Kids is that the kids and their ‘orphanage mums’ are booked on flight for Monday.
Well done Hibs, well done Hibs fans and also Hearts, Aberdeen and other clubs and fans who have made this happen.
7. The Race to Buy Abramovich’s Toy?
Bids have to be in by 9pm on Friday night at New York’s merchant bank group Raine Group.
The owner Roman wants £3Billion.
Some big hitters are lining up and they have to provide a proof of funds letter, a list of advisers, a business plan, a timescale for completion and a brown envelope with used pound notes.
(OK that last requirement was a joke).
We have been told a ‘preferred’ bid will then be selected and then some due diligence undertaken.
Up to 100 possible bids and some serious big hitters.
One Bidder, Nick Candy, who is a lifelong fan, has even promised to create a board position for a fans representative.
Most just see it as an opportunity to buy into ‘the biggest game in town’.
The reality is the planet sees The English Premier League as the World League and the place to be for the future revenues.
That’s it for this week.
Have a nice weekend.
And a wee think about helping the Dnipro Kids Charity too.
Comments and input always welcome
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