Date: 19th August 2022
This week saw the media coordination ahead of the SPFL launch of Ron Gordon’s rather expensive Deloitte report.
Aberdeen, Dundee, Dundee United, Hearts and Hibs all co-funded the initiative and had the same press release tweaked to look like it was their own.
The top-line number is the shared belief that Ron and his SPFL and Deloitte pals think the current £28 M revenue base can be increased to £50 M plus and the full report we are told outlines a plan to achieve it.
The report itself wasn’t released to the media or fans and so far hasn’t even been released outside the Premier clubs.
I’ve used Deloitte in the past.
They were indeed money-driven but it was mostly fee income into their coffers rather than increasing the share to me and my board.
That said, I’ll look as closely as I can into what we have been bombarded with this week, and try to give some insights to see if I can work out what it really is all about.
I already know of some deep flaws in the research they undertook and also will discuss their decision not to address some of the ‘elephants in our dressing room’.
In the meantime and just to start off with a wee smile, did you know that an anagram for Deloitte is ‘Toileted’.
Maybe that’s the very same place where the SFA disposed of the two McLeish Reports and Ernie Walkers much vaunted ‘Think Tank’ that nobody has ever seen.
In the meantime, good luck to all our clubs in Europe next week.
I thought PSV had adopted some Atletico Madrid physicality and histrionics but they are a good side.
A Warm Welcome to this Week’s Sting
1. Why Spend Real Pound Notes on External Consultants?
And where will it all end up?
The stark reality in any briefing situation in business is ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’.
i.e. You often get back what you told them you wanted.
It was no secret that Ron Gordon, Hibs Chairman and other American owners found Scottish football and how it is run a tad frustrating.
‘Tail wagging the dog’ would maybe sum up a view that also resonated around other like-minded American club owners who felt wee clubs should not even be at the decision making table.
These guys come from a world where franchised clubs don’t get relegated just for finishing bottom.
In fact being bottom would get you first pick in the next years college draft.
They can’t see the business sense in Arbroath getting promoted to the top league just because they have a ‘lucky,’ one-off season and finish top. They certainly can’t envisage a club like Dundee, Dundee Utd, Kilmarnock or even Aberdeen getting relegated in their place.
Fair enough, everyone is allowed to have a point of view, and it is a serious fact that our club’s business plans are so short-termist that many managers and bean counters are looking only one game ahead.
So what was this revenue development programme about?
Initially more money into the game and increasing it to the top clubs who look over the border enviously and, feeling like poor relations, want more.
And there are only a few ways to achieve that.
Take more out from the current pot.
Make the pot bigger so everyone wins.
Or make the pot bigger and take a bigger share, just because you can.
So Deloitte were briefed last Autumn and have now worked on and presented a substantial report and recommendations.
The report hasn’t been released for whatever real reason.
Not even, as I write, to clubs out with the Premiership.
Ron Gordon now reckons the SPFL can get £50M per annum by 2029, a £22M uplift.
How Will it Happen?
According to Deloitte, the Plan is a combination of the following actions:-
– Change the SPFL from its current administrative function into a commercial operation. (This means hiring and or maybe firing but certainly changing).
– Maximise broadcast income with Sky. (Squeeze more out of them)
– Grow commercial partnerships and revenues.
– Reposition our game as ‘The most exciting and passionate in Europe’.
– Sell matches to more at home, and also in new, unspecified markets.
– Improve the image, brand, and profile of the SPFL to make our league ‘the most passionate and exciting in Europe’.
– And, finally to strengthen cooperation between clubs and the league.
– Oh, and as a further afterthought, to improve the profile, prowess, and finances of the women’s elite game in Scotland and establish competitions for elite footballers at SPFL clubs.
Some good intentions in there too and a nice wish list.
Not much, but mostly non-defined, wishy things like,
“Alcohol in stadiums is denied for no good reason. It is a legacy issue and we need to get over that”.
(Our research shows fans are in favour of being able to drink but also back the compromise that big games like Ron’s recent derby against Hearts would risk even more trouble if alcohol was on sale in the ground).
And a new, ‘highly commercial’ idea proposed for the new SPFL, “Selling integrated packages of Premiership, Championship Scottish Cup and Scottish Women’s Premier League games packages to sponsors and partners, as yet unknown”.
Over the next Few Days, Some Shoring Up Was Required
The plan, or to be more incisive, the lack of one was discussed in the media.
Ron Gordon came out in what seemed to be an attempt to justify the report ahead of the planned SPFL board meeting on Monday 21st.
Here are some of his thoughts and wisdom.
“The Deloitte report says Scottish football is marginally undervalued”. (My emphasis not his to his words)
“We are in conversations with Sky on the resetting of our deal”.
“In conversations with Sky we want to screen more games but also protect the gate, we want our stadiums to be full”.
“We’re looking to create a product that has more to offer a commercial partner”.
“We also want to double our commercial revenue from £4 M to almost £8 M”.
“The women’s game really has an opportunity for new revenues because nothing has existed. Broadcasting alone could be £2.5 M in 5- 7 years”.
“There has been a lot of bad blood and people are cynical about the league but Scottish football does a lot more good than bad. Every club is a difference maker in its community”
“We should harness all the good that football does and create a brand that is very positive. And good brands want to associate with good brands”
“Scottish football is authentic, real, very passionate and we have attendance and social engagement among the best in Europe”.
Ron’s pal, Aberdeen owner and Chairman, Dave Cormack was also on shore-up duties.
“We believe there is an immediate 20-30% increase and are working on that with Deloitte”.
“We could be doing better selling our game internationally”.
Again, not a bad wish list.
The Real Reasons for Deloitte and the spend?
It’s a long game by the 5 clubs who have no real power and no say in the future of the game that feeds them all.
The smart money would say some of the ‘bigger clubs’ want to change the current status quo into less clubs and change the current power dynamics and structure.
More money is both the promise and the lubrication to try to get the wee guys to agree.
What Do The Fans Think?
The 5 club report was produced WITHOUT input from the game’s key stakeholders, the fan.
There was a token statement somewhere that fans are important but the reality is while many in the game were spoken to, this is a fan-less report.
Successful businesses don’t work that way and talk to consumers all the time.
To me it is almost like the 5 owners know what they want and are simply using the name Deloitte to suggest their particular view of change is justifiable financially, and good for the game too.
Our ongoing SFSA Fan research shows clearly what fans think and want when it comes to the future of our leagues and how they are run.
Deloitte hasn’t looked at any of these insights.
Current Fan Insights and Opinions
– The SFA and SPFL should unite and run the game as one integrated body.
– Transparently and fairly.
– With fan representation at all levels.
– Fairer distribution of revenues is needed, especially to grass roots.
– Less control by the biggest clubs with self-interest over-dominant.
– Bigger leagues at all levels.
– Possible regionalisation
– A proper pyramid with automatic relegation and promotion.
How did the media react?
Most of them more or less printed the first press release on Tuesday and added a few words, as they do.
They did not really question the spurious decision given not to publish the report and want access.
Ron’s “We don’t plan to publish the full report because the consensus was that there is a whole bunch of stuff that could be dissected in perhaps not a constructive way” still doesn’t hold up and never will.
Publish the report Ron and welcome input from fans.
You’ll be surprised.
And while most red tops have moved on for now and are wondering what colour the Glasgow teams boots will be at the weekend, Michael Grant writing in Murdoch’s Times came up with this headline.
“Deloitte report is such a damp squib”.
He goes on to say Mr Gordon’s idea of selling integrated packages of Premiership, Championship, Scottish Cup and Scottish Women’s Premier League doesn’t have the claimed Wow factor.
He also quotes Kieran Maguire, the football finance expert, “Sky have shareholders and will just not pay more because the Premiership and its new Commercial department wants more.
There is also no huge pool of broadcasters queuing up to pay more.
That is not the way it works”.
Scottish Football and Elephants in Our Room
I’m not going into much detail today but we have a few and they get in the way of wholesome commercial deals and more money. It’s part of the reason we find lucrative sponsorship hard to garner.
– Things like a toxic atmosphere at some games caused and flared by the socio-religious complications and entrenchment of Scottish society that football here seems to allow.
It is easier for sponsors to stay away from that kind of stuff.
They don’t need the songbooks or the chants.
– Our current league sponsorship bizarrely has a one club ‘amnesty”.
– Our SPFL voting structure which essentially leaves all the power with 2 clubs.
– Our non-competitive, duopolistic Premiership where only 2 clubs can and have won since 1984, some 38 years ago.
The hard fact that there is only one game that people outside our bubble will PPV for.
(Our biggest strength and our biggest weakness at the same time.)
Change is Needed Desperately
But it won’t and can’t come from the 5 biggish ‘Deloitte’ clubs who want an end to their own relegation worries and a bigger share of any, but preferably a bigger cake.
The Deloitte report will be discussed for a while but the reality is it will end up being ‘toileted’.
And we will bumble on.
In the last few weeks we’ve seen two of last year’s stronger clubs humbled by European nobodies
It has been ever thus for a long time and our coefficient is only good because of Rangers successes in Europe.
Scottish football is incapable of change just from within but won’t, because of self-interest, look outside.
2. It’s a Certain Type of Man Thing
Those who like to be offended expressed immediate outrage at Graeme Souness when after a particularly feisty 2-2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham described football as a “man’s game, all of a sudden again”.
I don’t think he saw the recent women’s Euros.
He maybe made it worse by then saying, “I think we’ve got our football back, as I would enjoy football. Men at it, blow for blow, and the referee letting them get on with it”.
On Talksport he said he was talking about referees allowing play to continue more than before, “I’ve said for years that referees have a major part to play”.
I played in the same era as Graeme when there was no women’s football and can now see the game was poorer for the nonsensical absence.
I’ve changed my views totally and see football as, ‘Everyone’s game’ and better for it.
The Euros were a fantastic feast of football.
Women’s football, Mr Souness.
Graeme is simply off the pace.
And he and others like him might never change.
That won’t stop the march of the girls and women’s game.
3. The Fornication of Numbers in Catalonia.
When you are bankrupt but have signed players you can’t really afford and can’t register, and still have players you can’t get rid of, what do you do?
In for a penny and all that.
You sell more of the family silver in the form of more future revenues and pretend everything is fine.
It ticks the box, and you play Lewandowski, Rapinha and Christensen against Rayo Vallecano at home in the Camp Nou and draw 0-0.
Illogical nonsense that some people think is only heading one way.
Others think the whole thing is a complex paperwork fudge to hide the payday-loans they have taken from sophisticated banking sharks.
Sooner or later the numbers have to add up and we’ll find out.
4. Zurich No More
Q. Where do Swiss Champions Zurich play?
A. Normally in Letzigrund in Zurich but not for their Hearts game.
But there is a wee matter of a pop concert at the ground tonight so the tie has been moved 80km to Kybun Park, a 20,000 capacity ground in St Gallen, home of FC St Gallen.
Hearts first European tie for 6 years.
Not a bad result though Jambos with all to play for.
5. Uefa’s Labyrinthine Annual Nonsense
The Champions League is not for bona fide Champions, just the top 4 countries with the highest coefficients and a few occasional guests like Celtic and Porto.
The Europa League and The Conference now offer us 3 Uefa competitions just like in the old days.
I hate the nonsensical and unnecessary play-off phases.
I’m a fan of less clubs qualifying but all who do get automatic entry straight to the group stages.
It means less teams will qualify but those who do won’t go through the nonsensical highly-pressurised early season lottery.
But it is a personal view.
6. There are Some Things More Important than Polish Lager
Don’t get me wrong, sitting in the Autumn sunshine, outdoors in a pub near Rynek Glowny, the square in the centre of Krakow, in good company, and 22 or so degrees is not a bad way to spend a few hours.
I’ve been there, but now that we know that our Nations League game against Ukraine will be played at the Marshal Jozef Pilsudski Stadium on Tuesday Sept 27 there will be a scramble by our Tartan Army to be in Krakow.
The city is also close to Auschwitz and its next door neighbour, Birkenau.
They are well worth a visit and my pics show the gate to Auschwitz, some of the shoes left behind at the gas chambers and the inside of a Birkenau hut.
I’m so glad I went there and visited both sites.
Book a morning tour.
Sometimes football takes a distant second place.
7. A Well Behaved Crowd and All to Play For
Ibrox on Tuesday was jumping.
Both Ruud Van Nistelroy and Erick Guttierrez who played all 90 mins praised the blue support and the team.
“It was amazing here; the fans support their team 100%.
We all knew this stadium would be very difficult with the support of the fans.
Rangers are a good, intense team that runs for 90 mins”.
The next day I was sent some stuff by Dave a Rangers season ticket holder from Aberdeen.
It shows the power of sensible fans and self-policed crowds.
On a Rangers fan’s site one of Rangers Media Partners took to social media ahead of the game to say,
“The vile ‘Fare’ will have a rep at Ibrox tonight. So, let’s ensure the song sheet is clean – no swearing, no paramilitarism and no changing of original lyrics.
FARE will be in attendance at tonight's Champions League match between Rangers & PSV it’s thought if they have any evidence of sectarian singing, it’s almost a guarantee there will be a partial or full stadium closure of Ibrox stadium
— Scottish Football Away Days (@days_scottish) August 16, 2022
The records show there was none.
Dave tells me the fear was any sectarian singing would lead to a future Uefa imposed closure of Ibrox.
I watched the whole game and never heard any of the usual nonsense and could have had my 3 year old granddaughter who lives nearby there and she’d have enjoyed it all.
But I was intrigued about the ’vile’ Fare jibe so looked them up.
The Fare Network are the first European anti-racist network and were founded at a European Commission sponsored seminar ‘Networking Against Racism in European Football’ in 1999 in Vienna.
They are not vile and do great work.
It’s all got me thinking.
If the fans can self-police when there is a downside to bad behaviour then why do the SPFL/Police Scotland/ SFA not work with the Scottish Government or even the Fare Network to help us move towards a family game from the very bottom to the very top?
Last word to Dave.
‘We don’t need that stuff anymore and we’ll get through to the Champions League next Wednesday”.
Finally, as always, hope you enjoyed a look at some honest opinions and some of the stuff that you don’t find in the red tops.
Feedback and opinions are always welcome.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.