Date: 20th October 2023
Not a bad week for Scottish football with Spain doing the business for us against Erling and his Viking pals in Norway and now looking very likely winners of our group.
A draw would have kept the door open for us but we’d have taken guaranteed ‘qualified in second place’ every day of the week when the draw was first made.
For me one of the most disturbing and plain-wrong things over the qualifying games is our SFA’s overt policy on making and taking as much as possible from Scottish Internationals with money at the top of their motivation list.
It stops kids seeing the team.
Yes they blame Uefa when pushed on the subject, but the SFA policy is set in stone, and means that the Scottish Men’s team is currently deeply hidden behind a pay per view screen, vis a vis Viaplay, the failing Scandi channel.
The Scottish Women’s team might be free to air for now but take it from me, without a change of heart and a radical alteration of thinking/habits on the 6th floor that is only until they can sell that to the highest bidder too.
And once again they will blame Uefa and ‘the bundling’, sleight of hand they think we can’t see through.
‘Ever decreasing circles’ with myopia and self-interest intertwined like a mythical Gordian knot.
Yes the SFA might yet manage to squeeze a little more, short-term and ask for ‘pats on the head’ like a two year old to demonstrate to themselves how clever they think they are.
But it is simply means they will continue to manage a decline of their own making instead of developing cultivating and retaining as big as possible an audience that they can, and then leveraging the size and commitment of that audience commercially.
The Scottish Football Teams belong to the nation and ‘free to air tv’ would simply and profoundly increase the size of football in Scotland and the size of the market.
It is that easy.
Growing the game has to be a much bigger future-proofed concept than squeezing as much Scandi money from a company like Viaplay.
Speaking to a media pal he said the Scandis just couldn’t and still can’t make their numbers work and that the two main reasons were the low uptake from fans and the sheer scale of dodgy Amazon Fire Stick piracy and such like.
Both will affect the current and future sales too.
I also remember well the damage that the fabled and much heralded Setanta deal did to our game a few years back.
The fact that Setanta were then reborn as Viaplay, became The SPFL’s special friends and pet in-house’ PPV option again, and then got lucky by selling out to the Scandis who had won our contract is almost funny.
I know I’m not alone on this one.
There is real passion about genuinely growing our game again up from the grass roots and that means football and Scotland games for all kids, not just the middle class ones whose parents can afford the monthly club fees and provide lifts to and from the grounds, and the £180 per annum to Viaplay.
We need to offer kids several ways to become both players and also fans for life.
Schools and schools football has to be part of the solution and the day after Scottish games we want our kids, and by that I mean all of our kids, in the playground to be re-enacting the games from the night before.
I can’t believe that nobody at the SFA has the wit, wisdom and passion to see what needs to be done, oh, and the cojones to actually do something about making it happen.
It might mean becoming both better at generating commercial revenues elsewhere and also realigning some away from our top division.
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It finishes this weekend and we’ll know the outcomes early next week.
Lots of kids from lots of houses have parents who can’t afford the current £180 per annum SFA ransom.
A Hampden ransom that might bring them revenues but is absolutely the wrong way to grow a healthy future for us all.
This Week’s Sting
1. The Music Man?
2. Eric, Maria, Mo and Rory Talk Against the Tide
3. Giving Steve a Legacy
1. I’ll Make My Own Heaven.
Eric Cantona is back in the news for 2 reasons.
He has just released an EP, (remember them).
Said to be inspired by Nick Cave, and Leonard Cohen, both of whom I like, so I’ll give him a wee listen.
Maybe it will be my EP of the week next Friday.
The second reason Eric was in the news was an Instagram post that cuts through all the confusion and mis-briefing we are being deluged with over the big story this week, more below.
2. And Split the Defence
I’m still in warmer climes and seeing stuff from a distance.
If I was home I would probably have the radio turned off.
At times like this I wish we turned to historians like Yuval for guidance and answers rather than politicians and leaders with agendas i.e., on the make.
If you didn’t know, Yuval Noah Harari is a well-known Israeli professor and the author of 3 inspirational and level-headed books, ‘Sapiens’, ‘Homo Deus’ and ‘A Brief History of Tomorrow’.
Start with Sapiens first and then you’ll soon be on track for a hat trick.
Yuval would agree that politics has never been clean or fair and is also hopelessly screwed up by the same self-interest we see writ small in football in Scotland and writ large in Uefaland and Fifaland.
But there are good people in football and I’m going to share insights from 4 of them, Eric, Maria, Mo and Rory.
Eric played a few games with Man U and France.
He has a new EP out, see above, but also the wisdom of a historian that makes our politicians look less than wise.
Here is his Instagram posting from earlier this week.
I’m sure he got pelters from those who like to be offended and don’t want to be challenged in any way but I was grateful for his move and his wisdom.
I’d never heard of Pep’s daughter before this week but her piece this week was also insightful, and challenging.
It needs no further comment from me.
This week the Egyptian Red Cross publicly thanked Mo for “A significant personal donation to assist those affected in Gaza”.
Mo simply used his personality status to rise above the parapet to say in a short video , “I’m calling on the world leaders to prevent the further and ongoing slaughter of innocents, all lives are sacred”.
Just after he posted, the other side, whoever they are, claimed the video was a fake and created by artificial intelligence because it was ‘short and stilted’.
Such is the world we live in.
Mo quickly verified his short and stilted video, he’s a footballer not a media specialist.
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) October 18, 2023
Rory is a Manchester based journalist who writes for the New York Times and is simply the best football writer, writing today.
His weekly piece arrived this morning and is packed with insight.
And it is also at the same time muddled because what is happening is muddled.
Rory can see that football in England has “boxed itself into a wee corner of self-righteousness”.
He writes that “not long ago it was relatively rare to witness a minutes silence in English football but that recently a self-importance that bleeds into pomposity has seen minute’s silences declared for victims of earthquakes in Turkey, Syria, and Morocco, for flooding in Libya, for the death of John Motson and more”
And right now the game did not how to react, or which side to hold a minute’s silence for because it would offend, either which way.
This week John Mann, the British Government’s antisemitism chief said he assumed that the FA would light up the Wembley Arch in memory of the Israeli victims just as it was lit for The Paris Terror Attacks, The Invasion of Ukraine, the death of Pele, the National Health Service and LGBTQ Pride.
John Mann was aware of the ongoing Palestinian situation and it is said had asked the FA for a compromised ‘blue and white’ of an Israeli prayer shawl.
They did nothing and that made the Israeli supporters grumpy.
(Maybe John should have asked for a commemoration for victims on both sides, but this is politics and sides have been declared).
Either way, Rabbi Alex Goldberg, the Chair of the FA’s Faith in Football Task Force resigned in protest.
Anyway so far Rory summarises that 5,000 deaths is the running total on both sides, 1 million people have been displaced, and many more deprived of water, gas and electricity.
The support of one side has also become a major plank in Joe looking to get re-elected in the USA and also a vain attempt to make our Prime Minister be seen to his departing electorate as a world leader.
I’ve said before that Geo politics is confused and confusing but I’d support Eric, Maria and Mo ever more.
3. What Can We Do for Steve?
I couldn’t agree more with Steve’s football views that the best preparation for the Euros and everything thereafter is to play as many top sides as we can and to continue to blood the younger members of the squad.
He does this knowing that his personal record as Scottish manager will be affected negatively but he has the self-belief and self-confidence to see the bigger picture and the common good benefits for the team.
We need to be stretched and to get better for it and from it.
Steve knows that and we’ll learn a few lessons along the way.
Scottish Football owes Steve Clarke the full and comprehensive support to review how we develop players for him, Pedro and whoever follows them.
What we have right now isn’t working.
And that is nothing to do with the ‘B teams in a bloody Conference League Nonsense’ / SPFL camel we were being shoehorned into at the start of the summer.
The book I’ve just finished reading is Graeme McDowall’s, The SYSTEM.
Well worth the £12.99 price and thanks for the recommendation Brian, it is as good as you said.
It’s quite a difficult book to read because it is unashamedly analytical, it has to be.
It is also quite a disturbing insight into where Scottish football is failing our kids because of historic, quasi-scientific, misguided thinking that has become conventional wisdom, not to be challenged.
Oh and the usual self-interest is there too, exacerbating the mayhem.
I can say, with the highest level of gravitas that exists, that I agree with Graeme that it is a fact that our elite kids set-up and everything that flows from it is is hugely damaging the potential crop of top level talent that is forthcoming and also the continuation in the game as fans and players of huge numbers of kids.
Graeme’s analysis is rapier-like and we need a broader series of measures to involve, identify and develop footballers, at all levels.
In the book, Graeme pinpoints where, how and why we are getting it wrong and in the final chapters comes to the conclusion that there is no single solution, and that our approach has to be multi-faceted and much, much more flexible.
Apologies Graeme for the brevity and possibly my heavy handedness of a summation.
But in simple terms we select elite talent too young, our system has inherent biases that statistically favours older year group kids, and we have a monoculture with only one real strand for development which makes it almost impossible for late developers to fully develop and join the party.
And late developers have historically been our best players.
We don’t just exclude good kids.
We also disillusion and dump good kids along the way, year by year and en masse when the year groups hit the age buffer zone.
None of our kids should ever be termed ‘shirt-fillers’.
Our kids need more.
That’s it for this week
Feedback input and wee stories welcome as always.
Andy’s Album of the Week
A few years ago, after a day spent first at Auschwitz and then Birkenau which is just across the road like Dens Park and Tannadice, we were having a beer in a quiet Krakow pub underneath our hotel and this album was airing.
I asked about it and bought it the next morning.
I don’t play it a lot but it captured the moment then and does again now.
The album title is ‘Mazel Un Brukhe’ and the artist is Lorin Maazel.
The standout for me will always be his version of the ‘Theme from Schindler’s List’ but the whole album packs a serious and quite forlorn punch of sadness.
Unnecessary sadness that we’re all feeling right now.
As the Scottish writer Ali Smith said at the last Edinburgh Book Festival, Art and History show the way, the problem is politicians and leaders seem incapable of listening or engaging with either.
I bet Yuval Noah Harari agrees with her.
I certainly do.