Date: 21st October 2022
Most Fans are in Agreement and Want More?
Welcome to this week’s Sting.
1. Ten is Madness
Way back in ancient history, (Season ‘75- 76) just 47 years ago, those who ran our game decided that small leagues were the way forward north of Hadrian’s Wall.
The decision was mostly driven by the demands of the ‘big’ teams, who thought they were more important than the rest, and wanted to play each other more often.
A financially and self-interest driven gambit.
In the pre Sky, and ‘wall to wall’ football on telly days, there were less season book sales, we had shared gates, and walk-up revenue streams were more important.
For some reasons unknown to me the smaller clubs followed the madness of the move and agreed to leagues of 10 clubs and haven’t changed the format since, blaming the voting structure when asked.
Andy’s Unpaid 47 Year Review
When I was in business every major action was constantly up for challenge and analysis but I’m buggered if I can find any trace of genuine reviews of the structures of our game apart from external reports like Ernie Walker’s Thinktank, never completed or published, and Henry McLeish’s two reports, both largely ignored and consigned to the Hampden long grass behind the North Stand.
So, I’m going to have a brief look at what 10 team leagues do to our game and yes, the top league now has 12 teams but the reality is since the early 80s there have only been 2 winners and our top league is really just a ‘Glasgow Oligopoly’ for meaningless silverware and an entry into Europe wheeze.
It’s about resource and if you have the most you win the most.
And when you come up in European matches against other better resourced teams you complain and say “its not fair”!
Our current league structure and league names date back to July 2013 when the SPL and the SFL amalgamated after the financial collapse of Rangers and the need to work together to get behind the commercially driven ultra secret (shhhh) 5 way agreement that has not yet been published and remains a sore and an anachronism in our game’s history.
Anatomy of Inbuilt Chaos
Have a look at our current SPFL 2 league as I write.
We’re more than a quarter of the season though and in the second phase of games.
Everyone has already played everyone else.
With 25 games left just 4 points separate the bottom 6 clubs.
That means there is a minimum of 6 beancounters very worried.
A contagion of fear because our fourth level is also the bottom of the current pyramid and a resurgent well-funded Brechin are rampant in their Highland feeder league wanting back in.
I’d say they are odds-on too.
Right now, there are also 6 SPFL 2 managers wanting new and better players, tomorrow.
That means there will be at least 6 boards of directors being asked for more money either personally or to find it from external sources.
Survival Mode Prevails Across All Our Leagues
Every club outside the Glasgow giants has real fear of finding themselves in their league’s drop zones.
And in the SPFL2 the fear is greatest.
What Do Fans Think About League Sizes?
Here are some insights from our last and recent fans survey for the ‘Scottish Football Alliance’.
Before you send me an email about my arithmetic, the missing percentages are ‘unsures’.
The responses are based on fans’ views of the quality of football and the appeal to the audience and not about the financials.
Q 1. Are you happy with the current 12, 10, 10, 10, leagues structure ?
Yes 17. 3%
No 75. 5 %
Q 2. Do you like playing clubs 4 times a season?
Yes 16. 8%
Q 3. Do you like the idea of larger Leagues?
Fans want larger leagues and everything that goes with them.
But nobody listens to or even asks fans.
That might be good business practice.
What Do Club Finance Directors Think?
The lower down the SPFL the more the pressure grows and clubs can be just 2 bad results away from a very bad place.
“Andy, planning for anything other than first team survival is impossible”.
“The pyramid entry system might be good for those outside the SPFL but it has destroyed our club’s community work because everything is now about our first team”.
“We used to have a reserve side but all our resources now go into survival”.
“Look at how the teams that went down have managed. They haven’t! – That scares me to the bone”.
“In a league of ten there is a good 30 % chance we’ll be fighting the chance of being in the Lowland League. That is not a good way to do business or to run a company.
If the leagues were 18 clubs most teams would have more confidence in their business plans and we could consider things like reserve football, women’s, under 20s or community stuff more seriously”.
The Answer Neil and all clubs Chairmen/Owners
Possible Regionalisation integrated right through.
A real entry and exit system not the ‘pretendy’ one we have that makes comebacks too difficult.
2. Europe Giants Need a Superleague and Fast
We’ve spoken many times about how the English Premier League has engineered itself into the position to become the ‘World League’.
Its kick off times can work from Australasia and the far East (late night) to the Americas (early doors).
All of a sudden the other European Giants who, like our own Celtic and Rangers, see themselves as too big for their own leagues have ‘woken up and smelt the coffee’.
Their leagues, and therefore they, are being left behind.
This week, Murdoch’s Times report that they have seen a ‘dossier’ that the recently failed European Super League, ESL has appointed a new CEO, Bernd Reichart.
Whoever wrote the ‘dossier’……. (time-out time, Andy)
In a lifetime reading reports I have never seen a ‘dossier’ or heard anyone call any presentation or report a ‘dossier’.
And just while I’m on it I have never ‘jetted in’ to any meeting either although I have flown to enough to have had a gold card from various airlines.
So beginning again.
The expensive, but not extensive, report produced for the ESL, on behalf of Real, Bankrupt-Barca, and Juventus has seen that English clubs now spend more than all other leagues combined.
It has noticed that English clubs are being bought up by various forward looking funds and billionaires.
It is seeing the inevitable if the trends continue.
They know they are being left behind and what that means when their ponds become too small for their ambitions.
(All they had to do to have got all that information for free was read this wee blog).
Yes you can argue that a genuine Pan European League might have been better than the Premier League stealing all the best players from everyone else to the extent that the likes of Bournemouth and Brighton are now in the top 30 world clubs.
The facts are many/most leagues have already been left behind and soon all leagues will just be feeders into whatever the EPL becomes.
This one will not go away but as one of Ries and Trout ‘s insights in their book about the ‘Immutable Laws of Business’ says, “It is better to be first than it is to be better”.
3. Qatar Qorner
Pinocchinfantino in a Nose-Growing Phase
Everyone’s favourite Gianni came out with some crackers this week as the Qatar ‘good publicity to counter all the bad stuff’ rolled into action.
Speaking to anyone ,who might have the slightest desire to listen, the man in a nice blue tie was waxing lyrical.
He is a happy bunny in his new Doha house that was allegedly part of the deal for his part in Qatar getting the tournament.
“We have always said Qatar will deliver the best ever World Cup”.
“It’s not about infrastructure and stadiums, it’s about creating memories that will last a lifetime”.
“Everyone will be welcome regardless of their origin, background, religion, gender, sexual orientation or nationality”.
US Ambassador Sense-Checks Nose Growing Fifa Chief
I don’t think he believed Gianni when he waded in with,
“When you invite the world to come you have to be open to the world and you need to be transparent in the way you are going to take care of visitors”.
Chile’s 11th hour Appeal Will Win and Lose
If you don’t know the story Ecuador played an illegally registered player who used a fake passport to get cleared and is actually Columbian and 3 years older than he said.
Chile found out and now quite rightly want Ecuador’s place.
Fifa blocked them once from even discussing the issue.
Then blocked them again and said “Nothing to see here, Move along”.
Then Fifa organised a pre-decided outcome ‘review’.
So, exasperated, and in the right, Chile appealed to the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland.
Victory No 1 was the CAS even accepted the appeal and will look into it in early November with a decision due on the 10th just 10 days before the world cup kicks off.
Victory No 2 is they will win but it may be pyrrhic in Fifaland.
I’ve been told that Fifa will quote Lord Nimmo Smith and say the registration was ‘improper’ rather than illegal and let them off with no penalty.
OK that aspersion about a particular Scottish Judge is not true but if Chile win they will still be kept away and Ecuador will kick off vs Qatar in the first game and make a lot of money out of the tournament.
In Fifaland Rules are just there to be bent to the advantage of the establishment and Chile might win but Fifa will find a way of avoiding doing the right thing.
3. A Parcel of Rogue States and Shades of Grey?
Steady now, not the ‘Shades of Grey’ you’re thinking about.
What is the difference between Russia, Qatar, Iran and Whoever Else is doing bad things and when are the bad things bad enough?
Let’s just say for now that Scotland are heading for Doha.
We couldn’t play Russia because of the outcry by nations and Uefa sanctions about their illegal invasion and war in Ukraine.
But we all know we’d have been happy to be part of Qatar and if drawn in a group with Qatar we would be more than happy to play the game.
Would we be asking Fifa to ensure a compensation fund for injured and killed workers?
Would we wear rainbow armbands?
I hope so and I know some other countries will.
Think then about England playing Iran.
A country where kids are being shot as I type because they are protesting about girls and women having to keep their hair covered.
A country who have an Orwellian concept called ‘The Morality Police’.
A polis force who can shoot youngsters for peaceful protest!
I wouldn’t play them.
4. Real Football Has Come Home
I love the early rounds of the Scottish cup when the wee guys remind us just how vibrant ambition and communities are in our game.
Who wouldn’t want to be at Cumnock on Friday night for the tie with high flying Dumbarton.
Or Brechin v Stirling at 2 pm on Saturday.
And how about noisy Bellslea Park for the Broch against Stranraer or Linlithgow for the home tie of Rose against cup specialists of old, Spartans.
BBC deserve credit for covering the Cumnock tie on Friday and the intriguing Pollok v Annan tie on Monday night.
Hope you have a good weekend and input and insight is always welcome.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images which will be removed on request of the owner.