Date: 22nd January 2021
Aleksander’s First Big Decision
Its only 20 weeks till we are scheduled to host the Czech Republic at Hampden on June 14.
Last week we had a heads up from a few of you about Uefa’s plan to refuse refunds for tickets at Hampden or Wembley if for Covid reasons the matches are moved anywhere away from the current agreement.
We wrote on your behalf to the SFA, were featured in the Telegraph too and have since been told it went all the way to Aleksander Ceferin, el President at Uefa.
I honestly don’t think they had thought it through.
Full refunds will now be offered if the matches are either moved more than 50km away or if your briefs become toast if, but quite likely, when crowds are mandated at lesser capacities.
So our intervention has worked.
Aleksander’s Even Bigger Decision
The current Euros tourney plan is for all matches to be played in 12 cities including Glasgow and the final in London.
A nice formula in normal situations.
But with a third wave of the pandemic in some countries and no certainty of safe mixing soon even with the vaccines Uefa are said to be working on 4 options to ensure the tournament takes place.
Plan 1 is full stadia and no change of arrangements.
This is still possible but looking increasingly uncertain.
Plan 2 is for 50 – 100% crowd capacity at matches maybe on a country by country basis.
It means probably no change from 12 cities but who knows?
It would be messy.
Plan 3 is Stadia at 20 – 30% capacity and social distancing de rigeur.
They haven’t said anything but that would be not good news for Hampden and other fringe cities.
Plan 4 is matches behind closed doors and all of a sudden a tourney without fans or with big restrictions.
That situation would mean big changes.
If the pandemic is still raging to the point of severely impacting on fans allowed in grounds then Aleksander and his pals at Uefa will simply remove travel out of the equation.
Not just for fans but also teams.
Keep them all in one city with enough hotels, stadia and training areas.
At one stroke a potential problem erased from the list of things that can go wrong.
That is what I would do and I wouldn’t leave it to the last minute.
What does that mean right now, 5 months out?
I think it is more likely than not that the Euros will be played in one country and national teams will be “bubbled” up close by.
Real bubbles too not the wee pretendy ones our JRG somehow magicked up here to allow football at lower levels.
Which country will be host?
Well the final was planned for Wembley and London has many excellent stadia but so do Germany and Switzerland.
So one of those three I’d say and getting more likely each day that passes.
Uefa would be swayed by having some fans allowed.
So I don’t think Hampden will see fans or even matches in June but hope I’m wrong.
And as per usual our Scotland team still might have to get on a plane to come home early.
Aleksander’s Biggest Decision
It’s the ECA Challenge That is Firming Up
And not just Challenging Aleksander at Uefa but also Fifa et al.
Its been bubbling around for a while but in the last couple of days the European Club Association have confidently briefed out plans for their new money spinning Super League.
The story in brief is that there is already a closed shop of 15 founder clubs.
The plan announced by them creates a new super funded midweek competition which they say will still allow all 15 to play in their own domestic leagues at weekends.
So not currently a planned and full breakaway.
It seems for now these giant football super clubs want to have their proverbial cake and to eat it too.
(If their leagues ever allow that then they are myopic imbeciles and if the big clubs want their own midweek league they should just let them go altogether.)
The Founder Members are said to be from just 5 countries, 6 English, 3 Spanish, 3 Italian, 2 German, 1 French and the initial plan is for 20 teams to play made up of the 15 founders plus 5 annual “qualifiers”.
So there is still, at the moment, a dangling carrot to lesser clubs not seen by the big boys as big enough to be invited as full members.
A token effort and cynical.
There are 44 countries in Europe so 89% of countries are excluded.
Fifa is Rightly Worried
Lars-Christer Olsson, president of European Leagues at Fifa said “This is a significant threat to European football and would lead to a closed Super League for a limited number of clubs similar to the franchise models operating in North America”.
Andy of the SFSA says “He’s called that right”.
Fifa responded by uniting with Uefa and the 5 other continental associations across the world to warn that players taking part will be banned from future World Cup, Euros etc.
A typical first stage Uefa response but probably not a legal stance to take with respect to employment laws and rights.
Much more importantly, it’s all too little too late because this genie is out of it’s bottle and the big clubs want more.
This is unstoppable.
The Ripple Effect is Already in Progress
I don’t know why the proposed ECA Super Leagues decided to ramp up the publicity this week but it was all over the media across Europe in a concerted briefing.
The timing is probably because the Covid pandemic has created a willingness to consider and accept post Covid, financially driven, radical and rapid change right across football.
And not just at the top.
Scotland will be caught up in what is already cascading downwards towards our wee football world.
First thing to acknowledge is both our two biggest clubs will be bitterly disappointed but not surprised to be playing no part in any new franchised Super League discussions.
At best they are on the fringes, at worst not even in the tent.
Each will now be actively looking outside for the next big thing for them, as will other country-dominant clubs in the 39 “unimportant” countries.
The rest of our biggish clubs will be prompted to look elsewhere too.
We don’t have many capable of breaking out but a handful do exist and they too have ambition to get bigger.
The top down desire for forcing change will be replicated all over Europe.
There are a lot of lot of like minded and ambitious clubs outside the “Super 5” nations and they need a plan too.
So big and disruptive change soon from a money driven, unstoppable tsunami.
When the Dust Has Settled The Super League will exist.
A franchised league in Europe initially but commercially astute, revenue hungry and with no real boundaries.
Europe today but as Hilda used to say “the world is their lobster”.
What Sits Below It and How Will Scotland Look?
Nobody really knows.
But let’s start by reading part of Fifa’s attempt at a rejection yesterday of the Super League concept.
It’s all a bit like the doomed “Maginot line” defence policy developed by the French pre WW2.
“The universal principles of sporting merit, solidarity, promotion and relegation, and subsidiarity are the foundation of the football pyramid that ensures football’s global success and are, as such, enshrined in the Fifa and confederation statutes. Football has had a long and successful history thanks to these principles. Participation in global and continental competitions should always be won on the pitch”.
The reality is money will outflank everything here like the panzer tanks did in 1939 and influence all decisions.
Remember the self same Fifa are no financial innocents having contrived to award a summer world cup to Qatar now moved to winter but still a disgraceful example of how money influences.
I’d be shocked if the bigger Scottish clubs were not already discussing how to have a better top league.
That doesn’t just mean just on the park but how to ramp up the revenues too.
It might or might not have relegation.
It probably will cross international borders.
It will sit above any current football structures in all countries with member clubs, maybe integrated to local pyramids, maybe not.
Look what rugby has done with Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Wales and South Africa now in an expanding, no relegation league that was set up because the individual member leagues were not seen as strong enough on their own.
What Does This Stuff Mean For Brora and Kelty?
An insight into how Scottish football treats its pyramid now and into the future.
Last year the hopes and ambitions of these two clubs were stymied when the SPFL decreed that there would be no bottom-end play offs and the SFA meekly acquiesced instead of throwing a hissy fit on behalf of their disenfranchised members.
This year if the pyramid is somehow allowed to operate and if Brora or Kelty win again and then one of them defeats Brechin in the play-off then the winner is elevated into the SPFL proper at the bottom level.
Let’s say just for argument sake it is Brora, the pride of Dudgeon Park.
If they then win consecutive divisions all the way up till they reach just below whatever super league level exists by then in Scotland they will be the best team in the country, outside whatever the current top league will be.
A league that is “by Invitation only” and a league that has teams from other nations too”
Would Brora be invited to join?
Mibbees aye mibbees no as our Ken would say.
It depends on if they meet the criteria for membership of the new Super League franchise.
And only if there is a benefit to the league for accepting them.
So they probably won’t be invited and will have hit their ceiling.
That is how Super Leagues work.
Football at the very top is becoming more than what you’ve achieved on the park.
So the ECA briefing this week is the first move and we may indeed be headed towards franchise type top leagues with traditional pyramids below them.
All over Europe.
Rapid change is on all our horizons with winners and losers.
A developing story.
Championship Vote Deadline Came and Went
Monday night was the SPFL deadline for championship clubs to say whether they wanted to close their season or keep playing.
A lot of fans concerned and interested in their club and how it voted and in how the other clubs voted too.
A lot of clubs interested in what on earth is going on in an industry they fund.
They must have voted yes but you’d have thought there would have been an announcement.
Maybe that is asking for football to become consumer focused?
Closure on Season 2020-2021?
It was a season that started with the sound of silence.
And silence continues with all football now off except for 22 clubs.
Still no fans and odds-on none before the end of the season.
The Premiership will probably hobble over the line.
Completion will be more to do with media contracts than a fan-based experience.
The championship might get to a conclusion but there again might not.
The rest will be told soon to forget it and look forward to season 2021-2022.
I welcome their attempt to get going again with the leagues 1 and 2 “route to playing again”.
Their path is not easy and the testing costs are only one of the barriers.
I think its a step too far but hope I am wrong.
Either way the elephant in the Scottish football room is what clubs do with season book money having not offered live football to the purchasers.
Some fans will want their money back because they need it.
Some clubs have already spent it all.
All in all a real problem on the horizon but the silence around it is deafening.
Lord Mulholland’s Old Cul De Sac – The Home of Bigger and Bigger Bucks
A wee update on the case we followed all summer.
It’s the monumental screw up under the tenure of Frank Mulholland, now promoted to Lord Mulholland and a series of actions that are going to cost our country around £80M in damages and costs.
Think what £80M would do for our clubs and communities?
Its all about the financial demise of Rangers in 2012 and concerns cases where “malicious prosecution” was agreed, to avoid a trial, by the Crown Office after several people involved in the liquidation had been subsequently put “through the mill” by our prosecution system and allegedly Police Scotland too.
(Police Scotland, it has to be said, still deny any and all wrongdoing)
Anyway after hearing his former colleagues had received £21M plus £3M expenses in settlement over claims of a malicious prosecution, David Grier an administrator at Duff and Phelps lodged papers yesterday at the Court of Session in Edinburgh in Edinburgh and is now seeking £5M from the Crown Office and £2M from Police Scotland.
This is running and running and Charlie Green is still to come and possibly others too.
This should be headline news guys.
Where is the 4th estate when we need them?
Talking of the 4th Estate
We spoke last week about the Dubai trip and also the fears of some that certain media organisations seem to relish a chance of getting “tore in” to the Parkhead club.
I don’t have much more to say but after Lenny’s press conference this week the “Angry Lenny” photo chosen by The Herald suggests to many that bias is indeed endemic and an ongoing issue.
A cheap shot guys.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story.