Date: 22nd April 2022
This Week’s Sting
1. The May 1st Plan for Hampden Gathers Pace
Uefa have been heavily involved in helping the Ukraine National Side get ready for the Hampden semi and then the Nations League games which Poland has said they will host.
So, it is currently just about conceivable that Scotland vs Ukraine game might go ahead on June 1st.
Just 40 days from now with the war already in its 58th day.
Yes, stuff can happen, but there is a remarkable resolve from this nation to be seen and make a statement on the world stage and I now think they will do everything in their power to line up alongside us.
The plan is for their players to start gathering in Ceferin’s home country and Association, Slovenia, from May 1st with friendlies being arranged too.
The Ukrainian Football Association just released this statement:
“Ukrainian FA President, Andriv Pavelko, who has been in constant communication with Uefa’s Aleksander Ceferin, said that the staff of the training centre of the National Association of Slovenia is already waiting for the arrival of the Ukrainian guests.
Andriv added “Uefa and Slovenian colleagues sincerely wish to help our team at this difficult time when due to war they do not have the opportunity to prepare for the decisive matches at home.”
The two leading Ukranian clubs, Dynamo and Shaktar are already in training and playing friendlies.
Making the Point for The Ukrainian People
Insightful comments from the Ukrainian Invictus Games Team Manager, Oksana Horbach frame what might happen.
First, she acknowledges that being fully present in The Hague had been an “almost impossible” challenge for her and the team.
“For all of us we are here to compete, but our minds are also with our friends, family, and people at home in Ukraine.”
Just one week before, Oksana was supplying meals to servicemen, and women, outside Kyiv.
“Being here is more than competing. We also have an opportunity to speak to the rest of the world and share our stories at a time when there is so much incorrect information on the situation in Ukraine.
The hardest part was deciding if we should come or not.
A difficult moral decision.
Zelensky said we must come and would have his full support.”
A fact of Ukrainian life is after the Invictus Games conclude most of the 19 Ukraine team members will be back on the front lines, risking their lives in defence of their country.
40 days is a long time, but I hope we can help them belt out ‘Ukraine has not yet perished’, the rather appropriate title of their national anthem.
2. Owners A’Flawed?
John Stein famously said, “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field.”
The football world has moved on since his wise words and the economics have changed beyond all recognition.
Sometimes the ‘entertainment’ is happening in the boardrooms.
Clubs like Man City, Paris SG, Newcastle, and others are now owned by sportswashing nations with deep, deep pockets.
And TV revenues, merchandise sales and fans in the far east are the key financial dynamics.
Ownership of clubs and all they stand for has evolved into a kind of 21st century codpiece and seldom for the good of the local community where the club originated.
The ownership model soon forgets or ignores that all they really ‘own’ is the loyalty of their supporters and a basket of football related assets and uncertain revenue streams.
For many reasons, some self-inflicted, Scotland has been largely left behind by the financial revolution elsewhere in football.
Indeed, we are said to be the country still most reliant on turnstile income as commented on by Mr Stein.
The Scottish football financials need both season book holders and also the paying fans at their games much more than any other country.
We also have ‘owners’ who do not seem to have their fingers on the current pulse in the same way that Highland Clan chiefs lost their links to their peoples in the aftermath of Culloden.
In the last few weeks, we have seen some strange outpourings from estranged club owners who seem far departed from their core stakeholders.
A week or so ago John Sim, absentee ‘owner’ of Raith Rovers formally stood down as chair.
The club did not handle the Goodwillie saga well while he was in the far east.
They were and still are smarting and paying real pound notes for their mistake.
To be fair it seems as if the SPFL, SFA, and Clyde somehow luckily, initially, dodged the Goodwillie bullet.
But 4 years is a long time in football and society.
And looking back there is shame to address on the misogyny still inherent in the game.
We know the decision to sign the forward had been taken with the club expecting a wee backlash and stooshie but only for a while.
How wrong they were.
And how bereft were the decisions now shouting at us from 4 years back?
It is an unpleasant truth that our SFA should be revisiting their 4-year-old decision to ‘Do Nothing”. (After being asked by the victim’s lawyers and fully reviewing the circumstances, the SFA somehow decided that raping a woman had not brought the game in Scotland into disrepute, and no action was required).
Mr Sim of Raith Rovers also had a burning fire in his pocket. He desperately wanted to set the matter straight too and tell the world that he was right all along.
In an extensive pre-arranged interview with The Courier he said, ”I was appalled by the reaction to our signing and my initial reaction was – well if he can’t play for the club, then let’s close it down.
“Close it down”!
In simple words, “Sod you, you uninformed fans, I don’t recognise I did anything wrong, and it is my ball anyway”.
The editorial in the Sunday Post summed it all up well (with a barb at the SFA too) when saying,
‘John Sim doesn’t get it, never will and his views disgrace the club, but in this shameful episode, he is very far from alone in his disgrace.
Just over the Forth in Leith, we have another owner managing from a distance.
In the last week Shaun Maloney was sacked by absentee owner Ron Gordon, after just 4 months and 19 matches in charge at Hibs.
In any world it is absolutely ridiculous to bin a new manager just trying to make something out of other peoples* players.
Shaun had been headhunted after the previous successful manager Jack Ross had also been sacked.
In a BBC interview, Mr Gordon said he now regrets making that first sacking saying, “Perhaps in retrospect, we could review that. I thought it was the right move at the time”.
A bit late now to have second thoughts.
With son Ian* still head of recruitment at Hibs, Mr Gordon also said, “I think we need a manager with some experience, that knows how to lead and deliver results, not winning is not acceptable.”
So two good managers chased from Easter Road.
Two owner-led sackings from afar.
And a “Not winning is not acceptable” mantra introduced!
I wonder if that is on the job advert for the next man in.
3. “Nobody Sent Us One”!
The SFA have been sending out a ‘Survey of community football clubs” run for them by a professional research group, Diffley Partnership.
The one I saw came to the club via an SFA Club Development Manager’ to a club run by one of my pals.
It is a good initiative and has the full support of everyone who sees the importance of grass roots football but, there are critical issues raised by how it has been handled and also a severe deadline for responses which is today.
To use researcher-jargon a mix of qual and quant in 15 sections.
(Qualitative and quantitative).
i) How old is your club?
ii) How many players?
iii) What age groups play?
iv) Your Local Authority?
v) Rate your local football facilities
vi) Rate your own facilities.
vii) Your thoughts on grass roots football and society?
viii) Your club’s impact on particular societal groups?
ix) Thoughts on women’s and girl’s football?
x) Rank the issues you face.
xi) Covid impact review.
xii) General questions.
xiii) Monthly fees charged?
xiv) Environmental questions.
xv) What do you most need?
Evidence of Patchy Cover
I can tell the SFA that there is already evidence of clubs not being sent forms.
I’ve undertaken mass research programmes like this, and the only sure thing is that the database should be up to date and watertight and all clubs should be pre warned and followed up.
I don’t know if any of the vital prep work was done or if there is a plan for a coordinated follow up.
It should have been and there should be.
If You Have Contacts at Grass Roots Clubs
Share the survey link and ask them to help publicise this worthy initiative.
The more that fill it in the better.
Extend the Deadline, Please, Maxie.
The more completed surveys, the more complete the picture, the bigger the range of insights and the better input into planning.
4. Clyde Thrown Out
North Lanarkshire Council confirmed to the club that it would not consider extending the lease of Broadwood in Cumbernauld on a permanent basis.
After 28 seasons Clyde will now move 15 miles to Hamilton and ground share with Accies.
Brought to a head by the recent Goodwillie stramash.
5. Nice, Nantes and Stephanie Frappart ?
The 38-year-old referee will become the first woman to referee the men’s cup final at the Stade de France on May 7th.
Another nonsensical glass ceiling gone for ever.
We are a little behind this curve.
6 Another Barca World Record
We got just shy of 8000 fans at the Scotland v Spain match at Hampden last week.
Barca are investing in the women’s game big time.
50,000 tickets went to club members for an admin fee only and up to 4 tickets per request, and the rest went on public sale at 9 or 15 euros.
We need that commitment and kind of thinking.
91,648 fans saw Barca beat Wolfsburg 5-1.
7. Buckie and Coke, Coming Our Way?
Disturbing reports coming from sociologists of the new must-have football cocktail.
Professor Geoff Pearson said “Supplies of affordable but high-quality cocaine have allowed its usage to become part of the fan experience for some. I can see it as a subculture”.
It is already in Scotland with 6 of our top flight’s stadia being found to have traces of cocaine present in a test as recent as 2019.
8. An Exciting Play Off and an LL ‘Slap in the Face’ for Aspiring Clubs
Let us deal in some facts.
The Lowland League wants the SPFL 2 to open-up fully with proper relegation rather than the camel that currently exists.
At the same time and contradictorily they want to minimise the relegation from their own league into the three vibrant (mostly) ex junior leagues below.
They also want to admit 2 ‘Guest” clubs like they did last year when Celtic and Rangers Colts paid to be allowed to join in a 1 YEAR AGREEMENT.
The money paid (over £50K) is now in the LL reserve fund and the clubs actually got none of it.
This year Hearts have said they might want to play their colts side in the Lowland League and 3 into 2 won’t go.
It is actually a side show.
In the meantime, there is no proper reserve league for top level talent coming through in Scotland despite knowledgeable pros identifying this one move as the most significant action that needs to be taken.
So the LL is saying to aspiring clubs fighting their way up the slippery slope,
“We have room for colts sides who pay for the privilege but not bona fide aspirant community clubs”.
And the SFA say nothing and do nothing.
Self-interest and ‘what’s in it for me’ prevail again.
Hence this tawdry advert for outside clubs to come in above genuine contenders.
The Battle of the Bs
Tomorrow there will be 2000 at New Dundas Park as the Rose host Highland champions Fraserburgh.
The second leg is at the Broch next Saturday and the winner will play off against Cowdenbeath at home on the 7th and away 14th of May.
This would have been great TV and could have been played on Sundays but maybe nobody in a commercial capacity at the SPFL or SFA thought about that.
What a waste.
What a missed sitter.
Thanks for all the feedback – it is appreciated and often very entertaining.
As always stay safe and feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
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