Date: 22nd September 2023
It’s been a tumultuous week in Scottish football with the biggest breaking story the acknowledgement by Celtic that their lawyers would begin compensation talks with historic victims of the Celtic Boys Club.
On a “no acceptance of guilt”, my words, basis whatever that means.
I talk about it below and don’t know the fine detail but I hope whatever happens does so quickly and with a victim-centred core rather than a solicitor, adrenalin-fuelled bun-fight.
Other clubs will be watching closely, nervously because Celtic Boys Club were not alone.
I’m glad the Celtic board have changed their stance and congratulate law firm Thompsons for their doggedness on behalf of innocent fans.
A little over a week ago I helped well respected sports writer Neil Drysdale with a feature he was writing for the P and J retrospectively about the 151st Celebration match against England. (1872- 2023)
One of the areas Neil was investigating was the unhappiness among Scotland supporters about the SFA ‘framing and blessing’ Uefa’s sale of the media rights to a start-up media company Viaplay who have retreated from the contract and will soon cease broadcasts.
Scottish fans are revolting.
Revolting against being mug-punters expected to pay for what other UK citizens get for free.
The well-known fact that Channel 4 broadcast all English and Welsh matches to us right now all just pours oil on the fire.
Neil’s first port of call on this particular boil, was the Scottish Government where one of their media team blandly said, “Broadcasting is reserved to the UK government. However the Scottish Government remains strongly committed to a more representative service for Scotland and will continue to press for improvement to ensure the needs and interests of Scottish audiences are met”.
I know, I know, someone gets paid to write that stuff, but bear with me, their next para is better.
“We continue to support expanding the audience for both men’s and women’s Scottish international football, and other major sporting events, on free-to-air broadcast TV.”
Neil then featured the SFSA input that came from me.
I had told him our research shows that only 5% of fans think paying to watch Scotland teams on pay per view channels is acceptable in any way.
The feature read,
‘Andrew Smith, the chairman of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, couldn’t have been clearer about his thoughts.
Andrew told me: “Our research shows that fans overwhelmingly want Scottish international football matches, men’s, and women’s forever on free-to-air, aka council telly.
Andrew said, “The Scottish international team belongs to the nation, not the SFA and the SFA’s unilateral decision to sell the airtime to the highest bidder, rather than seeing it as a long-term business consolidator, is a combination of commercial greed and myopia.
They don’t deserve the Tartan Army.”
Neil’s final port of call was the SFA itself who didn’t want to discuss their role in the tawdry ”Dash for Cash’ they finagle with Uefa.
This is how Neil wrote it up.
The association dismissed what Andrew says on behalf of the Scottish fans.
The unnamed SFA spokesman told the P&J: “Our agreement is with UEFA, and we do not speak directly with Viaplay on contractual matters, as the contract is between them and UEFA.
“Viaplay have a contractual obligation to broadcast the Scotland matches under the terms of their agreement with UEFA, which they did for the Cyprus match last week.
“Matches on free to air are always a possibility should a free-to-air broadcaster negotiate a deal with Viaplay/UEFA.
The SFA wants as many people in Scotland to watch Scotland men’s and women’s matches as possible.”
“Hiding Behind Their Fingers Daisy Style”, Replies Andy Smith”
My granddaughter Daisy is just two and thinks if she sits still, hiding her eyes behind her hands, that you can’t see her.
And in her wee world you can’t
Sometimes I think the SFA in their own wee world equivalent think the fans can’t see through their nonsense.
On this one the difference is they are hiding behind self-generated half-truths instead of fingers, Daisy style.
Yes Uefa have a central role in selling broadcast packages for their tournaments to broadcast channels.
Yes the current Viaplay contract is with Uefa.
Yes Viaplay pay Uefa for the rights who then pay the SFA.
But Uefa also follow guidance from each country and it is no secret that the sales prices vary per country and are not even based on a fixed international cost per thousand viewers.
It is all a dark art, yes but within a country by country format.
If the SFA stipulated that the Scottish games had to be shown on free to view then that is exactly what would happen.
It would probably curtail the revenue but deliver far bigger Scottish audiences.
And yes there is a probable commercial pay off between getting the biggest audience which is best for football or the biggest pay cheque which disappears into an organisation with no transparency.
Onlookers see the SFA as an organisation who have come to view our international teams as ongoing cash cows to prop up their finances.
They don’t think about millions of kids and ordinary fans they actively exclude from the party.
Myopic and shocking.
Self-interest trumping common good!
The Scottish Team belongs to the nation.
All the SFA do is manage it on our behalves.
Let’s say that again.
“All the SFA do is manage it on our behalves”.
This week the PPV story has moved on with the news that after Channel 4’s contract runs out, ITV will screen English matches free to air in the UK.
(Yes English matches for us too and free, Whoop de Bloody Doo!)
STV, a sad shadow of what it once was in the Taggart days were not even at the races.
Their stock answer is that they don’t have the money but here is a question.
How can ITV amortise the investment in televising the English games across the UK when STV seemingly cannot amortise a proportional equivalent in their sales area north of the wall?
This Week’s Sting
1. Frank Would Be Smiling
2. La Misma
3.The Nation’s League to Nowhere
4. Behind the Façade
5. That Stenny Goal
6. Billionaire Getting on the Hi-Hi’s Goat
1. Righting Serious Wrongs
I can’t believe that it is nearly 12 years since my pal, Frank Maguire, the senior partner at Thompsons Solicitors passed at the ridiculous age of 55.
I played with Frank at both Uni and Spartans.
He was a fine centre half and was so tall he didn’t need to jump for headers.
A great asset at corners.
Frank was the driving force that elevated Robin Thompsons law firm in Edinburgh into the big league and he was a tireless upholder of the rights of people to win compensation for wrongdoings in their workplaces.
Thompsons ‘did the business’ for the Clydebank Asbestos Group and other worthy causes by working on behalf of all the victims and also succeeded in getting laws changed.
This stopped the old ‘divide and conquer’ tactic that the establishment always reverted to.
Anyway when I heard Thompsons were helping the victims of the Celtic Boys club I knew that there was only one outcome.
Here are some of the shocking headlines from a fast google.
“Stein Appointed Celtic Boys Club coach jailed for sex offences”.
“Documents reveal Celtic links to sex abuse club”.
“Paedophile who abused young footballers also headed Celtic’s chain of club shops”.
I genuinely don’t take any pleasure in the trouble this has and will cause for the club and abhor the mentalities that do.
This is a deep and unpleasant societal problem and we all know that this kind of abuse was not unique to Celtic.
In fact my only criticism would be that Celtic were too keen to swallow and espouse their lawyers advice that their best chance of avoiding compensatory pay outs was to take cover behind the claim that the two entities were not formally linked.
That was the wrong thing to do.
And that money driven advice led the whole story astray and has made the final resolution, wherever it takes us, more painful for all.
I’m glad the board have now seen sense.
My simple wish would be that the finalisation is fast and fair at Celtic and wherever else this has been catalytic.
2. Equality Doesn’t Need to Hide Behind Non-Disclosure Agreements
After the decision last week to come to the bones of an agreement with our Women’s International side, just minutes before the tribunal kicked off I had a few emails from you.
Alicia asks why equality has to be hidden in an NDA?
She thinks equality is better as part of our game’s DNA and I totally agree.
Danny asks who at the SFA SWFA was/is driving this one?
I honestly don’t know, Danny, but hope it is the players.
Moira thinks I called it wrong and that the girls have been stitched up again and it is just a matter of time.
“That’s what happens when decisions are made in dark rooms and kept as secret as possible”.
Meanwhile Spain another country with issues about how they have treated their women’s teams will tonight play in Sweden in the Nations League while we play England at Sunderland.
The Spanish World Champions had been outrageously threatened with fines and sine dies by RFEF, the Spanish FA, who thought they could ride this particular storm out.
Montse Tome, the new coach who was also the old assistant coach and a blatant placing to minimise real change decided this week not to call up captain, Jenni Hermoso, ‘for her own good’.
Or whatever that means.
Jenni was not amused and went back to Mexico where she plays leaving a trail of fire and angry comrades ‘who are all Jenni’.
Pressure was growing as Spain were getting close to not fulfilling tonight’s fixture and therefore being suspended from the Olympic qualifiers.
At a very, very late hour the Spanish government stepped in and told the Spanish FA to get their arses in gear.
39 internationals had signed a statement demanding ‘real not cosmetic’ change and after a meeting well into the night Andreu Camps, general secretary suddenly found he no longer had a chair to sit on, and he won’t be the last.
A summary of the meeting read, ‘An agreement has been reached to make changes to the structure of women’s football, so that the executive and administrative staff will match that of the men’s team, to further professionalise the team and staff”.
Amanda Gutierrez, FUTPRO Players Union President said steps had been made towards establishing the same treatment for Spanish women’s and men’s national teams.
It’s maybe a smidgeon coincidental, but nonetheless important, that while the Spanish Government was intervening decisively in Madrid, in a room in New York, the Spanish Prime Minister was meeting with Fifa’s Gianni Infantino to discuss and promote Spain’s joint bid with Portugal and Morocco for the 2030 world cup.
And what has also come out in the wash since is the role that Uefa played in getting the ex-Hamilton Accies centre half and world-famous kisser to resign.
Uefa’s Sandy Ceferin, his friend, had told him if the didn’t resign his Uefa vice-presidency, it would be resigned for him.
So two different ‘under pressure’ national approaches to equality.
In Scotland the policy has been to fight equality all the way then instigate an NDA.
In Spain the FA fought all the way, held firm but got blown out of the water by the government who don’t sign up to the inherent secrecy beloved by football boards and committees.
Oh and a government who want to host the World Cup in just 7 years too.
3. Heading for the Olympics?
Our women’s team play England tonight in the Nations League which is a qualifier for the Women’s Football Competition at the Olympics in France next year.
England are designated as the qualifying nation from the UK whatever happens because they are ranked 4th in the world and we are 23rd.
So some European sides can qualify from the tournament and join USA, Brazil, Columbia and France who are already there but because of a quirk of the UK being 4 international football sides but only 1 Olympic nation, we can’t.
4. The Dark Side of the SPL
The headline read ‘SPL Pay Out $16M to Aggrieved Players.
Certainly caught my eye but it was the Saudi Premier League where a total of 21 cases have already been taken by players to Fifa’s Dispute Resolution Chamber.
Stuff like foreign players getting injured and then sacked for not training.
A quite outrageous insight into how it works our there in their game.
All 21 cases found in favour of the players.
5. Stenhousemuir 5
Not a common number on the Stenny Scoreboard.
Enough to get all the ‘ladies who coffee on Saturday afternoons’, to peek into Ochilview from their Tim Horton’s refuge next door.
A harbinger of a good season for Gary Naismith’s side too.
But a goal too many for the Artificial Intelligence Live Broadcast that the club offers its fans.
The stream had obviously decided 4 goals was plenty and honed in instead on Stenny keeper Darren Jamieson while Adam Brown was doing the business at the other end.
At least he’s cheering.
6. Elon Musk’s Haddington Heist
Look at the two logos.
One is Haddington Town FC’s and they’ve had it for a while.
The other cost Elon’s recently purchased and renamed business mi££ions.
Maybe to add the wee sympathetically styled x.
If the boot was on the other foot Haddington would have already received a heavyweight ‘Cease and Desist’ to get a new logo at their own expense.
I liked Haddington’s own Ryan Leishman’s offer, “If he wants to come to Scotland and be part of a football team, we’ll be his Wrexham”.
Elon Musk so far hasn’t had the class to respond.
That’s it for this week
Feedback input and wee stories welcome as always.
Andy’s Albums of the Week
The seagulls are long gone and pestering the landfill sites so a softer option is possible.
This week it’s B Sides and Rarities Volume 1 and 2 by Rumer.
Sarah Joyce, aka Rumer and two nice collections suited to her understated yet heartfelt uniqueness.
You’ll recognise many of the songs and some are better than the originals.