Date: 23rd April 2021
The topics featured in the Sting this week:
1 Our Cup Runneth Under
2 5 days of Mayhem, Hypocrisy, Politics Lead to a Government Review
3 Pyramid Scam ‘Doncaster’ Style
4 A Ceferin Special – Right Up Bilbao’s Guggenheim
5 Fond Memories of Dorothy
1. Zero to 12,000 in 23 Sleeps
The Scottish Cup Final is carded for Saturday May 22.
4 weeks away.
If nothing changes it will be played in front of empty stands.
Just 3 weeks later at least 12,000 fans will be allowed for Scotland Vs Euros Group D opener with Croatia.
There are no plans for a trial run.
That is madness.
This is an easy one to change too, by allowing fans at the final.
Here are some of the ‘conventional wisdoms’ being used to avoid having a full and urgent discussion on delivering a better final for us all.
(They are more justifications for doing nothing and accepting a fan-less final than genuine reasons for no fans).
“Uefa will have taken over the stadium and are undertaking building works that would make it dangerous for fans to be present. There would be safety certificate issues.”
“SFA only get the ground back for a day from Uefa on the understanding of no fans being present”.
“Other grounds could be used but some clubs might want too much money and some might not want to play host”.
“Some say the players and clubs want to play the final at Hampden and not at Arbroath, or Motherwell or Stranraer.
“The current Scottish Government ‘possible fan numbers’ as posted on their web site a couple of weeks ago are too small to make it financially worthwhile”.
There are more reasons why not making the rounds and I’ve heard them on BBC Sportsound, read them in the back pages and even debated some of them earlier this week in a podcast with Darryl Broadfoot.
Here is a link to a discussion that started about the breakaway European League plans and ends up with a discussion about the Scottish Cup.
I hear all the reasons why it might be easier not to bother.
I also understand that it is easier for everyone to do nothing.
But that is the worst outcome.
Fans can, should and will make a huge difference to the game and should be there.
Fans present, and making noise at the final doesn’t need rocket science to happen, just 3Cs. Coordination, Common sense and Collaboration.
Cup Final Fans – HERE’S HOW
It all starts with getting the right people in the same Zoom-space with a stated agenda as soon as possible.
The right people would include: The SFA, Uefa, Glasgow District Council, Scottish Government (Jason Leitch), Police Scotland, The Fourth Estate as observers and an independent fans group like us.
The opening question is “Are there any real reasons why fans should not be allowed on May 22nd”?
Then into the detail raising and addressing all the issues one by one.
Issues like if there are indeed building projects being undertaken by Uefa they can be discussed and pragmatic safety-led solutions agreed.
If the small number of fans allowed is only enough to pay towards the on-the-day operating costs then the SFA can pre-approve this on behalf of the unknown finalists. Clubs will be no worse off because right now there are no box-office percentages heading anybody’s way.
It may be all the fans have to come from particular council areas. That can be agreed too. There will be plenty of time once the finalists are known.
2. Have the Super Leagues Gone Away for Ever?
We had talked several times about the 15-team plan for breakaway Euro leagues a few months ago so there was no real surprise when the news broke last weekend.
I’m not sure why Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Paris SG dropped out but the plan has been the talk of the steamie across many countries and even Prince William was quoted as not being impressed.
Sometimes a historical perspective helps us to both understand the present better and forecast the future too.
That has been posted absent.
There was never this much fuss made by those deeply offended this week when first the English Premier League decided to cast the other English League clubs adrift in 1992 or when our own version revamped in the mid ‘90s. By the time the Uefa Champions League dropped bona fide champions when pandering to the richest clubs from big 5 nations in 2009, with the dreaded and stacked country coefficient, there was deafening silence.
We all know big clubs dominate football and constantly want more.
It was ever thus.
It will be ever thus.
After a week it is fair to say the 12 clubs were naïve and conceited in how they went about this whole thing.
Maybe they were too honest in saying it was all about money.
Anyway the English contingent have been shocked by the reaction of their fans and the game. As I write today there are plans announced by the Premier League to change its rules and make it impossible for any club joining a breakaway league to remain in the top flight.
That just means the next time it happens that the umbilical cords will be well and truly cut and the leavers will have to leave.
The reality that won’t go away is our biggest clubs will want to be part of the inevitable (one day) World League and its promised riches and if Fifa don’t manage that then someone else will.
The next plan won’t be so half-cocked when it resurfaces.
Behind the scenes in Switzerland we could also see the politics of Infantino at Fifa being seen as a potential supporter of the European breakaway because it suits his world agenda and responsibility and the fierce hand to hand and personal fighting from Uefa who could see how much it would damage their franchise.
Sandy Ceferin has won, this time.
I hope he uses the victory to bring in changes while the big clubs are on the back foot.
Maybe now the ‘Swiss Plan’ for the revamped Champions League that was only invented to keep the elite clubs happy will be ditched.
Maybe Uefa will follow the collapse of the Super League by bringing the European Cup back to its 50 under-represented and under loved nations (including us) and restore integrity.
At the same time maybe there will be an agreement that the revenues should be more fairly split between the actual competing clubs and grass roots football across the continent.
That wouldn’t harm the game Sandy.
Every Cloud Brings a Silver Lining
The huge reaction has brought forward the much rumoured and discussed plans by ex Tory Sports Minister, Tracy Crouch, Gary Neville et al in England in a consortium under the banner of ’The Beautiful Game’.
They want change in governance to take it away from the clubs and an independent football ombudsman.
This has suddenly been propelled by Westminster from lobbying status into an independent fan-led review.
The link for yesterday’s announcement is:
Terms of reference for the fan-led review of football governance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Here are the 8 things it will look at
It is good news for fans and the game.
I hope its influence spreads north.
3. Neil’s Pyramid Scam
Brora Vs Kelty next Wednesday and Kelty Vs Brora a week tomorrow have been called off.
We spoke at large in last week’s ‘Sting’ that the SPFL Board had brought in a QC to try to find a legal way to block the pyramid.
They obviously didn’t find it in time for last Monday’s board so didn’t say anything much but you can be sure Neil’s ‘Block the Pyramid’ operation is still live.
Here is a quote from someone ‘in the know’ this afternoon.
“Legal battle, Andy.
SPFL still trying to find legal reasons to stop play-off happening.
SFA is doing nothing but watch just like a year ago when they failed us all.
Until SPFL finalise their viewpoint there is no point in Brora Vs Kelty happening.
Kelty have lawyers on the case.
And this is the same SPFL who castigated the planned European Super League this week for not being competitive”.
A development is that in the last 24 hours Brechin who have won just 2 games out of 18 ‘sent a letter’ that said “going ahead with the play off would be fundamentally unfair because so few games had been played in the feeder leagues”.
“We are All Being Played Like a Beginner’s Fiddle”
The SPFL plan is starting to emerge, screech by screech.
Brechin have come out and now ‘helpfully’ suggested that both Kelty and Brora should be promoted into a league of 12.
And an unattributed ‘spokesman’ also said “League 2 would then be further expanded by colts teams from Celtic and Rangers”.
The Pyramid is good for Scottish football.
It got shafted a year ago by the SPFL and the SFA did nothing.
It has actually been shafted since day 1.
It all started when the pyramid play-off which was meant to be for an automatic place in the league above suddenly got changed.
Fudged at the very last minute.
The pyramid should all be open and fair.
And it is 2-way up and down, in and out.
Looking back East Stirling and Berwick were never protected the way that SPFL board member, Ken Ferguson’s Brechin has been.
That alone should raise some questions.
There has to remain a fair route back for all ex SPFL clubs and also all in the current leagues below League 2.
Change is needed here Neil.
Why not get Karyn McCluskey the ‘change specialist’ on your board to take this on as a project.
We’ll help in any way we can.
She just has to ask.
4. Sandy Drops His Basques and Dubs
The first host city to be dumped from this years Euros 12 hosts was Bilbao.
They simply refused to confirm that fans would be present at their 4 allocated games.
Perhaps they were only the most honest out of the 12?
The reality is none of the 9 who have already given a guarantee, including us, is actually scientifically certain of fans at matches – just willing enough to have given a financial guarantee to Sandy Ceferin the Slovenian President of Uefa.
The statement from Bilbao’s local organisers is logical, truthful and damning.
“We have not found a single reason, sporting, social or economic, and certainly not related to public health and measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in any of the Uefa communications”.
The winners here are Sevilla who have now stepped in as Spanish host.
I hope they share the profits with Bilbao.
Meanwhile in Dublin the Irish Government had been quoted today as saying they did not expect to hit Uefa’s contractual demand for 25% capacity.
That was the proverbial straw.
Leo Varadkar, Deputy Taoiseach, had honestly said such a guarantee was “too soon”.
So Dublin were dumped too and St Petersburg and London given their ties
Munich has gone quiet and you can’t blame them.
This is the ugly side of football.
It’s not about getting fans at matches to make the tournament better like our pleas for the Scottish Cup Final.
Don’t think that for a moment.
This is simply all about money to cover Uefa’s match operating costs and boost their profits, hence the 25% minimum mandate.
5. Dorothy Delivered Big Time
I can’t believe it is 40 Years since Bill Forsyth gave us Gregory’s Girl.
A new cannonball kid and female, centre forward, a hapless striker called Gregory, relegated to goalkeeper on her arrival and Andy the usual goalie now dropped but more interested in baking and getting to Caracas where he has heard that women outnumber men.
Not just a great film to be revisited but also an interesting snapshot of just how our football world has changed for the better.
Here is a scary fact.
Gregory’s Girl was released less than 5 years after Rose Reilly, Edna Neillis and Elsie Cook had been banned sine die from Scottish football for ‘calling out’ the amateur way the SWFA ran the game in Scotland.
Our girls and women’s game has come on leaps and bounds, you might say despite being underfunded.
I agree with Darryl Broadfoot when he sees Scottish Women’s football as an under-invested priority for the SFA.
Time will tell if Rod and Ian feel the same.
But this is more than the top level.
We need to get girls and boys playing right through primary and secondary schools.
It’s good for physical health, good for mental health and good for the game.
Every girl and boy who plays football at school or in local clubs is a potential football fan for life.
And fans for life are a source of future revenues right through the game from grass roots to our International sides.
Seems kinda obvious to me.
Ever since our teachers revolted in the very early 80s and stopped extra curricular activities deep damage ensued, slowly at first and our game has suffered.
Another round table common-sense discussion is needed here too.
As always thanks for the feedback, and feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
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