Date: 25th March 2022
1. Time for a FIFA Golden Ticket?
April 1st is the scheduled date for the draw for the Qatar World Cup.
Like everything else about this tournament nothing is simple or easy and at present there will be 3 unidentified teams because of the pandemic and Russia’s war with Ukraine.
That makes the rankings for each pot complex.
Scotland are in one of the 3 as yet undecided pots.
Scotland and all Scotland fans want to play Ukraine in June and then Wales if we win.
None of us wants it to be any different.
We much prefer it to be normal.
But imagine the emotion of having Ukraine at Hampden if it actually happens.
The world wanting them to win.
And us the potential pantomime villains.
However we all know that we won’t play Ukraine in June, or July or even August….
That just won’t happen.
The plan is Fifa moonbeams.
There will have to be a further rethink.
That means, as it stands we will have been given a bye into a play off with Wales in Cardiff.
Fair enough and that is the luck of the last draw but what about Ukraine?
They are innocent victims.
Their team is scattered, some are actually fighting, their leagues are suspended and the country has more pressing needs than a world cup qualifier.
‘SFSA Message to Gianni Infantino’ – It’s Time to Plan For 33 Teams
We already know that Fifa have discussed with the Scottish, Welsh and Austrian FA’s about what to do and that giving Ukraine a ‘Golden Ticket’ to Qatar was an option that the Welsh FA were in favour of.
It is not an easy option however and not the one Fifa seems to want.
Also whether Ukraine will be willing or able to use a Golden Ticket even by November is a moot point.
But offering it NOW, this week, sends the right signals across the world and will tell the Russian public that what they are being fed by their leaders is indeed nagumbi.
Everyone and his granny knows it won’t be easy for Fifa.
It will need some thinking.
Because a group of 5 means 1 additional game per team and 2 more dates for one group.
Unprecedented – but surely any organisation that can seamlessly move an agreed summer event to the winter is capable of finding a way, even on April Fools’ Day.
Boris Should Read Sting More Often?
Our PM came out with some cringe-worthy, uninformed nonsense this week in his normal populist blustery way.
I think he was suggesting two things.
Firstly he bizarrely said that Ukraine gets to host the 2028 Euros (instead of the Irish /UK bid).
Here is his quote, “I think the best possible thing would be for Uefa to hand the 2028 tournament to Ukraine”.
Secondly he blustered that Ukraine gets through to Qatar 2022 instead of Scotland, Wales or Austria.
Speaking without thinking, badly briefed and just another normal Boris kinda day.
7 Days is Not a Long Time in Fifa Politics
The Ukraine situation has to be thought through quickly or April 1st will come, the draw will be made and the default position will be for Ukraine to simply fade into the ether when they fail to play us.
It doesn’t have to be that way and football governance really needs a sharp reset.
Countries need to take the game back from the current Swiss based football institutions and their money, money, money, mantras.
The wee countries need to revolt together against the Fifa and Uefa power bloc and blockages.
2. Null Points for the (Synchronised?) Late Bidders?
Deadline day came for the bids for Euro 2028 and our media had already declared that the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh proposal was the only game in town.
Football pundits were already debating whether Murrayfield might also be used for the 32-team tournament that is planned, (up from 24), and whether Wembley was even suitable for the final after last summer’s fan fiasco.
Then we heard there was a late Russian bid for both 2028 and 2032 and word that Turkey too was interested because if Russia can, then Turkey can too.
We also learned that when Uefa banned all Russian teams they made no restriction on the Russian Football Union, RFU or Russian officials keeping their active Fifa roles. That meant that the RFU president Alexander Dyukov, the oligarch behind their late bid, has meantime kept his seat on the very influential Uefa Executive Committee.
He knows what is going on.
Alexander is also President of Zenit St Petersburg and Head of Gazprom, who are deeply involved with both club football and the associations and indeed still, allegedly, owe both Fifa and Uefa substantial sums.
Gazprom are intensely integrated through Fifa and Uefa.
Alexander came out saying to the audience on the Gazprom-owned Match TV channel, “We must take the opportunity to host the Euros. We will play at our World Cup stadia. The infrastructure is in place and we reserve the right to enter a bid. You can’t refuse it. Russia is already prepared to host large-scale competitions and we have the experience.”
Under the statute process Uefa will now provide the tournament requirements for bidders on Wednesday March 30th and confirm all candidacies on April 5th.
Countries have till April 2023 to submit final dossiers.
You might read this as Russia using football to tell its people that ‘all is normal’ and that ‘its place in the world is no different to 4 weeks ago’.
Along with other sports football has been important in Russia right at the top and this is manifest by the profile and success of the big Russian sides, Chelsea, the delivery of the World Cup in 2018 and the active role of Gazprom in Uefa and Fifa as well as some key club sides in Germany and elsewhere.
Uefa had indeed anticipated awarding the tournament to the Irish/UK bid as early as April 7th but the entry of Russia and Turkey may now lead to a formal bid process with a potential vote delayed till September 2023.
One Uefa senior level leak said Russia would receive zero votes for both tournaments.
We’ll soon see.
3. The ‘Lowlife’ League
It should read the Lowland League and the pejorative name is not mine but from a long-time, occasional correspondent, and Lowland League season book holder whose team has just won the league.
Here is a story that in many ways sums up how club self-interest is a cancer in our game and a plea for a top down and bottom up review of the pyramid and how it interacts with the SPFL.
Long, long, ago when Scottish Football finally agreed to open and integrate the bottom SFL league to the leagues below there were plans for automatic relegation from the SFL division 2 to the Highland or Lowland leagues.
But the SFL 2 clubs said no.
Rather they shouted NO, and looked for a friendlier system that would protect their status.
We therefore ended up with the camel we now have where the champions of the Lowland League and Highland League ‘play off’ for the chance to then ‘play off’ against the bottom SFL (now SPFL) side.
It is the most crucial point in the whole pyramid and the only place where this wee foible exists.
No relegation built in.
Self protection the mantra.
Research tells us that every Lowland League club, every Highland League team and most fans think it is both wrong and bad for the game.
And we at the SFSA campaign loudly for a proper open pyramid.
Currently the Lowland League has one automatic relegation slot, which can strangely also be two if the Lowland League is joined by a deposed SPFL2 side, and a Highland League side gets promoted.
That alone is unfair to a team who as second bottom in the Lowland League ‘might’ get relegated.
With the recent introduction of the junior sides football below the Lowland League is vibrant and many sides there are better and more or equally licensed than sides further up the pyramid.
There is pressure to open the system up.
This week the 16-team Lowland League had a meeting where a secret vote was held about having ‘proper promotion’ from each of the three, vibrant top regional leagues one level below. (Ex juniors)
One up per league is their request/demand and fair enough too.
It’s kind of what the Lowland League wants from the SPFL but seemingly not what they want to offer their own feeder leagues.
The vote was close but the inherent self-interest prevailed, and led to the Bonnyrigg treasurer resigning from the Lowland League Board.
This is the same Lowland League board that accepted Celtic and Rangers colts teams straight into their league for a year, effectively jumping several levels above bona fide ex junior clubs below. The reason was a £50,000 payment that was trousered by the 16 Lowland clubs rather than being shared below or invested in some mutually beneficial project like grass roots across the area.
That decision about the future of this tawdry deal is coming back soon and Bonnyrigg has gone on the record as saying the colts teams should start at the bottom like any other club.
The question it all raises is – How can the Lowland League ever rightly shout at the SPFL when the same self-interest poisons their own decision-making processes?
And the next question is why is there not a full national reorganisation of the lower leagues below SPFL2 based on very real population and club dynamics rather than the current North of Tay/ South of Tay arbitrary and historical split?
4. The Answer is 260 Days and We’re 73rd Out of 90
The CIES Football Observatory Post ranks the average tenure of a coach (manager) in the 90 world football top divisions by countries.
At 260 days we are near the bottom.
The Northern Ireland Premiership tops the list at 1563 days and not far behind at number 2 is England’s Premier League at 1348 days.
45.5% of Premier League coaches last more than 2 years and at the time of the survey we had no managers lasting that long.
An interesting site – have a look.
5. Friendly Fire in Australia?
Thanks to you who updated me after my thoughts last week on the Sydney Cup.
They were most entertaining, and sometimes very humorous too.
Here is a summary for those who are wondering what is going on.
Celtic and Rangers on the surface ‘hate’ each other but each is good for the other’s business and the people that run the clubs understand that.
The ‘divide’ is a fan recruitment opportunity for both.
Strictly business, a jointly owned ‘brand’ that was called ‘The old firm’ still exists legally.
Many commentators also frequently refer to the two Glasgow giants as ‘the old firm’.
Since Rangers messy slide into receivership in 2012 their fans feel aggrieved at the attitude of the other half of the Glasgow dynamic at the time, since and still.
To them the very thought of the two clubs ‘uniting’ to play a glorified friendly in a spurious tournament abroad, together, as an ‘old firm’ unit is anathema.
The Rangers fans are further convinced the tournament is a homeward procession for the Celtic Manager.
They also say that Celtic have negotiated a higher fee.
As a result, among other things, the old songbook has come out as a protest and the toilet rolls and tennis balls are part of the same reaction.
As some Rangers fans have revisited the old and deeply unwanted songbook a percentage of Celtic fans have also dug deep into their historical stuff to make the point that the old firm to them does indeed exist.
Really grown up politics!
And we wonder why it is hard to find wholesome and lucrative sponsorship for Scottish Football.
6. From Dnipro to Embra
A feelgood story at a time of darkness.
Well-done Hibs fans and all who helped them
Money and help is still needed.
Here is the Facebook page
7. Complaints Submitted
We have spoken many times about the eye-watering costs to the public purse arisen and still arising from the demise of Rangers in 2012.
It has been a gravy train so far and seems in no danger of stopping any time soon.
This week David Grier, of Duff and Phelps, the company brought in by Craig Whyte when first trying to save the Ibrox business, submitted complaints about DCI, Jim Robertson and Deputy DCI, Jacqueline O’Neil.
He alleges that their actions, as found in a court of law in January, amounted to criminal conduct.
The Court of Session had ruled that the police investigation was riven with ‘incompetence’ and a ‘lack of professionalism’ but it also said he had not been prosecuted maliciously.
He is now appealing the malicious prosecution decision.
Mr Grier alleges that DCI Robertson “failed to act with honesty and integrity, abused his power and authority, carried out acts that were manifestly unlawful and acted in a manner which discredited the police service”.
Furthermore he accuses Robertson and O’Neil of providing false written and oral evidence to the Court of Session “thereby committing perjury”.
In summarising his complaint he said, “My contention is that their actions constituted criminal conduct as well as professional misconduct”.
And before one of you asks, I actually don’t know if ‘out of tune’ singing a song about Billy Fullerton to the rousing tune of a US Civil War anthem, in a Livingston Police Station, is part of the documentation.
That wee story may be just a spurious folk tale.
That’s it for this week.
Have a nice weekend before it gets cold next week.
Comments and input always welcome
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