Date: 25th September 2020
Scottish Football’s European adventure for this season is now down to 2 clubs both with tricky ties to navigate just to reach the competition proper.
Well done to Celtic and Rangers and commiserations to Aberdeen and Motherwell.
We’ve said before that Scottish fans think it is ridiculous that the European competitions are now set up to effectively stymie the aspirations and revenues of all clubs from nations outside the big 5 (England, Germany, France, Italy and Spain).
The fact that number one rated team in the world Belgium have their league outside the big boys and disenfranchised like us, highlights that this is an on-going stitch-up that devalues and financially weakens all outside the big 5 nations.
We need our SFA and our UEFA representatives to wake up and smell the proverbial.
Why not work with all the other countries outside the big 5 to create parallel tournaments for all the other countries with no preliminary round nonsense and leave the big 5 to themselves?
I know which tournaments I’d be watching.
The fans are waiting and in a time of many changes this ain’t a bad one to start doing something about this ridiculous situation.
Anyway in the meantime good luck from all of us to Celtic, with a tricky away tie at Sarajevo and Rangers at home but an equally difficult draw against Galatasaray.
The No Fan Outcome following Nicola’s “Intensely Uncertain Situation”.
It’s the biggest story of the week and will run and run.
We’re not in lockdown but among the series of measures becoming law we’ve been told no fans at matches despite two successful tests.
We know the Scottish Government don’t trust us much.
But the ramifications of no fans are huge.
The impact on our club’s match day takings are being much discussed but strangely the pre-paid season book monies and what happens to them is being ignored.
Maybe because the season book revenues have already being banked and spent.
Let’s look at both in a bit more detail and the implications for our teams and for us the fans too.
Make No Mistake Match Day Fan Spend is Critical for All
We know for certain that turnstile revenue is a higher percentage of club income in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe and we also know that smaller clubs rely more in percentage terms on pay-as-you-come fans.
Revenue streams come in from more than tickets and clubs want us to spend when in their stadia.
Its part of the fun of football for us all.
I have enjoyed splendid hospitality at grounds big and small and likewise enjoyed many fine if occasionally pricey pies and some rank rotten too.
An occasional bottle of whisky prize from the raffle at wee grounds has not gone amiss and once at Huntly a bag of tatties as raffle runner up was easily bartered later for fish suppers back in Aberdeen.
What really hit home this week was realising the extent that match day revenues are key for big clubs too.
I read that the average spend per pair of fans as one day guest tickets at Celtic for the match, plus merchandise purchases food etc. was well over £200 and that really hit home. None of that spend is happening now – all those revenues lost to our clubs.
Over the years clubs tell me they have found enhanced hospitality is not just a way to increase match revenues but also great for bonding with fans.
This week the articulate and insightful Iain McMenemy told us all in measured tones on the radio and in the press that even his team in the 4th level of our game will drop circa £100K this year from the forecast lack of Saturday revenues and that in his experienced view that this kind of financial hit will be too much for some.
That was a real jaw dropper even though it is no surprise because many of us saw this slow train crash coming.
Who “Owns” Season Book Monies in a No-Fans Season?
This is a huge issue coming our way.
As the first lockdown hit I had just booked flights to visit my son and his wife in Mexico with Tui. They were expensive and Tui could not eventually deliver the flights because the plane didn’t fly.
I wanted the money back and unsuccessfully looked for a refund as per the law. I was eventually offered vouchers, which didn’t suit.
Luckily I had used a credit card and following guidance from consumer champion Martyn Lewis used “chargeback” to get my money back from Visa not Tui.
In a direct parallel to the undelivered travel and holiday pre purchases like mine, what now happens when Scottish fans who have bought season books to watch football live get to see no games?
This is a very real scenario.
Whose money is it in law and what has to be done?
I don’t know but think it belongs to the fans because the clubs have not provided the services paid for in advance.
It may even be a pro-rata situation for games missed like last year.
Either way some fans will be agreeable to converting it into a gift and well done to them all.
Some however will have to think about it as other issues and pressures come to bear.
Many people who were in secure work when they bought the season book will now be unemployed.
Mortgage or rent payments, food and clothing will be at the top of their list and football will have to take its place in their personal budgets.
If their finances are under pressure (which is predicted by those who predict things like that), they may want and need all or most of their money back.
What this means for clubs is a serious business.
Because many clubs will have already spent all their season book incomes across this strange season paying for players and staff and not delivering what they had sold in good faith and through no fault of their own.
Just like Tui didn’t deliver two flights and I got a refund albeit after a fight.
This is a huge issue and a huge worry and it is certain that the ramifications are heading the way of our clubs who no longer have the money and didn’t supply the entertainment promised.
Every club will be affected, every single club and Martyn Lewis will be advising fans what their options are because fundamentally it is all about the legalities of the season book contracts.
Still On the Trail of the Lonesome JRG
You may recall that last week I told you I had tried to find out who is on the Joint Response Group and had emailed, Joe Fitzpatrick to ask why the JRG and all it did and is doing were not open at all levels to the real stakeholders in the Scottish game, the fans in the same way the Scottish Government operates.
No news – we are obviously still in the queue as “Case No 202000088184” and should now hear within 15 working days down from 20.
We talk more about the JRG below and for those of you looking and wondering this is where Paul Cave features.
Predictions of a Bleak Midwinter and More Uncertainty
The furlough season and the calm it brought is about to end with a nasty crash and the economic forecasts from John Maynard’s successors predict a minimum of 1 Million jobs gone before the end of the year and a lot of subsequent belt tightening.
The fast approaching confusion and impacts of Brexit won’t help.
So we’re surrounded, have run out of ammunition and our only cavalry is the ultra secretive JRG.
What happens next particularly when we’re being out thought, out manoeuvred and out flanked by Covid in the same way that wee Jinky tore Inter Milan’s cattenacio wall to shreds in Lisbon in 1967.
The JRG and The Begging Bowl to Boris
Their press release was released on Wednesday night after discussions about the No Fans mandate.
Enjoy their words below in italics.
I’ll translate what I think they said.
“It starts with the date, tells us they discussed the ban on supporters, have agreed that minister Joe F will ask Boris, or one of Boris’s people for a share in the “financial recovery for sport” package being discussed for all the sports in the UK. Then a bit of padding before some “yes minister” type quotes from the only two named people from the group, Rod Petrie Chairman and Neil Doncaster, both well known to most fans”.
Here it is in full.
Wednesday 23 September 2020
The Joint Response Group has held initial discussions regarding the implications for Scottish football following yesterday’s announcement that the return of supporters has been postponed and, consequently, that no further fan pilot events will be considered until the national outlook for COVID-19 improves significantly.
The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, has confirmed to us that he has written to the UK Minister for Sport and Civil Society seeking urgent discussions regarding a package of financial recovery for sport, accessible to Scotland.
The Minister also expressed the gratitude of the Scottish Government for the efforts that Scottish football has made in playing its part in the national effort to tackle the pandemic.
The JRG would like to put on record our thanks to all clubs who have played their part by adhering to the strictest measures to combat COVID-19, despite the enormous financial toll it has inflicted on them.
The game in Scotland depends on ticket revenue far more than the vast majority of professional leagues across Europe. We usually see over five million supporters per season attending Scottish league matches – with 43% of all revenue generated via gate receipts.
The prospect of that vital income being lost for the majority of the season – far less in its entirety – could be catastrophic for many of our clubs. We are committed to working with government to avert that crisis.
Rod Petrie, Scottish FA President and chair of the JRG, said: “We understand the challenges and decisions facing the Scottish Government and society as a whole and Scottish football will continue to play its part in helping the country overcome the pandemic.
“It is also incumbent on us to safeguard the futures of our football clubs, whilst at the same time respecting and adhering to public health guidelines. We welcome the correspondence from Scottish Government to the UK Minister for Sport and Civil Society and hope for a positive outcome for the national game and Scottish sport as whole.”
Neil Doncaster, CEO of the SPFL, commented:
“We are engaging with the Scottish Government to underline the existential threat to many of our clubs, and to the huge community, economic and sporting benefits they deliver, if this grave situation continues without meaningful public financial support. We therefore welcome the intervention of the Scottish Government in seeking urgent discussions with the UK Government about a package of financial recovery for Scottish sport.”
I was actually guest on the ever lively and entertaining digital station Max Radio’s Football show on Wednesday night when Bill the host read out both the quotations above as part of our discussion.
It took people’s breath away because they sound really important but say nothing.
Basically one caller said our JRG is reduced to crafting a few scent-marking platitudes and an admission that those who run our game and the JRG have sent a begging bowl to Boris for a share of his much vaunted sports bale out fund.
What if Paul Cave Headed Up The JRG?
If you’ve ever heard of Paul Cave before I’d be surprised.
He was the guy whose dad had actually bought the first ever ticket to cross Sydney Harbour Bridge by train and Paul had a connection to the structure I guess in a way like fans to a club.
Anyway he’d always known that people from all walks of life would really, really like to climb the bridge on the same maintenance walkway like Billy Connolly did as a special TV event in the early 90s during an Australian tour.
He enquired whether this could ever happen and was given over 100 reasons why it couldn’t ever, ever ever.
And that means never Paul.
So Paul addressed all reasons why not individually with a measured plan and protocol and as we all can see Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is now the most popular and profitable attraction in Australia.
If Paul Cave Had Been Chairman of Our JRG?
There would be a big change.
A can do attitude and a garnering of support.
He’d have seen the issues and had answers and fans in controlled numbers in a controlled environment.
It would be a parallel to the way our cinemas are still open, our railway stations and airports, parks and golf courses are open too etc.
Nothing drastic just controlled professionally.
With a mix of social distancing and masks and control over entrances and egress points every Scottish ground could have had and still could have fans back within an agreed Covid protocol.
Our own Gordon Smith said after the announcement “It really wouldn’t be a problem for most clubs to find a way to have some fans in”.
We agree Gordon.
Most grounds could more than cope with their average crowds socially distanced and considerably safer than walking down our streets.
One advantage is we can start at the wee end of our game as low hanging fruit with more space per fan and work up from there.
We need real leadership and in the absence of Paul Cave why should any of our clubs or the fans settle for less Mr Petrie, Mr Doncaster, your other group members and Joe Fitzpatrick our minister?
Paul would have simply started from the premise of a positive outcome by addressing the issues and creating a workable base followed by a progressive geared approach to the return of fans.
And yes it would be different.
Maybe no turnstiles, daylight games, more stewards etc. but doable and good for the government, the SFA, the SPFL, the Lowland League, the Highland league and the mental health of thousands.
Not bad for revenues either.
A Plea From The SFSA and Paul Cave to the JRG
Get the fans back.
Work with us to find solutions.
Begin at the bottom end and build up.
The Famous Hampden Long Grass
It’s the well known home of the ten year old Mcleish Reports and Ernie Walker’s “Think Tank” of 1995 and thousands of other things we’re not meant to see or know about.
Despite his best intentions Ian Maxwell’s team has so far failed to find me a copy of Ernie’s Think Tank so I’m still looking for that.
A few of you who emailed this week don’t even believe it was ever consolidated into a report.
Tony Higgins who was one of the Think Tankers alongside Rinus Michels the Dutch coaching genius was quoted in 2010 as saying “Many of the proposals were ignored and led to the loss of a generation of players”.
So we’ll keep looking and keep you informed as developments happen.
5 World Cups in A Row
I came across this heading in an old football comic when clearing some old bookshelves and was shocked to see it was about Scotland looking forward to France ‘90.
I’d forgotten, or maybe chosen to forget, that we qualified for 5 world cups in a row, Germany ‘74, Argentina ‘78, Spain ’82 Mexico ’86 and France.
Since then we’ve been good at blaming the managers when things don’t work.
Maybe the faults is deep within the system and buried in the Hampden long grass with the expensive reports that were meant to change our game for the better?
Maxie’s Groundhog Day
Ian please answer our 4 pyramid questions or you’ll keep waking up to Sonny and Cher singing “I’ve got you babe” and even worse Andie MacDowell will go off with Larry the cameraman:
As always if you want to discuss any issues or want me to look at any story or have something on any aspect you want to share, my email is Andrew@scottishfsa.org