Date: 27th August 2021
This Week’s Sting
1. Aileen’s Window of Opportunity
Best wishes from all fans to Aileen Campbell who started as CEO at Scottish Women’s Football this week, out of Hampden.
As an ex front-bench MSP and also Minister for Public Health and Sport she can become a real catalyst for change across our nation influencing both the women’s and men’s games.
Her starting mantra has been publicised as “Time to Awaken Women to Football”.
I can’t disagree and we will support her in any way we can but I’d suggest that to achieve that we have to deliver a bigger result.
We have to “Awaken Scottish Football to Football”.
Advice is always patronising so I won’t go there, but I will make two requests on behalf of all the female members we have now, those yet to join and all fans of the game.
Aileen, please take a leaf from your last job.
Open up the process and processes in everything you do and embrace transparency because secrecy is a well-known football cancer.
Please also work for the common good of our game rather the self-interest of elite leagues or individuals.
And sometimes people seem to forget, we all started at the grass roots.
If they are in good health then our game will prosper.
2. The Madness and Badness of Ten
The year I first became aware of football leagues and teams was 1963.
The Beatles were singing ‘She Loves You’ and East Stirling, who I’d never heard of, had just been promoted to the 18 team Scottish First Division as runners up to St Johnstone coming up together from the then 19-team Scottish Division 2.
My lifetime journey into all things Scottish football started after my much older cousin, Johnny, gave me, ‘The Valiant’ comic’s ‘Official Scottish Football League’ cardboard league DIY charts.
As it happens, I did DIY the league for a couple of weeks but quickly got fed up changing all the fiddly wee tabs.
East Stirling were immediately on their way back down too but that is not the story.
Scottish Football consisted then of 37 senior teams then and only two were relegated and two promoted.
This was good and bad.
Bad in that it was a historical closed shop that effectively told every club outside that that was their place, for ever.
But good in that there was financial stability for the vast majority of clubs who could budget on being mid table in their league.
Since then the shape of our leagues has changed a few times.
It is fair to say that the reasons for change have been the top clubs trying each time to take more out of the pot.
We could talk about the detail for a long time but for today let’s just think about what one league of 12 and three leagues of 10 actually does to the business that is Scottish football.
And football is a business, with budgets, liabilities and commitments.
Have a look today at the SPFL League 2 current standings.
Already more than half the league are in ‘trouble’ and under pressure to start a winning streak.
Remember they have all seen what happened to Brechin in the summer.
League 1 is no different and nor is the Championship but they at least have a buffer zone.
Leagues of ten clubs with 2 up and 2 down each year are totally irrational.
They simply have too much pressure from the get go and too much churn.
That is not good for business or football.
No club wants to go through the roller coaster of relegation and right now, with leagues all so tight, the majority of clubs below our top league will be looking to how they can strengthen their side and help protect what they have.
Clubs constantly have to magic more to spend on their first team squads.
Sometimes they find money to do that and sometimes that means that things like youth football, boys and girls, women’s teams and other worthy stuff become pipe dreams.
The 10 club league structure constantly means the future of our game becomes a casualty to the present.
Bloody hell guys.
The SPFL runs the league structures on behalf of its members, (you).
The same members (you) know that their fans want bigger leagues so the 4 times a year fixture nonsense gets dropped.
And the same members (you) need business stability.
And yes, the pyramid system needs to be real too so the likes of East Stirling, Berwick, Brechin and other ex members can have a fair return route.
That should be 1 down out of 42 and 1 play off spot.
Right now the instability that is everywhere needs some common good thinking.
10 teams leagues are self-harming us all, guys.
And yes, when you factor in the current method of financial distribution where the higher up the slippery league tree you are the more you can grab, you can just about understand the constant self-destructive gold rush.
But it is not good for any part of our game.
Wake up, smell the coffee and start the discussions for change that are needed.
3. Maxie’s Choice – Crystal Clarity or Walk Off Chaos
(Where’s the Hobson guy, Ian, when you need him?)
This week we all saw the ‘idiocy’ of the wheels falling off one bus en-route to Dingwall.
The furore was actually understandable, and the PR advisers and the club did well to turn it from a discussion about why any fans think that kind of behaviour is acceptable anywhere, by anyone or everyone, into one where the fast action of the club was rightly praised.
Paul Daniels would have been impressed.
After some playing with the ‘alleged’ word i.e. in ‘alleged’ fan and ‘alleged’ actions, the media, even the football press, came out solidly alongside the camp of public opinion.
I hope this will continue because deep down I know this is just Round 1 and a wee skirmish ahead of a bigger show.
Things are indeed changing for the better but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the real issue has gone away.
And it will come back to bite, Maxie, Rod, Neil, Murdoch and all of us on our bums like a rabid dog.
If 20 years ago a scene like we all saw was posted, and the inherent racism in the abuse was dressed up as humour/banter we might not even have raised an eyebrow.
But we now live in a world where it is rightly unacceptable and always in reality has been.
There is no acceptance or future in any kind of intolerance of people’s origin, sexuality, colour, religion, disabilities and more.
Not even the arcane world of Scottish Football can pretend there is any place or acceptance for stuff that we all know is never far away.
Intolerance and inherent racism have been a long-standing pair of ‘wally elephants’ in our room.
We need to deal with it now and that won’t just happen on its own.
We need leadership, clarity, rules and a real, well-resourced plan.
Indeed, members have written to us to ask those in authority to spell out where the fine line between ‘banter’ and unacceptability begins.
Lines need to be drawn.
Fans, quite reasonably want to know which chants and songs are acceptable?
Even songs that celebrate what maybe used to be seen as club DNA?
What if they are inherently racist, can the tune be kept with different words, or should they be dropped period?
Are politically motivated songs different?
Indeed is there a fan ‘right to protest politically’ at matches?
What about flags and banners?
It’s not going to be easy.
So on all of our behalves we ask the SFA, and their 6th floor neighbours the SPFL to spell out to clubs and fans what is acceptable and what isn’t and at the same time what will happen when lines are crossed.
We offer both the SFA and SPFL any help that they deem fit, which is usually nothing, because they fear we might not agree with their party line, and also tell our members.
But Ian, Rod, et al the offer is genuine and you won’t solve this without involving fans from all clubs.
Sadly I think the odds are high that something will happen this season and a club will walk off the park or maybe even worse.
And then, what happens next?
Who gets the points?
What can/does the ref do – does he/she have a role at all?
What can/do Police Scotland do?
Is there a warning protocol for the stadium announcer?
And many more questions as yet unanswered because this impinges into public order areas.
This volcano or rather series of volcanoes has been building for a few years.
Aberdeen Univ 2nds won a sportsman’s award for walking off when one of their players was racially abused.
Rangers had universal support when Kamara was racially abused against Slavia Prague.
(They should have walked off and made a huge point for Glen and every person who has ever been abused).
When you start thinking you realise that religious and national biases are just divisions of racism and you wonder why outrage and change for the better has taken so long.
Forget the word sectarian.
Don’t use it.
It has only ever been a ‘softener’ to disguise the real issue.
Our problem has been long been racism dressed up as banter or even worse as funny.
Football has been used to normalise non-normal behaviour.
And Scottish football and Scottish football fans need to think this through and come out with joined-up guidance to clubs, players and fans.
And finally, just think of the commercial down-side for now.
All this ‘history’ in our game has been and is bad for business.
Look at the difficulties Scottish Football has had in attracting ‘wholesome’ sponsors and the paucity of the £1.6M p.a. sell-out to cinch. (Less than one squad players wages in the EPL)
It’s easy to conclude that the societal problems within our game are costing our clubs money.
4. At the Euro Trash End Again
Are we punching below our weight as a nation?
But first well done to Rangers for delivering under severe Covid pressures and Celtic too for bettering a top Dutch side and leaving us with 2 clubs playing in the real Europa League but sadly none in the new Europa Conference a division below.
The nonsense of it all is we have a bona fide champion and are not in the Champions League proper when some countries have 4 representatives.
The Champions League is effectively the World Super League for now, distributing all the power and wealth to the biggest clubs and nations.
All the disenfranchised football associations across Europe have let it all happen in slow motion.
Do you remember the fight at the time at Uefa and the justifiable outrage?
It didn’t happen.
And worse still they have failed to combine and do something about it since.
Good luck though to Celtic and Rangers, I hope you get a good draw and lift our coefficient again.
5. Scottish Football Needs a Strong Forfar Farmington
Scottish Football has long had some great names and Forfar Farmington is up there with Queen of the Souths, the Forres Mechanics, the Hamilton Academicals and the Hawick Royal Alberts.
I first heard about them in the late 80s and I remember thinking about the name and that I’d never heard of Forfar being called ‘Farmington’ before.
It sounded fair enough except it never was called ‘Farmington’.
And it isn’t.
Farmington is actually a town in Connecticut, USA, who took a girls’ side to Forfar in 1981 and Forfar had to raise their first ever team to play them.
They did it well becoming leading lights in the early growth of Scottish Women’s Football.
Farmington actually won the cup against St Johnstone in 2005 but now, as the league is taking off commercially with the big guys bailing in, they struggle to get enough players.
A few days ago they were replaced by Partick Thistle in the top women’s league.
It is a setback not a cessation so good luck and bounce-back girls.
I hope one of Aileen Campbell’s first meetings is at Station Park and that Forfar Farmington find a level that allows girls and women’s football to thrive in Forfar.
Scottish football needs them.
6. Update on cinch Secret Proceedings
Great reaction to our secret bootleg tape last week, thanks.
It showed footage from the ‘night before’ the very-secret tribunal was meant to have started and, yes, drink was taken.
Anyway, that was last week’s news in ‘Scottish Football’s Sponsorship Proxy War’.
Mr Parks has since wanted to make his lawyers richer, so sent them to court and got a delay on the tribunal happening and a request for more info.
(The legal system does that often and it always increases all their budgets and revenues).
So, we are now in a state of limbo and Mr Doncaster will now make his lawyers richer too as he responds not just on our behalves but also Mr Robertson who sits on Neil’s SPFL board.
Mibbees he will have to leave the room when the board talk about it all and Mibbees not.
We never get to see any minutes from meetings or get told anything that really goes on.
We’ll mibbee hear when there is a leak to a friend in the press from one or both sides or a press release from a PR agency.
Meanwhile the real issues that are not being discussed anywhere are.
We have a lousy sponsorship deal with cinch – WHY?
We also have damaging sponsors on the shirts of some of our teams whose products lead to bankruptcy and even suicide of some fans.
Isn’t that a strange thing for any club or association of clubs to do?
And in the meantime, while we’re obsessing about second-hand cars we are not talking about real stuff.
This wee spat is mibbee not really about sponsorship; more I’ve been told about regime change.
If you haven’t watched the SFA panel, with their special wee hats getting together the night before the tribunal last week now also known as (Whisky Galore- The Drinking Song) then it will make you smile, I promise.
As always, stay safe and feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
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