Date: 30th May 2020
This weeks chairman’s blog from Andrew Smith:
Money Driving Changes
This week saw Ann Budge, (of the recently failed Task force initiative ) present the SPFL with
“AMENDED STRUCTURE TO HELP SCOTTISH FOOTBALL SURVIVE THE EFFECTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC”
It was a well-written report with proposals that looked like a photocopy of the SFSA plans we have all been discussing with our members and had previously suggested to Neil Doncaster before the infamous Good Friday Disagreement that sparked our wee civil war.
Scottish football is not in a good place and at this point there is no perfect plan going forward that ticks the immediate self-interest box for every club and us, their fans.
While most members would have had a positive or neutral outcome from Ann’s 14, 14 and 16 club structure that would respect our increasingly vigorous pyramid it is a fact that six teams don’t do so well.
They are the four teams held back from the current division 1 into the new bottom league 1 and also the two denied promotion from the old league 2.
So given the fact of life that short term self-interest determines how most clubs decide to vote on SPFL and SFA matters – in the same way fledglings are currently fighting their siblings for the next nest morsels, Anns plan will fail.
But fair play to her and those who helped her.
Lets look quickly at some of what will be rejected and then why clubs will say no before finishing with an insiders insight.
Ann’s excellent intro is actually a good summary of the real problems we collectively face (My underlining for effect).
“This paper is not about restructuring. It is about survival.
The need to protect Scotland’s national game and our professional clubs is of paramount importance, not just to our staff, our players, our supporters but to the communities we serve. The impact of a club disappearing will hit local communities hard, both from a social and an economic perspective. Given everything else that our communities are dealing with at this time, we must stand together to try to ensure they do not lose their football clubs too”.
Although her “not about restructuring”line is perhaps a little Shakespearean her understanding of the impact on staff, players, supporters and communities is bang-on the money.
And it is all going to be about money, quoting Ann again.
“Post covid finance will determine everything for the clubs who line up in the pencilled-in 1 August phase two return for our top league. We need 3 survival plans (One per league) to get through this.”
One size most certainly does not fit all and SKYis at the heart of her proposals for the top league!
“There is pressure to get our Premiership Clubs back to playing football as quickly as possible to protect our Broadcasting contract with Sky. This contract contributes a large percentage of the income of the majority of Clubs, across all leagues.”
“Assurances have been given by the SPFL Chief Executive, following discussions with his senior counterparts at Sky, that enlarging the Premiership to 14 teams will not be unacceptable to Skyand will not be used as a bargaining tool in any future negotiations. In fact, the proposed enlargement of the Premiership will be seen positively, bringing with it as it does, both Edinburgh and Highland derbies. It is also be noted that based on recent viewing figures published by the SPFL, Sky’snumbers would be considerably impoverished by the current plans to relegate Hearts.”
So there you have it.
A lot of Sky in Ann’s future plans for the top league and confirmation from Neil D that Skyhave no problem with a 14 club top league if the 42 clubs vote for that.
But sorry Ann and your backers – the wee guys can block the plan good as it might be
A Blocking Vote For Now
It is rare for the wee guys to ever have any power.
But right now just a few clubs like Brechin our bottom club who got 0.18% of the SPFL pot as opposed to the Celtic share of 13.4% (74 times more) can stop the big guys doing what they want.
The SPFL members association of unequal competing clubs is seeing discussions afoot ahead of the votes in each division and already the reaction at the bottom does not seem overtly positive for club-led change ever happening even if it is for the greater good.
In a BBC interview published today Cowdenbeath chair Donald Findlay has come out saying Hearts’ league reconstruction proposal is “self-seeking” and a “non-starter”.
Cowdenbeath are just one of five sides in the bottom two tiers who have already told BBC Scotland they will vote against it the others being Clyde, Forfar Athletic, Peterhead, and Elgin City.
In addition the Stenhousemuir chairman Iain McMenemy had previously been quoted as saying he thought the proposal was doomed to failure but confirmed that his club have yet to discuss their own position.
This all means against a reality where Hearts must gain the support of 15 of the 20 clubs in the bottom two divisions, as well as 11 of the 12 Premiership sides and seven of their future nine Championship rivals that this attempt at change, professional as it was and even for an interim period wont happen.
Mr Findlay is also reported as saying he would have more sympathy for the Edinburgh outfit – and chair Ann Budge – if they admitted the plan was about saving themselves.
“This is all about Hearts not preparing to accept relegation, these are not new proposals, they don’t address anything new, and they have already been rejected.”
And finally Donald says
“I am not opposed to having league reconstructiontalks in the future, but it would have to involve a reorganisation of Scottish football, with a fairer financial model,” he said. “That would lead to better competition and a better product.”
Post Covid 19 change is inevitable unstoppable and won’t come from club votes.
Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box
I spoke at length this morning with someone with a profound knowledge and experience of the money side of Scottish Football.
A real insider who’s been there and done it, not the usual rent a quote although his fish analogy made me smile.
He sees Covid 19 changing everything and while it will probably help Hearts it will have deeper and quite profound implications for all our clubs and our current administrative structures in which they compete.
Here are four quotes from our conversation.
I suspect we’ll revisit them over the next few weeks as events unfold.
“Football changes happening in other countries will impact the top of our game everywhere”Our biggest fish might leave our ponds.
“Outside of what happens elsewhere our big fish will seek to abandon the smaller clubs in a business move to hoover up more revenues from the constricted pot and to run their own show.
Its likely we will see an invitation league breakaway.
To hard pressed clubs it’s all about revenues and control not collaboration.
“Small clubs with no or minimal borrowings will survive because wages will fall but they are not needed or wanted at the top table, their influence is not valued and their votes will not be allowed to dictate what the big fish want.
At the bottom end our professional leagues should regionalise with national play
“In the coming revenue winter over-extended clubs will need help that doesn’t exist or go bust. They should be brutal in their cost cutting. Some will end up in dusty boxes”.
Never more has our game needed vision and leadership
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