Date: 30th December 2020
Looking Forwards, Hopefully.
It’s that time of year when the darkest day has passed and a new year is imminent with resolutions aplenty heading for whatever happens to them after they have been broken and dumped.
2020, the year of a global pandemic none of us were prepared for has been strange and difficult for more than just football.
Hopefully with two vaccines now approved it looks like post-pandemic normality might start to break out by early summer.
Things as we all know can and will change but fans in any numbers won’t be back at Scottish grounds till next season.
Not even Gorgeous George the well known Doonhamer will see another live match.
Past Half Time and Bleeding Cash in a Fanless World
I had to check, because it didn’t feel real but 21 out of 38 planned Premiership fixtures have mostly been played and a May 15th finale is still targeted but our darkest hour may yet lie ahead and lockdown and restrictions could still get worse.
Reflection from 3 Wise Men Ahead of the Bells
Most fans tell us they want to see changes in how our game is run and don’t believe it will happen until both the SFA and SPFL start looking outwardly and bring in new talent and a new structure.
Last week Dave a teammate from years ago sent me this quote from Mike Stevenson a truly inspirational Scot and said you would think Mike was talking just about Scottish football.
“Why in a nation that gave birth to many of the ideas that created the modern world, do so many shrink into the shadows and resist the new? This is a time for risk takers, leaders, doers, champions, outliers, creators and innovators.
It’s time to slay the fearties”.
If we combine Mike’s wisdom with six year old and still ignored insights from Barry Hearn, (OBE yesterday for services to Sport) who was an unpaid guest speaker at the Scottish FA Annual Convention.
It was delivered in a brutally honest series of truisms.
He’s never been asked back.
He should be there every bloody year and paid too!
“My message to the leaders is wake up and smell the coffee. You need to acknowledge you have a problem. Self-interest among club owners is the issue. Big clubs want all of the money because that is human nature and they have to be told no but at the same time Scottish Football has to make the cake bigger for all”.
The final wise man quote is from Henry Ford.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.
Post pandemic that is where Neil, Rod and Ian are taking us.
Back on the road to where they maintain their power and have no accountability.
Last week’s classic football style divvy-up of the government bail out that I talked about at length in my 25th December Sting demonstrates there is no desire to do anything other than keep the current self interest models limping along.
We can rightly out Neil, Rod and Ian and they are all culpable but they are just the visible well -paid part of a dysfunctional iceberg.
They will never be advocates for change because that is not in their own self interests.
Barry Hearn summed up the biggest barrier to change being the constant fight club owners have to maximise their own share of our football cake in a world where common good is not valued. They need real leadership and vision.
New Year, New Minister
We finally got to speak to Joe FitzPatrick in November and liked him. Now the king is dead, long live the queen and we have joined the queue to meet our new minister Mairi Gougeon who has Public Health, Sport and Well Being in a busy enough portfolio for what is deemed a junior position.
The fact that her boss Jeane Freeman is stepping down too at the next election makes it all the more difficult.
In the male dominated world of Scottish football she will come up against both disguised and open misogyny (I hope she speaks and compares notes with Aileen Campbell).
Mairi’s biggest challenge may be dealing with the well practised SFA and SPFL “keep out of our treegyny” (whatever the word for that might be).
We welcome you Mairi, wish you well and will help in any way.
Maybe an alliance between the stakeholders in Scottish football (the fans) and the politicians is the best way forward for our game to forge change.
Scottish football needs cross party political help even if Scottish football doesn’t want to acknowledge that.
New Year New Manager
We all heard this week that Shelley Kerr has “stood down” from her job as head coach of the Scottish Women’s team.
Mr Maxwell even commissioned a press release that thanked her for her “contribution in leading the team to historic success in qualifying for the Women’s World Cup etc. etc”.
We can all debate the tactical whys and wherefores after the recent disappointments in the Euro qualifying group and whether Shelley was still our best option and that is fair enough.
But this isn’t about that.
This is not just a change of manager.
It’s actually about how an old fashioned, bloated organisation in trouble is desperately trying to find cash savings and scoring long-term own goals in the process.
This is the same Mr Maxwell and same SFA who press released the recent strangely similar resignation of Malky MacKay and is currently pushing through some fatal budget cuts heading the way of our elite kids academies too. (No press releases yet)
Something serious is going down on the 6th floor at Hampden and both women’s football and our kids are easy sacrifices.
Both should be growth areas.
Both should be investment priorities.
I totally agree with Amy who emailed me and summed it all up as “Clueless, short term-ist and extremely myopic”.
OK, Amy actually said it in more colourful terms but that is what she wanted me to get across.
New Year, Same Old, Same Old
In a year when we watched open mouthed disbelievingly as Neil’s Good Friday Disagreement unfolded.
The soap opera where the Dundee vote on that day changed mysteriously and subsequently lit the blue paper on open club warfare.
You would have hoped that lessons would be learnt.
Fans want and wanted bigger leagues but the SFA, SPFL, and the clubs don’t have to care what their fans think so they don’t ever ask.
After a lot of wasted time and energy and task-forces aplenty, all getting nowhere and with zero fan consultation, it was easy to see the system is dysfunctional then and still is.
Even our SPFL could see that and tried unsuccessfully to get the clubs to back them in a once and for all vote to allow the SPFL to make all subsequent Covid related decisions without having to undertake full club, by club, votes.
That was so sensible but was always going to fail.
The reality is there was little trust between clubs or between clubs and the authorities then and probably less now.
Farce and farcical decisions are still at large and the inherent secrecy of how both the SFA and the SPFL and their JRG joint venture operate makes it all worse.
(The JRG was, I am told, then set up to allow decisions to be made without speaking to the clubs and it seems that either the clubs haven’t quite sussed that, or maybe not been given the chance since to do something about it).
Our fourth estate seem disinterested in the real stuff going on, I’m not sure why.
In 2021 Fans Simply Want Openness, Fairness Consistency and Leadership.
Two examples from my in-tray are worth highlighting.
It is stuff like this that disgruntles us, the bedrock stakeholders.
The first is the SFA and its handling of Hill of Beath playing a banned player against Whitehill Welfare in the Scottish Cup on December 12 and the second is Neil’s SPFL and the points deductions from Motherwell and Kilmarnock in favour of St Mirren and Hamilton.
Let’s look at each.
There is a lot more info online if you google it.
Whitehill vs. Hill of Beath.
December 12th saw the Haws defeat Whitehill 2-1.
It came to light after the match that Hill of Beath had fielded an ineligible player.
Clear simple and agreed by both teams.
The rules state clubs should be expelled for such breaches and in 2011 both Spartans and East Stirling were.
Somehow Hill of Beath got a slapped wrist with a wet fish and a £2000 suspended fine from the SFA but were allowed to play in the next round.
Whitehill quite rightly feel aggrieved and rightly said the integrity of the Scottish Cup is in question.
“The competition rules are very clear. The response from the SFA was unsurprisingly vague, and ambiguous. We were simply told there were exceptional circumstances. What these were we have no idea, as it wasn’t elaborated on. We have asked for further clarification. It has been acknowledged that the player was left out of the weekly suspension list issued by the SFA but again the rules are clear and clubs have overriding responsibility to ensure all players listed are eligible”.
So it looks like the SFA maybe made a mistake with one of their lists, the club didn’t check or maybe did, saw he wasn’t on it, and took a gamble where the player played and the team won.
I could be right or wrong with all of that and the SFA should man up and be open and impartial about their decisions.
This is not about Whitehill or Hill of Beath – its about our game and how it is run for us.
The rules should be followed and in the full view of all interested.
How difficult is that Neil, Rod, Ian?
Killie and St Mirren in the Dock
In early December Killie were told their postponed game vs. Motherwell and St Mirren’s games vs. Motherwell and Hamilton were forfeited with a 3-0 score for each and 3 points.
Because they had not followed Covid protocols.
They were not the first and will not be the last to fall foul.
Both clubs have now appealed and a secret hearing by an SFA’s judicial panel is slated for
This raises questions that should be answered.
Why is it all in secret when any decision should be based on rules that are public and taken without fear or favour?
Were Killie and St Mirren treated the same way as the other clubs known to have broken Covid restrictions or clubs who will transgress in the next few months?
And a really pertinent question from John in Paisley,
“Would they ever dare take points off either Celtic or Rangers like that? And don’t answer that Andy because they wouldn’t. Not in this Ten in a Row, Glasgow District League Season.
We just want the same laws for all applied fairly for and to all and how they are applied to be a matter of public record”.
That is one change that Ian, Rod, and Neil need to sanction yesterday.
”At Half Time Sit to the Right of Bannon”
Sad news to hear the passing of genuine legend Jim McLean.
Alex Ferguson paid the highest respect naming Jim as his “toughest managerial opponent”.
We’ve all heard wee stories about him, enough to fill a book, but I smile when thinking about steam coming out of his ears when berating Eamonn Bannon each and every half time.
Eamonn was a great player but was thought by Mr McLean to be “too clever for his own good”. He was also said to be too willing to defend himself when being “coached” aka “dressed down” and was nearly always the first McTarget.
The wise pros learned that Jim would finish destroying the Bannon then carry on clockwise round the dressing room until he ran out of time and there was always a rush to get a safe seat out of the firing line.
Have a good and safe Hogmanay and a Happy and safe New Year.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story that needs shared.
Common good has to break out in Scottish Football.
Only the fans can make this happen.
Please ask all your pals to join SFSA and together we can get the ball rolling.