Sting In The Tale (Chairman’s blog 31/7/20) “Neil’s Boxes All Correctly Ticked”

Date: 31st July 2020

Neil’s Boxes All Correctly Ticked


Football Breaks Out But There’s a Bigger Story

Saturday sees our Premiership return behind closed doors with some interesting ties and more availability from digital broadcast than ever before.

In Victorian times, the state of the art, pay per view technology was the turnstile.

Nowadays it’s evolved into Pay Per View TV.

The unstoppable creep of Pay Per View TV will increasingly compromise club turnstile revenues in the wrong way for most clubs.

That’s a real threat to all but our biggest clubs and needs discussed, and ideas shared for any shortfalls addressed.

News has also just broken that Nicola may allow some fans into our socially distanced stadia to watch football from mid-September but what a dilemma that will bring.

How do clubs choose who gets to come and who doesn’t?

Meanwhile fans of our other three SPFL leagues and all our other football clubs within and out-with the SFA pyramid have to wait till at least October, all being well.

Sadly but sensibly the women’s season that started with so much promise but never really got going was null and voided this week after just one round of matches all those months ago.


James Anderson’s Hat Trick


Until recently very few in the game had heard of him but once again James has come up with the goods this week with his very generous gift into youth football.
James, thank you big time. Thank you from every single one of our members and all the senior, women’s and junior clubs you have helped.


Delighted By The Verdict on the Hampden Steps?


If you’ve been on Mars you won’t have heard that the SFA Arbitration panel ruling on Tuesday, amounted to a vindication of how the SPFL applied its rules on calling the season and relegating Hearts, Partick and Stranraer.

Strange and disturbing that Michael Grant in The Times headlined this “good news” quite negatively in an insightful piece on Wednesday.


“Little Reason for SPFL to celebrate with so much unrest in the ranks”.


Obviously, Michael hadn’t followed or probably even read the SPFL press release but lets dig into this a little because the outfall from this momentous process and decision will not go away any time soon.

Long after our new season has come and gone, we will still be dealing with the deep dysfunctionality and extreme lack of leadership in our game.

The structural faults that have created the 4-month procession of highly entertaining but also deeply embarrassing pantomimic episodes started with Neil’s Good Friday Disagreement.

That was our early Lockdown intro and stuff followed on till last week with the club’s rejection of the SPFL’s request for more autonomy on all future matters Covid.

Some chairmen have said to me in conversation that this was effectively a vote of no confidence.

We’d probably agree.


Is The Law an Ass?


We’ve all heard Mr Bumble’s quote which remains relevant today.

One of my old pals, the late Frank Maguire of Thompsons, one of the real good guys, was proud to have been named Scottish Solicitor of the Year in 2010.


Well many fans probably don’t know that Rod McKenzie, the SPFL in-house legal counsel, has been named Scottish Solicitor of the year twice in 2003 and 2014.

(Rod McKenzie outside Hampden)


You don’t get that for being a numpty.


So, when you have trained lawyer Neil Doncaster, Rod and their board discussing a problem and deciding how to move forward then it is likely that they would never consider going off-piste.


(Yes I know the still very secret 5-way agreement in 2012 was probably a shared, time-pressured, off-piste response the last time a real problem was thrown at our  administrators but that was then and lessons were learnt, hence Rod coming in house).


So various votes and proposals for calling the leagues, relegating three members, promoting three members, conflating votes with prize payments, handling a crucial lost Dundee vote, consigning the pyramid to the dustbin, having an indicative vote, looking at reconstruction and trying to do their best within the confines of pandemic influenced operation and amidst the uncertainties of what was happening the SPFL board ticked boxes in a way that has now been deemed correct by an arbitration panel.




Well done Neil and Rod.

Great boxmanship.

Every one ticked good and proper.


Publish and Be Praised?


Everything about the arbitration is deemed to be secret UNLESS all parties agree otherwise.

The same secrecy that is a cancer.

The same secrecy that is never totally secret.


Our game would be better without it because it is a charade as there are always people in the know and they use their knowledge as power.

That is hugely divisive, inherently negative and a fact of life.


But we all know there are no secrets for long in football.


So I feel now a bit like Jeremy Clarkson on Millionaire when I have been asked a tough question but don’t yet have enough to be sure because I have only heard snippets from the arbitration.


When I do find out the ins and outs we’ll share it in this forum but in the meantime I’ll tell you what I know with a couple of insights from a club chairman who we might judge to be from the winning side.


            The triumphant side whose body language at the result didn’t look consistent with building

            bridges with either the losers or the growing number of clubs who are unhappy.


Yes they were relieved, because they had followed their defined processes and lucky for them leadership and vision was not on the arbitration agenda.


Anyway, here is what I know so far.


“Trying to stop two members from getting access to SPFL stuff, their own stuff was ridiculous and embarrassing”.

“We were fortunate it wasn’t held in open court and not just because arbitration is cheaper”.

“Some of the leaks into the tabloids seem to have worked but too risky and should not have happened”.

“We had no budget for any compensation, that would have been a nightmare”.


Congratulations and Commiserations to all from all at the SFSA.

(Neil Doncaster and Murdoch MacLennan )

Fair play Neil, Murdoch, Rod et al – but please be magnanimous in your result. Embrace you members and ensure nothing that’s taken place should be kept from the other clubs who are not card carriers in the “in the know” cabal.

Tell the fans too and proper respect and communication with your stakeholders doesn’t start or finish with just publishing the recent secret arbitration reports.


Why are SFA and SPFL boards and committees not fan friendly and on the record?


Why the constant closed doors?


Why no public chambers?


Did Anyone See or Hear Tuesday’s Arbitration Judgement on SPFL Leadership and Vision ?


It didn’t happen.

It wasn’t even part of the agenda.

Many want change including those running clubs but there is no mechanism about how it can happen despite a shiny new board elected last week.


It Didn’t and Doesn’t Have to Be This Way


In late March we asked our members for their views and insights and shared it with the SPFL board.

Here’s a small part of a letter we sent to Neil in early April before the disastrous Good Friday Disagreement and the nonsense since.


It could have saved time effort expense and we’d all be in a better place.


Time for Cool Heads and Clear Thinking

The Scottish Football Supporters Association don’t profess to have all the answers and have no vested interests but here we have created a 3 point strategy that we feel will help guide Scottish Football to best ride this crisis and allow the real planning and budgeting at all clubs ahead of whatever is coming our way.

Parameter 1
This is Not a Time for Own Goals.
Covid 19 and the aftermath will cause enough financial hardship and stress to clubs and fans.
This is not a time to pitch clubs Vs clubs or fans Vs fans. And not a particularly good time to offer a possibility, of a possibility, of a possibility of reorganisation in time for Hearts and others not to get unfairly relegated.

Parameter 2
We Need an Interim Plan Where There Are no Losers

This could be a 1 year’s solution, possibly 2 at most, where every club (and fan) gets a positive post Covid 19 start allowing the best possible financial move into the new season 2020 – 2121 for all.

See our plan starter for ten below (insights and other plans welcome)

Parameter 3
Scottish Football Desperately Needs a Re-launch (But not in a manic rush)
How best should we set up our league structures to help our domestic and international game move into the future?

How do we look at an updated list of McLeish insights and incorporate them?

How do we involve the Scottish Government and the real stakeholders, the fans?

How do we capitalise on our football community for the greater good?

The recent surge of clubs coming into the fairly new pyramid system both in the Highland area but especially in the central and southwest regions is screaming out for a new and fairer framework.

Any long-term solution is likely to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary and grounded but it must be fit for purpose and fair for all from day 1 for all the members.
It has to work and be seen to work top down and bottom up.


As always from the SPFL we got a polite reply.


So Why Are We All Losers?


Did the SPFL embrace the three things we said?




Do they still remain relevant?




But apart from legal box ticking and a pyrrhic victory we are no further forwards and there is deep distrust at all levels.


To avoid finishing on a downer here are two things to make every fan or board member smile.


Aston Villa’s Lucky Postcode Keeps Scotland Midfielder in The Premier League


It’s B6 6HE if you’re interested.


If it had been EH11 2NL or G20 7AL or DG9 8BS they’d not be dancing in the streets of Aston or in their Villas either and our wee terrier would be playing in the championship next year.


Lucky Villa, Lucky Scotland too.


Bob Ward’s question for Neil and his Board.


This note from our honorary statistician Bob made me laugh out loud.


Hi Andrew,


Can you ask Neil if whatever the result of Hearts Vs Dundee on 17th October, can Dundee change it on Monday 19th.

Bob Ward


Groundhog Pyramid Day

Finally an update on our pyramid discussions, or lack of, with Ian Maxwell CEO at The SFA.

This has been my sign off for over a month and I’m getting more and more emails about it every week.
Fans are deeply concerned about the lack of commitment from the SPFL and the SFA to the vibrant lower leagues.

This week we even got 5 new SFSA membership applications from ordinary fans who meet on Fridays in a well-known establishment an hour or so north of Dingwall. They were of a mind that the SFA had let them down and one mentioned this blog was talking about it too.


Welcome guys and  to answer your questions I think the appropriate ruling is as follows.


(c) Any amendment to these Pyramid Play-Off Rules must be agreed by each of the Scottish FA, SPFL, SHFL and SLFL prior to it becoming effective.

So there needs to be 4 separate discussions and sign offs.

There was also seemingly a reference in a briefing paper sent to clubs (Appendix 3 of the Rangers Dossier).

Also, a question that was asked.

In these exceptional circumstances, the Scottish FA Board will be asked to agree that the Pyramid Play-Off Competition need not be played in 2020. 


I don’t know how or if 4 sign offs became 1 and won’t till Ian Maxwell responds.
But we’ll keep asking him and add it to our first request for information.


“Ian , Were there 4 sign offs and what have the SFA done on behalf of Brora, Kelty and the fact that the pyramid has been dropped for season 2019-2020?”

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