Date: 4th December 2020
Inside sources suggest that the Scottish Government is very close to agreeing an interim package of funding for all affected sports in Scotland.
“As the First Minister confirmed to parliament we will continue to engage with sporting bodies whose revenue is being impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. We hope to bring our support package to fruition in the near future”.
We all know our sport is under pressure from the very top right down to the very bottom.
Not just the 42 teams in the, not so currently cosy, SPFL members club.
The whole game, male and female, at all levels from schools upwards is hurting and potentially dying and it all needs the help this payment can bring.
Yes the clubs with the biggest salaries to pay are under pressure like never before but our grass roots cannot be ignored.
But they probably will be.
That is what is normal in Scottish Football.
The SFA and SPFL are essentially private members associations working where the key principle is member self-interest rather than “good of the game”.
Fact is the bigger clubs always want and will always want more, that’s how they got bigger in the first place.
Does that help the game as a whole might be a good question?
No would be a simple and indisputable answer.
Would we simply toss the money into Neil and Ian’s hands if we were Nicola?
Most certainly no.
We’d want to know it was going to the right places not just the best positioned, networked or biggest.
And we’d want it all to be done in the full view of the voting public too with elections on the near horizon.
We’ve all seen what happened earlier this year when among other things prize monies were withheld as a cheap and sneaky tactic to get our clubs to vote and also how our long fought for pyramid was simply tossed into the bin.
Welcome to the Undemocratic Republic of Scottish Football
If you’re reading this then you are already a fan.
Most fans just want to support their team.
Yes we get annoyed at the way stuff seems to happen but we have learned to put up with it and it takes a lot to make us active enough to rise above the parapet. We are all for what its worth classifiable as “passively disgruntled”.
That is mostly a little unhappy but also mostly apathetic when it comes to how our game is run.
Well now is a time to step up for a while because this Pandemic will bring changes and we all need to be part of not just what happens now and most important of all into how our post-pandemic future can shape up.
Scottish Football is mostly run just now by the SFA and SPFL.
They both work out of our national stadium, share lots of board positions and can work together when they need to like in their ultra secretive JRG.
Should they not just be one open body and welcome external inputs and structural changes?
Well that’s a question to be answered.
Not one question actually, more a series of related questions we would gladly help ask and come up with the best solutions.
Big changes are long overdue.
Cross party involvement would certainly help.
Fans Have United the Agendas at the SFA and SPFL- Does This Mean Change?
More the lack of customer, i.e. fan income and how it’s absence is hurting our two cosyish “members organisations”.
Quite recently and very out of character they have both been talking a lot about the Covid-induced absence of fans and how important fans and our cash are to the game.
You might think they now see the need for change and a consumer led approach.
You’d be wrong though.
Deep down the hard fact is without us the fans, none of our clubs nor the current SPFL or SFA as we know them would exist.
Two unaccountable institutions with well paid employees and a long track record of not just ignoring the views of us, their base-level stakeholders but also having perfected the arts of never listening, changing or looking outside.
We Need to Organise – We Need You to Help us Grow*
Most fans just like to watch football, just want to trust those running our teams and just want to take stuff for granted that our game is well run.
But tell me, when as a stakeholder did you last see the minutes from an SFA, SPFL, JRG board meeting?
(OK why would anyone want to, I get that, but if you did want to you should be able to find them and see what is happening on your behalf)
If we don’t get real change and openness you never will either.
Because secrecy is a cancer and it is riddling football north of Hadrian’s Wall.
But it is used to preserve power and channel favours to those in the know.
It has led to our dysfunctional camel of a game where there is no accountability.
We might not have the deep financial corruption that dictated how the last and next world cups were awarded but we do have an Orwelian culture where some members are definitely more equal than others.
Stuff just happens and you as a fan and I as a fan have no say and will never be listened to unless you and I join together with other like minded fans and shout very, very loud at the right people and in the right places.
There are a lot of us.
When did you see the justification of £45 for a seat at a meaningless friendly match at Hampden knowing if there is a big guy in front you won’t even see the game?
When did you as a football stakeholder get asked about how you feel about any aspects of or game?
Do you think either of our clubs on the quest to win/stop TIAR would be hit with a 3-0 defeat and fine?
When did you feel that football was being run for the fans rather than those on the make and take?
Fans Want Change
We at the SFSA ask fans like you stuff all the time.
That is what sets our agenda.
We’ll never all agree about anything but most fans can see common good beyond their own team’s self interest when those running our game just can’t.
That is why the game needs us.
We know you want an end to 4 fixtures against other teams each year.
We all want bigger leagues.
We want more competition too.
We want to believe that those running our game are running it fairly and openly and that no clubs are able to increase their own influence, gain favour or even line their own pockets from the work they do on the various boards.
But we know that our game is riven with self-interest to the point that change can only come from outside.
Fans Wanted Desperately
Dave Cormack, Aberdeen’s articulate and passionate Chairman spoke well this week on radio and in the press.
He wants fans back but being in tier 2 Pittodrie remains fanless by order.
He made some valid points but he is getting nowhere when he is talking real sense on all our behalves.
Dave is right to pinpoint contradictions that we all talk about.
There are real inconsistencies in how fans are treated both within Scotland and also between Scotland and the UK.
Right now I can’t watch my local teams play football.
But living in Tier 3 Edinburgh I can have a coffee sitting in a small airless café without my mask, joined by friends and surrounded by other customers from different households, who I don’t know and that is allowed as OK as long as I have my mask on when I walk in and walk out and don’t/can’t order a glass of wine with my out by 6pm order.
Watching my local team I’d be outside with more space from others in the fresh air and like in the Tier 1 north wearing a mask.
Que? As Manuel would rightly have said all those years ago.
I understand that it is not easy for those making balanced and difficult decisions but fans want consistency and fairness and there is no dialogue between us and those who are making these decisions.
And no real route map back to fans at games.
Dave Made His Point Well, But the Cause Was Already a Lost One
Set against a background of the JRG (or whosoever it actually was) briefing against the government and their policies after they had been given a rejection or two about fans returning outside Tier 1, Dave had a mountain to climb.
Tom English on the BBC subsequently actually fact checked Neil’s well prepared, as ever, stuff and made it look crass and stupid.
That was an own goal because much of what he said was right.
Dave’s plan for a 3 match pilot makes sense to everyone I’ve spoken with but he was pushing water uphill with a feather.
It was another lost opportunity for us all and all the fans should be asking why.
We could easily have been back in our grounds especially at the lower levels.
Our smaller grounds have less people and more open air space than in our public parks and high streets where we can roam and wander maskless.
It’s hard not to conclude fans have been let down badly by the entity known as the JRG and how they have worked not just last week or so but throughout the pandemic.
That is not to criticise all of what they have done.
Just some of it, their leadership and their closed doors strategy.
Last weeks turning of their peashooters in the direction of Nicola, Jason and Joe was petty and shows how off the pace they are and by definition we are.
As far back as September 25 in my “Sting” blog I suggested they took a leaf out of Paul Cave’s book, the man who overcome a list of over 100 reasons why he could never be able to safely run a tourist business climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. (You’ll find it writ large on our SFSA site).
Mr Cave addressed every issue individually and his joint venture opened and became the most successful tourist business down under.
The JRG could have and should have worked their well-defined channels of good access to the Minister and the relevant civil servants differently.
Their biggest strategic error however was not keeping fans in the loop.
This simple action would have increased political pressure in a positive way.
But it’s not the way our Undemocratic Republic of Scottish Football works.
The Top Secret JRG on a Mission to Divvy Up?
Divvy up or Carve up?
Try finding out exactly who the JRG are on line.
Yes you’ll find some PR-spun press releases but try finding minutes or public record of any of their meetings between themselves or with our government officials or parliament.
Don’t waste your time trying to find any public engagement either.
Rod Petrie’s and Neil’s case would have been stronger if they had set their stall out openly from day 1 but sadly that is not the way their particular style of football governance works.
An open kind of approach from the JRG would have embarrassed our government less too because our open government dealing with closed organisations is a clash of styles that raises some deep political issues for them to manage.
So whether it is the SFA, SPFL or JRG or the easier to say SFAPFLJRG who get Nicola’s money this week there is a huge requirement for the Divvy-Uppers to be open and honest about how and why they divvy-up our taxpayers borrowed cash when it arrives.
We will of course be asking the Minister ahead of the disbursement about the criteria attached to the payment, just like you’d expect us to and we’ll share any response.
So please, be fair, open and transparent, Ian and Neil and Rod whether wearing your SFA, SPFL, JRG or SFAPFLJRG Christmas hats.
Make it a Christmas novelty for all concerned, guys and how about a New Year Resolution for change starting with openness.
What’s Made Billy, Don, Stewart and Others So Grumpy?
It’s points lost and suspended fines for their teams and many of our other members are calling FOUL!
We all heard yesterday that St Mirren and Killie have been given 3-0 defeats and £40K suspended fines for breaches of Covid protocols.
Motherwell the biggest winners gain 6 points and Hamilton 3.
My inbox was filled with angry emails from Saints and Killie members asking me to highlight what they see as unfair practice at the SPFL.
Billy from Paisley is not a happy buddy:
“Why is it that we get 6 points deducted when the team who had the West End party that every cabbie in Glasgow seems to know about were left almost alone, in fact it’s as if it was all hushed up. And every builder or roofer is sharing cars or vans and they don’t get tested twice a week”.
Don a retired solicitor originally from Ayrshire said
“Stuff like the justification of a decision because an independent senior solicitor and Sherriff, “highly experienced” in sports disputes was involved. The Guff they use to try and tell us it’s all fair but we all know it is just the usual dressing – this should all be in done out in the open like our courts and anyway we all know its always the wee guys like us who get punished”
Stewart from Largs said
“When one of the big Glasgow clubs gets treated the same as us I’ll go out and swap our cow for some magic beans”.
That made me laugh out loud but I take his point.
As always feel free to contact me about anything football related or ask me to share a story with our members.
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