Author Archive Andrew Smith

ByAndrew Smith

Questions, questions, questions

 

As SFM folk will know, Scottish Football authorities can be enigmatic at best, puzzling and corrupt at worst, and downright crazy and incompetent in either situation. On this blog over the years, we have asked questions constantly of the authorities and the clubs, but like anyone with a fan-centred interest at heart we get ignored. “Fans are not a homogenous entity”, they say, “there are more opinions than there are fans”. This artful premise gives the clubs an excuse to ignore fans’ input, and other than on platforms like this, fan opinion is seldom gathered or curated.
The following blog, put together by Andy Smith, the Chairman of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, asks a lot of simple questions that don’t get asked often. He also invites fans to raise their own questions and opinions.
Of course, there are headline atrocities committed by the people in charge of the game.
The Five-Way Agreement, the continuity myth, the refusal to punish the biggest incidence of systematic cheating ever experienced in the game, and the casual adoption of the post-truth model introduced so successfully by venal politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.

But what enabled those assaults on the integrity of the sport? In order to get away with the big con, there have to be wee cons. Ticket allocations, kick off times and dates for set-piece occasions which make it difficult if not impossible for fans outside of Glasgow to participate, refusal to hold match officials accountable in the way an underperforming player or a misbehaving fan would be, and countless other incidences where fans are inconvenienced, or even put at risk. 

The only way to combat that level of arrogance is to unite where we can, and although in a partisan sport that can be difficult to achieve, SFM is testimony that it can work. This blog is an invitation for us to begin to look forward, and not get distracted by the past. I  hope SFM-ers participate and make their views clear.

Big Pink

 

What did Alan Dougherty, Gordon Harvey and Eddie Hutch have in common?

They were teachers who gave their time, to thousands of kids, including me, and asked for nothing back. To a man they gave up, overnight, as part of a ‘work to rule’, in an ugly pay dispute in the early 80s.
They were never thanked properly by the game?
They were and are sair missed.
Why did football let that happen?
Why has nobody ever grasped this particular nettle since?



Should you be able to have a beer at Bayview watching East Fife play Clyde on Feb 5th?

Just like the fans at Murrayfield, just over the Firth can and will, at the sell-out game vs England on the very same day.



Should you be allowed to enjoy a beer at Celtic Park watching Celtic vs Rangers on Feb 2nd?

A smaller crowd than Murrayfield too, and very few away fans. But some history and maybe a different situation altogether.

 


Are our leagues too small, leading to constant pressure and short termism by clubs?

Club CFO’s say the pressures are brutal and when their team is in trouble everything else gets sacrificed to avoid the financial chaos of relegation.
Many CFO’s dread the thought of promotion too knowing full well the seesaw implications of our small leagues.



Should the bottom of SPFL be an automatic relegation to open up the pyramid?

Our unique, one league only, convoluted play-off formula was only ever a last minute switcheroo/deal by the SPFL2 clubs at the time to protect their places in the SPFL ‘old boys network’.
I’d suggest East Stirling, Brechin and Berwick would change their votes if asked again.

 

Your Invitation to Say What You Think


Scottish Football Alliance Fan Survey January 2022

The Scottish Football Supporters Association is an independent and growing fans organisation in Scotland with circa 80,000 members. We have members from all senior clubs in Scotland and throughout the pyramid.
Many of those members regularly visit the SFM site.

We have been asked by the new Scottish Football Alliance (http://scottishfootball.org/) to provide an independent insight into what fans think about various aspects of our game, in particular what fans think our game needs to move forward. It is time for change, and football seems incapable of change from within.

Scottish Football might not acknowledge it, but it really needs the input of supporters like you. The fact none of us have been asked our opinions in the past says a lot.

We need to help and tell those running our game and other stakeholders like the Scottish Government what football needs to do.

Scottish football certainly has to think longer term and get closer to its fans.
In any business overview we are the core stakeholders.
The way we are treated and ignored is quite commercially bizarre.

To that end we have commissioned a short two minute survey, but we’d also welcome and appreciate any more detailed insights into what Scottish Football needs to do or do better. Please email those insights (in addition to participating in the survey) to me, at andrew@scottishfsa.org

I know from experience that when you get a group of fans in a room to talk about football, after the local rivalries and stuff gets dealt with, usually with humour, we can all see what the game has done for us, the power of good it can be for our communities and the things that need to change.

I constantly find that most fans not only see the bigger picture but also collectively want to give something back.

When this survey ends we will aggregate and analyse the results and share them far and wide inside the game and to other interested stakeholders like The Scottish Government.

The results will also become the foundation of policies The Scottish Football Alliance will publish and circulate.

At each stage moving forward we will work closely with The Scottish Football Alliance providing then with further fan insight.

And we will keep you and all other fans involved.

Survey Notes
You can participate in the survey by follwing this link:
https://s-f-s-a.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/scottish-football-alliance-survey

The questions are simple Yes/No and there are no right or wrong answers, just opinions and insight into what fans think.

ByAndrew Smith

Moving On Time?

Football is indeed a funny old game.
In a year of pandemic misery our national sport has lifted the spirits of a tired and cynical nation.
Dominic Cummings is leaving number 10, the Brexit deal hasn’t been done, lockdown is on the horizon in the West of Scotland, etc. BUT all we want to do is talk about and relive our team finally doing the business.

For once lady luck came down on our side.

If we been the team to miss our last penalty and had the Serbians scored then Serbian Football would be £10million plus better off and it would be their team heading for Hampden and Wembley.

We’d still be in the doldrums and a Pandemic-accelerated financial basket case.

Scotland is now in their first finals since France 1998 and the nation is smiling and talking positively.

There is no doubt that Steve Clarke’s influence has been huge and we all owe him a real debt especially the bean counters at Hampden who must have been hiding behind their settees hiding their eyes through extra time and into the shoot-out.

Scotland is playing more like a club team with a binding spirit rather than a group of individuals who have just met, are there for the match fee and want to stay in their previous cliques.

The dark side is never far away though.
Overconfidence is always an issue when Scotland wins a few games.

Journalists are now filling pages talking about our 9 game unbeaten run and digging up statistics from the past about what 10 in a row would mean.

The fact that since we got humped 4-0 by Russia we’ve been playing second and third level teams rather than the big boys is somehow never mentioned as a counterbalance.

That we have qualified after 2 penalty shoot outs with a statistically unlikely 10 out of 10 consecutive strikes is put down to practicing penalty taking better than Israel and Serbia.

The two games in the next 4 days might extend our run or not – it doesn’t really matter.

We have the big prize for now and qualified against the odds.
Records will show the much higher ranked Norway and Serbia teams will be at home.

Ok we’ll be at home too but playing at Hampden and Wembalee.

Scottish Football on the park has rediscovered and is redefining teamwork.

Nothing else in our game or set up has changed
(That is a discussion for many another day though).

The success of our team is to a great extent serendipitous.

It’s not something anyone in a suit at Hampden has facilitated or can take credit for outside of hiring Mr Clarke who as Chic was telling us yesterday was the obvious candidate.

The right manager, Steve has gathered a promising group of players and with them negotiated a series of testing challenges.
The stark reality is sometimes the recent games have been painful to watch but progress in baby steps has been noticeable and we genuinely played well against the more fancied Serbia.

Teamwork has been our bedrock.

Teamwork that has been missing for a long time in our international set up and I would argue throughout our game behind the scenes.

Yes we lost a silly goal at the death but Serbia is some 15 places above us in the FIFA rankings and on the night we were by far the better side.
The same Serbian team that had just returned from Oslo having taken apart the much-vaunted Norwegian side.

Steve Clarke has been the catalyst that has facilitated the unforeseen move from Scotland being a team of self-interested individuals into one with the team spirit.

Yes Steve We Can Boogie.

The Scottish team has moved on and the future is brighter on the international stage.

I understand too why many previously ardent Scots fans had distanced themselves from the team as a personal protest against The SFA and their actions over the last few years.
I get that.
But listening to Ryan and Andy and Lyndon and Steve was enough to demonstrate that these guys are playing for the country and their folks back home and not the blazers or the system.
I buy into their passion and that alone is enough to bring even the stubbornest fans back aboard.

When Big Pink asked me to write a blog about the future of this site a couple of weeks back I said I would like to lurk for a few weeks and do some digging.

I have lurked and gone even further back too.

Top line is the SFM blog is not what it was but you all know that.

Here is Some Feedback

Bit by bit; imperceptibly over the months and years the site has entrenched into the home of the anger and the facts against what John Clark has come to call “The Big Lie”.
Its about how the authorities dealt with the financial collapse of Rangers and set the scene for a series of mayhemic events since.

It’s a big Scottish football story and a good insight into how the game managed itself

But other things have been happening since and football has broken out.

One of you said just yesterday
“This site has become a single issue site only becoming alive when something IBROX is current”.

That is partially true and is something to address because it diminishes what this site can achieve.

The number of posters has eroded since the RTC days and the number of clubs represented by posters has also diminished. The site was always a little Celtic minded but open and welcoming of all clubs at the same time.

Some of that goodwill leaked away in this summer’s SPFL pantomime season when self-interest and the quest for 10 became a subconscious position for some of your group.

The level of politeness and the moderation on the site has however remained a huge asset and is almost unique.

This openness has led recently to one serial troll reappearing after several previous monikers and he/she/they have been playing games with several well know posters. The resultant “dancing on a head of a pin” conversations are not so much “Monitoring Scottish Football” as “doing people’s heads in” and this episode has not helped.
That being said I wish salmon were as easy to hook as some on here.

I don’t think there are enough Headline Blogs like this one and in the past I’ve been told many new blogs are simply skimmed politely and ignored as the discussion reverts to the ongoing various fall outs of the consequences of the infamous secret 5 way agreement and all that has ensued following that particular monumental administrative cock up.

I well remember too and liked Stunney and his papers every morning and even though most of what is written in the back pages of the red tops is there to fill space it was still fun to read.

At the same time there has been so much going on that would have benefitted from the forensic discussion that SFM posters brought to the party.
The court reporting by John Clark, EasyJambo and others has been quite dogged, incredibly insightful and shown up the media on many an occasion.

As the subjects under discussion on SFM became narrower I think the site stopped attracting new blood and also accelerated the departure of valued posters.

The diminishing site then became easier for serial disrupters to play with and the ever-decreasing circles metaphor has probably become a reality.

Finally, the adverts on the site that appeared, as if by magic, a few years ago do not deliver enough revenue to justify the inconvenience to readers.
I can’t read the site on my phone without clicking into people trying to sell me stuff I have no interest in.

That’s just a summary of my views as someone who values what this site has brought over the years.

Is it Time for a Reboot at SFM?

I’d say yes and here are a few suggestions to get you thinking and to start a discussion ahead of Big P and his monitors taking some decisions.

Scottish Football needs an independent conscience.

Scottish Football will be the stronger for it.

SFM can be a huge part of that.

Not all fans will want to be part of it because many just want to support their teams and that is fair enough but without a fan voice and without real analysis of what is really going on all that will happen is we’ll get more of the same that took us into the football wilderness.

And without the right changes even Steve Clarke will run out of steam one day when the penalty gods favour some other side.

So here are 5 ideas for SFM to consider

1 A Regular Blog
This doesn’t have to be written for us like in the past– it can just be a weekly news pick that we highlight to set a discussion agenda.

2 The Creation of a John Clark Wall where we hold the facts about the run up to and the creation of his “big lie”.
Set it all our logically and leave it alone for a future date.
It won’t go away because the action created issues for everyone involved.
It should be constructed for all fans with no jelly and ice cream flavouring.

This action would makes SFM the experts and place to go to read what really happened, helps get that monkey off everyone’s back and can be revisited every February 14th or when something turns up.
It might throw more light too in why we are rejoicing about Scotland getting a £10M windfall from qualifying while nobody is talking about the £80M court case costs heading our way as a nation.
All out of a secret 5 way construct back in 2012 and good for nobody whoever you support.

In the meantime SFM should broaden the discussion on other areas like the dropping of the pyramid, the secrecy inherent at the SFA, SPFL and their JRG, Strict Liability, etc. etc. etc.

3 The return of likes for posts that are good or if you agree but with a difference.
I occasionally post on another site which is free to read for anyone but if you want to post or like another post you have to be registered and all likes show the name of the person who has posted.

4 A consideration for different threads at the same time.

5 No ads.
Sponsorship is fine and banner ads for sponsors too but no commercial links that wheech you off to pastures unknown.

Evolution rather than Revolution

I look forward to the debate and to working with Big Pink and his team.
As chair of the largest Scottish group of fans the SFSA (If you’re not a member please join) I know that the only certainty is that fans will never agree about everything or sometimes even anything.

The tribal and competitive nature of football sets us against each other and causes divisions and disagreements that can become entrenched.
Some would say that is part of the fun of it all.

That being said we do generally agree and care deeply about the following.
We want vision, leadership and most of all fairness and transparency.

All alien words in our game as is.

OK Scotland has qualified for a major championship but our game is still locked in a self-interest framed self-imposed wrestling hold and the fact is that escape will never happen without change.

SFM and SFSA can both be part of that.

ByAndrew Smith

The Last Thing Scottish Football Needs Right Now ..

.. is More Secrecy

We all now know Lord Clark’s judgement on Friday has kicked off an arbitration process to solve the case raised by Hearts, Partick and their sleeping partner, Stranraer.
He seemingly had no option and did this because it is the “pre-decided” SFA procedure for football disputes.
Accordingly three qualified persons will be chosen from an existing SFA list and in effect become the judges and jury tasked with coming to a decision on a complex and complicated situation.
Be cogniscant that this is a situation where relegation will have huge financial impact to the three clubs and their members of staff at a time of pandemic related economic hardship.

Real people and real jobs cast aside by what could be classed as myopia and lack of leadership.

And potentially exacerbated by a decision made in secret, in an unreported process, with no avenue to appeal.

Did Hearts and Thistle and Stranraer deserve to be relegated I hear you ask?
Yes so far, and on points per game, but there were enough games left and all three could easily have avoided the drop.
By the same judgement Hearts should already have been awarded the Scottish Cup as they were statistically the remaining club with the best cup record and goal difference!

The three Arbitrators will now hear the SPFL case and the Hearts and Thistle case put forward by their expensive legal teams and then decide.

Simples.

Maybe not.
From press reports the SPFL even tried to block their own members, Hearts and Thistle, getting access to their co –owned SPFL documents but Lord Clark seemingly stopped that.
It seems being aware of the severe time constraints, and maybe also possibly suspecting downstream game-playing, he also offered his and the court’s availability if required.

Let me clarify something that I didn’t know until last week.

Arbitration is not the same as mediation.
Not even close.
From what I’ve read since, mediation would have been better for all concerned but progressing that way that would have taken a less dysfunctional corporate structure across our game.
It could and should have been the best way forward for us all.

If only.

But fair enough we all need a result and arbitration we’ve been told can maybe deliver that in around 10 days.

In the meantime ask yourself if an arbitration decision made and dished out without any kind of public scrutiny or redress is the way to go?

What if deep inside the system there is any kind of unseen bias?
By the way that’s just a question.
I’m not suggesting that there is inherent bias.
Surely no biases in Scottish football exist.

Being positive I can see the advantages of coming to a conclusion in a process that is quicker and less costly to our game than going to the courts but something about the whole thing is wrong.

My instinct says it’s the secrecy.

Most of the people I have spoken with agree.

We all live in Scotland where our government is open to the public and where government committees are on the public record.
The fourth estate is all over everything they do.
Likewise our courts are generally open to the public and to the media to report on what is happening within.

There is nothing in this dispute that should be kept secret from the real stakeholders in the game, the fans.

We all have a stake in the game.

There is nothing healthy about this closed doors charade.

It should all be out in the open.
Any judgement made without the presence and scrutiny of the media and SFM’s very own Easyjambo and John Clark is open to retrospective revisitation ad infinitum and will never bring the fairness and closure we all need.
It is not in any way the formula for the reconciliation that is needed across all 42 clubs.

Football fans don’t always have to agree but we need to know that it is refereed fairly. Arbitration rules laugh at that basic requirement.

How The Hell Did We Get Here?

As I write the countdown to the new season is underway and a sans-Hearts fixture list is imminent.
I have no idea what will happen if the three wise arbitration men decide to block the Hearts, Partick and Stranraer SPFL enforced demotions.
They might indeed.
The majority of fans wouldn’t disagree with them if they did even if it becomes a mess.

Yes that would be a doomsday scenario for all but we’d bounce back.
If it is the right thing to do for our game then a bit of hassle for Neil and Co should not stop it happening.

10 days or so will tell.

Were the Leagues Called Too Soon?

Chick and Tam on the radio certainly, and indignantly think so.
Most fans concur with many of us already watching English football nightly and wondering what if?

I think only four countries in Europe ended their leagues early.

We’ve been told the SPFL came to the decision to trigger payments because of our new TV contract.
Seems plausible enough and to be fair there was great club impecuniosity and huge amounts of uncertainty at the time.
I’ve since also heard that the old broadcast contracts were renegotiated and compensation paid for the lost games as the new Sky deal became the focus and probably the driving force.
Money rules and Sky calls the tune in their 4 old firm games view of our world.

This combined and meant two big decisions were immediately on the horizon.

First Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer were to be relegated.
(“Bye-bye guys, tough luck and take your medicine”, from your erstwhile football family friends, almost certainly avoiding eye contact in the zoom meeting)!

Secondly Brechin City, or another, was spared the play offs and with the pyramid chain broken the top team from the play offs was told to forget their hopes of joining the SPFL.

Outrageous.

Someone at the SFA should have thrown a hissy fit and done something for their 2 disadvantaged members but I don’t think they ever did.
A real insight into how heartless our game can be.

Along the way
We all sat back in amazement as Neil’s “Good Friday Disagreement” evolved when John Nelm’s Dundee’s vote got first lost, then found and then changed over the weekend.
Didn’t smell right then.
Smells even worse now.
Along the way Dundee somehow became the casting vote.
(I hope there are full records of what really happened for the Arbitrators).

At the time, and rumbling still, there was huge criticism of the SPFL board for conflating approval of something or other to the much-needed payments due to the clubs.
(Apologies for the brevity but it all merges. So much was going on and a lot we never heard about too).

Rangers then came in live on radio demanding Neil D and Rod McKenzie to be spanked very hard but never quite being able to tell us why.

Other stuff happened after the vote too.

Maybe it was clever diversionary tactics, maybe something else, but for two or three weeks it was all go in all directions.
We had task forces set up here, there and everywhere.

So many I can’t actually remember their remits and to be honest like so many I can’t quite be bothered now.

It seemed we had the game looking at the genuine change that fans want and even us the independent SFSA were asked to help by Les Gray one of the task force co-chairs.

We did by taking it to our members and to the SFM too, in good faith even though deep down we thought it was all part of a game and said so.

Sadly it was a waste of effort and time moved on but fair play to Neil and the SPFL board.
Fair play because at the 11th hour they tried to get approval from their members to temporarily extend the leagues.

Neil’s attempt to do that wasn’t an actual formal vote.
That never happened.
What was termed by the SPFL as an “Indicative Vote” was heavily defeated.

Several weeks on and 18 of our 42 clubs still won’t even tell us their fans how they voted.
I had already asked Neil Doncaster how clubs voted and he told me it was secret ballot.
So it’s still mostly secret and like all secrets has the inherent ability to fester.

None of us can blame the clubs for voting the way they did.

A couple of weeks ago when trying to analyse the vote I highlighted that Hibs inexplicably voted against an Edinburgh Derby.
Having enjoyed many I still don’t get that.

I’m also on record recently stating that Ross County also voted no and effectively sentenced their two nearest neighbours and friends, ICT and Brora, to significantly less revenue in the next year.
And at the same time their no vote helped stymie the pyramid that was introduced to allow clubs like Ross County of old access the higher leagues.
(I well remember them in the Highland League – and played against them at the time).
I haven’t spoken with Roy MacGregor about his vote but I know that if I was a chairman of a bottom six club I too would have foreseen the approaching tsunamic, post-Covid crunch coming down the tracks. That was the season when the Covid induced “temporary league” of 14 had to be reduced back to 12, meaning 3 clubs get relegated, and 1 goes into a play off position.
4 out of 14!

Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! and ouch!

Not good business for anyone.

Like Roy, I’d have said “Sorry” to ICT and Brora and voted the same as he did. Roy’s fiduciary duty is to his club not to his neighbours.

Roy, I respect your position and all other chairmen too but it should never have come to this in our totally unnecessary football civil war.

And you know after hearing John Collins say on the radio today asking “Where’s the fairness in any of this”? I can’t disagree.

Words Of Wisdom For The 3 Wise Men

Fairness would be my starting point.
We know fans will never all agree about anything because we love our clubs and they will always come first.
But we crave fairness, openness and transparency.
That’s probably the first time I have written the transparency word since Stewart Regan nearly wore it our 8 years ago.

Out message to our Arbitrators is as follows.

The Scottish Fans are the bona fide stakeholders in the game and fund the clubs.

We collectively want and will welcome bigger leagues.*

We want no extra damage to any club from Covid.

We believe that there should be transparency in everything in football.
We abhor and have no trust in closed doors and secrecy.

Please publish your results and allow access to the process along the way.

What would be wrong with that?

What harm could it do?

A significant majority of fans don’t agree with these enforced relegations and would prefer either to finish the season or enlarge the leagues permanently.

And finally fans demand to be listened to because it seems we are the only ones who are able and willing to see the bigger picture for the good of the game.

No Closed Door Festering Secrets in Scottish Football

  • Arbitrators we are happy to share our research with you.
ByAndrew Smith

Les Says It is Time to Ask The Audience?

Saying the last couple of weeks has been colourful for Scottish Football would be an understatement.

We are now in a position where we have a Taskforce co-chaired by the heads of two clubs to look at what needs to be done in the Covid 19 landscape right now and into whatever future unfolds.

Representatives of the clubs first convened last Monday and Graham Tatters, Elgin City chairman told BBC Saturday Sportsound that the 2nd division has already agreed unanimously to back 3 leagues of 14 as their preferred option.

On the same show Iain McMenemy, Chairman of Stenhousemuir effectively told us among other things that nothing in Scottish Football is ever easy, and mentioned that he believed the fans should be involved in any process.

Around the same time a very welcome conversation was underway between Les Gray, Taskforce co-chair and Paul Goodwin of the SFSA with Les asking for and welcoming fan input.

Dave Allen Called Our Future Years Ago

His oft quoted “I wouldn’t be starting from here joke” is a remarkable insight into where we find ourselves.
Our game is on the cusp of internecine war following the confusing combination of events we’ve all see playing out.

The hastily convened Taskforce has co-chairs who have also been quoted in the MSM as having different agendas, one for an immediate solution and one for a long-term plan.
Nothing wrong with that, in fact brilliant, we need both because they are interrelated.
Collectively we have to ask not just how do we minimise the economic and social impacts of the pandemic but also how do we start to shape our game for a better future?

Both these needs are right nows and both are the remit of the current Taskforce.

Now is the Time to Circle Our Wagons

This unique, open-ended, revenue-winter hit our clubs unexpectedly and overnight.
It is already brutal and will get worse with no current exit plan and no future certainties.
We know Dave Cormack’s Aberdeen is currently burning £1M per month.
No club has Covid immunity and a world of salary reductions, deferrals furloughed staff, little in the coffers and no exit strategy or road map out is a stark reality.
It’s hard to imagine that footballers have become liabilities rather than assets in a blink of an eye.
But it’s not hard to foresee that the financial stress on our clubs will see casualties.
Never before have we needed inter and intra-club teamwork for the common good.
But not in Scottish Football where an internecine spat is about to flare big time.

Civil War Breaking Out?

The record will show the recent SPFL Good Friday vote got an 80% plus backing vote from the clubs but in reality became a farce as Dundee eventually changed their “casting” vote.
This was paralleled by the “whistleblower” outburst by Rangers interim chairman Douglas Park demanding immediate suspension of Neil Doncaster and Rod McKenzie and an independent inquiry that sort of happened but not to the satisfaction of some.
One week later it rages on in the media with words today like “damning evidence, serious concerns, lack of fair play, coercing and bullying” being the vocabulary fed to the MSM to share with their audiences.

It seems some clubs have become unhappy with how our game is run and want to do something about it, so welcome to our world guys, – us fans have been saying that for a long time.
Our game needs big change but it won’t happen overnight and a pandemic crisis is maybe not the best timing for internecine strife.

Closing Down 2019 – 2020

This season is already ended for all Scottish clubs outside the Premiership.
UEFA didn’t do much to help and could have been more proactive in stopping inter club squabbling but plus ca change.
Most football people I have spoken to (with their self-interest hats off) were not totally happy with the implications of closing the season early and pro rata-ing points to decide champions but pragmatically accept it is the best answer or the least worst solution.
Asked about teams being relegated while having a bona-fide chance of fighting back there is less support and indeed genuine heartfelt pushback.

Some more enlightened leagues like the Lowland League who took the decision to avoid further damage on some of their members at this time through a no relegation policy and a wait and see what’s best are seen as wiser.

What Needs To Be Done Today?

We all know that out of the Budge/Gray Taskforce there will be a few options put on the table.
There is always the status quo of 4 leagues 12, 10, 10, 10.
A 14, 14, 14, setup was discussed and voted on by the current second division clubs last Friday.
Our own similar suggestion published on your SFM was 14, 14 and a bottom league of 16 to keep the integrity of the pyramid.

Two weeks on, a more pragmatic option and one to be considered by all might be to agree no relegation for now and to wait until more is known over the next crucial weeks.
We have time on our hands and no need to rush.
Why not take our lead from the sages at the Lowland League?

As a fan what do you think?

Should we plan for an interim period?
Should it be status quo?
Do we apply parameters (like no relegation) but accept that any other plan has to be kept flexible till more is known and agreed?

Your insights and views are welcome by Ms. Budge, Mr. Gray and their team either on this forum where I’ll read and collate them or if you prefer sent to me at
andrew@scottishfsa.org

What Needs To Be Done for Our Tomorrows?

We live in the real world and that means money is and always will be the prime driver and starting point.
Money is entwined with self-interest, status, power, politics and sometimes greed.

A given is every club will always want more and that is the easiest of several elephants in any room when looking at change to impact positively on the future of our game as a whole.

But maybe, just maybe now is different.
Post Covid many clubs will be on their knees financially and it will be a different world.

Les Gray’s Million Pounds Question For all Fans

No surprise it’s not an easy one
If you were charged with helping to create a sustainable and healthy future for Scottish Football is what would you do?

How would you advise Les, Ann and their Taskforce team about the right moves to make?

Once again insights welcome on SFM or to
andrew@scottishfsa.org

As a starter for 10 some stuff that has come up in previous SFSA fan surveys about our game (in alphabetical order) includes –
Better Communication, Bigger Leagues, Community Involvement, Council Telly live games, Gate Sharing, Grass Roots Investment, Fairness, Family Friendly, Fewer clubs, Integrity, Kids Free, Leadership, Less leagues, No Bigotry, Openness, Outside expertise, Same rules for all, Schools Football, Simplicity, Standing Sections, Summer Football, TV Kick-off times, Regional Lower Leagues, Reserve League, Strict Liability, Transparency, Wholesome Sponsors etc.

The list is not exhaustive. Please feel free to add any others.
Some will be contradictory, some nice to haves but the crucial thing to do is to find the smartest moves and build on them.

We’re responding to Les and Ann in good faith

Never before have we the fans been asked in such an open way.

Collectively we have a short-term end of season issue and a need to set up our game for what comes next which might include an interim period.

The background to any responses you offer is uncertainty exacerbated by growing internecine chaos and increasing vitriol.

I’ll end with some wise and hopeful words by a Taskforce Co- chair

Without openness, transparency and pragmatism we will simply keep making the same mistakes.

Ann Budge

ByAndrew Smith

SPFL Myopia Flares into Civil War

The Covid 19 Pandemic is a truly serious game-changing situation for us all.
We are all currently staring into a future with no declared road map exit of
how we might move back to normality and the certainty of disruption now and
long into the future.

Against the background of lockdown to curb the virus spread we have all run smack bang into economic and social chaos.
We have gone from normality into unheard of times virtually overnight and with horrendous economic consequences coming every which way into the future.

Football is not important in the greater scheme of things but still has issues that need attention and urgently because it affects people’s lives.

 This Week’s SPFL Plan to Move On

The SPFL are simply the members association who run our leagues on a “for the members, by the members, for the members” kind of way in theory.

For reasons known to them they collectively took the decision to start to draw an end to season 2019 – 2020 with its Covid 19 uncertainty.
This was probably to allow them and all their members (our clubs) to at least
start to plan for the future when income streams will return.

From speaking to those involved from the club side and reading and hearing more at a truly astonishing pace since Wednesday 8th of April, just 3 day ago, the SPFL decided in their wisdom that the best solution was to conflate two particular issues. 

To back their case quite forcibly they also provided a dossier of over 100 pages of supportive material.  All good bedtime reading for our club’s boards I have been told, but i haven’t seen it.

The issues the SPFL decided to conflate were to ‘pro-rata’ all games played so far this season so they could equalise and close the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2, with the Premiership going the same way if it became clear that fixtures could not be completed.

If and only if the motion was agreed by the members then the end of season prize money would be forthcoming from the SPFL bank almost immediately.

Money desperately needed by some members. A real lifeline in troubled times.

There was also another possible wee carrot dangled.

This might have been of a sort of half-hearted agreement to look at re-organisation of Scottish Football. This because despite the dossier urging clubs to vote yes, the SPFL knew some clubs would not be happy with their proposals and would not agree.

 In the Real World of Challenged and Stressed Football Clubs

 The SPFL conflation of “do this or no money” meant things like.

The title would be handed to Celtic eventually if Premier Clubs then followed suit, despite Rangers having a mathematical, albeit statistically unlikely, chance of catching their rivals.

Hearts would be relegated despite having enough games to catch their nearest rivals and stay safe possibly by a play off (if they hadn’t already been cancelled).

Partick Thistle would be relegated because they failed to play one league game while playing another SPFL competition and also had a bunch of games left to save themselves.

Stranraer would go down despite being proven late season successful relegation fighters.

Brora (declared Highland Champions) and Kelty (current leaders in Lowland League, by a bawhair over Bonnyrigg) would have no play off with a likely game against Brechin or whoever was going to be bottom of the SPFL2 league.

And these are just the tip of what football chiefs I’ve spoken with have termed an ill-considered iceberg of matters arising from a hapless attempt to bring some certainty to the SPFL membership. 

72 Hours of Mayhem as Peter was Played Against Paul

People are interconnected today and from the moment clubs were pushed into a corner they discussed it together and in depth.
They all know who voted how why and when and have WhatsApp records too.

They all feel they could have done it better. I can’t try to sum up the sheer enormity and quantity of what has happened since Wednesday night but after I had penned a piece for SFM on Friday with suggestions that there was a civil war brewing that is just indeed what happened.

Every club effectively had a moral and economic choice and sometimes they were conflicting.

Friday was too close to call

I was in a few communication loops sitting at home on Friday afternoon as the vote unfolded.

I had been warned how close it was going to be and it was fascinating with first Inverness seen as the potentially key vote then an acceptance just before 5 that the whole thing had failed.
Then, 5.30ish, a different and quite hopeful view came out that after the vote had been seen to have failed that a 14, 14, 14, compromised was likely. Sense seemed to be prevailing. Then later and very late in the day a view that 1 vote (Dundee) had still to come and was in effect now the casting vote with all the power that casting votes carry.

Since then we have first seen Dundee castigated in the press and by unthinking media pundits as the villains for holding everything up.

(But that’s now old news).

Today (Sat 11th April), ICT Chief Executive Scott Gardiner was on BBC Sportsound alongside Richard Gordon, Michael Stewart Tom English, Kenny Miller and later on Willie Miller. It wasn’t a normal filler show in a period with no football.

It was truly amazing with some hard facts and honest insights. Uncommonly so. 
I should have been forewarned after one well know football finance insider had tweeted last night (Fri) ahead of the curve that “Dundee will have earned some concession and will now change their vote” or words to that effect.

Wow he was ahead of the tsunami that burst this afternoon. If you haven’t heard BBC Sportsound at 2 pm today then the first hour or so is unmissable.

Since then matters have gone on apace we have now heard that Douglas Park, interim Chairman of Rangers, wants the SPFL CEO Neil Doncaster and legal counsel Rod Mackenzie (Rangers links) to stand down ahead of an independent inquiry.

So less than a day after a yet to be agreed vote outcome and genuine internecine war is brewing and exploding with Mr Parks claiming he has damning information from a whistleblower.

In turn he has been asked by the current SPFL Chairman Murdoch MacLennan to substantiate his “very serious accusations”. .

So Who Scored the Own Goal and What Can We Do About It?

As of now I actually don’t care who did what and when.
Stuff has happened and in the fullness of time we can look at how it happened and what we can do to avoid it into the future.
Today we need to move forward and that needs leadership.

Here is a 5 point roadmap.

Ditch this divisive plan
It doesn’t matter how Dundee vote just consign all this crap to history.
Pay all the monies due
This week no strings and if that needs a vote then vote on that and that alone.
Agree what happens and how to end the season
Scottish Football Supporters Association say this must include no relegation and pyramid winners should be included. Don’t penalise anyone at this time.
And an interim plan would be fine of three leagues like nearly got agreed for 20 minutes on Friday.
Take time
End the season properly and fairly and plan for the future to reinvigorate our game for the greater good. The world has changed but we haven’t.
Involve all stakeholders especially the fans 
This should all be on the record and transparent. 

The Time To Stop The War is Now 

ByAndrew Smith

Own Goal Time in Scottish Football?

In these difficult Covid 19 dominated times with no apparent roadmap for escape we are all on the cusp of financial pressures that will only get worse for our clubs and football communities.
Ahead of writing this I spoke with a couple of club insiders this morning looking for extra insight.

No surprises that both are genuinely disturbed about the current crisis and especially fear the financial implications.

Both commented without much prodding that we have never more needed leadership from the SFA, SPFL, UEFA and also the government.
“Making it up as they go along” and “Playing Peter off against Paul” were interesting quotes on the current plans to bring a partial end to our season.

There was in particular a lack of support for what they have been asked to cast a vote on tomorrow and how it has been packaged.

For those who have been gorging on Netflix here is an extract that summarises the SPFL position and plan.
the SPFL has therefore today circulated a written resolution to its 42 member clubs recommending that SPFL clubs approve:

  • the immediate termination of Season 2019/20 for the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2, without the remaining fixtures in the League being played;
  • all play-off competitions being cancelled; and
  • final season placings to be determined by the number of points per game earned by each club in the matches they have played. This would result in the following final divisional tables for Season 2019/20 in the Ladbrokes Championship, League 1 and League 2:

if approved, this would result in the promotion of Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers, and the relegation of Partick Thistle and Stranraer.
if the resolution is approved, the SPFL has also committed to consulting with clubs over the possibility of league restructuring ahead of season 2020/21.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Like This

The Scottish Football Supporters Association Board (all volunteers) is a mix of fans of different clubs, some big and some diddy. No club or club attitude dominates our thinking in any way.
As a group of fans we have been discussing the deepening crisis because the moment lockdown came into place all football fans suddenly became faced with a different world.

  • Not just no football to watch.
  • Maybe clubs disappearing.
  • And a very uncertain future when things start happening again.

None of us know how much things will have changed if, or rather when, new normality returns but it is not difficult to challenge the SPFL proposals in tomorrows vote.

To us as a group they are perhaps well meaning to get closure but deeply misguided and will potentially drown in unintended consequences and hubris.

Our SFSA board member Henry McLeish is probably most proud to be an ex East Fife semi-pro, but also a well respected ex Scottish First Minister and also author of the insightful (but mostly ignored) McLeish Reports outlining where change was most needed.
Henry said that in his view there is no merit in going ahead with Friday’s vote as it currently stands.

His main reasons are it is confrontational between member clubs some with vested- interests. Furthermore it will damage the whole ethos of our burgeoning and vibrant football pyramid.

Maybe worst of all it is ultimately open to on-going expensive and damaging arguments and litigations because of financial claims and counter claims.

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.

How Might an Interim Plan Look for 2020-2021?

Here is a starter for ten that doesn’t change very much from what works today and incorporates the following.

  1. No relegation for season 2019-2020
  2. No need for play-offs.
  3. No Covid-driven negative vote on Friday 10 April

Scottish Premiership 2020-2021
14 Clubs (This year’s 12 plus the top 2 in the Championship)

Scottish Championship 2020-2021
14 Clubs (The 8 remainers from this year’s championship plus the top 6 from the current first division)

Scottish Division 1
16 clubs (4 remainers from current division 1, + all ten clubs from division 2 + the champions from Highland and Lowland Leagues.
Current number of senior clubs 42 Number in interim plan 44

Looking Ahead
League Reconstruction season 2021 onwards in a wide and open process involving the clubs, the Scottish Government and the fans and looking at how to best run professional and semi professional men’s football across Scotland.

In Summary
Times are and will become hard enough
All 42 Clubs and Fans Should Be Working Together

Together We Can Stop the Own Goal Vote

Andrew Smith