In the light of the SFA President’s unfortunate remarks in the MSM today, relegating every Scottish football club other than Celtic or Rangers to support role status, this blog by Auldheid on the need to have a conversation about the leadership and governance of the Scottish game is remarkably prescient. Read More
In the aftermath of the recent election and whilst those of us who voted one way are still hoping that our way continues to count, the horse trading has begun. No matter your politics, the fact that a party wholly representing one part of the United Kingdom is suddenly having such a massive influence, coupled with a lack of detail in the public domain over their negotiations, causes people some nervousness; because of the nature of the DUP, for some they claim it terrifies them.
Can we imagine if football was run that way? Can we imagine if it wasn’t?
Having people who have one focus deliberating and influencing your life has alway Read More
Acouple of weeks ago we revisited the OCNC debate. This is a useful exercise to turn to periodically, for I have noticed how, with the passage of time, new aspects have become clear as new information emerges, or some ridiculous claim is made and then debunked.
When the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football league (SFL) merged in 2013 to form The Scottish Professional Football League, the word “professional” has been accepted as applying only to the football side of the business.
However, should supporters, the ultimate paying customers, not expect the administration and governance of the game to be a lot more professional than is evident from the handling, by both the SPFL (SPL/SFL) and the Scottish Football Association (SFA), of the descent into liquidation of Rangers FC, which started in 2000, as well as the subsequent damage limitation attempts from March 2011, that have had serious consequences for the reputation of Scottish football of being a professionally managed business?
Most folk would not argue that there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance, but the question is how can that be achieved? One way towards achieving that aim is the subject of what follows.
there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance
Back in the 90’s the Government embarked on yet another an exercise to modernise the Civil Service using a technique known then as Market Testing. The idea was that units, like Information Technology, Human Resource or Office Maintenance within large Civil Service Government Ministries, should be compared with what was available in the private sector to see if the service the internal units provided in a Ministry could be provided more efficiently from external sources.
At the time, internal units operated to their own standards and were answerable only to themselves for the level of service they provided to the users in other internal units. As a consequence there were no defined levels of service, the users were largely dissatisfied with the service they were receiving, the perception of the IT or HR or OM units was poor damaging their moral and, unlike the private sector, the customer was not the king but the serf.
Before such internal units could be tested there was a lot of preparatory work needed, the most important of which was a change in the culture to one where the customer became king. This was done through the reluctant acceptance that change was necessary in order for those in internal units to hold on to their jobs, followed by the joint establishment in discussion with service users of the level of service that was acceptable to them and the cost in financial terms to the Ministry of that service.
It was a painful and effort intensive process of itself but it did result in a change in culture that not only helped internal staff hold on to their jobs but changed the perception of those both inside and outside the units for the better.
All very fine you say but why am I reading this on Scottish Football Monitor, what is the relevance to the lack of professional governance?
Well I think it fair to say that the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has never at any time in its history been held in such low regard by their ultimate customers, the football supporters, without whom there would be no SFA.
In the public perception, measuring both football and governance performance, the SFA would be lucky to score 10 for incompetency rather than the more likely and damning similar score for corruption, where 10 was the worst possible score.
In spite of this and protected by the inertia in SPFL clubs who should be voicing the concerns of their paying customers to the SFA, there appears no appetite or indeed mechanism for change. This is where market testing comes in.
When viewed from a business perspective the SFA is a service provider to the customers via their clubs. In a sense the clubs act, or rather should act, as agents for their supporters and become the “customer” with whom the SFA provide a number of Services. These services should not be hard to identify, for example.
The Refereeing Service
Given the current, one might even say perpetual, dissatisfaction of refereeing standards, it, is one activity that could benefit from being treated as the kind of service the SFA might provide to the SPFL.
Under such an approach
Refereeing as a service has been chosen as but one example of how to establish a customer/service provider relationship between the SFA and SPFL, but the principle would apply to the other services listed. SFM readers are invited to give their views not just on the potential hurdles, like inertia, no driving force etc, but also the benefits of overcoming such hurdles if the approach were applied to those services plus any not on the list that would lend themselves to the approach.
I think there has been an appreciable shift of opinion amongst fans of TRFC recently.
Unlike the ‘invest: speculate to accumulate’ rhetoric featured in the press and by ex-players, the ordinary fans are coming to the realisation that there is no quick fix. There are even murmurings that there may never be a fix which involves their club becoming a competitive force.
Poor management of fan expectations has long been an accusation levelled at the TRFC board by SFM. It is possible though that many fans are beginning to manage their own expectations rather better. There are certainly justifiable criticisms of the manager, Mark Warburton, but alongside that is a realism about the limitations and constraints that he is working under.
There is a rather misguided, and possibly not accurate assumption that another liquidation for a team out of Ibrox would result in having to start ‘yet again’ in the bottom division; but in fact there is a growing acceptance that consolidation in the top league is a much better solution than gambling on huge borrowing simply to stop Celtic adding more notches to the goalpost.
Could it be that the fans are about to do the job that the board haven’t had the balls to do –accept the gap between themselves and (at least) Celtic, and settle for mediocrity on the field as a short term price to pay for continuity?
During the 1990s, in the middle of the Murray/BoS fuelled spending spree, and with Celtic in the doldrums, it seemed to many Celtic fans that their club would never be able to bridge that gap. Of course they did, but at the emotional cost of losing the exclusive 9IAR record.
TRFC now find themselves in pretty much the same position, but their road to bridging the current gap is a more difficult one.
There are similarities of course. Like the Celtic of the 90s, Rangers have major infrastructure challenges to meet. Celtic had a stadium to build, Rangers have Ibrox (and Auchenhowie) to fix and improve. Both required massive investment to improve the team, although I would argue that Rangers have a steeper hill to climb in that area.
Unlike RFC of the 90s, Celtic’s accrued wealth has nothing to do with an intravenous hook-up between their bank account and the chairman’s pals at the bank. Their baseline advantage over the current Rangers predicament is a combination of a stadium which holds 10,000 more fans than Ibrox, no debt, a burgeoning cash balance and the current inflow of European cash.
The Euro cash and the cash balance could be depleted, but the 10,000 extra seats won’t.
It also seems difficult to imagine how TRFC can obtain seed capital – even if they were inclined to gamble – given the combination of barriers to achieving that;
Any one of those bullet points could be enough to derail any plan to get to the top. In combination, there may even be an existential question to answer.
That is why the fans are starting to look a lot smarter than the board, and ultimately the good sense of the fans may well help the board to find a way out of their current dilemma.
But even with realistic expectations from the supporters, is it possible that they can find a way? Is there for instance someone with a magic wand or bag of cash who could come in and turn it around? Perhaps, but who would risk money on a precarious venture like a football club when one of the most powerful businessmen in the country is in dispute with you?
In order for serious inward investment to happen;
Even then, any new board would need to see the infrastructure challenges as paramount. Having one eye squinting in the direction of Parkhead will blur the bigger picture.
Their priority should be to reduce the losses (whilst increasing wages for better players), fix the stadium and the training ground (both in need of repair and improvement), build a scouting and youth infrastructure, and free up a (relatively modest) wad of cash to improve the playing squad.
In defence of the current board, the challenges facing them are almost vertical in incline. No matter how skilful they are, nothing other than someone with a barrowload of cash and a very long term outlook can put any kind of fix in place.
£50m might buy the debt and equity, and repair the stadium, but progress requires on-field improvement. It also needs stability, and therefore Ashley’s cooperation. The price of that is the head of Dave King.
Rangers will bring in more at the gate than Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs, but they have a considerably higher cost base than those clubs. With better players, recurring costs will be even higher – much higher.
To square this circle, however unpalatable it appears to be, peace has to be made with Ashley. That is the key to being able to embark upon a journey that has any chance of success. Otherwise, the clocks will have to be reset to 2022, and the end of the SD contract, before progress can be made.
However there is no chance it can go on that long. Rangers fans may be increasingly less demanding in what they expect, but they will need to see some signs – and not just words – that a plan is in place.
The board are getting ready to throw Mark Warburton to the hounds (the MSM lapdogs have already been armed with poison pens to effect that). This will buy them some time, but not enough.
We’ve said it before, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again;
For Rangers to have a fighting chance of competing at the top of football, King needs to be gone. If he does go, half of the barriers preventing the club raising cash are dismantled.
So is King’s departure a price worth paying? If he really had Rangers in his heart, he would say ‘Yes’.
Guest Blog by Shyster and Shyster
Anyone hoping for some “on the record comments” made under oath in the Kinloch v Coral case is Court last week would have been sorely disappointed.
Like many people I followed James Doleman’s tweets from Court with interest. However, it became clear very early on in the proceedings that there was to be no seminal moment in the OCNC debate – despite the obvious defence available to Coral which would have made it so.
A tweet from Mr Doleman (see below) makes it clear that Coral sent a letter to Mr Kinloch explaining the reason why they would not pay out on his bet.
The reason, in a a sentence was that “Rangers were demoted, not relegated”.
Here is that Tweet from Mr Doleman.
I assume then, that an employee of Coral communicated this letter to Mr Kinloch without getting it “legalled” first.
That is extraordinary for a number of reasons; firstly, it is factually incorrect, and secondly it can be argued that this position leaves Coral open to exposure in other areas.
I find it difficult to imagine how this letter left Coral without the approval of their legal people, especially given that £250K plus legal costs was at stake.
If I was in Kinloch’s position, I would on the phone to the nearest no-win-no-fee lawyer I could find, because in the light of their explanation for refusing to settle the bet, and using terminology that Coral would understand, he is better than evens to win the case.
I think it would be fair to conclude this employee may be facing disciplinary action, and that this action will turn up as a case study in the training manuals sitting on shelves in every bookmaker shop in the country.
However just because the OCNC debate sat on the bench last week it doesn’t mean there wasn’t something juicy on show. The SPL’s legal representative, Rod McKenzie – a defence witness in the case – made some very interesting comments in his evidence.
Before I go into his comments further I would like to address some unfair criticism aimed at Mr McKenzie. As most of us know, he is the lawyer who helped create in elusive 5 Way Agreement.
Nothing has blurred the lines of the OCNC debate more than this document, and Mr McKenzie himself is most likely to have authored the 5 Way Agreement, and provided a rationale for his client, the SPL signing up to it. But the SPL would have outlined what they wanted in the Agreement, so any anger directed at McKenzie is misdirected. He was, quite rightly, looking after the interests of his client. It is not his fault that his client is an idiot.
Notwithstanding this, Mr McKenzie said – or rather didn’t say – some very interesting things.
The man who wrote the rules for the SPL says he cannot define relegation. Well he can, but he chooses not to.
Conclusion? I can only infer that there is something in the 5 Way Agreement that precludes him from saying more.
I have seen (online) what are alleged to be draft versions of the 5 Way Agreement. In Football term though, and despite of existing Corporate Law, the OCNC debate cannot be fully settled until the actual and final terms of this agreement are known.
If only there was a way to see that document.
Since Dave King & Co took over TRFC a year and a few months ago, there have been, almost daily, reports of the imminent demise of the club, or King, or both. At the same time, again on a daily basis, there have been those who proclaimed the imminent ascendancy of the club to the top of the pile.
Up to now I have subscribed to neither theory on the basis that the former was wishful thinking based on very little evidence, and that the latter was something that Santa had passed on just before he disappeared up the chimney. Read More
It’s been a crappy year. If you don’t believe me, look at the two lists below this piece – full of people who have left us since Jan 1 2016. Some might say in a post Brexit/Trump world they are all better off, but that is neither here nor there.
In addition we have witnessed yet another year of the “black is white – new is old” suspension of disbelief argument from the football authorities. The same dysfunctional crew who gave us the 5-way agreement and whose cerebral CPU cycles are dominated by a strategy to choose the correct term to use for various concepts like; liquidation, Rangers FC, pitch invasion, independent inquiry, (to name just a few).
They now think we will be satisfied with what their crack investigation into child sex abuse – and its no doubt cherry-picked and narrow terms of reference – will come up with.
Still in place at Hampden, is a Press Officer who thinks he IS the SFA, and a chief executive who should BE the SFA, but who prefers, in his own words to do “nothing”. These are the people who, in the midst of a public debate over concerns for racism and homophobia in the game, have given a coaching job involving young people to a man who has been proven a racist and a homophobe.
These are the people who constantly have their hands out for public funds, including one to fund a grade-A bonkers facial recognition scheme to root out sectarianism (and all the other ISMS that they have just endorsed by appointing Malky Mackay).
Yet we complain about the Americans when they elect an insane man to power?
All is however not lost. Within living memory, and since it is Christmas, I’d like to relate a warm, cuddly, sentimental and very true story about the late Jock Stein. It is proof that there was a time before the madness that has enveloped Scottish Football when real people of quality, blessed with empathy for fans, roamed these lands.
Rewind to 13th May 1975. Myself and three great friends, two teenagers from each half of the Old Firm, decided to walk over to Hampden Park to see Scotland playing a friendly match against Portugal. Two of the guys – ironically the Rangers ones – lived in a wee street right across the road from Celtic Park, and we set out from ‘their bit’, walking through Strathie’s Park and down Springfield Road into Dalmarnock Road. We were a bit behind schedule and of course we were all skint so we had to walk. As my mates dithered, I walked on ahead shouting at them something like ‘hurry up!’ (although a tad less politely).
As I approached the junction of Dalmarnock Road and Adelphi Street, I absent-mindedly did a bit of jay-walking and was nearly hit on the backside by a ton of German tin making a left turn. The passenger window of the car was rolled down, and I prepared an impetuous come-back to what I was sure was going to be a rollicking.
Instead, a strangely familiar man in a thick Irish brogue poked his head out of the window and said; “Where you going?”
As my brain registered “Sean Fallon”, I made a quick connection, turned to the driver and saw that it was Big Jock. Thoughts of “what an honour to be knocked down by Jock Stein” flashed through my befuddled between-ear mass.
Recovering quickly; “To the game” I said.
“Jump in!” shouted Mr Stein
“My pals are just behind me”
“Tell them to jump in as well”
I never asked the guys when they realised it was the greatest living Scotsman driving the car, but we didn’t know many folk with a Merc, so I suppose they knew it wasn’t a relative who had stopped me.
The four of us climbed into the spacious big bench seat in the back of the car for the fifteen minute journey. Immediate questions.
Yes Jock (we were pals by now 🙂 ) was going to the game and so was Sean, but they were going home for something to eat first. Yes, it was a great perk of being a manager that you didn’t have to queue, but what did we think of the team?
The chat at the time was that Kenny Dalglish hadn’t hit it off with Scotland because Bremner was cramping his style. Bremner was injured that night, so my pal Gerry Connor (permission to use his name has been granted!) told The Boss (we were really close by now) that we expected KD fireworks.
What did we think of Hutchinson? Since it definitely appeared to be posed in rhetorical fashion we chose “not very much”.
The Gaffer concurred.
One of the Rangers guys (Big Jimmy) wondered aloud why Alfie Conn, by then of Spurs, was not selected. It was a ridiculous situation said my mate. Probably keeping him for the U-23s he thought out loud, before realising that Jock was the then Under 23 manager.
“Oh, eh, um, sorry! I forgot that was you!” said Big Jimmy. “No worries, he’s a very good player” said Big John (by now we felt we had known him forever).
Truth is, we were scared shitless; totally in awe of the man driving, DRIVING US, to the match. He really wanted to know what we thought, who we liked to see play, who we would pick who wasn’t in the squad.
Another thing was that despite it being huge for us all, we all wanted it it over with as quickly as possible so we could talk about it. But it wasn’t over yet. The final flourish was when we got dropped off at the Beechwood. We got out of the car as the crowds were descending on Hampden. Stein’s car was noticed right away, but who were these young scallywags emerging fro the back?
“Thanks Boss, thanks Sean!” we all shouted so the bystanders could ear. Stein smiled, waved at us and sped off to Kings Park for his dinner.
“See you in the morning Gaffer!”
Chests puffed out, we all assumed the pose of Scotland Under-23 starlets. Scotland won 1-0, but I can honestly say I don’t remember a bloody thing about that match. I do remember being on the Scotland U-23 bench though 🙂
The moral of the story is clear to me. In the background of Dave Scott’s claim in our podcast that the SFA needed to get its act together, and to engage more with the fans, the men of the Stein mould, our greatest football generation, are perhaps the last generation to possess the ability to do that.
He could have just beeped loudly in frustration and went off home for his dinner that evening, but he saw four young fans – guys who loved the game anyway – and made us love it a bit more after that fifteen minute ride. For a few minutes out of his time, Jock Stein gave us all a lifetime of a cherished memory, which I have dined out on, and will continue to dine out on, forever.
Many years later, footballers of that era told me that it was commonplace for the likes of Billy McNeill and John Grieg to do the same in Glasgow, for Pat Stanton and Davie Holt in Edinburgh, and for Alex Hamilton and Jerry Kerr in Dundee.
Sadly, three decades later, I regularly witnessed footballers go to extraordinary lengths to avoid autograph hunters, ducking out of back doors and having stewards deliver their cars to remote places away from the public gaze.
Of the four lucky boys who chanced upon Jock Stein that night, I am still in touch with two. Big Jimmy has fallen of the radar, last heard of in England somewhere – as is Gerry, condemned to a purgatory of watching Blackburn Rovers!
Despite that, we will always share the bond of the night we were on the Under-23 bench seat in the back of Big Jock’s Merc.
We should remember that the game in this country prospered when it was more in tune with the people who followed it. Perhaps market equilibrium will one day bring it back, who knows, but for now, football is an industry where no-one in control at the clubs gives a flying doo-doo what we think.
At least we still have our memories. Of the great Jock Stein, to whom I was briefly related, of his assistant Sean Fallon, who I got to know a bit in later years, and of many football folk I was privileged enough to know, and who are no longer with us.
Just like the class of 2016 below, we miss them all.
Non Football Deaths in 2016
|04 Jan||Robert Stigwood||Producer||81|
|08 Jan||David Bowie||Musician||69|
|14 Jan||Alan Rickman||Actor||69|
|15 Jan||DanHaggerty||Grizzly Adams Actor||74|
|18 Jan||Glen Frey||Musician||67|
|28 Jan||Paul Kantner||Musician||74|
|19 Feb||Harper Lee||Author||89|
|28 Feb||George Kennedy||Actor||91|
|08 Mar||George Martin||Producer||90|
|09 Mar||Robert Horton||Wagon Train Actor||91|
|10 Mar||Keith Emerson||Musician||71|
|17 Mar||Larry Drake||LA Law Actor||66|
|18 Mar||Joe Santos||Rockford Files Actor||84|
|22 Mar||Richard Bradford||Man in a Suitcase Actor||81|
|24 Mar||Garry Shandling||Comedian||66|
|06 Apr||Merle Haggard||Musician||79|
|24 Apr||Billy Paul||Musician||81|
|19 May||Alan Young||Mr Ed Actor||96|
|03 Jun||Muhammad Ali||Boxer||74|
|14 Jun||Ronnie-Claire Edwards||Waltons Actor||83|
|28 Jun||Scotty Moore||Musician||84|
|19 Jul||Garry Marshall||Actor/Producer||81|
|13 Aug||Kenny Baker||Star Wars Actor||81|
|20 Aug||Gene Wilder||Actor||83|
|06 Sep||Hugh O’Brian||Wyatt Earp Actor||91|
|25 Sep||Arnold Palmer||Golfer||87|
|28 Sep||Shimon Peres||Politician||93|
|14 Oct||Jean Alexander||Coronation St Actor||90|
|24 Oct||Bobby Vee||Singer||73|
|24 Oct||Pete Burns||Musician||57|
|03 Nov||Kaye Starr||Singer||94|
|07 Nov||Leonard Cohen||Musician||82|
|11 Nov||Robert Vaughan||Actor||83|
|13 Nov||Leon Russell||Musician||74|
|25 Nov||Fidel Castro||Politician||90|
|06 Dec||Peter Vaughan||Porridge Actor||93|
|07 Dec||Greg Lake||Musician||69|
|08 Dec||John Glenn||Astronaut||95|
|18 Dec||Zsa-Zsa Gabor||Actor||99|
|24 Dec||Rick Parfitt||Musician||67|
|24 Dec||Liz Smith||Royle Family Actor||95|
|25 Dec||George Michael||Musician||53|
|27 Dec||Carrie Fisher||Actor||60|
|28 Dec||Debbie Reynolds||Actor||84|
Football Deaths in 2016
|22 Jan||Tommy Bryceland||St Mirren||76|
|22 Jan||John Dowie||Celtic||60|
|04 Feb||Harry Glasgow||Clyde||76|
|24 Feb||Jim McFadzean||Kilmarnock & Hearts||77|
|11 Mar||Billy Ritchie||Rangers Goalkeeper||79|
|20 Mar||Alan Cousin||Dundee, Hibs & Falkirk||78|
|24 Mar||Johan Cruyff||Ajax, Barcelona||68|
|31 Mar||Jimmy Toner||Dundee||92|
|06 May||Chris Mitchell||Queen of the South||27|
|11 May||Bobby Carroll||Celtic||77|
|14 May||John Coyle||Dundee United||83|
|20 Jun||Willie Logie||Rangers, Aberdeen||83|
|03 Jul||Jimmy Frizzell||Morton||79|
|06 Jul||Davie Nicol||Falkirk||80|
|08 Jul||Jackie McInally||Kilmarnock||79|
|21 Jul||Dick Donnelly||East Fife Goalkeper/Journalist||74|
|05 Aug||Joe Davis||Hibs Captain||75|
|21 Aug||Rab Stewart||Dunfermline||54|
|05 Sep||Max Murray||Rangers||80|
|13 Sep||Matt Gray||Third Lanark||80|
|01 Oct||David Herd||Man United & Scotland||82|
|10 Oct||Eddie O’Hara||Falkirk & Everton||80|
|16 Oct||George Peebles||Dunfermline||80|
|18 Oct||Gary Sprake||Leeds United||71|
|08 Nov||Ian Cowan||Partick Thistle, Falkirk & DAFC||71|
|16 Nov||Daniel Prodan||Rangers||44|
|25 Nov||Jim Gillespie||Dunfermline||69|
|26 Nov||Davie Provan||Rangers||75|
|10 Dec||Tommy McCulloch||Clyde Goalkeeper||82|
|11 Dec||Charlie McNeil||Stirling Albion||53|
We normally don’t talk about on-field stuff on SFM, but given the over-optimistic coverage of the prospects of TRFC (particularly in the ESJ © The Clumpany and DR) it is worth noting that since they beat Celtic on penalties in last year’s Scottish Cup semi final, they have played in four huge games which were real barometers of progress ;