SFM Archive: Posts

ByBig Pink

A Level Playing Field?

I must admit I am surprised that nothing has been done about the TRFC party guys. It is especially puzzling that other clubs who have had games cancelled and players suspended as a consequence of breaches haven’t pointed out the apparent lack of consistency.

In August of last year, following a non-socially-distanced night out after an Aberdeen v Rangers game, eight Aberdeen players were banned for three games by an SFA-convened independent panel.

Jonny Hayes, Mikey Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson were accused of breaking public health guidelines when they visited an Aberdeen pub on August 1.

Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli, who had made a midweek three-day trip to Spain for some R&R faced the same charges

The panel held hearings before ruling that the players had broken the rules and delivered a three match suspension to each of the eight Aberdeen players, suspended in lieu of similar breaches until February 28, 2021.

In Bolingoli’s case, a five game ban was delivered with only two of those suspended until February.

Bolingoli was of course disciplined by Celtic before being sent out on loan, his Celtic career seemingly finished as a consequence, whilst the Aberdeen players were also disciplined by their club.

Both Aberdeen and Celtic were also subjected to damaging match cancellations as a consequence of both incidents.

On February 14, Police were called to an unlawful house party and handed out fixed penalty notices for breach of Covid regulations to Rangers players Bongani Zungu, Nathan Patterson, Calvin Bassey, Dapo Mebude, and Brian Kinnear. Rangers say they have disciplined the players, but the SFA have yet to say anything, fourteen days after the incident.

No match bans, no game cancellations.

The lack of comment in the media is not surprising since everyone in the MSM lives in terror of TRFC reprisal and behaves accordingly.

In fact, a quick Google search on the matter yields nothing after 17th February, suggesting that an Ibrox D-Notice has been issued and obediently complied with by the MSM. Of course one must always guard against cognitive bias in these matters. None of us are completely free of it, and are afflicted to some extent, but by any subjective measure that I can see, the MSM opprobrium directed (quite correctly) at Bolingoli and the Dons’ players, and the storm of publicity surrounding those earlier incidents is absent in the case of the TRFC five.

Even the Scottish Government’s response appears to have treated the TRFC breach with the equivalent of a raised eyebrow, in comparison to the angrily pointed finger at Aberdeen and Celtic (and subsequently with Celtic after the Dubai farce).

Consider today the yellow card. The next time it will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice

Nicola Sturgeon (after the Aberdeen/Boligoli incidents)

I say this as someone who has never agreed with those who alleged that Alex Salmond tried to help The Old Club with the tax bodies, believing the government’s actions at the time to have been nothing more than what would be expected of them – to express a wish that a resolution could be found – but not putting pressure on HMRC as was alleged.

However, as any schoolteacher will tell you, if you threaten discipline against a recalcitrant pupil, you bloody well MUST carry the threat out – or face the immediate and irretrievable loss of credibility. I’m sure Nicola Sturgeon is as well aware as anyone that a second yellow card is in fact a red.

So yes, the MSM silence is not surprising, and government indecision is not altogether a new thing, but the lack of reaction from other clubs – even the fans of other clubs – is very puzzling.

That is maybe the only thing that makes me doubt (slightly) that there is some serious and deliberate “inconsistency” afoot.

It is this type of beahaviour by the authorities and the media that led us to the brink of Armageddon in 2012.

If it can’t be changed, then those of us who have been constantly warning that a repeat is inevitable, will be saying “told you so” in the not too distant future.

If a level playing field is too much to ask for, then the implications for the sport, and society are many and serious.

ByTrisidium

Here we go again

I think everyone on SFM knew that when the new club won its first trophy, whatever that trophy was, the old “same club” mantra would surface. Over the years, and since the nature of the debate is in the “santa exists” ballpark, we have largely discouraged discussion of it.

On the “old club” side, that reluctance to debate is largely because there is little value in arguing the toss with someone who either ;

  • knows the idea is preposterous, but won’t admit it for whatever reason; or
  • has been lied to by the person at (a) above and can’t be bothered to look at the facts for themselves.

On the “new club” side, the discouragement to discuss is mainly because we are in the main already equipped with the facts, and there seems little need to go over them again and again.

So why republish stevensanph’s blog and Hirsute Pursuit’s response from almost a decade ago?

Well firstly because it is an excellent piece of forensic scrutiny cutting through the fog which had begun to be induced by the MSM merely weeks after they had unanimously heralded the death of the old club.

Secondly because it was written as a response to the (at the time very unpopular) decision we made on SFM to close down the debate on the subject (for the reason stated above.

And lastly because the course of the truth – even if it is only shifted by a few degrees – can get completely lost as time goes by. Consequently, there are possibly many who take sides because of a leap of faith. This is a course-correction that demonstrates the absence of any need to do so.

So here then is a reprise of stevensanph’s remarks from 2013, on his own blog.


The Newco/Oldco debate has been ended over on TSFM, with the deletion of the excellent post from HirsutePursuit marking the end.  While some think we need to keep reinforcing the message that its a totally new club, others are bored of the subject, so I can’t blame TSFM for wanting to move on.

Personally – I have read all the arguments – I am yet to be shown any factual proof that Green’s Gers are the old club.  People will, and can believe whatever they want.  For Rangers fans who want to believe its the same club, then, as long as they are happy, then fine.  However, on paper, and in law, its a  new club, and thats all that I care about!

TSFM posters wanting to continue the debate can do so below following on from HP’s excellent deleted post!

TSFM

This blog, as far as I have been concerned, is widely regarded as a forum for people who wish to highlight the inequalities and skewed reporting of the issues within the Scottish football arena. If it is not, perhaps you can make it clear what you see as its purpose.

Perhaps the biggest ever story within the Scottish game has been the circumstances surrounding the demise of Rangers Football Club. It is a multi-layered story and one that that is still moving. In many ways, it may be a story that is only just beginning.

Central to the debate (that should be completely on-topic) for this blog, is whether or not the authorities (at all levels) have acted in an equitable manner and whether or not the “free press” have given life to events in a truthful and balanced way.

With absolute regard to these matters, there is a fundamental issue surrounding the status of the club incorporated in 2012 and currently playing in the 3rd division of the Scottish Football League.

If you genuinely believe that the club incorporated in 2012 are the same club as was founded in 1872/1873 then you have every right to be outraged at the behaviour of the footballing authorities. You will probably accept that UEFA were right to “ban” the club from European competitions because of its holding company’s insolvency event; but feel completely persecuted by your fellow Scottish clubs who demoted your team to the arse-end of the game. You will see this “demotion” as a punishment far too severe for the actions of the rogue ex-owner of the club’s former “holding company”. To compound matters, you will see the LNS enquiry as just another opportunity for the clubs who have already revelled in meting out a severe punishment, to have another fly-kick. You would, no doubt, believe that whatever the previous owner of the club’s “holding company” did in terms of player payments, the trophies were won fairly by the club on the field of play and can never be taken away. You will be – in the main – satisfied with the narrative of the “free press” in referring to your club as the same entity as played in the SPL.

All of the attitudes and beliefs rely 100% on the tenet of a “club” existing as a separate entity from the legal entity (“company”) responsible for a football team.

If you genuinely believe that the club incorporated in 2012 are a different club as was founded in 1872/1873 then you will still have every right to be outraged at the behaviour of the footballing authorities. UEFA would rightly refuse European Club Licence for the new club – if one was applied for – as the new club do not meet the criteria; but you will feel completely let down by the self-serving nature of the SPL and the weakness shown by the SFA in attempting to place the new club in the top tier of Scottish football. You will see the new club’s fast-track acceptance into the SFL as without precedent and their award of full member status (of the SFA) as against existing rules. You will wonder how – when the members of the SFL voted to give them associate membership as new club – the SFL executive list them on their website as the old club. As the old club had ceased footballing activities in June, there should have been no SFA membership or SPL share to transfer in August. Since the old club is no more, you will not recognise any punishment for the actions of the rogue ex-owner of the club. You will see the LNS enquiry as an opportunity for some sort of justice in relation to years of outrageous cheating by the now dead club. You will think that trophies and prize-money were stolen from clubs who played by the rules. You will think that a correction of results is simply a consequence of the old club being found guilty of cheating. You will probably think that the LNS enquiry has nothing to do with the new club; but may wonder if the enquiry orders the repayment of the old club’s prize-money, would this create a new “football debt” that has to be repaid by the new club to continue using the old club’s SFA membership? You will be aghast at the apparent repeated mis-reporting of the situation by the “free press”.

All of the attitudes and beliefs rely 100% on the tenet of a “club” being the legal entity (“company”) responsible for a football team.

You may feel that these positions are “just a matter of opinion” and do not ultimately matter.

I disagree. The indeterminate status of the club incorporated in 2012 is a huge sore in the Scottish football landscape. This is the biggest story that just cannot go away. If the schism created by this sense of injustice is not resolved, Scottish football will implode. Attitudes may already be too entrenched; but that should not stop us trying to find a way forward.

The principal difficulty (again totally on topic) is that it appears – from both sides of the debate) -that people in positions of power within the game have made decisions that cannot be justified by their rules and articles of association.

We can – as you wish us to – stop talking about the status of the club incorporated in 2012, or we can continue to argue our respective positions as a crucial factor in this controversy.

In my view we can only hold the SFA, SPL and SFL to account if we insist that a definitive answer to all of the important questions are given.

The status of the club incorporated in 2012 is – in my view – a simple matter of fact. It is only because it is being considered to be a matter of opinion that we are where we are.

The Origins of the concept of  a football club having an owner from whom it can be separated and its subsequent misuse by the SPL/SFA in 2012.

The following are taken from a well informed contributor to SFM who points out that pre 2005 no such concept existed in SPL rules and the meaning subsequently applied by LNS and The 5 Way Agreement is a danger  to the fundamental integrity of the Scottish football industry and its member clubs.


The very short version of what follows is this:



The SPL articles state that its definitions and expressions need to be given the meanings as described in the Companies Act 2006.

The Companies Act 2006 says that an “undertaking” is “a body corporate” i.e. a company.

Lord Nimmo Smith has ignored this definition and instead accepted (or created) an alternative meaning for “undertaking” (as used in Article 2) which is fundamental to the concept of being able to separate Club from Company.

The principle of Club and company being distinct entities was expressly stated in the commissions terms of reference.

Lord Nimmo Smith has accepted the terms of reference as “facts”.

The SPL articles and rules apply to Clubs and to their “owners & operators”.

LNS asserts that the Club “Rangers FC” was owned & operated by Rangers Football Club plc.

He asserts that the Club “Rangers FC” transferred from Rangers Football Club plc to Sevco Scotland Ltd.

The Club (if found guilty) is still liable for the alleged breaches of SPL rules, even though the Club is no longer a member of the SPL.

He asserts that Sevco Scotland Ltd – as the new owner & operator of the Club – have a material interest in his commissions findings.

However…

Instead of his accepting LNS logic that allows the ethereal Club to be transferred between companies, the truth is – read in conjunction with the Companies Act 2006 – Article 2 really says that the Club is the “body corporate”. The Club is the Company.

The Club is Rangers Football Club plc. That Club is in liquidation.

Since Sevco Scotland Ltd did not purchase Rangers Football Club plc, Sevco Scotland did not buy the Club.

*On the simple basis of Sevco Scotland’s purchase of Rangers FC’s assets, the Commission cannot legally apply sanctions that would fall to Sevco Scotland for remedy.

This issue should have been fairly straightforward. We need to understand why it is not.

It is surprising to me that an experienced high court judge accepted the commission’s terms of reference without first checking its validity. It would be interesting to understand if the statement of reasons was really his own thoughts or a re-hash of the SPL legal advice that framed the commissions work.

It does not surprise me that the SPL have framed the commission in the way that they have. The “transferable Club” logic was first used to unsuccessfully argue that Newco should have Oldco’s share in the SPL. They are acting in their own commercial interest. Sporting Integrity has never been high on their agenda. We know what they are about.

It is hugely disappointing – but perhaps not surprising – that the SFA have not stepped in to clarify matters. Conflicted and/or incompetent probably best sums up its contribution.

Longer version.

The SPL – essentially as a trade association – will correctly do what they can to maximise revenue for their members. It falls to the SFA – as the game’s regulators – to ensure that the SPL’s existing procedures, articles and rules are adhered to.

It is almost without dispute that the SPL have not functioned well in following protocol. The SFA have been incredibly weak in insisting that they do so. In fact the SFA – by being party to the 5-way agreement – are themselves seemingly complicit in going off-plan. Again, regardless of your own beliefs and agenda, the SPL (by their actions) and the SFA (by their inactions) are not TRUSTED to act as fair brokers.

Lord Nimmo Smith is due to reconvene his enquiry in just over a week’s time. When writing my previous (and quickly deleted) post earlier in the week, my mind was already moving towards (what I consider to be) the insurmountable difficulty the retired High Court judge will face in steering his commission to a logical conclusion.

In football parlance, I fear that the SPL have given him a “hospital pass” that will eventually leave him just as damaged as the game. I had already prepared an outline of why I think his enquiry will ultimately flounder; but, wonder if this topic too will fall foul of the new censorship policy on this blog.

As I think Lord Nimmo Smith’s remit is an important point that needs discussion – and out of respect to those people who have supported this blog as the spiritual successor of RTC – I will attempt to post my thoughts here first. If this post gets removed or doesn’t get past moderation, I’ll do as TSFM (Big Pink?) suggested earlier and find another, more open, forum to engage in.

I apologise in advance for the length of this post; but the points, I think, are fairly straightforward. Please do bear with me.

We should probably start at the SPL Press Release of 12th September 2012:

Independent Commission Preliminary Hearing
The Commission has considered all the preliminary issues raised in the list submitted by Newco and points raised in letters from solicitors acting for Newco and for Oldco. It has decided:

1. The Commission will proceed with its inquiry in the terms of the Notice of Commission and will now set a date for a hearing and give directions.

2. Oldco and Rangers FC, who are named in the Issues contained in the Notice of Commission and alleged to have been in breach of SPL rules, will continue to have the right to appear and be represented at all hearings of the Commission and to make such submissions as they think fit.

3. Newco, as the current owner and operator of Rangers FC, although not alleged by the SPL to have committed any breach of SPL Rules, will also have the right to appear and be represented at all hearings of the Commission and to make such submissions as it thinks fit.

4. Written reasons for this decision will be made available in due course.

Further to the decision made today the Commission make the following procedural orders:

1. We set a date for a hearing to commence on Tuesday 13 November 2012 with continuations from day to day as may be required until Friday 16 November 2012. We will also allocate Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 November 2012 as additional dates should any further continuation be required.

2. We direct that the solicitors for The Scottish Premier League Limited lodge any documents, additional to those already lodged, together with an outline argument and a list of witnesses by 4 pm on Friday 19 October 2012.

3. We direct that Oldco, Newco or any other person claiming an interest and wishing to appear and be represented at the hearing give intimation to that effect and lodge any documents together with an outline argument and a list of witnesses, all by 4 pm on Thursday 1 November 2012.

4. We direct that intimation of the aforesaid decision and of these directions be made to the solicitors for Oldco and Newco.

No further comment will be made.

Couple of points worth noting:
1. The Commission will proceed with its inquiry in the terms of the Notice of Commission and will now set a date for a hearing and give directions.

2. Oldco and Rangers FC, who are named in the Issues contained in the Notice of Commission and alleged to have been in breach of SPL rules

So it is clear here that Oldco and Rangers FC have, in the terms of the Notice of Commission, been described as separate entities. It is important to realise that this distinction is made before the commission has had any opportunity to consider the circumstances.

This is a non-negotiable “fact” – as supplied by the SPL – that LNS either accepts or stands aside. He has chosen to accept it.

This “fact” was later given reasoning by way of the Commission’s Statement of Reasons and carried the names of the Commission members:

History
[3] Rangers Football Club was founded in 1872 as an association football club. It was incorporated in 1899 as The Rangers Football Club Limited. In recent years the company’s name was changed to The Rangers Football Club Plc, and it is now called RFC 2012 Plc (in administration). In line with the terminology used in the correspondence between the parties, we shall refer to this company as “Oldco”.


[4] The SPL was incorporated in 1998. Its share capital consists of sixteen shares of £1 each, of which twelve have been issued. Oldco was one of the founding members of the SPL, and remained a member until 3 August 2012 when the members of the SPL approved the registration of a transfer of its share in the SPL to The Dundee Football Club Limited. Each of the twelve members owns and operates an association football club which plays in the Scottish Premier League (“the League”). The club owned and operated by Oldco played in the League from 1998 until 2012 under the name of Rangers Football Club (“Rangers FC”).

[33] It is now necessary to quote some of the provisions of the Articles of the SPL. Article 2 contains definitions which, so far as relevant are:
“Club means the undertaking of an association football club which is, for the time being, entitled, in accordance with the Rules, to participate in the League

Company means The Scottish Premier League Limited

League means the combination of Clubs known as the Scottish Premier League operated by the Company in accordance with the Rules

Rules mean the Rules for the time being of the League

Share means a share of the Company and Share Capital and Shareholding”.

[37] It is also necessary to quote certain of the Rules. Rule I1 provides definitions of various terms in the Rules. Of these, we refer to the following:
Club means an association football club, other than a Candidate Club, which is, for the time being, eligible to participate in the League and, except where the context otherwise requires, includes the owner and operator of such club

[46] It will be recalled that in Article 2 “Club” is defined in terms of “the undertaking of an association football club”, and in Rule I1 it is defined in terms of an association football club which is, for the time being, eligible to participate in the League, and includes the owner and operator of such Club. Taking these definitions together, the SPL and its members have provided, by contract, that a Club is an undertaking which is capable of being owned and operated. While it no doubt depends on individual circumstances what exactly is comprised in the undertaking of any particular Club, it would at the least comprise its name, the contracts with its players, its manager and other staff, and its ground, even though these may change from time to time. In common speech a Club is treated as a recognisable entity which is capable of being owned and operated, and which continues in existence despite its transfer to another owner and operator. In legal terms, it appears to us to be no different from any other undertaking which is capable of being carried on, bought and sold. This is not to say that a Club has legal personality, separate from and additional to the legal personality of its owner and operator. We are satisfied that it does not, and Mr McKenzie did not seek to argue otherwise. So a Club cannot, lacking legal personality, enter into a contract by itself. But it can be affected by the contractual obligations of its owner and operator. It is the Club, not its owner and operator, which plays in the League. Under Rule A7.1.1 the Club is bound to comply with all relevant rules. The Rules clearly contemplate the imposition of sanctions upon a Club, in distinction to a sanction imposed upon the owner or operator. That power must continue to apply even if the owner and operator at the time of breach of the Rules has ceased to be a member of the SPL and its undertaking has been transferred to another owner and operator. While there can be no question of subjecting the new owner and operator to sanctions, there are sanctions which could be imposed in terms of the Rules which are capable of affecting the Club as a continuing entity (even though not an entity with legal personality), and which thus might affect the interest of the new owner and operator in it. For these reasons we reject the arguments advanced in paragraphs 2 and 6 of the list of preliminary issues.

Here we were introduced to a few new ideas:
1. That SPL members “own and operate” association football clubs
2. That “Rangers Football Club” was “owned and operated” by Oldco (Rangers Football Club plc).
3. Club means the undertaking of an association football club
4. An “undertaking” is “a recognisable entity which is capable of being owned and operated, and which continues in existence despite its transfer to another owner and operator. “
5. “A Club cannot, lacking legal personality, enter into a contract by itself. “
6. “A Club is an undertaking which is capable of being owned and operated.”

So, the principle, by which Lord Nimmo Smith, purports to connect Oldco and Newco is by the alleged transference of a non-corporate entity between the two owners and operators of the “Club”. The Club is the non-corporate entity he identified as the “undertaking” referred to in Article 2.

However, this is where he gets into some very serious difficulty. It is very strange that – when quoting the relevant articles – the retired High Court Judge did not notice or think the following did not have a part to play.

2. In these Articles:-
2006 Act means the Companies Act 2006 including any statutory modification or re-enactments thereof for the time being in force;

4. Unless the context otherwise requires, words or expressions contained in these Articles bear the same meaning as in the 2006 Act but excluding any statutory modification thereof not in force when these Articles or the relevant parts thereof are adopted.

The SPL articles make specific reference to the Companies Act 2006. Specifically “words or expressions contained in these Articles bear the same meaning as in the 2006 Act”
So when the articles refer to “undertaking” we must refer to the 2006 Act to check what meaning we should apply. If we do so, we find:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/46/section/1161

1161Meaning of “undertaking” and related expressions

(1)In the Companies Acts “undertaking” means—
__(a)a body corporate or partnership, or
__(b)an unincorporated association carrying on a trade or business, with or without a view to profit.

(2)In the Companies Acts references to shares—
__(a)in relation to an undertaking with capital but no share capital, are to rights to share in the capital of the undertaking; and
__(b)in relation to an undertaking without capital, are to interests—
____(i)conferring any right to share in the profits or liability to contribute to the losses of the undertaking, or
____(ii)giving rise to an obligation to contribute to the debts or expenses of the undertaking in the event of a winding up.

(3)Other expressions appropriate to companies shall be construed, in relation to an undertaking which is not a company, as references to the corresponding persons, officers, documents or organs, as the case may be, appropriate to undertakings of that description.

This is subject to provision in any specific context providing for the translation of such expressions.

(4)References in the Companies Acts to “fellow subsidiary undertakings” are to undertakings which are subsidiary undertakings of the same parent undertaking but are not parent undertakings or subsidiary undertakings of each other.

(5)In the Companies Acts “group undertaking”, in relation to an undertaking, means an undertaking which is—
__(a)a parent undertaking or subsidiary undertaking of that undertaking, or
__(b)a subsidiary undertaking of any parent undertaking of that undertaking.

Everything that LNS uses to connect Newco to Oldco relies on a Club being a non-corporate entity. Without that interpretation, his original acceptance of the commissions remit would look very foolish. In my opinion, the commission’s statement of Reasons were always poorly framed

Using the 2006 Act – as it appears it is bound to do – I cannot see how any interpretation of “undertaking” can be used in the context of the SPL articles, other than “a body corporate”.

If I am correct and the correct interpretation of an undertaking in this context is “body corporate”, SPL Article 2, specifically (and quite clearly) states that a Club is the company. Since the Club that played in the SPL is in liquidation and the current version of Rangers has never been a member of the SPL, any attempt to sanction the new club for the sins of the old will be laughed out of court.

The real question – for me at least – is why has this ridiculous proposition has been put forward in the first place? Perhaps we can assume that the SPL chose to frame the commission’s remit in this way for purely commercial reasons; but, more worryingly, why have the SFA allowed it to progress?

ByBig Pink

The Stella Dallas of Europe

Leaving aside for the moment the Shadenfreude-laden giggling as first Celtic, and then Rangers departed the Champions League this season, it is worthwhile taking time to think on the reality of Scotland’s latter-day bit-part status in the game.

There are Celtic fans who try to rationalise it by pointing out that for them, the Stein years were a wonderful exception and not the norm. That however does not explain the European status of Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs, Dundee, Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline in a period of roughly a quarter of a century from the beginning of European competition.

From the fifties to the eighties, Scottish clubs were feared and respected in Europe. Since then, only Martin O’Neil’s Celtic and Walter Smith’s Rangers have made an impression on the European scene.

So what has happened? Many blame the distraction of new technology, taking potential Johnstones and Baxters away from pursuing the soccer dream. I’m not convinced of that myself. They have game consoles and PCs in England and Italy and Germany as well. They also have them in Scandinavian countries where daylight hours and suitable weather are in even less abundance than in Scotland – and of course clubs from Scandinavian countries were both responsible for Celtic and Rangers fates this season.

Failure then breeds failure. Losing out one year means more (and earlier) qualifiers down the line. In this regard, you have to wonder at the claims of how “brilliantly” Celtic have been run over the last decade, when the club went into Euro qualifiers again and again unprepared in terms of personnel, even to the extent of using makeshift central defenders in several campaigns. Our clubs know its all coming, but year on year, we get caught on the hop by the timing of those early ties. Planning? Don’t make me laugh.

We are also faced with the reality that fans of clubs who are not in contention for a ECL group place, are usually fervently hoping that the quest ends in failure. Not because there is a deep hatred of either or both Celtic and Rangers, but because a Champions League place for a Scottish team gives the successful side an immeasurable financial advantage over the rest. Of course that attitude is understandable when you look at the reality for our clubs if one of their number makes it to the group stages.

Scottish football clubs rely heavily on gate income for survival because their media deals struck with broadcasters are so much poorer than in countries of similar size. ECL money – even if the successful side fails to score a goal or get a point on the board – is like all your Christmasses have come at once.

It is well known that the income gap between Celtic & Rangers and the rest is huge. The income gap between a Scottish Champions League team and the rest is even more massive. Yet if a Dutch, or Portuguese or Danish or Swedish side get a place in the group stages, the impact is not so great. Why? Because they have football administrators who can sell the game effectively, getting value for their product from the media.

This is the one area where our administrators have failed consistently and miserably.

The current football model where home teams keep their own gate money, and in some cases even have their own media contracts, is designed to (with the notable exception of England) create a few bigger fishes in a number of smaller ponds. It ultimately ends with the pantomime (which has not yet gone away) of the European Super League.

I wish I could say I had a solution to all this, but my instinct is to say that in the absence of a solution we should forget about Europe and its riches. Instead, lets return to a sport driven model of the game where there is a more equitable share of revenues. Forget the tuppence ha’penny TV contracts and give football back to the fans, live on a Saturday (Covid permitting). In time, the level of competition would increase, as would the quality of the product. The talk to the TV folk when they want to pay the going rate.

It might help if there was some kind of levy (listening indy supporters?) imposed on subscription service providers like Sky. £25m versus £1.5 billion is a much smaller fraction than that of Scottish subscribers to the Sky platform for example.

There is little we in Scotland can do to prevent the globalisation and Mafia-isation of the game internationally, but those things we CAN control, like turning inward to improve our game instead of, like Stella Dallas in the eponymous classic movie, standing in the rain looking through the window at the banquet elsewhere.

Of course it won’t happen.

ByAuldheid

In the Service of Fools

Given the recent heightened focus on the refereeing standards in Scotland, I was asked to update a previous blog from 2010 that included suggestions for changing the way refereeing is managed in Scotland .

Having had a look at original my thoughts are “ here we are again”, for the very same reasons the blog was penned in 2010.

Why?

Because the refereeing issue is in my view connected to a lack of proper financial controls that create moral hazard, where one party can act with reckless abandon (see Rangers latest accounts), but other parties, as happened in 2012 are left to face the consequences.

So I’ll just repeat the suggestions made then but with an added comment on the proposed use of VAR, and how that and proper financial controls can save Scottish football from itself. First the Referee Service

Note the word “service” for this is the way that much of what the SFA do should be viewed. The SFA provide a number of services to the clubs who play in Scotland. They should not be seen as their masters but their servants. Or in modern terms the clubs in their professional leagues are the customers and the SFA the service providers. This change of attitude would allow competition to provide such services to enter the scene and so improve them.

This would be a huge cultural change but it has to start somewhere and here we are again under starters orders IF supporters act to bring the change about by calling their clubs to account for allowing the past to repeat itself today  as a result of the notorious  sporting integrity breaking Five Way Agreement, that UEFA never clapped eyes on where our game became a franchise and clubs where stores that changed from Mr Noodles to Nachos but were still the same because they sold food. 

Anyway!

The Referee Service

This would be split with the SFA doing the recruitment, training and match appointments (having taken the nature of the game to be officiated into account). However the monitoring and evaluation would be the province of the customer, using referees or ex refs from anywhere to mark to a standard set by the customer. This spilt of responsibilities would prevent any one person being in a position to exert his own influence on referees as a result of being part of the appointment and evaluation process. It would safeguard the SFA from the kind of suspicion that led to the referees’ strike and lead to a higher standard of referee because the customer would be setting the standard not the supplier (as happens everywhere in business but football) If it did not, it would free the SPL/SL to hire their own referees from wherever they could get them. A bit of competition never did anybody any harm and that includes our referees who, if they reached higher standards, would be in more demand outside Scotland.

Here is the addition brought on by the introduction of VAR which is just another service. Use this “here we go again” opportunity to put the VAR service AND the refereeing it watches over out to tender. The VAR supplier is also the referee monitor service to the leagues and the SFA become trainers and developers at lower levels of professional referees and work with the VAR service under a contract that rewards both parties.  

The Licensing Service

This needs to be calibrated to meet the financial position of Scottish clubs.  The principles in UEFA FFP that stipulate what is to be treated as allowable income and allowable debt continue,  but regulating controls to prevent clubs going bust or acting in a reckless financial manner need introduced. Points deduction is no deterrent if such recklessness creates huge points gap at end of season when the CL money is at stake. Nor is the threat of losing all won by that recklessness a deterrent, when the nature of how it was won is downplayed then ignored and airbrushed from football history.

If survival depends on access to CL geld then referees , as matters continue to stand will come under the kind of scrutiny that unless addressed,  leads to an ever growing suspicion,  because here we bloody well are again,  that our game is bent .

Worse it leads to thinking that the clubs like it that way but ignore that their supporters do not and will continue to ignore until supporters vote with their feet.

In short the Licensing Service that is supposed to protect the financial well being of Scottish clubs has failed. It perpetuates a moral hazard almost by design that caused Rangers demise in 2012  and that failure and how it was dealt with under the 5 Way Agreement has undermined the integrity of our game, causing increased scrutiny of referee decisions and if not dealt with this time will eventually kill football in Scotland as a sport.

VAR however if introduced as a professional service on lines suggested should encourage more prudent financial behaviour in future by making reckless behaviour so risky it will stop and with it the moral hazard it creates.

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.

ByAndrak

Enough is enough

As Celtic prepare to take on one of the Champions league big boys again, a warning to the commentators and pundits.

Like most Scots, I was sad to see Celtic so comprehensively thumped by PSG and Bayern recently. But something about those nights made me angry as well. Read More

ByBig Pink

We Got it Wrong

After nearly two months experience of our new shiny Forum platform, it has significantly failed to impress users at SFM who have – almost from day one – hankered for a return home to the familiar blog format.
Of course we wanted to give the new format as much time as possible to bed in, and to give our members as much time as possible to get used to it also.

Just as deciding to have a child is never a solution for a broken marriage, it seems that neither was our decision to give birth to our own new baby to boost the popularity of the blog.

So we are back to where we we were, but we will be updating the look of the old place soon. In fact we would have done so before re-opening the blog, but there was such a clamour for an early return (in private messages and emails) that we decided to take the leap now.

We hope the return to familiarity will make more of us happy than disappointed – but SFM will evolve and survive.

One of the obvious indications of the new format’s unpopularity has been the almost invisible response (compared to previous times) to our Winter appeal for funds. Perhaps we should have completed that before moving to the new Forum, but after six weeks of fundraising, we have raised only around £200. In a similar period last year we raised nearly £1800.

So I hate to make the first blog leader of the re-launched SFM (in part) an urgent appeal for funds, but that is where we are today. We have agreed to write off the cost of the new Forum software (may even make some use of it in the future), but we still need some assistance to keep the show on the road. In keeping with that aim we will keep the Winter Appeal running for another couple of weeks in the hope that we can recover. We will send an email to everyone about that in the next few days.

In the meantime, there are a multitude of things going on the game at the moment which should be a worry to all fans. Rangers as we know are still a financial basket-case, but with their huge salary bill, Celtic have slid from a position of financial dominance to unprecedented (in recent times) losses.
Covid has changed our routines, our workflows, our leisure and shopping habits, and our expectations not just of our football clubs, but our own daily existence.

The recent SFA report on child abuse has highlighted the massive crimes of individuals representing football clubs against the very lifeblood of those clubs, and as yet, no-one seems to want to take responsibility. It may be true that unreserved apologies are only words that cannot heal the broken dreams and lives of the victims of child abuse, but an apology sure as hell can’t do any harm.

Acceptance of responsibility, no equivocation, and a plan to help mitigate the effect on sufferers is required.

Can we also make it clear that whilst we respect the right of anyone to hold with Hover Pitch theories of the nature of a football club, we also expect that our right to not take those folk seriously is also respected.

SFM is not a place where we should tolerate discussion of whether or not Santa exists, or that TRFC are the same club that was sent to the breakers yard of liquidation in 2012. No need for us to constantly restate the bleedin’ obvious. We really hope that fans of Rangers can come here and feel welcome, but we can’t seriously entertain primary school playtime chat. As we know, these matters are metaphysical in nature, and following on from good practice we will have no metaphysical debate for fear of offending the believers.

We have much to discuss, matters far more serious to consider, so welcome back to SFM.

ByAuldheid

Who Is Conning Whom?

What follows is a record of an exchange in October with David Conn of The Guardian in respect of an article written by him in August 2016 reporting the arrival of The Rangers FC in the top tier of the SPFL.

In that article David Conn suggests that there was no tax overdue in respect of “The Wee Tax Case” of 2011 because he was told by the SFA that agreement had been reached with HMRC to postpone payment until after the Takeover by Craig Whyte and on those grounds the SFA granted a licence. Read More

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.

ByBig Pink

Time to Ditch the Geek Show

 

The link at the bottom of this piece points to an excellent blog by James Forrest on the ‘decline’ of the Old Firm, and particularly the viewing figures for the recent matches between Celtic and TRFC.

Whilst James, as you would expect is focusing on the consequences of the OF tag for Celtic, it is worthwhile considering that the decline in viewers is an excellent litmus test of the provenance of TRFC with regard to RFC.

Is it because the ‘you’re not Rangers anymore!’ faction is winning the argument? Read More