Tag Archives: UEFA Champions League

Getting Away With It? Part 2

28 Nov

In part two of getting away with lets extend our eyes away from the East End of Glasgow. In some sort of order lets examine the S.P.F.L Premiership. The Getting away with it in this section of Scottish football is so prevalent that I am surprised that every team does not emerge from the tunnel at the start of games to the band Electronics song.

From Aberdeen to Motherwell and Inverness to Kilmarnock clubs have went from publicly deriding The Old Firm as bad for the Scottish Game to now appreciating that the old Firm provided a enormous income stream for EVERY club in Scotland. With Celtic fans becoming more choosy on what games they will travel to see and the lack of Rangers fans then what was three or four party pay days a season there is now a lack of interest. We are all waiting on the emergence of the race to challenge Celtic for the title. With every passing day this looks as likely as Celtic winning the Champions League! As for a race for second this has become as interesting as the race for third has been for many years.

The warnings offered to Fans who suggested that any shortfall in income or interest in the game post Rangers increasingly strange placement into the lower tier of Scottish football would be made up for by the other clubs themselves has became a running Joke. Celtic are spectacularly failing to sell out Celtic Park for anything other than a mid week European game. Attendances in the SPFL Premiership/SPL post 2011-12 have nose dived so severely it looks like Gerald Ratner has been put in charge of quality and advertising. With clubs in the SPFL Premiership mothballing areas of their stadiums due to costs and policing/stewarding costs remaining stubbornly high the clubs are faced with little other option. What is making this worse as this season continues. Its became clear that as Hearts slide often valiantly into relegation and Kilmarnock seem intent to press self destruct and join them instead of freeing up clubs and managers to become expansive and entertaining the opposite seems true. A Celtic fan said to me that it was up to the other clubs to open up and provide entertaining opponents for Celtic to beat. I having watched a lot of top division clubs this season feel that the fear factor has taken hold. The expected fun of the non Hoops has been nothing more than rehashed reheats of last seasons left overs.

It is incredibly strange that the Chairmen of these clubs have been conspicuous by their absence in engaging fans in dialogue. From Stewart Milne to Rod Petrie via Steven Thompson the men of Iron who clubbed together to punish an Old Firm Club under what is slowly being proved to be a victim of overzealous prosecution of a flawed case and a low grade two bit con man. The same Men of Iron who with the straight rod of sporting integrity so publicly hammered Rangers then meekly punished Hearts to end financial doping once and for all. Yes the mismanagement of Murray International Holdings, Craig White, Gavin Masterton, Ubig and Vladimir Romanov has been exposed, digested and proclaimed upon. The under reporting of Aberdeen Asset Management reducing debts at Aberdeen with Stewart Milne. Are we to simply believe that Milne and A.A.M simply reduced debts as a gift, I think that’s at best naive and at worse delusional. Milne is well known to be careful with money. E would not give a penny without demanding two in return. As for A.A.M shareholders in times of financial turmoil are not known for acts of charity to football clubs. You get nothing for nothing and something has been sold off at these clubs and fans are getting away with thinking every act done to and by their club is as they would do. Sadly as fans of other clubs will say often this is not the case and usually its nowhere near. The Boardroom events at Kilmarnock.

The income stream is waning the promised golden harvest has failed to materialise. A new league to solve all the issues has failed to deliver a Sponsor. A League body getting away with not providing for its members. At a time when income is required urgently some stuffed blazers sit in VIP areas living high off the land. While Clubs are forced to have stands free!

Currently rumours of debts owed to a bailed out institute by clubs who seemed to of received eye popping low interest rate deals.

(http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2514682/Co-op-Bank-slammed-cheap-loans-Celtic-Football-Club.html)

The newly formed management of this bank are looking to reduce liabilities and football clubs are prime targets for repayment or renegotiation. Failure to do this means publicity of the worse sort for clubs and institute a like and running the risk of waking the sleeping press pack with potentially a massive political story is a step too far for all concerned. For some reason being able link all of this together is either beyond the savvy of most of the cosy bunch of Journalists in Scotland or this is embargoed. Getting away with sharing taxis, Sources and contacts seems to en vogue for the lazy hacks. The same selection who believed fiction factories with H.M.R.C and Rangers now shy away from actual investigations regards the mire that constitutes the bank statements of every club in the Premiership. These clubs all know now that the last thing they can expect is support from their compatriots in the League. They may get a increasingly lenient sentence and be damned once rather than many times over but they will not be able to bank on anything regards what the SPFL will offer as support. That is the SPFL Getting away with it but that’s for another time.

So every club in the top division is getting away with either failure of ambition or woeful financial management skills or indeed both. If you look around at the landscape so helpfully approved for clubs by the SPFL management then it is hardly surprising that clubs are happy to reduce and stagnate. They are after all happy to get away with it. All happy to be sponsored or not by “dontrocktheboat.com”. In fact don’t rock the boat because when you stop getting away with it if you tow the party line like Hearts did you seem to get a lesser punishment. Rock the boat when you cease to get away you will be made to pay by those who continue to ride their luck.

Light and Shade

5 Jul

It is funny how simply by saying that Neil Doncaster is the wrong man for a job (wrong man for anything other than Car Park Attendant) you can open yourself up to a lot of opposing views.  I welcome debate as long as it is not abusive you will find that I will approve comments and answer them too.  Debate for me is usually always healthy.

To be accused of having a pro club agenda is maybe over exaggerating my view-point.  I am firstly a Proud Scotsman and want nothing more than to be able to be proud of the national sport.  This ideal has been eroded over the years but in my heart I am still hopeful, even if my brain tells me its possibly a lost cause for at least a generation.  The appointment of Neil Doncaster and the continued unopposed tenure of Stewart Regan make me wonder if a generation is a reasonable timescale to get the game of football back to its right place.  To look back at the days of Ernie Walker, David Will and multi layered committees of blazers in smoke-filled rooms is not something I ever thought I would do.  Mr Walker was the Secretary of the SFA between 1974 and 1990.  Or if you like to place that in nicer terms West Germany, Argentina, Spain, Mexico and Italy.  Five consecutive world cup finals.  for sure other countries qualified for these five but in the isles that gave Football to the world only Scotland went to all five world cups.  England sure as hell didn’t.  England lost in the Quarter finals in Brazil 1970 and did not grace a world cup until Spain 1982. They then went on to have a better record than Scotland who to our shame have only managed one visit to the big show since in France 1998.

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Lets not be Scottish about this and say we were unlucky or nonsense like that.  We as a nation were not good enough.

Would a debacle like we are witnessing in Scottish Football happen under Mr Walker,  NO WAY!  Sir Alec Ferguson writes in glowing terms about Ernie.   I would take this son of Govan’s judgement of character any day of the week.  Ernie it seems was a charming assassin able to charm people then if that failed shoot them down with a careful quote from the rule book.   Also as hard as Ernie was he explained and justified his decisions in plain English and thus avoided any confusion. Agree or disagree with Mr Walker he left you in no doubt who was boss and if need be he had the intimate knowledge of the rules and politics of the SFA to back him up.  Where you could question Mr Walker is in his leadership of the Business of Scottish football.  Just look at the infrastructure of Scottish football.  In the halcyon days not one penny profit was reinvested into infrastructure or youth development.  Indeed Mr Walker sowed the seeds of the Think tank culture.

Enter James Farry.  Lampooned for only reading three books – The Rule Book, a dictionary and a Thesaurus!  The red top hacks couldn’t understand him and even the High and Mighty SCOTSMAN newspaper had to edit his quotes to make their readership understand the utterances from The Gardener.  He always gave of the image of a petty bitter self justifying man.  Universally hated and mistrusted,  exposed as such by the digging of Celtic Football Club regards delaying player registration.  Booted out of his job and rightly so.

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David Taylor replaced Farry.  A trained solicitor for 8 years he done a good enough job.  Managed the politics well and went on to a position with UEFA.  Such was the respect for this man as an administrator that UEFA head hunted him.  Fair enough a couple of European Championships and no world cup qualification but his time passed without any great crisis.  He was instrumental in bringing the Champions League Final Zinedine Zidan and all to Hampden in 2002.

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You also always got the feeling from Mr Taylor that he cared more about Football than he did for himself.  I personally never thought he was protecting his own position out of self-interest unlike his predecessor.

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If Taylor stabilised the mess and mire left by disgraced Farry when he left for the marble corridors of UEFA his replacement brought petty agendas and conspiracy theorists out the woodwork.  Bring on a ex player, Coach, Business degree holder, Media Pundit and Football Agent.  A mix of everything you would consider for the role.  Did I forget to mention he was Scottish too.  The Scottish bit is important not as important as Gordon Smith’s association with Rangers.  This and a mis-speak or misquote regarding sectarianism.  My view on this is that Smith was concerned that the focus solely  on Rangers was an unhelpful smokescreen.  Depending on your view Rangers at this time did have its fair share of hatful songs and language at this time.  Smith was only saying that to say that this only happened at Rangers games was not helpful in eradicating this from the game in Scotland. He certainly was not defending the Hate speech at Ibrox he was in my opinion attempting to widen the scope from simply concentrating on G51 to the wider concerns of Racism, Sectarianism, Sexist comments prevalent at many other Scottish football Stadia. Making football a family friendly environment was his motive.  Ranger may well have been perceived as the leading offenders in this simply by media and UEFA concerns and the defence by many Rangers Fans of they are doing it too had legs.  Gordon Smith none the less had all the credentials to succeed but could never drop the connotations of being a Rangers man.  Smith’s leadership and the direction he took the SFA was surprisingly successful even though the accusation and conspiracy suspicions never left Smith’s tenure. His vast experience in every area of the game though often got him into the headlines.  His comments on events some would think should fall into specialist committees left some in the game surprised.  I would maintain that as a former player he was well placed to refer “Simulation” to the committee tasked with this.  In fact as a man of experience some could say that Smith was the one man experienced enough to modernise the structures at same time respect the traditions.   He resigned from the post to look after his ill aged parents.   Sadly if you think about it take away perceived connections to one club and I think that Smith certainly had all the right ingredients to drive the SFA into a better place.

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Gordon Smith’s petty back stabbers certainly got their wish when the SFA came to replace him.  They went global advertising around the world.  The appointing panel mindful of the pettiness surrounding Smith went for a perfect counter.  Stewart Regan, with the rule book thrown out the window, making rules up as he went along. Never has so many decisions made by the SFA been so challenged.  The only man to allow a Strike by SFA Grade 1 Referees.  I mean to have men who give their time to create a game of football, get abuse by the bucket load week in week out to feel so strongly about an issue that they withdraw their services.  Sorry but failure to support your employees in that manner is bad management.  The SFA were dictated to by a member club was that club sanctioned not nearly enough.  The fact is that mercenary referee’s were flown in from around Europe to cover a match day program.  The SFA invest heavily in its referee training structure but it hung the products of this out to dry. Rightly or wrongly the treatment of Referees at this time was handled badly.  Celtic attacked and succeeded but as an outsider looking in if a club, a manager, a player ever says that they have never made a mistake then I will show you a bare-faced liar.  The events after the referee error by the officials themselves were wrong but the whole incident had no winners, only a collection of losers, everyone involved lost.  Not one shred of credit could be placed on anyone embroiled in drama that became a crisis.  Regan had set the tone for being a dead  in the water. A lame duck Chief Executive.  Then comes Rangers.

An association is in many ways like a trade union membership brings benefits and restrictions.  An Association is by definition the sum of many parts. No part bigger than the other and no part too small to be unsupported.  Not for one second should the SFA bailed out Rangers in any way but unlike many other members going into administration the Rangers situation was more complex than many of us will ever understand.  Unlike Celtic pre McCann this was a club with undetermined debts.  this was a club fighting for the right of many businesses to of employed tax reduction strategies.  Morally reducing your tax liability is wrong to the vast majority of the population who simply don’t get access to such schemes but legally schemes and plans to do so keep the wheels of commerce flowing not just in football but in every aspect of everyday Britain.  Starbucks, Google, News International, Jimmy Carr, Rangers all MORALLY  guilty as charged in reducing their tax liabilities.  Innocent however of any illegal acts certainly most of what they were accused of.  There is a vast difference between Tax Reduction and Tax avoidance.  If you honestly think this is wrong then look at your own world.  Your employer most likely reduces their tax liability substantially.  I would bet they claim back VAT for example.  I would bet also that you have paid a tradesman cash in hand at a reduced price thus avoiding VAT (illegally) the little deals here and there make us all guilty in some way or fashion.  The SFA stood by and said nothing at a time when stands had to be taken.  As I said not bailing out Rangers but at least finding out about the trouble one of its members were in and offering a clarifying statement to benefit the game.  Standing quietly by was not an option but it was the one Regan took.

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Regan has stood quiet on many issues strange as it may seem the National teams fall down the world rankings does not seem to bother Mr Regan.   As I said Lame Duck in charge.  This could maybe be reversed if the Chief of the League Body(s) were strong leaders.  Even Regan could ride on the wake of someone like Ernie Walker god knows Jim Farry did. The warnings of impeding financial doom were all there for years. Regan and Cronies failed to protect, serve or inform their Customers, the fans and not for the lack of warnings.