Ever since SKY gained a foothold in the English game, Scottish club chairmen have focused all their efforts on trying to secure a piece of that pie. Specifically Celtic and Rangers have gone on courtship after courtship to woo the powers that be in the English top flight to drop their panties and let them in.
However, the EPL is a floundering whale and the tunnel vision that our game has for it is causing damage to not only on the park, but financially off it as well.
It is easy for me to say that our clubs should follow the Bundesliga model of the game, but in reality when it comes down to any revamp of the Scottish game, everything will be done for the self-interests of the clubs themselves. It is time the decision was taken out of their hands.
Yes, we had the Henry McLeish report into our game – but that was in my opinion a waste of time and money. The Scottish FA employed a shamed former First Minister of Scotland to oversee a dissection of our game and then propose what should be done to better our game. Our governing body, headed up at the time, by another floundering whale, a dinosaur in a suit – George Peat – installed McLeish as the man to lead his baby, as he claimed when he stepped down as SFA President.
McLeish who spent a mere five years of his life as a footballer, between 1964 and 1969, seemingly interviewed coaches, players, officials, the powers that be all over the place. He even asked the fans for their input, maybe this time they would listen to what the fans wanted – how wrong were they? McLeish ignored the fans comments and after three years, our game is still in the gutter, led by individuals whose leadership would have seen them put up against the wall and shot if they were in the military. Not that I am advocating anyone to do that.
Three years after McLeish made his comments on our game, the Scottish FA asked fans for their opinions again in a recent survey during which time the SPL were trying to push through the idiotic 12-12-18 league structure, which failed in Austria and Switzerland who promptly dropped it. But only in Scotland could we think that a failed structure in Europe could work in Scotland. A modern day Darien Affair perhaps for the Scottish game?
How many of our clubs would have gone under with this white elephant? Would it really have helped steer Scottish football off the rocks and into smooth waters? We will not know due to Ross County and St.Mirren blocking the proposals and in my opinion for the right reasons.
There is huge paranoia from some quarters that former Rangers chief executive Charles Green wooed St.Mirren chairman Stewart Gilmour into blocking the proposals, after the recent St.Mirren – Celtic game in Paisley. But in reality, it was just another dream moment for the conspiracy theorists and conspiracy nuts within our game. They doffed their tinfoil caps long enough to complain before donning the tinfoil head-dress again to prevent the aliens from reading their thoughts.
Either way with Green gone now, any alleged sweetener or dowry, will have left with the Yorkshireman as he walks away from the Ibrox club and sells his shares when he can in December.
So with our game back to square one – albeit with another ludicrous proposal on the table SPL 2 – the powers that be, the SPL, the SFL and the Scottish FA must realise that such things will just get messier and messier as the talking continues.
It is time that the whole reconstruction proposal is taken off their hands and is independently managed by those in the know. An independent panel is the fashionable thing to do at the moment, don’t you know? The SPL organised one led by Lord Nimmo Smith to look at Rangers’ use of EBTs and Rangers are using a not so independent panel to investigate links between Charles Green, Craig Whyte, Rangers and others currently at the club.
At this moment in time our game is in a mess and the time for in-fighting must come to an end. That is why an independent panel, independent of the Scottish game and of the football politics and minefield within said game, should be created.
Bring in a panel made up of officials from the Bundesliga and even the MLS to take a look at our game letting them dissect every nook and cranny, before they propose the necessary changes that will turn around our fortunes.
I will get to my own opinions of what the new look Scottish league structure should entail, as I focus in why we should ditch the long gazing stares at the EPL cash cow and look gracefully and inviting to the attraction of the Bundesliga.
Looking at the basic stats provided to us by a recent BBC comparison report between the English Premier League and the Bundesliga, it is plain to see why Scottish football should be looking at the Bundesliga rather than the English model.
The Bundesliga’s 18-team league has an average attendance of 44,293 (based on stats from season 2011-12), compare that to the 20-team English Premier League who have an average attendance of 34,601 for the same period. The Scottish Premier League for the same season – with both Rangers and Celtic in the top-tier – had an average attendance of 13,855.This season that average attendance has dropped to 9,953 – albeit that is without Rangers in the top-tier.
One of the main issues Scottish football fans have found is the ticket prices. In my opinion, they are not value for money and with a lack of competition in the league this season and next season, Celtic have announced that they will reduce their Adult season ticket prices for next season by £100. A good gesture by the club – but more needs to be done. Again I will get to what I mean by that later in this article.
The English Premier League has an average ticket price of £28.30 [season 2011-2012], while the Bundesliga are at £19.55 as an average ticket price. Now compare and contrast that with the Scottish game. – which was on average at £18.91 for the cheapest seats and on average £29.00 for the most expensive tickets for the same period. Can you honestly say that the SPL ticket prices are value for money compared to the EPL let alone the Bundesliga?
The spending in the transfer window is another huge issue between the three leagues. When was the last time the Scottish Premier League collectively breached the seven-figure amount? The Bundesliga spent a mere £253 million on transfers in 2011-12, while the English Premier League doubled that and then some as the 20 clubs spent £550 million in the same period. Obscene amounts of money I am sure you will agree.
The Bundesliga had a revenue of around £1.6 billion in 2010-11, while the English Premier League had revenue totalling £2.3 billion. But that does not tell the whole story, when you look at the operating profit for the same period, the Bundesliga collectively made £154 million, while the Premier League made £68 million. I won’t even bother to list the SPL’s revenue and operating profit [or lack thereof]it is that embarrassing.
Last season, the Bundesliga made a profit of £47 million, while the Premier League made a loss of £207 million. With that gap in finances, you would think the EPL would outshine their German counterparts in Europe’s elite , but as we have found the English have fell flat on their face – even Celtic managed to reach the same level as the English sides in the Champions League – with all the remaining British representatives knocked out in the Last 16 of the competition. A success for Scottish football; but an embarrassment and humiliation for the English game.
For the 2013 Bundesliga report check it out here: http://static.bundesliga.com/media/native/autosync/report_2013_gb_72dpi.pdf
Financial Fair Play
UEFA are set to implement their financial fair play legislation soon in the game, don’t ask me to explain it or dissect it as I would be older and greyer by the time I finished it and probably still wouldn’t figure it out. But safe to say it involves clubs building up huge debts.
And this is where Scottish clubs – riddled with debt – should focus on the German top-tier. The Bundesliga has a licensing system which prevents clubs from going too far into debt.
In a BBC interview, President of the German League Association Dr Reinhard Rauball said, that stringent rules in the German game has had a positive effect.
He said: “It’s simple. The clubs control costs and don’t spend more than they can afford. Club management is more professional now and creates higher revenue. The increase in media revenue created by the DFL [German football league] is also a factor.”
Rauball added: “Bundesliga matches should be affordable for everybody – that’s what we want and that’s our philosophy. Our passionate fans contribute to its success.”
Can you honestly see any SPL club chairmen saying that with a straight face and meaning it?
Rauball continued: “Profit is the base of our success. We’ve worked on developing our youth programme. Players like Mario Gotze [Dortmund], Thomas Mueller and Bastian Schweinsteiger [both Bayern Munich]were educated in our youth centres. That’s why we don’t need to spend millions and millions of euros on foreign players.
“We can attract the world’s best, but we’re not willing to spend crazy amounts of money. We’ll continue to focus on German talent that comes out of our academies. Clubs invest about 105m euros a year in those academies. We are proud of them.”
Scottish Football went through a period of luring quality foreign players to our shores. The likes of Henrik Larsson and Brian Laudrup arrived to play for Celtic and Rangers respectively, Dundee secured the services of Claudio Canniggia – before he moved to Ibrox – to name but just three. But look at today’s influx of so-called foreign stars can you honestly say such foreign stars are on par with those three listed above? During the late 90s and early 00’s, the Scottish game was flooded with quality foreign talent – specifically Celtic and Rangers as per usual – but today, you could probably struggle to use two hands to count the number of quality foreign players in our game and I say that with the greatest of respect.
Our national game has taken a hit year on year since we last reached a major championship – the France 1998 World Cup – subsequently both Celtic and Rangers splashed out big time on foreign talent – inc. other home nation players.
Of the players that were managed by Craig Brown then, 12 out of 22 played with clubs in the Scottish Premier League, eight played in the English leagues, one in the Dutch league and one in the French league. Compare that to the squad called up to play against Wales and Serbia in March 2013. Of the 23 players called up only three players came from Scottish Premier League clubs, 17 players play in the English leagues, one plays in Spain (albeit on loan from an English side), one plays in the MLS and another in Turkey.
Look at the current numbers of Scots to Foreign players in our league this season [thanks to Henry Clarson]:
Aberdeen: 16 Scots to 10 Foreigners
Celtic: 10 Scots to 24 Foreigners
Dundee: 26 Scots to 6 Foreigners
Dundee United: 14 Scots to 9 Foreigners
Hearts: 22 Scots to 8 Foreigners
Hibernian: 15 Scots to 12 Foreigners
Inverness CT: 11 Scots to 16 Foreigners
Kilmarnock: 9 Scots to 15 Foreigners
Motherwell: 8 Scots to 10 Foreigners
Ross County: 17 Scots to 7 Foreigners
St.Johnstone: 15 Scots to 10 Foreigners
St.Mirren: 17 Scots to 9 Foreigners
Rauball was adamant in his BBC interview, that a sizeable investment in foreign players had a negative effect on the English national side, and I can agree with him on that and tie it in closely with the Scottish national side also. Although it is not the foreign players fault that our players cannot make the grade or that our club chairmen and managers prefer foreign imports over Scottish youngsters.
Raubell said: “That was a problem. The quality players in Premier League have been from other countries. When you try to build a team for the World Cup, the coach hasn’t many players to pick from. In Germany we want to go down two lines – one of them is to help our coach Joachim Loew.”
Again the self-interest of clubs in the Scottish game, as well as the English game, comes before the national side. It is a sad indictment of the falling stature of our national side that club comes before country now – we saw it clear as day as first Walter Smith and then Alex McLeish ditched the Scotland manager’s job for club life at Rangers and Birmingham City respectively.
The Scottish FA have hired Dutch coach Mark Wotte to try to help our national game from grassroots level, but is one man, who is helped and advised by Scottish managers and coaches – schooled in the same system which is failing our game – going to turn around our fortunes. I don’t honestly know and I would love to pose numerous questions to Mr Wotte, but sadly all my requests for an interview have either been turned down or lost in cyberspace. He is a very busy man after all.
The Bundesliga is reaping what it sowed after Germany’s most embarrassing moment in their history, when the national side failed to win a single game in EURO 2000. That humiliation forced the German governing body to tell all clubs in the Bundesliga to create youth academies with experienced and professional coaches at the helm. National leagues were set up for the youth teams and young coaches with ideas but little experience, were given jobs and the opportunity to develop their ideas and put them into practice.
And what of the Dutch system? Where are all the good Dutch youngsters currently? I may have tunnel vision for the Scottish game, but it seems to me that the Dutch have not done much of late – so have the Scottish FA went down the wrong route and hired a coach from the wrong country? Should we not have hired a German coach instead [no mentioning of Berti Vogts please].
What I mean is, it is all well and good changing the coaching methods and building plush development schools etc, but the whole Scottish coaching network needs to change from top to bottom and this is why a panel of experts should have been brought in rather than just one coach, with all respect to Mr Wotte.
So maybe it is time to ditch the foreign playing talent and turn our attentions to Scottish talent. Most clubs seem to be doing that at this moment in time, although SPL champions Celtic are still bringing in a raft of foreigners – with mixed success – coupled with experienced players and some academy bhoys. With John Park in charge of their scouting network, it is of no great surprise that they have pulled out a number of gems from abroad – such as Kenyan Victor Wanyama.
But how long can this be sustained? Only time and finances will tell.
One thing is crystal clear though, the SPL clubs trying to keep up with Celtic and formerly Rangers, did so by getting into huge debt, debt that they cannot sustain and are set to pay the price over the next few years. Dunfermline are in administration, Hearts are on the brink and Kilmarnock have got huge debts. Through their own financial mismanagement, rather than the Old Firm’s fault it has to be said.
Our clubs must live within their means, otherwise more clubs will go to the wall and fans will lose the clubs they love and have supported all their life. But the excuses from club chairmen and money men will continue to be flung around blaming everyone else bar themselves for the mess that their clubs get into.
Looking at the English game, what is the culture behind it? What has hit the headlines more this season than most? To a Scotsman looking in, we see a mirror copy of our game somewhat, as fans are deciding to ditch the game and watch it on the television instead – far cheaper that way also. Half empty stands paint a bleak picture for any viewer and more so for the state of the game both north and south of the border.
German football is bathed in the culture of their supporters and has been for years. Their fans stand, they have terracing and do not have to contend with jobsworth stewards peddling lines about Health and Safety – many of whom would struggle to state one line from. Ticket prices are structured in a way that fans can afford them, rather than the clubs thinking about themselves over their support. How many Scottish clubs – especially in the top-tier – can honestly say they put their fans before anything else? Specifically finances?
They also enjoy a beer or two, but I hope that we do not bring back booze into our grounds, there are enough drunken halfwits and thugs entering our stadiums currently let alone giving them more fuel to cause trouble. The 1980 Scottish Cup Final may have been the last straw to stop selling booze in football grounds, but when you look closer at it – Scottish society has a major drinking problem, the Scottish government are passing legislation after legislation in trying to the binge culture and organisations and charities are tackling what is at this moment in time a losing battle. There is no need for booze to return to our game at this moment in time – although financially it would see our clubs make a few more quid in their pockets. But it could also drive out the families, the new generation of fans as parents don’t want to take their kids to a ground filled with drunken yobs, smelling of god knows what and acting like they do after closing time in puns and nightclubs in a close confined space.
The German supporters are also positive about their game, can we say that about our game? Even our own media belittle it. The English media overhype the English game to an extraordinary level. They put it on a pedestal, while our media put our game out with the rubbish in the morning.
Then there is the atmosphere and colour. Non-stop singing, brilliant displays and a festival like experience. In Scotland, you really only get that a few clubs and only in the big games. Celtic v Rangers, Celtic or Rangers in Europe or a Cup final or two, derby games etc. But, it seems that the powers that be, are hell-bent of stifling the enjoyment of fans. Fans aren’t allowed to stand during the game as Stewards motion them to sit down or else they will be kicked out. Yet they are allowed to stand at half time free from jobsworths hassling them. The Police and the Scottish government have also came under attack for the Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill implemented last year – with some fans groups claiming that it is targeting them and only them.
So I ask the fans and the clubs themselves, what lures the fans to our game? What keeps them coming back for more? Where are the incentives? There are more reasons for our fans to turn their back on our game than reasons to enticing them to it.
Our football TV programmes are filled with the same pundits week in week out, an absolute borefest when you have to listen to Craig Burley, Pat Nevin and others. The programmes are stale and are behind the times. Scotsport is long gone and Sportscene is on its last legs. Our football phone-ins are like broken down Barry Manilow records, same topics, same issues, same irate and at times delusional callers. No wonder our game is laughed at. When the product produced looks and sounds amateurish, is it any wonder that so many fans are turning their back on it?
Again another area of our game which needs to be ripped up and looked at once again. If the MLS can produce a quality media product on their league, why can’t we? But at the end of the day, it’s all about money once again.
Newspaper sales are getting worse day by day, with the rise of internet websites for the most part leading the way. As a football fan, I want our games dissected, talked about, ripped open so that we can see the guts and explain why managers made those decisions etc.
The internet has brought tactical analysis of games to the fore – with brilliant sites like Tic Tac Tic, Zonal Marking and Ross County tactics – providing us with such dissection on specific games. Why can’t our TV highlights show do that? Match of the Day do it and while their presenters and pundits are not great, at least they produce a quality product.
Match of the Day is made up of line-ups, tactical analysis, opinions, post match interviews and of course the game itself – and not a mere 3 or 4 minutes if you are lucky.
Sportscene is made up of two or three folk in a blank studio, bringing nothing new to the coverage, sounding dull and at times struggling to give an opinion on other games bar their own clubs. There is no tactical analysis, no lineups, limited opinions and no post match interviews. The footage for six games are squeezed into 45 minutes of coverage, which has to include Rob MacLean talking to Pat Nevin or Stephen Craigan, plus one footballer, coach or manager that they can get a hold of quickly.
Whether the terms and conditions of the broadcast rights state the limitations that BBC Scotland have to abide by, the product is woeful compared to what else is available to fans of other countries.
The internet and the so-called bampots are leading the way in new ideas. From podcast shows, to vodcasts , tactical analysis sites to blogs and much more.
Even at Scotzine, I am proud of some of our achievements, but know in the grand scheme of things it does not matter one bit within the Scottish game. Our coverage is limited to the money in my pocket, rather than a budget given to us by those from above. STV and BBC Scotland both have budgets – which have to my knowledge never been published – to cover our game. If we had the money that they had at their disposal, then not only would my missus be happy that I am finally making a full-time wage talking and writing about football – which bores her to tears on many an occasion – but the ideas that we have swishing around our heads came become a reality.
From video interviews, match highlights, fan pieces and much more. If the equipment was available to us and a little bit more in the budget we would certainly wipe the floor clean with some of the so-called new media examples to follow.
Maybe just maybe, I will win the lottery one day or a rich benefactor like Tom Hunter would knock on my door one day with a bag full of money and tell me to go out there and reach our full potential. Whether we have that money and equipment at our disposal, we will certainly try to reach that potential – it may take longer but we should eventually get their before I receive my bus pass for free.
The 12-12-18 was a proposal doomed to failure even before it was bound and handed to the clubs. The same clubs who would be voting on change which would affect them, a bit like turkeys voting for Christmas. That is why I called on an independent panel of experts – with no ties to the Scottish game – to take over the mantle of our games reconstruction.
In a country as small as ours, there is no need for so many governing bodies. Many will focus on the SPL, SFL and the Scottish FA – but in reality there are many more. It is baffling to say the least why we needed so many in the first place.
We have the Scottish Premier League, the Scottish Football League, the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Junior Football Association, the Scottish Youth Football Association, the Scottish Women’s Football Association, the Scottish Amateur Football Association, the Scottish Schools’ Football Association and the Scottish Welfare Football Association. Now why do we have TEN governing bodies to run our game? Why not just have one?
Thankfully the powers that be same to think along those same lines – albeit specifically targeting the SPL and the SFL rather than the affiliates of the Scottish FA also.
The league structure, as I mentioned above was always doomed to fail, this is where the fans MUST be listened too. They do not want a ten team top-tier, they certainly don’t want a 12 team top-tier – they want more clubs in the league and less games against the same teams.
My own opinion, and I have said it plenty of times, is of a top-tier with 16 teams with a First Division of 16 teams and a Second Division – regionalised into North and South. Teams play each other twice – home and away – the way it should be. The way it is in the top leagues in Europe. None of this four game baloney, this is just an excuse for the so-called lesser clubs to reap in the rewards of playing Celtic and formerly Rangers four times a season. Again coming back to money.
Playing the same side only twice in the league, will not only help with the competitiveness of the league, but will also get rid of some of the cobwebs from our game as the third and four games against the same side are usually not as well attended as the first two – although variables do count in this – Old Firm participation, derby match, time of year, weather etc.
A 16 team top tier playing two games against the same side, makes 30 games in total. Add in the promotion/relegation playoffs and you have a few more games for those clubs at the bottom of the league and at the top of the First Division.
If the likes of Sky Sports and now BT Sport, do not like it that way, then so be it. It is their choice to oppose it, but no TV provider should dictate what happens or how our game is structured. They don’t do it in any of the top leagues, yet in Scotland it seems we bend over backwards just to receive their 30 pieces of silver.
Play-offs must be implemented in ALL leagues both for promotion and for relegation. This will bring some added competition in the final days of the season and hopefully with that a swell of fans going along to support their club.
Given the unpredictable weather in Scotland, it was always my understanding that a winter break was pretty pointless and clubs fail to make any money during that period of time. However, it is a necessity now, given how bad our winter has been in recent years with both snow, hail and rain. Safe to say though a winter break will not prevent games being called up due to waterlogged pitches – we are Scots we need to deal with the rain on a daily basis.
The split, god how I hate that, no other top league in Europe has a split – only Scotland does. Why? It was supposed to increase competition – conclusion – fail! It must be ditched alongside every other hair brained scheme the SPL clubs believed would increase competition and entertainment for the fans, while safeguarding their coffers.
As for the way the money is split and is fed down into the lower leagues – that is way over my head – but a place in the top-tier warrants more money being received, winning said top-tier should warrant receiving the most, while clubs at the bottom of the ladder should receive the least. It is a just reward and not just money for nothing. In exams you don’t get marks for turning up, you get marks for answering the questions correctly and receive your certificate/degree etc by passing said exams. It is just like football, you win games you get points, the more points you get the more chance you get of lifting the title. The less games you win the less points you receive. It instills the will to succeed. But it seems some club chairmen are more interested in placings within the division and the money that goes with it rather than securing silverware or a coveted European spot. They give up even before a ball has been kicked in anger and is another sad indictment of our game.
How many clubs only turn up against the big teams? And then fail against the so-called lesser teams? Many argue that clubs like Celtic and formerly Rangers ran away with the league because of the finances available to them – an excuse for some chairmen to spend money they did not have – but when you look at the crux of the matter. Both Glasgow sides were more consistent at winning their games than the rest. Inverness Caley, Hibs and Hearts could take points off the Old Firm yet the following week, lose to the likes of Kilmarnock and St.Mirren.
It is also self-evident in the women’s game, Glasgow City have been dominant in Scotland but with a trio of top players leaving for the professional game, they have been cut down to size somewhat. Games are much closer now, scorelines are far from embarrassing and the performances from the other clubs have increased knowing that they could take points of City. But as some of the other clubs state, they look to City as the objective; they look to them as their inspiration of what can be achieved and use it to their advantage.
Again can you say the same for clubs in the men’s game? Too many times do we hear from players, managers, club officials, fans and those with connections with the other clubs – moan about Celtic and Rangers running away with the league title year in year out. Totally ignoring or using it as an excuse to cover up their club’s own failures domestically. Maybe just maybe these clubs should take a good long look at the way they perform on the pitch, before trying to lay the blame at clubs who consistently win their games and do not receive anything handed to them on a plate.
It seems that some club chairmen want success handed to them, rather than fought for and won. I guess it could be the culture within our country at this moment in time. Or it could solely be a football problem.
And introducing the pyramid system is a MUST! How many times have the same clubs finished bottom of the Third Division over the years? Yet we have clubs like Spartans, Cove Rangers, Pollok, Auchinleck Talbot and others to name but a few who pull in crowds that would put many SFL clubs to shame and whose players are of the same standard as most SFL clubs. Yet they have no means of gaining access to the SFL without a club going belly up and even then they have to bid for a place.
It is somewhat simple conclusion. Listen to your client base, listen to the fans and see what they want – football must be the only business in the world that does not listen to their fans. If they want a 16 team league, give them a 16 team league. If they want safe standing sections, research it – again by looking at the Bundesliga model – and then see how it can be implemented in a section of the ground.
It is time the decision-making for the Scottish game was out of the hands of those who screwed it up in the first place. Greed, self-interest, tunnel vision and ignorance to change has cost our game big time – only an independent panel of experts taking on board the fans opinions have a realistic chance to get our game off its knees and onto its feet ready for the fight once again.
The antics of some club chairmen in the aftermath of the 12-12-18 vote proves to not only myself but others across our game that they are not interested in the Scottish game, they are only interested in themselves and their own club’s interests. Time these blow hards were bypassed before the kill our game off once and for all.