ISSUE 1/ ÂŁ1.00
Scottish football magazine
STRACHAN LOOKS ON AS HIS SCOTLAND SIDE DEFEAT ESTONIA
IS RANGERS’ CHARLES 28 WHAT GREEN ALL SMILES OVER?
FOOTBALL FANS HAVE 31 SCOTTISH NO CONFIDENCE IN REGAN
CONTENTS FIRST HALF
3. THE DUGOUT 5. GORDON STRACHAN 12. LEAGUE RECONSTRUCTION 14. INTERVIEW: PAUL GOODWIN 16. GEOFF BROWN 18. PRICED OUT OF THE GAME 20. TIME TO MERGE 22. ONE NIGHT IN MOSCOW
CRAIG LEVEIN GETS HIS MARCHING ORDERS
24. ONE HELL OF A JOURNEY 26. ONLY STORY IN TOWN? 28. ONLY IN SCOTLAND? 30. GREENISMS
SECOND HALF 31. A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE 32. ROBERT SNODGRASS 34.WOMENS FOOTBALL MONTHLY 35.GIVE US COVERAGE 36. FANS Q&A 38. MY FOOTBALL XI
Getinvolved Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WATT SCORES THAT GOAL 22 TONY THAT SEALED CELTIC’S WIN OVER BARCELONA
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THE DUGOUT #EDITOR
ANDY MUIRHEAD @scotzine
ELCOME to Issue One of FITBA. After we put our print fanzine SCOTZINE to bed over a season ago, due to work and personal committments, we decided over that break to launch a quality football magazine. The world of football has a number of quality magazines from FFT, WSC and World Soccer - but Scottish Football has none. Of course the national side has the Tartan Army Magazine, but I cannot class that as an independent football magazine - more of a Scottish FA backed fans publication. That is where FITBA comes into play, it will be a glossy, quality football magazine fully independent from any club, governing body or corporate influence. Unlike other coverage of the Scottish games from similar publications, that focus on one or two clubs,or one specific league - FITBA will focus on all aspects of the Scottish gaeme from the heits of the international game to our clubs participating in Europe to the Scottish Premier League. The Scottish Football League and the Junior game will also be covered, along with Womenâ€™s football. Our goal is to marry the work of professionals and amateurs alike with Scottish football fans also. There is no denying that there are professional journalists out there who are good at their job, while Scottish football have
some of the best bloggers on the scene at the moment and our fans are up there amongst the most opinionated in the game across the world, so why should we not deny them the chance to have their platform to air their views. Even in the governing bodies in Scotland and clubs continue to blank them. Just like a rookie making his debut with the big boys, FITBA is in virgin territory and we would love to hear your views and opinions on the magazine, its coverage - email email@example.com if you want to have your say. I would like to break away from introducing the magazine to take the time to pay tribute to one of our contributors - Atholl Blair. Atholl had not been with us long, but he wrote a number of quality articles that were of great addition to the website. Sadly we were informed that Atholl had passed away suddenly in January. Personally I would like to pay tribute to Atholl and the work he did for the site. Our condolences go out to Athollâ€™s family and friends at this sad time and we would like to dedicate the first issue of our new magazine to Atholl. Rest in Peace mate.
Letters & Tweets
Each month we will showcase the best emails and twitter comments we receive for this letters page. Each month a free copy of the magazine is up for grabs, so get involved by email, by twitter, by facebook or by carrier pigeons, if necessary. We asked three questions of our readers and twitter followers. What is your take on the SFA/SPL handling of Rangers saga? What is your take on the Hearts financial mess and what does the future hold? And Womens Football, should it be given as much coverage as the men’s game?
SPORTING ADVANTAGE? Sporting Advantage - is not a get out clause and does not change SFA rules on Eligibility. Nor is SFA ignorance of the facts. SFA told LNS that their ignorance of Ineligible players in their eyes changed their status from Ineligible to Eligible. And that is set in Stone. Spartans FC at the time of their cup tie v Culter the SFA, match officials, both clubs were ignorant of a Spartans players ineligibility it was only after the fact that is was found out. So the SFA rolled out they we were ignorant of the fact so that made the Spartans player eligible, NO , the SFA stuck to their rules even though they were ignorant of them at the time change the players status it stays at Ineligible that is set in Stone. But it 1 rule for all but and another for them. Frank Munro, via twitter SHAMBLES Ridiculously poor handling of the whole shambles. Regan still not answered questions re Uefa license and small tax case #flounced. Paul McCombie, via twitter A DISGRACE Hampden bodiess are a total disgrace, should have took a firm stand from the start & shouldn’t have bent over backwards to assist them. Ritarusure, via twitter UEFA INVESTIGATE! Yes, absolutely there should be a vote of no confidence, do u know if its possible to ask UEFA to investigate this scandal at SFA/SPL? Paulo Notini, via twitter Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
APPEAL JEOPARDISED Regan & Doncaster “handled” NOTHING. Regan’s recent “draw a line” statement jeopardises any possible appeal over LNS findings! Jake Campbell, via twitter
DOESN’T MATTER Doesn’t matter, they’ll come back debt free, brag about it and demand apologies from everyone, rules! What rules? Asdash, via twitter THE END Hearts could go into administration as holders of both domestic cups. They won’t play Celtic after split, that could end them. TheGambler, via twitter CLUB OR COMPANY? Is it Hearts FC who are in trouble or the COMPANY who currently runs the club? (farce!). Jake Campbell, via twitter NO RANGERS PARALLELS All depends on what happens with UBiG. Oh and trying to draw parallels with Rangers is pointless. Entirely different situation. Andy Melrose, via twitter FIGHT CLUB No idea about the future, but a celebrity punch up between Vlad and Charlie has to be in the offing. Peter Aitken, via twitter
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LACK OF INTEREST No, few people are really interested. the only thing pushing it is the fear of being labelled sexist. Craig McKee, via twitter INCREASE COVERAGE Certainly needs more. MSM thinks it begins and ends with Glasgow City. SFL, juniors, highland etc could do with more too. Tsardony, via twitter CAN’T BE ANY WORSE Womens football should get more coverage, it has to be better and definitely can’t be any worse Peter Aitken, via twitter INTELLIGENT WOMEN Plenty of intelligent woman out there, if there’s a market then sell it to us, new media, fanzines etc, fans been doin it for years. Asdash, via twitter LACK OF APPETITE At the moment it’s not getting enough but doesn’t seem to be much appetite for more. Might be better served by bloggers than MSM. Ian Robertson, via twitter GLASGOW BIAS Should do - so expect 12 pages on Glasgow Women’s football & another 1 para for the rest. Robert Glen, via twitter NO INTEREST IN IT No, nobody would watch it. Peter Aitken, via twitter
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STRACHAN A BRAVEHEART REVOLUTION
â€œI really want the squad and the staff to give something back to the country and the fans.â€?
HE puppet king is dead, long live the king. Scotland have ditched Craig Levein and installed Gordon Strachan as their new manager, and it’s about time too. In my opinion Strachan should have been given the job well before now, Scotland should have had Strachan as manager instead of George Burley and definitely ahead of Craig Levein. Scotland were subjected to two managers who were not up to the job, a decision that many believed was down to the smaller wage bill handed to the two than anything else. Sadly, Scotland WILL miss the World Cup 2014 in Brazil and we can not only blame Levein with another failure - nothing glorious about this one now but also the Scottish FA, who decided to hire a man who had achieved nothing in his managerial career - and failed to manage at the highest level. Scotland now have a man in place who has achieved much in both his playing and managerial career. As a player, Strachan played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Aberdeen and at Manchester United. He then went on to Leeds United and Coventry City, where he ended his playing career. His playing career was rich with silverware, at Aberdeen, he won two league titles, three Scottish Cups, the European Cup Winner’s Cup and the European Super Cup. At Manchester United, he won the FA Cup, while at Leeds United he won the First and Second Division titles as well as the FA Charity Shield. He was also capped 50 times for Scotland. His managerial career started off at Coventry, replacing Ron Atkinson. He was at City for five years, before he was sacked. Weeks later he was back in a job, this time on the south coast of England with Southampton where he led the club to an FA Cup Final place in 2003, losing out to Arsenal 1-0. However, his most successful period as a manager was in Glasgow at Celtic Football Club, where he won three SPL league title, a Scottish Cup and two League Cups. On top of all that he led Celtic to the Last 16 of the Champions League in consecutive years. So what can we expect from Strachan, the Scotland manager? He is places importance on his players health and fitness, banning his players from drinking alcohol excessively and regularly. Could we see the Scotland squad tucking into plate fulls of seaweed before games? We can also expect his jovial manner in front of the camera to return once again - giving us all a laugh
in the process. But he has to watch out for certain elements of the mainstream media, who during his time at Celtic Park, wrote certain articles attacking him for his style of management and his failure to answer their questions and spun it as some perceived snubbing of the Celtic fans. Celtic fans to an extent never warmed to the man, but he proved that all too common phrase - You don’t know what you are missing until you lose it. Celtic lost Strachan and got Tony Mowbray in his place - enough said of that debacle the better.
The Revolution Begins Strachan’s first game in charge was against Baltic minnows Estonia at Pittodrie. There was no great surprise in his selections in the goalkeeping department nor in midfield, except for maybe the inclusion of Birmingham City’s Chris Burke - but the winger’s performance proved that he was a good choice as he was one of the major threats for Scotland. There were however, several surprising call-ups - Alan Hutton, Lee Wallace and Kenny Miller. Wallace plays for Rangers in the Scottish Third Division and his inclusion was ludicrous to say the least. He has not played against top players all season and while he may be one of the better players in the Rangers side, playing against Third Division opposition is not worthy of a Scotland call-up, even more so when he has failed to stand out in any of the games. Another baffling decision was the call up of Alan Hutton. He has played a total of 18 games this season, six of those being Scotland games. At the time of the Estonia match he had played only 13 games and lacked match fitness throughout. Since leaving Ibrox in January 2008, Hutton has played 123 games in five years. Injuries and falling out of favour with respective managers has curtailed any chancof Hutton being a regular starter - his Aston Villa career has stalled completely and was banished to the reserves, in between a loan deal to Sunderland and a current loan deal to Real Mallorca. Does his past exploits warrant inclusion? Because going on the stats and his performances for Scotland alone this season, the only place he should be at a Scotland match is watching on from the stands.
Saying all the correct things Strachan is an experienced manager and knows fully what to say to fans and the
media alike, there was no change there when he donned his Scotand managerial rags - suit and tie - and spoke to the media when he was officially unveiled as the new Scotland manager. On his appointment Strachan said: “I am very, very proud. Proud for myself and proud for my family and friends. “It shows you how important the Scotland job is and it is a great day for me to be able to take up this opportunity. It’s been 40 years in the making but it has been worth it. “I know I face challenges, on behalf of the nation, but I hope to be able to make this nation proud... with help from other people. “I believe the time is right for me to make the move into international football as I have had the European experience and how to deal with players. “I always wanted to be Scotland manager and, with the help of a lot of other managers and players, I am here today.” With the fans subjected to roughly five years of shoddy management, excuses and poor performances, Strachan called on the Scotland players to give the fans something back after years of service to the nation. Strachan added: “I really want the squad and the staff to give something back to the country and the fans who support us because the fans are probably more famous than the squad now. So what we want to try and do is to give back something and make them turn up for a major finals competition. “If we work together as a group and a set of fans I know for a fact we’ll be successful,” he added. “I can’t ask for anything more than we’re doing at the moment. We’re going to use the games to try and win. My philosophy is to win games of football, like Manchester United. “We still have to collect as many points as we can and it’s disrespectful to say we’ll use the games just to improve. We’ll give it a go. “What I know is that these guys, for all they might get criticised, are the best at what they do. They play for Scotland and we have to find a system that suits these players to win games of football.” Safe to say that Strachan’s years of managerial experience has given the Scotland manager a wealth of knowledge, not to mention PR and propaganda rhetoric that even the best schooled politicians would be proud to use. But one thing he is clear, he is not another yes man like Burley and Levein. His tenure will be entertaining to say the least on and off the park - hopefully.
GORDON Strachan on the touchline during Scotandâ€™s 1-0 victory over Estonia at Pittodrie
CELTIC defender Charlie Mulgrew scores the only goal of the game to kick off Strachanâ€™s debut as manager with a win
KENNY MILLER: END OF AN ERA?
hen Scotland resigned itself to missing out on another major tournament, that being EURO 2012, I commented that maybe it was time to put the old guard out to pasture and bring through the youngsters. However, if the Estonia squad that Strachan selected is anything to go by, it looks as though the former Celtic and Boro manager will continue to utilise the services of the veterans within the side, many of whom are in the twilight of their careers. One such player that should have retired long ago is Kenny Miller. The former Hibs, Rangers and Celtic striker is now playing in the MLS for Vancouver Whitecaps and he has failed to set the heather alight with the Canadian team. His goals to games ratio is abysmal also, and this is the main reason why
he should be thanked for his years of service, but advised that he is no longer needed. And that is true, Miller is no longer needed, with the likes of Steven Fletcher, Craig Mackail Smith, Ross McCormack, Jordan Rhodes and Shaun Maloney already in the first team and the likes of Leigh Griffiths and Johnny Russell waiting in the wings with the Scotland Under-21 side, Miller is surplus to requirements. We now have players that are playing regulalry for their club sides and have valuable experience and game time week in week out. So why keep selecting a player, who is not playing at the highest level and whose goals tally is poor? We asked our readers their opinion on the continued call-up of Miller to the Scotland squad. The results show clearly what the fans, at least those within our readership believe, and it was overwhelming. Over 700 readers voted in our poll and the majority [581 readers] voted against Miller continuing to get a Scotland, while 87 said that he should still be in the Scotland side. 47 were undecided. The results are self-evident, Miller is being viewed by many Scotland fans now as a striker who is passed it and should not be selected from now on. Will Strachan realise this? Of course he will realise that Miller is not at his best
now, but he will look at the experience and knowledge he brings to the side and try to use that as a means to an end - keeping him in the side for the foreseeable future. Not the best idea given Scotland need goals and they need strikers who can hit the back of the net regularly and consistently. Scotland have three experienced coaches at the helm - Strachan, McGhee and McCall - all three should see Miller as a weak link, the fans can see it, so why canâ€™t they? Or will it come down to the favourites once again? Strachan had his favourites when Celtic manager and at times it infuriated the Celtic support, but three league titles and two last 16 qualifications in the Champions League could prove that Strachan knows best and the fans know nothing and we should stick to Football Manager - speaking of FM I took Scotland to Brazil 2014 how do you like them apples Craig! We shall see what happens, but I only hope that Strachan can use these remaining World Cup 2014 qualifiers to blood up and coming youngers who have made their mark in the Under-21 side rather than stick with players that will not be around when we hopefully qualify for the European Championships in 2016. Time to put the old folk into the retirement home Gordon.
4-4-2 or 4-5-1
ince I am trying to tell Gordon Strachan how to do his job, like every other fan seems to do, maybe I should enlighten him on the way that Scotland should play, in my opinion. Celtic manager Neil Lennon made a statement, which should be taken on board by managers and fans alike. Speaking at the European Managers and Coaches Forum, he warned against trying to play the Barcelona way of football. He said: “Barcelona set the template. It’s a dangerous template as a lot of managers strive to play like that. You must understand the culture you’re playing in. Barcelona and Spain are probably the best footballing sides I’ve seen, with Messi arguably the greatest player ever. So that’s what we all strive to be now. We can’t all be that way, we have to cultivate our own styles.” Why is it so dangerous to try and copy the Barcelona model? Because most clubs don’t have the players that
Barcelona do. Craig Levein defended his use of the 4-6-0 formation, which bombed in the Czech Republic, during our EURO 2012 qualifiers, citing that Spain and Barcelona used it. That comment alone proved that Levein was tactically naive and out of his depth, as Scotland do not have the players to play in the style of Barcelona nor Spain. Scotland are not a fancy team, our players are not fancy either. We grind out results, we battle and we fight - or at least we are supposed to do that. We used to do that. While I agree with Mark Wotte’s notion of trying to teach our youth a new style of football - is it really in the Scottish mentality to play with flair? Of course we have had our fair share of flair players, but for the most part our players are fighters. Wotte’s experiment may work it may not, but we need to give it a try either way. In the meantime, Scotland must get back to basics and play the way that works for us and that is the beauty of Strachan being manager. He will not pick the players to fit a formation, like Levein did. He will pick the best possible side and mould the formation around them. It may look like a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1, but they will be fluid when on the attack and rigid when in defence. Sadly as ever, Scotland’s weak point is its defence. We are not blessed with
quality defenders: Mulgrew, Berra, Caldwell, Webster, Martin, Wallace, Bardsley and Hutton are just a few of the defenders available to Strachan’s Scotland side, none of them in my opinion are stand-outs and they have more negatives going for them than positives sadly. So our strength must come from our numbers and team work. Too many times the likes of Alan Hutton goes on a mazy run up the wing and when he loses possession, he is out of position and the opposition exploits that. Our play should be about passing, movement and creativity - not a headless chicken runs. Patient buildup, frustrating the opposition and forcing them into making a mistake is the order of the day. Then its time for a smash ‘n’ grab style - it worked against France twice under Smith and McLeish so why not again? Our attacking threat must come from our midfielders and strike partnership two men up front - not a lone striker. Our defenders must stick to their roles like glue and not get a rush of blood to their head. Scotland must get back to basics, for our players are lacking in this department and before we can qualify for a major tournament again we must get the basics right.
SCOTTISH FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan is one of the men, along with chief architect Neil Doncaster, who are pushing through proposals for 12-12-18 league structure
C U R T CONS
“The SPL and the SFL ought to be applauded for their efforts to revamp the Scottish game.”
eague reconstruction is coming to Scotland and you could say it is reconstruction on a grand scale. The Scottish football landscape is about to undergo significant change with all 12 SPL clubs seemingly backing plans for change and suggestions that the SFL clubs, though not currently as unanimously in favour as their SPL counterparts, likely to approve the proposals. 12-12-18……three numbers etched firmly on the minds of most Scottish football fans and if it’s not, then it soon will be. If the plans come to fruition, there will be three leagues consisting of 12, 12 and 18 clubs. The top two leagues of 12 (the Premiership and the Championship) will split into three divisions of eight after 22 games. Teams would play each other twice, once at home and once away, during the initial 22 games and then play each other twice again (both home and away) following the split. The top eight teams would be referred to as the ‘Premiership’ and these teams will be competing for the title and presumably European places. They will carry forward any points gained in the first 22 games. The middle section of eight would be called the ‘Championship’ and these teams will be competing to stay in the top tier for the following season. Their points will be reset to zero. The top four will return to the Premiership and the bottom 4 will play in the Championship. The third league of eight teams, the ‘Relegation Group’, would then carry their points over and compete to ascertain who drops down to the National League (the league of 18). The National League teams would play each other twice, once home and once away, resulting in 34 games for
each team with some form of promotion. Below that, it is expected that a pyramid structure will be introduced; affording teams from the Highland league and even Junior football the opportunity to make their way to the top. So, there it is in a nutshell. The plans do still require formal approval and there may be some tweaking in the weeks ahead but there appears to be no doubt that change is on its way. Is it a good idea? The proof will undoubtedly be in the pudding, but I personally believe there is definitely room for change in the Scottish game and for all their flaws and intermittent buffoonery in the past, the SPL and SFL chiefs have come up with something that, on the face of it, has the potential to work and work for the greater good of the game. Perhaps the most significant difficulty facing Scottish football, at least for the immediate future, is the lack of competition for Celtic at the top of the SPL and, barring the intervention of a Russian Oligarch or an Arabian Prince ploughing millions into another club, this will not change until Rangers make their way to the top tier. Bizarrely, some will argue that this reconstruction plan was brought about principally as a result of the fallout of Rangers demise and re-emergence in the Scottish Third Division. Yet, despite this, they will not improve their position in the new set up, assuming they go on to win the Third Division as is looking most likely. This is absolutely correct as there should be no special provisions made to fast-track any club through the league structure. The split, however, will make things more interesting in the Championship and Relegation group, particularly in the Championship where points will be reset to zero. It is hoped, I’m sure, that crowds will flock to watch their favourite teams
play out these games with the increased likelihood that there will be something at stake. And I think this is the nub of it; getting the fans excited again about football. This is an extremely difficult task and I think the governing bodies should be applauded for at least making an effort to brighten things up. Altering the league structure, however, will not guarantee a reversal in declining attendances. In order to fully exploit the potential of this new set up clubs will need to be encouraged to review their pricing policies in order to make it financially viable for fans to watch their team. This is tricky in the current climate as the clubs also need to ensure they themselves survive and survival for the clubs in these though financial times means the pockets of fans are hit hard. It’s a vicious circle and striking a balance is no easy task. The distribution of television revenue will, of course, play a significant part in all of this. All parties seem to accept that more money needs to make its way down the leagues ensuring a fairer distribution of wealth across the divisions. This will inevitably mean a dilution of revenue for top flight clubs though they would hope to make up any shortfall through an improved television deal. Whether that is realistic is a matter for debate, but the continued separation of Celtic and Rangers is likely to ensure a lukewarm approach to the suggestion of improved terms by the likes of Sky and ESPN. What is certain is that, if these changes are rubber stamped in the coming weeks, Scottish football is about to undergo a significant overhaul that will see the face of the game change on a number of different levels. Whether or not it will work remains to be seen, but I for one feel the governing bodies ought to be applauded for trying to make a difference.
FAN POWER? Paul GOODWIN WORDS/DONALD C STEWART
“We speak to the man whose name is synonymous with the Stirling Albion fan buyout.”
HE fans’ movement has been something that has had increased focus over the last 12 to 18 months, though the power exercised by people paying money at turnstiles has been recognised by successful business men for years. The powerful attraction to the heart-strings of a football club is one thing that many have felt they could utilise to maintain an audience in a football ground whilst continuing to abuse their trust in a board room. That may sound harsh but you ask many a supporter if they feel that they have been listened to, consulted and brought into the centre of any decision-making process and most will say, only in a crisis. Forget the summer of turmoil in 2012 but ask a Pars fan whose club has had tax woes, a Hearts fan whose piggy bank was raided to keep the club afloat or the Killie fan who thought the pies would ruin them. There has never been a bigger focus on fans than now. It is however, the crisis like no other that changed the face of Scottish Football. When the fate of Glasgow Rangers became the fate of the Rangers fans spoke; and that includes the Rangers fans! But it was the fans of other clubs making their views known to the Chairmen, where this revolution demanded some form of permanent change to the way things are run. One person charged with making sure that happens is Supporter’s Direct Chief Executive, Paul Goodwin. The head of a 15,000 strong member based CoOperative Society that is fully democratic Goodwin has taken up the mantle on behalf of fans to ensure their voice is
heard at the highest level. I caught up with Paul recently to ask about the organisation and how things were developing. I did not go into the interview with a list of questions I was seeking an answer to, though there are plenty fans’ questions that need to be asked. Paul’s enthusiasm for his role and for the organisation he represents is obvious within seconds of talking to him. As an advocate for the fans he is both articulate and highly impressive. I asked him, firstly to tell me about Supporters Direct. Paul said: “Supporters’ Direct has been around for some time; since 2000. Andy Burnham MP was instrumental in establishing the organisation and though it is a national organisation it soon mushroomed with supporter’s groups being established and the Trust movement catching on. “Politically it was realised that, with the number of administrations and liquidations happening in football this was having a detrimental effect on communities and the organisation was seen as a vehicle to support communities in the transition period to find a community solution. “The organisation in Scotland, was however struggling until the Rangers situation arose and the Government was looking for a single contact for fans. The vehicle was there and the Government decided to fund us. This has meant we can represent the fans more effectively.” Since July this year there have been surveys, no fewer than six road shows, the creation of their own website, of a fans parliament and there is even a section on Pie & Bovril so there has never been a better time to get your
view heard. From these events Paul has been able to glean and use anecdotal evidence that backs up the more influential statistical analysis that means a lot to administrators but less so to the fans. Supporters Direct have even been able to influence the questions asked of fans when the national survey was announced. Paul added: “We influenced the questions asked in the national survey and will manage the output from that survey. I think we had specific influence over 5 of the questions asked.” The relationship they have been trying to build to influence the game has been done with some highly regarded names on board. Paul continued: “At the Glasgow road show we had Pat Nevin, Tom Boyd, Gordon Smith and David Longmuir on the platform so this is more than just a fan’s movement. This is an effective medium for change.” One of the major issues at present is league reconstruction and again Supporters Direct have a role in advocating the views of fans and making sure they have an influence. Paul though has a very pragmatic view and one that has been whispered widely on terraces, he said: “League reconstruction will happen. We need to make sure that we are in a place to make an impact and influence that change. 12-12-18 is not ideally what fans want; but we want to make sure that the good bits in the deal are not lost. The rest of the proposal would help clubs a great deal. It would help things like cash flow, one league body to negotiate with and a better voting structure for change. We know what fans want – they are constant
in their views. They want bigger leagues and don’t like the splits or playing each other 4 times. I have to work out how I can advocate on their behalf to lead to the change that is wanted. I think that will be a staged process rather than a simple revolution. We still have concerns about what is on the table but if we don’t like it the new structure may give us a better means through which we can change it in the future. That is what we may have to keep our eye on.” With the Scottish Government being one of the biggest funders of football in Scotland it is clear that any Government funded initiative will have some clout. The thing is we all know how dusty the corridors of Hampden are, never mind the people who haunt them. Paul added: “The whole idea of having such a wide network is for decision makers to gain access to what the fans are saying. We are an ambassador for fans and the fans must feel that they are being listened to. By doing the road shows and listening to fans groups wherever I go, I have the opportunity to take what they feel and deliver that fans’ voice in Hampden. From the delivery of a
paper at the Policy and General Business Committee at the SFA to simply being listened to by people in power we can influence and hopefully affect change. But it is not being done in isolation. We are constantly in contact with Fraser Wishart of the Professional Footballers Association (Scotland) and Alex Smith of the League Managers Association. Both have been a huge help to us, after all the managers, players, coaches and the fans can all justifiably complain that they have been left out of the decision making processes. I think though we need to make sure that we are not just here as a partner in crisis.” Supporters Direct have been there in many a crisis and have been talking to Dunfermline, Hearts and Kilmarnock fans who are concerned about the future of their clubs but they have been more than just a sympathetic ear at the end of a phone. Paul continued: “We have a track record stretching over 12 years and can point to the successful clubs that have come through a crisis and then found better governance and survival. You look at the likes of fan owned clubs like
Gretna, Clydebank, East Stirling, Stirling Albion, Clyde and Dundee. All of these clubs are fan owned or have significant fan ownership.” Paul’s name was synonymous with the Stirling Albion buy out and I was interested in his views on the effectiveness of fan ownership. After all from the names he listed we had Clydebank that is now a Junior club, Gretna that fell from the SPL to the Southern League, Dundee struggling in the SPL, Clyde – though they are well on the way to getting out of their mountain of debt – languishing in the Third Division, East Stirling – hardly a model of success and Stirling Albion the club that went from yo– yo to simply yo! Paul said: “Since 2000 there have been 110 liquidations and administrations in the UK. In Germany, where there is significant fans ownership there have been none. It’s not hard to work out which is the more successful but sustainability is a big and complex issue though also a very simple one. On the terraces there are huge numbers of fans who have expertise and experience that is lost if never harnessed. The fans, the board, the players, the coaches and the managers are a community and that community cannot sustain the levels of debt currently out there. Sure the likes of Stirling Albion have fallen way below where they want to be but clubs will have to find their new levels. Is it right that the likes of Dunfermline and Kilmarnock – just two examples – are where they are through debt? Equity is vital for the way forward in Scottish football. Stirling Albion was carrying around £1.5Million in debt that was written off so that it could become a community owned club. There are less and less people around with pockets that deep. Financially football needs to rebalance itself and the silly amounts of money per week paid out to players that clubs can ill afford has to go. We are about people having a club to support.” Paul’s passion is clear, his practical nature obvious. I was left with the impression that here was a fan who understood both the complexities of issues and the views of the ever elusive punter. The three bodies on Scotland that represent the game may be cosying up more than ever before and the fans may feel they are sitting on the outside and not on the inside but with Supporters Direct there is a chance for a voice. They even have a blog on their website where you can pontificate for longer than 140 characters to get your message across. As they once said for the Post Office we better use it or we’ll lose it; football will then become a dying breed itself.
A DIFFERENT BREED OF CHAIRMAN “With Scottish football facing up to its financial problems, Geoff Brown is the epitome of what a chairman should be.” WORDS/STUART CAIE
O some football fans Geoff Brown was a bit of a nonentity, but to a majority, particularly in the light of the financial problems facing fellow clubs in Scottish football, he is the epitome of what a chairman should be. He didn’t see his club as a toy to be played with or a hobby to be
bankrolled. He ran St Johnstone FC with a care that has not been echoed or surpassed elsewhere and I don’t think ever will be. As he passed on the mantle to his son, Steve, it is worth mentioning the feats of a man who was most definitely a “Fit and Proper” person to be owner of a football club. While many Chairman race into their
new acquisition with fanfare, pomp and a list of promises ready to be broken, Geoff did things in a slightly different way. In realising that St Johnstone FC was a business product, to be run as such, is probably what sets him apart from many of the Chairmen of his time. In 1986 when Geoff acquired St Johnstone, he really could not have had a worse start to his reign as an owner - a defeat consigning the Saints to bottom of all the member clubs in Scotland. Some may say that this is a good place to start, as things can only get better!In one of many defining moments of Geoff’s tenure the appointment of Alex Totten was fundamental in the rise and rise of St Johnstone. Totten came to St Johnstone having experienced some minor success amongst the marble staircase of Ibrox, his time at Ibrox his knowledge and connections would prove to be key in this partnership and early success of St Johnstone. In the ensuing years of lower division struggles Geoff managed to turn the finances around and with success creeping onto the pitch the foundations of a 25 year reign were firmly in place. With momentum (albeit slow and steady) being gathered on the pitch Geoff garnered and enhanced many principles of shrewd business and placed them firmly in the roots of the present St Johnstone set up. The biggest test of off field finances
Steve Lomas was appointed as S.Johnstone manager by Brown
was yet too come though with the realisation that, however steeped in the history of St Johnstone the dilapidated Muirton Park was, it was becoming too much of a financial drain with constant and costly remedial work needing done. With the stadium reduced to a maximum 2,000 capacity by the local council (later increased to 5,000) the board received word from Asda in 1986 indicating that they were interested in the land under the park, and so the the long and intense negotiating battle begun. With the very existence of the club hanging in the balance Geoff pulled of one of many master strokes in his reign as chairman, with the standard stances drawn Geoff managed to instill in the contract section 50 (insisting that the stadium being built before the superstore) a master stroke by any standard. With Asda trying to put in place there own parts of the bargain the building of the stadia became an issue due to section 50 but again Geoff showed his mettle again by insisting that Asda build it themselves to the clubs specification. As a new era began, St Johnstone went from strength to strength, Geoff never lost sight of the bigger picture and didn’t throw finance to the wind
and by bringing in low cost signings Grant, Maskerey and Moore mixed with experience like Hegarty and then Baltacha success on the pitch started to match the Stadia and the balance sheet With promotion, cup runs and even an impressive league position and European football Geoff still insisted on the same principles that got his club to these lofty heights and more importantly to stick within the off field structures that had saved the very existence of the club. When the club hit a, seemingly inevitable, barren spell and relegation, the now well seasoned chairman stuck to his guns on all his financial beliefs. We should remember this was around the time of the Gretna debacle, high spending, high on gusto Gretna. Saints went head to head with the “express Gretna” for promotion in 2006-07. Mid way through the season, a philosophical Geoff was asked his thoughts on Gretna and Mileson and was widely laughed at when he spoke of their folly in spending so much and his belief that they were already on borrowed time. He was not prepared to jeopardise his club for a quick fix and he was right. We all know the end of this story. That is not to say that Mr Brown would never loosen the
purse strings. In all businesses, some money has to be invested. His approach has been key signings at the right time, from Jody Morris and Michael Duberry to Cillian Sheridan and Fran Sandaza. Players were only signed, however, when the occasion truly merited the expense. So with 25 years under his belt the man known locally as Sir Geoff announces the appointment of Steve Lomas as the new manager and calls time on possibly the most successful reign of a chairman in Scottish football history, from bottom of the league and facing financial ruin to 4th in the top tier of Scottish Football, but more importantly a sound financial footing to kick on another successful era for the club. To many that’s not success but mere survival but as other clubs falter under their finances St Johnstone have an infrastructure that will drive them to success of the field which will transmit to the pitch and the trophy room In an era of Romanov, the former Rangers owner Craig Whyte and the financial predicament of many other clubs, I hope some more Geoff Browns are around to save and resurrect other clubs and be the ultimate saviours of Scottish Football.
BEING PRICED OUT OF THE GAME “League reconstruction is just one issue that needs to be resolved, in my opinion ticket pricing is the key issue to fans.” WORDS/ANDY MUIRHEAD 18
EAGUE reconstruction may be the major talking point currently within the game as the game’s governing bodies focus on trying to refresh a stale product to entice the fans back to the game. But while I agree that the game needs to be revamped, the main issue for fans is ticket pricing. Of course fans will turn up for the big games and pay over the odds for tickets Celtic fans did it in Seville, Rangers fans did it in Manchester. But these so-called gloryhunters and good weather fans are not deemed the bread and butter of the supporters across Scottish football. It is easy to dub these kind of fans as not real fans, while those who scrimp and save the little money they earn each week to go to games in all weather are labelled the real hardcore fans. In reality both sides have every right to be proclaimed ‘real’ football supporters and anyone who attacks one side or the other for the way they support their club, do not deserve to be mentioned further. But the fans who pay the big bucks do not splash the cash every game and it is the little man who clubs are built on. These are the fans who clubs set their foundations on when they first appear on the scene, but before too long the club begins to move away from its roots and starts to attract the gloryhunters, the corporate meal tickets who provide the club with sponsorship deals and increased revenue. Clubs begin to lose their identities, just look at the English game of late and the number of billionaires coming into the picture buying and selling clubs at the drop of a hat like a play toy. These self-confessed fans say all the right things in front of camera, face to face with the fans, but when the doors are closed on the board room and the prying, critical eyes of the fans are left behind, these ‘fan’ owners throw the club colours into the corner and they bring out the calculator and the account book. The fans are being priced out of the game, as these owners look to reduce the impact it has on their purse strings and pass it onto the already heavilyladen shoulders of the fans. Football is the only worldwide business that seemingly does not listen to its customers. If they did then the SPL, SFL and Scottish FA would ditch the idea of 12-12-18 and make a top league of 16 work no matter how much the clubs lose in the short-term. They may be able to survive in the short-term but if they force the fans away from the terracing and into their armchairs then the socalled beautiful game will be played in
front of television cameras, no fans and the stadiums would be long gone and replaced by a football pitch and gantries to house said cameras. That is the danger clubs are facing. So how can they stop the fans from deserting the clubs they love so much? REDUCE ticket prices. Not by a couple of pound but by £10, with incentives thrown in. Radical, idiotic and fool hardy? Yes that is true - but what is the alternative? Letting the clubs die a slow and humiliating death? Television revenue will not sustain our clubs for long, even more so given the demise of Rangers Football Club. That is why the fans are more important than ever before, but the clubs think more of the ten pieces of silver that SKY hand out to them each year, than the fans who are the lifeblood of the game. There are many proposals, many ideas thrown about by pundits, journalists, bloggers and fans alike - it seems that only one model is attractive, only on model that is on the lips of the majority - the Bundesliga model. Family friendly modern stadiums, reasonable ticket prices, incentives, safe standing and great atmosphere. Compare and contrast that with the equivalent in Scotland.
Value for Money? SPL champions Celtic are as expected the most expensive in the Scottish game with the cheapest adult ticket, programme, pie and a tea costing £30.30. That is for just one person, but look at the cost to a family of four. Two adults - based on the prices above would cost £60.60, with two kids each gaining entry to the game for £24, before paying £6 for two programmes, £4.20 for two pies and if they drink tea then that is another £4.20 that has to be paid for. All in, a family of for going to a game at Celtic Park for one weekend would cost £93.00 and that is the CHEAPEST option! I was merely using Celtic as an example of one club charging their fans an extortionate amount to take in league games that we can, mostly agree upon, is not worth the ticket entry. No club in the Scottish top flight nor lower echelons are free from blame.
Do the clubs actually care? It is a question that has many answers, but in my opinion, I don’t think they do. Of course they may lower the price by a pound or so and splash it as a great day for the fans and how this club or
that club think more of the fans than any other club. One clear example of a club lauding a new initiative was Motherwell. Back in 2009, chairman John Boyle hailed his ‘scheme’ to reduce Old Firm match tickets from £25 to £15. In October, Boyle said: “We and other SPL teams have been abusing the fierce loyalty Old Firm fans have for their club by always charging premium prices. I’ve been very worried over a number of years about the price of football to the average fan.” But their trial run with Rangers saw the club lose £25,000 in ticket money and as Boyle flew off on holiday, he was preparing to ‘rip-off’ the fans once again and left his staff to deal with the fallout. There was minimal backlash at the u-turn and very little criticism of Boyle by other clubs, as they knew fine well that they would have done the same if they were on the receiving end of an estimated £100,000 drop in revenue. Looking at the Bundesliga model, the German league’s average ticket price is £19.55, while the SPLs average ticket price is £19.25. The average attendance in the Bundesliga is 44,293 and the SPL have a mere 13,855 fans attending their games. Of course the population of Germany is vastly superior to Scotland’s, but for the price of a ticket, Scotland’s top league should be lower in price and by significantly more - especially when taking into account the product on the pitch. It won’t be long before the fans in Scotland realise that they have had enough and turn their back on attending the game and just sit in the comfort of their own house or the pub for a fraction of the price.
Stop the rot! Clubs must stop the rot. They must do everything in their power to not only keep current fans in the stand, but they must also do everything they can to welcome back those fans who have already turned their back on the game with open arms. That begins with reducing ticket prices and organising incentives such as subsidised transport and loyalty rewards. Then and only then can they expect the fans to return in their thousands and see a new generation of fans attending games in all weather, rather than in the warmth of their home taking in a overhyped English Premier League game on Sky Sports. Clubs will of course lose money in the short-term, but they will have to cut their cloth accordingly. Rather that though than lose the fans altogether.
TIME TO MERGE
OUR CLUBS AND
LEAGUE “Why not revamp the Scottish top tier to match that of the MLS or NFL?” WORDS/NATHAN MACKENZIE 20
HE recent league reconstruction debate in Scottish football has polarised opinion across all sections of our national game. The fans want more clubs in Scotland’s top tier; the men in suits want less. Fans don’t want to play the same teams four times every season; the men in suits want Scotland’s top clubs to play each other as many times as possible every season. At the moment it looks like we are at an impasse where any decision made
will be an unpopular decision. So I offer a solution to this. It might not necessarily be a popular solution however if we are to look at similar examples across the world it might be one which could bring back the glory days for Scottish football. In order to improve and compete again against the top nations in Europe then Scottish football has to make a number of uncomfortable but necessary decisions. Decision number one is the Scottish football authorities have to come together to become one organisation. For such a small country we don’t need several different organisations poking their finger into an ever decreasing pie. Combine not just the SPL and SFL but the SFA and Junior, Amateur and Welfare sides of our game. We should have one governing body in Scottish football. Decision number two is Scotland has to create a smaller top league containing our biggest and best clubs. Our current 12 team set up is too big and awkward. What is needed is a league of ten teams playing each other four times a season similar to the current First Division set up. This top league would run in similar style to that of the MLS or the NFL in the United States where each club and the city or area where that club is based is accessed to see whether it deserves its place in the top league. This league would be closed off and clubs wishing to join the top tier would have to apply similar to the current set up which is seen with the Scottish Football League or MLS now. Clubs in the top tier would be assessed over a period decided by the relevant football authorities and they would be expected to hit a number of targets in order to retain their position in the top league. Decision number three is to merge
our smaller clubs and create bigger franchise clubs which can compete with the likes of Rangers and Celtic as well as the top sides across Europe. Currently only three clubs in Scotland would be guaranteed a position in this new top league. Celtic, Rangers and Aberdeen would be guaranteed a place within this new league set up. The other seven places could be handed to united area and city sides in Edinburgh, Dundee, Ayrshire, Fife, Lanarkshire, the Highlands and a Perthshire or Stirlingshire etc combined. These combined area sides would hopefully in time would be able to attract much bigger crowds than the current clubs based in these cities and regions. Only with these bigger franchise clubs will the Old Firm be really challenged and given the competition needed in order to continue performing at the top level. By playing the best sides more often and by keeping the money in the number of small clubs in the top league, will the game be able to become more competitive and the league able to attract the retain the best talent. Recent advice from the Swiss football authorities suggest that this is best course of action for football in Scotland to take. The Swiss authorities decided to concentrate on helping its top clubs in Europe by reducing its top division to ten clubs and playing more fixtures between the big clubs and keeping the money generated by the big clubs within these top clubs. This system looks to have worked not just for the professional game in Switzerland but also for its national team which has now qualified for the last two World Cups and currently lies in 14th place in the FIFA World rankings. Scotland on the other hand has a professional league where only its top
two clubs can even remotely compete with Europe’s top clubs and a national team which sits in 64th place on the FIFA World rankings. The recent changes proposed by Scottish football authorities looks set to harm our national game by diluting the little talent and competition we do have in order to satisfy the pockets of small clubs which shouldn’t really have any say in the running of our professional game. Now I am not saying these clubs do not have a place in Scottish football. In fact they are crucial in promoting the game to communities across Scotland. Stenhousemuir who recently became a Community Interest Company are a shining example of what small clubs in Scotland can achieve in the future if they are to concentrate on its own community. The history and tradition of many of Scotland clubs do not have to be destroyed by this as they can continue to compete at a lower level in regional and community leagues. I know this idea will be very unpopular with a number of Scottish football fans, especially with fans of clubs which this idea would affect the most; however I do believe it is an idea which should be floated and looked at. If it can work in a small country like Switzerland then surely it can work here. The sports model in the United States is very successful and provides an exciting competitive product that is attractive to sports fans and sponsors. Surely Scotland’s football authorities should be looking at what it can do to make the most out of our limited resources. Do you believe Scottish football should look to introduce a smaller league and new franchise clubs in order to try and create a more competitive and exciting professional game?
ONE NIGHT IN MOSCOW
WORDS/CRAIG JOHN SHIELDS 22
“The Barcelona game will be the one that everyone remembers, but one night in Moscow is here it all started.”
HE mighty FC Barcelona, arguably the greatest team the world has ever seen humbled in front of a raucous Parkhead crowd. It’s a tale so majestic and fairytale like that in some regards it’s a Hollywood blockbuster just waiting to be happen. In years to come when Celtic reach their 150th, 175th and even 200th anniversaries the name Tony Watt and the Celtic team of 2012/2013 season will conjure up memories of that one night. The night when not only were Glasgow’s green and white the focus of Scotland, but the world. But here’s a thought, was it really Celtic’s best result in the group stage? You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that Celtic’s solitary win over Barcelona wouldn’t have been enough on it’s own to secure a passage through to the last sixteen, but this goes deeper than that. There’s a lengthy list building of teams who have visited Celtic Park in the past and been sent home with a tail between their legs. Juventus, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Lyon, Benfica, Liverpool and even Barcelona themselves have tried and failed previously. Of course it was different men wearing the hoops on previous nights but we all know that Celtic Park has that special something that brings a giant to it’s knees. In a round about way you could argue the point that Celtic beating Barcelona at home wasn’t the cataclysmic shock everyone thought it was at the time. Had it not been for vital points picked up elsewhere it could have been Benfica going through and they wouldn’t have even had to beat Barcelona to make sure of it. The home point against Benfica at the time seemed like a disappointment, a slow start to Celtic’s chances. But the home victory in the final group game against Spartak was a mixture of jubilation at finishing the job and relief at not wasting the Barca victory. However, there was a match more important than arguably every single Celtic home Champions League match combined. That was Moscow, the 2nd of October 2012 at the Luzhniki Stadium. The day Celtic recorded their first ever away win in the Champions League group stages in 19 attempts.
For years Celtic have toiled with away performances. No matter the team, manager, chairman or lunch lady it was always the same question. Is this the year that Celtic break the away hoodoo? And since making their inaugural Champions League bow back in 2002 the answer has always been a resounding no. In a strange way much like the Barcelona result we could have seen it coming. Neil Lennon had managed to steer Celtic to only one defeat in the previous five European away games. While the opposition wasn’t in the calibre of of some of the bigger sides who strut their stuff in Europe’s premier competition, that statistic couldn’t have added to any fear factor. But the way the game ebbed and flowed in Moscow clearly put seeds of doubt into not only the fans minds but the players too. After the hoops received a good start from Gary Hooper’s slick finish Celtic were pegged back and the nerves started to set in. All those questions prior to the game about the away record must have fed on the mangers and players minds during moments of that game. Lady luck appeared to have yet again deserted Celtic when traveling away from home, that was until the final half hour when Spartak were reduced to ten men following Insaurralde’s sending off. Despite being 2-1 down at this point there was a spirit and inevitability about this Celtic victory. An equaliser from James Forrest’s deflected shot and an inexplicably precision header from poster boy Samaras sealed the victory mere seconds before the ninety. But unlike the Barcelona win which was a sheer titanic effort of pure guts and determination the Spartak win was more of a fearless showing. The demons of previous Champions League campaign’s weren’t going to affect this team like previous ones. Even the great Henrik Larsson couldn’t engineer this hoodoo off the Parkhead club’s back. Barcelona will of course be the game everyone remembers. But should this Celtic side go on to achieve something great in Europe, it’ll be the one night in Moscow where it all started.
O L EL
R U O
Y E N hole
w e h t n o y t a l u p b , s s r e e g m i n t a t R a h l c u t f a n i w a p t s n u e j e o b t s “It has been a joy it ha ball.” foot EWAN McQUEEN
S I write, Rangers sit 22 points clear at the top of the Third Division, a year on from the advent of administration. It has been a rollercoaster ride right from the time in the summer when fans like me weren’t even certain that the club would be playing football this season. The opening Challenge Cup game at Brechin on July 29 last year was a slog, with captain Lee McCulloch eventually giving Rangers a 2-1 win after extra time. With several SPL players, such as Ian Black, Dean Shiels, Fran Sandaza and later David Templeton joining up for the journey, Rangers fans looked forward to a league campaign where they expected to steamroller part-time teams. It hasn’t quite turned out that way, despite the mammoth 22 point lead. Players such as Sandaza, Black and Shiels have been disappointing while it remarkably took Ally McCoist’s side until the end of October to record their first league away win, having embarrassingly slipped up on numerous occasions on the road, including losing to bottom side Stirling
Albion. As a season ticket holder, it has been astounding to see the loyalty of my fellow supporters every other Saturday in making the trip to Ibrox. Figures reveal that Rangers have averaged almost 47,000 for their homes games this season, which not only ranks them higher in European terms than Celtic, but also Liverpool and AC Milan. The home form on the whole has been largely impressive, but draws since the turn of 2013 against Elgin and Montrose left many fans angry and frustrated at the lack of motivation by the players earning thousands of pounds a week. One of the huge positives for Rangers this season has been making new friends and filling out SFL Division Three grounds the length and breadth of the country, enabling them to become debt-free and financially stable. I went along to Hampden on 29 December and it was truly special to be part of close to 30,000 other fans that filled out the national stadium as if Rangers were in a cup final. And I have been somewhat surprised at the level of quality by the teams in this division. I knew the players in teams such as Queens Park, Annan and Peterhead would raise
their game in so-called ‘cup finals’ against Rangers, but Queens Park in particular have impressed me with a nice brand of football and youngsters who played with no fear. Rangers have won 18 of their 24 games in Division Three, losing only one but the ‘big games’ have been the three cup ties against SPL opposition in the form of Motherwell, Inverness and Dundee United. In September, Rangers produced arguably their best performance of the season when they beat Motherwell 2-0 in front of an incredible under the lights atmosphere at Ibrox. From the first whistle, the Rangers players took the game to Stuart McCall’s side who simply had no answer to the aggression and physicality shown by the home side, who had only eight days previously suffered a penalty shoot-out loss to Queen of the South in the Ramsden’s Cup at the same ground. Disappointment was to follow in the next round at home to Inverness who were in sparkling form and left me depressed heading down the road, having scored three without reply in a Halloween horror show at Ibrox. However, the ‘grudge match’ occurred on the 2nd February when Rangersminus a large majority of their fans
who boycotted the match headed to Dundee to take on Dundee United. Within 15 seconds, the hype was arguably killed off by Dundee United forward Johnny Russell, who made it 1-0 to give his side the best possible start and leave Rangers fans across the land scratching their head. That performance that day for the first time made me seriously question the long-term strategy in place at Ibrox. I have admired Charles Green and his direct approach in standing up for the club and to raise £22m in a share issue before Christmas was rather impressive. That honeymoon period for the Yorkshireman is now well and truly over in my eyes and he needs to show what his longterm financial vision to take the club back to the club is. And the question of Ally McCoist and his managerial ability remains an extremely tricky one. There is not a Rangers fan in this world who doesn’t wish ‘Super Ally’ to succeed considering his legendary goalscoring prowess as a player plus his truly extraordinary work he did in single handily keeping the club together in the months of administration. However, the football in Division Three hasn’t changed much at all and at times is almost unbearable to watch. This should have been a chance for McCoist and his fellow coaches to implement a lasting legacy of quick, passing football at the club but that has been very shortcoming. And in the Dundee United defeat, the players looked devoid of fitness and motivation on a worrying scale. The last couple of performances against Queens Park and Clyde have shown some signs of McCoist willing to trust his players to play a simple and nice brand of football whilst players are played in their favoured positions. It has been painful at times but on the whole it has been a joy to just watch Rangers play football this season after weeks of thinking that might not be the case. The emergence of youngsters such as Lewis MacLeod, Barrie McKay, Fraser Aird and Chris Hegarty has been very pleasing and shows the future is bright for the club in that sense. Now the next task is to wrap up the league title and ensure it is done in a bit of style. Amazingly, Rangers might have to play some of these teams again next season if league reconstruction goes ahead. Whatever happens it will be one hell of a ride.
ONLY ONE STORY IN TOWN? Robert Robert
“Rangers may have won the battle, but the war is far from over as HMRC appeal and BDO sifting through the books.” WORDS/PAUL MCCONVILLE
N November 2012 oldco Rangers awaited the verdict of the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) in relation to the multimillion pound claim for unpaid taxes due to the operation by Rangers and its former owners, Murray International Holdings, of Employee Benefit Schemes. These EBTs are controversial tax reduction schemes, vigorously promoted by tax advisers in the early years of this century. Rangers used these to benefit players to the tune of many millions of pounds but in doing so had given the players “side-letters” confirming the payments the players would receive from the independent Trustees.
This had become known to HMRC after an unrelated investigation by the City of London Police in 2006 uncovered paperwork revealing these side-letters. HMRC argued that the operation of the scheme by Rangers to reduce tax was fatally compromised by these letters. At the same time the existence of these letters, revealed to a wider world by Mark Daly’s award-winning BBC documentary “The Men Who Sold The Jerseys”, prompted an investigation by the SPL into allegations that oldco Rangers had failed, contrary to SPL and SFA rules, to disclose all relevant paperwork regarding their players’ contracts over an 11-year period. The SPL considered there was a “prima facie” case of wrongdoing, and initiated proceedings before an Independent Commission chaired by retired High Court Judge Lord Nimmo Smith and two English QCs expert in sports la. After a brilliant PR campaign the general focus on this enquiry was whether or not it would “strip titles” from Rangers, and from Ibrox it was made clear that this was the ultimate sanction against which they would fight tooth and nail. Everyone was persuaded that title-stripping would be the most severe penalty, which ignored the fact that the Commission could have recommended suspension or even expulsion from football, or imposed massive financial penalties on the club, which continued in existence, according to the Commission, and thus on newco. At this point in mid-November Charles Green was well on the way to flotation of newco Rangers on the Stock Market, looking to raise millions to fund his team’s return to its rightful place, as he and its fans saw it. We all wondered how these two procedures would end. The world was poised. Then the verdict of the Tax Tribunal was published. By a 2-1 majority they decided that the EBT scheme had operated to give Rangers the desired tax advantages. The majority determined that the paperwork made clear that the money paid by Rangers to the trusts was then loaned by the trusts to the players, but only at the “independent” discretion of the trustees and was repayable, although there was no evidence of a single penny from the millions paid actually being repaid. The majority decided, in short, that the form of the scheme was more important than the substance.
The dissenting judge disagreed. In a scathing determination she pointed out that if it looked like a duck, walked like a duck and quacked like a duck, then it was probably a duck, even if the paperwork said it was a sheep (I paraphrase). It was pointed out that Rangers had failed to co-operate with HMRC and had concealed information throughout much of the proceedings. The verdict was a victory for Rangers, although it was accepted by the Tribunal that some of the schemes had been operated wrongly and thus rendered tax due, and in some of the cases the issue of liability as uncontested. The reaction from newco Rangers, and from Sir David Murray, was to call for inquiries into the “witch hunt” against Rangers and into the waste of money in proceeding with this case. The press followed that line. HMRC sought leave to appeal on the basis that the majority made a mistake in law. Their application for leave was granted and an appeal followed. It will be heard by the Upper Tribunal either towards the end of 2013 or in 2014. From there it could be appealed to the Court of Session and from there to the UK Supreme Court. Football fans might continue to hear about EBTs until 2016 or 2017 before this part of the tale ends. Following this verdict in November, we saw a successful share issue in December. Around £22 million was raised from institutional and private investors. These were shares in a new company, Rangers International Football Club PLC. It owns 100% of the shares in Rangers Football Club Ltd. The latter was originally called Sevco Scotland Ltd and was the company which had bought the “assets and business” of Rangers Football Club from the administrators back in June. Strictly the investors were not buying a share in “Rangers” but in the company which owned the company which owned the assets and business which made up Rangers (although that is not quite as “snappy” a slogan). All that was left was the Nimmo Smith Commission. On 28th February it declared its decision. Rarely can a decision of a court, tribunal or commission have prompted as much bemusement and misunderstanding. The Commission found that, for 11 years, oldco Rangers, through its Board, had engaged in a policy
of “deliberate non-disclosure” of required information to the football authorities. Whilst they said that there was no dishonesty, equally it was not the case, despite the spin from Rangers, that this was some sort of “administrative error”. The Commission decided that no ineligible players had been fielded though, on the basis that, once a player was registered, even if incorrectly and without disclosure of the required details, they stayed registered and thus eligible until registration was revoked. Therefore even though the players, arguably, ought not to have been registered, the fact that they were meant that they were eligible. As a result the Commission decided that the rule breach had given Rangers no “unfair competitive advantage” because they did not look at the scheme allowing them to play ineligible players. Instead, as there was no evidence before them of the difference that non-disclosure on its own would have made, they decided there was no such advantage. As there was no sporting advantage, then there would be no sporting penalties, so a fine of £250,000 was imposed on oldco. This baffled observers who wondered why else operate the scheme unless to gain an advantage. The verdict, despite being guilty on all four charges, was portrayed by Rangers as a victory, with again Mr Green and Sir David Murray demanding inquiries, and talking about witch hunts. This verdict will not be appealed. So as we enter March the immediate legal storm clouds have cleared from over Ibrox. The Upper Tribunal appeal will not be heard for some time. The liquidators of oldco, BDO, might come back to newco suggesting that the assets were sold for too little money, but that too is likely to be months, if not years, away. The saga is not yet over, but maybe for a while anyway there can be focus on the field of play (well, if we ignore league reconstruction, of course)!
Only in Scotland? WORDS/PAUL LARKIN
HEN I was about 15 years old my friends and I used to participate in a football game that was called a “Take on”. Essentially we were challenged to a game of football by another group of guys. The particular group of guys who challenged us were all about 17-18 years old. So basically this meant that, no matter how hard we tried, we just could not get the better of them. So one day, after having enough of being kicked and humiliated all over the park and getting plenty slagging off it, we decided to do something to even things up. We went round our scheme and rounded up some of the best and hardest football players we could find. When we showed up for the next take on, the looks on the faces of our opposition was probably payback in itself but worse was to follow. Their main man was a big guy who could also play. He burst into our box in the first minute, probably expecting a routine goal and at the point of shooting, was taken out with one of the hardest, but fairest, tackles I’ve ever seen. The playing field just got level. The decision by the independent panel, led by Lord Nimmo-Smith, to find Rangers Oldco guilty was one I think even the most biased of fans was expecting. It was the classic case of “if it walks like cheating, talks like cheating and acts like cheating, it’s cheating”.
What has stunned, but sadly not surprised, the Scottish football world is the decision to make the punishment a £250,000 fine for a club that does not exist anymore. As an American friend said to me “Isn’t that like fining a dead guy?” It’s yet another of those bizarre decisions where folk scratch their heads and say “Only in Scotland”. Also, when Lance Armstrong was exposed, lots and lots of people, who had been branded everything from paranoid to insane, said “Told you so”. Sound familiar? The case for title stripping was simple. Fans all over the country believe that Rangers Oldco set up a scheme where they could avoid tax enabling them to get players that they had no hope of affording without said scheme. This operation was then deliberately concealed from the SFA, or at least some of them, in order to ensure that the scheme could function without prying eyes. This was also just after a time when David Murray had gone gungho spending lots and lots of cash on players because he knew that there would be a huge amount of debt accruing that would never, ever be paid back, from the face painters to the Ambulance services. If that’s not unfair, then Enron’s not unfair. That’s when we get to the crux of why titles were not stripped from Rangers Oldco. Lord Nimmo-Smith expressed the view that they were
not given any advantage by signing players they could never afford normally. I’d love to hear him try and put that argument forward at Easter Road or Pittodrie where clubs played by the rules and saw chances of success be akin to an expedition to Mars. The most bizarre aspect of the ruling was the triumphalism that came from followers of Rangers Oldco. For some reason it reminded me of O.J. Simpson’s jubilation in court. At least he actually got a “Not Guilty” then. I often think back to that game where we got all those players just to beat those other guys once. It was great at the time but as a life lesson, it was awful. What we should have done is kept trying and trying and got to the point where we could beat them fair and square and that achievement may well have stayed with us for the rest of our lives. Now, I look back and think that was my Barry Bonds moment in life. Like when Usain Bolt was going for his second gold medal in row in the 100m at the Olympics and it was said that he would be the first ever to do that. Michael Johnson cut in and said “Uh, Carl Lewis did that”, Gary Lineker replied “Well, the first man over the line then” and Johnson’s reply was “Lewis was the first guy over the line legally”. That’s essence. Ben Johnson cheated and his legacy is destroyed. Why? Cause he could not handle the fact that his opponent was superior.
“Rangers fans triumphalism reminded me of O.J. Simpson’s jubilation in court. At least he actually got a ‘Not Guilty’ then.”
Rangers chief executive CHARLES GREEN is all smiles after Lord Nimmo Smith’s commission ruled that Rangers would not be stripped of their titles
VER since Yorkshireman Charles Green arrived at Ibrox, he has tried to win over the Rangers fans but to no avail. They threatened him, they abused and called him another Craig Whyte. Then it clicked he had to peddle Greenisms and how the Rangers supporters are lapping them up, while the rest of us are in stitches with Chuck’s latest chuckles. There have been so many Greenisms that we thought we should list them for some light hearted laughs at the man who saved Rangers!
With little thought for the real victims of Rangers’ scandal, Charles Green peddled the phrase Debt-free time and again. Then news broke that Rangers owed money to a Singaporean based company called Orit Enterprises. No longer are Rangers debt-free as Green claimed the Singaporean company were trying to swindle the Ibrox side. What is it they say about the pot calling the kettle black?
Rangers fan groups called upon all fans and the club to boycott the Scottish Cup tie with Dundee United at Tannadice. The club duly obliged with Green claiming it was due to the way the Dundee side had treated the Rangers fans previously and their vote against Rangers . Yet within weeks, Green announced that he would be going to the game as it was his responsibiity to do so. The players seemed to boycott the match also as they lost 3-0 to United.
While on a tour of North America, Green and commercial director Imran Ahmed claimed that Adidas and Real Madrid parted ways and that a deal with the German giants would be signed within days. And said deal would see Rangers Adidas’ biggest client. Days later Real Madrid and Adidas signed a lucrative deal.
On the same tour to America, Green and Ahmed, claimed that they were in talks with NFL side Dallas Cowboys with a view to tying up a lucrative commercial partnership. However, SCOTZINE revealed that tis was lies as Dallas Cowboys claimed they had never heard from Rangers or Green and that they would not be interested in such a partnership.
3. Oz link
If the false claims of a deal with the Dallas Cowboys wsn’t enough, Green then claimed that h had been in talks with Central Coast Mariners about a partership which would see Rangers being able to have first dibs on the best players and with Mariners acting as a feeder club for the Ibrox side. He didn’t reckon on being found out by SCOTZINE once again as Mariners rubbished his claims.
On a trip to Qatar, he stopped off in Dubai to speak to Rangers fans in the desert state. Here he proudly announced that Rangers successful IPO which raised £22 million, was the most successful IPO in the UK in 2012. However, he failed to do his homework once again as he forgot to mention that Direct Line’s IPO raised around £800 million.
Charles Green admitted to trying to buy votes wth a certain SPL club in the voting process which saw Rangers blcked entry into the SPL. Green told Rangers fans that he had offered to pay for the shortfall in season ticket sales that were lost if the fans boycotted that club’s games. Always thought bribery was illegal?
5. Revenue 9. Deals
Second only to Manchester United and Arsenal. That is what Green claimed Rangers would be with their brand new communications platform, kit sponsor and stadium naming rights deals. He claimed that outwith TV revenue, Rangers would secure £100 million turnover each year. A huge Greenism and that says a lot!
After six months of telling fans that the kit deal was just days away from being signed, it was indeed finally signed and that company being Puma. It was also announced that said kit would be sponsored by Blackthorn cider. Green claimed that Puma was one of the top two football brands in the world alongside Adidas. Claiming that Nike was a sports brand. Again he has failed to do his homework or he just likes talking rubbish
Greenisms WORDS/FROM THE HORSES MOUTH
SPL & SFA vote of no conf idence
HERE is one thing which broadly unites all Scottish football fans: the SFA and the SPL have dealt with the Rangers crisis disastrously. Whether the theory is conspiracy or incompetence, it’s undeniable that the situation should have been dealt with differently. At the centre of its handling should have been, to borrow a quote from SFA chief Stewart Regan, “about doing what’s right for the good of the game”. For any football fan, that would have involved ensuring fairness and taking action when that was compromised. For the SFA and SPL top men, it was about financial survival. The game faced Armageddon without Rangers, SPL chief Neil Doncaster insisted to football fans. The saga made the SFA appear a feeble organisation playing at governance. Questions were asked over how appropriate it was to have an SFA president who just happened to be embroiled in the EBT investigation by HMRC into undisclosed payments made to Rangers staff over a decade. Campbell Ogilvie, employed at Rangers from 1978 – when Rangers’ ‘sectarian signing policy’ was in its seventh decade - received controversial payments from the EBT scheme during its operation from 2000-2011. Ogilvie was company secretary at the club until 2002 and insisted he had no part in drafting or administering player contracts. He left the club in 2005 and became SFA president in 2011. To some, the idea that he held such an important role at Ibrox yet knew little about the administration and paperwork practices around EBTs is just not credible. At the very least, it implies serious incompetence. For the sake of holding faith in the governance of the game, one might expect Ogilvie to step aside from his role at the SFA. However, he stated his intention last year to stand for re-election of the presidency, and,
WORDS/ANGELA HAGGERTY despite HMRC continuing its legal case against Rangers’ EBT scheme, Stewart Regan doesn’t see a jot of a problem with it. Not only that, as head of the appellant body to which the SPL might appeal the recent judgement of Lord Nimmo Smith on Rangers’ undisclosed payments to players, Regan has already publicly suggested that “all parties draw a line under all that has gone on in the last 12 months”. One might consider it entirely inappropriate for Regan to make any comment on the situation within the timeframe the SPL has to appeal the judgement. Should the SPL choose to appeal the judgement, it may not fill many people with faith that the president of the appellant body was not only employed by the club during the contested period, but was company secretary and director. Lord Nimmo Smith’s tribunal found Rangers guilty of breaching rules regarding the declaration of payments made to players during the EBT years. However, the decision stated that millions of pounds of undisclosed payments did not give the club an unfair competitive advantage, and so punishment was delivered by way of a £250,000 fine, not the title stripping that many Scottish football fans had called for. An important testimony in Lord Nimmo Smith’s tribunal came from the SFA’s head of registrations, Sandy Bryson, who explained that – take a deep breath for this one – once a player’s registration had been accepted by the footballing authority, it remained valid until the player’s contract expired or they departed from the club, even if all the relevant documents had not been lodged. In essence, if the SFA could not revoke a player’s registration, making them ineligible, unless it was known that documents had been withheld and rules breached. That Rangers deliberately did not disclose that information meant
that the SFA had no knowledge of the issue, therefore players’ eligibility cannot be questioned in retrospect. The SFA, as John Reid once said, is not fit for purpose. The fine imposed by Lord Nimmo Smith, of course, will never be paid. It was deemed liable to Rangers OldCo, not the NewCo, run by Charles Green. To simplify, the judgement supported that notion that a football club is an invisible asset which can be transferred between companies, yet player registration rules can be broken by a football club over a decade and the liability does not belong to that transferable asset, only ‘the holding company’; and that the new Rangers Football Club can lay claim to 54 league titles and all the history of the OldCo, having shed all of its previous debt, including non-payment of tax to HMRC. Before the commission, the new Rangers CEO, Charles Green, claimed that the SPL tried to cut a deal with him to accept the stripping of Rangers’ titles without any investigation at all. It’s also documented that if Scottish football fans hadn’t intervened, plans were in place to allow the new Rangers to catapult straight into the SPL or First Division. The evidence against the governing bodies’ ability to administer the game is overwhelming, and the big question for Scottish football now is how it moves forward. It’s difficult to see a future for the game which involves Stewart Regan, Neil Doncaster and Campbell Ogilvie, yet there is no indication any of them will move on. As the No to NewCo campaign ably demonstrated, the ball is firmly in the fans’ court. Last summer, the supporters who have invested in their clubs over many years realised their power and were able to scupper the plans of the football authorities. Now the fans are hunting for justice.
Robert Snodgrass Robert
SCOTS IN EXILE: NORWICH CITY
f all the Scottish players currently performing in the English Premier League this season, few have had a more positive impact on their team than Robert Snodgrass. The former Livingston youngster left Leeds United in the summer for an undisclosed fee, thought to be around £3million and joined Norwich City on a 3-year deal. Snodgrass has settled very nicely into the Norwich 4-2-3-1 formation, playing primarily wide on the right-handside of the three attacking midfield players. With Kevin Pilkington on the left and Wes Hoolahan in the centre playing behind main striker Grant Holt, Norwich are well placed to avoid relegation for a second year. Snodgrass has endeared himself to the faithful at Carrow Road with a run of good performances and was influential as Norwich went on a 10-game unbeaten run in the league between October and December. This excellent run of results included victories at home against Manchester United and Arsenal. Snodgrass has aided his teams cause with 4 goals and 4 assists while missing just one league game, a 4-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He has also offered a better balance for the team playing in the wide right position with his good work ethic and instinct for when to attack and when to defend. To those who saw the Robert Snodgrass of Leeds United, his form has remained at a high level albeit he is playing in a tougher league now against
better opposition. In his last season with Leeds, Snodgrass bagged 13 goals in 43 matches, a fantastic return for a wideattacker. One of his main attributes Leeds fans will remember of Snodgrass is his ability to take a deadly free-kick. Norwich fans witnessed his weapon of a left foot with his fine effort against Southampton in November. Despite being a ‘fans favourite’, Snodgrass’ departure from the club was inevitable. It was the right time to move on. He was the best player at Leeds and arguably, one of the best players’ in the entire Championship. With Leeds failing to get promotion at the end of the 2011/2012 season their star asset only had 1 year left on his contract. Snodgrass was offered an extension to make him the best paid player at the club but he turned it down. Snodgrass’ journey to one of the best leagues in the world is a refreshing story. Unlike so many Scottish players, here is a character that has made decisions rationally and sensibly, instead of chasing the quick buck or joining a ‘big’ club at the first opportunity. It appears Snodgrass was more interested in learning and then developing his game. Too many young talents in this country move too soon to sit on benches of ‘bigger’ clubs rather than playing regular first team football. As a youngster, Snodgrass was a Celtic supporter. It must have seemed like a dream that they approach him while he was a trainee at Livingston. Instead of jumping at the opportunity
like you’d expect most youngsters to, Snodgrass turned down the approach because he felt at Livingston he would play regularly. The story repeats it’s self somewhat when Barcelona come calling an offer Snodgrass a trial at the Nou Camp. Again, Snodgrass rejects this opportunity to continue his development playing first team football as a youngster with Livingston. Gordon Strachan will surely have ‘Snoddy’ on his radar for his international selection. He has much reason to be watching Norwich City with Russell Martin and Steven Whittaker also on their books. Snodgrass is part of a clutch of players that we have to expect to start performing for our country. Frustratingly, the likes of him, Charlie Adam, James Morrison, Shaun Maloney and Barry Bannan –players we see performing to a good level in the English Premier League and who all have ability – fail to stand up and take some responsibility in a Scotland shirt. Morrison especially was shown a lot of faith by Craig Levein but failed to make the impact most expected of him. The next aim for Snodgrass’ should be to push on and an impression with Scotland. He will be looking to improve on his number of caps (8) and number of goals (1) and be a focal point to the Strachan regime. If he can manage that, his career journey will be complete and will hopefully he told to remind young players the importance of development and playing time in their developing years.
FACTFILE Date of Birth: September 7, 1987 Age: 25 Place of Birth: Glasgow Club: Norwich City F.C. Position: Midfielder/Forward
CLUB CAREER Livingston July 2003 - July 2008 70 Apps 15 Goals Stirling Albion [Loan] January 2007 - May 2007 2 Apps 5 Goals Leeds United July 2008 - July 2012 168 Apps 35 Goals Norwich City July 2012 - Present 22 Apps 4 Goals
SNODGRASS in action for Norwich City
SCOTLAND Appearances: 8 Goals: 1
WOMENS FOOTBALL MONTHLY “Glasgow City’s continued success, forces other clubs strive to improve and develop their product.” WORDS/KEVIN CANDY
T’S been quite some time since I’ve had the opportunity to pen some thoughts as wouldn’t you know it we ended up being a little bit busy towards the end of last season. The race for 2nd place going to the final day, including a 20 minute thumb twiddling session at Aberdeen Sports Village waiting to hear the outcome of the late kick off at Barrowfield. Then there was a first appearance in a Scottish Cup final; a real memory for the players, coaches and the two coach load of supporters that travelled from Forfar. A season of achievement and progression no doubt. Now those of you who read my last journal on Scotzine, may recall me sharing our mantra of trying to ensure a little bit of progression each and every year. After a year of real progress we are left with the challenging prospect of trying to go one better in terms of achievement in 2013 or on a more basic level strive to prove that last year’s performance was not that of “one season wonders”. And why shouldn’t that be a realistic aim. Whilst there has been something of a transition in terms of squad personnel, typically for us it has been minimal. We’ve been able to welcome back both Nivanna Crighton and Holly Napier from Celtic – both promising youngsters when they departed for the central
belt in 2010, returning in 2013 having developed their talents further. Certainly their attitude and application suggests they are both well deserving of being now being considered as SWPL players. Meanwhile our staffing resources remain consistent for yet another season, something that I’ve always felt has been key to our successes. Head Coach Mark (Nisbet) is now into his ninth year of service with the team which, in these days of constant managerial upheaval, I think is quite laudable. So certainly the necessary building blocks appear to be in place, but this alone cannot be relied on to produce another successful season. Both coaches and players are well aware of the challenges that lie ahead in the SWPL this season. I for one will be curious to see how this season plays out given the changes that have taken place with the other teams. Glasgow City have seen Jane Ross and Emma Mitchell fly the nest, with a number of talents from elsewhere in the league taking their place; attracted to the product (a topic I will return to) that Eddie Wolecki Black has put in place during their many years of success. Celtic will welcome the return of some of their long term injury absentees, whilst Spartans will look to reassert themselves on the leagues upper echelon after what I’d imagine was a disappointing 2012. Hibs have seen a number of
established players move on, thus giving opportunities for their talented youngsters to take to the 1st team stage and Hamilton will use their fantastic showing in the 2nd half of last season as a spur for successes this year. 2013 will also see a resurgence of Rangers with an exciting squad in place headed up by an experienced and talented coaching team, boosted by the signing of Scotland international Megan Sneddon from city rivals Celtic. Our near neighbours Aberdeen will aim for top six again, whilst further north Buchan make their SWPL bow. I for one can’t wait for the season to get underway! I touched on the topic of player movement earlier; more so the reasons why this can take place. In this amateur game where payment of nothing other than reasonable expenses is permitted to players, the power lies with the players themselves to choose where they wish to undertake their footballing activities. Players want to be part of well organised teams with coaches dedicated to the development of the players themselves – and not the personal quest for success of the coaches themselves. Develop and educate players and wouldn’t you know it half the time success will follow. City’s repeated domestic successes are proof of this. Other SWPL clubs,
including ourselves, must continuously strive to improve and develop to offer a product that is attractive to potential players. The complaint that “City have all the best players” doesn’t cut the mustard with me one bit; more so when we find ourselves playing the City role within our local region. Over the years we have developed a fairly expansive youth structure with around 180 girls signed for the club at present. As the only SWPL club in the region the product we offer is naturally attractive to potential players. Again the complaint of “but Forfar have all the best players” resonates around the region. But again the power lies with the player in that respect – the power to make decisions on how best to develop themselves at players. The decision of Holly and ‘Niv’ to move to Celtic a few years ago was demonstrative of this. Young players these days are far more knowledgeable in terms of football education and what is required to make themselves the best they can be. If a player feels that their current club is not offering them the necessary tools to develop their skills then they will seek it elsewhere. Simple! The onus therefore lies with those clubs to analyse their own structures, priorities, facilitates etc and consider if they form an attractive package to both current and potential players. The clubs who ask themselves the hard questions will ultimately set themselves on the journey to renaissance whilst those that are unwilling to “get their own house in order” will be left to continue airing their tales of woe to anyone who may be willing to offer their ear. There is some fantastic potential within the region in terms of clubs. As Norwich City’s Delia Smith once said (but probably wishes hadn’t) “Let’s be ‘avin you”. Everyone wins in a strong region. True story. But no one will make the hard things happen for you. Also a true story.
Give us the coverage we deserve: The role models exist and the interest exists....
COTTISH women’s sport and particularly, Scottish women’s football has arguably never been so hotly debated as it was this week after Daily Record journalist Gordon Parks came out with what was in my opinion one of the most sexist and backward pieces of journalism seen in the last decade. In his opinion column and later on that evening on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme, he claimed that investment in Scottish women’s football was too much as our female footballers had not achieved. He also claimed that because there was a lack of knowledge of female Scottish sports stars, this further highlighted the fact that there should be limited investment as the general public was not interested in female sport. I was astounded by the ludicrous nature of these claims and indeed challenged Mr Parks directly on the programme. How can for what is supposed to be an educated man not realise that the media construct role models and investment makes sports stars? We have role models throughout Scotland, the problem is that outlets such as his newspaper fail to let the
public know about them. To make matters even more incredible, Mr Parks was sitting next to Lee McConnell a five time competitor at the World Championships and double Olympian, and dared to say that only when women like her achieved, should they get column inches. What level of achievement is he looking for, if Lee has not achieved enough for column inches in his eyes already? I am delighted to say there has been nothing but backlash for Mr Parks from fellow journalists and the general public, but we need to make this wave of opinion count. According to research conducted by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation after the Olympics in London, 75% of adults want to see increased media coverage of women’s sport as part of the Games’ legacy, and 81% think our sportswomen are better role models than other female celebrities. Surely these facts cannot go ignored any longer and women in this country can start to achieve more coverage and improve on the less than 5% of media coverage they currently get. The role models exist and the interest exists if journalists like Mr Parks would just let the public be aware of them.
FANS Q&A In the first of our Fans Q&A we speak to Partick Thistle fan Jim Deeson. What team do you support? And why do you support them? JD: Partick Thistle. My grandpa took me to a cup replay with Kilmarnock at Firhill back in 82/83 with a young Maurice Johnston grabbing a late equaliser. That grabbed my interest and enjoyed the experience enough to go to a quarter final tie with Aberdeen. A few seasons later I started going more regularly with mates from school and even ended up selling programmes. This developed into travelling on the supporters bus the length and breadth of Scotland. Met many good folk through following Thistle and enjoy the banter and the expectation of the unexpected that I feel only Thistle can truly provide. This has kept me going back through the lean and leaner times. The good football on display this season has proved a further incentive. Who are your rivals and what do you think of them and their fans? JD: Our rivals can be a contentious issue. Traditionally and geographically the ugly sisters to the east and south of Firhill have been the teams we love to beat. However this has wained a little as we flit through the leagues below the SPL. However when we get back to the top flight I’m sure we will relish playing Celtic and possibly The Rangers. When I started going Clyde were in
the same division and ground-sharing Firhill. I feel Clyde saw us more as rivals, than we did them. Much the same as Thistle are seen by Old Firm fans. At the time games against Falkirk and Kilmarnock always seemed to.attract bigger crowds. So in recent times we have had fluid rivalries as we have lacked a derby partner for a good while. The promotion campaign has developed a rivalry of sorts with Morton and some good games and excellent crowds have backed that up!
Rangers in the cup semi was fantastic. We had 12,000 fans showing the potential.support for a successful Thistle team. However my personal highlight was back in 92/93 on our return to the top flight after a ten year hiatus. We beat Celtic 2-1 at Parkhead thanks to a double from Geordie Shaw on 26 September then beat Rangers 3-0 at Firhill to cement our place in the league for tbe following season at the start of May. It’s always good to get one over these two as a Thistle fan.
Who is your star player and what does he bring to the team that the others do not? JD: We have some old heads and a batch of very promising players at Firhill ranging from club legend Alan Archibald with over 400 appearances through to Stephen O’Donnell and Stuart Bannigan who both represented the U21 team against Greece recently. However the man who talk about has to be Chris Erskine who was plucked from Kilbirnie Laedside five years ago. He’s an entertainer harking back to the legendary winger Denis McQuade. Chris is unplayable at times, frustrating at others but is always dangerous. Sometimes it looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing so what chance have the opposition got? This season he has brought consistency and a hard working ethic to his game and we are reaping the benefit. He has a good scoring record and scored another wonder goal against Airdrie United on Saturday. His goals and ability to force opponents.into giving away fouls will have a big say on where we finish this season. Sadly, if we do not go up Thistle have little chance of holding onto him next season and I’m sure SPL clubs have been sniffing about as he is out of contract in the summer.
Worst moment? JD: Ooft! I could be here all day, but I don’t want to dwell on the negative. For me it has to be losing at Tannadice in 95/96 in the 2nd leg of the promotional play-off. This proved.to be the proverbial kick in the stones. We found ourselves on the brink of staying up with minutes to play despite enduring an uninspiring season under the tutelage.of Murder MacLeod. We then failed to clear the ball and Brian Welsh equalised.on the night, forcing extra time. Then our archnemesis Owen Coyle scored the winner to.consign us to division one after four seasons in the Premier. Gutting! Our relegation lead to a poor season in division one where we lost money hand. over fist and by the following season we were on the brink of extinction and were only saved by the Save the Jags campaign.
Your favourite moment as a supporter of your club? JD: There have been good times following Thistle, honestly! I’ve witnessed five promotions, a flirtation with the Intertoto cup and of course a win in the Tennents Sixes. Getting to Hampden to see us play
If you could buy any one player from World football past or present who would it be and why? JD: My favourite non-Thistle player growing up was Scottish national hero, Diego Armando Maradona. A great talent but with more baggage than the reclaim at Glasgow Airport. My team signing would have to be Lionel Messi. A great, if not the greatest player I have seen. Has a great attitude and seems to enjoy himself. What is your take on the current plans for league reconstruction? JD: League reconstruction leaves me with more questions than answers. It is suggested Thistle may benefit to the tune of £300,000 with the current proposals.
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But where is this cash coming from? There is no sponsor for the top league and what TV deal is in place? Not sure about the 8-8-8 split proposal, will it maintain interest in the league? Could in theory lead to meaningless fixtures at the start of the season rather than at the end imo. Overall I feel it is worth a try. But we need to look at the bottom of the league as well. Not sure about two new clubs bei.g admitted.next.season but a pyramid system has to be seen as a move forward. How much of a loss is Jackie McNamara to the club and its promotion chances? JD: The loss of McNamara felt like a body blow at the time. However, he has the right to move to what he feels is a better position at a higher level. It was just the timing that seemed to grate with a lot of Jags fans. He has made a good start at Tannadice and might not be there much longer than he was at Firhill. Its a funny old business. In terms of affecting our promotion chances Archie has made a solid start and has focussed the squad on the task at hand. A lot of the players were disappointed as Jackie had brought them to the club. A draw at Cappielow and back to back home wins at the time of writing seems to have kept the promotion bus on course. Archie knows the playing squad and staff inside out and seems to have the players behind him 100%. Being a club legend also gives him a period of grace with most of the Firhill faithful. Playing wise we seem a bit more solid at the back. Archie has watched from the sidelines as Aaron Muirhead and Conrad Balatoni have reformed their impressive partnership. Much is made of Morton’s experienced
players, but Archie, his assistant Scott Shaggy Paterson, Shug Murray and Stephen Craig all have experience of winning the first division. Thistle are taking one game at a time and so far so good. Our lack of away wins is a worry but I feel that will improve due to Archie’s tweaking of our tactics. He has given us a slightly more defensive look but there is goals throughout the team. Who would you like to see take over the role as manager? JD: You may have guessed that I feel Archie should maintain the manager job at least for this season and hopefully beyond. Archibald has the backing of the board, players and most fans I have spoken to. He knows the club and its ideals inside out and I can’t think of a more deserving candidate.for bringing success to Firhill. Funniest chant or song you have heard at the football? JD: I’ve heard many funny chants over the years following Thistle, my personal favourite is “Mary from Maryhill” and still raises a laugh. Stevie May on loan at Hamilton has been getting it tight with chants of “You’re just a sh*te Andy Carroll” due to his pony-tail and lack of goals against us this season. In general the atmosphere at Firhill has been vastly improved with a singing and standing section for home fans in the stand at the north end of the ground. A fans group OneThistle have been behind this and are looking to improve the matchday experience at.Firhill. Singing Championees in May would be most.welcome but there is a lot of ground to cover and balls to be kicked before then.
Contributors: Ewan McQueen, Kevin Candy, Alan Rennie, Donald C. Stewart. Laura Montgomery, Jim Deeson, Douglas MacKay, Angela Haggerty, Paul McConville, Paul Larkin, Craig John Shields, Nathan MacKenzie, Anthony Horan and Stuart Caie. Photographers: Vagelis Georgariou, Brian Doyle, Phil McCloy, Liam McFadden, Patrick McGuire and Actionplus. co.uk Copyright: All work in this magazine is copyright FITBA and Scotzine. All usage of material within these pages is forbidden without prior consent. Published by: Scotzine With thanks: Pie & Bovril Disclaimer: FITBA is not affiliated with any club or governing body. All views expressed within these pages are that of the author and do not always represent the views of FITBA magazine or Scotzine. Advertising: For all enquiries please email us at email@example.com
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CRAIG GORDON: The former Hearts and Sunderland keeper is between the sticks for Douglas. Currently without a club, Gordon’s career has stalled due to injury, but has done enough to warrant inclusion in Douglas’ first Eleven. Douglas says: If it wasn’t for injuries he would be one of the best in the world. Buffon said so and he pulled off one of the best Premiership saves ever!
ARTUR NUMAN: The former Rangers and Holland full back takes up the left back berth in the side and who could blame Douglas for selecting Numan, who is regarded as a Rangers lend. Douglas says: The Dutchman was one of the finest left backs in the world and was first choice in a classy Dutch side. Who else would I pick?
DAVID WEIR: The fomer Rangers and Scotland defender is an obvious choice, given what he did in the game both north and south of the border with Everton and Rangers. Despite his fall out with Berti Vogts, Weir returned to Scotland to be a mainstay in the side up until his legs eventually called time. A professional’s professional. Douglas says: A late developer but made up for time with Hearts, Everton and Rangers.
RUSSELL ANDERSON: To partner David Weir in the heart of the team, Douglas selected Dons favourite Anderson. In his prime, the defender was one of the best in the SPL and Douglas belevies his traits are impossible to deny him a place. Douglas says: A true leader and a fine captain of Aberdeen Football Club.
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ach month FITBA asks Scottish football fans and those within the game for their Football XI side. First up is 29 year old Hearts supporter and season ticket holder DOUGLAS MACKAY.
JACKIE MCNAMARA: Former Celtic and Aberdeen defender, McNamara completes Douglas’ backline and there is no denying that his place is warranted. He was a long term servant of the Parkhead side and club captain also. After hanging up his boots, he turned around the fortunes of Partick Thistle into First Division title contenders and that saw him snapped up by Dundee United as their new manager. Douglas says: A great player and his versatility would be of significant help to the side. RUDI SKACEL: Being a Hearts fan, it is no reat surprise that Douglas picks cult hero Rudi Skacel for his side. A quali player who was instrumental in the Tynecastle side demolishing city rivals Hibernian 5-1 last season at Hampden in the Scottish Cup Final. Sadly financial issues at the Edinburgh side saw the Czech depart the capital city for the city of Dundee. Douglas says: A high scoring left midfielder and fan favourite. RONALD De BOER: Another Dutchman who arrived on the scene a Ibrox along with his brother Frank and his class of footballer did not disappoint. For £4 million, During his four years at the club he won one SPL title, two Scottish Cups and two League Cups. Douglas says: A world class midfielder on his day.
PAUL GASCOIGNE: The Englishman was a genius with the ball at his feet and its sad to see how much he has declined over the years, but hisdays at Rangers may have been at the wrong end of his career,but despite that he was still one of the best in the country during his time at Ibrox. Douglas says: A world class midfielder on his day. BRIAN LAUDRUP: Voted the best ever Foreign layer at Rangers, Laudrup deserves those accolades and much more. The Danish playmaker was a God of football - even if Chick Young tried to claim that he was a waste of money early in his career. No matter what club you supported - to watch Laudrup at his best was awe-inspriring. Douglas says: A goal scoring winger and world class player on his day.
HENRIK LARSSON: A bargain, a steal, a legend, a god among bhoys. When talking of Henrik Larsson you can actually run out of words to describe him. Just like Laudrup, Larsson was voted as the best ever foreign player at Celtic Park and is second only to Jinky Johnstone as the greatest ever Celtic player. Douglas says: Amazing centre forward with work rate and great scoring record
PIERRE VAN HOOJIDONK: Part of the three amigos group - inc Jorge Cadete and Paulo Di Canio - at Celtic Park. He was a great addition to Tommy Burns’ Celtic side, but will forever be remembered for his post-match comment in the UEFA Cup as he blamed the floodlights for him missing a header in front of goal. Douglas says: A Freekick specialist and all round great forward.
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