After a season that has been dominated by ‘the Invincibles’, a resurgent (then woeful) Hearts, an inspired Aberdeen side (now being disbanded), and the best league result for Partick Thistle in years, we asked a selection of pundits and fans to come up with their ONE THING they’d change about Scottish football starting season 2017/18.
1. Size Matters
Phallic symbolism is always a crude art form and it creeps into Scottish football not by the raging phallus, the speeding sports car or the bulging trouser-line, but by the size of your crowd. I tire of the boasting that goes on, online and in the bars and brothels of Scottish football about attendance figures. It is vacuous clarion call of the big clubs and supposedly a measure of shame for smaller clubs. But as as fan of St Johnstone, I have long since ignored the cock-waving of bigger clubs, so what they draw of a bigger population base but that’s’ about it: all that posturing for simple data. I prefer to benchmark my club against local competition and use the Perth Concert Hall as my touchstone. This ‘season’ the concert hall will host among many others Jimmy Carr, Russell Brand and Loudon Wainwright III. Guess what? If they fill the venue they will have attracted 800 people. Eevery second week St Johnstone attract four times that number to watch a local team play football. What is remarkable is that so many people care about their local club and follow them in such numbers with a near religious zeal. Scotland’s crowds are proportionally the biggest in Europe, rather than celebrate this astounding fact more time is spent comparing the length of tadgers behind the bike sheds. Pathetic.
– Stuart Cosgrove, St Johnstone fan and broadcaster
2. Standing Room Only
The experiment in creating terracing at Parkhead has been a huge success, lets copy it at every ground. As Copa90 has written: “With all the famous noise and devotion on matchday, the large majority of fans here still feel shackled to their seats while supporting their team. The same cannot be said of football fans in Germany, Sweden or Austria, where they are able to enjoy standing safely on the terraces. Safe standing has been prevalent for years in these countries and has, in Germany in particular, proven to be a resounding success both economically and atmospherically. You only have to catch a glimpse of the Dortmund Yellow Wall to realise how breathtakingly impressive football fans can be when standing in unison.”
If the SG created interest free loans it could help clubs create safe standing spaces which would improve the atmosphere at grounds, give something back to loyal fans and respond to demand from supporters. Almost all grounds in the top division have spaces where this is possible. In the unlikely event of your club reaching European competition, the standing room can be converted into seated areas. This could boost attendance, improve atmosphere and bring a bit of joy back against the corporate football culture.
– Alex McGregor, Kilmarnock fan
3. Acting Collectively
Celtic are Invincible, or so it seems. They managed to land a great manager and overcome what must be the worst conspiracy against anyone ever to go an entire season undefeated. But while Celtic may be miles ahead, and may be for some time yet, we need to act to improve the quality of all of the game to create a better and more competitive league environment. The Old Firm is dead, so let’s stop going on and on about it. If Chick Young mentions the “natural order of Scottish football” one more time I will decapitate him. So what would benefit all clubs? Better media coverage would.
The current radio, online and television coverage is a poor quality, underfunded dogs breakfast. The production is poor, the camera angles are few, the punditry is bowfin. ‘Open all Mics’ is embarrassing. Sportscene is a day late. The BBC should be asked to radically improve their coverage or sling their hook. SKY should be given the heave and all media should be out out to tender. There’s young hungry innovative media companies out there who could do 1000 times better than the old cloggers and has-beens that cover the game with such tedious monotonous predictability.
– Johnny Boyd, Aberdeen supporter
4. The Fairer Sex and the Beautiful Game
We need a higher profile for the women’s game in Scotland. Anne Budge and Leeane Dempster have done wonders to raise the profile of women in the game but its the actual players and teams that need the exposure now. Now in its sixteenth year the womens game in Scotland is thriving despite being routinely ignored. We need proper coverage of women’s football. Stop treating us like some second class supporter, stop ignoring half of your fan-base. The media coverage and general attitude to women in and at football is still in the dark ages. We should have a weekly radio show and highlights on Sportscene.
– Maggie Edwards, Stirling University fan
5. Dissolve the SFA
Now that the Craig Whyte trial is finished, it’s now time to look at the Offshore Game Report. The media silence on these issues is deafening. As the Offshore Game Report says: “Ongoing court cases prevent comment on a number of aspects of Rangers’ liquidation, and the subsequent sale of the assets which allowed a team to play again at Ibrox. It may well be that the current criminal trial concerning some of the former directors of Rangers may bring out more regulatory failings. The two cases that are dealt with in the Offshore Game’s report however, which have nothing to do with the matter under consideration by the criminal court, call into question whether the SFA can be considered a fair and impartial regulator of Scottish football. This is a question that the SFA has, thus far, flatly refused to answer. And that itself points to a much bigger question: is the SFA an organisation capable of fixing itself and adopting the required standards of transparency, accountability and fairness that fans of Scottish football deserve? The evidence presented in this report does not amount to proof of corruption, and we do not allege corruption at the SFA. But the evidence does strongly suggest that the SFA is unable, if not actively unwilling, to ensure fair play. Major changes in personnel and governance structures will be necessary if the SFA is to show itself fit for purpose.”
We need to dissolve the SFA and start again.
– Jamie Alexander, Hearts fan
6. Socialism Soccer
Being a Celtic supporter who is also a Socialist I must confess that rarely do I stop to ponder the fundamental dichotomy which lies at the heart of this. Much of what I despise about capitalism – its inequality; its elitism; its ‘might is right’ philosophy – I accept about Celtic. I care not a jot that the entire weekly wage bill of Aberdeen is eclipsed by Leigh Griffiths’ child maintenance quantum.
What would there not have been to like last Saturday about a smaller club with an admirable work ethic winning the Scottish Cup – a trophy they hadn’t won for 27 years? And so I’d propose that the Scottish government legislates to nationalise football. The training academies of the richest clubs would be annexed and every team in the league would have an equal chance at securing the services of a gifted young player.
These starlets would sign a five-year contract with the government. In return for being trained and coached in the national academy system they would accept a strict wage cap. Each would pledge the first seven years of his career to Scottish football on pain of being banned sine die from representing Scotland if they moved abroad during this period. The fans would return in their droves to Rugby Park, Fir Park and McDiarmid Park knowing that routine humpings by Celtic would end. The trickle-down effect on the football economy would be startling and the feeling of wellbeing among Scottish men would transform our working class communities.
– Kevin McKenna, Celtic fan
7. Time for real leadership & governance
Scottish football has taken quite a pasting over the past few years from many within our game and especially those out with it. From the so-called poor quality of football and players on show to attendances, the lack of finances and competition at the top, ticket pricing, sectarian singing, and the state of refereeing in our game. However, if there was one specific issue I have to focus on and demand change it would have to be the total lack of leadership in our game – both at national and league level. Scottish football is fronted by two individuals who have officiated over a decline in our game at all levels and who seem to do nothing about it other than paying lip service to those who ‘hired’ them, their lack of leadership and looking after the commercial interests of their respective organisations rather than the good of the game – primarily the Scottish FA bleeding the fans dry with ridiculous ticket pricing off the back of numerous campaigns of failure.
The heads of the Scottish FA and SPFL, Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster, are not fit for purpose and the fans have nothing but contempt for both. Both individuals who were widely criticised during their time at Yorkshire Cricket and Norwich City respectively, yet sauntered into the top jobs in Scottish football – why and how?
Their governance of our game is a sham, their job roles are nothing more than a token position to take the flak off the real rulers of our game – the clubs. If your game is to improve and progress then we must rid our game of these two charlatans and rip up the structure of our game’s governance and have an organisation in a position of power whose first order of business is to better our game across the board, to protect our game’s sporting integrity and not ignore rules and regulations to safeguard what little money is coming into the game because one club is bigger than the other. Time for real leadership in our game. Can you say we have that just now? I can’t.
– Andy Muirhead, blogger and Celtic fan
8. Get Healthy
Why is Scottish football sponsored by bookies and booze? Whenever we talk about fixing the game it’s always short-term changes that are discussed. But with a population suffering from diabetes heart disease and obesity why do we still have a game associated with booze and betting, with the kids football sponsored by MacDonalds? Long-term this is a disaster. Children look to role models and the possibility for players and clubs to act as models for heath and fitness is being completely lost here. Some clubs have done great even putting health clinics into the actual stadium for match day health check-ups (see Game Changer programme for example), but we could do so much more.
Ditch McDonalds and gets healthy alternative sponsor, ditch Ladbrokes and BetFred and get one of the great Scottish games or tech companies in instead.
– Mike Small, Hibs fan
9. Unity around Resolution 12
In a season when all the focus was on the dramas unfolding on the pitch at Celtic Park and off the field at Ibrox the biggest issue in the game remains the one nobody is paying attention to, the urgent need to reform the SFA. Nowhere is this clearer than when we examine Resolution 12, which is the “smoking gun” revealing the incompetence – perhaps worse – of our governing bodies. The decision to give Craig Whyte’s Rangers a European license for season 2011-12 was a scandal amongst many; in looking into it you find roads that go everywhere and which reveal our “leaders” as nothing of the sort. Instead you see unworthy, frightened men scrambling to protect a status quo which was on its last legs. A group of resolute shareholders at Celtic, aided by an online network of bloggers and researchers, has done incredible work in burrowing through to the truth of that matter, but to no avail.
Why have such a determined group failed, thus far?
In part it was lack of interest by the clubs, Celtic included. A feeling that this was a “Celtic fan” campaign stopped the issue from being more widely recognised for what it was; one about general football governance in Scotland. Other club’s supporters were content to let Celtic fans “carry the water” because they didn’t recognise that they had a stake in too, and the SFA and some in the media were able to use misdirection, and promote it as the “obsession” of bitter people who want blood, and revenge, on a football club they don’t like whilst ignoring that it was never about Rangers itself but the people at Hampden who looked the other way on that and other things. If anything’s going to change for the better in Scottish football that change has to start at the top, with real reform and the passing of robust rules to stop this kind of thing – and what happened generally at Ibrox – from happening again. And the only way we’re ever going to get it is by the fans coming together and pushing their clubs to do the same.
– James Forrest, Celtic blogger
10. As I sit in the glorious summer sun of Portugal I wonder what of Summer football, of course not here in the Algarve, but for Alba. It goes without saying that summer football in the Mediterranean climes is just plain silly, but for back home in Scotland it is something I think should be given serious consideration for a number of reasons. The first is of course the greater chance of better weather, yes it’s Scotland and it can piss it down in July, but on the whole it’s the chance to play & spectate in warmer temperatures. Enjoy the longer nights with a few drinks in the beer garden followed by a stroll down to the stadium to watch football played on greener surfaces and perhaps no AstroTurf in sight, surely this is something that would appeal to punters.
While the punters saviour the summer spare a thought for our European representatives who are getting ready to go back to training not long after stopping, surely it would be beneficial for those teams to be mid season and potentially giving our clubs a better chance to qualify for group stages of European competitions. The final reason & one not as often discussed is TV scheduling. Our revamped League Cup now sponsored by Betfred has been scheduled to start in July, so that it to fill’s the void left by an empty football calendar. If our Premiership was competing at this time it would potentially attract much more TV coverage & money.
We all know how TV money has super-inflated the game elsewhere, maybe all we need to do is play in the summer to be kings of Europe again!
– Michael Stewart, football pundit
11. Knock down Hampden
The Tartan Army are ruthlessly loyal despite decades of disappointment. So why is our national stadium not even the biggest or best stadium in Glasgow, never mind Scotland?
Since it was redeveloped its lost all or any of its atmosphere. Sure you can get some kind of atmosphere if its ram-packed but this is despite not because of the layout. Its design is fatally flawed, with its open bowl-like shape doing nothing to create a buzz. As part of a serious effort to rejuvenate the entire game we should commission a brilliant state of the art stadium to create a vibrant contemporary hub for Scottish football, with community access, superb youth training facilities and a design that will make Hampden a stadium opposition countries are afraid of again.
Send in the bulldozers.
– Graeme McKinnon, Scotland fan
12. 50/50 gate money split between teams
When Scottish Football was at its most competitive this is how we shared the wealth between ALL competitors. When two teams play both are as relevant when on the same pitch. The large clubs will suffer particularly Celtic and ‘Rangers’ but they have enough fans to continue thrive in all commercial areas and massively benefit from TV and prize money. As a Hearts fan I know that Hearts would suffer but Im happier to have a thriving exciting league that is fun to watch than watching teams go to the wall and snuggle for existence. Hearts have the Foundation of Hearts that help them financially and other clubs who lose out on 50/50 gates could do the same to offset any loss. Stein said without fans football is nothing … but also without opposition football is nothing.
– Mike Gunn, Hearts supporter
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