2007 - 2020

On the Need for a Scottish Football Festival

UEFA this week announced a four-week deadline for the SPFL to decide on final plans for the future of this season’s Premiership campaign. Amidst all the acrimony here’s a proposal for how to finish the league, bring much needed income to the clubs, bring back the football in the lockdown, and retain some integrity for the game.

The Scottish Professional Football League was formed on June 27, 2013 when the Scottish Football League and the Scottish Premier League merged to create a single body to govern the 42 league clubs in Scotland.

I can’t see it anywhere on their website (which is astonishing) but I believe the SPFL has a responsibility to govern, ensure the integrity and future stability of the game in Scotland and to sell the product with as much value as possible.

Here is a proposal that could fulfill all of these criteria.

There are 48 games left to play to resolve the Scottish Premiership.

SPFL should launch a ‘Scottish Football Festival’ – one month of solid football – to conclude the season. In July or August … or September.

Closed door games televised live. All of them. 2 games every day.

Each game will require approximately 100 people who are all tested.

We estimate the costs for this to be under £50,000, costs vary from £2 to £8 per kit, plus the employment of medical staff to monitor the process over the month.

The event would require 2 x playing squads, match officials, physios, TV crew, and security to be tested and declared fit.

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Aberdeen have 8 games left – Aberdeen play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Celtic have 8 games left – Celtic play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Hamilton have 8 games left – Hamilton play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Hearts have 8 games left – Hearts play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Hibs have 8 games left – Hibs play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Kilmarnock have 8 games left – Kilmarnock play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Livingston have 8 games left – Livingston play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Motherwell have 8 games left – Motherwell play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

Ross County have 8 games left – Ross County play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

St. Mirren have 8 games left – St. Mirren play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 32 days (one month)

St. Johnston have 9 games left St. Johnston play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 36 days (one month)

Rangers have 9 games left – Rangers play 1 game every 4 days – Complete after 36 days (one month)

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FIFA have suggested that clubs might be able to use up to five substitutes to aid with fixture congestion.

Contractually I believe the SPFL must provide 30 live games to both BT and Sky in this current season.

So far under the existing TV deal there have been 18 shown by BT and 17 games shown by SKY. Both (between them) now have 25 left to contractually show out of the remaining 48.

The SPFL should now offer SKY and BT the other 23 games for £10m.

Based on an average viewing audience (in normal times!) of 100,000 per game, charging £5 per game the TV companies could raise £11,500,000. Plus advertising revenue. Plus an increased audience desperate for football. Plus the 100,000 that attend matches each week that cannot now go because of lockdown / social distancing restrictions. We are now talking three times the amount.

Each Premiership club can then get a pay-out of £833,000.

The fans get to look forward to some much starved entertainment, which is important for everyone’s mental health.

The TV companies get to televise their product and increase advertising revenue.

The league retains its integrity that it is in danger of losing.

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What are other countries across Europe doing?

Serie A – Italy have announced a plan to return and complete.

Players can (and are) doing individual training to get ready for this, as is being done in Italy.

In the English Premiership – they intend to complete season.

La Liga – intend to return.

If those leagues can do it, so can Scotland. Everywhere in Europe want to complete on the pitch. Only Scotland wants to end without completing and dish out trophies and relegation. It’s a parochial embarrassment.

The SPFL will meet Scotland’s Sports Minister, Joe Fitzpatrick, on Tuesday (5 May) to discuss football returning. The SPFL board are said to be open to any method allowing games to be played, including behind closed doors.

This is a plea for the SPFL to show some leadership, show some ingenuity and sell the game.

Let’s do this.

Comments (16)

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  1. John Hughes says:

    Sorry but this is totally unworkable. The thought that Sky will cough up £10m to market on pay per view Hamilton v Livingston etc is risible.
    All the example countries quoted may have laid out plans for behind door games but almost certainly won’t implement them. Indeed France today have called a halt to their league and confirmed PSG as champions.
    It would be impossible to keep to social distancing guidelines in these circumstances and if just one player , after playing a game, tested positive for coronavirus then everyone that he has come into contact with would have to self isolate for two weeks.
    There will be no sport , behind closed doors or otherwise, before August at earliest and probably not even this year. Would you as a player, coach , ball boy etc risk your health for a game. Not to mention the medical staff taken away from front line duties to attend sport. Football just isn’t that important

    1. It may or may not be possible. The broadcaster would be asked to pay for the whole thing as a package.
      The idea is in place of the complete void of any apparent leadership from the SPFL on this subject.
      There are lots of questions about how to do this, but they are at least worth exploring.

  2. David McGill says:

    Well done. Full marks for effort and ingenuity. Two questions.
    What about the other leagues?
    What about ALBA as a broadcaster?

    1. Good idea to cascade some money down to lower leagues as well, yes.

      ALBA might be a good broadcaster but not if the aim is to generate some income.

  3. Alasdair McDonald says:

    I have seen the cost of tests quoted at £150 – £225 each. This is significantly higher than you quote and would make the process unaffordable for virtually all SPFL clubs.

    1. Sources vary widely. I’ve seen them costed at a £1.

      I think the cost you are quoting is for a private clinic?

      The cost wouldn’t be born by individual clubs but would be dependent on the whole package and the tv deal.

  4. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    Sorry for lowering the tone of what is a thoughtful piece with considered comments. The Scottish football writers, which, is an affiliated Rangers Supporters Club (I am stretching the truth here), will rubbish this unless it does not guarantee that Rangers win the league or, even more important, that Celtic are not in any way allowed to get to “Nine-in-a-row”.

    My impartial view is that the decision on relegation from the Championship should be reversed IMMEDIATELY!!!!!!!

    1. No need to apologise, thanks for your comment.

      It strikes me that the conspiracy against Celtic isnt a very good one, is it?

    2. Derek Thomson says:

      Absolute garbage.

  5. Henry Mearns says:

    Your solution strikes me as cloud-cuckoo land and naive in the extreme, but even if it was a starter not including any detail on overcoming the numerous fundamental difficulties undermines any credibility. No credible medical expert or epidemiologist is even countenancing thinking about this yet as quite simply not enough is known about the virus, so perhaps it is more sensible to wait until there is a semblance of things being under some current potential signs of control before resuming football is even a topic to be considered.
    What happens if someone tests positive? I suggest the game’s a bogey as the house of cards would collapse – and what then happens in terms of losses/embarrassment and suing/counter-suing which would ensue. If more than one person involved has the virus are you suggesting we carry on regardless – presumably not otherwise why test, so you need to explain what happens if any test proves positive (relevant team banned from other matches with no points, or something else?). What about the difficulties of not being able contractually to offer the games to TV – or do you either not care if the SPFL (ie the clubs) gets into bother and suffers liability when they can ill afford it, or simply assume that this will be a starightforward issue which hasn’t’t already been discussed to some degree and already ruled out in this form at least as unacceptable? (in which case? Which insurance company underwrites risks (if any?), and what would cost of premium be (not small if even available for catching virus and resultant knock on issues, loss of income, inability to fulfill fixtures etc)?
    What if Government doesn’t permit any football until after your latest date (September)? Are you proposing we do this 36 days festival BEFORE 20/21 season, no matter when – or have you a date following which your festival would be abandoned/scrapped so we could start next season? If the former, then do you accept you risk they’re realistically being NO next season as insufficient time left, or what is your plan for 20/21 that doesn’t create contractual issues for SPFL and a ridiculously short season? If the latter, depending on your latest end date For festival, same question. You state there is a void in SPFL board thinking – but the proposal is clear (in terms of coinciding this season, leaving some flex for Premiership if in the extremely unlikely scenario it might be possible to co-ordinate and agree with Government, clubs, players, insurers, sponsors, TV and other stakeholders – npot forgetting fans, most of whom while missing football acknowledge health is much more important), and seems to most reasonable people without an agenda as considered and thought-through in extreme circumstances and so reasonable allowing some POSSIBLE planning for next season (whenever it becomes clear that may be possible to start) – and I fully expect that will not be in August but mid late October earliest, likely later. We need to wait now until things become a lot clearer before assessing realistic proposals, then discuss and refine these in light of known data and measurable risks (considered sensible to take).
    Listen, it would be nice to see a way of getting games back on, but do you seriously think that’s possible in the next 6 months without huge risks and ridiculously involved (and expensive) logistics – which have the odds stacked against them anyway so are not risks worth taking? I’d be more respectful if you were honest and said simply scrap season 20/21 and hold end of 19/20 games when Green light is properly given by Govt/medics/regulators – but if we do that of course a large number of clubs would go bust and you’d have to admit football as we know it is finished and would effectively have top restart in Scotland afresh. Now that’s a scenario that might be worth discussing but don’t serve up this supposed simple solution as any sort of workable option, please.

    1. Me Bungo Pony says:

      There are problems no matter what scenario plays out. The author has given us a potentially workable solution IF the hurdles can be overcome. All the potential costs mentioned would be a small fraction of the costs of not finishing the season. So I don’t believe them to be the problems that are implied.

      As to the medical problems; each member of every team’s squad and and back-up staff would need to be tested before each game and remain in “group” isolation for the duration of the competition. That is not insurmountable. It has to be remembered that the guys on the pitch will be young men at the peak of fitness for whom Covid is of little more risk than the common flu.
      Flu outbreaks in squads have not gotten games cancelled in the past. Regular testing and group isolation would protect both themselves, their families and the wider community.

      The idea that there would be no interest in these games from the viewing public is, in my opinion, nonsense. Without the back drop of massive crowds, Old Firm games would be no more of a spectacle than the maligned Hamilton v Livingston game. More people would obviously watch the former but many would still happily watch the latter just to get “a hit” of competitive football and, perhaps, be impressed by the comparative standard of play without the distraction of the crowd.

      All in all, I would welcome this idea. It won’t happen because the SPFL is just not that innovative and the “terror” factor is still too strong. But I, and I think many more, would sign up to this in a heart beat. Even the Romans knew you needed circuses along with the bread to keep the masses content.

  6. Doric_loon says:

    Wonderful! We’ll have 48 matches (I make it 49, but never mind) crammed into less than 5 weeks, at a rate of approx.10 matches a week.

    Even better, our much loved (!) ‘Old Firm’ will crank into gear, featuring in no less than 15 of these matches, one every 2 & a bit days, including (by my reckoning) two clashes between the pair!

    Better still, at some point in all this the green-and-white army will be able to celebrate ‘ten-in-a row’.

    All this will of course be accomplished while maintaining full social distancing etiquette (2 metres apart at all times), no unnecessary journeys, no mass gatherings, no raucous behaviour, no drunkenness and absolutely none of those tuneful ditties we all know and love….
    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Blair says:

    If the football kit is upgraded to ensure safety of the players who cannot keep to social isolation requirements then football games could possibly go ahead. How would players feel about playing with a motorcycle helmet on for the whole game? This will cost the clubs some money, but given that it would protect their valuable players & provide them with the means to continue playing games to meet their contractual obligations. To ensure fairness FIFA should make changes to be mandatory for all football players worldwide.
    Our Government could take the lead.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    The footballs used could be transparent spheres containing 3D-printed models of the coronavirus in biodegradable plastic designed by schoolchildren in a separate competition. Every footballer pulling at shirt/shorts/hair of another would be sent off the pitch for a five-minute hand-washing penalty. Group hugging celebrations would be immediately quarantined with riot foam supplied by one of the sponsors. Robotic challengers will compete to return lost balls to play. And every decision by the referee should be met with a mandatory round of applause.

  9. James Mills says:

    ” Only Scotland wants to end without completing and dish out trophies and relegation . It’s a parochial embarrassment ! ” Wrong !

    The Dutch have ended their season as have the French without ”completing” … they have a slight worry called Covid-19 which has been killing people . You might have read about it , Mike Gunn , it has been in the news lately !

  10. Kevin Hattie says:

    Just as politically I hope this outbreak changes the way we organise society, I also hope that football changes path post-Covid-19. A lot of the wealth in the game is heading into the hands of a few superclubs and domestic leagues all around Europe are becoming backwaters. I also hope that fan ownership becomes something more common. The supporters are being bled dry in Scotland. Crazy money for a very ordinary product.

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