Why football is shite…

As part of our end of season mini-series (see also The Whiteness of Scottish Fan Media, Scottish football, the power of loss and who in authority champions our game?, Scottish Football: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly) – Brian Pendreigh looks back to football in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

When I was a kid football was great and now it’s shite.

In September 1971 Airdrie played Manchester City in the Texaco Cup, an event involving Scottish, English and Irish teams. Airdrie drew 2-2 in Manchester and won 2-0 at Broomfield park, with its iconic pavilion and changing rooms behind one of the corner flags. This was a Man City line-up that included Scotland internationalist Willie Donachie and England striker Franny Lee as substitute.

On Saturday Man City play Inter Milan in the final of the European Champions League, Europe’s premier competition. Airdrie were not in it. This is of course a much better Man City team. A golden generation from the streets of east Manchester? No. Their biggest star Erling Haaland is Norwegian and washed up in Manchester via Molde, Red Bull Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund. It is all to do with money. Haaland has been as quick to move to bigger, richer clubs as he has been finding his way into opponent’s penalty boxes. No doubt the football will be technically excellent, but where is the romance and adventure?

Next month Manchester United play the French club Lyon in a pre-season friendly. At Murrayfield. In Edinburgh.  And the cheapest tickets are over £50. And no doubt kids will be pestering their dads to take them to see the famous brand in action, this despite the fact that we have a local top-tier club just half a mile away at a ground that used to regularly host Tottenham Hotspur for pre-season friendlies that did not cost a fortune.

In the 1969 game between Hearts and Tottenham the Spurs team included such household names as Jimmy Greaves, the legendary Irish goalie Pat Jennings and World Cup winner Martin Chivers.  For a long time Scottish clubs were competitive with English clubs, sometimes better than them. In the Texaco Cup the year before that Airdrie-Man City match, Airdrie put Nottingham Forest out, Hearts beat Burnley, Motherwell beat Stoke and Morton beat West Brom home and away.

Back in 1953 the Coronation Cup was designed to pitch the best Scottish clubs against the best English clubs, with hopefully a cross-border showdown in the final, but the English simply were not good enough, with Celtic and Hibs ending up as the final two, after Hibs beat Newcastle 4-0 in one of the semi-finals.

And in 1967, Celtic famously became the first British club to win the European Cup, the predecessor of the Champions League, beating Inter Milan with a team comprised of ten players from Glasgow and one from Ayrshire. That same year Rangers reached the final of the European Cup-Winners Cup and Kilmarnock reached the semi-final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, basically the predecessor of the Europa League.  

That would not happen now. It is 19 years since any side outwith the “big four” leagues – England, Spain, Germany and Italy – won the Champions League. It was made easier by the authorities dumping the old-fashioned idea that you had to be champions to play in something called the Champions League. Now also-rans from the big leagues go straight into the group stage while genuine champions have to play a series of qualifying matches during their summer holidays.

Two years ago the final was an all-English affair with Chelsea beating Man City. But this was not a bunch of Londoners lifting the trophy. Of the 11 in the Chelsea starting line-up and 12 substitutes only five were English, which is one more than their opponents had in their squad. Chelsea were in their own way pioneers – they were the first club in the English Premier League to name a starting line-up without a single English player in it.





Football, television and big international money between them have created a handful of superteams in England, Spain, Germany and Italy, including Man City, which is basically Abu Dhabi owned. These are the colonial powers of football, buying up the best players in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia. It is only a couple of years since the superteams tried to break away and form their own exclusive little superleague only to be thwarted some anachronistic, perhaps even slightly anarchistic force called fans.

Yes, the football at the top level is technically excellent on excellent pitches, better than ever before but where is the romance? I recently rewatched a VHS tape of Aberdeen beating Real Madrid in a Euro final from 40 years ago. I was there in Gothenburg on the night and remember the rain, but I had forgotten just what a bog the pitch was. Mostly I remember the romance of it all, the Dandy Dons beating the might Real, Peter Weir running rings round his opposite number and that match-winning header from supersub John Hewitt.

But where are Aberdeen, Airdrie and Celtic now? Not beating the big boys any more, with the occasional rogue result from Celtic maybe. Celtic may not be able to reach European finals these days, but they dominated the Scottish game this year again, winning a “historic” treble. But this is their fifth time in seven years? Surely the historic seasons are those in which they don’t win the treble?

Aberdeen were the last team other than Celtic or Rangers to win the Scottish League, way back in 1985. This year Celtic won the Premiership with 99 points and Rangers were second on 92. No one can touch them simply because they are so much richer than anyone else. They both have bigger turnovers than the rest of the league put together, with their coffers boosted by the big money from early round games or group stages in Europe. They can buy up the best players in Scotland and pay them more to sit on the bench than anyone else can pay them for a starring role.

The dominance of the Old Firm is self-perpetuating, the same little club of two, a dysfunctional marriage without any prospect of divorce. And yet financially they cannot compete with the dregs of the English Premier League, whose purses are swollen by television riches. Celtic’s revenue was £88 million in 2021-22. Brentford, who traditionally play in the lower leagues, were promoted to the English Premier League and saw their turnover shoot up to £141 million in 2021-22, up from £15 million the previous year.

Aberdeen were third in the Premiership, way back on 57 points – just the odd 42 points behind. The dispassionate outsider might look at this and think it was just a little, well, mind-numbingly boring, regardless of the standard of football, same old, same old, year after year. It is much the same in England, except the equivalent of their “Old Firm” includes a few more clubs, financed by big money, selling their brands internationally, from Singapore to Murrayfield.

But where is the game I grew up with? You have to go down to the second tier to find a league with some excitement and romance and unpredictability, where everyone seemed to be fighting for promotion or relegation. But it is not the same, not the same at all. This is lower league football – competitive but not very good. The days when Celtic and Aberdeen were the best teams in Europe, and Airdrie beat Man City and Nottingham Forest are gone now.

I might go along to watch Spartans in a game next season, now that they are in the league. I won’t be paying 50 odd quid to watch Manchester United and Lyon. There was a time when, like any good Scotsman, I would have been supporting Lyon against the latter-day combatants of our Auld Enemy out to put the upstart Scots in their place. But what is the point now? It is one bunch of super-rich foreigners against another similar bunch, mercenaries wearing colours of convenience. And frankly my dear I don’t give a damn. Me and football are now divorced.  Well, maybe there is just time for one last song, altogether now… You can shove your Man United up your Arsenal.

Comments (53)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. seonaidh says:

    Good piece. Am a fourth-generation Jambo but I’ve been attending Spartans’ games on occasion for years. Great community club.

    My sons are Jambos but the youngest is obsessed with Man City, much to my disdain. Hopefully he’ll grow out of it.

  2. James Ferguson says:

    Nice piece Brian, I was at that Hearts v Spurs game with my brother. If I remember correctly Hibs trad pre-season friendly was against Newcastle

  3. Jon says:

    Saw both Spartans play-off home legs and will definitely be back to see them next season!

  4. Derek says:

    Wander the lower leagues, but take in the odd league game too; makes for a good variety. I was at the Bo’ness -vs- Dunipace cup final on Sunday, and have been to see a wide variety of teams over the last couple of years; from Hearts downwards.

    Spartans have really good pies.

  5. Sandy Watson says:

    Football, like many other ‘professional sports’, is a sport no longer.
    It is a business, and a nasty one at that.

    Better sports to participate in and to spectate at are those that are mostly amateur, that take place on local pitches and courts, where everyone can get close to the excitement, the reality of what’s going on.

    Their players may well have dreams and aspirations of greatness or stardom as they train and play, but they are rooted in the reality of the game: they know they will not be that international hero/star.

    And while the big business of ‘professional sport’ burgeons and lurches from one multi-zillion deal to another, controlled only by money interests and ripping-off ticket prices, the real sports are being starved of basic resources, thereby denying local folk access to what might once upon a time have been healthy, life-enhancing activities.

    That’s the world we live in.

  6. Doug says:

    United fan here. (That’s Dundee, not Manchester.) I was 17 when Princess Grace of Monaco sat behind the Taylor’s Coal sign at Tannadice. Back in the day. Left Scotland to go overseas in the late 80s. When I came back a few years ago, it was to a completely different world of football, everyone I knew seemed to be supporting an EPL team, and Scottish football and Scottish players were a joke.

    Don’t expect the SFA to do anything about it either. What an apposite set of initials.

    Nothing will change. Just the Old Firm running the game in Scotland for their own benefit.

  7. Dr Paul says:

    You’re saying what we’re thinking. Nice work

  8. John says:

    The article is stating a lot of facts even though it is through a rather jaundiced eye.
    There is no doubt the SFA & SPFL are content for Old Firm hegemony to continue as infinitum primarily for tv money.
    However let us not forget that in 2012 when Rangers were out of SPFL there was a chance to change the 10:2 voting system that ensured the Old Firm control.
    The other 11 clubs in league then could not even agree to change voting arrangements- I believe it was the then Aberdeen chairman Stuart Milne who blocked.
    It appears thatNeil Doncaster’s blueprint to improve Scottish football is basically to copy everything from England – renaming league’s Championship etc.
    We cannot turn click back and way forward for Scottish football is to get its own identity – how about summer evening football for League Cup in years of no World Cup or Euro’s – make it regional for local derby’s- tv would be interested if no other football and current League Cup is a lost tournament.
    The one thing not mentioned in this article is how crowds are growing with many clubs getting higher average attendances than during 60’s, 70’s & 80’s. Bear in mind that many. average attendances were boosted by large OF supports in years gone by and this is no longer the case.
    So I would contend that despite years of lack of competition to OF, poor leadership the game outwith OF us still loved and followed by many in Scotland.
    I remember when I was young many older people bemoaning falling attendances, lack of competition to Celtic in early 70’s and hooliganism. We should cherish the past but not hark back to it but demand the change to help make game flourish in the future.

  9. Derek Thomson says:

    Don’t forget though, that the Championship in Scotland is a great league, and provided the game of the season on Sunday, when Thistle lost on penalties after an unforgettably exciting game, Thistle having been superb in every play-off game. It was nerve-shredding and ultimately heartbreaking for Thistle, but it was brilliant to watch, with excellent football. It’s not all doom and gloom. And I was at the second leg of that epic Burnley encounter, first leg in Burnley 4-1, then Hearts winning 5-1 at Tynie. Happy days.

  10. SFTB says:

    Nostalgia without analysis Brian. What are you going to do about the Bosman ruling, about TV money financial doping, about the dominance of (non) Champions League competition by the Big 5 leagues, by the threat of a Superleague breakaway by the heavily indebted “elite” clubs.

    Unless you have proposals to counter this , the same effects will continue worldwide. The clubs that dominate their leagues (1, 2, 3 or 4 clubs are habitually challenging in all but the minor leagues) will earn wealth from Euro competitions that will perpetuate their dominance. Celtic and Rangers have earned in Europe; the other Euro qualifiers have not earned as they are not (yet) competitive and rarely reach Group stages.

    Unless you have solutions to these issues you are just singing the Saw Doctors song “My heart is living in the 60’s still”- a fine song but no manifesto.

    As it stands, Celtic and Rangers are too dominant for Scottish football; they always were. They have won, between them, 108 of the 127 league title in our history. Only 19 times has their hegemony been broken. They are resented for their dominance by all but their own supporters, and their departure is feared because it may leave Scottish Football as relevant as the Welsh or Maltese league.

    So, you need to propose solutions that can overcome these prevailing tendencies. The same tendencies that affect Belgian, Austrian, Croatian, Romanian and Polish football. Titles are going into an ever more concentrated smaller circle of clubs.

    The SSFA propose taxing successful clubs and handicapping them. It is a policy of resentment, a form of pseudo-socialism and it won’t work. Which group of supporters are going to give half their money to clubs that hate them? We don’t ask successful theatres to pay a tax to unsuccessful ones, nor do we do so with other commercial enterprises and professional football is both a sport and a business.

    I see no alternative but to let clubs find their own level of operation based on the money they earn and the customers they attract. Supporting Hearts or Spartans or Linlithgow Rose won’t see you escape those pressures. Well run clubs will gain further success and grow bigger. Letting Celtic or Rangers do what Cardiff and Swansea can do would free the air for a while and let other clubs become the new Big 2 or Big 3. With the amount of money the SNP are putting into Edinburgh, I would be betting on Hearts to be the new Top Dog and establishment team.

    1. John says:

      Once again you have just demonstrated the sense of entitlement of OF clubs.
      A few historical facts – yes Celtic & Rangers have won more trophies than any other clubs but up until 1990’s other clubs regularly either won league or challenged for it.
      No other league in Europe has the history of only 2 clubs finishing first and second for 30 years.
      Celtic were within hours if going broke in early 90’s and Rangers went belly up in 2012 after a decade of living beyond their means – a little less preaching would be appreciated.
      Lastly there is one vital difference between football and many other forms of entertainment- it takes 2 teams to make a game.
      As for your political rant about no socialism in sport and jibe about SNP I recall your previous post claiming to be a socialist- I have met plenty people who go around claiming to be a socialist but don’t actually believe in socialism in action – mainly in the Labour Party.
      The one thing I do concur is there is no point looking backwards it is the future that counts. With the sense of entitlement and power that OF have in Scottish football the future looks bleak without some radical change.

      1. SFTB says:

        “you have just demonstrated the sense of entitlement of OF clubs.”

        Well- that’s the charge- let’s see the evidence.

        “A few historical facts – yes Celtic & Rangers have won more trophies than any other clubs but up until 1990’s other clubs regularly either won league or challenged for it.”

        Define regularly- 19 out of 127 titles. Even discounting your determination to view the last 30 years as any kind of anomaly- that leaves you with 19 out of 97- for all the other senior teams put together. If Challenging is enough then Aberdeen, Motherwell and Hearts have managed 2nd place in recent years. Them’s the facts.

        “No other league in Europe has the history of only 2 clubs finishing first and second for 30 years.”

        Neither has ours as I have just demonstrated. In the 90s Celtic often failed to finish 2nd and Rangers have failed in recent years to even be in the division. However the trend for clubs who qualify for Europe to dominate their domestic leagues remain. Whether it’s 1, 2 or 3 clubs – it’s still a league with a lot of also rans. Rosenborg, Maribor, Olympiacos, Zagreb, Anderlecht, Legia, RB Salzburg, Basel, Copenhagen and Zagreb have all enjoyed historical dominating runs, even if they lose an occasional title or two.

        “Celtic were within hours if going broke in early 90’s and Rangers went belly up in 2012 after a decade of living beyond their means – a little less preaching would be appreciated.”

        Celtic were within hours of being foreclosed for a small level of debt by a bank which enjoyed a cosy relationship with a rival club. Despite their manoeuvrings and the weaknesses of our Board at the time, Celtic supporters did save their club with their own money and effort. We did not tax other clubs to get us out of this debt. Rangers did go bust but were allowed to resurrect in the 4th tier even though Spartans, Kelty Hearts and others may have wished for that position. The only preaching I am hearing is from those who thought Celtic and Hearts and Rangers efforts to secure a pathway for their talented youngsters was an affront to decency and democracy- even though the Spanish, Germans, Dutch and other similar backward nations, do not restrict so.

        “Lastly there is one vital difference between football and many other forms of entertainment- it takes 2 teams to make a game.”

        And it takes 10 or 20+ to make a league. This may differentiate it from competition between theatres but to answer the point you are hinting at- both are cooperative ventures- ensemble efforts – but the lead parts still get the bigger pay packets, adulation, following and roles. As I said there are elements of socialism and capitalism in our beautiful game. It is neither socialist or capitalist in the round but it is commercial and you must pay your own way and earn your own position through talent and finance.

        “As for your political rant about no socialism in sport and jibe about SNP”

        You misread that sentence and I have repeated my view above. I made one gentle jibe about the SNP and that was that they were Embra-centric. Can you possibly dispute that? Certainly in drawing in finance- there is one major 21st Century growth spot- the Lothian are our SE England.

        ” I recall your previous post claiming to be a socialist- I have met plenty people who go around claiming to be a socialist but don’t actually believe in socialism in action – mainly in the Labour Party.”

        You have neither reason nor evidence to doubt my socialism. Whatever weakness there is in that value within the Labour Party, it is more than equalled in both Alba and the SNP- who prefer to blame Westminster than actually implement any progressive taxation. But I also understand the reasons for that as they do not have full independence to do so. Therefore they talk as socialists while pushing universal credits like the Baby Box and Student fees- which in turn favour middle classes disproportionately.

        “The one thing I do concur is there is no point looking backwards it is the future that counts. With the sense of entitlement and power that OF have in Scottish football the future looks bleak without some radical change.”

        I agree- let’s put forward solutions. I’ve put mine forward. Break down National Leagues and let big clubs and middling clubs find their own level. For all that other club supporters level the charge of “entitlement”- they take a fairly irrational course towards this disliked imagined tendency. They don’t want the two larger Glasgow Clubs – the O** F*** as you call them- to dominate domestically but they also won’t let them leave even though it may bring about a levelling of opportunity for a few more clubs. Well, at least until hearts become the new establishment club.

        1. Doug says:

          Edinburgh centric? From where I sit, it’s M8 centric.

          As for Hearts being the new powerhouse, unlikely. Financially none of the other Scottish clubs come anywhere close to Old Firm plc. proud owners of the SFA.

          Other Scottish clubs are now essentially feeder clubs to the OF. Fans of other teams are resigned to losing any half talented players either to them, or to lower league English clubs, just to keep the money coming in.

          It’s shite being Scottish (if you like football and you’re not from Glasgow…).

          1. SFTB says:

            The prediction of Hearts being the new powerhouse was specifically predicated upon the 2 Glasgow clubs leaving the field.

            Hearts and others may be predated upon for players by the Glasgow clubs but hearts recruit from less well off Scottish clubs and Celtic & Rangers get predated upon by the likes of Bournemouth and Southhampton. That’s the food chain we all have to live with since Bosman, TV free money and Champions League distortion effects kicked in.

            All clubs, wherever they are in the chain, have to trade smart, sell as high as they can and buy as good as they can for as low as they can.

            Ajax lose a £50m plus player every 2nd year and often lose 3 or 4 young stars at once. Yet they re-invest in their Academy and in S. America and begin their rebuild, recognising the reality of their position in the chain. And they can provide a good baptism for their 18 and 19 year olds in the 2nd tier of Dutch football.

            Hearts are one of the few clubs that don’t benefit from having Lennoxtown graduates in their squad currently but Aaron Hickey spent more time at lennoxtown than with Hearts youth before switching back to break into your first team and earn Hearts a transfer. I believe Craig Hackett is an Auchenhowie graduate and many Scottish team have one or two.

        2. John says:

          By challenging Imean a sustained challenge ie having a realistic chance of winning league in March orApril.
          Let’s look at last 70 years
          From 1945 – 1965 – Celtic&Rangers never finished in top 2 other teams won league and challenged closely for league.
          1966-1970 Celtic & Rangers top 2.
          1970’s Aberdeen challenged 71&72 Hibs challenged 73 (even though 3rd) 74 & 75
          76 & 77 Celtic& Rangers
          78 Aberdeen 2nd went to last day
          79 United challenged to end even though 3rd
          1980’s Aberdeen, United & Hearts challenged every season or won league
          1991-95 Aberdeen& Hearts challenged.
          Since then no realistic challenge by Non OF teams even though they finished second when Rangers out of league. One exception was Hearts in 2006.
          So it is obvious that fem 45 to 95 non OF teams sustained a league challenge on a regular basis but have failed to do so since then.
          Like most nonOF fans I would now be happy for Celtic & Rangers to go elsewhere to allow league football to breathe again. The problem is the OF have very little chance of being admitted to English leagues as they don’t need them or baggage that goes with them.
          Fans in Scotland have rejected Conference League because they are fed up with OF dominating and running everything and suspect it is a Trojan horse tohaveIF teams still in Scotland while they try and play in a bigger league elsewhere.
          Lastly it is obvious that you care not for Scottish football only for Celtic (obviously not alone there).
          The disdain you show for Scotland supporters also comes through which is quite common in OF fans though I thought this was mainly reserve of Rangers fans.

          1. SFTB says:

            Let’s not cherry pick any period of time. Look at the league titles won from the 1890’s until now, decade by decade. The first figure is for titles won by Celtic or Rangers and the second figure is for titles won by any other club. These figures read:-

            6.5 to 3.5
            8 to 2
            10 to 0
            10 to 0
            8 to 1
            3 to 1
            5 to 5
            8 to 2
            10 to 0
            7 to 3
            10 to 0
            10 to 0
            10 to 0
            3 to 0

            The only decade that broke the trend is the 1950’s. A decade of recovery from war, no investment, no coaching and pre-Bosman- a decade of levelling down. A decade when England beat Scotland 7 times and we managed only 1 win and 2 draws. But there had been Glasgow club domination in the 1910’s 1920’s and 1970’s.

            Even allowing for your further refinement – challenging 2nd place achieved by a club outwith the big 2 Glasgow clubs. The stats are not conclusive. First of all you need to account for league gaps widening mathematically since the 1994/5 introduction of 3 points for a win rather than 2- so all gaps between first and second, second and third etc; have increased by a significant factor. League Gaps used to be closer before that time even when Celtic and. Rangers were competing for first and second. And, anyway, you win no title for 2nd place. but here are the figures by decade for 2nd place finishes (2 Glasgow clubs first and all the rest comprising the 2nd figure):-

            6.5 v 3.5
            4 v 6
            7 v 3
            4 v 6
            5v 4
            1 v 3
            4 v 6
            6 v4
            5 v 5
            4 v 6
            5 v 5
            9 v 1
            4 v 6
            3 v 0

            There has always been a good chance of a club outwith Celtic and Rangers finishing 2nd apart from the period 2000-2010. And yes I know Rangers took themselves out of contention form 2012 for 4 years but Celtic were financially out of contention for a long period post WW2. It wasn’t finance or crowd power that changed that; it was Jock Stein. We attracted ever bigger crowds through our coached success. The Edinburgh clubs did not retain their attractiveness to crowds and achieved less. This was in the era of pre-Bosman indentured player registrations and no TV money or Champions League fund advantages.

            You say you would be happy to see Celtic and Rangers drift off but I hope you’ll admit that is a minority preference. The vast majority of fans of other clubs resent the dominance of these clubs but dear to let them go because the league would be diminished by 2 large clubs. Other Club Chairmen, with their commercial heads on would oppose it and so would the Scottish League and the SFA.

            You are honest enough to admit that the conference vote or threatened vote, to be precise, was a vote of resentment. The collateral damage was the prospects of young Scottish talent at lennoxtown and Auchenhowwie. The effect will not make other clubs stronger but could see a talent drain of talented youngsters, denied a career pathway, draining to England or even going to other countries where B teams are allowed in 2nd tier but denied promotion. The other collateral damage was to the commissioned report as to how Scottish talent could prosper. We are prepared to throw out the expert advice because we fear it would further Advantage what you call the O** F***.

            The disdain you discern in me is a projection of you and your fellow fans thoughts. I have no disdain for clubs trying hard to make a go of it in a tough commercial climate. I have admiration for the likes of John Boyle who tried every marketing trick he knew to grow the Motherwell support but got little sustained response. But I am hard headed in presenting the facts of the matter. There are some trends you cannot buck in commercial sport and this concentration of success to fewer and fewer clubs is happening all over Europe.

            How would you feel if your gate money, paid to your local club was claimed by several other less successful clubs in order to handicap and limit your chances of commercial success? That is what the entitled fans of non O** F*** clubs want to do to mine.

          2. Doug says:

            Other countries deal with this in other sports. In both Australia and USA, a draft system evens the playing field. It makes it a much more interesting competition.

            And this country evens the playing fields in other aspects of social life. Even in the arts to use your example. The taxes from successful arts companies (among others of course), help fund less successful companies through Creative Scotland for example.

          3. SFTB says:

            Aussie Rules is unique in Australian sport in using a draft system- Rugby League, Union, Cricket and Soccer do not.

            You are stretching a point with taxation on theatres. Most are sadly funded by Lottery money (another tax on the poor) being distributed by Creative Scotland. Very few make profits as stand alone theatres so any redistribution is moot, small and limited. My son’s school play got nothing.

            I approve of taxation helping to fund the Arts but I don’t particularly approve of Lottery money funding activities that are not generally enjoyed by the people who give the Lottery money. No-one sucks more greedily from the public trough than the middle and upper classes.

            I wouldn’t want Senior Football getting a penny from the Public Purse- fat too many other priorities. That’s why amateur football and, perhaps semi-pro football should be voting and organising their own futures and let the professional game develop its own policies

        3. John says:

          Any evidence based assessment of policies of Labour vs SNP would indicate SNP are more social democratic in outlook than Labour currently are.
          Yes you are correct in saying that power of Holyrood is limited and SNP have in my opinion been a bit timid. The examples you quote of baby boxes and universal credit will be of more benefit to the poorer sections of society.
          Many benefits are universal for two good reasons: 1.if you pay into a system via taxation you are entitled to the benefit eg NHS, education etc. The means testing of benefits to ensure they are targeted is justified in some cases but it must be cost effective and means testing in some cases can cause stigma and lack of take up by the very people who need the support most.
          I am a former Labour voter who will not vote for them at next GE because:
          They now support Brexit and refuse to acknowledge the fact that Scottish electorate voted to remain in EU by giving Scotland any separate arrangements. This is especially galling after being told by Better Together that you had to vote against independence to remain in EU.
          2. Labour refusal to grant Holyrood an independence referendum. A majority of Holyrood was voted in that support an independence referendum under a PR system.
          3. Labour’s refusal to accept PR for Westminster election.
          4. Labour’s strident British nationalism under Starmer which is solely and cynically being used to attract so called red wall voters.
          Labour may well increase number of seats in Scotland but this have nothing to do with them having more to offer Scotland and everything to do with Tories switching to Labour to defeat SNP and SNP losing focus on independence.

          1. SFTB says:

            There is no evidence base that places SNP as more social democratic then GB Labour; there are only partisan boasts.

            The examples I gave were of Baby Boxes and Tuition Fees (not Universal Credit). Baby Boxes only proportionally advantage the poorer classes in the sense that they need them more but families that don’t need them get them. That is not progressive or socialist policy; it is populist universal non-means tested, at best, and wasteful benevolence at worst. Subsidised universal tuition fees are, sadly, a tax on the lower classes. I wish it weren’t so but it is. They go to universities in smaller numbers.

            The Labour Party are not supporting Brexit; they are merely choosing not to adopt a policy to reverse it at this point in time. They are respecting a democratic vote just as they are doing with the Independence referendum but never say never. Starter is aa total erse on so many issues but these are not 2 of them. He will sin votes by fence sitting on these two issues. I have more issue with his instructions to not support picket lines and his difficulty in differentiating between pro-Palestine positions and genuine anti-semitism, as he makes a total rick of the Roger Waters issue.

            I do agree with most of point 4 as he is targeting red wall votes more than Scotland votes. The trouble is that he might be heading in a winning direction and that will reinforce the Blairite tendencies.

        4. John says:

          Third & last comment on your comment- apologies but there is so much in your post to review.
          The essence of sport is competition – yes entertainment and excellence as well but the actual key thing in all sport is competition. This is the essential difference between sports and other forms of entertainment. For true competition to flourish there must be a level playing field – even the USA the most capatilist country in world recognised this with how it organises drafts to American Football and Baseball.
          Your idea of competition appears to be very similar to the Tory government’s idea of competition in public utilities or banking where the biggest companies must be protected against true competition- a strange position for a self confessed socialist.
          Lastly I have just read today that Labour are abandoning the 28 billion green initiatives because they need to ‘balance the books’. John Rentoul in Independent has welcomed this as Labour returning to centre ground – Labour are hardly social democratic, let alone socialist, these days.

          1. SFTB says:

            There was a level playing field in football- everyone started off with the same possibilities. Queens Park could have been Rangers but they chose to be Victorian gentlemen with a snobbish attitude to working class men earning a living from athletic talent. Edinburgh Hibs or Dundee United could have been the representation of a Scots-Irish club but they chose to disown their roots. Dunfermline and/or Hibs could have prevented Jock Stein from moving to create the modern Celtic. Everything that Celtic gained was won by their own hands in face of opposition from all other clubs who tried to beat them on and off the field.

            I have explained at length that you cannot equalise talent by taxation or handicap.

            Yes the NFL uses a draft system to allocate promising young talent to weaker clubs but they can only do that because University Sport, which is hugely popular, produces 90% of the supply of players. Golf talent develops similarly but no one told Jordan Spieth he had to play on the minor tours. In an individual sport they can be as feral capitalist as they like. But the draft system and the Club wage caps are creaking mechanism for maintaining this “socialist” (the Americans will never use that word to describe it) practice. They will have a Jean Marc Bosman moment when the talent says – “I don’t want to go to the NFL equivalent of Livingston (no disrespect or disdain- just a professional evaluation)- I wan’t to go to a stronger squad”. But the stronger squad may not have the wage space to pay him what he wants so you have Catch 22.

            We are mixing up Socialism, in all its variety of definitions, with commercial sport, any more than you can with Music or the Arts. See how silly it would be to break up the Beatles and send one each to reinforce the lack of talent in Boyzone, Showadywaddy, Peters and Lee and Spinal Tap. think how unjust it would be to tell Djokovic to play with his less favoured hand because he is winning too much, or making it a rule that you must concede a goal every time you score one because socialism says we must be all equal.

            I support Socialism in the field of human justice but I played sport in order to compete and win as often as I could, short of cheating. Most people can see the separation. So your shoehorning of me into supporting a feral capitalist system is just misreading, deliberate twisting or ignorance.

            Jock Stein was a a socialist and he knew where the socialism was in sport. It was involved in team building within the club in letting the talented players help out the less talented and in letting the in-form take the strain off the struggling and the injured. His socialism was to build a club capable of beating most others- not of drawing every match.

            Celtic did not institute the Bosman ruling. It did not campaign for Free TV money to disadvantage smaller leagues. It did not campaign for the European Cup to become a non-Champions League and it did not, therefore create the modern conditions of football. It just gamed the modern system better than other clubs did. By force of will and planning and talent it made itself more relevant than most other Scottish clubs, by and large. Nobody stopped Aberdeen or Hearts from being that club and it’s time they stopped doing so. All clubs can grow and or die. Where are Offenbach Kickers now? What happened to Reims- early European finalists? MTK Budapest, Slovan Bratislava? Carl Zeiss Jena? Vorwaerts? Mechelen?

            Are they blaming Bayern, PSG, Ferencvaros, Zilina etc. Do they think 5th tier B teams are responsible for their lot? I really hope they have a more cool headed analysis than that.

          2. Doug says:

            Hibs and United ‘disowned their roots’?

            What a load of nonsense. It was just irrelevant in cities that outgrew sectarian hatred. I would be very surprised if many United fans didn’t know they were originally Dundee Hibernians.

          3. SFTB says:


            “It was just irrelevant in cities that outgrew sectarian hatred. I would be very surprised if many United fans didn’t know they were originally Dundee Hibernians.”

            Outgrew it? How mature! When old Harry Swan- Hibs Chairman backed The SFA campaign by George Graham (not the Arsenal guy) to remove the Irish tricolour from Celtic Park, had they outgrown it then or did it happen sometime after 1952? So many people are very quick to give themselves a bye on sectarianism. A self awarded certificate of no renown.

          4. Doug says:

            You seem very bitter about an event 70 years ago. And yes. I give myself a pass on sectarianism. Father was a Kirk Elder, I married a girl surnamed Kelly in a Catholic Church.

          5. SFTB says:


            I SEEM bitter??

            Once you start projecting seems and appears, you can turn me into any figment of your imagination.

            I remain unconvinced and I just might know a thing or two more on the subject than you though I know much less than your imagination.

            BTW- Nice dodge on the question. Can I take it that it seems or appears that Anti- Irish sentiment disappeared long ago in the past.

          6. Doug says:

            When did I say anti-Irish sentiment disappeared? Strawman argument and an appeal to self-claimed authority. You’re going well so far. Don’t confuse anti-Irish sentiment with sectarianism. Not the same.

          7. SFTB says:

            Hard to tell how you see it as you dismissed the tricolour flag incident as ancient bitterness as you exonerated Hibs from any sectarianism or anti-Irishness.

            Perhaps answering the questions raised with clarity might leave less room for “misunderstanding”. So, I ask again, when did it disappear from all other clubs bar the big bad Glasgow Two?

          8. John says:

            In reply to free university tuition being a tax on lower classes.
            This is Labour going down the rabbit hole.
            Education and especially free education has always been highly valued in Scotland. It is overseas students who are paying for this policy. I and many of my generation benefited from a grant subsidised university education. I have paid the money back in income tax and other taxation. Many countries in Europe also value education to the same extent.
            SNP government have increased income tax on higher earners and decreased income tax on lower earners.
            Starmer and Labour now supports Brexit and denies Scotland it’s democratically elected wish for an independence referendum.
            The SNP policies are those of a broadly left of centre social Democratic Party. This is recognised by most independent observers and Labour policies, even when Corbyn was leader, lay to the right of the SNP. and even more so under Sir Keir.
            Your utterances are so typical of Scottish’ Labour and can be summed up if you excuse the JFK analogy – ask not what Labour can do for Scotland but what Scotland can do for Labour.
            In other words another form of entitlement not dissimilar to the Old Firm.

          9. Niemand says:

            And students from England John, who also pay full fees. I suspect, but don’t know, that it is they who ‘pay’ for the policy mostly. I don’t find this a very enlightened policy since one of the major problems with the current system is that it encourages Scottish universities to take the fee paying students over those who do not pay as they get more money that way. In England it is rich overseas’ students, since despite the full fees paid by home students, it isn’t enough funding for them to run their institutions any more.

  11. Douglas says:

    It’s neo-liberal capitalism, folks, you can hardly expect football to escape the gross distortions which have affected things like housing, regular old fashioned and now non-existent banking, travel, now turned into the blitzkrieg of mass weekend break tourism, political parties and politics in general, the print press, now a hollowed out shell of a sector,, flexi working hours and working for no extra dosh, the decline of trade unionism etc..

    All of these phenomena are fruit of the Neo Liberal regime we live under, those of us over 50 can remember the more social democratic model which went before…

    The question is: is Scottish comparatively worse off than most other European countries? I would argue it isn’t. The fan base is pretty incredible for the football on offer in most stadia. The fans love it!!! There is still a real community link between fans and club…

    I think we put too many unrealistic expectations on football and our clubs, managers and players in Scotland. We should enjoy the good times, like the win against Spain, and take it a lot less seriously when things don’t work out…

    1. My point in the adjacent article Douglas is that your right ‘There is still a real community link between fans and clubs’ and our attendance is great … but imagine what that would be with good stewardship, and your right we are not immune to any of these forces

      1. Douglas says:

        I see no real difference in the predicament of the second tier of Scottish clubs – Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen say – and the second tier of Spanish clubs – say, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Valencia, Seville – in the sense that the best they can hope for each season is a) to get into Europe and b) win a cup, or at least get to the final… Barcelona and Real Madrid, Celtic and Rangers, just have resources which make winning the league as good as impossible for the rest…

        With one difference: Spanish clubs will be playing European football each Spring and Scottish clubs almost certainly won’t… Maybe this new fangled UEFA Conference League will offer a chance for Scottish teams to last longer in Europe, because that is the one absence from our footballing calendar compared to the 70s, 80s and even the 90s. that I’m sure all of us miss… the European nights…

        On the wider issue, as the late William Mcllvanney never failed to ask: why do Scottish men invest so much in the fitba? Is it healthy? Might not that energy / emotion be invested in something more useful? I’m not sure young people are as caught up in it as men over 50, but you only need to read Gerry Hassan on Dundee Utd’s demise to see that it means so much to Scottish men… Too much? Probably…

        Spanish commentators covering games which involve Scottish teams never fail to be amazed that in Scotland, the fans go ballistic when their team wins a corner.. That doesn’t happen much in Spain.

        1. John says:

          William McIlvaney was probably right with his observation of importance of football to Scots but I am not sure his brother Hugh would have agreed!

    2. John says:

      In reply to your comment to SFTB about Hibs & United disowning their roots – the OF fans cannot get away from the elephant in the room with their dominance of Scottish football. The sectarian nonsense which is a scar on Scottish society although I am keen to state that Rangers are prime offenders but Celtic fans like SFTB don’t help themselves. The facts are that the OF need each other and this is why Celtic were so glad to have Rangers back in top league – the bigot buck benefits both clubs.
      His comments about how the OF would lose out on their investment in training facilities shows such a lack of any insight that it is laughable. Many other clubs including Hibs and United have built training grounds so this really does show up the OF entitlement mentality.
      The SFA tried to railroad this Conference League proposal through without adequate consultation on the clubs most affected based on needs of OF and got a bloody nose.
      Scottish football needs to move with times but take all supporters (not just OF) with it or it will die.

  12. SFTB says:


    Grant subsidised tuition, which I benefited from is a Progressive tax. If your parents arn too much , you get no grant.

    Tuition fees is a populist and popular move, like being allowed to buy your council house, but it is not progressive. Everybody in Scotland got it like the Baby Box.

    1. John says:

      You are a typical example of old embittered Labour supporters in Scotland.
      You exemplify the Bain Principle where Labour takes precedence over Scottish electorate.
      Education has historically been the way that many working class Scots have managed to get on in life.
      Your attitude is your working class and you will not aspire to improve your lot especially via education.
      You want working class to have no potential educational improvement. I want everyone to have every chance for educational improvement.
      Society benefits from widening the pool of potential people that can go on to all forms of education.
      So curry needs as many well educated people as possible.
      Where do you think the Doctors, Teachers, Nurses etc come from – thin air?

      1. SFTB says:

        No- No- No and No. vexing on desperate framing.

        I want working class Kids to benefit from the same chances I was given by a means tested grant – a genuine progressive subsidy.

        Universal paying of tuition fees does not progressively advance working class kids- it gives them the same benefit as more advantaged kids. We need to provide them with more subsidies than their advantaged middle class rivals. The policy has not increased the representation of working class kids that The Labour Party managed in the 60s and 70s. It needs to change and become mean tested but that would potentially lose votes. Hence it is more populist than progressive.

        The SNP themselves know it has not increased working class representation at university level nor has it increased working class kids attainments at secondary level.

        I would have hoped we could agree that this needs to change but sometimes being too thrilled to one political party or ideal leads you to a loyalty that proscribes criticism. The SNP deserve the criticism on this. There are a whole host of issues on which I have criticisms of the Labour Party, especially its current leader but that don’t make the SNP right.

        Anyway, finished with this now- it has become too circular and I’m arguing against criticisms that have no basis in any reality

        1. Niemand says:

          You are right, it was means tested and based on parents’ income and in that sense was quite fair and helped the poorer student more. It is very logical to do it that way.

          1. John says:

            We do not make school education means tested why make further education means tested?
            If you really value education you make it free to those wish to be educated.
            Lastly re your comment on English students – if English electorate put a high value on education they would vote in a party that did not support students fees – see what happened to Lib Dem’s when they backtracked on this principle.
            This is devolution in action. If Scottish electorate do not like abolition of student fees they will vote in a party to Holyrood that wants to implement student fees.
            Of course there is always possibility that Westminster will step in again and overturn this policy via Internal Market.

          2. Niemand says:

            HE has always been different to secondary education which is regarded as essential to operate in the world. HE is not the same and never has been. The old means-tested grant system replaced no grants at all! The fact we seem to be suggesting more and more that HE is essential, is a huge mistake (and Labour did start that idea). I do not believe those who can truly afford it should get totally free HE, no. There is nothing wrong with means-testing.

            And it is simplistic to talk about the electorate voting ‘for’ tuition fees. No-one had any idea what the Coalition was going to cook up especially given Clegg’s ‘pledge’ to students. I know loads of people who voted LD because of that then felt utterly betrayed. And it also came at the fag end of Labour who were basically finished by that point anyway (but even then the Tories did not get a majority), just like the SNP is now. Sadly there is no pro-independence party to step up instead. All eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

          3. John says:

            Normand – I would strongly suggest as technology advances the need for HE increases.
            If abolition of tuition fees is such an unfair policy why doesn’t any other party make it policy to reinstate them?
            You and STFB obviously do not like SNP. I would respectfully suggest there are areas of politics that can be criticised but to criticise abolition of student fees by calling it both elitist and populist shows desperation to criticise because it is SNP.
            You sound a bit like George Foulkes criticising SNP for doing things the Scottish electorate liked. Bitter and resentful which seems to be a prerequisite for Labour & Alba in Scotland.

          4. Niemand says:

            John, it is indeed a real debate about how much HE is needed (I actually work in the sector) but also how it has changed over the years to replace apprenticeships and the like, that used to be funded by employers. The problem we have as there are a considerable number of students who would be much better off with an apprenticeship / non-HE vocational course of study than with the academic rigour required of a degree. And notice how in that process the funding has therefore shifted from employers / HE to HE alone and thus potentially tax payers or the students themselves.

            As for the SNP I don’t actually have that much of an axe to grind so am not bitter in the way you describe. I just base my opinion on their record in government and the simple observation that all political parties have a shelf-life in continuous power which is clearly born out by history. Alba are still small fry and I am not especially supportive but we will see, I don’t dismiss them like some do. What I do think is that a genuine political pro-independence challenge to the SNP would be good for Scottish politics generally and for the cause.

          5. John says:

            Normand – thanks for your last reply. I take what you say about apprenticeships but IMO that should not be at expense of students. I was a student under grant system and I new a few students whose parents did cough up the parental contribution.
            Re another independence supporting party though I personally think one party as political wing is most direct way of achieving independence I am can see a role for a second party if SNP lose their way on independence which I fear they look like they may be doing. This would work under PR at Holyrood but be counterproductive in the FPTP Westminster elections.
            Finally the two parties would need to work together or it will be destructive to independence cause. Unfortunately Alba has been born out of AS bitterness with NS and it is difficult to see the two parties working collectively in the foreseeable future because of this.

    2. John says:

      Re your comment on Celtic and Irish roots.
      I actually have a lot more respect for Celtic than Rangers because they have embraced all sections of society. It is to their credit that their greatest manager was not from a Celtic supporting background or their greatest player IMO Kenny Dalglish.
      I have attended many different derby matches in Scotland and Old Firm is most toxic. Edinburgh derby has some nutters that still encourage sectarian nonsense but not in same scale as OF derby. Sectarianism is virtually absent from Dundee derby which is testament to United changing name and being supported on basis of location and ability rather than any religious background.
      Just to clarify I am a long standing Dundee supporter because they were the nearest bigger club to where I lived as a boy. I also know more than you can ever imagine about let downs and disappointment.

      1. SFTB says:

        I’ve finished for the night now. This is going nowhere fast.

        However- If you became a Dundee Supporter in the early 60’s you might be a slow learning glory hunter

        Good night and good luck

        1. John says:

          I became a Dundee supporter in mid 60’s after glory days. When I lived in Dundee in early 80’s it did not stop me watching and appreciating United in Europe.
          I also regularly went to Hampden to watch Scotland including going to Italia 90.
          Anyway please enjoy your evening and the fact that Boris Johnson is causing more upset for Tories.

        2. John says:

          I have reread your last comment calling me slow learning and a glory hunter (hilarious from an OF fan to someone who’s team has won 1 trophy in last 50 years.
          You are right trying to discuss anything with you is futile.
          I have known and been friends with many Celtic fans over years and you are the most one eyed and frankly obnoxious one I have ever come across as that last comment so ably demonstrates.

          1. SFTB says:

            The words “if” and “might’ were in there to predicate the sentiment. If the charge didn’t fit there was no offence offered.

            The tendency to misread, project and construct straw man arguments in reply is what made this exchange of little value. It is why I gave up – I don’t want to be a troll in the echo chamber. Bye

          2. John says:

            To STFB from 11th June
            I had a bet with a pal that someone with your ego would want to have the last word.
            Many thanks for proving me right.

  13. Jack Davidson says:

    Excellent article, one small point tho’ -Martin Chivers was not a World Cup winner, top player that he was.

  14. SleepingDog says:

    If you want a footballing story with romance (albeit a largely uncritical one about a family-dominated village team in a patriarchal society rising to the top of professional league and competing internationally):

  15. Philip Raiswell says:

    I still support my local club, Crewe Alexandra, but we struggle for support with Manchester and Liverpool just 30 odd miles away, we play in England’s 4th tier with average crowds of about 4,000. My Scottish team is Dumbarton, who I follow since I was 8 years old.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.