Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Smell Of Money

With depressing regularity, once again Scottish Football will be feeling the pinch with the news about Setanta’s attempt to re-negotiate it’s new deal for exclusive live coverage of the SPL… followed closely by the next episode in the will they won’t they saga about the Old Firm moving to the English Premiership.

Firstly, Setanta appear to have come to the conclusion that like the rest of the country, it has slightly overreached itself. Not the most surprising piece of news, considering it has been trying to re-negotiate its contract with the English FA over the rights to England games and the FA Cup. It does however seem as if that Scottish football is in constant financial trouble, it was only last week that Clyde managed to negotiate it’s arrears with North Lanarkshire Council. This does not help the situation, but at least there is no hyper inflation of players value's like there is in England.

It is this hyper inflation which has exasperated the differences between the SPL and the EP, and it is fear of this bubble bursting a la the mortgage market in this country which has led to Phil Gartside, the Bolton Wanderers chairman making suggestions about re-organising the EP.

His proposals include a second tier for the Premiership, with a slimmed down 18 team top league. More worryingly his proposals also include inviting the Old Firm to join the league in the “lower” tier. It cannot be understated how much damage to the unique culture of British football would be caused if this proposal were to happen. This would essentially mean the beginning of the end of the English, Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh national sides competing at UEFA and FIFA events.

It would be tempting for the Old Firm to join, they would get a cut of the television riches, which would mean better players. This ignores the fact that the Old Firm have been here before, and squandered their riches on duff foreign footballers, which contributed to the squeezing of Scottish talent from about 1993 to the first implosion of TV revenues in 2002.

However, I hope that they won’t go. Some of their fans have given this a luke warm response, perhaps they understand that this would be as big a threat, if not a bigger threat to the Scotland national team as a UK team in the 2012 Olympics, perhaps they realise that despite what the Desmond’s and the Murray’s think, money isn’t everything, or perhaps they see that the real winners won’t be the ordinary football fan.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The End...

There were moments on Wednesday evening where a blog called “The End…” would have been about George Burley’s time as Scotland Manager. Instead, this is about the reaction to the antics of “The Rangers 2”.

First to the game itself. Despite dominating possession in large parts of the game, Scotland were fortunate to win against Iceland. This is purely down to the fact that Iceland, whenever they got forward, looked as if they could produce that key final pass at any time. Scotland, despite actually looking sharp in possession, didn’t really get behind the Iceland defence until just before they got the first goal. Scotland’s second came after Iceland equalised, and was a fantastic piece of opportunism. Scotland though have to sort out their defence, for many years the bedrock of the Roxborough/Brown years. They hung on at the end of the game, but this is the second game where they were ropey at crosses (having given away goals against the Netherlands on Saturday).

All this though have been knocked into a cocked hat by the actions of the Rangers 2. For the benefit of those coming late to the party, after the Netherlands game the Scotland manager gave dispensation for some of the players to have a couple of drinks. There were apparently 5 players who stayed up for most of the night, these included the captain Barry Ferguson and the goalkeeper on Saturday, Alan McGregor. Those 2 apparently were still in the hotel bar at breakfast time, and apparently well into the morning.

Bearing in mind that these are supposed to be sportsmen, who’s bodies are supposed to be temple’s. This is not good behaviour, and a shocking example to your peers and other players. The Rangers 2 should have been told to leave the Scotland camp there and then. The problem is that there is a clique of Scotland players who have been spinning against Burley, and there are Journalists in the Scotland press corp who don’t particularly rate Burley, which I think he knows and sometimes affects his judgement. At the time of Burley’s appointment, I thought he was the best man shortlisted. I still think that. I don’t think that he should have kept them in the squad, far less name them on the sub’s bench. Apparently, a section of the Scotland squad lobbied the manager to try and keep them in the squad, this really should have been rejected. But this is another indication of how powerful the players feel that they have become.

Bizarrely the next twist provides the catalyst for what happened yesterday. The Rangers 2 were photographed sticking two fingers up. To who is not really clear, but it was a deeply petulant and childish act. This appears to have roused the powers that be into acting. Rangers have all but sacked the pair, stripping Fergusson of the captaincy, and dropping the pair from the squad to face Falkirk tomorrow. It is unlikely that they will return to face the mighty St Mirren come Wednesday. The SFA then issued its own sanctions, a lifetime ban from the International team.

As I am typing this, many of the contributers to the BBC’s Sportsound programme have made the error of seeing the incidents as separate. If you look at it that way, then the sanctions handed to the pair are over the top, especially the ban’s handed out for flicking the V’s. However, these incidents are interlinked, and the sanctions are appropriate. The Rangers 2 were reacting against the situation, and the public ire of the Tartan Army. I do wonder how different things would have turned out if Ferguson & McGregor had been sent home on Monday.