Right then. Around 14 hours after we first saw the SFL reconstruction proposals, we’ve just about coaxed our eyebrows back down off the ceiling and cranked our jaw shut again. Without further ado, let’s take a wild and wacky journey, line by line, through the tacky Powerpoint presentation comprising the most…
- oh-my-God-they’re-actually serious
…document ever issued in the entire long and murky history of Scottish football.
We’re going to assume you know the fundamentals already, and will therefore get straight down to the analysis. Buckle up, readers, it’s going to be bumpy.
“Your Game, Your Club, Your Future
WHY DOES RESISTANCE TO CHANGE IN FOOTBALL EXIST?
•Fear of the unknown
•Lack of involvement
•Lack of information
•Threat to power, or status
•No perceived benefits
•Fear of failure
•Unless behaviour changes, nothing changes
UNDERSTANDING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
•Perceptions of being “worse off”
•If the reasons for change are not clear
•If implementation plans are not clear
•If there is no clear “link” with your own objectives
•If a change is seen as a threat to your long term security or well being
WE THEREFORE NEED SOME CLEAR COMMUNICATION PRIORITIES FOR THE SFL
•Logical and positive communication to eliminate doubt, threat and insecurity
•Fully explained in terms of short and long term benefits to you and the organisation
•Not left to the last minute
•Involving you at an early stage
•And seen in the context of a wider strategic plan”
Rule 1: browbeat your audience with an avalanche of marketing-speak bollocks, and attempt from the title onwards to create the mindset, via a child’s crude attempt at neuro-linguistic programming, that anyone who disagrees with the assertions to come must self-evidently be a dangerously stupid lunatic.
As we’ll see, the phrase “fully explained” is used above in its very loosest sense.
•Rangers have no where to go
•SPL Clubs have indicated their voting intentions
•SFA wish to see a solution in the interests of the game
•Moral/sporting question vs financial collapse
•Are The SFL are in a position to accommodate a solution?”
Whoah there, tiger! Wind it back a line! You very nearly snuck that one past us! “Moral/sporting question vs financial collapse”? Firstly, there’s no evidence, and very little in the way of a rational argument, that ANY outcome of the Rangers fiasco might lead to “financial collapse” – and certainly not in the SFL, whose members have learned how to survive on shoestring budgets for decades.
Secondly, if there IS a danger of a fiscal apocalypse engulfing Scottish football, it’s considerably more likely to come as a result of ignoring moral/sporting integrity, not upholding it. There seems little doubt that fans of clubs at all levels will walk away from the game forever, in their thousands, if the rules are bent and trampled to give Charles Green’s newco Rangers special treatment. The briefest glance at Twitter or any club messageboard indicates with breathtaking clarity that these latest proposals have enraged fans who were already furious up to stratospheric levels, and if they leave they’ll definitely take untold millions of pounds with them.
“WE HAVE CONSIDERED FIVE SCENARIOS
1.Rangers stay in SPL
2.Rangers to Third Division
3.Rangers to First Division
4.Rangers to SPL2
5.Rangers terminated or suspended
1. RANGERS STAY IN SPL
•Not an option
•SPL clubs have indicated no
2. RANGERS TO THIRD DIVISION
•Takes approximately £16 million out of the game”
Hang on – does it? Who says so? We can only assume that this figure relates to the Sky/ESPN deal, which at £80m for five years comes to £16m a season. But (a) Sky have already said they have no plans to pull out of Scottish football, (b) even if they did it’s ludicrous to assume there would be no live TV coverage at all, and (c) the SFL sees almost none of that money anyway, so why would its members care?
In fact, if anything, the main effect of the disappearance or slashing of Sky money would be to dramatically reduce the wealth gap between the SPL and SFL, and greatly enhance the chances of promoted SFL clubs being able to stay in the top division for extended periods, thereby generating their own increased revenues through their own footballing merit rather than just begging for crumbs off the SPL’s table. That’s bad?
“•Commercial partners walk away and seek compensation
•The settlement agreement becomes a major risk
In what way? The settlement agreement is the contract by which the SPL agreed to pay the SFL a sum of money every year (currently £1.8m) in return for being allowed to leave the SFL and set itself up in the first place. The SPL will still exist without Rangers, as will the SFL. The contract between the two will therefore still apply, and any attempt to renege on the payment will see the SPL dragged to court on two bleeding stumps, because it won’t have a leg to stand on.
•The sporting opportunity is quashed for other clubs”
Again, not a shred of evidence is offered for the statement that commercial partners will “walk away and seek compensation”. But what on Earth does “the sporting opportunity is quashed for other clubs” mean? Surely Rangers being demoted to Division 3 has the exact opposite effect, that is it opens up vast sporting opportunity for other clubs. SPL sides have a significantly improved chance at the league title, and Champions League and Europa League qualification. Every SFL team (assuming Rangers manage to work their way up through the divisions) gets the rare chance to pit themselves against a big-name club, at least four times.
Exactly which sporting opportunities are being “quashed”? We honestly haven’t the faintest idea. The only possible thing we can think of is that SFL teams will face greater competition for promotion places, but that’s still “sporting opportunity”. And if it turns out that whatever’s left of Rangers is still too strong for the lower leagues, the problem will only last one season before they move on.
“3. RANGERS TO FIRST DIVISION
What? Since when has that snuck onto the list of possibilities? Less than two weeks ago, SPL chief executive David Longmuir explicitly said that a newco Rangers would have to start in SFL3, with Division 1 not being an option. His precise words were: “It would be a newco scenario and the only way we could accommodate any new application would be to create a gap in the Third Division through the play-offs with teams shuffling up. We would then judge every case on its own merits. There would be no provision for any newco Rangers to go into the First Division rather than the Third Division.” (Our emphasis.)
•Reduces SPL income by approximately 30%”
It does? 30%? Based on which, and whose, calculations? Evidence, please.
“•Balances short term need for redemption with a least worst case financial scenario”
Least worst case for who? Even leaving aside things like possible boycotts for now, it’s clearly not to the advantage of the two-thirds of SFL teams, who’ve just lost out on at least one season of having Rangers in their divisions.
“•It is financially possible to recover from this scenario”
Sorry, whose recovery are we talking about here?
“4. RANGERS TO SPL2
•Currently not supported by the SFA
•Creates a bigger divide
•Leads to some short term commercial losses
•A legal challenge could paralyse the game
•The overall pot would be much less than anticipated”
Okay, this is where we need a really deep breath. We’re told (without an atom of proof) that if the SFL rejects the Division 1 plan, an angry SPL will swiftly form a second elite division in order to accommodate Sevco Rangers, and which the SFL1 clubs will be invited to make up the numbers in.
But hold on a minute – this whole situation only arises in the first place if the other SPL clubs have rejected Sevco’s application to join the SPL at the meeting on July 4th. So (a) why is it any of the SPL’s business what the SFL do with a club the SPL has rejected, and (b) if Sevco haven’t been admitted to the SPL, how could they play in SPL2 in the first place? To play in SPL Division 2, by definition you first need to be an SPL member, and Sevco FC won’t be. End of story.
(Plus, as we noted yesterday, it’s hard to believe that even the most catastrophically thick of SPL chairman would ever think the creation of an SPL Division 2 would fool/satisfy the fans who’ve so overwhelmingly, and apparently successfully, demanded the rejection of New Rangers’ membership. So the whole idea of an SPL2 being imposed on the SFL was crazy beyond comprehension from the word go anyway.)
At least there’s something in the proposal document we agree with, then – the alleged threat from the SPL to cut half of Scottish football clubs adrift (or at any rate, even more adrift than they are already) is an empty, cynical blackmail attempt which can confidently be discounted. It’s total rubbish.
“5. RANGERS TERMINATED OR SUSPENDED
•Complete financial meltdown”
Again: evidence, please.
“•Settlement agreement is obliterated
No it isn’t. See above.
•Fans are lost to the game forever
SOME fans will be lost to the game forever if Rangers are thrown out altogether, but not all of them. Let’s assume the entire typical Ibrox crowd of 50,000 decides to pack it in should Rangers get the boot, and none of them support local/smaller clubs instead. That’s bad news for the game, but it’s only one side of the equation.
Within just the last decade or so, Aberdeen have lost around 5,000 fans from the average Pittodrie attendance. Now, we’re not saying that all of them would come back to watch a more competitive Scottish game without Rangers, but those numbers certainly show that there are at least 5,000 potential Aberdeen supporters who aren’t currently turning up and who might be tempted to return to see a team with a better chance of winning stuff. Repeat for all of Scotland’s other clubs and you’re at least going to make a sizeable dent in that 50,000 shortfall.
•The game survives but where?”
We’re going to plump for “Scotland”.
“SO WHAT EXACTLY ARE WE BEING ASKED TO CONSIDER?
•Rangers in the IRN-BRU First Division this coming season
•A one off fee to buy out the Rangers media value. (£1million) thus protecting the current contracts in place.”
This is perhaps the most obviously ridiculous aspect of the entire proposal. £1 million, for one season, to hand over the rights to Sevco Rangers’ games in SFL1 to the SPL? Firstly, who’s paying it? The other SPL clubs? So we’re expected to believe that they not only have to allow New Rangers to skip two divisions’-worth of punishment, but they also have to pay for it? You’re having a laugh, right?
Secondly, who does this money go to? Just the SFL Division 1 sides? If so then it’s £100,000 each, which is a pretty useful sum to clubs existing on tight budgets. But in that case why on Earth would SFL2 and SFL3 clubs vote for it, since they’d be cutting their own throats for nothing? So it can’t possibly be that – it must be to split between all 30 SFL sides, which means a pathetic £33,000 each.
Imagine you’re Montrose or Elgin City of SFL3. If the newco Rangers gets dropped into your division, that’s two home games against them at an absolute minimum. Let’s conservatively assume that just 2,000 of the normal Rangers travelling support of around 5,000 loyally shows up to its SFL3 fixtures, and that each one brings in just £15 in admission, refreshments, programme sales and suchlike. That’s £60,000 in one season – almost twice the SPL’s pathetic bribe. (And that’s assuming the proposal is to share out the £1m equally, which seems unlikely.) So any SFL2/3 chairman would need to have an IQ roughly the same as a sausage roll to vote for the plan.
“IF WE AGREE THEN WE REQUIRE THE FOLLOWING
•Play-Offs immediately, based on our format”
Again, there’s nothing here for SFL2 or SFL3 clubs, who already have playoffs. It’s a carrot benefitting solely SFL1 sides.
“•A new distribution model with the settlement agreement value protected and future proofed
•An amalgamation of the SPL & SFL
•A more balanced governance model (as circulated)”
Pretty words signifying nothing.
“WHICH WILL DELIVER BENEFITS TO THE SCOTTISH FOOTBALL LEAGUE
•Immediate cash benefit for all 30 clubs!”
We love the exclamation mark there. Give up a minimum of £60,000 this season or next in return for half that much now! We think that’s the dictionary definition of “an offer you CAN refuse”.
“•Gate receipt uplift in Division 1
•Potential hospitality & advertising values increase”
But sod-all for Divisions 2 and 3, who have two-thirds of the votes.
“•Sponsors receive added value through additional exposure
•Scottish Government remain committed to our community strategy”
That implies that they won’t remain committed to it if the plan is rejected. However, the Scottish Government has categorically denied this.
“•SFL has more influence at the top table”
In its dreams. Most clubs who are already IN the SPL have precious little influence.
“•Play-Offs restore the sporting meritocracy and deliver additional value”
Again, to SFL1. The other two divisions get nothing.
“AND BENEFITS TO SCOTTISH FOOTBALL
•A unified plan presented to the Scottish footballing public which offers real possibilities for the game”
Yeah, switch your computers on, guys. The “Scottish footballing public” sounds keen as mustard on your super-spiffy unified plan, doesn’t it?
“•Keeps all 42 clubs together avoiding a divisive SPL2 split”
Which isn’t going to happen in a million years.
“•Deals with the need for sporting integrity with regard to Newco”
Again, you might want to check your customers’ opinion on that.
“•Delivers innovation in the form of a single league, Play-Offs and a pyramid plan
•Delivers new value for the game
•Potentially narrows the financial gap between Scottish Premier League & Scottish League
•Shows leadership for the game in Scotland”
Implement pro-active solutions! Energise synergy! Drive component metrics! Re-align client-facing project processes!
“•Allows fans to engage in the bigger picture
•A positive media outcome”
How’s that working out for you so far?
And that’s the end of the prospectus. We know they’re under pressure at the moment, but we’re genuinely amazed that Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster – whose work this shrieking insanity clearly chiefly is – have taken leave of their senses to the degree that they thought this five-alarm brainfail of an idea would do anything other than provoke riots from Dumfries to Dingwall.
If adopted, it would lead to the greatest mass exodus of supporters in the history of Scottish football. SFL2 and SFL3 clubs would be signing their own death warrants, and those of the SPL clubs too, which would in turn destroy the SFL1 clubs. They’re not that stupid. We said it yesterday and we’ll say it again today – it has absolutely no chance. Get down off the window-ledge and make yourself a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Everything’s going to be fine.