So here we are, Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer look to have been relegated after this sorry and embarrassing saga has seemingly come to an end. Has it ended with this as a conclusion. I think we already know the answer to this. We are only half way. Now for the legal wranglings. With Hearts and Particks joint legal venture looking to have more substance than the r*****s’ “if yous give the title to celtic………….” threat, we are looking at further delays , the 1st of August start is back to being pie in the sky. If the legal side does drag out, which is fully expected, the four leagues will be held up and depending on how long this boring epoch runs the Highland and Lowland will halted with Brora r******s and Kelty Hearts waiting in the wings.
If I am totally honest, this global situation has been ok for me, I would go as far as saying I have enjoyed lockdown for many reasons. There has been alot of time to ponder, think, re-think and realise a few things on a personal level. However, unfortunately if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that Scottish fitba is a cess pit of toxic shite. This piece actually started out as something totally different. It was originally a bit that I said I would submit elsewhere. When I came up with the basic structure for, it was almost an ode to our game but as I put it on backburner for a while to write other articles and I am glad I did. The reason being, as time passed, I felt that a big love in for Scottish football is in fact well off the mark. This shutdown has proved a lot and one thing that has struck home is I cant declare a love for large elements of it nowadays. My interest in the upper echelons currently sits at nil. I have found myself being aggravated by certain things recently and the accumulation of it all has sickened me and the camels back has been broken by far too many straws.
Football was abruptly halted on Friday the 13th of March and as stated in another article(Inane Ramblings #6) it was mentioned that within a couple of days teams were voicing their fear in regards to money. However, nobody was listening to your Annans, Elgins, Montroses and Stranraers. It was all 9 in a row, statements, asterisks, statements, relegation, statements, European places , statements, potential buying off of votes, statements and other self interested shite. At no point was there a big deal made of the fact teams could have went bust, in fact still could. All the talk was about the above subjects. I am not trying to say it wasnt reported but it was clear the “lesser teams” panic was just corner of a page filling inches. The “diddy teams” weren’t important enough to oust court threats, Ann fucking Budge or the asterisk off the back pages. This issue seriously grated me. It showed the mentallity of the media and the bigger clubs. The SPFL effectively said they didnt have a pot to piss in and their contingency plan was a paltry 1.2m between forty-two teams(twenty-eight and a half grand each). When r*****s FC 1872-2012 were terminated as a going concern”armageddon” was yelled from the roof tops clubs were absolutely going to feel impact of one or two visits a season from the now deceased clubs fans. This turned out to be garbage. When there was a real threat of “armageddon” i.e from March 13th this year to the present day the “A word” has not been used. This because bulk of the affects clubs will be in the bottom two tiers. This despite the lower leagues being highly reliant on gate and corporate money. The Premier League teams average income generated by gates is 43%. This is the highest in European top flight fitba. The figure gets higher as you drop the divisions. So there is without doubt a potential for a doomsday scenario for some clubs. The ignorance and disdainful attitude toward these clubs stinks. Albion Rovers are as much a part of the league as Aberdeen, Stenhousemuir as St Mirren, Clyde as celtic and so on. It’s a democracy and everyones vote counts the same, so why do their existances seem to differ. This was just the tip of the iceberg of issues.
Sticking on the theme of the democracy. The self entitlement of alot of Premier League club supports, notably Hearts and their big brothers in Glasgow was astounding. “The fucking diddies shouldnt get a say”, “we make the money, they can fuck off”, “leave the decisions to the big boys” and my favourite “why have we got 42 professional teams getting a vote, most are professional in name only”. Knowing your leagues would help for starters. There are no more than twenty-two professional clubs in the SPFL. The rest are semi-pro meaning part time and none of them claim to be professional .Now going back to the comment regarding the big boys making a decision. In the “big boy” league we currently have a phoenix team who rose out the ashes of a liquidated club, another club who have recently been in administration due to spending well outwith their means. We also have Livingston who albeit now are of commendable financial soundness and have not furloughed any staff. Their business model is to be admired nowadays, but they have found themselves in the financial mire on two occasions with their second leaving them dangerously close to a r*****s like extinction back in 2009. The examples set by Premier clubs in the past (you can include Dundee in that after their two self inflicted admins and Gretna) have been nothing short of disgraceful and decision making has been terrible by some in the past. So bad that one of the biggest fitba clubs on earth were confined to the grave due to years of financial miss management. During this time the diddy teams have ran soundly within their means on the whole. To say the big boys should make the decisions is just the imperious voices of egocentric clubs talking bollocks.
Be it too early or not, the talk of drawing a line under the leagues and calling them started. Inevitably the typewriter was warmed up at ibrox and off it went. There were suggestions of court if celtic were awarded the league. This despite celtic being thirteen points clear, dropping two points in thirty in 2020 and winning 12/15 matches and losing one in all competitions .Meanwhile in the other side of Glasgow the r*****s dropped thirteen points in the same period. They won 10/17 in all competions including two defeats to Hearts and one to Hamilton. The Phil Collins loving scouser is lucky he is still in a job after this. A second trophy shy season combined with poor singings have seen managers dunted. Also in the poor 2020 equation the super duper 80,000,000 pound striker had decided to steal his wages since the new year. Even the staunchest of blue nose could not seriously have believed there would be any other outcome than nine in a row. Once the record equalling run was equalled the moaning was incessant , the high horses were mounted and the tedium continued. Continue it did because the hillarious asterisk talk started. The eight and three quarter talk started . As hillarious as this straw clutching was it was equally as banal. However, the more boring it got it just showed the mentallity of the blue side of Glasgow who seemingly forgot that their old clubs first title in 1890/91 was in fact shared with Dumbarton. Surely * would be appropriate there. Then there were the EBT years, where in other countries would have been voided. But that didnt fit their narrative.
Staying in Glasgow, the dossier. What was that about?The guts of three weeks that took to have its grand unveiling was in itself bizarre But the speed it dissapeared was quicker than a fart in the wind. The big deal that came with this, “the smoking gun”, “the hard evidence” and “whistleblowers”. This was billed as an exposé to rock Scottish fitba to its core. Allegations into bullying and corruption by Neil Doncaster surrounding the earlier vote on the leagues being called. This being another farce to the collection, with the SPFL failing to even get a simple vote excecuted correctly and letting Dundee change their mind. Incredible, but I digress. The EGM was held and Jim Traynors “War and Peace” sized document was heading to shredders up and down the country after all clubs realised the content was drivel. Still today nobody really gets what the r*****s were trying to achieve here. What exactly was the purpose? What is obvious though, they look foolish off the back of it after all the bravado and piffle that came with the whole show.
Guess what? Glasgow again. A season cannot go by without the mention of bloody colt teams. This time the suggestion came during reconstruction talks. Obviously it was just the two usual suspects invited. Thankfully this was kyboshed as quick as it appeared . But again self-obsessed pish at it finest and at a completely inappropriate time too.
The pyramid being disregarded is another issue that grinds my gears. As much as anything in all honesty. The names of Kelty Hearts and Brora r*****s came up now and then but they were left out in the cold for alot of this. In year where the pyramid was extended to incorporate the West Juniors in the new WOSFL, the pyramid system was hung out to dry. I think this was also aided by the votes being swung by L2 teams seing Cove steam rolling the league at first attempt. This potentially putting an element of fear into the league. Whatever happened it was a poor show.
It was not only other teams that annoyed me. My own team have too and as controversial as what im away to say will sound, I am sticking by it. As I write the club have just went in to talks about pay cuts for players. At the start of the pandemic I was impressed by the transparency of the clubs and their finances. Dave Cormack stated early on that we were staring at a five million loss if the fitba was to be off untill July. This rose to eight million as time went on obviously with the stark realization that fans would be missing for the rest of the year. He was also honest about the insurance wrangle which could have set us back another million. But what became apparent was before the team was touched the fans were to be bled for all possible monies. Season ticket sales were opened early, the DNA scheme was pushed, the idea of spending money in the club shop was ramped up too.I get the rationale behind it it. The club openly admited they were staring down the barrel of a financal blunderbuss and at the end of the day a fitba club is a business. However, some of the methods were questionable. It was almost like guilt tripping. In statements to fans asking for their money, the mention of the community work was always close by. The AFCCT is doing a fantastic job for the community and that is not up for debate. Did it need to be mentioned in statements regarding foregoing refunds from season tickets or subscribing for DNA no it didnt. It’s a completely seperate issue. But it was there in printed word at very carefully selected points in statements. The community work and phone calls from players and staff was in effect being used as a marketing tool to punt season tickets and the rest. It was to spread goodwill to help people forget how god awful the fitba served up was in the past two seasons and especially in the preceeding few months before lockdown. It worked to an extent and the reactions of many on social media proves this. The season tickets sold like hotcakes initially and new DNA members signed. However, as all of this was unfolding the playing staff remained untouched while the fans were asked to part with their money in numerous different ways. Those on more money than most of the fans will ever be on continued to earn. Partial deferrals were reported but that means the players didn’t lose out in the long run. One hundred days after shutdown, the club announced that talks have began with staff to initiate pay cuts. Some good and some bad to come out of the club but I was dissapointed with the bad in all honesty. Why did it take one hundred days to hit the players when we knew early on we were “burning a million a month”.(For the record we are down on season ticket sales from at the same point last year, by a significant amount, around two and a half thousand) .Trouble ahead? I think it would take some serious burying of heads to think otherwise.
I would say that Hearts have pissed me off the most and I am sure a lot of fans of varying clubs would agree. Ann Budge boils my piss. The Queen of Hearts. The saviour who waltzed in to save Heart of Midlothian from the aftermath of Mad Vlad Romanov. Within two years the club was stable and she won SPFL CEO of the year. Oh how times change. Fast forward four years and she is one of the most hated figures in our game. Despised my many for her views, attitudes, bullishness and more recently her self preserving attitude. Last season we saw the worst Hearts team in living memory, well in my thirty years watching football. They were shambolic. Watching Sportscene became a source of amusement on Sunday. Everything about them said relegation. Granted they were not mathematically relegated. Their fate was sealed by a democratic vote. The result of the vote as unfair as it was, was the doing of Ann Budge. She made a royal arse of it. If I was a Hearts fan, I would want her to meet a fate similar to Joan of Arc. Why are Hearts in their current position?Lets rewind. Robbie Nielson had taken Hearts from the Championship up to 3rd in the Premier in their first season back. The almighty lure of Milton Keynes Dons was too much for Neilson. This I find surprising as some think the Edinburgh club are the third biggest team in the land. I may be speculating here but did she and Director of Football and clueless buffoon Craig Levein(another of her hires, more on him later) do enough to keep him? It doesnt seem so. What happened next was doomed to fail and I said as much at the time. Bloody hell Kris Boyd also nailed it and he’s a dope. Ian Cathro and his laptop appeared in Gorgie and the calamity began. The good work by Neilson was undone and Hearts turned pish. Slipped down the league, out the Scottish Cup to Hibs then out the League cup the following season at the group stage taking seven points in a group containing Dunfermline, Peterhead, East Fife and Elgin City. The lap top was shut down and Cathro was out. Down the stairs came Mr nobody up front Levein. The laughter continued. In some wacky arrangement he was to be manager, board member and Director of Football.The downfall continued in Hearts fortunes and Levein was sacked in October 2019. Next up was German Daniel Stendel whos P45s from Barnsleys ink was still wet. Another strange appointment which was topped off by newly sacked Levein unconventionally welcoming him to the club and giving the new manager a tour of Tynecastle. From here Hearts were to amass a meagre fourteen points from a possible sixty-six. This taking us to the present day where Hearts are a laughing stock. What does it all have in common ? It all stems from decisions Budge has signed off on. Decisions that sparked the demise of Hearts. But it not just that, Levein was kept on for a further seven months after getting his jotters as manager, another truly baffling decision. What also goes mostly unheard , Hearts squad is enormous. At the time of shutdown there were thirty-one signed first team players.(No wonder the were one of the first teams to initiate wage cuts). As good as thirty one duds that cheques were signed for, whether wages, signing on fees or transfer fee. It all falls at her door. She created the mess. So what does she do when her club is relegated?Goes around like a bulldog licking pish off a nettle blaming everyone but herself for the situation at Tynecastle. She went about it in an entirely miscalculated direction. She kept mentioning overturning the four point deficit on Hamilton.This could not be ruled out and is a legitimate point. But at exactly the same time she was trying to promote Inverness Caley(four ahead of Dundee) and Falkirk(four ahead of Airdrie). She was tying herself in contradictory knots with her statements and disgruntling teams along the way. Not the first time as she has form for such behaviour . In the past she has dismissed the existance of the “lesser teams”. (Sounds familiar). She has went public with this on more than one occasion meaning that she needed to get the teams she despises on side as in a twist of irony, she needed them. But no, she rushed in pigheadedly and suggested a set up which punished teams despite informing everyone that she believed no team should be punished. The 14/14/14 suggested penalized Cove R*****s as it denied them promotion, it relegated Peterhead, Stranraer, Forfar and Clyde to the bottom tier .To make matters worse, it also disregarded the pyramid system all to save her team. This was voted out and quite rightly so. Then came the weathly philanthropist nonesense. The man who pumps money into Hearts is to donate money into the leagues, “no strings attached” cash that would be beneficial to the very teams she has managed to infuriate and alienate previously. Again she was told to ram it in an overwhelming vote against. Yet again she her judgement skills to be extremely poor. If she had played to her audience, admitted Hearts have been terrible and deserved to be relegated in normal circumstances, at least tried to act in an “best for all” manner, said that something had to give somewhere and proposed a 14/10/10/10 from the start. Then I think the courts would not be involved. Instead she has been found out to be the destructive narcissistic pestilential conceited witch that she really is. As I write/rant this writs have been issued to Cove R*****s, Dundee United and Raith Rovers as Hearts and their lackeys Partick Thistle(who i do actually feel sorry for) are attempting to block their promotions. As I said earlier, we are only half way through this sorry saga due to a plague known as Ann Budge.
After these last fourteen tiresome weeks its been more than apparent somebody definitely left the gate open to the eejit zoo on the 13th of March. This is without doubt the most embarrassing, moronic and will sapping episode I have known in our game bar none. As stated above my interest in the upper end of Scottish fitba has been chopped down to the lowest it has ever been. The only reason I am keeping up to date with goings on at the moment is because I am currently in seventeen days quarantine stuck in a hotel room and really dont have much better options available to me.
If Budge delays the start of the league which I fully expect her to try. It’s not going to bother me as much as it once would have. It is going to cause issues for clubs, thats for sure but me, not so much. If it is August, September or whenever, so be it. The set up is a circus and is just laughable now and I have had my fill. Putting a camp fire out with my face seem more appealing than following this soap opera. My interest has been dwindling over the last sixteen months or so, thats never been hidden in my blog or elsewhere. Now it is well and truly spent . I was always going to return to my season ticket once Wee Man was older and hoped it was sooner rather than later. But now thats wholly out of my mind. A second year out is on the cards, (always was). Travelling the length and breadth of the country and maybe further in search of fitba bliss without a care in the world with Wee Man at my side. This without constantly being rankled by the SPFL. This will go on for years yet, that I have no doubts about. I have one hundred and twenty Scottish grounds under my belt thus far. This meaning I have around one hundred and fifty non-league grounds to visit. Maybe by the time I have visited them the SPFL will be less of a disaster zone and in a respectable shape. But more importantly hopefully Ann Budge has fucked right off out of our game.
Going back to what this piece originally started out as, an ode to Scottish fitba. I will always praise all the good elements of our game and will never fall out with Scottish fitba in its entirety. There is so much to enjoy in every nook and cranny in the land with numerous brilliant clubs to visit. We now have a set up which gives these clubs a chance to reach the league set up. Our game could flourish if it was allowed to. Unfortunatley we have the same old issues that have always been there in my time coupled with a distinct fear of change throughout. Basically the SPFL really need to sort their shit out before our game collapses completely.