More Than A Black Mark

With five minutes to go, your team are drawing one each. A point is enough for to secure promotion, a win and your champions, your midfielder, who has been doing his best Steven Gerrard impression all season has already scored 20 goals and is clean through on goal with just the keeper to beat. It’s the last minute. He surely can’t miss, you slowly rise out your seat with your scarf clasped tightly in both hands, ready to jump in the air with a moment of pure ecstasy that only football can bring. He rounds the keeper, the angle is a bit tight but you already feel the scream of joy rise up through your throat, he pulls back his left boot and manages to balloon it 12 rows over the bar.

Sorry Chris, but this was a shocker!

Sorry Chris, but this was a shocker!

You sit down, disappointed that your team couldn’t quite win the first trophy for what feels like years, but still elated with a season that ended in promotion, when relegation seemed the only way out.

A few hours later, a man, who should be disappointed that he missed out on his ultimate moment of glory, is celebrating, not with the fans, or even his fellow teammates, but in a room alone in his home, sitting staring at a pile of cash won as a result of that missed shot in the final seconds of the game, because that star midfielder, the one that tens, hundreds, even thousands of fans has put their trust in has just thrown the game to win a bet where he didn’t want his own team to win.

Thankfully the story above is pure fabrication, a meandering piece of fiction that started in my head and ended up on the page before you. As you continue to read, I want to reassure fans of ICT, Hearts and Rangers that I am not dubbing Ian Black as a midfielder of great prowess, and as such the story above can bear absolutely no resemblance to him as a player.

Neither am I saying that this was the case in any of the 3 games in which he bet on his team not-to-win, an offence he has been deemed guilty of by the SFA. No, this is am example of the dark path that professional football, and our national sport, could go down, if serious action is not taken against those who feel the need to further compromise the ‘integrity’ of the game.

Would you now pass to this man with a minute to go?

Would you now pass to this man with a minute to go?

Ian Black was found guilty of three charges resulting in an immediate 3 match ban with a further 7 games suspended until the end of the season along with a fine of £7500 with the football matches in which he was not involved resulting in censure.

The charge sheet read as follows:

Guilty of betting on 3 football matches on a then-registered club not to win.

Guilty of betting on 10 football matches that involved a then-registered club.

Guilty of betting on a further 147 football matches.

So let’s go through each charge as above, building up the severity as we go, bearing in mind that all of the above are deemed as chargeable offences by the SFA.

betslip2

Charge 1: Betting on 147 Football Matches

It is ludicrous for some people to think that young men with varying degrees of disposable income do not enjoy a flutter just as much as the rest of us. Personally I have no problem with a player betting on a game of football that has no direct bearing on their current teams circumstances, or which they cannot be seen to have any influence over. There will be arguments made that why do players have to bet on football, why not bet on horse racing, boxing or snooker? Well from what my many, many years of sports consumption has proven is that in comparison to football, although each are not without their merits, the aforementioned sports are not quite as good, this is of course without reflecting on the various betting ‘scandals’ that have effected them.

What would concern me, and should not be neglected, is the friendships and associations built up between players across their careers, could a well placed word in another player’s ear alter the outcome of a match where their would be no apparent connection. Surely if that accusation is to be made then it too should be applicable to a player’s barber, aunt or landscape gardener? Perhaps the sensible thing to do is not to outlaw a practice that is almost impossible to monitor successfully but to instead create a set of guidelines for games that which a player can get their football betting fix, removing any doubt or suspicions about match outcomes where an association can be made. Logistically, is that possible? I’m just not sure.

Charge 2: Betting on 10 football matches that involved a then-registered club

On the face of it this seems pretty straightforward, especially if you take into consideration that the final charge we will look at is in relation betting on a then-registered club not to win. By the process of elimination, that would suggest that a player who is found guilty of these charges, is guilty of betting on his team to win, and as a fan if that’s the case you’d hope he puts everything he owns on a victory, in theory resulting in the optimum effort being input for the cause of your club.

However the intricacies untold in this situation could suggest that any bets made in relation to this charge may also contain wagers on correct score or number of bookings to name but two examples. In that respect any bet made can only lead to a compromise in performance by the player no matter what protestations the accused may make about always giving the magical 100%. Taking these points into consideration common sense should dictate to any individual involved in a game not to bet on it, irrespective of whether or not that you fancy your team to knock six past your opponents that weekend.

Charge 3: Betting on 3 football matches on a then-registered club not to win.

Let me start by saying this, as a professional, in any field, at what point should it be considered a good idea to bet against yourself? Whether it’s before an interview, during a big presentation or on a football pitch. Especially on a football pitch, the ultimate results business. To bet against the team that pay your wages, the fans that chant your name and the children who buy your shirts smacks of the highest level of disregard for all those parties. I know that was all a tad vitriolic but as a football fan to know that a player I pay to watch is willing to bet against a win, in ANY circumstance, whether its Barcelona or Brechin City is totally unacceptable.

Is good early season form going to be enough once the ban is over

Is good early season form going to be enough once the suspension is over? Is the trust gone?

And the above is just from the fans perspective, what about the coaches and players they spend their daily lives with. Earlier I mentioned the ‘magical 100%’ that every player should strive to give. How can those words be taken seriously by the teammates and management of Ian Black. When Ally McCoist looks at the options available to him when Black’s suspension is over will he be able to pick the player on his individual merits, throwing aside the shackles of doubt that surely must lurk wthin, no matter how many snappy supportive sound bites that may or may not come in out in the forthcoming weeks.

What about next time a teammate strides forward with minutes to play and Black is the only option, will the adrenalin rush of the game out think the fog of doubt that surely must surround him? Or am I being naïve and the camaraderie of fools that is professional football let this ghost by without a second thought? It shouldn’t but I feel the paltry nature of the sentence to be served does almost nothing to discourage the practice.

The Final Verdict

As previously stated the SFA punished Ian Black after he was found guilty of all three charges  resulting in an immediate 3 match ban with a further 7 games suspended until the end of the season along with a fine of £7500, with the football matches in which he was not involved resulting merely in a censure.

All decisions should be made on a stand alone basis, and to compare the ban given to Ian Black to that given to other players by other federations is to do so without taking into consideration the specific circumstances of each case. With that being said once again yet another indication has been given that when it comes to the big decision the SFA would fail to exert enough authority to announce its nap time at a nursery whilst armed with a box full of cookies and a Peppa Pig DVD.

Ian Black has been found guilty of betting against his own team. To ban him for only 3 games, knowing that barring a gross act of stupidity on his behalf, that the further 7 games will never be missed is a slap in the face to anyone who has worn the scarf of the clubs he has played for, the managers who put their trust in him and the players he played both with and against.  As he has been found guilty, of something that I believe to be just a few short steps shy of match-fixing, the punishment should have been given out as such, instead the SFA failed to take the opportunity to send a clear and concise message that behaviour of this nature will not be tolerated and should never be seen again.

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King Kenny The Second

It’s Wednesday 14th August 2013, Scotland are at Wembley for the first time since Don Hutchison scored with a header to give them a memorable 1-0 win. It’s half time and the score is 1-1. 2 seats down the row I find myself located next to a red faced man in a kilt is taking a break from the barrage of abuse he has been directing at our sole striker. Within 4 minutes, said striker, spins the defender and fires a beautifully placed shot past Joe Hart sending over 20,000 members of the Tartan Army into absolute raptures.

I hug the man 2 seats down and say ‘He’s no bad him, eh?’. He looks suitably ashamed.

That my friends is Kenny Miller in a nutshell, derided by some but always just one touch away from proving his doubters wrong.  For all his flaws, he never failed to give anything but 100%, made himself available at every opportunity and has a goal scoring ratio when put into perspective is not to be sniffed at.

After 69 caps and 18 goals, Gordon Strachan will begin the unenviable task of finding Scotland a new first choice striker. Who should be that man is a debate for another day, when results are more relevant and hopes are freshly renewed for the ‘Road to France 2016’. For now let us reflect on a fantastic servant to Scotland after his announcement, at the age of 33, to retire from the international scene.

He was given his debut by Craig Brown in 2001 but it wasn’t until Berti Vogts called him up for a home qualifier against Iceland 2 years later did he cement his place as national number nine, scoring on his re-debut.

A goal against Germany one of many highlights.

A goal against Germany one of many highlights.

He was part of the team that so nearly separated Italy and France in Euro 2008 qualification and we can forgive him the occasional missed chances, like that one in one in Milan, when you compare it to the sheer orgasmic elation of the aforementioned second goal against England at Wembley, what turned out to be a fitting farewell moment.

Accusations that he did not score enough are far from the mark. His record stands up well against the likes of Joe Jordan (52games/11goals), Ally McCoist (61gm/19gls) and even James McFadden (48gms/15gls), all of whom are considered as some of the greats of the Scottish game. As much as we all love our national team, in today’s footballing climate Scotland are a 3rd tier European team, our primary tactic involves playing one man up front who’s job is to run until his feet bleed and to feed off the scraps the occasional punt up the park provides. Now hopefully this is a footballing ethos on the turn, but in Kenny Miller Scotland could not have had anyone better suited for that role.

In 20 years time Kenny Miller should be remembered as the man that provided the odd fleck of hope during the Vogts and Burley era’s whilst helping create some moments of ecstasy against the likes of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England. As he has already stated it must be a nagging regret that he was unable to help Scotland qualify for a major championship but in a time of Soviet separations and the ever increasing fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia things have never been so tough for a nation of Scotland’s pedigree to make it to the play-off stages nevermind a finals tournament.

Not everybody loved him and not everybody rated him as a player but as far as I am concerned Kenny Miller deserves the upmost respect for the load he has carried for over a decade as Scotland’s first choice striker. Many would have folded, a few certainly did, I’m looking at you Chris Iwelumo, but when Gordon Strachan selects his squad for the first qualifiers of the 2016 campaign there will be a space far bigger than just one man.

Thank You Kenny!

Here is a link to your finest moment in all its glory for all to see.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKt6UXz4ljg

The Life of Pie

I have a new blog, it’s about Pies, if you like Scottish football, you’ll like pies. Get in about it!

MEAT FILLED PASTRIES

Let’s be honest, we all love a Pie.

After an aimless conversation whilst watching the first game of the new Premiership season I discovered that within the first 2 weeks of the season I had scranned a total of 11 pies or 1.4 pies per game of football I have attended. What started as a joke is now the blog you see before you:

Meat Filled Pastries: A Tour of Pies, will be a blow by blow account of any pie I encounter, whether it be at a sporting event, in a pub, in a restaurant or just for my dinner.

Each pie will get a rating on a number of criteria,, giving it a final ‘Gravy Factor’.

The criteria will be as follows:

Price: Not necessarily cheapest is best, but value for money.

Presentation: Not necessarily Michelin starred but does the pie taste represent the pie presentation.

Meatiness: Not…

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Real Time Reviews: Biffy Clyro – Opposites

The Realtime Music

Time for the first ever Real Time Music Review.

The idea is simple. I have the length of the album to form an opinion, spew out my thoughts onto this here blog. No rewinding to hear if the breakdown at the end of the chorus was really as crisp as it could have been or if the narrative of the oboe solo in the middle section really fitted with the overall juxtaposition of the song against the backdrop of 1920’s Yugoslavia on which it is based.

Listen to the tunes. Write an Opinion. Job’s a good’un.

Biffy-Clyro-Opposites1

First up a band who, as they are Scottish, I can only assume took all their inspiration from The Proclaimers on the road to rock and roll stardom, Biffy Clyro. A band who so far have seemed to remain immune to the ‘I-was-there-at-their-first-gig-but-now-they-have-sold-out-and-are-shit’ brigade’. Let’s drop those beats!

Biffy love a good slow build on the first album track and ‘Different People’ stays true to form. Two minutes in and the energy is ramped up quicker than Sheldon Cooper in a Flash costume. This is a perfectly pleasant wee romp of a tune, it definitely feels like the starter to a big fat main course that will be served medium rare dripping in Blue Cheese sauce. Speaking of dripping here comes the opening lyrics of the first single from the album ‘Black Chandelier’, because of this I still expect this song to turn into a tune about plumbing, saying that the image of a cute little cup of cyanide is one that I find as suitably macabre as it is sweet. Third chorus round I’m officially giving it ‘Yaldi’ in my living room, this song is why Biffy are great, no sure at the start but at the end your calling it an anthem.

It’s jaggy sounding guitar time, another Biffy staple, with ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ but whoooooooshhhh, given the lyrics its fitting to say that chorus comes over the top of you like a tidal wave. 1.34 into Song 3 is the first F-Bomb of the album for those of the burn your bra persuasion. I’m having trouble focusing on writing as my left thigh, couch and living room table have turned into a full drum kit. The imagery is top-notch here to the point I am standing on a beach looking onto an infinite horizon.

OK this song is called ‘Opposite’ not ‘Opposites’ does that mean it can be called the title track, are you allowed to pluralise title tracks. I find it best not to concentrate too much on grammar as that is usually an invitation to mass pedantry as people point out every error you have made in your writing. The fact I am going on a rant about grammatical pedantry should probably make you realise that ‘Opposites’ is pleasant if not particularly noteworthy.

I have just checked the name of this song, apparently its ‘The Joke’s On Us’, if I was guessing I though it would be Juggermaut, this is another pleasant wee ditty, I cannot help but feel we have hit the mid-album slump of perfectly functional tunes and lyrics without any real drive or focus to get to the end, if I was at a gig I’d maybe go visit the wee laddies room when this when it came on. Speaking of tolilet activities, what is the deal with throwing cups of piss at gigs, are these individuals sexually frustrated at their partners lack of willing to accept a golden shower. Moving on!

My lack of knowledge of the brass section within a orchaestra means I’m going to start with a guess at a ‘trumpet’ intro to ‘Spanish Radio’, this isn’t really a foot stomper either but I’m finding it far more jaunty number, I think the yet-to-be-confirmed trumpet has sucked me in here, plus I’ve looked outside and its rather sunny. I don’t think this song would be half as good if it was raining. Hang on, business has just picked up, this has turned into a contender with that last 30 seconds of wind your window down and shout it out car noise. Please more trumpets!

‘Victory Over The Sun’ starts as the kind of song you would listen to in the dark, earphones in, eyes closed, lying on your bed…..and then it makes you SHIT the bed! It’s not a megadeath moshpit change in tempo but its enough to make you sit up and check for a damp brown patch.

Now with a name like ‘Biblical’ this should either sound like a Gregorian chant or be suitably epic, halfway through its definitely not one for the monks but is it epic? It’s trying so hard, its like when Jim Carrey is trying to get out the end of a robotic rhinoceros in Ace Ventura:When Nature Calls in that it is a big noise trying to come out too small a space. I think if my speakers where hooked up to a monster truck attatched to a sub-woofer this would be epic but at the moment it’s just rather good.

‘Stingin’ Belle’ is a cracking name for a song, imagery is rife in my head just now, temporarily forgot what I was doing there. This is good, nice lyircs, singable chorus, oh hang on……’MARKING THE F*** OUT’ BAGPIPES! BAGPIPES! A bagpipe breakdown, is a musical orgasm to your soul it’s turned this into a half lyrical/half instrumenal ditty now. Putting aside the marking out for Bagpipes I like this.

I’m back on my bed, lying in the dark. In fact this is the kind of song you would expect to hear at the end of an episode of The Killing when they discover a hand smeared in Lurpak in a birthing pool, you know, if they didn’t already have that set playlist they have had since series one. ‘Skylight’ as this song shall be named is the kind of song I would happily listen to over and over again. It’s calm it has a nice change of tempo breakdown with a clarity of sound that sometimes get lost in a Biffy song.

Somebody has given Muse a Scottish accent and let them hi-jack this album, oh no, sorry its back to being Biffy again, I’m now ten songs in and it’s quite clear Biffy have a formula, it’s the same one they have always had, it works, I mean this is great but to quote directly from ‘Trumpet or Tap’, it sometimes leads to a ‘shrug of the shoulders’. It’s like eating a bag of Haribo in one go, feels great at the time but an hour later you can’t remember why it was so great but you know that you want to do it again and again. This album is starting to feel like that bag of Haribo. I can see me getting carried away with this Haribo metaphor but ‘Modern Magic Formula’ is more of the same of anything I haven’t heard before, slow build, jaggy strings, small acoustic section, and back into frenzy.

Kids and Grown Ups Love It So!

Kids and Grown Ups Love It So!

I’m really liking this album but as I listen to ‘The Thaw’ I find myself going is it done yet. It’s just nice, if I’m using the word nice to describe a Biffy song we may have a problem with album length here, saying that here comes the last song, ‘Picture a Knife Fight’, so maybe this has been timed just right. I am already predicting a descent at the end of this song to match the crescendo at the start of this album. Hero call right there. Seem to be back on form here but my judgement could be clouded in anticipation of whatever descent down the musical mountain they are about to take me on….erm right that wasn’t quite as epic as I hoped, think that ‘Stingin’ Belle’ would have been better placed here.

Well that’s it over! There will be no score rating instead the following criteria will be applicable to all ‘Real Time Reviews’

Rewind & Repeat: Black Chandelier, Stingin’ Belle, Skylight, Sounds like Balloons

Skip that Beat: The Joke’s on Us, The Thaw, Opposites

Overall Verdict: Like a bag of Haribo with a blunt Razor in it. Enjoyable to consume but in the main lacking any real edge. Saying that you would still wind your windows down and sing your heart out all the way through.

The Re-Return

the re-return

 

Right, so it’s fair to say that over the last few months I had mistreated the Leading The Line blog concentrating instead on my pursuit of financial gain in a job I never thought I would find myself in. I’m not going to use this as a forum to discuss my current career more wanted to highlight it as the reason I have forgotten about something that I love to do. Well I say forgot, more like after a working day, I had not been able to summon the energy to emit a brain-fart never mind construct a sentence worthy of the name.

However last week somebody contacted me last week asking if they could have the ‘Leading the Line’ WordPress site as they wanted it for a university project. Initially my reaction was they could have it, I hadn’t used it for nearly 10 months, I didn’t seem to have that drive or spark to do it any longer but yet as the idea of letting go seeped in I realised something. I couldn’t do it. You see for as soon as I had answered yes to this request those last few brain cells dedicated to stating opinions and researching deeper into the things that interest me would be forever lost in a wave of spreadsheets and compensation figures. I just couldn’t.

Therefore I am proud to announce the return of Leading The Line, I’m not going to mess about too much with the format at first, I like the layout and the look of the site but I have decided to branch out in terms of contact, starting today I will be doing what I shall dub until I come up with something pithier ‘Real Time Music Reviews’, in which I will take an album and listen to it from start to finish uninterrupted, using the duration of said album to consider its merits. There will still be the usual sporting additions but given the casserole of nonsense that is Scottish football at the moment I thought I better ease myself in with something else first.

I hope this is the start of something beautiful.

Kind Regards

‘CF’ of Leading The Line

Chris Marshall

24: Too Many?

Euro 2012 has been a marked improvement on what was a rather underwhelming World Cup in South Africa two years ago. Is it a coincidence or is it more to do with the fact that it really is the cream of the region as opposed to a bloated act of inclusivism used as a Marketing ploy by FIFA and UEFA to ‘stand up for the little guy’?

From Euro 2016 onwards the European Championships will expand from 16 to 24 teams, in the official literature produced by UEFA’s Executive Committee it stated the reason would be to:

“give middle ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the final tournament,  thereby expanding the fanbase directly reached, and increasing the number of matches played and increasing overall stadium capacity”

In short make more money. I don’t want this to come across as a negative attack on the current trend for taking football to new frontiers, as ridiculous as a World Cup in Qatar does seem, but more an assessment if something isn’t broke then don’t go trying to fix it.

Let us start with some simple figures, UEFA has 53 member associations who can enter the qualification process for the European Championships, in the present format 16 teams can earn a place in the finals (host included), a percentage representation of 30%. That’s right being within the top 30% counts as being part of the elite of European Football. Expanding the tournament to 24 teams sees that percentage rise to 45%, nearly half! This means that almost 1 in 2 teams could qualify for a prestigious tournament reserved for the best in Europe.

But the UEFA statement reads as ‘ to give middle ranked countries a much greater chance to qualify for the final tournament’ I hear you say, well if you don’t mind begging my indulgence here is a list of  teams  who I’m sure fall under UEFA’s ‘middle ranked demographic’ and when they made their debuts:

As can be seen every tournament since its re-invention as the Euros in 1980 has seen at least 1 country debut, many of the countries listed there have also then re-appeared at later tournaments and some of them have produced some of the most memorable tournament performances in the history for football.

Denmark’s triumph at Euro’92 is the greatest football fairy-tale ever told, while Greece gritted their way to triumph at Euro 2004, both teams considered nothing but cannon fodder before a ball had been kicked. At Euro ’96 the Czech Republic re-debuted as beaten finalists and Turkey reached the Semi-Finals of Euro 2008 showing that these middle ranked teams who have earned their way to the Finals have done well. Add this to FIFA and UEFA’s recent penchant for giving tournaments to countries who you would not usually expect and there seems little risk of each and every tournament not seeming fresher than the last one. The fact that Euro 2016 is going to be in France is fresh in its sheer conventionality.

In the qualifying for Euro 2012 countries such as Estonia, Bosnia and Montenegro were a play-off away from making their debuts. The current format does give these ‘middle tiered’ countries the opportunity to qualify for these tournaments they just have to work hard and perform well to take them. What the UEFA idea of expansion to 24 teams does is attempt to gift these sides an easier path, and perhaps more cynically help prevent the bigger nations from not qualifying if they have an indifferent campaign.

It would take something special away from the actual achievement of qualifying if the path to the Finals is met with less resistance and when you get there you find your still only one of about half the best teams in Europe. If it was meant to be easy to get their then it wouldn’t be called the European Championship FINALS if would be called the ‘Next Round’.

Putting the qualifying process aside though the expansion to 24 teams also leaves us with a bit of a Mathematical problem. 24 doesn’t easily work its way down to 2 for a final. UEFA’s Resolution: a final tournament consisting of six groups of four teams, followed by a round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final. The top two from each group would qualify in addition to the four best third-ranked sides, the same system as was applied in the World Cups from 1986 to 1994. A format last used 20 years ago, really? And if that doesn’t make sense what makes things worse is UEFA’s General Secretary Gianni Infantino, a man in part responsible for coming up with the idea in the first place, has said the new format is ‘not ideal’.

I tell you why he said that, because it’s not just ‘not ideal’ but it is in fact flawed.

Earlier I mentioned that 45% of those entered will qualify for the finals, well of the 24 teams entered, 16, yeah that’s right 66% of those who turn up will qualify for the next round. In theory a team could qualify for the Round of 16 without winning a game. How does that create positive, attractive and exciting tournaments?

Greece won their way to Euro 2004 with organisation and opportunism, and here we are 8 years later and this same philosophy is being proclaimed as the way to win a tournament for a lesser light, while teams like Spain and Germany try to pass and counter their way to glory. Even England are settling for being ‘functional’ as that’s the cool thing to do now if you’re not very good.

Let us look at the conclusion of Group A as an example.

What if Euro 2012 had 24 teams would Greece have gone for the win they needed to qualify against Russia knowing that 3rd place could be enough to get them through? The drama of the final of round of Group A would not be matched in a 24 team format. Part of the joy of football is its sadistic nature to suffer defeat when glory seems far easier to achieve.  The second half would have seen Russia pass the ball about their defence knowing that a defeat would be enough to see them through. Football is about winning, not settling for defeat.

Ask any fan what they hate about tournament football when watching a game their side is not involved in, a lot will say ‘dead rubbers’, games where the conclusion is known before kick off or have no relevance to the greater picture of the Championship. With the possibility of 3 teams coming out of your group if results go a certain way a final round decider could turn into a boring procession. The proclamation of fuller stadiums and greater variety at UEFA’s inception of the format will be replaced with apathy towards games that once meant something to everyone to games that mean nothing for some and just a bridge to the next stage.

When an idea is rolled out and described as ‘not ideal’ by the people that formulated it you have to ask, is this change necessary or is it change for the sake of change, for the sake of one man’s vision of his own legacy? A similar set of changes  have been made in the Champions League, although they have resulted in a greater variety of teams and great stories like APOEL it has left a tournament of prestige split into a warm up event of group stages with multiple chances of redemption before the main attraction of the knockout rounds. Fans have been turning off to it.

Football’s governing bodies are often chastised for their resistance to change, goal line technology a case in point, but when change is brought in and you as the implementer are not sure of what the changes are, are you not best leaving things as they are? The European Championships works because it is a streamline, high stakes month of football where the cream of a continent compete head to head at the top of their game knowing that one off day could see them sent home knowing this time they just weren’t good enough.

It’s Obscene not Sportscene

The media is a wonderful thing. It gives information on absolutely everything, whether it be the country where the next opponent to put a Scottish team out of Europe will be from or the average attendance at Borough Briggs in 1923. It creates debate, forces opinion and provides a smorgasbord of avenues to keep up to date with the game we all know and love.

Internet, Social Media, Radio, Newspapers, Apps for your Phone and even television all contribute. Television is, in the case of the BBC, a publicly funded entity designed to provide everybody with fair and affordable access to a wide variety of events. Take The Premiership for example, dependent on how far away the journey to the match is a Saturday morning usually starts with an episode of Saturday Morning Kitchen followed by Football Focus a programme designed for discussing all the big issues across football in the UK that week.

In the afternoon they have Final Score with updates from around the grounds and a couple of ex pro’s , unfortunately including Garth Crooks, giving analysis on the action as it happens. Of course it’s a blatant rip off of the Jeff Stelling Juggernaut on Sky but still a good idea none the less. Then in the evening you have Match of The Day followed by The Football League Show a full three and a half hours of football covering every game in England. The MOTD studio screams, ‘this is a big deal’, the presenter Gary Lineker brings the right level of gravitas and charisma while the established set of summarisers, including the likes of Lee Dixon and Alan Hansen, bring a knowledge and a familiarity that means although not always right their opinions are respected.

The coverage done gives The Premiership that big league feel. Every game has its own moment in the sun whether it be Manchester United mauling Arsenal or Stoke scoring a disputed winner at The Hawthorns. There is a commentator for each match. The coverage itself does not feel rushed but in keeping with the events of the particular game being covered. They have a post match interview with both managers and any key protagonists in the game and then back in the studio it is for further discussion.

It’s not a hard format to replicate. Case in point: MOTD2, aside from its occasional tendency to fancy itself as a light-entertainment show on a Sunday night it too provides all the same things that makes MOTD so great. A host with a drop of charisma, a regular summarising team and discussion on the big points of the day.

The thing is if this is so easy to replicate, as has been proven, then what the hell is Sportscene all about!? There is great debate as to how the SPL is perceived across Europe and in particular down south and after watching the mammoth 45 minutes of coverage on Sunday night  (15 minutes less than the MOTD ‘B’ Show) I was left with the opinion that no one here cares so why should anyone else. I’m not asking for the world here, I understand financially it makes no sense have a Scottish version of The Football League Show. I doubt they would count viewing figures in the hundreds but really is that the best we can come up with for the top level of our national sport.

Lets break it down, the studio looks like somebody has decided to have a go at one of those Big Make’s they do on Blue Peter although I will argue with anyone that the papier-mache Tracey Island is an architectural masterpeice against the current Sportscene studio.

The lead anchors Rob MacLean ad David Currie although passable always seem to be just going through the motions, and some of the questions they dole out to the ‘experts’ beside them leave you wondering, ‘did he just ask that’? Chick Young may talk nonsense 75% of the time but at least you know he cares. The majority hate the english media for its incessant bravado about how ‘The Premiership’ is the best in the world and how England are going to win every major tournament but at least it shows a passion for their product.  Watching Rob and David plod through Final Score and Sportscene you can almost see the cogs turning saying ‘are we done yet?’.

Although they are not helped by what they get given to work with. Footballers in the most part are a pretty lethargic lot when it comes to intelligent conversation, Scottish footballers even more so. No offence to Callum Davidson, a solid full back but absolutely nothing he said enhanced any discussions that were attempting to be made. That’s another point,a discussion is not just two people it’s a conversation. A presenter, who isn’t allowed to have no opinion for the sake of impartiality, and a pundit/player/manager who has one opinion and no one to disagree with. Let’s be honest unless Pat Nevin decide’s he’s got nothing better to do then you’re as well sticking it on mute and doing the summarising yourself with your mates. Bring in a bank of 4 or 5 ex players, managers, referees or whatever with actual opinions and have two on a week to create a livelier programme. At the moment it’s like watching two people round at their Gran’s too scared to ask to turn the volume up.

Saying that it’s not like they actually get a lot to talk about,.I tuned in ten minutes late the other night and missed the ENTIRE highlights package for the Edinburgh Derby. That ten minutes would have included an introduction and some kind of preview package as well. At least that game got a commentator and the managers got to say their piece on proceedings but what about Dunfermline v Motherwell fro example. A six goal thriller covered in 3 minutes with a Jonathan Sutherland voiceover, that right the bloke that reads the emails out. Did we get to hear how Jim McIntyre felt about losing his unbeaten start or how far Stuart McCall feels his team can last the pace> Of course not.  Also is there really such a dearth of Scottish Commentators that Rob MacLean has to do a handover to himself, as is the weekly occurrence for whatever game he was covering.  Conversations like, ‘Hi Rob’, ‘Thanks Rob’, ‘Good Game Rob?’, ‘I thought so Rob’, ‘Bye Rob.’, really do whet the appetite don’t they?

How can the media bang on about how nobody has any pride in the Scottish game when they themselves are responsible for a programme and a format that makes the SPL look like nothing more than an after thought in the minds of the BBC. I understand there are restrictions in place and but that isn’t excuse for poor formatting, poor production and a general malaise that is only reflective of the national feeling about the SPL because there is nothing being done to change that perception.

I’m not a BBC basher, I think Sportsound and Open All Mics are two of the best pieces of sports coverage out there. I also think that Richard Gordon comes across as a knowledgable and intelligent anchor while at the same time not being afraid to muscle in with an opinion if he sees fit. I think the BBC website although lacking in true depth when it comes to the Scottish Lower Leagues is informative and functional and my only real gripe is the removal of 606 because people mistook a public forum for debate as a venue to slag off your rivals.

If I am wrong and people think that Sportscene is fine the way it is then I bow to your opinion. Your wrong but I respect it. The BBC have a responsibility to produce quality television for our licence fee and although the SPL may not have the Aguero’s, Torres’s and Rooney’s of this world, it still has the ability to serve up enough entertainment and debate for people to make it worth shouting about again.