The SPFL was patting itself on the back yesterday and its leaders – I use that word in the loosest sense only – congratulated themselves on signing a modest deal with another company in the boozing business. One day, and not soon enough, betting and boozing are going to be ripped from the shirts entirely, and Scottish football is going to have to find a new business model.
It may have to do that anyway, and only Celtic fans are warning about it.
Yesterday, The Celtic Star published a comment piece entitled “Scottish football is in danger of losing away days.” It was a timely piece about the steady reduction in away match allocations for our supporters. This is becoming a trend, and not just one that affects our fans.
Tynecastle and Pittodrie are both looking at reductions to each club’s respective allocations, and what started out some years back with the Ibrox club’s cynical decision now risks becoming the norm right across the boards, to their detriment as well as to ours.
It’s all well and good sneering and finger pointing at those responsible, but what worries a lot of us is the dead silence from the governing bodies on it, and their absolute failure to guarantee that fans are able to attend games. Their lack of action on it is astonishing, and now it risks endangering the whole spectacle.
Someone asked me recently what I think the governing bodies could, and should, do about this situation. I was slightly miffed at the question because at the end of the day it’s not down to us fans to come up with the answers just because they can’t or won’t … which isn’t to say that I don’t have some suggestions for them.
One way you could do it is this; you rank the clubs by average attendance and you give those clubs an allocation on a sliding scale based on the size of the host club’s ground and how much of it they regularly fill. At the upper end of the scale you give a club roughly 10% of their average home crowd, or a full stand, depending on their ability to fill it.
So Hearts wouldn’t need to give us 6000 tickets, just the 3400 they intend to give to Hibs. That entire away match stand, instead of a few hundred tickets like we get now.
If they are willing to do that for them they should be mandated to do the same for the other teams who can sell that allocation.
The SPFL is run by the clubs and some of those clubs might holler and wail but it’s not like it’s going to cost any of them money.
We could sell our allocations for these grounds ten times over and everyone knows it.
Fans want to watch their teams play.
It’s just as simple as that, and clubs are entitled to a minimum number of away match tickets. Whereas once we took several thousand fans to away games, now we’re limited to the hundreds and it’s a joke when you see the paltry attendances some of these teams get week in, week out.
Something has to give.
It is the job of the governing bodies to see to it that away fans are allowed to watch their team in sufficient numbers. It’s why UEFA has minimum allocation rules, it’s why games at Hampden are divided proportionally, it’s why the rules and regulations actually say that clubs must make a “reasonable provision” for away supporters.
The problem is that here in Scotland the rules are left so vague that nobody knows what that actually means.
And nobody seems to want to codify that by putting it in writing … but it’s long overdue, and I actually think certain clubs would welcome this matter being taken out of their hands and written in stone. Then they could go back to their own fans and tell them that their hands are tied, that it’s in the regulations and those tickets need to be sold.
What we have here is the tyranny of the mob, with fans making this demand of their own clubs and the clubs feeling like they have to go along with it.
So take it out of the hands of the mob. Make it a legislative issue, with a minimum guarantee and let people get one with following their damned teams again.
Because this is going to kill the game here, this is going to do long term damage, and if people are too stupid to see that then this decision is too big to leave in their hands.
Time for the SPFL board to grow some backbone and do what has to be done.