ROGER THE DODGER
Aneurin Bevan once said that on an island
made mainly out of coal and surrounded by fish that it took an
organising genius to produce a shortage of coal and fish at the
The SPL demonstrated genius of the kind Bevan talked about
last season when they failed to play a single game over the Easter
weekend. This term theyve actually managed to top that lunacy
just a few weeks into the campaign.
Thus far theyve contrived to give some teams just one
home fixture out of the first four played. Theyve given
both Dundee teams home games on the same days
card, forcing one match to be changed to the Sunday . Theyve
moved a match (Partick V Celtic) from Saturday at 3pm to
Sunday then back to Saturday but at 12.30 so quickly it should
be in the Guinness Book of Records. Theyve forced some clubs
to go four weeks between home fixtures.
And its going to get better. There are midweek matches scheduled
for December - madness in itself. But that wouldnt be all
that bad if fans didnt have to travel too far. Say, Old
Firm and Edinburgh derbies, Killie v Thistle, Motherwell V Livingston,
one Dundee team at Dunfermline and the other at home to Aberdeen.
But thats far too sensible for the SPL. Instead, theyre
sending Partick to Dens Park on December 4th. But the biggest
joke of the lot must be sending the most southerly side in the
SPL - Kilmarnock - away to the most northerly - Aberdeen - on
the same December Wednesday night!
Boxing Day sees Dundee United travel to Livingston and Kilmarnock
Then theyre letting the New Year in by sending Killie to
Tannadice and Celtic to Pittodrie on January 2nd - a public holiday!
And in the midst of all this chaos, where is the guiding light
of the SPL? Chief Executive Roger Mitchell.
Mitchell has been keeping his head down since his lunatic SPL
TV scheme exploded all over his face, leaving Lex Gold to face
the critics. But the bold Roger re-emerged from his bunker recently
to give an audience to a party of selected (read tame)
Here, amidst a bravura performance of nothing to do with
me guv, he made the astonishing assertion that if the
SPL doesnt get its act together, then hed have to
consider his position as it wouldnt feel right taking the
money and the car in those circumstances. I seem to remember him
saying something similar when SPL TV collapsed.
If he handed the car keys back tomorrow, could things really
get any worse?
Mitchell used to be a marketing man for the Spice Girls.
They were unaccountably popular for a while, though never as
big abroad as at home. Then their glaring lack of talent became
all too obvious and they broke up amid acrimonious slanging matches.
No wonder Roger feels at home with the SPL.
Put on the
Jim Leishman should start taking the quiet
tablets. The Livingston gaffer sounded off about UEFA Cup opponents
Vaduz, accusing them of sour grapes after Livvy squeezed past
the minnows on away goals.
Leishman should have been down on his knees giving thanks to
whatever deity inspired the referee to rule out Vaduzs last-minute
strike which,in a fairer world, would have given them the victory
As for his complaint that Livvy were rookies at this level and
should have been given more credit, that beggars belief.
Firstly, his squad is packed with experienced pros who have played
for clubs all over the continent. Secondly, where would he rank
a goalless draw against a team from Liechtenstein among these
past European debuts by Scottish clubs? Dundee 8 Cologne 1,
Kilmarnock 5 Eintracht 1, Dundee United 2 Barcelona 0, St Johnstone
3 Hamburg 0.
Our favourite hack Darryl Were you
at the match, caller? Broadfoot continues to
get all the glam games. Fresh from his trek to Moldova, Darryl
was sent to Fir Park on Saturday. Even by his own standards he
He started off his 550-word match report by talking about coloured
boots before going on to do a number on players hairdos.
Throw in the obligatory name-checks (Di Canio, Beckham, Ljungberg)
and the reader might be forgiven for wondering what has happened
to the Motherwell V Hibs match report he assumed he would
But fear not, Darryl misses nothing. Halfway through his piece,
he actually BEGINS his match report, starting (where else)
in the 73rd MINUTE.
Treasure him. His legions of admiring Eastern European feminist
Orangemen just cant get enough.
Rumour has it that the SPL are beginning to
regret those clauses in their TV contract allowing satellite broadcaster
Setanta to show 44 pay-per-view matches this season.
For a start, the Irish-based organisation have hardly gone out of
their way to advertise themselves. Despite booking Channel 435 on
Sky, all the information available on that channel relates to GAA
Theres nothing on their website to show that theyre
covering the SPL in the UK (though plenty on how to get it in
Press coverage is almost non-existent and when there has been a
mention in the papers it has hardly been flattering. Rangers fans
watching Celtic being beaten in Basle for free and complaints over
camera angles being the most prominent.
All in all, its shaping up to be a disaster. Excuses may have
been plausible at the outset, given the hurried manner in which
the deal was cobbled together. But over a month later, Setantas
pleadings are beginning to look a little pathetic.
But even if this was the most publicity-conscious organisation in
the world and had the finest technicians, cameramen and commentators
on the planet, it would still struggle to pull in viewers.
And not just because of the poor quality of the SPL.
Remember, you have to have Sky to get Setanta in the first place.
And even if the canny customer cancelled Sky Sports during the summer
, it is much cheaper to return to Rupert than to sign up to Setanta.
Adding the Sky Sports package costs the average punter around £6-£14
per month, depending on the package. That entitles the viewer
to over 20 live matches in September alone. Already, top-quality
matches like Liverpool V Newcastle and Barcelona V Atletico
Madrid have been broadcast live.
In terms of ability and entertainment, Rangers turkey-shoot
at East End Park doesn't bear comparison.
On top of that, theres the usual coverage of other sports
which this month includes live coverage of the Ryder Cup.
Even Skys much-criticised pay-per-view, at a fiver a game
or £40 for the season, beats the Setanta equivalent hands
Setanta are charging nine (or is it ten, they cant make
their minds up)) quid for 90 minutes. There is still no mention
of a season ticket. And they cant get their hands on the fixtures
they really want - the Old Firm derbies - as the rights for
these have gone to the BBC.
Perhaps worst of all, the very existence of the Setanta contract
eliminates any chance of the BBC showing other SPL games live throughout
the UK. They dont want to anyway, but given that this is now
Setantas territory, the BBC have the perfect excuse to do
Does any of this matter to anyone other than we poor deluded
souls who persist in wanting to watch our native football, no matter
how bad it is?
Well, yes it does. For by handing the TV rights over to the BBC
in Scotland, the SPL have deliberately colluded in a decline
in attendances. The empty seats at televised matches are growing
in number. More people watched Hibs v Aberdeen than Hibs
v Rangers for example.
The Old Firm fans are voting with their feet and refusing to
travel. The only people hurt by this are the ten
who suffer at the gate and find that instead of TV cash being extra
income, it is instead being used to defray lost revenue from spectators.
And the genius who presided over this fiasco? Have a look at
the column opposite.
What about a country where they play international
matches in a stadium thats only half-built and where they
cant get the floodlights to work? Surely that would be
fertile territory for Darryl Broadfoot?
Unfortunately the stadium in question is in Hamilton, the
venue for Scotlands Under-21 match against Israel
which the Scots won 2-1.
That game also showed just how hard it is for commentators to shed
their inbuilt Old Firm bias. After Shaun Maloneys
opening goal, Skys Ian Crocker opined: And
Celtic are in front!
Motherwells James McFadden has a surprising number
of fans in Hamilton. How else to explain the constant shouts from
Tommy Sheridans Ragbag Army of intae Fadda
that permeated the game? And just who is this Paul OStine
the Sheridan stormtroopers kept calling for?
Memo to Charlie Nicholas from the same game. Kris Boyd
is a striker with Kilmarnock who was a late call-up to the U-21s
and wasnt even on the bench against Israel. The player you
called Boyd is Chris DOIG, a defender with Nottingham Forest.
An easy mistake to make - for anyone who doesnt read the
team-sheets or watches only Old Firm matches.
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