It was Cyndia Lauper who sang, “Money Changes Everything,” but if there is an unpleasant truth that has to be faced in Scottish football it’s this; clubs the length and breadth of the land play on the loyalty of supporters.
They know that fans do not want to take any action which negatively impacts on their own team, even if they fundamentally disagree with their board of directors or the way the club is being run.
Nothing makes a bad situation worse at a football club than the fans suddenly deciding that they aren’t going to part with any more of their money.
Scottish football fans have tremendous power, and I think on one level we understand that quite well.
But the exercising of that power is a difficult thing, because invariably the boycott is really the only weapon a supporter has. And it does not hurt but ones own team. It is a grenade under your own kitchen table.
Convincing people to support it is a non-starter.
In the English Premiership, there’s a growing sense that the fans don’t matter. I just finished The Secret Footballer books and in one of them is a story about the ex Celtic player Mark Viduka, a story which sort of highlights the problem.
Once, whilst he was a t Middlesbrough, the highest paid player at the club, on £60,000 a week, he got into a spat with fans outside the ground. One of them started to shout about how “I pay your f—ing” wages.
Viduka walked over to the guy, held out his hand and said “Congratulations, you must be very rich.”
The fans in that league know when they are outgunned; they don’t pay players wages anymore down there.
The big TV companies do.
EPL clubs could reduce the prices of every ticket to £1 each, fill the grounds week in week out, and not even feel it. Alternatively, they could play in front of empty stands. Judging by the atmosphere at most of the games, even those involving the so-called “big clubs” you’d often be forgiven for thinking they do.
Fans have lost their power over clubs as a result.
Here in Scotland, with the TV money being a pittance, the power still lies with us.
Fans actually do pay the salaries of the players; that is influence.
That is the real kind, and the only difficulty most supporters have is in deciding how to wield it.
If you’re a follower of a Scottish club, determined to see that justice is done in the game, and you don’t want to weaken the financial position of your own team but at the same time want them to move towards genuine reform, how do you do that?
There is an answer. There’s always been an answer. It’s just that it’s never been properly thought through or utilised, and it’s this; trust your fellow supporters. Trust the fans at other clubs to be there and have your back. Work together. Co-ordinate.
And boycott away games.
All of them. Across the board.
People are working hard to put in place a structure where fans of various clubs can come together and exchange ideas. Well here’s one for openers. Look at this from a strategic perspective. Fans will not boycott their own clubs, but their own clubs only have one vote anyway, and to make change happen you need more than that.
So any club who has not made a definitive statement in support of real reform … don’t give them another penny of your money, and I mean that to apply across the spectrum.
Hibs fans, Hearts fans, Aberdeen fans, Dundee fans … all of you, and all of us, stop funding the clubs who aren’t on board. Get your reps together. Let a joint body, speaking for the fans of every club, organise it.
Pick one day of action in a month to cover half the league … the following month pick another day which covers the next half.
And send them a message.
On those days, make sure there are no away fans in the grounds.
Trust your fellow supporters to pressure your club … and you pressure theirs.
The publicity alone could move this.
Hitting them in the pocket, and making it clear that you’ll continue hitting them in the pocket, definitely will.
Don’t boycott your own team … boycott everywhere else.
Every club in Scotland out-with Celtic badly needs that away match income, and Celtic can be worked on in other ways and broadly supports a change agenda anyway. And if they don’t, if they really are full of it, and it’s all bluff and bluster … trust that Celtic fans will deal with that ourselves. Nobody wants to see change as much as we do, no-one has put in the work we have.
This is one type of pressure.
There are other types.
There is a list of companies who have “invested” in Scottish football for the exposure it gives them and who are tied to multi-year contracts where they can’t get out … and if Scottish football fans were to very publicly boycott them at the same time as away games, and make it clear they will boycott other organisations who decide to get involved with the game whilst these issues are unresolved … well my money is on that sending a message of its own and getting them to start squeezing on our behalf.
As Joe O’Rourke of the Celtic Supporters Association said in his fine statement, which you can read by clicking the link at the bottom of this page, this is the last chance for the clubs to act with honour.
After today, it’ll be about thinking of ways in which we can make them.
Scottish football’s fans are no longer prepared to live with the stench of corruption, even if the clubs are.
As Joe puts it, we’re no longer asking.
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