Sevco: Survival Of The Unfittest

Wolf_chasing_rabbitA few days ago, during the Steam Christmas Sale, I bought a brand new game for the PC. It cost me £7, and rarely have I gotten such satisfaction from spending so little.

It’s a quirky wee title, called The Long Dark, which is a reference to the inevitable moment when the game kills you.

It always does. The game is a survival simulator, with the single objective to last as long as you can. My record thus far is four days.

Last time I died I was sitting in an ice fishing hut on a frozen lake, during a blizzard. I had nothing to light a fire with, and no way of getting the quarter mile or so back to my camp because I’d been attacked by a wolf and he was still out there somewhere.

The game is full of “safe places” where you can hide out from the weather. There ought not to be any need, ever, for me to have slipped into the Long Dark in that tiny hut. The reason I was there was simple enough; I needed to fish because I had no food left and even with the wolf attack, I would have been fine had I been able to get a heat.

What this game does is brings survival down to a few key things. It becomes a constant struggle for resources; for the stuff to feed you, for stuff to burn, for the medicines that will knock down a wolf-bite infection and keep you alive a little longer.

It has a certain savage beauty to it.  I really do love it, and although it’s only in Alpha, and not yet complete, the designers have made something that is astoundingly simple to get to grips with yet amazingly complex at the same time and even in its current state it plays like a full title. Seriously, if you like games I’d recommend it to you all.

I was delighted that in this game I found my theme for what, aside from the weekend’s dire Celtic performance and the need to address issues at my own club before I wrote a single word about the one across the city, would have been my first major article of the year.

It’s been clear to many of us for a while now that Sevco was in serious danger of slipping into The Long Dark, and the Festive Period was remarkable for the way in which the news of their latest series of loans was spun, as somehow something positive.

In the game, you, the wildlife and every item you can discover is generated randomly at the beginning, and scattered across the various locations on the map. You never know where you’re going to wind up at the start or what you’ll find in each place you explore, but as a rule of thumb you’ll always find stuff in any dwelling you stumble across.

It’s possible, therefore, to get by the first couple of days in-game simply by travelling from place to place if you’ve got a good idea where to head. But that doesn’t last, because before long you’ve found every soda can and every chocolate bar there is left to find (unless you stumble upon the fabled bunker, which I haven’t yet, and who’s location is also randomly generated) and the struggle against the elements and the wolves starts for real.

But yeah, for a few days at least that “plan” can get you by …

And that’s exactly where Sevco is right now; like the protagonist of The Long Dark, moving from place to place, scrounging whatever meagre sustenance he can find, not with long term goals or ideas – and those are possible in the game, when you’ve taught yourself how to trap wildlife, how to make rudimentary weapons and to use snow for drinking water – but simply to survive in the short term. To get through the next few desperate days.

I’ve said this before, but in light of yesterday’s piece I figured I better say it again; in spite of my concerns that “the strategy” at Celtic Park is taking us backwards, it doesn’t threaten our survival in the short to medium term. Long term, it’ll need to change if the club is to maintain season ticket sales, but that’s for down the road.

The truth is, we can downsize some yet to keep up with falling crowds and I get the impression a lot of our fans wouldn’t care as long as they had Celtic Park to go to every week; that’s up to them, and I’m not about to criticise them for loving their team, although I honestly wish they would extend myself and other fans the same basic courtesy.

But even as a critic, I have to admit that our strategy is cautious, pragmatic, risk-averse and it’s intellectually consistent and with a coherence that’s hard to deny. No wonder it still looks like the smart way to go for a lot of our supporters.

We’re looking ahead further than just a day or two at a time.

Sevco has no long term plan, just short-term loans. There’s no real sense that they are moving in the right direction; they’re simply staying alive, living one day at a time, a hand to mouth existence that will work just so long as the next cabin on the lake has enough tomato soup cans in it to alleviate that particular worry for a little bit longer.

As Chuck Palahniuk says, in Fight Club (the quote appears as one of the loading screens in the game, which I was delighted with) “Sooner or later, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero …” That’s a universal truth, but external forces can rapidly speed up the process.

I can’t understand the general outpouring of relief, and even some delight, in the press over this news. The phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul” comes to mind and that’s to say nothing about the “dodgy geezers” they borrowed the money from in the first place. I don’t even want to speculate on how wide and deep their version of that goes.

My first reaction to hearing that story was to burst out laughing. I thought it was a joke, and in part I suppose that’s what it is. Because only in the environs of a screwball comedy could you come up with a scenario, and a football club, like this.

As straight fiction it would be too unbelievable.

But then this is reality.

Reality at the club calling itself Rangers.

If you believe the media right now, everything that’s happened over there in the last few months has been washed away in a couple of days. Ashley and his people have their money (and they still have their merchandising deal, but let’s not mention that eah?), they have what they need to keep the lights on a wee bit longer and they are winning on the park.

I watched the Hibs game. I thought Alan Stubbs’ team defended dreadfully and were the architects of their own destruction throughout. I was also amused to note the euphoria that surrounded their win at the weekend; Falkirk had a similar result, at the same ground, earlier in the season and not one single newspaper gushed over it the way they have here.

The mood of self-congratulation over there is hilarious to the outsider, and not a little bit bizarre to behold. Don’t get me wrong; survival itself is not to be knocked, and I would never give them stick for it. It’s more than the club that came before them managed, after all.

But the manner of their survival, being celebrated like it’s some kind of major victory, that suddenly wild mushrooms grow on every tree, that the cupboards are full and all the wolves have been turned into bunny rabbits … maybe I’m just not seeing what they are.

Just because trouble isn’t visibly mounting all around them it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Financial trouble and debt at a football club is like a dead body hidden in the basement; sooner or later it starts to stink the place up and before long someone’s going to come looking for it. Eventually it has to be dealt with. As Phil is fond of reminding people; this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.

These loans have to be paid back, and on top of that there’s the next big demand on funding, which will come during the summer if not much sooner.

At the moment Sevco are sitting pretty in the Trappers Lodge (apt, right?) with a good supply of antibiotics, a little deer meat and enough bottled water to see them through a few stormy nights. That’s a good result, as results go in the survival business.

But it all runs out. It always runs out. And then regardless of what the weather outside looks like, they’re going to have to pull on the heavy boots and get moving, back to the hand-to-mouth stuff, the act of desperate scrambling, just to stay alive.

Sooner or later the survival rate for all indebted football clubs drops to zero.

When Sevco finally runs out of resources – and time is the most precious resource of all – their fall into The Long Dark will be unlike anything we’ve seen in Scottish football before. I can’t conceive of circumstances where a third version of Rangers emerges.

In the game itself, there’s one last outstanding feature which I have to mention, and it has the players debating endlessly, with most (myself included) in favour of it because it ups the stakes massively.

It’s called perma-death.

When you succumb everything goes; even your save game is deleted, forever.

As in real life, there’s no second chances or “retention of history.”

All your achievements are wiped away.

All you’ve accumulated, everything you’ve done … it’s gone in heartbeat.

Realistic, or what?

And we know who it reminds us of, right?

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11 comments on “Sevco: Survival Of The Unfittest
  1. I appreciate what I am about to type is not the thrust of the article but I want to make a simple point.

    You write that our strategy among other things is ‘risk averse’, I disagree, in fact I feel it is the every opposite.

    I believe our strategy of buying cheap and selling high has caused us as a club to lose our identity and it is this loss of identity that is causing the clubs fans great heartache.

    As a fan base we know that we will not always win but can accept defeat if we feel the future looks healthy. Today the future is looking very bleak.

    The board will tell us we need to buy cheap and sell high, I disagree, we should be capable of building a team that qualifies for the CL proper. If we do the finances are taken care of.

    The board gambled and lost, they wanted both, the CL proper and the income from transfer fees.

    They need to end this risky strategy and focus on building a team that the fans can relate to.

    Otherwise we will continue to fragment resulting in continual in fighting while our rivals get stronger.

  2. James I thought your article yesterday was a tad harsh,having said that i must agree that we are “pish” at the moment and we are all fed up.but we are celtic supporters as the song says”faithful through and through” and keep up the good work awrabest.

  3. Wasn’t it part of the 5 way agreement, that if Mr whyte was found to be in anyway connected to RIFC/TRFC, then the SFA would rescind their license. Roll on the court cases and let the lies and squirming begin. HH

    sportstv.stv.tv/football/clubs/rangers/226102-stewart-regan-alleged-green-and-whyte-link-a-very-serious-issue/

  4. Watched the hibs game?nothing better on the tv that afternoon?go to the game at tynecastle or do you want donations to pay for everything in your life?JAK

  5. Schoosh, if you believe the SFA cronies will abandon their masonic friends you’re very much deluded. The ONLY way there is a fair and just outcome to this shambles is another “arab spring” amongst Scottish football fans, whether there is stomach for another I have my doubts especially with Lawwell hoping against hope the huns survive, but fingers crossed the ordinary punters get organised and bring our tainted administrators to their knees.

  6. I had a fall out with a family member the other day when I called our manager an imbecile. He responded by saying he is an intelligent man and you cannot call him that. I said he may be intelligent but at football management he is an imbecile.
    I went on to as the following questions:
    What do you call a manager who sets his team out with only one man up front?

    What do you call a manager so wedded to the zonal marking system that we no longer have a man outside our box when the opposition have a corner?
    That isn’t zonal marking any more that is simply putting as many bodies between your opposition and your goal but regardless if you get the ball away it comes straight back at you.

    What do you call a manager that buys two players from the same club and ends up playing one in the others position?

    Finally and the real killer:
    What do you call a manager who, regardless of whether we were playing Barcelona or Stranraer this weekend, would set the team up to play EXACTLY the same way?

    There is now a resignation about Celtic Park at every game. The free flowing football is non-existent, passing dreadful, high pressing gone, movement negligible, and tactics a complete scunner.

    Even when we were 12 points behind RFC in 2011 I wrote a series of articles on The Celtic Blog website saying that there were signs of improvement and that things could turn around if the personnel were tweeked slightly and our better players stood up to the plate.
    Unfortunately now our best players have been sold, every facet of the club down scaled, and we now have a manger who inspires no one, who constantly talks about energy yet rarely mentions touch or skill. He is wedded to tactics which will fail, fail, and fail again when it comes to Europe but worse than that will eventually fail domestically simply because football constantly evolves and our manager is incapable of it.

  7. it seems to be that Sevco have set up 2 companies RIFC(the holding company) and TRFC ( The club). Now it is being suggested that if TRFC were to go bust then the Holding company would take the assets in place of the debt which TRFC owed them. This will enable them to set up a TRFC2 and lose the debt and not get any points reduction.

    The are really slippery and are in cahoots with SFA AND SPFL.

    This is seen as why they had to pay Ashley.

  8. BigBhoy, I doubt that’s possible, if TRFC are liquidated then a points deduction is unavoidable. 20 points if they still choose to push the survival myth.

  9. Hello James:

    I read your articles with interest, and tend to agree with your current thinking on Celtic. I think we are sleepwalking towards being totally irrelevant in Europe, with qualifying for the CL group stages a dream. Look at Malmo, one goal for, three points out of 18, and what, 20 goals against?

    However, as to your views on Sevco, I believe, with respect, that they are tinged with wishful thinking – wishful thinking which I share, but ultimately believe will never transpire.

    Why? Sevco have for years displayed a remarkable propensity for confounding predictions of, as you term it, \”permadeath\”. Despite analyses from many, many astute observers who are accountants, lawyers, liquidation lawyers et al, Sevco rolls on at the bigotdome. Personally, I feel they are being drip fed from sources that do not make it into Deloitte\’s accounts. The combination of substantial season book numbers, large home crowds, an amazingly high percentage of home cup draws, TV income, emotionally linked loans from RRM, and possible under the table financing from other sources will continue to keep them alive. And let\’s face it – the unholy cabal of government, legislative, administrative and media systems will never allow them to die, right?
    Iniquitous

  10. Any truth in the rumour that park will be the shirt name next season, and that they will pay sevco 50million to keep them going.

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