Showing posts with label football. Show all posts
Showing posts with label football. Show all posts

Monday, May 18, 2015

Where are their goals?

Only 10 of the 50 biggest employers in Scotland said they pay all staff working for them the living wage, according to the BBC.

The living wage is a voluntary hourly rate that is calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK. At £7.85 an hour, it is 21% higher than the legally-set minimum wage of £6.50.

Most Scottish Premiership football clubs were paying some of their off-pitch staff less than the living wage. Celtic, in particular, has been pressed on why it has not introduced it. A group of fans lodged a resolution at the club's AGM last year, on behalf of shareholders, asking the club to implement the Living Wage. The chief executive of Celtic, Peter Lawwell, has a pay package worth nearly £1m a year.

Peter Kelly from the Poverty Alliance, which promotes the living wage, told the programme that the clubs needed to do more. He said: "It's really unacceptable, I mean we would say the same about the majority of businesses in any other sector not paying the living wage - we really think that they can. "These are clubs that are leaders very often in their communities. They need to be showing leadership in terms of pay as well, there's a lot more they could be doing."

ABERDEEN Rate starts at £6.50 although there is some progression. Below Living Wage
CELTIC The BBC was told Celtic employ their own staff for hospitality and pay them £6.70 an hour. Team member visited a Celtic FC club store on Argyle Street and discovered from an assistant manager and two store associates that they are paid just above minimum wage at £6.70 an hour. Below Living Wage
DUNDEE UNITED The BBC was told wages are "not far off minimum wage." Below Living Wage
HAMILTON Representative said work was at minimum wage (he guessed that at £6.51). Below Living Wage
MOTHERWELL Bar work sometimes available. The wage is between £6.58 and £7.00 - offered to take a CV. Below Living Wage
PARTICK THISTLE Partick Thistle confirmed bar work is minimum wage - happy to take a CV. Below Living Wage

ST JOHNSTONE Confirmed there are vacancies at minimum wage, paid hourly. Below Living Wage

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Who are scoring the goals?

In Scotland, there are approximately 414,000 people currently paid below the Living Wage.

Heart of Midlothian Football Club has become the first football club in Scotland to become an officially accredited Living Wage Employer. The move will see all staff employers at the club paid the Living Wage. The Living Wage was uprated to £7.85 per hour in November, £1.35 per hour more than the National Minimum Wage.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said: 
“Congratulations to Heart of Midlothian on becoming Scotland's first Living Wage Accredited football club.  We are delighted that Heart of Midlothian will pay all staff who work at the club the Living Wage, and that they have opted to have their commitment to the Living Wage recognised through the accreditation mark. This is an important step forward for the campaign to end poverty pay in Scotland. Almost two in three children in poverty in Scotland live in a household where someone works, and the Living Wage is a vital tool in lifting people out of in work poverty. Football clubs have an important role in communities across Scotland. With thousands of people turning out every week to support their local clubs, they can play an important leadership role, not only for fans but for the businesses they work with. I hope that more clubs will follow Heart of Midlothian's example but not only giving their staff a pay rise this Christmas, but by showing real leadership on this issue on and off the pitch.”

Chelsea FC has become the first English football club to be accredited as a Living Wage Employer. At the same time the club will also start the process of ensuring staff of external contractors will also receive the Living Wage for working at Stamford Bridge, Cobham training ground and all areas where the club operates. Chelsea will also ensure any additional agency employees not currently meeting the criteria to recieve the Living Wage will also get the same rates of pay.

In contrast, in the Observer, Kevin McKenna writes:
“Last month, Celtic, the richest sporting organisation in Scotland, had to be dragged screaming and protesting by its own fans to a decision to pay the living wage to its full-time employees. The club still refused to budge on a similar rate for its hundreds of part-time workers and was still bleating about remaining competitive and not allowing its wage policy to be influenced by a third party (the Living Wage Foundation). This club was established by poor people for poor people and receives loyal backing still from many poor people. The entire board of directors, a gentrified assortment of CV-embellishers, ought to be made to resign"

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Hoops seek Loop-holes

Ten days ago, at Celtic's annual general meeting a motion by the Celtic Trust calling for Celtic to ensure that each of its employees is paid the living wage of £7.45 per hour rather than the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour was thrown out by the rich men and money-changers who hold sway at Celtic Park. Jeanette Findlay of the trust stated during the debate that preceded this act of corporate and social irresponsibility that it was a decision that "shamed you and shamed us". Two of the three main reasons cited by the club for rejecting the living wage proposal were these: that it would cost £500,000 annually to implement, and that no other British club does it. Lest we forget; in the last two seasons, Celtic have spent around £10m on fees and wages for three strikers .

Celtic support still occupies the lowest rung of Britain's socioeconomic ladder. Its bedrock is in neighbourhoods of Glasgow's East End and Lanarkshire where the indicators of poverty and illness are among the highest in Europe. Many of those who are in work will be labouring for barely the national minimum wage. A top-up to the living wage would make a considerable improvement in their lives. This winter,they will encounter fuel poverty and food shortages. Many will need hand-outs from the increasing number of food banks in Glasgow. Yet, and let's be frank here, the so-called living wage isn't really a wage to live on at all.

The Living Wage Foundation calculates that it is the minimum required to allow a person to rent property, run a car and eat healthily. But then you might choose to include factors such as the ruthless exploitation by some landlords of the shortage of social housing, the extortion of the energy cartel, the vagaries of petrol prices and the onerous taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. A family of two parents and two children cannot survive on £7.45 an hour.

Celtic's group revenue increased by 47.7% to £75.82m this year and its profit before tax was £9.74m. The remuneration of its chief executive, Peter Lawwell, was £999,591. The members of the plc board each receive a £25,000 emolument for the onerous task of attending monthly board meetings and travelling all over Europe first class. They include Dermot Desmond, one of Britain's richest men, and Brian Wilson, the former Labour minister. (See here for list of directors)

Celtic FC  is a business, as is Rangers FC which also emerged from the Glasgow working class. Neither club has any connection to its origin any more. Bread and circuses and football is the circus. Football clubs are business designed to take money from the poor and give it to the rich, Celtic are no different. They are ideal for lining the pockets of the board.

Taken from here 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buying your place in the team

Macclesfield Town is offering a place in its team for 20,000 pounds. The successful applicant will get to play for ten minutes. 

Could it catch on? 

The Hearts full first team made up of those paying to get it out of debt. The Pars, too? 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who's scoring?

Money counts as the Championship League last eight shows. It is a reflection of the Deloitte's Football Money League. Real Madrid (1st), Barcelona (2nd) and Bayern (4th). There's Juventus, 10th on the money list and Italy's biggest spenders, Galatasaray enough financial clout to "rent" Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba as short-term "ringers" – and Paris Saint-Germain, have spent more than anyone in football over the past 18 months. The exceptions are Borussia Dortmund founded on low ticket prices and a working man's club ethos and, especially, the fact that, apart from Marco Reus, nobody in the starting eleven cost more than £5 million. This status was somewhat forced upon them by the wild overspending that sent the club into administration a decade ago. Malaga also previously faced unpaid wages and lawsuits.
Football has reached the point where it must choose between becoming an elitist sport, dominated by a handful of rich clubs and leagues, or a universal one, according to former FIFA presidential advisor Jerome Champagne. Champagne said the concentration of wealth meant that competitions such as the Champions League had become predictable. "I remember when I was a teenager and we had the draw for European competition. When we drew a Polish club, when we drew Dundee United or Glasgow Rangers, or CSKA Sofia, we were scared. Now, you have a small group of clubs more or less guaranteed to reach the final stages."
"We tend to misrepresent the game by thinking the game is about the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo," Champagne told Reuters. "In reality, it is about players whose salaries are not paid and clubs who are on the verge of bankruptcy.The majority of football is today facing this crisis while the wealthy are becoming wealthier," added Champagne
Once managed by the Celtic legend Jock Stein, once boasting having had Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson as a player, twice winners of the Scottish Cup, semi-finalists in the European Cup Winners Cup, Dunfermline have just six days to come up with £134,000 or face being wound up after Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs took the 128-year-old club to court over an unpaid tax bill. Dunfermline are also understood to owe around £8 million to directors past and present and have repeatedly failed to pay their players on time this season. It was confirmed earlier this month that Jefferies' squad and other staff received just 20 per cent of their wages.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

alright for some

David Beckham was applauded when he announced that he would be donating his Paris St Germain salary to a local children's charity.  However while in the city he stays in the £15,000-a-night luxurious Imperial Suite at Le Bristol hotel in a 3,475 sq ft suite, the largest at the hotel. The suite can house up to twelve guests with various bedrooms, a dining area and sitting room, the main bedroom also its own sitting room as well as a large dressing room and a 325 sq ft bathroom.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

In the directors box

We are all accustomed to stories of over-paid and under-played footballers but recent figures show that SPL directors pay and benefits increased by 16.5%, despite a 6% fall in revenues.

Of course, the way Scottish football is heading, they might as well be funeral directors. 

Dunfermline now joins Hearts as another football club that can't pay its team's wages on time. Players at that level are not highly paid therefore any delay in wages can lead to inconvenience and even hardship. They pay travel costs to training and then put themselves at risk of injury on a weekly basis without being paid.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patriotism? No thanks!

“Yet some can be patriotic who have no self-respect, and sacrifice the greater to the less. They love the soil which makes their graves, but have no sympathy with the spirit which may still animate their clay. Patriotism is a maggot in their heads.” - Henry David Thoreau

Nation-states have a logic of their own. So insidiously is the logic purveyed through the state’s institutions that it becomes common-sense. Like religion, it encourages devotion to a vague and ill-defined abstraction. Even in its most innocuous forms, patriotism is irrational. The World Cup and the Olympics are known for their unabashed displays of nationalism. Flags, patriotic chants, and cross-national rivalries are the order of the day. Football is the quintessential illustration of sociologist Benedict Anderson’s argument that nationhood itself represents an “imagined community”  –  an affinity between strangers who will never meet or hear of one another, but are bound by a mental image of shared history, often mythologized, and of common destiny. Nowhere is that community imagined more fiercely than in the football stadium, and among the hundreds of thousands gathered in pubs and living rooms across the country communing with those in the stadium urging their national team forward against those of other countries. Do hundreds of thousands of Scots gather in front of their TV sets on St Andrews Day to celebrate their nation by singing “Flower of Scotland”? No chance. But that’s exactly what happens when Scotland takes the field in a World Cup or Euro match. However, so eroded are national boundaries in the modern game that it mocks the very idea of a flag, anthem and passport that distinguishes between “us” and “them.” FIFA, recognizing the reality of massive and constant migration accelerated by economic globalization, allows a player to effectively “choose” a country to represent at senior level, even if they’d played for a different one all the way up to Under-21 level. The  cosmopolitan make-up of today’s football teams also negates the idea of a shared history lionized in national flags and anthems.*

The world moves on and nationalism is becoming less and less relevant in face of increasing globalisation. National differences and antagonisms between peoples are daily more and more vanishing owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life.

 Many a good Scot do not consider themselves as nationalist, instead they much  prefer the more noble label ‘Scottish patriot’. A patriot, so the idea goes, does not look down on other nations, but ‘instead only’ loves his own. The "Scottish nation" is meaningless: all "nations" are mongrel, a mixture of so many immigrations and mixings of peoples over time that the idea of a Scot is largely comical. Nation-hood is not the same as culture. There are many varied cultures within Scotland which is not some homogenised whole but like most countries, is a diverse and complex tapestry. If you take a person from Berwickshire and someone from Northumberland, separated by only a few miles and introduce them to a German, he's not going to be able to tell the difference, by looks, by dress, by accent, by mannerisms. Take somebody from Glasgow and Thurso and i am sure the German will recognise a difference in at least the accents.

Nationalism is the egg that hatches fascism it has been said. And patriotism is but the begetter of nationalism. Patriotism is highly toxic. When ingested, it corrodes the rational faculties. It gulls people into believing their leaders. It’s  wheeled out whenever a leader needs to improve his ratings. It masks those who benefit most from state policy. And it destroys the ability of people to come together across boundaries, to take on those with the most power: the multinationals.

All borders are fabricated myths, and with them the false concepts of immigration, emigration, nationality, national pride and patriotism. It is not the rich who ascribe topatriotism. They are perfectly at home in every land. Russian and Indian oligarchs living the high life in London. Celebrated Scots like Sean Connery and Jackie Stewart take up residence in foreign climes. Patriotism is not for the likes of wealthy.

The lottery of place of birth should not be used to cloud judgement. One cannot feel pride for being born Scottish, that was just the luck of the draw, you might well have been born Welsh. Patriotism is a fraud whereby would-be rulers "self-determine" to impose their vision of nationhood on an entire community. Nationalism is an ideology of separation, of hatred for the ‘other.’ It is a creed of oppression. What is necessary is to develop human solidarity, the instincts of mutual aid that enable us to survive and which have fueled all human progres. Throughout history, governments incessantly brainwash the minds of men, women and children with the evils of past foreign masters. The struggle against alienation is inherently a struggle against patriotism.

The Socialist Party doesn’t believe in patriotism. Our critics can call us unpatriotic but we will take pride in being unpatriotic. We never identify ourselves as Scots (or British) first and foremost, instead we define ourselves in terms of our socialist politics. Patriotism was born with the one and sole purpose: to control the masses; and so far it had done a very fine job.The process of creating the "Scotland" was awash in the blood of Scot slaughtering Scot. Nation-states can only be authoritarian and geared to the interests of a tiny elite. The working class is manipulated into identifying their well-being with the aims and ambitions of the ruling class. As classes within the nation disappear, the hostility of one nation to another will also come to an end.  Socialists work for the day "patriotism" will simply means being proud to be part of humanity. Or to perhaps adopt Eloise Bell's word, socialists are "matriots" those who loves Mother Earth.

"Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot." -  Emma Goldman. 

* List of Scotland international players not born in Scotland
2009 data-list of foreign born players in the SPL
2011-12 season data list of 603 foreign SPL players

Monday, January 07, 2013

A football working class hero

Nicolaas Steelink
Organised sport was originally for the elite with its roots in the English public schools. But taking advantage of the free-time offered by the eight-hour day, workers began to democratize games like soccer and rugby. We enjoyed sport as passive spectators and as active participants. Who can blame someone for enjoying leisure on a day off?

Before long, major social democratic parties across Europe were using sporting clubs and festivals to construct working-class identity and promote solidarity. By 1928, German sports societies had more than two million members, most of whom were affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. These clubs offered escape and a sense of belonging to the masses. Thousands hiked and learned to swim, freeing themselves, however fleetingly, from the grinding indignity of wage slavery. In Austria, during the Red Vienna period (1918-1934), a new stadium was built to host a “Workers’ Olympiad,” which welcomed participants from across the world—a testament to the internationalist impulses of a confident and forward-looking movement. In Britain we had cycling and rambling associations. Another sports world seemed possible, one that needn't be sold as a commodity. But these days sport has become unlinked from the working class political movement, hi-jacked by the jingoistic nationalists, the profit-seeking media corporations and sponsors, not to mention the egotistical oligarchs seeking an identity through being club owners.

One can even imagine aspects of sports that most closely mirror the capitalist ethos taking on a different context in a better society. Competition is brutal and ruthless in capitalism, under which, in many parts of the world, winning and losing carry life or death consequences. But competition in a safe environment can be positive and rewarding. We can imagine the new ways in which work and play could intermingle in a future society governed by equality and abundance rather than exploitation and scarcity. The discipline and pride of a craftsman who hones a skill and the athlete who trains toward perfection will have a larger place in the world.

Nicolaas Steelink was inducted into the American Soccer Hall of Fame in 1971. He was instrumental in organising the Californian Soccer League in the 1950s. Nicolaas Steelink was Dutch and immigrated to the US in 1912 at the age of 22. It was through his contacts playing football that he got introduced to a variety of political activists including socialists, industrial unionists and anarchists. At the time Steelink was angered by the injustices that surrounded him in California. Poor working conditions, war propaganda and censorship that was luring young Americans to their death in the trenches of the Somme, corruption and unpunished lynchings, were among the issues that helped radicalise the young Steelink. He joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and wrote a weekly column for their paper the Industrial Worker.

Following the First World War a number of states passed repressive laws in response to a rising radicalism amongst a large section of the workers. In California the state passed the Criminal Syndicalism Act in 1920, and Steelink was subsequently one of the first of the 151 IWW members to be arrested under these new powers. He was sentenced to five years hard labour in the infamous San Quentin prison for being a member of the IWW. After two years Steelink gained parole and his strong sense of injustice had been reinforced by the experience. He dedicated the rest of his life to continue to fight authority and injustice and continued contributing regular articles to the Industrial Worker entitled “Musings of a Wobbly”, under the pen name Ennes Ellae. He never lost his love for football. It was through football that he found that he could help the underprivileged youth, giving them a sense of comradeship and self-pride. He coached his teams to play flowing, skillful football that expressed his ideas of individual freedom.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Last Poem

Eight former army lieutenants have been charged in the killing of Chilean singer and songwriter Victor Jara during the 1973 coup that toppled President Salvador Allende. His body was found riddled with bullets and bearing signs of torture.


(Written in the football stadium cum concentration camp, where the Scottish national side to their eternal shame ignobly chose to play at a few years later)

We are five thousand
Confined in this little part of town
We are five thousand
How many of us are there throughout the country?

Such a large portion of humanity
With hunger, cold, horror and pain
Six among us have already been lost
And have joined the stars in the sky.

One killed, another beaten
As I never imagined a human being
could be beaten
The other four just wanted to put an end
To their fears

One by jumping down to his death
The other smashing his head against a wall
But all of them
Looking straight into the eyes of death.

We are ten thousand hands
That can no longer work
How many of us are there
Throughout the country?

The blood shed by our comrade President
Has more power than bombs and machine guns
With that same strength our collective fist
Will strike again some day.

Song, How imperfect you are!
When I most need to sing, I cannot
I cannot because I am still alive
I cannot because I am dying

It terrifies me to find myself
Lost in infinite moments
On which silence and shouts
Are the objectives of my song

What I now see, I have never seen
What I feel and what I have felt
Will make the moment spring again. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

We are all Spartacus - political football

Celtic come face to face with Spartak in the Champions League.  Moscow is the home of Spartak as well as Dynamo, CSKA, Torpedo-Luzhniki, Lokomotiv and Torpedo-ZIL but historically, the main Moscow grudge derby-match is between Spartak and Dynamo

Sport has always had a political dimension, especially football.

In the early days of Soviet football many government agencies such as the police, army and railroads created their own clubs. So many statesmen saw in the wins of their teams the superiority over the opponents patronizing other teams. Almost all the teams had such kind of patrons such as  CSKA – The Red Army team. Dynamo Moscow were a creation of the Interior Ministry, then essentially a euphemism for the secret police. The de facto founder of Dynamo was Felix Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the OGPU (forerunner to the KGB). Spartak were created as an independent football team, with no affiliations to one or other part of the state machine and considered to be the "people's team". The name Spartak that was derived from Spartacus, the gladiator-slave who led a rebellion against Rome.

In the Soviet Union millions attended matches and obsessed about their favorite club, and their rowdiness on game day stood out as a moment of relative freedom in a society that demanded rigid conformity and control. Fans of Spartak Moscow would have you believe that their club almost single-handedly defied the state machine.

Spartak emerged from the rough proletarian Presnia district of Moscow and spent much of its history in fierce rivalry with Dinamo. To cheer for Spartak, Edelman shows, was a small and safe way of saying "no" to the fears and absurdities of Stalinism.

Spartak was for seven decades by the four Starostin brothers, the most visible of whom were Nikolai and Andrei. Perhaps because of Spartak's too frequent success against state-sponsored teams, they were arrested in 1942 and spent twelve years in the gulag. Instead of facing hard labor and likely death, they were spared the harshness of their places of exile when they were asked by local camp commandants to coach the prisoners' football teams. Beria, the secret police chief, was possibly fuelled by a personal vendetta. As left-back for a Geor­gian side in the early 1920s, Beria had turn­ed out against Nikolai Starostin, who had completely played him off the park. Beria, Stalin's henchman, was not a man to forgive and forget. In 1942  branded “en­emies of the people”, with Nikolai and Andrei initially accused of plotting with the German Embassy to kill Stalin and set up a Fascist state but instead charg­ed with stealing a consignment of clothing,embezzlement and bribery. Returning from the camps after Stalin's death, they took back the reins of a club whose mystique as the "people's team" was only enhanced by its status as a victim of Stalinist tyranny.*

Like the Rangers Ibrox Disaster, Spartak has suffered tragedies. 30 years ago in a game against HFC Haarlem in a UEFA Cup one section of Spartak fans started streaming out to get to the Metro but a late goal in injury time caused some fans to turn back and the two streams collided with the tragic result of 66 dead according to official figures but probably many more.

Sadly the club like so many others these days is under the ownership of an oligarch, Leonid Fedun, estimated wealth of over $6 billion, and its fans have been associated with racist chanting.

* See here for more

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Capitalist Game

The biggest football story recently has been the financial collapse of  Rangers and now a similar impending fate for Hearts. This is not just a sporting story but involves many of the failings that have been played out in the wider economy. Corporate failure, greed, arrogance, criminality and cheating are included in the list of accusations.

Jock Stein said that “football without fans is nothing”. Capitalist ideology tells us that the consumer is king and that the decisions of millions of consumers decide what production takes place. If companies fail it is because they don’t sell goods or services that people want or at a price they are prepared to pay. There is just enough truth in this to give it the credibility to make it widely accepted. What it leaves out, among other things, is that production also has to make a profit and that indeed this is the main reason any production takes place at all. Given the ownership of the means of production in the hands of only one group of people, these people thereby being called capitalists, and the exclusion of others, who must be required to provide workers for these owners, it is the relations of this production that, more than anything else, determines the wealth and income of the respective classes. This in turn determines to a large degree the pattern of consumption, which is further conditioned by advertising and monopoly suppliers etc.

Commodification and all its contradictions have since spread over an increasing variety of human activities. Sport has for some time become a global industry, more and more determined by the demand for profit. Sport must have room for chance, accident, unexpected triumph and unexpected failure while sporting contest subject to the requirement for profitability more and more implies certainty and the elimination of the possibility of monetary loss.

Adapted from here

Friday, November 09, 2012

Football Capitalism

Rangers only narrowly escaped extinction and now bankruptcy is the prospect facing current Scottish Cup holders Heart of Midlothian. The Jambos have been issued with a winding up order from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over an unpaid £450,000 tax bill. Hearts supporters have been urged to find £2m to help the Edinburgh club survive until the summer. The club has already faced disciplinary action from the Scottish Premier League over its failure to pay some players and coaching staff which is a breach of the leagues rules. That breach led to the SPL side being hit with a player signing embargo.

Now the fans are  being asked to pay to keep their club afloat, having already paid for their season tickets, their strips and scarves. Hearts fans are being bled dry.

 Former Hearts captain Paul Hartley has accused Vladimir Romanov of “holding a gun to fans’ heads” after the stricken club yesterday begged for a financial lifeline from their followers. Hartley insists owner Romanov has unfairly shifted the burden of safeguarding Hearts, who are £22m in debt, on to the fans. “It’s basically holding a gun to the fans’ heads and saying, ‘We need a couple of hundred quid off you or else’. It’s not as simple as that. Supporters have had to dig deep already. It’s before Christmas and how do they expect the fans to pay that? It’s totally unfair for them to ask the fans to put their hand in their pocket or else you won’t have a club. “But you can’t see any way out of it. If they pay this bill where is the next one going to come from? It’s a quick fix but it’s a long-term one you’re looking for. Hearts are £20-odd million in debt. They can’t just keep asking supporters to bail them out.”

Players, managers, sponsors and owners come and go. Only the fans stay. Once a week for 90 minutes footbal fans leave their worries on the other side of the turnstiles but the reality that football is just another business obliged to pay its taxes has come home to roost. Today after well over a century of professional football we can clearly see the price fans have paid for the role capitalism has played in the game. Clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea have become giant faceless corporate brand names with the ubiquity of McDonald and Coca-Cola.

Capitalism has given fans a stark choice for the future. Will football be just another way to make profits and for advertisers to reach consumers? Just another another product to be bought and sold? Or will fans fight so football can be something which will unite people, build community spirit, celebrate sportsmanship and enrich the lives of working people?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

As others see us

"Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame, penned a novella that many consider to be a foundation stone of modern fiction’s addiction to substances, transformation and death – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll liked to swallow chemicals turning himself into something unpredictable, Mr. Hyde. It’s a good metaphor for the calamity that is tearing Scottish soccer apart.

Think of Scottish soccer as a test tube in Dr. Jekyll’s lab marked with skull and cross bones, WARNING – DO NOT SHAKE! Sitting at the top of the mix is the colors of Irish green and British blue – green is the substance called Glasgow Celtic Football Club bonded to the blue known as Glasgow Rangers Football Club. Mix them up and they can explode but when they sit side by side at rest they produce something called the Old Firm, a successful alliance of opposites that has largely dominated Scottish soccer, economically and culturally, for over a hundred years. The elements that make up their wholes would require too long a label to delineate – suffice to summarize it as an emulsion of historical grievance, religious division, sectarianism, and nationalist politics that produces a soccer clash unrivaled anywhere in the world. The Old Firm is the defining intense soccer rivalry. Super hot, beyond sport.

But now things have changed. The tube has been ruptured. The blue half of the mix has evaporated. Rangers have been declared bankrupt due to many years of mismanagement. They consumed a hubristic formula of reckless expenditure in an effort to destroy their other half, Celtic. They failed. And were left weak to the point of death like Dr. Jekyll.

They have been discharged from the top Scottish league. The league rules and the animosity of rival clubs and their fan bases dictated their plunge. They now face the prospect of starting from scratch in the bottom division of Scottish football, three levels below the top tier. The economic implications are negative. Fears for other teams evaporating are real. Rangers worked the pump of investment in the Scottish game – their games with Celtic broadcast globally, a premium brand – the Old Firm was the bank that all the other clubs had an interest in. No Old Firm game and it could mean less or no money from TV contracts, and therefore less monies to share with the other clubs. The prospect of Scottish soccer boiling down is now a possibility.

The Scottish Football Association believes it may be the end for the Scottish game should Rangers not be allowed to return to the top flight within a year. Besides the economic armageddon for the clubs, the chiefs have warned of “social unrest” if Rangers are exiled to the deep. It’s an extraordinary claim that social strife could result as a consequence of a soccer club going bust. The commentary from Scottish soccer fans has ranged from celebratory dances on Rangers grave to dire warnings of revenge when/if Rangers return from the shadows.

Dr. Jekyll was unrecognizable after swallowing the poison – disfigured, mean and hostile – and finally death. Will Scottish soccer follow the script or synthesize a new beginning free from the mix of the Old Firm chemistry?"

 The price paid by Charles Green for Rangers included a £1.5 million fire sale for Ibrox Stadium, Murray Park and the club’s valuable car park. The knockdown value was approved by administrators Duff & Phelps despite them valuing the assets at three times that price just two weeks earlierat over (£4.5million) . And when David Murray sold the club to Craig Whyte two years ago, he had the same land, bricks and mortar assets valued at £110 million. The difference between the valuations compared with what they actually sold for has left fans scratching their heads.

The report also revealed that Green also factored in a fee of £2.75 million to buy the contracts and registrations of the club’s players, which would have been worth £25 million in an open market.

Rangers made trading losses of almost £4 million from the time it was placed in administration. Duff & Phelps have collected almost £3 million in fees from Rangers.

Stop supporting capitalism !

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rangers are staring into the abyss

One hundred and forty years of football history has been brought to an end. Rangers, who played their first games in 1872 and have been Scottish champions a record 54 times, will go into liquidation. This is a massive football club that has been ransacked by crooks and their underhanded dealings, clearly over years.

The European Court of Justice ruling in the case of Bosman is authority for the view that professional footballers are workers like anyone else.

PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said that Rangers prospective owner Charles Green had a legal obligation to consult the union about his plans. Players will be free to walk away from the club if it goes into liquidation. Equally, they would also be free to accept offers to stay on at Ibrox under the new company which is set to take over Rangers but the choice would be theirs.

Green said that players would be in breach of contract if they opted not to move to his “newco”. Arguing that Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) legislation, known as Tupe, compelled the players to move from the old company to the new. But Mark Hamilton, a Tupe expert with law firm Maclay Murray & Spens, said the legislation made a specific exception in the event of insolvent liquidation. “The current Tupe Regulations, which became law in 2006, do say that, in general, employees’ contracts are automatically transferred when a company’s business is sold from administration. But the rules are different for liquidation. In that case, the key point is that employees do not transfer under the Regulations, though they are free to agree new contracts with the buyer of the business...Players and other employees can choose to move to the newco. But, if people do not want to go, they cannot be compelled...they are under no obligation to work for the liquidated company or any newco unless that is agreed.”

Fraser Wishart
said  “The purpose of Tupe is to protect employees’ terms and conditions of employment in exactly this type of situation...The players are being asked to decide upon their future with so many uncertainties involved. Unanswered questions such as which division the new club will actually play in, whether there be any sporting sanctions against the club, whether the club be eligible to play in the Scottish Cup and whether there will be a registration embargo. One or more of these factors may have an influence on a professional footballer’s career – particularly since it a career that is relatively short lived."

This is the face of 21st century football – clubs bought and sold speculatively and loaded with debt whilst communities get little benefit. Only TV companies, who stage matches at times to suit themselves are considered important. European football is where the strong thrive and become ever-more powerful and the weak get left behind.

 Back in season 2009/10, Christian Aid released the report Blowing the Whistle, which includes a league table of financial secrecy in UK and Irish football. Rangers came in at number 6. Ample warning of things to come. Channel 4 reporter, Alex Thompson, explained  how“Because – like the bankers – everyone was having too much fun living the dream? Partly yes, but partly a crucial check and balance to all the Ibrox hype had all but gone. For years too much football ‘journalism’ in Glasgow had been too lazy, sycophantic and incapable of asking awkward questions...Something about asking questions about RFC clearly angers some in the Glasgow media in a way I’ve never seen in 25 years of global reporting...So it went on – year after year. On one side the directors at Scotland’s football ‘governing’ bodies didn’t ask much. On the other, large sections of Glasgow football journalism declined to delve...Legions of fans sold out again,”
Football clubs are social entities and should not be corporate assets. The story of these clubs is the story of communities and the stories of the generations of families who have supported them through thick and thin. Club owners and their sponsors make millions from fans. There should be righteous anger from supporters - at capitalism.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cashing in on Rangers

Socialists are always fascinated by the ins and outs of high finance  and how the capitalist class and their lackeys take advantage of the system. The Scotsman columnist has an interesting take on insolvent Rangers.

 “Charles Green has 20 investors?”
“Er, no, it’s five or six.”
“But he said he had 20.”
“He seems to have lost 14 or 15 of them since he said it.”
“They’re gone already before we even knew who they were?”
“That’s if they were ever there in the first place.”
“At least his backers are offering HMRC some money…”
“Which the club has to pay them back, with interest.”
“And they’re throwing Ticketus a few quid…”
“And they want that back, too. Apparently 8 per cent on top, thanks very much.”
“Duff and Phelps said his was the best deal for creditors…”
“The best deal for Charles Green more like. And for Duff and Phelps, of course. They’re getting every penny of their multi-million pound fee, which is about 91p in the pound more than the people whose corner they were supposed to be fighting.”
“But what about the creditors?”
“The £55, 415, 632 the club owes to all manner of different people?”
“Yeah, shame about that. There’s about £5m left for those guys.”
“That’s feeble. When are they going to be paid?”
“So Duff and Phelps, the champions of the creditors, are getting almost as much as all the other creditors put together?”
“It’s business, baby. They might get more in any case.”
“Ah, right. If they sell a player some of the money goes to the creditors…”
“No. It goes to the club.”
“The TV money, then. They’ll hand some over to the poor saps they’re shafting…”
“No, it goes to the club. Nothing personal. They could get an extra £25m from a law suit against Collyer Bristow.”
“Maybe. Possibly. In theory.”
“When might they get it?”
“Whenever o’clock.”
“Well, the creditors can tell Green they’re not having his CVA…”
“Yes, they can. And so it’s liquidation-time and a newco and the stadium and the training ground and the Albion car park and all the rest of it that has a book value of more than £112m immediately becomes available for £5.5m”
“Result! To who?”
“Charles Green.”

Friday, May 04, 2012

Evicted to host football games

Ukrainian students are being forced out of their dormitories ahead of the the upcoming European Football Championship but will have to continue paying rent nonetheless. Student dormitory rooms at Taras Shevchenko University are to be rented out to football fans. A few may be allowed to stay, but only if they work for nothing.

With hundreds of thousands of football supporters expected, UEFA estimates 800,000 people, students must vacate their dormitories as a result. They are receiving no compensation nor have they been offered alternative housing. On the contrary they will have to continue paying our dorm fees. Even worse, students at Kiev's National Medical University: They have been asked to refurbish their rooms for the incoming guests -- and they have to shoulder the costs themselves.

Students have to continue paying their dormitory fees of around $16 a month, a significant burden for Ukrainian students who generally have to get by on less than €100 per month. Furthermore, it is nearly impossible for the students to find alternate lodgings. During the tournament, prices for private rooms in the city will soar to some €100 per night with apartments going for at least €250. The university dorms are also hoping for a voluntary workforce during the tournament. Those who work for free as a caretaker in the residence halls are allowed to keep their room.

The deal does have its beneficiaries, however. The Hamburg-based travel company TUI AG. TUI booked the dormatories together with the Ukrainian provider Hamalia Tours has set up a booking agency called the Fan Accommodation Agency. The student rooms cost between €50 and €150 ($66-$197) per night. University authorities also profit. TUI pays a 20 to 25 percent commission to the universities.,1518,829175,00.html

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Scottish football's game of shame

It was a football match that every self-respecting Scottish fan should hold their head low in shame.

In 1973, After the military coup ousting Allende, Pinochet's soldiers used Chile's national football stadium as a temporary detention camp. The military imprisoned 40,000 in the stadium.  Among those killed were the U.S. citizens Charles Horman, and Frank Teruggi, events that inspired the Jack Lemmon film, Missing. Within its walls they beat, and tortured thousands of workers, students and political activists. Many were murdered.

 A few years later in 1977, on the road to the Argentina 1978 World Cup, Scotland played against Chile and played in that very same blood-soaked stadium. Former non-commissioned officer Roberto Saldias said he saw prisoners taken off for execution at the stadium. Saldias said prisoners at the stadium were organised in groups identified by yellow, black and red discs. "Whoever received a red disc had no chance [of surviving]," he said

Russia forfeited their place in a qualifyer for the 1974 finals by refusing to take part in a play-off match against Chile yet the mandarins of the SFA, ably supported by football's 90-minute nationalists, insisted - no politics in sport. They went ahead with what was just a warm-up friendly game of little importance. Officials of the SFA refused to meet a delegation of three former prisoners of the Chilean military regime who called at their headquarters in Glasgow. Ernie Walker, then the SFA secretary, declared that he could see no point in meeting the delegation. About 70 per cent of Scottish professional footballers voted in favour of the national team playing Chile in June. Only ten per cent were opposed.  MPs Dennis Canavan and Donald Stewarrt raised the issue in parliament. Norman Buchan, the then MP for West Renfrewshire, said that the SFA didn't appear to comprehend what happened in the Santiago stadium where the game is to take place. It had been used as a concentration camp and was the scene of mass murder and torture.

Inside that stadium Victor Jara,  a singer/song-writer of international repute was detained along with the many other thousands and taken to the Santiago stadium where an officer thought he recognised him and with a questioning look, motioning to him as if as strumming a guitar. Victor nodded confirming who he was. He was seized, taken to the center of the stadium and told to put his hands on a table. Rifle butts beat his hands to a bloody pulp. "All right, sing for us now, you **** " shouted the officer. Defiantly, Victor staggered to his feet, faced the stands. "Companeros, let's sing for el commandante." Waving his bloody stumps he sang part of "Venceremos" (We Will Win), a song supporting the Popular Unity coalition. The officer played Russian roulette with Jara, by placing a single round in his revolver, spinning the cylinder, placing the muzzle against Jara's head and pulling the trigger. The officer repeated this a couple of times, until a shot fired and VĂ­ctor fell to the ground. He was then machine-gunned in the body with 44 bullet shots.

Eternal shame on Scottish football!

Scotland's guilty side 
Alan  Rough         
Danny McGrain          
Willie Donachie          
Martin Buchan          
Tom Forsyth              
Bruce Rioch         
Don Masson          
Kenny Dalglish      
Lou Macari          
Asa Hartford          
Willie Johnston          

Archie Gemmill                 
Jim Stewart          
Sandy Jardine      

Manager: Ally McLeod

A song by Adam McNaughtan, better known for his The Jeely Piece Song, makes sure some of us won't forget this heartless episode in Scottish footbal history.

Blood on the Grass

September the eleventh
In Nineteen seventy-three
Scores of people perished
In a vile machine-gun spree
Santiago stadium
Became a place to kill
But a Scottish football team
Will grace it with their skill
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Alan Rough
Will you play there, Tom Forsyth
Where so many folk met early
The Grim Reaper with his scythe
These people weren't terrorists
They weren't Party hacks
But some were maybe goalkeepers
And some were centre backs
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Victor Jara played guitar
As he was led into the ground
Then they broke all of his fingers
So his strings no more could sound
Still he kept on singing
Songs of freedom, songs of peace
And though they gunned him down
His message doesn't cease
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Will you go there, Archie Gemmill
Will you play there, Andy Gray
Will it trouble you to hear the voice
Of Victor Jara say
Somos cinquo mille -
We are five thousand in this place
And Scottish football helps to hide
The Junta's dark disgrace
And there's blood upon the grass
And there's blood upon the grass

Do you stand upon the terracing
At Ibrox or Parkhead
Do you cheer the Saints in black and white
The Dons in flaming red
All those who died in Chile
Were people of your kind
Let's tell the football bosses
That it's time they changed their mind
Before there's blood upon their hands

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

United Fans

For some on the Left, sport is little more than a way to enforce hegemony and control on the duped masses, another opium for the people to divert their attentions from their social problems and delay the revolution.

Following football is expensive, the games less competitive (between 1985-95, 13 different clubs finished in the top three of the , exactly the same number as in the previous decade and the decade before that. In 1995-2005 years, that figure was just six) and the matches less atmospheric than ever in all-seated stadiums with traditional albeit bigoted songs outlawed. So why do supporters still love it?

The identification with a team, its colours, and history involves football’s most direct appeal to the gut. The tribalism displayed by a community of fans has an almost immeasurable force. It creates instant rivalries where none may have previously existed. For a few hours supporters inhabit a place where only one identity is acceptable: to be a Rangers or Celtic or Aberdeen fan. Any statement that violates the group’s one idea can prove dangerous, and, in a few cases, fatal. Being a football fan entails loud, aggressive, expressions of triumphalism and total team worship.

The term “imagined community” comes not from an analysis of sports, but, from Benedict Anderson’s book on nationalism. Anderson sets out to study why people love, die, and kill for countries. According to Anderson, a nation is “an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.” Nationalism, then, is not “an awakening of nations to self- consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist.” As Anderson puts it, “It is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep horizontal comradeship.” This phenomenon is not limited to political communities. Hence, beneath all the commercialism and competitive rivalry is a deeper yearning for community that we dismiss at our peril.

To yearn for the football stadium crowd is to yearn for belonging in community, to dream of some kind of connectedness with your fellow humans. The further our alienation moves towards an ever-more-atomised society, one solely centered on the isolated individual, the greater there will be attempts to reclaim our to-getherness. People look to sports for a sense of something larger because social relationships with one anotherhas severely eroded throughout our society. So people look for some kind of connectedness with the tribal identity of their football club allegiences. They believe that - on some level - there's a bond between them, the players and their team. They follow them everywhere, even fight for them.

Sadly, it's not reciprocated. Kiss the badge when a player first scores for their new club. Most fans buy it every single time. The fact that they'd switch employers for a 200% pay rise without a second's thought seems lost on them. And that's not all they buy. There's the pricy season ticket, the home strip, the away strip, the third alternative away strip, the premium rate text services and so on.

When are people going to realise that when your favourite club isn't counting your cash, it's laughing at you? Rick Gekoski writes in "A Fan Behind The Scenes In The Premiership". "I was reminded of a conversation I'd had with John Salako. 'Fans,' he said, 'most of them are sad. They think the game is more important than it is, it says something about the miserable kind of lives they must lead. They get things out of proportion.' Another player, who did not wish to be named, said: 'Fans? Come on. Players hate fans.' "

Don't become a slave to football's pointless merry-go-round. In 2005 there were just seven clubs in the country owned by supporters' trusts - while only 23 trusts have elected directors on the board. When it's your club being dragged over the coals by insolvency accountants or re-located by new owners , you fight tooth and nail. When it's the club up the road, you merely give a shrug of the shoulders. Time for real football supporters to stand united and kick off.

"Football without fans is nothing" - Jock Stein

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Football Blues

Rangers and Portsmouth are not alone.

One-in-five clubs in the Football League (refers to the three divisions below the top flight - the Championship, League One and League Two) are in "poor financial health", according to a survey by administrators Begbies Traynor. Begbies Traynor are presently overseeing the administration of Port Vale FC.

"Many clubs are continuing to spend too much, principally on players' wages, as they always have done" it said.

Of 68 teams surveyed in those divisions, 13 have signs of distress such as serious court actions against them, including winding-up petitions, late filing of accounts and "serious" negative balances on their balance sheets. That 19% compares to just one per cent in the wider economy, the firm said.

"While Premier League clubs are guaranteed huge television money every year and some have extremely wealthy backers, there are signs of genuine financial distress among a significant number of football league clubs," said Gerald Krasner, a partner at Begbies Traynor. "The sales of season tickets for next season, many of which are paid for during April and May, could provide some short-term relief for struggling clubs, but it won't solve the underlying problems."