Friday, July 13, 2012

Olympic football: Faster, higher, stricter

It's not often this blog quotes Friends, that one time global sitcom phenomenon.

But it was the great sports philosopher Monica Geller who once said "rules help control fun."

An everyday tale of spectacularly camera friendly folk with nothing much to say seems fitting for the soulless, uniform customer experience that modern sport seems determined to become.

For the old fashioned among us that's another blow against spontaneity, a step along the road to sport as uniform customer experience rather than something more raw.

It was with increasing unease that I read the lengthy instructions issued ahead of the Olympic football at Hampden.

Certainly turning the Hampden entrances into the equivalent of an airport customs check seems a novel way of attempting to enhance the fan experience.

If all those free tickets given out to school children are actually used it will be like sharing a departure lounge with a school sports day.

It could prove a long couple of hours if you turn up for the gates opening. In the case of the Honduras v Mexico, Spain v Japan double header that would mean getting to Hampden at 10am on a Thursday morning.

The only people who can reasonably be expected to ever arrive at Hampden that early in the morning tend to be voting on the future of the Scottish game.

Some of the rules and prohibited items are actually quite standard. Anybody taking a frisbee to a football game deserves to be used as target practice in the warm up.

But the po-faced dullness grates. Ticket holders received a text message advising them they were soon to receive an email. That email coupled with information on prohibited items runs to over 1200 words. That's without the "ticketing terms and conditions."

The enforced monopoly for Visa continues to rankle, part of the corporate whoring of the Olympics wonderfully punctured by The Spectator.

Berlin, Beijing, Britain. These days the hosts are almost an irrelevance, the International Olympic Committee are quite capable of realising their own vision of dystopia wherever they temporarily lay their hat.

(A hat available to buy from official merchandise outlets. If you pay with Visa.)

And, yes, I know I'm a bloody idiot for buying tickets in the first place. A hypocritical bloody idiot at that.

What can I say?

I'll shuffle into Hampden wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt under a bland logo free top.

Then I'll sit meekly in my allotted seat, head bowed in deference to Visa, Coca-Cola and McDonalds, the real gods of modern sport.

When it's all over I'll be able to say that I've been to an Olympic event.

And that, for now, is why the killjoys and the marketing men are winning.

The sport, the events and the athletes still have a pull, despite the hatred we may have of what the organisers stand for.

But one does wonder what they'll do if the gullible and the sports daft like me ever reach our tipping point.

The email and the list of prohibited items:

This email contains critical information about your Olympic Football event at Hampden Park.

If you have tickets for more than one London 2012 event, you may receive multiple emails. Please read each one carefully as important details, such as when to arrive and what you can and can’t bring, may vary. In particular, the Olympic Football Tournament has key differences to other events.

Arrive early so you have plenty of time to go through security: gates open two hours before kick-off of the first match in your session. It will be busy so expect to queue. You will need to empty your pockets before you go through security checks.

We strongly suggest you do not bring a bag: the security procedure for Football is different to other London 2012 venues. If you do bring a bag, your entry to the venue will be delayed and you may miss your event.

Read the lists of prohibited and restricted items for your venue: if you are carrying any of these items with you when you arrive, you will be asked to surrender it and won’t get it back. You cannot bring in liquids over 100ml. There are no storage facilities available.

Book your travel now to make sure you get to your event on time: the transport network will be much busier than usual and local transport arrangements for the stadium are different during the Games. The venue’s car parks will be closed and other parking and road restrictions will be in place for matches – see below for details of how to get to the stadium or read the travel information online.

Remember the only way to pay is by Visa (debit, credit or prepaid card) or cash: for details of services and facilities at your venue, check your venue information online. Food and drink outlets at Hampden Park accept cash only, and there are no ATM cash machines available inside.

Ticketing Terms and Conditions also apply. Ticket holders aged 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Inside the venue, please keep your ticket with you at all times. If you decide to leave, you won’t be allowed back in.

Things change, so check online!

View the latest sports schedule now now as there may have been changes since you received your tickets. Before you set off, check the weather and come prepared.

Travel information

Use the spectator journey planner to plan your journey and book your travel in advance. A free rail shuttle will be running from Glasgow Central station to Mount Florida, the recommended station for Hampden Park – from there, it’s around a 7-minute walk to the venue. Alternatively, you catch the free shuttle bus running from Buchanan bus station to the stadium.

Park-and-ride is also available, with spaces available for cars and minibuses. This service is not included in your event ticket and must be booked in advance. For larger groups, pre-booked coach parking is also available. We strongly recommend you make your final travel arrangements now for a more comfortable journey on the day.

Best wishes
London 2012 Ticketing team

Prohibited and restricted items – Hampden Park

Prohibited items are things you cannot bring into London 2012 venues – you won’t be allowed to enter venues if you’re carrying any of these items when you arrive. If you’re carrying an item that is illegal under UK law, or could be used in illegal activities, this will be escalated to the police.

There are no storage facilities available and if you surrender an item, you won’t be able to get it back.

Items that are prohibited from Hampden Park are:
  • Bottles, glass vessels, cans and containers
  • Banners, or other articles which could, or might be used as a weapon, or to cause annoyance or unnecessary obstruction or offence
  • Liquids, aerosols and gels in quantities greater than 100mls
  • Alcohol
  • Tents, placards, spray paint or any other item which could be used to demonstrate within the venue or sabotage property
  • More than one soft-sided bag of 25 litre capacity (you must be able to fit your bag under your seat
  • Walkie-talkies, phone jammers and radio scanners
  • Personal/private wireless access points and 3G hubs (smart devices such as Android phones, iPhone and tablets are permitted inside venues, but must not be used as wireless access points to connect multiple devices)
  • Laser pointers and strobe lights
  • Items too large to be electronically screened
  • Bicycles, folding bikes, roller-skates and skateboards
  • Pets or animals (excluding service animals
  • All types of knives and bladed items, including pocket knives and knives carried as part of cultural dress
  • Offensive weapons or implements such as bayonets, flick knives, extendable batons, sharpened combs, modified belt buckles and loose blades modified into weapons
  • Personal protection sprays such as CS or pepper sprays
  • Firearms and ammunition (including replicas, component parts or any device suspected to be a firearm)
  • Fireworks, explosives, flares and smoke canisters
  • Hazardous and toxic materials
  • Controlled drugs, including substances which look like controlled drugs
  • Items that resemble prohibited items such as replica guns or hoax explosive devices
  • In addition, there are restrictions on the size and use of some items inside venues. Check with staff if you’re unsure about using an item inside venues, as some items may disrupt competition, obstruct the view of other spectators or create a safety hazard.

Items that are restricted in London 2012 venues are:

  • Large flags (bigger than 1 metre x 2 metres), banners and poles
  • Oversized hats
  • Large golf-style umbrellas
  • Large photographic and broadcast equipment over 30cm in length, including tripods and monopods. You cannot use photographic or broadcast equipment for commercial purposes unless you hold media accreditation
  • Excessive amounts of food
  • Balls, rackets, frisbees or similar objects or projectiles
  • Noisemakers such as hunting horns, air horns, klaxons, drums, vuvuzelas and whistles
  • Any objects or clothing bearing political statements or overt commercial identification intended for ‘ambush marketing’
  • Flags of countries not participating in the games (this excludes the flags of nations under the umbrella of a participating country such as England, Scotland and Wales)


  • You are allowed up to 10 containers of up to 100ml capacity each, giving a combined maximum capacity of 1 litre. Part-filled containers with a capacity greater than 100ml (excluding sun cream) are not allowed. You may bring up to 200ml of sun cream, but it must be in its original packaging and in a container with a maximum capacity of 200ml.
  • Essential medications must not exceed a combined total of 1 litre, and we recommend you bring a prescription or letter from your doctor to accompany it.
  • Drinks bottles and other containers are not allowed inside the venue, glass or otherwise, and there is nowhere to dispose of them at the venue entrance – so please don’t bring one.
  • Free drinking water will be available inside the venue, and soft drinks are available to purchase.

Hampden Park is an alcohol-free venue.

You will get through security more quickly if you keep all your liquids, aerosols and gels in a separate toiletry or plastic bag. There is no need to remove the bag containing your liquids from your main bag, unless specifically asked.

Baby food, baby milk and sterilised water are allowed into venues but must be carried in containers with a maximum capacity of 1 litre per baby. You may be asked to verify baby food by tasting it.

Examples include:
  • Soya milk for babies
  • Sterilised water for the baby
  • Formula, breast milk or cow milk specifically for babies
  • Baby food of various consistencies

Scottish football: Destiny delayed?

The time has finally come for Scottish football to greet the future.

What should happen when the Scottish Football League clubs meet at Hampden today?

Problems and issues should be fully discussed. Threats made by other bodies should be retracted. Fears over the sustainability of the current incarnation of the newco Rangers should be allayed.

Any lingering ambiguity on the resolutions laid in front of the clubs should be resolved.

When the votes are counted Rangers newco should be free to start life in Division Three.

That should be an end to it. For better or for worse we'll all need to embrace what that means for the future.

Scottish football will need to be proactive, people in positions of influence will need to overcome the fear that has undermined the game these last few weeks and be brave, inventive and resilient.

That shouldn't be too much to ask. With the power of being a "guardian" of the game comes the responsibility of building a sustainable model for everyone involved in the game.

Plans for reconstruction should be put in place. Those plans should be borne from rational, constructive discussion rather than panic and self-interest.

The SPL experiment - a 14 year exercise in greed, delusion and failure - should be disbanded.

The governance of the game - the governance that allowed cowardice to leave the SFL clubs with this decision and then allowed bullying and threats to try and influence that decision - should be revolutionised.

The new business model, whatever hardships it might bring, must involve all clubs in all divisions. We've tried thinking only about the elite. It's ended in debt, anger on the terraces and a whopping corporate collapse.

The fans who have shown commendable passion - whatever some might think of their motives - should be engaged, not disregarded as an inconvenient revenue stream.

That's what should happen.

It probably won't though.

The last few days have had the feel of a bizarre list of classified results as clubs hailing from what Jonathan Meades called "football pools towns" have declared their voting intentions.

There has been an avalanche of statements favouring the Division Three option. It says much for the unpredictability of recent events that I'm far from convinced the actual votes will be cast quite as decisively as that.

I'm tired and weary of the whole thing now. But am I alone in thinking that today is just another staging post, another day labelled historic that probably won't resolve very much at all?

Whatever happens it's unlikely that the uncertainty, the vitriol, the self-immolation of the last few weeks will end.

Expect the interchangeable malevolent cop-incompetent cop double act of the SPL's Neil Doncaster and the SFA's Stewart Regan to continue.

Expect this grubby chapter in the history of both those organisations to continue.

Expect SPL chairmen, silently hiding behind the contrived integrity of their "no to newco" vote, to continue to exert influence in the search for the outcome they want.

Expect them to pretend these are principled actions, the actions of men who know that the only way to save the game is to save the fans of all clubs from themselves.

Expect their very vocal supporters to champion them as the real heroes, the brave few doing their best to protect football from the wishes of the majority.

Expect them to ignore their own failings and the remarkable failure of the last 14 years, an intolerable status quo that they are determined to preserve even as they try and cover the unmentionables behind a fig leaf of "positive change."

Expect all that and more.

Expect to be enraged over and over again.

Expect this miserable story to run for a few more days or weeks yet, with a little more of what Scottish football should mean to fans dying with every hour.

But don't expect Regan, Doncaster or their organ grinders to meekly accept the outcome of today's meeting at Hampden if it doesn't end with the result they want.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rangers newco: Berwick say Division 3

And yet another statement.

Many clubs have embraced verbosity. Not so Berwick.

Less than 100 words.

The crucial line: "directly into SFL Division Three."

Berwick Rangers Board tonight agreed unanimously that should the new Rangers FC be admitted to the SFL for the new season, that they would support a move directly into SFL Division Three. The Club has also taken on board the feelings of their Supporters Club, Supporters Trust and the countless individual fans who have contacted them directly. There will be no further statement from the club on this matter.


STV Sport has the latest on declared voting intentions

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Rangers newco: Clyde comment

Devoid as we are of international success it might be heartening that Scottish football is now head and shoulders above any other country when it comes to releasing statements.

Today it was the turn of Clyde.

Quite explosive this one. It seems to nail as hollow some of the threats that have been made, it questions the continued silence of most SPL clubs and draws attention once more to the uncertainty that still surrounds the Charles Green owned Rangers newco.

And it also suggests - perhaps more explicitly than any other club statement - that based on the information so far provided to the SFL the Rangers newco should not actually be admitted at any level.

It certainly seems to me that, whatever the outcome on Friday, it is going to be difficult for Scottish football to keep either Neil Doncaster or Stewart Regan in positions of such influence.

The board of Clyde Football Club met last night to consider how it might approach the resolutions (see below) to be voted on at the SFL meeting on Friday 13th July. This update is to inform our owners and supporters and hopefully explain some of the complexities that face the club when carefully and objectively considering how we might vote. We hope that by being as clear as possible about the difficulties surrounding this situation that the people able to support the process act swiftly to do so.

The overwhelming reality is that we are being asked to make one of the most important decisions for Scottish Football in a vacuum devoid of factual information, that vacuum having been filled with unhelpful rhetoric and scaremongering by the chief executives of the SFA and SPL.

We therefore looked at what we were being asked to vote on, how it fitted with the principles of the sport, and what information we might need to inform a logical decision in context of the current reality.

It was clear that the resolutions marked a clear departure from all previous process and custom and practice when considering admitting a team to the SFL, albeit operating within the rules of the SFL. It was in that context which we considered the resolutions. In reality, the customary principles of sport were not at the forefront of the resolutions.

We first concluded that there was limited risk to the SFL from the 'Armageddon' theory, as depicted in the detailed presentation by Neil Doncaster and supported by Stewart Regan, which had prompted fears of cash flow loss to the SFL next season. We have obtained a copy of the Settlement Agreement signed up to by the SPL and the SFL in April 1998 - it is clear that the agreement is not ambiguous in this regard and there is no scope for the SPL to fail to meet the obligations to the SFL except by deliberately breaching the agreement. Neil Doncaster was unequivocal when he said that there would be no payment under the agreement and stressed that it was not the board of the SPL that made big decisions, it was the clubs themselves. We have concluded that it defies credibility that the SPL clubs would instruct the SPL to deliberately breach a legal agreement. To assist the SFL clubs to take decisions in the right manner then the external threat should be removed by the SPL clubs, confirming to the SFL that they have not and will not instruct the SPL to breach the Settlement Agreement.

Consideration was then given to Resolution 1 which we concluded required to be reworded to be explicit that entry was to SFL3. The reason for this is that once entered to the SFL in the manner proposed under Resolution 1, we understand that it is within the power of the Board of the SFL to place a club into any league of their choosing. We believe that, due to the intolerable pressure placed on the SFL board to date by external parties, this resolution should be explicit to avoid the Board coming under pressure from either the SFA or SPL in the event that Resolution 2 is rejected. It is also our opinion that Resolution 1 being explicit sits more appropriately with Resolution 2 which in itself is explicit about where any club might play.

In terms of Resolution 1, whether reworded or not, it seemed inconceivable to the Board of Clyde that absolutely no information whatsoever has been provided to support the resolution. This is clearly a matter of haste and again driven by an external agenda, perhaps because Sevco have not lodged an application to join the SFL then they have not submitted any information. Whilst we have accepted that this is being treated as a special case and we are willing to run with this, it simply was not possible to conclude that we could make any decision at this time. The matter is made worse because of the extent of uncertainty which hangs over Sevco. There is no need to prepare an exhaustive list of the issues as they are well publicised, however the extent of outstanding sanctions that may or may not be levied against a club which has yet to obtain SFA membership, together with the increasing number of possible commercial and legal challenges to the transactions to date simply presents a significant risk to the ability of the club to fulfil its fixtures in any league. Given that some of these matters are in the hands of the governing bodies it seems inexplicable that they are left hanging. We are clear that for the good of the game that we would want a swift and positive conclusion that would see Rangers Football Club taking part in the game again and we would wish to be able to support a Resolution that saw them entered to SFL3. However, until we receive enough information to inform such a decision then we are being pushed into a corner which would actually leave any club making a logical decision arrive at the conclusion that Resolution 1 should not be supported. The SFA could assist the process by transferring the SFA membership to Sevco prior to the Friday meeting if they have satisfied themselves of fit and proper tests and have carried out their own diligence on the viability of the club and the various legal challenges.

Resolution 2 suffers from the same issues as Resolution 1, in that no information of any sort about Sevco, not even whether it will obtain SFA membership, leaves no possibility of making a decision about entry to the SFL based on facts or logic. Clearly it is incumbent on all the governing bodies to make available all factual information they have available if they truly want this process to have any chance of being recovered from the current chaos. At the very least the business plan for Sevco and any other information that led the SPL clubs to arrive at a decision should be made available to the SFL clubs, and not with inappropriately short notice, although that point has as good as passed. Resolution 2 was where the challenge to sporting integrity arose. It was impossible to engage with this concept without continually bearing in mind that the SFA had already undermined the prospects for any integrity to be maintained by making it clear that failure to deal with the admission of a newco to SFL3 would be a dereliction of duty. In effect posting notice that no matter what decision is taken by the SFL clubs to administer their league, the SFA would not tolerate anything other than SFL 1, an equivalent point having been made by Neil Doncaster on behalf of the SPL clubs. The stated position of the SFA and SPL chief executives means that, whilst this club can have faith in David Longmuir to do all in his power to deliver a new combined structure that meets the objectives of Resolution 2, we have no faith in the parties that the new arrangements would be negotiated with. Their behaviour to date is evidence enough for us. We should not be disingenuous on our own position in terms of the question of trading sporting integrity for transformational change to the way the game is governed that is posed by Resolution 2. We have said previously that there would be no winners and that compromise would be required at some point. With this in mind, had we worked through this process and seen positive collaborative behaviour from the leaders of the SFA and SPL and we were challenged with backing Resolution 2 in exchange for revolutionary change that would truly benefit the game as a whole, then we would have engaged with that. As it stands, we have no information on the proposals other than that distributed in advance of the meeting last week and no confidence in the parties that will control the process outside of the SFL. As such we would vote no to Resolution 2.

Resolution 3, as many have pointed out this resolution seems presumptuous as no invitation has been issued from the SPL to either club. Again, this arises because of the external pressures, the haste and the failure of other bodies to complete their own processes. As things stand, whilst Sevco/Newco was not voted into the SPL, it seems that the SPL still has 12 members based on the reported voting at the SPL meeting last week, albeit one of whom is in liquidation. It seems to make more sense that the SPL complete their processes and make the appropriate invitation for a club to join the SPL. We would seek to support whichever of our member clubs are invited to join the SPL to make that move, however, at the moment there is no certainty that Sevco will be entered into the SFL and the SFL should not risk leaving itself short of a team.

In summary, the complete absence of information on Sevco Scotland Ltd renders it impossible to vote with any logic in favour of any of the Resolutions. The default in these circumstances would unfortunately be to vote against. We hope and trust that this unacceptable situation will be resolved swiftly and will allow Clyde Football Club to support Resolution 1 from an informed position and will see Rangers Football Club playing in SFL3. We see Resolution 2 as a matter of trust and it would take a change of personnel and attitude for us to be confident that David Longmuir would be entering discussions with a group of people committed to a collaborative process in a spirit of genuine partnership. In the current circumstances our only decision could be to vote against Resolution 2. Subject to a satisfactory outcome on Resolution 1 we would support Resolution 3.

The three resolutions presented to the club are as follows:-

(i) That the Scottish Football League Members agree to admit Sevco Scotland Limited as an Associate Member and agrees to permit Rangers F.C. to play in the League during Season 2012/13.

(ii) That the Scottish Football League Members direct the Board of Management of The Scottish Football League (the “Board”) to provide that Rangers F.C. shall play in the Third Division of the Scottish Football League during Season 2012/13 unless the Board shall have to its satisfaction negotiated and reached agreement with The Scottish Premier League and The Scottish Football Association on a series of measures which the Board shall consider to be in the best interests of the game, how it is structured, how it is governed and how it is financed, whereupon the Board shall be authorised to provide that Rangers F.C. shall play in the First Division of the Scottish Football League during Season 2012/13.

(iii) That the Scottish Football League Members in terms of Rule 12 approve the resignation of either Dundee F.C. or Dunfermline Athletic F.C., whichever shall be admitted to join the Scottish Premier League for Season 2012/13, such resignation to take effect as at the date of admission of such club to the Scottish Premier League, notwithstanding that the requisite notice under Rule 12 shall not have been given.Details of the series of measures referred to at (ii) above shall be made available to the Members in advance of the meeting and an opportunity for full discussion of those measures will be given prior to the proposals being put to the meeting.


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