Scottish Football, SPFL

Fenian B*stards Everywhere?


Good Evening.

Take a few moments to ponder the following scenarios:

  • You are in a church having seen a good friend get married.
  • You’ve just passed your driving test.
  • You’ve had a decent win on the lottery.
  • Your five-bet accumulator has come in.
  • You’ve made a soufflé which has turned out perfectly.
  • You thought you were going to miss the bus to work, but the driver held it at the stop for a few extra seconds so you could get on.
  • You are waiting in for a delivery and it arrives exactly when they said it would.

All of the above would give you cause to experience joy, albeit to varying degrees.

But would that joy immediately prompt you to start belting out a song about being ‘up to your knees in Fenian blood’ or one about ‘Fenian bastards’?

No, of course it wouldn’t. It is unlikely to prompt anyone to start singing such songs.

And yet in one very peculiar corner of Scottish football, the joy of seeing one particular team scoring a goal seems to trigger some* people to sing those songs. And also on occasion the utterly loathesome ‘Famine Song’.

[*NB For the benefit of the hard-of-thinking, I am not saying ‘all’]

I wonder if when asked the most basic of questions – ‘how are you today?‘ by a friend or family member over breakfast or in the pub etc these folk reply “brilliant thanks: happy and full of angry hate!”?

Because their apparent view of the world seems utterly bizarre. 

Personally speaking, I would rather enjoy a joyful moment for what it is and – if appropriate – sing a song of celebration

But that is clearly not the case for this unfortunate element, whose default reaction seems to be one of hostility where football and ‘Irishness’ is concerned.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am fully aware that the fan bases of numerous football clubs have unsavoury elements and unwelcome songs, and think we would all be better off without them. 

However, the repeated bile-filled spectacle which was once again heard on on Sky Sports today is of a particularly odious kind.

Whether the authorities – policing, political and footballing – will ever manage to do anything about it remains to be seen. I suspect they won’t because – for various reasons – it will always remain ‘all too difficult’ to confront. 

This is a great shame, because the image it portrays of our national sport and society is one of deep-rooted intolerance and anger. 

Most of us see ourselves as living in a modern progressive country with a footballing set-up that is once again becoming vibrant and hopefully more attractive to broadcasters and potential sponsors. As such, anthems of hate are an anachronism and a festering open wound which could almost be hilarious if they weren’t so downright ugly.

The blood-waders ought to take a long hard look at themselves. Preferably in the face rather than at their imaginary blood-soaked knees. Because ultimately they aren’t even doing themselves any favours, never mind the rest of us or the sport they profess to love.

#KeepOnClumping

Media, Scottish Football, SPFL

Sweeping Statements


Good Evening.

The Clumpany drew a sharp intake of ethereal breath today when reading quotes from Alex Smith, Chairman of the Scottish Coaches’ and Managers’ Association in the Daily Record.

Smith (a former manager of St Mirren, Dundee United and Aberdeen) commented on remarks made to the BBC by ex-Hibs players Russell Latapy and Kevin Harper. Here is the BBC piece, together with some key extracts:

Black coaches ‘held back in Scotland’, say Latapy and Harper

“Two black former Scottish top-flight footballers claim the colour of their skin is holding them back from making the transition to management. Russell Latapy and Kevin Harper, who both played for Hibernian, say the lack of diversity in Scottish dugouts proves their point.”

“Latapy, who was born in Trinidad and managed his national side, has been a coach at Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Falkirk but says the path to management in the country is proving trickier. 

‘For whatever reason, young black managers are not being afforded the same opportunities as young white managers,’ said the 47-year-old. ‘As players, we play alongside each other and all we’re asking for is the same opportunity. Since John Barnes, there hasn’t been another black manager, but I have to say this: I don’t want a job because of the colour of my skin. I want a job based on what the chairman thinks I can bring to that football club.’

Harper, who is currently doing his A Licence coaching training, says he feels the same way. ‘I’ve applied for at least 10 jobs in Scotland and I’ve had two responses,’ revealed the 40-year-old. ‘I’m new into it but to only get two responses and not even get an interview, I think there’s a real issue.’

‘There might be 6% going through the coaching system, but there is 0% at the clubs,” he said. “There is definitely an issue for sure.'”

The points raised by Harper and Latapy were interesting ones – which also get raised from time-to-time in English football. However, I thought that some of the responses from those in a position of authority or influence sounded rather complacent.

Firstly, the SPFL offered a response which was as so bland that it must have come out of a PR handbook.

“We are absolutely confident that all of our member clubs judge each management and coaching application on its individual merit and appoint only the best candidates, regardless of the colour of their skin. All of our member clubs fully support the Show Racism The Red Card campaign and undertake an abundance of work promoting diversity in their communities.”

Well that’s alright then. As long as all clubs support the SRTRC campaign there can’t be any merit in the issues raised by Harper and Latapy… Let’s all just move on.

But the most striking response to their comments came from Alex Smith who was quoted by the Record in the following terms:

“ALEX SMITH has hit back at Kevin Harper and Russell Latapy and insisted there is no racism in Scottish football.
Former Hibs pair Harper and Latapy insist there is a problem in the Scottish game with black coaches getting management jobs.

But former St Mirren, Aberdeen and Dundee United boss Smith, who currently heads up the League Manager’s Association, has rejected the claims and says there is nothing stopping the duo getting jobs.

He said: ‘I don’t believe there is a problem in this country at all, I find that hard to believe. Today, more than ever, there are players coming through of different ethnicities, I think there are opportunities for everyone in Scottish football.

Russell enjoyed a long and successful spell with John Hughes, where he helped lead Inverness to the Scottish Cup, I’m sure if the right opportunity is there, Russell will make his mark in coaching. I’ve known Kevin since he was only a young lad, I’m sure if he keeps working hard getting his coaching badges then he will make an impact on the game.'”

Once I stopped guffawing at the Record’s embellishment [“there is no racism in Scottish football”], I found myself rolling my eyes at Smith’s remarks.

“I don’t believe there is a problem in this country at all” is a remarkably definitive thing to say in respect of possible discrimination, and suggests that Smith must have detailed knowledge of every single coaching appointment made in contemporary senior Scottish football!

It is worth reflecting on the fact that it is only by being so definitive that Smith is then able to assert that if the two men  keep working hard on their coaching badges, they will do well “if the right opportunity is there”.  

Woohoo for meritocracy!

For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting that Harper and Latapy are 100% correct in their claims, nor am I saying that Scottish football has an alarming case to answer about its coaching recruitment practices. However, I AM keen to point out that the comments of Smith (and those of the SPFL) appear so dismissive as to seem remarkably unconcerned.

I may be naive, but in relation to issues of discrimination, it would seem absolutely essential to remain constantly ‘on guard’, and to be on the look-out for opportunities to address concerns.

Surely it wouldn’t have been beyond Smith or the SPFL to say that although they don’t recognise the points raised (based on their knowledge of the game), they take all concerns seriously, and would welcome a discussion with Harper and Latapy?

It might have conveyed a reassuring impression of vigilance on their part.

#KeepOnClumping

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Celtic, Scottish Football, SPFL

Show Irishness The Red Card?

1406-16 001 1406-16 Referee Illustration Referee Illustration June 10, 2014 Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU © BYU PHOTO 2014 All Rights Reserved photo@byu.edu  (801)422-7322

Good Afternoon (and please Vote ‘Clumpany’!).

Something slightly different is on offer from Clumpany Towers today.

I fully expect an outbreak of ‘whataboutery’ to ensue in response. Particularly from amongst those who never read this blog. But I have a question to ask and, hey, it’s my blog… [Despite rumours of it being controlled by a ‘higher power’ who never seems to pay me…]

So here goes.

This morning, my attention was grabbed by this tweet from the SPFL which mentioned ‘Show Racism The Red Card (Scotland)’ (SRTRC) and their Fortnight of Action for 2015.

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I was already aware of this, not least because Celtic had already publicised the campaign four days ago. But seeing today’s tweet prompted me to look at what SRTRC’s activities involve.

[NB The below-quoted material all appears on the SRTRC website]

Here is the organisation’s overall mission statement:

Mission Statement

Show Racism The Red Card is an anti-racism educational charity. We aim to combat racism through enabling role models, who are predominately but not exclusively footballers, to present an anti-racist message to young people and others.

Show Racism The Red Card acknowledges that racism changes, as do the experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the UK. Our message and activities therefore need to be able to respond to such changes as and when appropriate.

We achieve this through:

  • Producing educational resources

  • Developing activities to encourage people, including young people, to challenge racism

  • In parts of the UK, challenging racism in the game of football and other sports.”

I then took a look at what the Organisation’s 2014-16 Business Plan had to say about Scotland (see p7 onwards).

“SRtRC organises annual school competitions in England, Scotland and Wales with an anti-racism theme… to develop an understanding of the issues around racism and offer a space for students to develop creative work which gets the message across; racism is not acceptable in modern Scotland…. The 2013 competition saw 4,500 young people take part. The competition culminates with an Awards Ceremony at Hampden Park, courtesy of the Scottish Football Association”

“We deliver anti-racism educational workshops in schools, colleges, various other educational settings and with groups of ‘hard to reach’ young people across England, Scotland and Wales.”

“In Scotland we deliver workshops in schools on the issue of sectarianism and the uptake by local authorities wishing to educate their young people on this prevalent Scottish issue has been extremely encouraging, around 10% of Scottish workshop requests are for an anti-sectarianism input… The Fortnight of Action in Scotland has been developed to take a stance against both racism and sectarianism.”

The Business Plan then goes on to discuss the annual ‘Fortnight of Action’ which is now upon us. We are told that “This period of concerted action encourages participation from all sections of communities to celebrate diversity and tackle racism.”

And in terms of specific activities during the Fortnight of Action, the plan says this:

“Fortnight of Action Scotland

a. Players ‘RED card’ action at SPFL, SJFA, Scottish Cup, Youth, SWPL & SWFL games

b. All SPFL strips carrying a ‘Show Racism and Bigotry the Red Card’ branded badge at their home game action during the Fortnight

c. SPFL clubs are asked to recommend a player as an ambassador for the fortnight and publicise this on their website and in their match day programme, complemented by a statement highlighting their continued support to the anti-racism and anti-sectarian message

d. Players wearing SRtRC t-shirts during warm-ups, training sessions

e. Anti-racism tannoy announcements

f. Articles in match programmes

g. Articles on club websites

h. Unveiling of anti-racism stadium hoardings

i. Involvement with local clubs and communities

j. Managers and Coaches wearing ‘Show Racism and Bigotry the Red Card’ pin badges during every fixture across the fortnight, and during any press/media conferences and interviews”

That’s quite a list. And the activity by both SRTRC and individual clubs has to be applauded. Unambiguously.

I did a little bit more searching and found some other resources that are made available by the campaign. These include.

A film called  ‘Rivals Not Enemies’ which “explores the issue of sectarianism within Scottish Football and Society. The film contains interviews with professional footballers, celebrities and supporters.”

An Immigration Mythbuster” fact sheet.

An extensive FAQ section which (amongst other things) explains that

“There are four parts of a person’s identity that if targeted, would be classed as racism, they are:

1.Skin Colour
2. Religion
3. Culture
4. Nationality”

The above material should give you all a good idea of what SRTRC is about.

And so now we come to my question…

By the end of the Fortnight of Action, will the typical football fan (and players) in Scotland have encountered materials and messages highlighting and confronting anti-Irish Racism?

The materials I have set out above clearly demonstrate that this would be within the scope of the campaign. And many of us know that witty ditties such as ‘The Famine Song’ continue to get an outing at various Scottish grounds and even on TV via pitch-side microphones. Including at the home of the SFA, where the campaign’s Schools Awards Ceremony will take place.

I couldn’t find any mention of “Irish” in any of the written and video materials I have quoted above [But I would be delighted to be corrected]. That may just be because the material speaks in generic terms about racism, bigotry and sectarianism. But it would be good to know how SRTRC plan to help tackle anti-Irish racism in our game.

I know some folk argue that is doesn’t exist, but I am afraid that I completely disagree!.

It isn’t as if SRTRC aren’t aware of the issue. The website of Phil Mac Giolla Bhain [grab your pens conspiracy theorists!] reported (for example) on a “Policy Change On Anti-Irish Racism”  by the campaign in 2009, and on Peter Lawwell’s unhappiness  about their lack of action later that year.

That’s six years ago.

So if you are interested in this kind of matter (and who isn’t interested in equality and basic respect for their fellow human beings?) you might like to keep an eye on how the efforts of SRTRC, clubs, administrators and others to tackle anti-Irish Racism in Scotland have matured since 2009.

It could be an interesting “Fortnight of Action”.

NB For the avoidance of doubt, I am fully aware that other sorts of discrimination and racism exist as well. They are equally abhorrent and I hope that they are expunged from our game and society too.

Quickly.

#KeepOnClumping

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