Be careful what you wish for.
That’s my advice to Scottish football supporters today or you may end up in the same sorry and predictable mess that the rugby fraternity find themselves in as Andy Robinson becomes the latest national coach to clear his desk in the bungled professional era.
With one football governing body, as is being suggested, would come central control. This means the same one-party “state” is judge and jury in all matters and at all levels, thus creating massive conflicts of interest especially as they will consider the national team being paramount and clubs subservient.
Imagine central control allowing the SFA (or equivalent) to tell Hibs, Hearts etc which player to play in which positions and for how long per match?
That is the reality of Scottish rugby whatever protestations may come from Murrayfield where edicts are a way of life and the national team comes first, second, third and more in the financial pecking order with creativity and alternative thinking early casualties.
Predictable? Well, I have to admit scooping a magnum of sponsor’s champagne for having the nearest correct score prediction ahead of the Tonga clash which sealed Robinson’s fate (I went for 18-15 to Scotland).
Sadly this result was predictable and has been since 1996 when a decision was taken that state run super teams – created with sweeteners to the masses – were the way forward for Scottish rugby, thereby stifling the ambitions of certain traditional clubs, who could have grown our game.
Today, Edinburgh Rugby have 14 foreigners in the ranks while the clubs meanwhile are struggling to raise enough interested players to put out second teams whereas they used to be able to field four, five, even six teams. And, with the shrinkage has come an inevitable lack of intensity and contenders for each position which leads us to Pittodrie’s 15-21 defeat by a Tongan team now ranked above Scotland in the world. Against that background, Robinson fared pretty well overall if sometimes despite himself.
Selection was always a problem and, on one occasion, he had barely finished briefing journalists ‘off the record’ that a young player was not ready for a cap . . . only to reveal that a lack of resources now dictated the same individual was in the team after all (and is doing relatively well).
Robinson saw both sides of the club-v-country issue as a one-time Edinburgh coach which led to our most memorable “chat”. Because the SRU sign the cheques, I questioned whether it was they or Edinburgh who had actually signed Scotland internationalist Scott Macleod from Llanelli. “You get so far up my nose you are coming out my ears” I was told which I took as a compliment having been brought up to question authority.
Since then, we have had meaningful conversations, mostly about cricket, I admit. But it was an improvement on the start.
Robinson had been announced as Edinburgh coach on the day of a match despite the fact he was in France reporting on the World Cup. I was offered a telephone interview and when the call came, Robinson offered his views on the recently-finished Celtic League game he hadn’t actually seen. As interviews go, it was a non-starter – even if he did seem surprised.
I wish Robinson well but I hope we never have another Englishman coaching Scotland. I wouldn’t have a Kiwi, Aussie or Eskimo either because the same eligibility qualifications that apply to players should apply to the coach. Somehow, though, having an Englishman is anathema because in sporting terms they are “the enemy” and sport is all about rivalry.
Another Englishman at Murrayfield, chief executive Mark Dodson, has set Scotland a target of winning the World Cup in 2015 and he has been backed up by board chairman Sir Moir Lockhead (born County Durham). If serious, I suggest an £86,000 bet at 150-1 and that would clear the SRU’s current £13 million debt but it is a risk; £86,000 would buy a decent training camp at Scotland’s five star Old Course Hotel base.
Tonga didn’t need anywhere as salubrious a base from which to plot their weekend triumph but they were driven by a hunger and I am not referring to yam crop these islands of 104,000 citizens depend on to hold together an economy.
Scotland need to discover that same desire and a good start would be to take all the money spent on the centrally run teams away from the dead hand of Murrayfield and put it in a prize pot for our traditional clubs to contest.
The alternative is further conflict of interest which created this whole mess initially but I predict we would finally, finally, start building from the bottom up rather than top down.