Apr 292011

By Fred Wilkinson with thanks to The REAL SPL.

For my sins, I am football fan and a diehard Dandy, but for many reasons, not withstanding the demands of my role in producing Aberdeen Voice, I am unable to attend games as often as I would like.

Instead, I indulge in animated, all too often loud, heated conversation with the radio, and very occasionally the telly, sure in my mind at the time that all on the park and on the touchline can hear me, and would do well to listen.

Often in desperate attempts to influence the fortunes of my once all conquering home team, I find myself deliberately facing the general direction of the match venue.

So from my position close to the radio, Pittodrie is the pasta cupboard, Easter Road is a chimney viewed from the window, and Ibrox is the pots and pans shelf… you get the gist. Ineffective, bizarre and utterly futile certainly, but at least I demonstrate huge commitment and effort; very much like Darren Mackie – minus the red boots and the lucrative contract.

I miss out on the sharing of views, the wisecracks and the banter I have come to expect from being there in person as a good game progresses. But all is not lost, there is enough room next to the radio for a laptop logged on to the Aberdeen-Mad fans forum where a range of views and arguments are exchanged before, during, after and in between games. From informed to infuriating, well measured to well mad, bouquets and brickbats, outrageous on occasion but always entertaining and often unbelievably hilarious. I am hooked.

Many fans fear that the Old Firm are slowly but surely strangling the game in Scotland

It was on said forum that I came across a newly formed campaign group who go by the name ‘The REAL SPL’. I found their philosophy rather refreshing, and their ambitions worthy of comment and a degree of respect.

I was compelled to find out more from their freshly constructed website.

The REAL SPL plan to run and publish a virtual league in parallel with the SPL from seasons 2011/12 onwards. They will allocate points on the same basis as the SPL for games played but no points will be awarded when a team plays one of the Old Firm.

The team with the most points will then be declared Champions of The REAL SPL and there are plans to purchase a REAL trophy to be awarded to the winners.

It appears this initiative is an attempt to bring back the interest and excitement to fans who have become disillusioned with the SPL mainly as the result of the Old Firm’s disproportionate influence on all aspects of the Scottish game. Aspects ranging from league construction, financial distribution to television contracts, and particularly of late and more importantly, the public image of Scottish Football as a whole. This extends to their influence with the football authorities, commercial rights and revenue generation.

Many fans fear that the Old Firm are slowly but surely strangling the game in Scotland, and if action is not taken there will be even more severe repercussions in years to come.

To reflect on my own ‘virtual game’ in the setting of my kitchen as described above, could this idea not be viewed as equally ‘Ineffective, bizarre and utterly futile’? – Apparently not.

Already, the idea has captured the collective imagination of followers to the point that many fans are pledging to stay away from old firm games, but rather than rob the game of money, will attend more games involving other teams or ensure the money they save will go to their club in other ways: ways in which the old firm cannot lay claim to a share.

“The number of fans going to games in Scotland is falling year on year. There are many reasons for this but we believe that an uncompetitive league is one of the most important.”

Few would argue that the Scottish game, as with my beloved, yet sadly underachieving Dandies could do with a ‘leggie up’, but one worries that an idea, however well meaning and potentially beneficial cannot inspire change without a significant level of public support. So I ask, what are the indications that a significant level of public support exists?

“We ran a poll for two days, when we started the site, to find out whether people agreed with our aims. In this time, we had over 1,200 people complete the poll with a 95% approval rating for The Real SPL”

The site itself recorded an impressive 115,000 hits in its first two days in operation – An excellent start indeed, and it is only a start.

I believe the REAL SPL may have more far reaching ambitions. Perhaps to become more than simply a virtual league and a snub to the old firm, and possibly develop a strong platform for REAL football fans to air their views on how our game should evolve. Perhaps to initiate campaigns for specific changes free of the selfish business interests of the ‘Big Two’.

“The fans want a competitive, exciting and ambitious league and we have come to the conclusion that it’s time for a change. We are excited by the challenge of bringing interest in football back to the fans who may not have attended a game in a while.”

You can offer your support for The REAL SPL by visiting their website, or contributing to discussions on Aberdeen-Mad. You may also wish to join their group page on Facebook.

“One of the things we are looking to do is get more Facebook fans than the SPL. They have around 13,500 and we have 500… Its a tall order I know but it will demonstrate the backing that we have for a more competitive league”

Nov 052010

Bonfire Night is upon us and as we watch the traditional burning of effigies and the sometimes surprising, sometimes disapointing firework displays, the thoughts of some spectators begin to wander ……

** ‘If Moir Lockhead wis a firework, he’d be the only firework allowed in the display, wid cost far mair than similar fireworks in Edinburgh, wid bide for ages in the Coapy milk bottle while you wait for movement and when he eventually took off, it wid be grudgingly, wi a splutter and a hotter but still leaving six sparklers chasing efter him in vain.’ – David Innes

** ‘If Aberdeen F.C was a firework, it would be one of those you light, get all excited about, tell all yer mates “watch this, it’s gonna be beautiful” You wait and wait, it doesn’t go off, not sure if you should let it be of go over to it and light it again……you’re warned “nah leave it – it’ll go aff” ……you wait, then “f*ck it I’ll go over” and it blows up in yer face’. – Slimfella, Aberdeen-Mad.

** ‘If  Aberdeen City Cooncil was a firework it would be a dodgy katherine wheel which when lit,  would twirl around and around in ever decreasing circles creating lots of heat, sparks and noise, expending fuel and energy at an alarming rate but never actually going anywhere’. – Fred Wilkinson

** ‘If Kevin Stewart wis a neep lantern you’d struggle to see the facial outline due to there being nae licht inside the f*ckin heid.’ – David Innes

** ‘If The CitySquare/Gardens was a firework it would come in a plain pale grey box ( artwork purchased separately ) around a hundred times the size of the firework itself, cost about 100 times more than the ‘money back on next purchase’ voucher redeemable only when your home and car have been legally bound as security until your cheque clears.
When taken out of the box, you would find that the quaint little oil platform shaped device comes with a badly written manual in which you would somehow suss that the firework does not work unless it is connected to a mains gas supply. However, on the back page there is a telephone number for an engineer who can come round anytime, dig up your garden and install the pipe and connection required.

This will cost you, but on the upside, they will accept your ‘money back on next purchase’ voucher towards the cost of the work ( which would of course include arranging planning permission for the installation).
When lit, sometime ( around 2016 by the time all the paperwork is complete ) it would throw out a brief burst of sparks and swirling flares, and then produce a large limp flickering flame.
As you wait to see what else it does next, you find the small print in the manual which informs you that there is no way of turning it off and that your transaction validated an agreement to purchase your uninterruptable gas supply from an un-named supplier at an undisclosed price for an unnegotiable 25 year term.

It might seem like you got a bad deal, but the solicitor, the gas company, the planning dept and the engineer all agree it was a pleasure to do business with you’. – Fred Wilkinson

** ‘If ACSEF wis a squaad o guisers, they’d ask you if you wanted to hear a song and when you refused they’d sing it onywye saying that they didna recognise the insignificant numbers o respondents who said ‘no”. – David Innes

**  ‘If Aberdeen F.C.  was a firework, it would be one of those indoor fireworks that turn into a giant, endless sh*te.  ( see below)’ – Kelt, Aberdeen-Mad

Oct 152010

By Aberdeen-Mad Editor Craig Stewart.

One way of looking at football is that it is an incredibly complex equation involving tactics, balance of players, skill, experience, work rate. trust, scouting, coaching and so on. Another perfectly valid view is that it is very simple – the best teams are the ones that pay the most wages.

With our club in a seemingly interminable period of transition – a relentlessly confusing and frustrating time for fans – it has been hinted that there are magic beans which can help the situation and put AFC back where we can challenge the big boys again. The beans will grow into a new stadium, the massive debt that has shackled the Dons since the mid-90’s will be removed and the club will be profitable and free to challenge the giants once again. The only problem is – where to plant the beans?

In a purely clinical, scientific [and somewhat simplistic] analysis of the situation, this is a no-brainer for supporters – build the stadium wherever you want as long as it’s now! However we have hearts and souls as well as minds and while Pittodrie Stadium may be a big old wreck with faded seats, patched-up roofs and windy, piss-puddled toilets, it is what we call ‘home’-not just for two hours every second Saturday but every day of our Dons-supporting lives.

We have witnessed the greatest highs and experienced the darkest lows; some of us have dated, proposed, got married and taken the resulting children on their first awe-struck steps down the Merkland Road. Nostalgic twaddle? To those outwith football, of course it is. But moving to a new stadium does not affect these people, it affects us.

However, most of us are not completely blinded by nostalgia. A poll on the Aberdeen-Mad website a couple of years back showed that the vast majority wanted a new stadium either at the Pittodrie site or at nearby Kings Links. We are told, however, that these options are not deliverable and Loirston Loch has been chosen instead.

Opinion is split on whether this is a good idea or not. The lack of any great strength of feeling against the move Covewards is telling in itself. There have been no great demonstrations on match days whatsoever despite the plans being public knowledge for many months. Meanwhile, there are plenty fans on the web forums who are vehemently against it, but there are many who support it too. However, the majority appear to display a tacit, resigned acceptance that this has to happen and a willingness to see it through, albeit with a sadness and confusion about the reasons behind it.

The inner turmoil of the supporter on this matter is precisely that we are told that to escape from the quagmire of mediocrity the club has been stuck in for two decades; we must jettison the ballast of sentiment. It is presented as a straight choice between being rooted in the past and looking forward to  future success.

Pittodrie Stadium is the physical embodiment of the glory days of being a Dons fan; to have it ripped down seems unpalatable but is it less palatable than the current on-field mediocrity?