“Rule 6. Any club in membership of the Scottish Amateur Football Association must not make any monetary payment to any player or club member beyond their legitimate travelling expenses.”
“Any club in membership of the Scottish Amateur Football Association may provide playing or training kit and equipment as deemed necessary to any player or club member.”
What I am about to say won’t sit well with a lot of people in the higher echelons of the game and it especially won’t sit well with those people to whom the whole blog has been directed at but I feel that this needs to be said.
For long and weary we have debated which clubs pay players and what players take a wage in amateur football. The reality is that this happens across the board almost every week. As the rules state above, it is against the SAFA constitution for member clubs to pay players, it clearly states this. It also gives clubs a get out clause in the event that they are caught. How on earth do you quantify”legitimate travelling expenses” when it comes to cheating the rules. If a club can pay a player £30 a game for example then you could reasonably argue that this money would cover his travelling to training twice a week and to a home or away game. It’s an easy one for a club to argue. The SAFA could never prove that the player in question didn’t travel all the miles required to get to where he had to be for his club. You could get away with paying a player £100 a week if you introduced all manner of nonsense about him doing shuttle runs to pick up players or that he has been staying with his girlfriend in Aberdeen. Prove that he hasn’t!
What this loop hole has done is create an uneven playing field and a lot of resentment towards the clubs with healthy financial backing. Admittedly some teams get a lot of press about giving players back handed payments when they have never actually done this, but there are others who fully exploit it. I have personally been in a car park and seen players being handed money from the Managers wallet, actually standing in a queue waiting for their weekly wage. I’m not talking blue or brown notes either I mean the nice big red ones. Taking the travelling expenses aside here I have no doubt there are clubs that don’t even know they can pay expenses and they are just happy to have quality players and money to attract them. The difficult part is proving it and no player is ever going to come forward and say he was paid and he wants to make a complaint. They know they shouldn’t be doing it and that there is a 99% chance they won’t get caught but they are that driven by success that they don’t even care. I don’t know what is worse though, the amateur clubs that have to pay people to play for them or the amateur player that takes a wage. If you are that good a player that you deserve a wage then go and challenge yourself and play Junior or Senior football and give the guys who want to play by the rules a fair shot. Equally, If your a club that pays players then sack your manager and maybe get someone in that good players would want to play for anyway. In my opinion the SAFA should remove the travelling expenses rule from the constitution altogether.
The second rule I have mentioned has again left us all wide open to being the victims of cheating. You are allowed to provide your players with training kit and equipment. This is fair enough on the surface. I make sure my players have the best tracksuits and training strips, polos, bags and wooly hats for winter. We raise our own funds though, and have to beg people for sponsorship, every season we work hard for what we have. Most clubs nowadays are now turning up week in week out looking the part for their matches and it is great to see. The loophole in this rule is that a Manager of a wealthy club can buy a player a £120 pair of boots which is perfectly legit as per the rules. He can then buy him a pair of boots every month of the season after that. Again, perfectly legit. He can also leave the receipt in the box, and that player can take them back to the shop any time he wants and claim his £120 wage for that month. Its that easy to cheat the rules now. We need an overhaul here because this is the reality. I’ve had players turn up to sign for me expecting a payout or a new pair of boots. Is this what our game has now become? Guys that are playing at a good level of Junior football are being attracted to teams in mediocre amateur leagues based purely on money. How can a small club with 18 players, no sponsor and one man running the show even compete with that?
If you have got to this part and haven’t liked what you have read then I suggest you stop here because this section will be a hard read for you.
Roman Abramovich set a trend many years ago for wealthy businessmen investing millions of pounds into football clubs and effectively buying success. Many clubs have followed suit and find themselves flying high with their owners until the money runs out. These clubs, at their peak leave the others in their leagues so far behind that the competition becomes a bit of a joke. A very similar situation can now be seen in the amateur game. Replace Roman Abramovich with the local community drug dealer and replace the £200,000 a week wage with a little bag of white powder and you get my jist. Players are being paid to play with Cocaine. Let that sink in to you for a while. For obvious reasons I won’t say what clubs or what players but I can assure you this is happening. People are using amateur football clubs to launder their grubby money. I don’t know how we can ever stamp it out or raise awareness but it is fast becoming the biggest elephant in the room in amateur football. When I first heard this I was disgusted, I wasn’t surprised to be honest but I was disgusted. I’m just an honest guy trying my best with what football knowledge I have to try and win a league or a couple of cups. I’ve never cheated or broke the rules, never played anyone under a fake name, never paid a player and I make sure I have four corner flags at every home game. I love football and I love winning but how am I supposed to compete with these guys? Seriously, how can my club ever be the best when we can’t attract the best players anymore. Every player I have ever signed has been down to my own man management and skills of persuasion. I have nothing to offer a player other than an opportunity to buy into the vision I have for my club. That’s supposed to be what amateur football is all about is it not?