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Mark Selby won the Masters – on the ‘red button’

Most people woke to the tragic news that former Dundee, Rangers and Dundee United midfielder Ian Redford had been found dead, aged just 53.

Ian Redford - RIP

Ian Redford – RIP

Redford was the most expensive transfer between two Scottish clubs when he moved from Dens Park to Ibrox in February 1980 for £210,000 – ten grand more than the figure Rangers had rejected by Dundee the week before!

Arguably however, his best days came with Dundee United, part of Jim McLean’s team that reached the UEFA Cup final in 1987, Redford scoring the winner in the semi-final against Borussia Monchengladbach. And he wasn’t finished as a winner either, helping Raith Rovers to both the First Division title and most famously, beating Celtic in the League Cup final in 1994.

I go back to his Rangers days though, a time which for Redford yielded medals and some truly wonderful goals, outrageous in their delivery, sheer gallus in their execution. A time when he was often paired alongside Davie Cooper. Coop was genuinely amused with how disinterested Redford seemingly could be at times with football, and once admitted he thought that if Ian ever won the pools, he’d buy Ibrox and turn it into a nature reserve and deer park.

Like Cooper, Redford has left us far too early. Like Cooper, perhaps we didn’t realise how good some of the players of that generation were, Ian Redford definitely being one of them …

TV companies, cameramen and producers, do like to focus in on managers these days, often coming up with a study of gritted teeth and nasal hair. And on occasions, something they had hadn’t bargained for.

Alan Pardew (Picture from Wikipedia)

Alan Pardew
(Picture from Wikipedia)

Like Alan Pardew’s language during the Newcastle United – Manchester City game when the irate Magpies boss was seen to mouth several obscenities in the direction of his opposite number – Manuel Pellegrini – including use of the ‘C’ word. Oh yes! Pardew apologised later, but not quite as much as the various Sky commentators and presenters had to.

I’ve mentioned before, especially in boxing, that if you stick cameras and microphones under the noses of sportsmen, coaches and managers in the heat of battle, you are asking for trouble. Maybe it’s time that kind of edit was hidden behind the red button?

Talking of red buttons, it only took one afternoon of The Masters before snooker fans were being instructed to reach for the remote in order that they could watch the deciding frame of the match between defending champion Mark Selby and Mark Davis. Ski Sunday, a recorded highlights package, was apparently more important than live coverage of the sudden-death 11th frame, which Selby won. I know most TV’s and devices are fitted with the red button facility. But why not stick the skiing on there and leave the snooker uninterrupted?

Or are there few snooker fans amongst BBC execs?

Cristiano Ronaldo wins the Ballon d’Or, beating Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery. It was the outcome most predicted given the year the Real Madrid star has had.

I have to admit I was more interested to see who the various managers and captains voted for. England boss Roy Hodgson and his captain Steven Gerrard both went for Ronaldo, while Scotland coach Gordon Strachan and international skipper Scott Brown voted for Messi.

I suppose it’s all about personal taste – or being able to identify winners ahead of also-rans …


Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Andy Murray is relatively untroubled in beating Japan’s Go Saeda to get his Australian Open campaign off to a winning start. I say relatively untroubled if you ignore the searing temperatures which has ball boys fainting, some of the women players burning their bottoms on the uncovered seats, and Murray himself claiming that if players were asked to continue in such heat, the consequences could be tragic.

It was nice then, given the extreme conditions, to see Murray being watched by one gentleman in a ‘See You Jimmy’ bunnet and wig. Nothing like being properly attired for the setting …

David Goodwillie

David Goodwillie

After Dundee United had shipped loan striker David Goodwillie back to Blackburn, Rovers boss Gary Bowyer stated he wasn’t sure what the next move could be for the Scotland striker, but that he could even be in his squad for the FA Cup tie against Manchester City, managed by the ‘old c***’ Manuel Pellegrini. In the end he wasn’t, and City won 5-0. I couldn’t help thinking though that had Goodwillie played, it would still have been 5-0 …

Once again I am honoured to be invited on to Scotland Tonight presented by Rona Dougall as a guest, this time to talk about the Rangers players refusing to accept a 15% wage cut.

Once again, that dreadful ‘C’ word appears. But rest easy, not over the airwaves thankfully, but on my Twitter timeline, as in ‘you’re never aff the telly ya **** talking about Rangers.” Of course, such a perceptive comment didn’t come from a fan of the Ibrox club. Neither did it come from anyone very perceptive either given that I have appeared on the show talking about drugs in sport, snooker, the Commonwealth Games, the SPFL, the Tartan Army, ‘Ballboygate,’ Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and Celtic, twice.

This would also slightly dent the observation that the programme is ‘always talking about Rangers,’ – although that was made by a follower of that club, for a change …

Dunkin’-Donuts-Logo CroppedFriday
Liverpool announce a global sponsorship partnership with Dunkin’ Donuts, which immediately sparks protests from some quarters that this send out the wrong message to children and ultimately could cause lasting health issues.

Well, I have news for those individuals concerned about what those round delicacies might do to you. A couple of dozen Dunkin’ Donuts a week, even a day, wouldn’t be as detrimental to your wellbeing as a round or two with Duncan Ferguson. And no-one complained about him being in the city. Liverpool I mean, not Glasgow …

Artist’s impression of the new centre
Pictures: Reiach & Hall

Scotland’s £30m National Performance Centre for Sport will be centred at Heriot Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Offering high level support for football, rugby and volleyball, the centre is designed to help Scotland’s athletes excel at elite level and be in operation by 2016. Other sports too will benefit – they include athletics, badminton, fencing, hockey and shinty. The new facility will be financed in part by £25m from the Scottish Government and a further £2.5m from each of Heriot-Watt University and the City of Edinburgh Council.

Artist's impression of the centre's layout

Artist’s impression of the centre’s layout

The centre will have a substantial range of facilities. They include a full-sized indoor football pitch with seating for 500 as well as a full sized grass pitch, again with seating for 500. There will be two goalkeeper training areas with floodlights, two grass rugby pitches, five grass football pitches, three outdoor tennis courts and a nine-court sports hall. The design builds on he existing facilities at the University’s centre for sport and exercise but also incorporates a large fitness suite, along with areas for strength and conditioning, hydrotherapy and treatment. The center will also provide office accommodation for sports governing bodies.

One of the main features in Reiach & Hall design is the centre’s roof. Inspired by the angle and trajectory of one of the greatest goals in football history, it follows the flight of a strike by Brazil’s Roberto Carlos against France in 1997. The complex has been developed “around the athlete”, providing facilities and services aimed at creating a positive impact on the preparation and development of athletes, coaches and volunteers.

Professor Steve Chapman,  Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Professor Steve Chapman,
Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Principal and vice-chancellor Prof Steve Chapman said: “This is tremendous news for the bid team and, I believe, for the future of performance sport in Scotland. We have the go-ahead to create a world class sporting facility, combining the expertise we already have at Heriot-Watt with a tremendous location, design and setting which have proved a winning formula and will continue to do so for Scotland’s up and coming sports men and women.”

Describing the decision as “absolutely fantastic news for Edinburgh”, Cllr Richard Lewis, the Council’s Sport convener, added that “Heriot-Watt University and the capital will provide an excellent home to the next generation of top athletes and those involved in helping them achieve their aims. Our bid enjoyed great support from the community and local sport groups will also be able to take advantage of this world-class facility on their doorstep. I’m really looking forward to working with Heriot-Watt as they develop their plans in detail ready for future Olympians and cup-winners in 2016.”

The site’s excellent transport links was one of the key factors which influenced the decision – they provide easy access to the city, Edinburgh Airport and the wider surrounding area. The Edinburgh bid also enjoyed widerspread support from top sporting celebrities including Olympians Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Steve Redgrave, rugby legend Gavin Hastings, footballer Michael Stewart and Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. Other submissions had been entered by Dundee City Council and a partnership between the University of Stirling and Stirling Council.

The latest report on the state of Scottish football suggests that four Scottish clubs are in severe financial distress. The insolvency practitioners, Begbies Traynor, publish a regular review of Scottish football finances. Begbie Traynor LogoLast October, the firm claimed that six of the clubs in the top three divisions were struggling. Its latest figures suggest a slight improvement; but it still underlines just how vulnerable and fragile Scotland’s football clubs have become.

The firm uses a range of public documents to assess the clubs’ financial health. The warning signs it looks for include court actions such as high court writs and winding up petitions. It also includes clubs with serious negative balances in their accounts and others which were issued with striking off notices for late filing of accounts. Just this week, Dunfermline Athletic said it had applied to go into administration to prevent it being wound up over an unpaid £134,000 tax bill; and within the past year, both Kilmarnock and Hearts settled bills after threatened with winding up orders.

Begbies Traynor provide little detail over which Scottish clubs are in trouble. It also doesn’t say if any of the clubs it’s concerned about now have featured in previous year’s reports. But it does point out that Scotland is not alone in facing a football crisis. In England, it points out that clubs outside the Premier League are facing similar issues; partly as a result of falling attendances at their games.

Ken Pattullo of Begbies Traynor

Ken Pattullo of Begbies Traynor

Ken Pattullo, head of Begbies Traynor in Scotland, said that “…after a number of well-publicised club failures here in Scotland it was widely accepted that a sea change was needed in the way clubs approached their finances. These survey results show that while clubs have started to address their financial management issues, the same worrying levels of distress are present as there were a year ago, but the game has coped with the disruption that the Rangers administration caused last year.”

He pointed out that the vast majority of clubs had coped with the ‘Rangers effect’ that saw the average gates in the Scottish Premier League fall by almost 30 per cent after the Glasgow club was sent to the Third Division. Indeed, the figures suggest that there’s been an increase (5%) in the number fans going to matches in the top four divisions, and that, said Mr Pattullo, “is great news for the future of the game in Scotland.

“That said,” he added, “there are still four clubs facing serious if not necessarily terminal financial problems, and we expect to see more difficulties in the coming year. Overall, the finances of Scottish football clubs have remained similar to a year ago, and have dramatically improved since six months ago in October, when historically the clubs have most of their cash reserves. This is a welcome trend and we hope that clubs can make further progress over the summer and into next season.”

Guy walks into a bar and says “a pint please.”

“That’ll be four quid plus the booking fee.”

Not a classic rib-tickler, really. They say you get what you pay for, but not always.The booking fee is like a service charge without the waiter making small talk or bringing you an extra free roll.

As high as an eye-watering eight quid in some places, this scandalous abuse of trust and power makes any responsible gig-goer chime to the same chorus – Thank Goodness for the Touts.

Thank goodness, too, for Louis CK.

CK (real surname Szekely) cut his teeth writing for Conan O’ Brien and Chris Rock, before rising to become one of America’s top stand-ups.

He had elevated his status to the extent he recently made up a four-ball with Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais for a recent HBO (Sky Atlantic here)special on what makes funny.

Last year, funny ha ha was supplemented by a career move that was funny strange. After establishing his own Emmy-festooned sitcom, Louis, he took a chance with his tour.

Instead of selling his latest stand-up set to a channel for a comedy special, he sold it online for fans for $5, relying on their honesty.

In more than 12 days, he made more than $1m.The next step this year was braver, braver even than his routines which concern taking on his two year-old daughter in a fight, or on 9/11.

He took on Ticketmaster. Selling direct to fans in 39 cities in the US meant non-contracted Ticketmaster venues missed out – or, as Szekely told fans, “becauseyour town sucks.”

This score just in – Ticketmaster 0 Louis CK 1.

The ticket scalpers failed to score too, on tickets which would normally retail for around $110. Other comics Jim Gaffigan and AzizAnsari soon followed his lead.

The next step will be visiting those towns where Ticketmaster hold the monopoly. http://www.pennyblackmusic.co.uk/MagSitePages/Article.aspx?id=5924
Louis CK has seemingly succeeded where Pearl Jam failed.

In the mid-’90s, the Seattle grungesters, then one of, if not the biggest band in the States, tried to take on Ticketmaster by keeping their prices down to under $20 a show. They filed a complaint to the Justice Department and it all went the way to Congress but eventually, the lack of support from other bands and venues, who were quite happy with their cosy relationship with the ticketing companies.

If bands thought going independent and taking on the major labels was tough, it’s nothing to taking on the major agencies.But where the drums, bass, guitar and vocals feared to tread, one man with a collection of jokes may have shown others the way to go.

A near-two decades after Baddiel and Newman filled Wembley Arena,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vIs92Q8kTE Peter Kay, Kevin Bridges,
Michael McIntyre and several others are filling night after night inthe O2, the SECC, the MEN arena and the other enormodomes, thosevenues might seem less important than the numbers they can reach without Ticketmaster’s help.

If that happened, comedy wouldn’t be the new rock’n’roll, it would succeed where much of rock’n’roll has failed. If Eddie Izzard can play the Hollywood Bowl, do a tour in French and another in a dress, he could probably pack out venues not approved by Ticketmaster. Plenty comics could. Just don’t open with…

Did you hear the one about the e-ticket with a “handling charge”?

Sir Chris Hoy flies the flag at the Olympic opening ceremony Picture: Nick J Webb

It was difficult to wake up on Saturday morning and not think about the night before.

There will be those pointing to the £27 million price tag, and those saying it was over the top and cheesy. But if Danny Boyle isn’t a “Sir” before this year is out, I’ll be amazed.

Covering a five-hour extravaganza isn’t easy. You need to research it, have crib notes galore, and be able to resist the opportunity to slip in your little gems of knowledge.

It’s when you leave the beaten track, or your script, that things can go slightly awry.

The sight of Bradley Wiggins, clad in the yellow jersey, was maybe too much for Hazel Irvine. She said all the right things, but then added a line about him being “the only winner of the Tour de France from these isles”.

Just imagine the noise a wrong answer used to get in Family Fortunes.

Her throwaway nugget was a surprise to a great many people, most of all to Stephen Roche, who won the race in 1987. Roche is of course from Ireland – which, the last time I looked, was part of the British Isles. Still, it was a long night.

And some will be hoping their careers last a bit longer than one evening as well.

After all the guessing, all the speculation and red herrings galore, it emerged that seven young athletes were to have the task of igniting the Olympic flame in the stadium.

Olympic legends Dame Kelly Holmes, Lynn Davies, Shirley Robertson, Duncan Goodhew, Daley Thompson, Dame Mary Peters and Sir Steve Redgrave – who carried the flame into the Olympic Stadium – nominated Adelle Tracey, Aidan Reynolds, Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk and Cameron MacRitchie to perform the ceremony.

What an honour. What a highlight. What a memory. What an enormous weight of expectation on young shoulders.

Because for as long as these youngsters perform, the media will monitor those performances. No pressure there, then …

There was a time when it looked as if Rangers wouldn’t be making an appearance in any shape or form this season – as far back as last Friday, to be honest. But out trotted Ally McCoist’s men at Glebe Park in front of a capacity crowd of just over 4,000, a figure swelled by those able to tune in to BBC Alba.

I have in the past sung the praises of their coverage of Scottish sport. How others might learn from them. But I do wish they had a red button option for English commentary.

It took me back to a tale from yesteryear when John Brown of Rangers was entrusted with looking after new signings, showing them the ropes and routines, especially on away trips.

“Bomber” was to babysit new boy Terry Hurlock ahead of a game in Aberdeen.

Brown was in the bathroom, conversing with Hurlock who suddenly fell silent.

Brown found him sitting, absorbed in what was being shown on TV.

“I can understand you Bomber, and the other boys. But I can only understand every fifth or sixth word up here,” admitted a perplexed Hurlock – as he watched the Gaelic news on Grampian TV …

Teenager Ruta Meilutyte wins Lithuania’s first-ever Olympic gold in the swimming pool with victory in the 100-metre breaststroke.

It’s almost a British success, given that the 15-year-old attends school and is coached in Plymouth. So no danger then that any TV presenters would be giving it the old “hint-hint, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, say no more” routine when it came to the question of drug-taking.

Unlike if you were from China

A lot of numbers being bandied around today, starting with those attached to the new SPL TV deal with Sky – who will show 30 games per season, plus five involving Rangers.

Does that mean that without the Ibrox club there would have been no deal? Where on the integrity scale does that one register?

The deal is allegedly worth £13 million a season, although £1m of that goes to the SFL clubs, with the rest divided amongst the 12 SPL sides, where points mean pounds.

So the winners come May can expect around £3m. Or should I say Celtic come May can expect around £3m. Somewhat shy of the £32m that Wolves, relegated from the English Premier League, earned last season.

Massive team, massive support, global admirers and a long history. Which, on a season-by-season basis, counts for ten times less than England’s most ordinary …

If eyes were diverted away from London, in Scotland at any rate, then they focused on Fir Park where Motherwell were involved in their first-ever UEFA Champions League qualifier.

Unfortunately they lost 2–0 to Panathinaikos. But given the importance and significance of the match, the good people of Motherwell and surrounds piled in to watch, all 9,035 of them.

Well, what else would you have expected for arguably the biggest game for the club in yonks, certainly their most important in Europe?

Yet that crowd figure was shy of the number which turned up last season to see Rangers at Fir Park, 9,063 the tally.

Rangers couldn’t possibly be a bigger attraction than such a crucial European tie? Could they?

Scotland hasn’t produced a swimming gold-medallist since David Wilkie in 1976. But Michael Jamieson had the chance to put that right, ironically in the 200m breaststroke, the event Wilkie won in Montreal.

Jamieson’s efforts were broadcast on the stadium big screens ahead of Celtic’s Champions League qualifier against HJK Helsinki.

The Team GB athlete had long held an ambition to perform at Parkhead, although that would have been with ball at feet and in a hooped jersey.

Still, it was good to see Olympic sport being welcomed by the Celtic faithful. However, I like many wondered if they would have stayed “live” with the medal ceremony and the national anthem had Jamieson won.

Now, we’ll never know – just have to keep guessing …

Sir Chris Hoy wins again, his fifth Olympic gold medal, a member of the Great Britain sprint team.

“Not bad for an old man,” conceded his dad David, as ever right on hand to see his son’s latest success and furnish the press with a usable quote.

The best quote I ever heard about Chris, though, came during a photoshoot I set up ahead of his kilometre world record bid in Bolivia.

In the middle of an Edinburgh street, Chris stood with his lightweight super-bike above his head.

“Some machine that,” said an aged gentleman passing. “Thanks, it is,” Chris replied.

“Aye, but nothing like the machine holding it up,” added the old bloke. How right he was …

Katherine Grainger, after three successive silver medals, finally makes it gold, winning the double sculls with Anna Watkins.

A great gold for a great and dedicated sportswoman, and another win for Scotland, Grainger joining Hoy, fellow rower Heather Stanning and Tim Baillie in the C2 canoeing.

So, Scotland look well-placed for Rio in 2016, should independence be gained before then.

Or should someone point out to the saltire-wavers that those proud Scots were part of Union teams in each of their four disciplines?

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

Out of stock at Hampden? Picture: John Pavelka

As sporting weekends go, this one ain’t half bad: the German GP and the conclusions to both the Open and the Tour de France. There are even some friendly football matches to whet the appetite for the forthcoming season.

On Saturday, I find myself staring at a wall.

I’m in the Dollan Baths in East Kilbride, a venue where I spent many a hot and bothered afternoon serving my journalistic apprenticeship, doing agency work (motto: “one par fits all”).

The baths were opened back in the 1960s, with the special guest of honour being Bobby McGregor, the golden boy of Scottish swimming. Or rather, not quite.

The plaque on the wall acknowledges McGregor’s presence, the fact that he was a world record holder and an Olympic silver medallist. And I have a wee issue with that.

Acknowledging a gold medallist is fine. They were the top dog, the number one, unbeatable. However, any time I see silver or bronze medallist, I always get the feeling that it makes them look not quite good enough, only second or third best. A bit like the Little Britain character Denver Mills.

Actually, the reality was their achievement in winning a medal of any colour put them among the very best in the world on a given day. So would it not look better and be slightly kinder just to say medallist?

The final round of the Open didn’t get my undivided attention, for once. The events unfolding in Paris were really just too memorable to drag myself back to the Fylde coast.

However, once the pedals had stopped whirring and the bouquets had been handed out, it was back to see how Adam Scott was doing in his pursuit of a first major.

And it looked like his ability to stand still while everyone else slid downwards was going to be good enough to see an Australian winner.

But oh no! The last four holes saw Scott implode, his game and ambitions falling to pieces, leaving Ernie Els to pick up his second Open on these shores.

What is it with 42-year-old, over-the-hill golfers, the South African following the lead of the 2011 champion, Darren Clarke?

Scott might get over it. History, though, would suggest otherwise. As might Doug Sanders, Simon Owen, John Cook, Jesper Parnevik or Jean van de Velde …

I am again delighted to accept an invitation to appear on STV’s Scotland Tonight, with Rona Dougall refereeing a friendly debate between myself, long-time friend and fellow wordsmith Rob Robertson of the Daily Mail and Scots cycling legend Graeme Obree as to whether Bradley Wiggins had been elevated to Britain’s greatest-ever sportsman following his Tour de France success.

In short, the consensus was that Wiggins was up there, in the top ten, half-dozen, top five or best three, depending on who you asked.

Is he better than Thompson, Coe, Holmes, Redgrave, Lewis, Stewart, Hoy, Taylor, Hendry or CB Fry? A case or argument could be made for all.

And you’d be slightly closer to the mark than the Mirror’s Oliver Holt, who tried to make a case for others.

On Twitter, he said; “Some already acclaiming him greatest British sportsman of all time. Don’t agree with that. One of the greatest sporting achievements, yes.

“[But] In terms of stunning individual British sporting feats, I’d put Graham Hill winning Indianapolis 500 as one of things up there with Wiggins.”

I can only assume the aforementioned journalist was caught up with the emotion when he managed to place Hill ahead of Jim Clark, who was the first Brit to win the American classic, and Dario Franchitti, who has only managed to win the race on three occasions.

Or does he just have a blind spot when it comes to Scottish sport?

I love Twenty20 cricket. And it would be impossible for any lover of sport not to marvel at the innings of Kiwi Scott Styris, who scored the joint-third fastest century in Twenty20 history as Sussex comfortably beat Gloucestershire at Hove to secure their place on T20 finals day.

Sussex clattered 230 for 4, the highest score from any team in the 2012 competition, assisted by Styris – who, returning from a thumb injury, smashed 100 not out off 37 balls including nine 6s.

He was especially brutal on Gloucestershire seam bowler James Fuller, who will want to forget this history-making over. Brilliant stuff …

You couldn’t make it up. Scotland, staging their first Olympic event in 104 years, become the centre of attention – and almost the catalyst for an international incident – when the giant screens at Hampden display the South Korean flag when it was North Korea who were playing in the women’s football competition. Oops.

Good job those Koreans (from the north) are such a fun-loving, understanding, friendly bunch. Because if it wasn’t for the fact that they were already at war with those in the south, it could have got nasty.

While it was Scotland, Glasgow and Hampden who were initially lambasted for this blunder, it turns out the error was in the video package – sent from London.

Oh well, these things happen. As David Cameron said, it was “an honest mistake,” and “we shouldn’t over-inflate this episode”.

The kind of words you would expect from someone who can decant into a nuclear bunker within a few minutes, leaving the rest of us to say “sorry” to a nation as stable as nitroglycerin on a hot day.

Anyway, the mere mention of flags is as good an excuse as any for this.

There were people happy to be at Hampden earlier in the day as USA took on France. And some tweeted their delight at attending free, courtesy of the SFA.

Trouble was, even giving away tickets wasn’t enough for some to turn out.

That wasn’t going to deflate the spirits of those who were happy to go along for the spectacle, but who admitted that they would have stayed at home if it were Team GB playing.

The reason? No Scots are participating in this tournament.

A minor, ironic detail lost on some, who just didn’t realise the reason there were no Scots in the Team GB squad was entirely to do with their generous ticket touts …

And in an open letter to supporters, Celtic’s chief executive Peter Lawwell has urged fans to buy season tickets and back the club as they prepare for what he has described as “new challenges”.

In his letter, Lawwell states: “Throughout our history Celtic has, time and again, stood up for what it believes is right. In recent weeks we have acted accordingly, in the best interests of Celtic and Scottish football.”

Those “best interests” included voting Rangers out of the SPL. Of course, that decision wasn’t taken lightly. But Celtic recognised their fans’ upset at what had gone on across the city, and acted accordingly.

The fans spoke, and Celtic followed.

Maybe some other fans are now talking by not buying season tickets.

Perhaps they are not interested in seeing a one-horse title race. Maybe they only bought season tickets to guarantee them briefs for two Old Firm games twice a year. Or do those supporters think the “product” (namely SPL games) is over-priced and too expensive?

Lawwell hailed Celtic’s unbroken 125-year history. Looks though as if some fans are seriously thinking about taking a break this season, hence the letter …

Forget the fact that the women’s football has kicked off, and forget the G4S debacle, and that minor flag issue, and that you can’t drive anywhere in London.

The curtain rises tonight on the biggest show on earth, the Olympic Games. Who’d have thought it? On time and on budget (well, nearly).

The world will tune in this evening to see the spectacular opening ceremony that many have been talking about for weeks, and that those taking part in have been rehearsing for months.

Director Danny Boyle has promised something special. It will have to be to keep me watching (I’m still traumatised by the giant flowers and the abseiling bees from France ’98).

In Olympic terms, Boyle has much to live up to. No, not the show served up by Sydney, or Los Angeles, or the computer-enhanced effort from Beijing four years ago.

If Boyle wants to win me over, then he has to go beyond the benchmark set a quarter of a century ago by what I consider to be Britain’s greatest-ever festival of sporting excellence, theatre, pageantry and pride.

Danny, watch and learn. You may even watch and weep. I know I still do …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

Bradley Wiggins leads the peloton on stage 15 of the Tour de France Picture: Robert King

Today people woke up, the unthinkable, the unimaginable a reality. Rangers oldco/newco/sevco/Seb Coe in the lowest tier of the Scottish game.

Today people woke up, the unthinkable, the unimaginable a possibility. Scottish football teetering on the brink of collapse.

There would have been much hand-wringing, head-shaking and consternation among those SPL clubs who were suddenly faced with a rebalancing of already top-heavy books.

Still, you didn’t want Rangers, or rather your “stakeholders” and “customers” didn’t want them. And you listened.

If there are any clubs now worried about the future PR (that’s post-Rangers, nothing to do with public relations), then they are in a place totally of their own making.

You see you did, despite denials, heavily rely on their being an Old Firm (which we now know for some time was made up of a firm Firm and the criminally infirm). Still, it was within your powers (not those whose loyalty is dependent upon the weather) to punish Rangers within the confines of the SPL. A massive fine, a 30-point deduction (scaled to 20 in the second year and ten in the third), and SFA transfer embargo, would have rendered Rangers non-runners when it came to chasing the top prize.

But the SPL would still have had them as a cash generator, rather than a reason for visiting Cash Converters. Did no one think of that?

Obviously no, as they decided to go with the whim of some loud-mouthed supporters (not all), who appear full of bile, vengeance, revenge and masochism rather than any economic or business acumen.

Voting Rangers out of the SPL, to my mind, was spineless. It wasn’t a punishment for what Rangers had done, more a draconian measure to satisfy many who come December will be Christmas shopping rather than paying to see a visiting Kilmarnock or St Mirren.

However, these moaning “woe is me” merchants, predicting multi-million-pound shortfalls and a handful of clubs (including their own) possibly in administration by next summer, were to be even more spineless and gutless.

They wanted to kick Rangers out – but not too far so they can’t find their way out of the long grass within a season

For in ridding themselves of Rangers, claiming “sporting integrity”, they then wanted others – namely Division One and Scottish Football League clubs – to act as a safety net to catch the big fish, but allowing the tiddlers, like integrity, morals and their own supporters’ wishes, to wash away.

I call it “integrity-lite”.

Just who did these SPL chairmen think they were? Bottling the decision themselves but expecting others to do their dirty work for them. Huh …

The SFL representatives were not as gullible – and, thankfully, showed the kind of backbone that was lacking elsewhere.

And so we have Rangers (I’ll call them that, because even those who want to call them something else still identify them as that) starting at the bottom and having to work their way back up – no doubt passing one of two SPL “giants” on the way.

That is, if they don’t land in administration again …

The Tour de France momentarily turns into the Tour de Farce (we have to wait until later in the week before the first major drugs fail at the Tour de Pharmacy) when the leading yellow-jersey group on the Mur de Péguère are beset by punctures.

Leader Bradley Wiggins and rival Vincenzo Nibali immediately ordered the peloton to slow down, then stop, given the scale of the problem.

Wiggins’ actions were hailed as a fantastic example of sportsmanship, which it was. I’d also add a healthy dose of gamesmanship. Imagine being in the chasing pack and seeing the leader stop so you can catch up. How confident must he have been with a week to go?

It also showed what levels some would go to trying to prevent a British winner, carpet tacks being more difficult to spot than French farmers’ sheep …

What is the saying about what goes around comes around, or what rolls around will squash you flat? I’m never sure.

But no more than a few weeks after the hyper-criticism of Rangers going to the Court of Session to have an unwritten transfer embargo overturned, so Dunfermline Athletic say they are considering taking legal action after Dundee are given the Club 12 berth in the SPL.

How can the likes of St Mirren salesman, I mean owner, Stewart Gilmour be so critical about Rangers, yet deafen people with his silence over what the Pars are considering for their injustice?

More double standards anyone?

I’m disappointed to see that Stewart Regan, the SFA’s imperial grand wizard, has decided to ditch Twitter.

To be honest, I’m not disappointed. I did the same to him ages ago – as soon as he tweeted about David Goodwillie scoring in a League Cup tie and how great it was for Scottish football.

Funny how he appeared to miss that Goodwillie’s misses assisted in Blackburn’s relegation …

And a report says the BBC is showing less sport but more drama. Well, we kind of knew that.

We can also say Sky Sports is showing more drama – or F1, live boxing and the last day of the English Premier League season, as it’s known …

So Sir Christopher Hoy (although he still answers to plain Chris) sees his hopes of another Olympic treble dashed when Jason Kenny is selected ahead of him for the individual sprint competition in London.

No surprise really. Kenny beat him in the World Championships, so in many eyes deserved the call.

Hoy was philosophical – but, being the pro he is, probably knows that his chances of two golds have been improved.

Chris said four years ago Kenny would be the man to take his crown. But at least Hoy goes unbeaten – leaving Kenny with all the pressure of delivering …

All week we’ve heard about further sanctions being taken against Rangers for their various misdemeanours, with more and more noise being made about them being stripped of titles and trophies.

The mindset amongst those calling for such penalties appears to be that Rangers employed players that their clubs couldn’t afford and, as a result, were able to utilise better players than those being employed by other clubs.

That seems to be a fair summation, doesn’t it?

One championship under threat, should the losers, get their way is the 2002–03 flag which Rangers won utilising during the course of that season Latapy, Konterman, Flo, Muscat, Malcolm, Ross, Nerlinger and Hughes.

Now, does that mean those individuals calling for those titles to be expunged are saying those Rangers players I’ve listed were better than their team-mates, or better even than the players doing the complaining?

That seems to be a fair summation, doesn’t it?

It’s seen as an achievement to make the cut in a major and reach the final two days of The Open.

Must seems slightly less of a feat when you walk on to the 18th green on the Saturday around lunchtime and the grandstands are almost completely empty …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

Andy Murray in action in his Wimbledon quarter-final against David Ferrer Picture: Nick J Webb

I remember watching a few late matches at Wimbledon over the years. Ironically, the two I recall best were both on Thursday evening semi-finals, one when Roger Taylor (before he became drummer for Queen) lost to Jan Kodeš, the other when Björn Borg came from two sets down to win (I think against Vitas Gerulaitis).

Both times, the commentary was interspersed with references to how dark it was. On TV screens, it was grey dark, but that was due entirely to the TV cameras playing games.

I can’t remember the matches going past 9 o’clock, although I’ll happily stand corrected. The fact was, back then, they couldn’t.

Different now, as anyone watching Andy Murray’s match against Marcos Baghdatis would tell you.

Pull the roof over, switch on the lights, and on Saturday evening we were there until 11 o’clock to see the Scot triumph. Well, a little after 11.

Murray rattled off the last set in double-quick time, probably in the knowledge that if he didn’t, he’d be back on the Monday. While Wimbledon has the facilities now, it doesn’t have a late licence. And you can hardly have a lock-in.

11pm was the cut-off point. I waited expectantly to see if it would be like the local snooker hall, where the meter runs out and the lights go off. But Murray beat the curfew – and Baghdatis – by a few minutes.

Amazing in this day and age that you have Wimbledon governed by archaic bylaws. At the Australian Open, matches last until 3am at times. But then, maybe they are used to staging major sporting events.

London might be among the big boys now they have the Olympics. But it’s toytown in reality …

Congratulations go to Welshman Jamie Donaldson who wins the Irish Open at Royal Portrush by four shots.

It was Donaldson’s first win after 12 years on the European Tour – at the 255th attempt.

You have to applaud his dedication, and believe in the law of averages …

The good news, for some, is that Michael Phelps has opted out of the 200-metre freestyle at the Olympic Games.

The bad news is this means he will only chase seven gold medals. The American champion will now concentrate on two butterfly and two individual medley events, as well as three relays.

If successful, it will take his count of gold medals to 21.

Given that Steve Redgrave got a knighthood for five, and Chris Hoy and Matthew Pinsent were similarly honoured for winning “just” four, I reckon Phelps must be a sure thing to be US President some day …

Scottish Football League clubs – all 30 of them – are represented at Hampden as they meet to discuss what they will do with a problem like Rangers.

Rangers of course, shouldn’t be their problem. But given the scheming and conniving going on between the SFA and the SPL, the SFL clubs have been landed with this toxic mess. And it’s too much for some.

Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton was scathing in his condemnation at the SPL/SFA carve-up, which wants Rangers parachuted into Division 1.

I should point out at this stage that the SPL clubs who don’t want Rangers say their fans will revolt over the “integrity” issues surrounding the Ibrox club being allowed to stay in the top tier. But, hypocritical as ever, they seem to think it’s OK to dump Rangers on Division 1 clubs, despite several warnings of similar revolt among supporters.

Hutton left no one in any doubt what he thought about his SPL counterparts, saying he and his like had been “threatened, bullied, rail-roaded, lied to” and calling the game in Scotland “corrupt”.

Emotive and angry words. The kind that would normally have someone appearing in front of one of the many SFA disciplinary coffee mornings on a disrepute charge.

Not so easy, however, when someone was speaking the truth – and they knew it …

“Surprise, surprise”, as Cilla Black would sing. “Reality hits you between the eyes.” Well, maybe not.

But that’s where Rangers were struck when they were voted out of the SPL.

Rangers had turned up – according to CEO Charles Green – believing they could get a positive outcome from the ballot. Of everyone in Scotland, only Green could have thought that.

Maybe that’s why chairman Malcolm Murray went out of his way with his apology the previous day. He’d have been better saving his breath.

Rangers’ fate (one of several fates they appear to own) was sealed by 11 clubs, just and true, more or less.

Well, not exactly. Ten clubs jettisoned Rangers, the only ones to abstain being Kilmarnock. Of course, they might have had their reasons. After all, they were due to play Rangers – or Club 12 – on the opening day of the season. One last pay day, perhaps? If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Of course, all clubs had their reasons: integrity, the fans wanted us to do it. And they wanted Rangers punished. But not too much that it might cause them any significant financial damage.

SPL head paper-shuffler Neil Doncaster said it wasn’t right that 41 clubs should be punished because of the behaviour of one. And rightly so.

But maybe if the business models of the majority of those clubs hadn’t been so dependent on Rangers, their enforced demise might not be having such a dire effect.

In all of this, I cannot remove myself too far from the belief that had the SFA – who apparently run Scottish football – had robust, fit and proper methods of punishment in place, then a great deal of the anguish and agony within the Scottish game would never have happened.

To now advocate that Rangers should drop to Division 1 – or an SPL 2 as it might become – is nothing short of a cop-out. And most fans know it.

Stuart Pearce’s Team GB football squad had been met with controversy and apathy in equal measures.

Compare his selections to the squad Brazil have named, which includes strikers Hulk, Neymar and Alexandre Pato as well as Marcelo, the Real Madrid wing-back and Thiago Silva of AC Milan.

Those who still fancy Team GB for a medal must believe the Brazilians have bought season tickets for the London tour buses …

You know how history has a habit of repeating itself in sport?

Well, In beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Murray became the first British male to reach a Wimbledon singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938. And in the Ladies’ event, Agnieszka Radwanska became the first Polish woman to reach a Grand Slam final since 1939.

Should we be keeping an eye on Boris Becker this weekend?

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

Henman Hill, Murray Mound, Murray Park – or somewhere Picture: Rod Allday

The early 80s were a special time in Scottish football. The New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United didn’t need enforced relegation or liquidation to break up the Old Firm.

They were on a high domestically and in Europe, and at international level we were World Cup regulars. We’ll be pushed to see anything like it again.

We probably punched above our weight. But knocking people out while much smaller than even us were Northern Ireland.

They qualified out of our group to go to Spain in 1982 where they out-performed the Scots by reaching the second phase, and in 1986 they headed out to Mexico having finished group runners-up to England.

You had to admire them, given their resources and the fact untold damage was being done to the fabric of their society by dregs of that same society.

Their team was full of heroes, from Pat Jennings and Gerry Armstrong, to Billy Hamilton and Norman Whiteside. Amongst them was one Alan McDonald, the young QPR stopper.

Sad news then on Saturday that, at just 48, McDonald – a title-winning manager while at Glentoran in 2009 – had died while out playing golf.

If he is remembered for any one thing it should be his post-match interview after that 1985 draw at Wembley, which is featured in this tribute from BBC Northern Ireland

In these days of clichés, clones and those who toe the party and corporate line, it will for evermore be refreshing to hear a footballer tell it the way he sees it.

Remember the relief throughout England that they had avoided Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012?

I alluded to it last week and mentioned that they could still play the defending champions, if they beat (probably) Germany in the semis, but only if they first dealt with Italy.

Something they failed to do, although they did take the contest all the way to penalties – thus prolonging the agony by an extra hour at least.

No, not the extra time and the penalty misses. Oh no. The having to listen to Mark Lawrenson prattle on, trying to crack unfunny one-liners and making observations more akin to those of a primary schoolboy.

License payers’ money well spent …

And it’s announced that a criminal investigation is to be launched into Craig Whyte’s takeover of Rangers Football Club in May last year.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The procurator fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process.”

And what about before that process?

Wimbledon is well under way and today is the day the great British hope starts his quest to be the first home champion since polo shirt manufacturer Fred Perry.

Will this be Andy Murray’s year, or is he destined to be Scottish again before the end of the second week?

The big debate is what to call that lump of earth, which has become “Murray Mound” having previously started out life as “Henman Hill”.

I do prefer the latter. After all, there should be something to commemorate Henman’s efforts at Wimbledon given he never got his name on the champions’ board …

The first of the Euro 2012 semi-finals takes place with Spain, the holders, facing Portugal. Too much at stake perhaps and the contest fizzles out into a goal-less draw. Penalties!

And that is where it all unravelled for the Portuguese.

Their plan – and they admitted they had one afterwards – was to leave talisman skipper Cristiano Ronaldo to take the fifth and final spot-kick.

Unfortunately Bruno Alves smashed the crossbar with his effort allowing Spain substitute Cesc Fabregas to ping home the winner in-off the post.

So Ronaldo stood around idle, denied his moment. Me, I’d have had him taking one of the first few. A banker. I think I said that right …

The excuse later was that Ronaldo was down to take the crucial final shot, when all the expectation and pressure was on the taker – and not the crucial final shot, when all the eyes of the world and the spotlight was on the taker.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy the latter …

Police investigations, player walkouts (or walkaways, to be more accurate), ownership challenges and fan demonstrations are the precursors to the first day’s training back at Murray Park for Rangers beleaguered squad of players, totalling an unlucky 13 on their first day of the new term.

Shambolic as it looked, it was only a sidebar on the near-pathetic events unfolding in Glasgow when the new Rangers were being forced upon unsuspecting and unwanting First Division Scottish League clubs.

The reason was simple. The SPL chairman had cooked up the excuse that Rangers had to go (but not too far) because their clubs faced a boycott from their own fans if the Ibrox outfit (or what is left of it) hung around in the top tier.

So the decision was made fire Rangers all the way down one league (thus giving them the best possible chance of a speedy return in a season) – and sod those First Division clubs whose fans were equally upset by the arrival of Rangers and threatened a similar revolt.

A shambolic outcome. But then, this is what you get when you try to juggle “sporting integrity” with financial needs. Think of it like throwing a jug of napalm up with one hand, and a lit firework in the other – with moral-fibre toast the likeliest outcome …

We’ve known all along. But a day after it emerged that David Beckham wasn’t in Stuart Pearce’s Team GB, so word filters out there will be no Scots players in the men’s British Olympic football squad when it is announced on Monday.

All the way through, the SFA had maintained a stance of not supporting the national cause in case they lost their independent national identity. Which I suppose makes a change from just losing.

That was their excuse, and they stuck to it. Or was it just a hugely calculated piece of spin-doctoring because they knew no Scots were ever going to be among the first 18 available players from these shores?

Or 19, if you include Beckham …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.