HMRC’s case against St Mirren, raised because they allegedly failed to pay Kieran Doran the National Minimum Wage, has brought the professionalism of our professional game under analysis. Doran’s first contract as a 16-year-old was for £1 a week, which was apparently never paid. The player subsequently wanted to give up the game for a trade (to study medicine) but St Mirren refused to release him from his contract.
By any reasonable measure this is amateur football. There’s nothing wrong with amateur football, in fact it has great potential, but NOT paying someone £1 a week cannot be described in any other way. St Mirren will not be alone.
I made no comment last month on Newco’s reluctance to pay holiday pay as I thought this was something of an open secret. Holiday pay as been a legal right in the UK since 1871, but at the periphery of our game some clubs just don’t pay it. I’ve spoken to an SPL chairman who openly admitted to the ‘ruse’ (not Celtic, before you ask).
Newco are far from alone on this matter, indeed, I would be amazed if top flight clubs were not guilty. The keenness to contract players from July to May is substantial, I reckon lowering some clubs payroll by 8%, while leaving no time in the calendar for players to take paid holidays.
We should stop pretending there are two distinct groups of clubs in Scotland: the amateurs and semi-pros of the ‘non-leagues’, and the 42 Scottish Professional Football League clubs. St Mirren are one of the biggest and best community clubs we have, they have enormous potential to thrive as such, but I seriously doubt their credentials as an economically viable professional club.
More than 30 other Professional League clubs would also be better served trading with a Community League mentality. Developing the potential of local kids and engaging with their community, without the burden of trying to compete in a worldwide talent pool.
The majority of Scottish football clubs were founded in the 19th Century. It seems like no one has subsequently asked: what is our purpose, why are we here, what will our future look like? Without considerable change, the best future 30 clubs can hope for a decade from now will be suffocating indifference, at worst there will be lots of all-seated follies wasting away.
Reminder for tomorrow:
There are new season tickets issued, if your old ticket is still in your wallet, swap it out or you’ll not get in to see the Mighty Celtic tomorrow evening. If you don’t have your new ticket, better get along early to sort it out.