THE “FALL-OUT” between Shetland Football Association (SFA) president Magnus Flaws and senior county manager John Johnson, as reported last week, is disappointing.
The pair are important representatives of the sport in the isles and it is essential for the good of the game that they get along.
Johnson was understood to be unhappy with the lack of logistical support provided by the association for his team’s tour of the Highlands last summer, and even more so for the failure to provide a match day programme for last month’s match against Deveronvale.
It is natural to sympathise with the manager in both cases. Anyone who has ever run a side in these parts knows that the job does not begin and end with picking the team. There are invariably many more details which need attending to, not to mention the endless phone calls involved.
But to lay the blame at the door of the most senior official is misguided. Support for a touring side or the organisation of a programme is a job for the association as a whole, which comprises both team and independent representatives. Flaws has done an good job in his tenure as president and unwarranted criticism is unfair.
In the past couple of decades a number of SFA presidents have resigned their positions, and if they refrained from saying so themselves, most people knew it was disparaging comments which forced their hand. Most unfortunate in a small place where voluntary help is essential to keep amateur football alive.
Something which is undoubtedly at the root of this latest, and other controversial moments, is the amount of concentration given to representative Shetland sides.
A former president famously stated that “the tail was wagging the dog” too much in local football. And he had a point.
Admirable though the recent success of the county side has been, representative matches used to be, and should remain, the icing on the cake.
One current player put it well this week when he said that playing for Shetland was fantastic, but his club, which had invested in him as a youngster, would always come first.
Another of today’s players, albeit outwith the county set-up, was stronger in his comments. “It is ridulous that some teams are facing two or three breaks of over a fortnight in what is already a very short season,” he said. “Everybody wants to see the Shetland team succeed, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of local clubs who are the ones that are paying their dues to the association.”
There have been obvious moves in recent years to create a kind of pseudo county club, not least the subtle dropping of the word “association” on the Shetland shirt badge.
That may well have been a ploy to gain favour with those on the mainland who do not take kindly to representative sides, but people here are not so easily fooled. Football is for everyone, not just the elite, and the powers that be would do well to remember that.
FOOTBALLER Cristiano Ronaldo, and the even sillier FIFA president Sepp Blatter, should be made to sit down and watch every episode of Roots, the cult television series based on Alex Haley’s bestselling novel. That way they might understand that a “slave” is not someone who earns more in a day than most people do in a year.