2 September ~ The sole Belgian fan who travelled to support his team in Armenia last September was both mocked and pitied in his home country. However, many of the roughly 1,000 Scotland fans who recently paid £50 to join or renew their membership of the Scotland Supporters Club only to be denied a ticket for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifier in Lithuania may regard him with envy.

Scotland fans wishing to follow their team abroad are only able to buy tickets through the official Scotland Supporters Club (SSC). Fuelled by the era of budget flights, many recent competitive games have been hugely over-subscribed, bringing into play the SSC points system. Members are awarded a point for every away game out of the last ten attended – someone who has been to four of the last ten games has four points. If the SSC are given, say, 2,000 tickets for a game, then those on ten points are given first refusal, and so on down until all the tickets are sold. This has inevitably led to members on the fewest points routinely being turned down for tickets to the biggest or most affordable fixtures.

The upshot of this has been the regular appearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of the Tartan Army among the home supporters, most famously in Paris three years ago, but also in large numbers in Amsterdam, and to a lesser extent in Iceland and Oslo. Significant numbers were also turned away from the gate in Macedonia and, in a clear sign of its growing unease with the situation, the SSC recently contacted members without tickets for Lithuania urging them not to travel.

However, given that many will have already paid for non-refundable flights, this appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears. Despite being given 2,800 tickets for an 8,000 capacity stadium, many Scots will again be heading for the home end. So, how to resolve the situation? Or, more pertinently, does it actually need to be resolved? While a few dissenting voices favour a random allocation of tickets, or the removal of points for friendlies, most seem happy with the current set-up. Even most of the "zero pointers" appear to accept that those prepared to travel to expensive friendlies in Tokyo and Stockholm to see a second-string attempt to keep the score down have earned their place at the bigger games.

Indeed, for the fans who will again be running the risk of being refused admission to the home end, friendlies may well hold the key. Every member who applied for a ticket for the last four non-competitive fixtures was given one, regardless of their points tally. Many zero pointers in Kaunas this week will reflect that a trip to Stockholm last month would have given them a much better chance of a Scotland end ticket.

Armed with this knowledge, many are thought to be targeting next year's inaugural Celtic Cup. With three fixtures to be played and no lack of cheap flights to get them there, several thousand SSC members will travel to Ireland in the hope of sufficiently boosting their points total ahead of the trip to Spain later that year. Ironically, it may be this fixture against the European and World Champions that saves the Dublin-based tournament from being an empty stadium embarrassment. Graham Davidson

Comments (8)
Comment by StephL 2010-09-02 22:03:23

3 belgians fans went to Armenia, one with the team and 2 travelled independantly

Comment by bruno glanvilla 2010-09-03 09:21:46

there is a further aspect to the scotland tickets allocation.

there exists a phenomena of "points harvesters". fans who apply for tickets at away games, then dont travel, instead passing on the allocated ticket, but bagging the points and improving their points rating, enabling them to get priority tickets for the next glamour tie.

to counter this, the SFA now request proof of travel (airline stubbs, hotel receipts etc) before allocating points. indeed at some away games, the member has to turn up in person, at the ground in the days/hours before the game - with their passport - to collect tickets (and the all important points).

just think how much demand we could generate if we had a winning team...

Comment by kbmac 2010-09-03 09:47:51

"just think how much demand we could generate if we had a winning team..."

Personally I don't see that a winning team matters that much to the travelling "Tartan Army". Their willingness to applaud losing teams to the rafters has, in my view anyway, been a contributory factor in allowing the acceptance of mediocrity. I'm not saying they need to get on the team's collective back but they need to learn to slip quietly out of a stadium with 5 minutes left of a dour defeat. It is the respectful way to send the message to the players. To many fans it seems that being the Tartan Army is enough. It has become about them as much as the team. Partly (just partly) why the team is crap.

Comment by bruno glanvilla 2010-09-03 11:27:40

i agree and think (or maybe I hope) that the longer the barren run of non-qualification goes on, the more match-attending supporters will tire of mediocrity. Certainly I wasnt the only one storming out of the Amsterdam Arena last year immediately following the third dutch goal on the basis that "i'm not here to stand by, watching us collapse to another embarrassing defeat".

there should always be a balance in life, and there is some merit in staying to applaud your team's efforts. however, the burley team wasnt fit to lace the boots of the mcleish team of 2 years previously, despite being comprised of essentially the same players.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-09-03 16:04:56

Just to say I like the cartoon.

Comment by sammythebammy 2010-09-06 23:21:45

anyone who has been to a scotland away game (kbmac clearly not) would be able to attest that mediocrity is hardly applauded to the rafters. the TA are among the biggest crtitcs of managers and the team. maybe we dont boo and leave early - but then i suppose our best players dont tell the fans where to go directly into the camera after the game.

as for leaving early - at most away games (including lithuania) you weren't allowed to!

Comment by sammythebammy 2010-09-08 00:40:01

you couldn't have written it really. wish i had left before the end tonight kbmac.

Comment by kbmac 2010-09-08 10:52:50


You are correct that my impressions of the Tartan Army are not first hand impressions as I have not been a travelling supporter for many, many years and it is generally difficult to get tickets for good matches at Hampden although I do go to some home games when I can. I admit to being an armchair critic so any views I express can be treated as such. (My 16 y.o. son is heartily sick of listening to my moaning about the national team. He hopes to make his travelling debut with the TA this campaign with two of his older cousins if he can get a ticket.) I am happy to be corrected in this instance and hopefully always. It is the impression that TV tends to convey.

As for last night the late winner was welcome if undeserved. My contact at the game said he was in too dark a place to celebrate. Craig Levein clearly not so. Onwards and upwards.

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