It’s now seven years since the festering sore on the skin of Scottish Football became fully septic, causing the liquidation of Rangers Football Club. Many of us at that time felt that the environment which had enabled the systematic, industrial scale cheating by that club, having now been exposed as unfit to fulfil its purpose, would be dismantled and replaced by something more accountable, more transparent, more honest.
Many more of us thought that other clubs who were the victims of the cheating that had gone on would be seeking a clear-out and a rewrite of the rule book, if for no other purpose than to ensure that a repeat was not possible.
We were all mistaken.
Let’s be honest about this. Football, whether it is played in Scotland or Argentina, at the Maracana Stadium or at Fleshers Haugh, is a rules-based endeavour. The rules of the game – both on the field and in its administration – are there to ensure as level a playing field as possible, to ensure that the constraints put on one club are the same for the rest.
Referees are in place to ensure the rules are complied with on the pitch, albeit with varying degrees of success. No matter what you might think of the guys in black, their craft is carried out in full public gaze, and consequently they are accountable to public opinion.
Off the field though, things are rather more opaque. Without the revelations of Charlotte Fakes for instance, we would never have known that a club had applied for a licence with false information, to a committee partly comprised of two folk who were employees of that club, and by extension part of the deception. Nor would we have known that the Chief Executive of the SFA had written to the club in question looking for approval on how the controversy surrounding the issue of the licence could be managed in the media.
The detail of the crimes of the people in charge of our game are the domain of those who have relentlessly pursued the truth of these matters. The devil is always in the detail, and the real devil is concealed in the fact that many of us are forced to switch off when confronted by the daunting prospect of having to follow that multi-threaded narrative.
In that regard, we owe much to the likes of Auldheid and EasyJambo (and many others) who unravel those threads for us and present the facts in a way most of us can follow. By doing so, they have allowed us to keep our eye on the ball.
Despairingly though, the upshot is that no matter what the facts tell us, Scottish football, at boardroom level, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, has no interest in seeking justice, or more importantly, clearing house.
The sins of the past will be the sins of the future, because the authorities have learned no lessons in the wake of Rangers’ liquidation, and in fact have now enshrined Doublespeak as the official language of the game.
No sporting advantage is a curious phrase used to describe sporting advantage
Imperfectly registered in lieu of not registered
Same for Different
I could go on, but the sins of one club, whilst fundamentally undermining the integrity of the sport in this country, are not the real problem. The authorities who set out to distort, bend, break, and tear up the rule-book are.
So too are the clubs who have refused to back their fans’ demand for proper oversight of the game, who have stood back and said nothing (except: “nothing to do with us guv!”) whilst their Patsies at Hampden do their dirty work, refusing to engage with or explain themselves to fans. These are the real culprits, they who have betrayed the trust of their own supporters. And if we are looking for a reason, look no further than their bank balances.
The recent scandal where the SPFL shared the outcome of its Unacceptable Behaviour report with the Scottish Government on the basis that it would not be made public shines a harsh spotlight on this.
The football authorities currently receive public funds from government, but in a “have your cake and eat it” scenario, they are accountable to no-one but themselves – and that’s how they want to keep it.
Publication of the SPFL report would put them at risk of having the accountability that they fear thrust on them. No-one in football wants the sectarian blight on our game to be cast under the glare of public focus. Especially if it becomes apparent that the game itself is the medium in which sectarianism thrives best.
And they know that it does exactly that. The trouble is that the societal divisions caused by sectarianism is a money maker. The old adage sectarianism sells has never been truer. The divide and rule model of empire applied to football. It is good box office.
But making football accountable could force measures to be put in place to cut out sectarian behaviour – and the clubs do not want that. It’s not the fear of being held responsible for their own fans’ behaviour under Strict Liability that worries the CFOs of our clubs – it’s the fear of losing the hatred which sees the money – bad money if you will – roll in.
Why did the cover up take place? Because losing Rangers was just not acceptable to football. Removing one of the vital protagonists in a money making cartel that thrives on hatred was a greater fear than any altruistic notion of sporting integrity (also now Doublespeak for “lack of integrity”).
Who could have foreseen that amidst the chaos surrounding Rangers demise, that they were only a symptom of the greed and couldn’t care less attitude of the money-men in football, and that our eyes would eventually be opened to the possibility that the football industry in Scotland is itself the enemy of public harmony?
Ironic perhaps, that the beautiful game, born out of the sense of community felt by the founding fathers of all our clubs, would emerge as a major malign influence in those communities.
There is no doubt that football is not prepared to cede any of its sovereignty to its customer base. They will go on – as long as we continue to bankroll them – in exactly the same way, like their bedfellows in the media a self-regulating industry with little or no regard for the public.
I am a supporter of Strict Liability, and we have already had discussions on the pros and cons of such an intervention. It is also clear that there is no SFM consensus on that. I want to leave that aside for the moment, because we do have a consensus surrounding our desire to see greater accountability in the game, and it is clear that fans’ voices, however temperately and eloquently articulated, are falling on deaf ears at Hampden.
The women’s game at the World Cup has recently provided us a window into the past, of the origins of the sport in Scotland. That which is a celebration of each others endeavour, skill, excellence and culture. The spirit of our game nowadays is a million miles away from that, because the market has taken over.
Taming the wild excesses of the market is the responsibility of government. It’s about time the Scottish Government did just that. It is certainly clear that the SFA or the SPFL have zero interest in reining themselves in.
We have suggestions if anyone is listening.