As we ponder the historic vote to create a new Governing body to oversee Scottish League football, I cannot help but wonder what brilliant minds will be employed in the drawing up of its constitution, rules, memorandum and articles of association?
Clearly, Messrs Doncaster, Longmuir and even Mr Regan as the CEO of the SFA will be spending many hours with those dreaded folk known simply as “ The Lawyers” in an attempt to get the whole thing up and running and written down in the course of a few short weeks.
In truth, that scares me.
It scares me because legal documentation written up in a hurry or in a rush is seldom perfect and often needs amendment—especially when the errors start to show! The old adage of beware of the busy fool sadly applies.
It also scares me because the existing rules under which the game is governed are not, in my humble opinion, particularly well written and seem to differ in certain material respects from those of UEFA. Even then, adopting the wording and the approach of other bodies is not necessarily the way to go.
I am all in favour of some original thought– and that most precious and unusual of commodities known as common sense and plain English.
Further, the various licensing and compliance rules are clearly in need of an overhaul as they have of late produced what can only be best described as a lack of clarity when studied for the purposes of interpretation. Either that or those doing the studying and interpreting are afflicted with what might be described as tortuous or even tortured legal and administrative minds.
If it is not by now clear that the notion of self-certification on financial and other essential disclosure criteria necessary to obtain a footballing licence (whether European or domestic) is a total non-starter — then those in charge of the game are truly bonkers.
Whilst no governing body can wholly control the actions of a member club, or those who run a club, surely provisions can be inserted into any constitution or set of rules that allows and brings about greater vigilance and scrutiny than we have at present—all of course designed to do nothing other than alert the authorities as early as possible if matters are not being conducted properly or fairly.
However, the main change that would make a difference to most of the folk involved in the Scottish game – namely the fans— would be to have the new rules incorporate a measure which allowed football fans themselves to be represented on any executive or committee.
Clearly, this would be a somewhat revolutionary step and would be fought against tooth and nail by some for no reason other than that it has simply not been done before—especially as the league body is there to regulate the affairs of a number of limited companies all of whom have shareholders to account to and the clubs themselves would presumably be the shareholders in the new SPFL Ltd.
Then again to my knowledge Neil Doncaster is not a shareholder in The SPL ltd– is he?
I can hear the argument that a fan representative on a league body might not be impartial, might be unprofessional, might be biased, might lack knowledge or experience, and have their own agenda and so on—just like many chairmen and chief executive officers who already sit on the committees of the existing league bodies.
Remember too that the SFA until relatively recently had disciplinary committees made up almost exclusively of referees. I don’t think anyone would argue that the widening of the make up of that committee has been a backward step.
However, we already have fan representation at clubs like St Mirren and Motherwell, and of course there has been an established Tartan Army body for some time now. Clubs other than the two mentioned above have mechanisms whereby they communicate and consult with fans, although they stop short of full fan participation– very often for supposedly insurmountable legal reasons.
As often as not, the fans want a say in the running of their club, but also want to be able to make representations to the governing bodies via their club.
So why not include the fans directly in the new set up for governing the league?
Any fan representative could be someone proposed by a properly registered fan body such as through official supporters clubs, or could be seconded by the clubs acting in concert with their supporters clubs.
Perhaps a committee of fan representatives could be created, with such a committee having a representative on the various committees of the new league body.
In this way, there would be a fan who could report back to the fan committee and who could represent the interests of the ordinary fan in the street in any of the committees. Equally such a committee of fans could ensure that any behind the scenes discussions on any issue were properly reported, openly discussed, and made public with no fear of hidden agendas, secret meetings, and secret collusive agreements and so forth.
Is any of that unreasonable? Surely many companies consider the views of their biggest customer? This idea is no different.
Surely such a situation would go some way towards establishing some badly needed trust between the governing bodies and the fans themselves?
If necessary, I would not even object to the fan representatives being excluded from having a right to vote on certain matters—as long as they had a full right of audience and a full right of access to all discussions and relative papers which affect the running of the game.
In this way at least there would be openness and transparency.
In short, it would be a move towards what is quaintly referred to as Democracy.
Perhaps, those who run the game at present should consider the life and times of the late great Alexander Hamilton- one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and who played a significant role in helping write the constitution of that country.
Hamilton was a decent and brilliant man in many ways—but he was dead set against Democracy and the liberation of rights for the masses. In fact, he stated that the best that can be hoped for the mass populace is that they be properly armed with a gun and so able to protect themselves against injustice!
Sadly, Hamilton became embroiled in a bitter dispute with the then Vice President of the nation Aaron Burr in July 1804. Hamilton had used his influence and ensured that Burr lost the election to become Governor of New York and had made some withering attacks on the Vice President’s character.
When he refused to apologise, the Vice President took a whacky notion and challenged him to a duel! Even more whacky is the fact that Hamilton accepted the challenge and so the contest took place at Weehawken New Jersey on the morning of 11th July 1804.
The night before, Hamilton wrote a letter which heavily suggested that he would contrive to miss Burr with his shot, and indeed when the pistols fired Hamilton’s bullet struck a branch immediately above Burr’s head.
However, he did not follow the proper procedure for duelling which required a warning from the duellist that they are going to throw their shot away. Hamilton gave no such indication despite the terms of his letter and despite his shot clearly missing his opponent.
Burr however fired and hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen with the result that the former secretary to the treasury and founding father of the constitution died at 2pm on the twelfth of July.
The incident ruined Burr’s career (whilst duelling was still technically legal in New jersey, it had already been outlawed in various other states).
In any event, in Hamilton’s time full and open democracy in the United States of America would have met with many cries of outrage and bitter opposition. Yet, today, the descendants of slaves and everyone from all social standings, all ethnic minorities and every social background has the constitutional right to vote and seek entry to corridors of power.
In that light, is it really asking too much to allow football fans to have a say and a presence in the running of a game they pay so much to support?