As virtually anyone on the internet who follows Scottish Football has come to realise, there is a reasoned and determined attempt at ignoring the content of the Charlotte Fakeovers files on the part of the mainstream print media— and indeed by the broadcast journo’s to an extent.
There is widespread speculation that the accessing of the information provided by Charlotte the Harlot was not all above board and the reluctance of the journalists to mention or comment on the documents, so far published on the internet, is often explained away by the lawyers allegedly advising that the content is tainted and so on.
That indeed might or might not be the case, and only the editors, lawyers, journalists and so on will truly know what their stance is on the revelations. Some will want the whole thing suppressed and others will be desperate to get into print, but thus far are frustrated in any attempt to do so.
However, as the documents do appear on the net only to be quickly followed by file disappearances and so on, there is an ever burning question which must be asked and thrown open to debate and argument.
The issue is not just how independent are the Sports Press in Scotland, but whether or not the relationship between certain sections of the press and Rangers or The Rangers is in fact lawful and deserving of football sanctions.
There is no doubt that many big businesses, local authorities and Governments use the services of PR firms and the likes to get information out to the public and to put their slant on any given situation. That is fair enough.
However, in recent days we have seen the release of documentation which, if accurate and true, shows that a leading Scottish PR company were specifically employed to place stories with the press which were designed to damage the reputation of, to embarrass or cause problems for certain other teams and personnel involved in Scottish Football.
Again I stress that all of this is subject to the caveat that what Charlotte is publishing may or may not be real and accurate. However, if what has been produced is in fact the genuine correspondence between the club and its professional advisers then that correspondence needs to be looked at.
The SFA and indeed the SPFL are the bodies that lay down rules which govern the conduct of clubs and their officers and employees.
So looking at these regulations let me just repeat some of them here:
Fisrt the rules of what was the SPL and which I presume are the rules of the SPFL:
A3.1 In all matters and transactions relating to the League and Company each Club shall behave towards each other Club and the Company with the utmost good faith.
A3.2 No Club, either by itself or its Club Officials, shall by any means whatsoever unfairly criticise, disparage, belittle or discredit any other Club, the Company or the League or in either case any such other Cub or the Company’s directors, officers, employees or agents (which shall, for the avoidance of doubt, exclude supporters).
The SFA handbook at article 5 places obligations on members to observe the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship in accordance with the rules of fair play, and to refrain from engaging in any activity which would constitute a breach of sections 1, 2 and 6 the Bribery Act 2010.
The details of the Bribery act can be found here:
Basically, I think these rules mean that you cannot criticise belittle or try to damage the reputation of a club outwith the rules of the games and must at all times behave with integrity, in a sporting manner and with THE UTMOST GOOD FAITH!
The details,as released by Charlotte, show that there is at best a conflict of interests at times with various parties being both employed by the club and paid by radio stations or newspapers to comment on matters relating to all aspects of Scottish Football. As a member of the PR staff at Ibrox presumably such employees are paid to tow a certain party line when commenting in the media and so throw a spin on any given set of facts and circumstances that suits whoever is in control of Ibrox.
Further, it has been suggested that certain individuals acting in this way can also represent the views of for example Walter Smith — and so act as their mouthpiece if necessary.
Such practices may be unpleasant and undesirable but not necessarily against the laws of the game. It would just mean that the newspapers and broadcasters concerned cannot be regarded as independent or objective in their comments or views — they are merely towing an employers line. In short they are HMV— His Masters Voice!
Equally, we have seen supposedly independent journalists and editors referred to in such a way that it is clear they are being asked to spin news a certain way for whatever reason — including the suggestion that if they do not comply then some kind of action will be taken which the parties concerned would rather avoid — such as private matters becoming public.
However, of far greater interest is the suggestion that where necessary the newspapers or whoever will be used to spread negative stories about another club, its employees, directors or whoever.
Such a position may well amount to a breach of articles 3.1 and 3,2 of the SPL ( now SPFL rules) and against the principals set out in the SFA handbook.
Both the SFA and the SPL ( SPFL) has a press office and legal officers.
Both grant rights to broadcasters and journalists, and allow members of the press access to their officers and officials.
Both bodies are free to set out what is acceptable conduct on the part of clubs in this area…… and what is not!
Without even alluding to the detail of the Charlotte revelations, or needing to enquire into the details of the Charlotte documents, I would have thought that the governing bodies would be capable of issuing a formal reminder, to all clubs currently playing at any level in Scottish football, of the content of these rules and that any breach of the rules will not be tolerated.
Of course the matter becomes more convoluted if any officers of the SFA or SPL were involved in the employment of any PR companies or agencies on behalf of a member club and engaged in briefing any such agency about what to say when it comes to the affairs of other clubs. Surely you cannot have an executive officer of a governing body who is in any way linked to the employment of an agency which breaks rules on behalf of a member club?
However, few of these people ever appear on the airwaves to answer questions on a personal basis, and very few expose themselves to questions from the public.
However, many of the commentators and journalists named in the Charlotte documents are regulars on the airwaves and could, in theory, be asked whether or not they are no more than “Their master’s voice” as would appear to be the case if the Charlotte documents are in fact genuine.
If the Scottish Footballing Public are to be entrusted with the truth — and why shouldn’t they in this era of open and transparent football governance– then I think they are entitled to enquire direct whether or not the journalists, players, ex players,managers directors, broadcasters and governing body officials believe in articles 3.1 and 3.2 of the SPFL rules and article 5 of the SFA handbook?
Oh– and maybe the same people could provide some practical examples of what they would consider to be breaches of these rules and what the appropriate sanctions might be?
Specifically– do the actions mentioned in the Charlotte documents ( if true ) fall within the football rules or not?
Or do the SFA and SPFL just ignore placed press releases and comments?
It would be interesting to know.