Author Archive Big Pink

ByBig Pink

A Level Playing Field?

I must admit I am surprised that nothing has been done about the TRFC party guys. It is especially puzzling that other clubs who have had games cancelled and players suspended as a consequence of breaches haven’t pointed out the apparent lack of consistency.

In August of last year, following a non-socially-distanced night out after an Aberdeen v Rangers game, eight Aberdeen players were banned for three games by an SFA-convened independent panel.

Jonny Hayes, Mikey Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson were accused of breaking public health guidelines when they visited an Aberdeen pub on August 1.

Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli, who had made a midweek three-day trip to Spain for some R&R faced the same charges

The panel held hearings before ruling that the players had broken the rules and delivered a three match suspension to each of the eight Aberdeen players, suspended in lieu of similar breaches until February 28, 2021.

In Bolingoli’s case, a five game ban was delivered with only two of those suspended until February.

Bolingoli was of course disciplined by Celtic before being sent out on loan, his Celtic career seemingly finished as a consequence, whilst the Aberdeen players were also disciplined by their club.

Both Aberdeen and Celtic were also subjected to damaging match cancellations as a consequence of both incidents.

On February 14, Police were called to an unlawful house party and handed out fixed penalty notices for breach of Covid regulations to Rangers players Bongani Zungu, Nathan Patterson, Calvin Bassey, Dapo Mebude, and Brian Kinnear. Rangers say they have disciplined the players, but the SFA have yet to say anything, fourteen days after the incident.

No match bans, no game cancellations.

The lack of comment in the media is not surprising since everyone in the MSM lives in terror of TRFC reprisal and behaves accordingly.

In fact, a quick Google search on the matter yields nothing after 17th February, suggesting that an Ibrox D-Notice has been issued and obediently complied with by the MSM. Of course one must always guard against cognitive bias in these matters. None of us are completely free of it, and are afflicted to some extent, but by any subjective measure that I can see, the MSM opprobrium directed (quite correctly) at Bolingoli and the Dons’ players, and the storm of publicity surrounding those earlier incidents is absent in the case of the TRFC five.

Even the Scottish Government’s response appears to have treated the TRFC breach with the equivalent of a raised eyebrow, in comparison to the angrily pointed finger at Aberdeen and Celtic (and subsequently with Celtic after the Dubai farce).

Consider today the yellow card. The next time it will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice

Nicola Sturgeon (after the Aberdeen/Boligoli incidents)

I say this as someone who has never agreed with those who alleged that Alex Salmond tried to help The Old Club with the tax bodies, believing the government’s actions at the time to have been nothing more than what would be expected of them – to express a wish that a resolution could be found – but not putting pressure on HMRC as was alleged.

However, as any schoolteacher will tell you, if you threaten discipline against a recalcitrant pupil, you bloody well MUST carry the threat out – or face the immediate and irretrievable loss of credibility. I’m sure Nicola Sturgeon is as well aware as anyone that a second yellow card is in fact a red.

So yes, the MSM silence is not surprising, and government indecision is not altogether a new thing, but the lack of reaction from other clubs – even the fans of other clubs – is very puzzling.

That is maybe the only thing that makes me doubt (slightly) that there is some serious and deliberate “inconsistency” afoot.

It is this type of beahaviour by the authorities and the media that led us to the brink of Armageddon in 2012.

If it can’t be changed, then those of us who have been constantly warning that a repeat is inevitable, will be saying “told you so” in the not too distant future.

If a level playing field is too much to ask for, then the implications for the sport, and society are many and serious.

ByBig Pink

The Stella Dallas of Europe

Leaving aside for the moment the Shadenfreude-laden giggling as first Celtic, and then Rangers departed the Champions League this season, it is worthwhile taking time to think on the reality of Scotland’s latter-day bit-part status in the game.

There are Celtic fans who try to rationalise it by pointing out that for them, the Stein years were a wonderful exception and not the norm. That however does not explain the European status of Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs, Dundee, Dundee United, Kilmarnock and Dunfermline in a period of roughly a quarter of a century from the beginning of European competition.

From the fifties to the eighties, Scottish clubs were feared and respected in Europe. Since then, only Martin O’Neil’s Celtic and Walter Smith’s Rangers have made an impression on the European scene.

So what has happened? Many blame the distraction of new technology, taking potential Johnstones and Baxters away from pursuing the soccer dream. I’m not convinced of that myself. They have game consoles and PCs in England and Italy and Germany as well. They also have them in Scandinavian countries where daylight hours and suitable weather are in even less abundance than in Scotland – and of course clubs from Scandinavian countries were both responsible for Celtic and Rangers fates this season.

Failure then breeds failure. Losing out one year means more (and earlier) qualifiers down the line. In this regard, you have to wonder at the claims of how “brilliantly” Celtic have been run over the last decade, when the club went into Euro qualifiers again and again unprepared in terms of personnel, even to the extent of using makeshift central defenders in several campaigns. Our clubs know its all coming, but year on year, we get caught on the hop by the timing of those early ties. Planning? Don’t make me laugh.

We are also faced with the reality that fans of clubs who are not in contention for a ECL group place, are usually fervently hoping that the quest ends in failure. Not because there is a deep hatred of either or both Celtic and Rangers, but because a Champions League place for a Scottish team gives the successful side an immeasurable financial advantage over the rest. Of course that attitude is understandable when you look at the reality for our clubs if one of their number makes it to the group stages.

Scottish football clubs rely heavily on gate income for survival because their media deals struck with broadcasters are so much poorer than in countries of similar size. ECL money – even if the successful side fails to score a goal or get a point on the board – is like all your Christmasses have come at once.

It is well known that the income gap between Celtic & Rangers and the rest is huge. The income gap between a Scottish Champions League team and the rest is even more massive. Yet if a Dutch, or Portuguese or Danish or Swedish side get a place in the group stages, the impact is not so great. Why? Because they have football administrators who can sell the game effectively, getting value for their product from the media.

This is the one area where our administrators have failed consistently and miserably.

The current football model where home teams keep their own gate money, and in some cases even have their own media contracts, is designed to (with the notable exception of England) create a few bigger fishes in a number of smaller ponds. It ultimately ends with the pantomime (which has not yet gone away) of the European Super League.

I wish I could say I had a solution to all this, but my instinct is to say that in the absence of a solution we should forget about Europe and its riches. Instead, lets return to a sport driven model of the game where there is a more equitable share of revenues. Forget the tuppence ha’penny TV contracts and give football back to the fans, live on a Saturday (Covid permitting). In time, the level of competition would increase, as would the quality of the product. The talk to the TV folk when they want to pay the going rate.

It might help if there was some kind of levy (listening indy supporters?) imposed on subscription service providers like Sky. £25m versus £1.5 billion is a much smaller fraction than that of Scottish subscribers to the Sky platform for example.

There is little we in Scotland can do to prevent the globalisation and Mafia-isation of the game internationally, but those things we CAN control, like turning inward to improve our game instead of, like Stella Dallas in the eponymous classic movie, standing in the rain looking through the window at the banquet elsewhere.

Of course it won’t happen.

ByBig Pink

We Got it Wrong

After nearly two months experience of our new shiny Forum platform, it has significantly failed to impress users at SFM who have – almost from day one – hankered for a return home to the familiar blog format.
Of course we wanted to give the new format as much time as possible to bed in, and to give our members as much time as possible to get used to it also.

Just as deciding to have a child is never a solution for a broken marriage, it seems that neither was our decision to give birth to our own new baby to boost the popularity of the blog.

So we are back to where we we were, but we will be updating the look of the old place soon. In fact we would have done so before re-opening the blog, but there was such a clamour for an early return (in private messages and emails) that we decided to take the leap now.

We hope the return to familiarity will make more of us happy than disappointed – but SFM will evolve and survive.

One of the obvious indications of the new format’s unpopularity has been the almost invisible response (compared to previous times) to our Winter appeal for funds. Perhaps we should have completed that before moving to the new Forum, but after six weeks of fundraising, we have raised only around £200. In a similar period last year we raised nearly £1800.

So I hate to make the first blog leader of the re-launched SFM (in part) an urgent appeal for funds, but that is where we are today. We have agreed to write off the cost of the new Forum software (may even make some use of it in the future), but we still need some assistance to keep the show on the road. In keeping with that aim we will keep the Winter Appeal running for another couple of weeks in the hope that we can recover. We will send an email to everyone about that in the next few days.

In the meantime, there are a multitude of things going on the game at the moment which should be a worry to all fans. Rangers as we know are still a financial basket-case, but with their huge salary bill, Celtic have slid from a position of financial dominance to unprecedented (in recent times) losses.
Covid has changed our routines, our workflows, our leisure and shopping habits, and our expectations not just of our football clubs, but our own daily existence.

The recent SFA report on child abuse has highlighted the massive crimes of individuals representing football clubs against the very lifeblood of those clubs, and as yet, no-one seems to want to take responsibility. It may be true that unreserved apologies are only words that cannot heal the broken dreams and lives of the victims of child abuse, but an apology sure as hell can’t do any harm.

Acceptance of responsibility, no equivocation, and a plan to help mitigate the effect on sufferers is required.

Can we also make it clear that whilst we respect the right of anyone to hold with Hover Pitch theories of the nature of a football club, we also expect that our right to not take those folk seriously is also respected.

SFM is not a place where we should tolerate discussion of whether or not Santa exists, or that TRFC are the same club that was sent to the breakers yard of liquidation in 2012. No need for us to constantly restate the bleedin’ obvious. We really hope that fans of Rangers can come here and feel welcome, but we can’t seriously entertain primary school playtime chat. As we know, these matters are metaphysical in nature, and following on from good practice we will have no metaphysical debate for fear of offending the believers.

We have much to discuss, matters far more serious to consider, so welcome back to SFM.

ByBig Pink

Time to Ditch the Geek Show

 

The link at the bottom of this piece points to an excellent blog by James Forrest on the ‘decline’ of the Old Firm, and particularly the viewing figures for the recent matches between Celtic and TRFC.

Whilst James, as you would expect is focusing on the consequences of the OF tag for Celtic, it is worthwhile considering that the decline in viewers is an excellent litmus test of the provenance of TRFC with regard to RFC.

Is it because the ‘you’re not Rangers anymore!’ faction is winning the argument? Read More

ByBig Pink

The Vice Closes

News in The Times of Celtic’s letter to Stewart Regan regarding that club’s wish for a Judicial Review into the SFA’s handing of the Rangers EBT crisis increases the pressure on Regan considerably.

The SFA Chief Executive’s ill-advised spat with Pie and Bovril editor David McDonald this week may even be a sign he is devolving, and at least it demonstrates that, despite Twitter disaster after Twitter disaster, Regan doesn’t learn readily from his mistakes. Read More

ByBig Pink

The Lost Voice of the Armageddon Virus

Since I have lost my voice this week to the Armageddon virus, we decided to do a mini, written version of TWM for your pleasure….

 

 

 

In Armageddon Lala Land (© S. Regan), it’s all falling apart in a major borefest. Read More

ByBig Pink

A Lie for a Lie

The “Lawwell Letter” is trending everywhere this week. To elucidate, it is email sent to (among others) Peter Lawwell and Eric Riley of Celtic on 26 July 2012 by SPL CEO Neil Doncaster.

The email came with an attached copy of the Five Way Agreement (hereafter “5WA”, the deal between Sevco, Rangers, the SFA, the SPL and the SFL). Now that it has been made public, it seems safe to speak openly about what it all means for us as folk who believe in sporting integrity.

I would preface my comments with a caveat though. On the face of it, the Celtic Chief Executive appears to have misled the gathering at the recent Celtic AGM. He was asked by a shareholder if Celtic were involved in the Five Way Agreement. Lawwell replied, “No”, and gave same “No” response to the follow up question, “have you seen it?”

Given that a copy of that email was in the possession of a few folk before that AGM, I have to admit to being surprised by that answer – although even more surprised at the apparent lack of due diligence implied by the lack of knowledge of its content.

We have attempted to contact Mr Lawwell to ask him if he would like to comment on the apparent discrepancy between the evidence and his answer (and I am sure we are not the only ones to have done so). To date, we have received no response. Given the complete lack of acknowledgement of the existence of this anomaly in the MSM, we should perhaps assume that none will be forthcoming.

Perhaps there is an explanation (yes I know), but Celtic should know, like Rangers old and new have come to realise, that silence on these matters breeds deep suspicion and distrust.

Assuming for the minute that Occam’s Razor applies here, there may be an uncomfortable truth emerging for Celtic fans – that Rangers (old and new) do not have a monopoly on dishonesty. There is also an uncomfortable truth that should emerge for Rangers fans too – that as we have said all along, this has never been about just Rangers, but about the governance of the game.

If the Celtic CEO did lie to the AGM a few weeks ago what are the consequences? He broke no laws as far as I can see. One insider I spoke to said simply this,

“So he lied. So what? What happens now? It’s irrelevant”

That is of course absolutely true. As long as controlling shareholders are happy that Resolution 12 is buried, and that no deep inquiry into governance is held into the workings of the game in Scotland, the lie is nonpunishable, though it would be a mistake to believe that accountability is confined only to the corporate rules governing Boards and shareholders; the corporate veil of “I was only following company policy” can be readily challenged in the court of public opinion, which has no statute of limitations.

What all this demonstrates of course is that Celtic have been saying one thing to their fans and shareholders, nodding agreement in private meetings about how appalling Rangers behaviour was, tut-tutting over how amateurish the authorities were, and wringing their hands in frustration at what a sham the LNS inquiry turned out to be.

At the same time, they have done nothing, allowed small shareholders to spend not inconsiderable suns progressing the matter, and quietly hoped that the “appetite” for justice would diminish so they could get back to whatever it is they and the rest do when subject to little or no scrutiny.

Whilst ten in a row is on the table of course, they can get away with it. To Celtic fans right now, understandably, nothing else matters. But what if TIAR is derailed? Not a stretch to imagine that the Parkhead kitchen could get uncontrollably hot in that circumstance. And when the TIAR squirrel finally ends its scurry, in either success or failure, where will the fans attention be diverted?

Perhaps the arrogance that permits making (allegedly) false statements to a general meeting, and (allegedly) misleading shareholders over Res 12 is borne of the knowledge that the parachutes are ready to be deployed when either of the above scenarios come to pass? If TIAR is achieved or goes south, are they already prepared for an emergency exit?

Celtic have two major shareholders whose combined holding is over 50% of the club’s shares. Dermot Desmond and Nick Train. Desmond is now in his eighth decade and Train is reportedly having some business difficulties. Both may well be moved to get out anyway, but fan unrest would make their decision a whole lot easier.

And Lawwell himself is – if you believe the MSM – on the wanted list of nearly as many top clubs as Alfredo Morelos.

The foregoing of course is extremely “Old Firm” centric, and as the two biggest clubs in the country they certainly have the biggest impact on the game, culturally, socially and financially. However there is no get-out clause here for others.

We KNOW there is evidence of fraud surrounding the licencing issue in 2012. We KNOW there is evidence of a cover up over that, and the EBT-related registration issues for Old Rangers. We KNOW that the Five Way Agreement was signed by football authorities in the knowledge that it would rob their own rules of judicial authority with regard to compliance by RFC prior to 2012.

We also know that NOT ONE club has taken a meaningful stand against any of it.

Clubs are saying one thing to supporters and doing their best to derail those supporters’ efforts on the other. We can also infer (not unreasonably) that the folk who run the clubs think that we as fans have no right to interfere in how they run their operations.

As I said earlier, Celtic can do what they like whilst TIAR is live, but afterwards, however it ends, the fans and shareholders involved in Res 12 will still be asking questions. Celtic in particular know how fatal it can be to alienate their own fan base – a fan base that has flexed its muscles with devastating effect for the boardroom in the past. And it is the wrath of the fans of all clubs that will eventually see the charlatans get their just desserts.

Our job as fans is to continue to hold those who care little for the honour and beauty of football to account, to continue to press them on their refusal to deal with arguably the biggest sporting scandal in Scottish history.

The bottom line (which is of course what the folk in boardrooms care about) is this. They need us far more than we need them. As fans of different clubs, the sensibility of those of us at SFM recognises that the real battle, the real war, is not between rival fans or rival clubs, but between the arrogant, self-entitled clique who run our game; who lie for fun, who cheat and belittle the sport; and the good folk who make it possible for the game to prosper.

Resolution 12 is not just about Rangers – nor is it just about Celtic. It deserves to be embraced by every true football fan in the country. The Res 12 franchise needs to widened

Sooner or later the fans will demonstrate their unhappiness with the money men. They did it in 2012, and they will inevitably do so again.

ByBig Pink

In Whose Interests

Any organisation’s plan for a top-down review of development would ordinarily be welcome news. Self evaluation, or even better independent evaluation is an ongoing process amongst professionals, individually and collectively alike. In the case of the SFA however a healthy scepticism is required. We are after all dealing with people who are the poster boys for self-interest and short-termism.

The SFA had previously commissioned a thorough review of the game (decades ago) by Rinus Michels, the inventor of “Total Football” and his report was largely ignored, partly because it implied criticism of the then current regime, and partly because it would cost money. A “Total Shambles”.

Henry McLeish also famously recommended (again after being commissioned to do so by the SFA) a more balanced approach to governance between the SFA and SPFL. This would have required a blazer or two having less say in the running of the game – and was therefore ignored.

Mark Wotte, the prominent Dutch coach hired as performance director at Hampden also suggested during his tenure that, in order to improve technique, more ball time should be provided for players in games.

He recommended seven a side competitions as the norm for u-15s (less players – more participation).

To accommodate this, club infrastructures would have required expensive upgrading, and coaches in clubs, not responsive to new ideas lobbied hard for the status quo.

The upshot is that we carried on with the same eleven-a-side games where many players hardly got a kick.
And in this classic Einsteinean definition of insanity, no overall improvements were to be found in the national team’s fortunes.

No wonder Wotte fled the scene in 2014 after three years.

Of course the details are debatable and subjective, but experience tells us;
Anything that
a) costs money or
b) upsets old boys’ networks
has a tendency to be hidden out of sight.

The recent “announcement” is merely a reaction to a couple of poor results, caused in part by inaction in the wake of previous reports’ recommendations.

An increasing number of observers of our game refer to an inferior mindset amongst players in Scotland, that we accept losing as the norm.

Hardly surprising that such a mindset is prevalent amongst professionals.
They must despair at the chronic self-interest, ineptitude and fecklessness of the “leaders” of our sport – an organisation that appointed Gordon Smith as CE (think about that for a minute) based on who his pals were, where McGregor and Petrie can become senior officers – “because it’s his turn!” – despite being unqualified squares in a round ball game, and where fairy-tales take precedence over reality.

As long as the blazers have a seat on the SFA bus, nothing will change.

ByBig Pink

Small Price to Pay?

I think there has been an appreciable shift of opinion amongst fans of TRFC recently.

 

Unlike the ‘invest: speculate to accumulate’ rhetoric featured in the press and by ex-players, the ordinary fans are coming to the realisation that there is no quick fix. There are even murmurings that there may never be a fix which involves their club becoming a competitive force.

 

Poor management of fan expectations has long been an accusation levelled at the TRFC board by SFM. It is possible though that many fans are beginning to manage their own expectations rather better. There are certainly justifiable criticisms of the manager, Mark Warburton, but alongside that is a realism about the limitations and constraints that he is working under.

 

There is a rather misguided, and possibly not accurate assumption that another liquidation for a team out of Ibrox would result in having to start ‘yet again’ in the bottom division; but in fact there is a growing acceptance that consolidation in the top league is a much better solution than gambling on huge borrowing simply to stop Celtic adding more notches to the goalpost.

 

Could it be that the fans are about to do the job that the board haven’t had the balls to do –accept the gap between themselves and (at least) Celtic, and settle for mediocrity on the field as a short term price to pay for continuity?

 

During the 1990s, in the middle of the Murray/BoS fuelled spending spree, and with Celtic in the doldrums, it seemed to many Celtic fans that their club would never be able to bridge that gap. Of course they did, but at the emotional cost of losing the exclusive 9IAR record.

 

TRFC now find themselves in pretty much the same position, but their road to bridging the current gap is a more difficult one.

 

There are similarities of course. Like the Celtic of the 90s, Rangers have major infrastructure challenges to meet. Celtic had a stadium to build, Rangers have Ibrox (and Auchenhowie) to fix and improve. Both required massive investment to improve the team, although I would argue that Rangers have a steeper hill to climb in that area.

 

Unlike RFC of the 90s, Celtic’s accrued wealth has nothing to do with an intravenous hook-up between their bank account and the chairman’s pals at the bank. Their baseline advantage over the current Rangers predicament is a combination of a stadium which holds 10,000 more fans than Ibrox, no debt, a burgeoning cash balance and the current inflow of European cash.

The Euro cash and the cash balance could be depleted, but the 10,000 extra seats won’t.

 

It also seems difficult to imagine how TRFC can obtain seed capital – even if they were inclined to gamble – given the combination of barriers to achieving that;

 

  • They have a PLC with no stock market listing
  • They have NO executive directors on the PLC board
  • The current chairman is a convicted criminal, convicted of offences involving money
  • The current chairman and vice-chairman are both directors of a previously liquidated club, and therefore associated with the financial mismanagement which brought that about.
  • In that climate, sponsorship deals are hard to come by. Major sponsors want to be associated with stability, success and integrity. TRFC don’t tick many boxes in that regard.
  • Banks do not lend to football clubs. Pre Murray/Masterton, football clubs were cash businesses with modest overdraft facilities to cover modest cash-flow peaks and troughs. The banks have returned to that model. 1987-2007 was the exception, not the norm.
  • They are at war with a powerful and substantial shareholder in Mike Ashley.
  • There is still litigation pending on more than one front which could even call into question the ownership of the club’s assets.
  • They are in debt already (estimated at around £15m).
  • The current onfield situation may require yet another write-off in terms of contracts.

Any one of those bullet points could be enough to derail any plan to get to the top. In combination, there may even be an existential question to answer.

That is why the fans are starting to look a lot smarter than the board, and ultimately the good sense of the fans may well help the board to find a way out of their current dilemma.

But even with realistic expectations from the supporters, is it possible that they can find a way? Is there for instance someone with a magic wand or bag of cash who could come in and turn it around? Perhaps, but who would risk money on a precarious venture like a football club when one of the most powerful businessmen in the country is in dispute with you?

 

In order for serious inward investment to happen;

  • Ashley has to be reconciled with the board (needs King and Murray to go).
  • The debt has to be written off .
  • The new investor(s) has to be given control of the club (and this would perhaps require another 75% special resolution where current shareholders would be asked to vote to dilute their own influence).
  • If they achieved that (and it is a pretty big if) the new investor cash would go into the club’s bank account – not used to pay off the debt –  and they would be free to pursue new and better sponsorship deals, improve the merchandising contract with an onside Ashley, and add new revenue streams.

Even then, any new board would need to see the infrastructure challenges as paramount. Having one eye squinting in the direction of Parkhead will blur the bigger picture.

Their priority should be to reduce the losses (whilst increasing wages for better players), fix the stadium and the training ground (both in need of repair and improvement), build a scouting and youth infrastructure, and free up a (relatively modest) wad of cash to improve the playing squad.

In defence of the current board, the challenges facing them are almost vertical in incline. No matter how skilful they are, nothing other than someone with a barrowload of cash and a very long term outlook can put any kind of fix in place.

£50m might buy the debt and equity, and repair the stadium, but progress requires on-field improvement. It also needs stability, and therefore Ashley’s cooperation. The price of that is the head of Dave King.

Rangers will bring in more at the gate than Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs, but they have a considerably higher cost base than those clubs. With better players, recurring costs will be even higher – much higher.

To square this circle, however unpalatable it appears to be, peace has to be made with Ashley. That is the key to being able to embark upon a journey that has any chance of success. Otherwise, the clocks will have to be reset to 2022, and the end of the SD contract, before progress can be made.

However there is no chance it can go on that long. Rangers fans may be increasingly less demanding in what they expect, but they will need to see some signs – and not just words – that a plan is in place.

The board are getting ready to throw Mark Warburton to the hounds (the MSM lapdogs have already been armed with poison pens to effect that). This will buy them some time, but not enough.

 

We’ve said it before, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again;

 

For Rangers to have a fighting chance of competing at the top of football, King needs to be gone. If he does go, half of the barriers preventing the club raising cash are dismantled. 

So is King’s departure a price worth paying? If he really had Rangers in his heart, he would say ‘Yes’.

 

 

 

ByBig Pink

Bad Money?

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.