A recent autumn storm caused the destruction of the metal goal fame in our garden. The small goal with the weather-beaten net had fallen into disuse. But I liked it seeing it there on the grass. I suppose I half-expected, half-hoped, it would be used again. Once, it was a father and son thing and had been constructed carefully from a nice set of plans. At the time, it impressed both son and daughter no end. But that was then, this was now.
One of our trees, blown over by the recent high winds, caused the goal frame’s final demise. As I unscrewed the twisted metal I thought of the hours of innocent fun it had given us. It had been the scene of many goals and not a few great saves. My son, who is soon off to uni, smiled thoughtfully as I mentioned that this was the end of the ‘goalposts of childhood’. Perhaps he knew what I meant.
My own childhood goalposts had been ‘doon the back’. Drawn with chalk on the red brick of the ‘sausage wall’ at one end, and on part of the ‘wash hoose’ at the other. Many a league, Cup and international match was played out between those goals on the Dennistoun dirt. We once put on a parallel version of a historic England v Scotland match while the real match was being played at Wembley. Jim Mone sitting on one of the dykes had a transister radio to his ear. As we played our match he chalked up live score updates on the wall — our Twitter and FaceBook anno 1967. What a day.
We did use a pile of jackets up on the old Dennistoun cricket pitch, but only rarely. Mostly, we played on the red gravel surface at the Finlay Drive entrance. That pitch was fitted with real goalposts — like the ones they had at Hampden. Or so we imagined.
These sentimental memories of receding years accompanied my removal of the ruined metal goal frame. But, as you can imagine, it seemed an almost symbolic act. For fans of Scottish football the ‘goalposts’ that once defined the game of our football childhoods — have not only been moved, they’ve been been twisted and mis-shapen out of all recognition.
The past decades have seen a fundamental change in the way our game is run and governed, at home and abroad. Money is now king and sporting consideration is a luxury we sometimes have to put to one side — or at least, so we’re told.
At the risk of stating the obvious, sport, if it is to mean anything at all, has to be based on clearly defined rules and principles. These rules must be applied equally to all the participants, they are certainly not optional extras. However, to misquote and paraphrase George Orwell, ‘all teams are equal, but some teams are more equal than others’ — at least, when it comes to Scottish football.
The efforts by the SFA to re-interpret rules to fit the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the demise of Rangers FC in 2012 have left most of us scratching our heads. Much of the Scottish media has backed up the SFA’s efforts, something which has added to the general confusion and chaos. In fact, it’s become clear that the death of Rangers, as we knew them, has been such a traumatic event that it must be denied. The authorities and media seem to have been so besotted with one club that its loss is out of the question. And so, it’s been gifted a bizarre kind of immunity from liquidation and death that implies its on-going existence, long after it drew it’s final breath.
This situation has opened the door to a legion of businessmen on the make. They have been allowed to perpetuate the myth, with SFA blessing, that they ‘saved’ Rangers. And their unwavering message is, that they can only succeed if fans keep giving them their hard-earned cash. To those outside the blue bubble it looks like a huge con trick. If the only source of real money in football is the fans, then the Ibrox faithful have been royally fleeced.
How different it could have been if the former club had been allowed a dignified end. A year out of the game would probably have allowed fans to restart a newco of their own. They could have applied for entry into the professional leagues along with the other clubs waiting in line. Chances are they would have been given special dispensation, and walked straight into the bottom tier. Of course, they would have claimed to be the continuation of the spirit of the previous entity — but would anyone have argued against that? How different it could have been if the rules governing the game had been respected. The SFA may even have kept their dignity intact and the press not felt obliged to print half-truths, falsehoods and lies.
You’ve got to wonder why Dunfermline and Hearts fought so desperately to avoid liquidation. After all, the Scottish football authorities now seem intent on convincing us that liquidation has little or no effect on a football club. Even past sins, such as wrongly-registered players are as naught — if, at the time, they were thought to have been registered correctly. By this logic, we have to ask: if a ‘company’ running a ‘club’ bribes a referee, will retrospective action will be taken against the ‘club’. The players and the club, after all, will have done nothing wrong. And since the referee was not known to have been bribed, and not struck off, he was qualified to referee the match in question, at the time. Using the SFA thought process, the result would probably be allowed to stand. Personally, I’m not sure I follow SFA logic. They’ve ‘moved the goalposts’, and (you saw it coming) bent them into an unrecognisable shape.
Which brings me back to our garden. The old metal goal frame is waiting to be driven down to the local re-cycling centre. The twisted metal and worn-out net are useless. Ruined by forces beyond our control. There is no interest in a replacement at present. Perhaps, if we have grandchildren, they will show an interest in football. If they do, I’ll build a new set of goalposts. They’ll be straight and true, the way the goalposts of childhood should be. The way goalposts should always be.