Amidst the emerging news of great trauma that is allegedly coming TRFC’s way in the near future, it would be prudent for us to keep our eye on the big picture – the one that captures the other clubs in the league playing the role of bystanders, powerless to influence events and unwilling to react .
For what it is worth, my information on the TRFC situation is that the stadium issues being talked about are not critical at this time (although talks have begun with Queens Park and the SFA to secure a lease of Hampden for two years), but that the creditor issues, including tax, national insurance and VAT, are of immediate, growing concern.
In the last few weeks, Celtic, Hibs, the SFA and referees have all been in the Ibrox firing line and subjected to Level 5 penned invective. Their response has been a dignified silence and a refusal to officially engage. Understandable perhaps, but the cowed nature of it is odd – especially given the opportunity it would have afforded for some proper PR retaliation on the part of any of those bodies.
Perhaps the real and most important question is ‘why does everyone stand idly by as this train-wreck heads for buffers’ ?
And the supplementaries;
Here’s why. RFC got away with, and TRFC get away with appalling behaviour for one very simple reason; football’s mortal fear of regulation.
A second insolvency event at Ibrox in five years of the first (irrespective of how many clubs you think took part) would draw unwelcome attention to the SFA and SPFL’s failure to run the game honestly and effectively – and would almost certainly attract attention from Holyrood. Therefore it needs to be avoided at all costs.
When TRFC were caterwauling over the cup final report recently, no-one weighed in with counter-arguments because prolonging the debate would have kept it current long enough to possibly colour public attitudes on fan behaviour. Of course this already carried a government threat of the imposition of strict liability on the clubs. Better that those papers should be wrapping fish suppers as soon as possible – not lighting a bonfire under the main stand at Hampden.
RFC get away with appalling behaviour (and so is TRFC), for one very simple reason;
football’s mortal fear of regulation.
It might be worth mentioning the ‘Oops, we misspoke’ moment in the aftermath of the publication of that cup final report and TRFC’s demands that Hibs should suffer sanctions for their fans’ post final whistle behaviour.
They (TRFC) were consequently challenged to put their votes where their mouths were and sign up for strict liability. Oops! – and radio silence broken out.
The fact that the catastrophic failure of Rangers came about as a result of the catastrophic failure the SFA’s self-regulatory processes surrounding player registration – has made it unthinkable that football should admit to those failures.
Football does not want government cattle strewn around the tracks of its gravy train. Goodies in the shape of interest on loans or preference shares, favourable director contracts, tax write-offs, agent kick-backs and bungs are too great, and government intervention is a threatens to divert the train away from its current path.
Unless you are a forensic accountant, perhaps even if you were, I’d be willing to bet you’d have to get very lucky to extract usable information on the cost of shareholder finance from club accounts, or the extent of contracts between clubs and companies associated with club officials.
The very fact that the catastrophic failure of Rangers came about as a result of another catastrophic failure – that of the SFA’s self-regulatory processes surrounding player registration – has made it unthinkable that football should admit to those failures.
Scottish football tolerates bad behaviour of corrupt individuals and organisations because football itself is endemically, culturally corrupt.
There is no question that there is great antipathy towards RFC and TRFC amongst other clubs. They are pariahs within the Scottish game, but not because of any principled stand against or moral outrage at their behaviour. In fact for the most part, football people at the majority of clubs no moral objections whatsoever to the tax avoidance strategies of the Murray era.
Scottish football is mightily pissed off at RFC and TRFC because they went too far, made it inevitable that they would be found out, and exposed everyone else to the possibility of regulation by government.
Of course Murray, Whyte, Green, King and the rest knew all of this, and that knowledge has allowed them to push the envelope as far as they have.
However clumsily and ineptly each of these individuals have gone about their business, they are NOT the real problem. Our major concern should be that for every crime we discover, there are at least a half dozen that we never got wind of, perpetrated by much smarter offenders. Not to mention the enablers at Hampden and boardrooms all over the country who still promote a culture that seeks to cover it all up.
Let me paint a picture for those people whose ideal scenario in this saga is to have Rangers airbrushed from Scottish football history. Even if you were to get your wish, do you really think the corruption in the game would disappear with them? Would sporting integrity finally climb to the top of the priority list?
Of course it would do no such thing. The Rangers implosion gave Scottish football a chance to demonstrate that malpractice was isolated and confined to one club, but their reaction to it was a light-touch approach to governance and regulation, demonstrating fairly conclusively that the cancer has spread way beyond Govan. In fact the authorities and the clubs would once again become bystanders – perhaps some of them may even take to cheer-leading – if the same thing happened again.
That is why those people who run ALL of our clubs are largely unfit to do so. That is why the sport needs to be properly regulated and accountable. And that is why the SFA/SPFL edifice needs to be demolished, the rot dug out, and new structures put in place which are heavily weighted in favour of sporting integrity and consumer interests.
I never thought I would find myself quoting Tony Blair, and I shall probably go straight to hell for doing so, but it is no good just being tough on the crime itself, we need to be even tougher on the causes of the crime.