For those who missed it, yesterday’s Scottish League Cup draw threw up a real whopper of a surprise, when we found out that the organisers (that would be the governing body of our game’s tournaments) had made a startling decision on seeding.
Sevco Rangers have a match coming up against Inverness, which will decide who goes on to play Falkirk in the next round. All very uncomplicated, right?
Wrong. It’s actually an embarrassment. Some are calling it a screw up, but it’s the result of a decision that was taken in full understanding of what the consequences would be, so it’s not a mistake or an oversight. It was discussed, and signed off on.
It is a blatant and obvious fraud, one that to some eyes has one goal in mind; helping Scotland’s favourite down-on-its-luck team, and to others is an example of why we’re destined to remain a football backwater for years to come.
In making the draw before the Sevco Rangers – Inverness game is played, the SPFL had no way on knowing what the exact position was vis-à-vis seedings for the next round. They could have waited until after that game had been played to do the draw (the Sevco – Inverness game kicks off on 16 September and the next round is a week later), but that would have been too in keeping with fairness and transparency.
So instead they simply decided to stick in the winners of that game as seeds, automatically, although if Sevco Rangers gets a victory they will fall far short of being eligible for that spot.
In short, if they beat Inverness, they will face Falkirk by virtue of being seeded in the draw, something they were not entitled to. This disenfranchises every other club in the competition, and in particular the sides who would have qualified for a seeding spot ahead of them.
This is exactly what pisses many of us off, this constant bending of rules and ignoring of past precedents. As I said at the start, some are willing to say this is a simple mistake, but it’s clearly nothing of the sort. A bunch of people sat in a room somewhere and decided to ignore the very specific rules of the competition, to allow a club a potential advantage not covered in the regulations.
That club, of course, just happens to be Sevco Rangers. What a shock.
Don’t get me wrong here, this would be wrong, it would still stink, no matter which club was benefiting from it, but one can’t help but look at another egregious reinterpretation of the rule book which benefits them and feel a kind of numbed anger.
If Sevco gets past Inverness at home they have a game against a fellow Championship side when what should have awaited them was a game against an SPL team. Not only will they avoid that, but two SPL teams will now play each other who otherwise wouldn’t have, and that further weakens their potential pool of opponents for the next round draw again.
You honestly could not make this up. When does this crap actually end? When do the people who run the game in this country start living by what’s written down? When do we come to a realisation that the only way the game is fair is when everyone plays by the same set of rules?
The SPFL is yet to find sponsors for its major tournaments, and part of the reason why is that this organisation is still a shambles, in every way. It is still run by a small cabal of men who lack scruples and guts, a group of men who are without respect for the fans and without a moral mandate to run things after their self destructive behaviour in recent years.
The more you watch this organisation operate, the more you come to realise that they absolutely do not care what the supporters think. Get the individual club chairman to answer to their own fans and they have no choice but to take notice, but get them together in a room where they can hide behind collective responsibility and the mask comes off and their contempt for us is revealed.
What angers me most is not the potential freebie handed out to the basket case of Ibrox, because I don’t believe they’ll be in any position to take advantage of it as I fully expect Inverness to give them a right good doing, but the utter disrespect this shows for any standard of fair play, and the way it reveals the casual, almost off-hand, on the hoof way things are done around here.
UEFA kicked a club out of the Champions League for bringing on a wrongly registered sub with three minutes to go in the second leg of a tie they were winning comfortably. The substitution had no material impact on the game at all, but that didn’t matter. They take the rulebook seriously. They act accordingly. They follow these principles to the letter, in the name of fair play.
Here, we have a slapdash manner which myself and many, many, many other fans finds utterly offensive. Here, football governance comes down to propping up failed structures, to changing things as they go along and, when it comes to real reform, rejecting it in place of mere tinkering around the edges. Enforcement standards are a joke, and instead of putting things down in black and white and following them to the letter our governing bodies would rather give themselves wiggle room to stitch things up how they please.
The game in this country continues to peddle backwards at an alarming rate. I’ve argued the same about Celtic over the last few days, and as with my own club the rot sets in because of decisions made at the very top.
Heads should have rolled at the summit of our national sport three years ago. That the same individuals who were around then are still around now is scandalous. That they’ve learned nothing, that nothing has changed, that we’re not lobbying our clubs to hold this lot to a higher standard, is appalling and risks undoing every bit of good the fans have managed to force through.
I don’t believe we’ll ever see meaningful reform whilst these people are running the show.
When Turnbull Hutton stood on the steps of Hampden and called the men who run our game “corrupt” that should have been the start of a process that ended in them packing up their pencils, yet these serial failures, who screwed up TV deals, who talked down our game so much we can’t find sponsors three years on, still have highly paid jobs.
On a day when Ross County has just sacked its management team, and Ronny Deila bears the brunt for failures way above his head, the consequences of our governing bodies’ incompetence trickle down and affect every club in the land, and watching it I cannot help but think that this is a game, and not just in Scotland, which punishes failure everywhere but at the very top of the house, in the boardroom.
These are the people who keep on telling us that football is a business, and it has to be run like one. Where is their sense of corporate responsibility? In any other commercial venture, failure at every level, on this scale, would have seen them out on the street years ago.
Why in God’s name do we still put up with this crap? Who are these people actually accountable to, and how do they keep their jobs in the face of such incompetence and corruption?
What can we do to change it before it destroys what credibility is left in our national sport?
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