Hot on the heels of McCoist’s comments yesterday, which I slated in last night’s piece, comes an allegation from Gordon Parks that he personally knows of matches where the results were “decided before a ball was kicked.”
So now we’re beyond speculation, beyond McCoist’s phony hard man posturing. We actually have allegations of match fixing, and already the SFA is hiding under the bed, saying they can’t investigate until they are brought “actual evidence.”
Well, I’m sure that’s comforting to you all, and to the national bookmakers, eah?
Once again, the people at the top of our national sport are found wanting when the chips are down. There can be no more serious an allegation than the one Parks has just made, and the fact he’s not already sitting at Hampden being grilled by SFA lawyers is a disgrace.
I have read, and re-read, McCoist’s statement of yesterday a hundred times, and I have read Parks statements today in the same disbelief, and what comes across from them both is not the nature of the allegations themselves but the fact neither man is willing to go on the record and name names. So, Scottish football is not a spectator sport at all. It’s a rigged game, run for the benefit of those in it. Fraudulent. Bent. Corrupt. A con job on a grand scale.
And these people – McCoist and Parks – believe there is honour, that there is some kind of integrity in their refusal to reveal the names of those who’ve made it that way?
Let me correct them. There is no honour in maintaining this shameful silence. There is no integrity in protecting cheats, in letting corruption go undiscovered, to continue apace. There is nothing righteous or moral or upstanding in this. It is cowardly. It is disgraceful.
This is no longer about players having a wee bet. This is about match fixing, and it can’t be ignored. Parks and the Daily Record might think this is just a wee fun tit-bit to titillate the readership and lend weight to McCoist’s ridiculous demands for a “summit” to clarify the rules, but it’s way beyond that. Supporters have been treated with breathtaking contempt. Sponsors have been treated like mugs, and the bookmakers – who I am sure have lawyers monitoring this right now – have been done up like a Yankee tourist buying the Tower Bridge from a couple of wide-boys.
Let’s get it out there; this talk of a “dressing room code”, of some kind of understanding amongst players that this stuff can go on but not get talked about isn’t going to cut it here. All it’s going to take is for one supporter – and there should be many, many, many supporters – taking McCoist’s comments or Parks comments to the police, and demanding a criminal investigation, and the ball is rolling and these two, and probably a lot of others, are going to need to lawyer up and spend some time in an interview room.
That’s what we’re talking about here. Taking the bookies money on a sure thing might be something every single one of us has dreamed about doing (Manchester United to beat Rangers at Ibrox in the Champions League at even money … I still grin from ear to ear thinking about that one. It paid my rent for two months whilst I was at University), but for players and even officials to actually conspire to throw matches for the purpose of doing it … there’s a name for that.
It’s called fraud. People in this country have been prosecuted for it, and anyone in any professional sport found guilty of it is given a lifetime ban.
There’s no point in pretending this should be otherwise. The SFA can’t sit and pretend these allegations aren’t out there in the public domain. Ian Black’s crime of having a bet on games pales into insignificance next to what first McCoist alleged yesterday and what Parks has alleged today. And the thing of it is, if McCoist is telling the truth and not just rattling the bars of his cage, and Parks is being upfront and not exaggerating the issue, none of this is a secret within the game. They all know what’s going on, and some “gentleman’s code” keeps it quiet.
There are no gentlemen in this. Everyone who knows about it has a responsibility to speak up. Players earn too much as it is. This is pissing all over the sport that sustains them, the clubs which employ them and the fans who ultimately pay their wages.
In the United States there is a law called RICO. The RICO statutes are there for the purposes of wiping out entire criminal organisations in the course of one investigation and trial. If they can prove that individuals are working together in a “continuing criminal enterprise” then everyone can be hauled in, charged, and imprisoned, from the guy at the top to the guy at the bottom. RICO trials have decapitated mafia families and I’ve long argued that the UK needs something similar.
If such laws existed, there would barely be a man standing at Hampden Park and Ibrox, for the way they conducted the Rangers affair in the last two years.
This is worse, by a long, long way.
Jock Stein said “football is nothing without the supporters.” Today we’re being given a right good reason to believe that the supporters are being had on a scale we never could have imagined. How many players are “at it”? How many refs and linesmen are bought? Have you, have I, attended matches were the result was due to some elaborate scam?
Let me spell out how bad this could be. In the last dozen or so years, a number of SPL titles have been decided on the final weekend, or by a handful of points. Now, I’m not suggesting that the final games themselves might have been rigged, but consider this; if even one game in those championship races was influenced, then the outcome was potentially aided by fraud. That’s the size of this thing. That’s what we’re talking about.
The people in charge of our national sport really are kidding themselves sometimes when they claim to be working for the betterment of the game. They’ve already allowed scandal to engulf Ibrox for the second time in two years. They’ve let a convicted criminal onto the Rangers board without any consideration for “fit and proper person” tests. They’ve hinted at overlooking the rule which would bar Paul Murray from the boardroom and they’re even willing to put aside the string of criminal charges which still face Dave King, if he decides to return.
These people would rather pull folk in for being nasty to Charles Green, or investigate Neil Lennon for saying a few naughty words. It makes them look pathetic. To ignore something like this whilst investigating garbage like that reveals them as spineless, petty men too cowed by real scandal to chase it down, content to play as traffic wardens instead.
With all that, it might well be too much to expect them to vigorously investigate the claims of the past few days, but if they don’t they are leaving a dark cloud over this game which will never dissipate. The next time we see a bad defensive clearance, a bizarre refereeing decision, a dreadful goalkeeping error, a penalty missed or a reckless challenge leading to a red card, will we put it down to a momentarily lapse in concentration? How can we? How can we now, when we’ve heard that so many in the game are involved in this sort of corruption?
Scottish football does not need another scandal. It needed a period of healing, a period of calm. It’s not going to get one. Fresh outrage seems set to be lumped on top of the steaming mess we already have, but this is essential if our game is to survive, let alone advance.
The great American lawyer and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Louis Brandice, said it best I think; “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
These matters cannot be allowed to fester in the dark.
Investigate. Get it all out there.
Or lose what remaining shred of credibility this game has.
This is too serious to ignore, even for the SFA.
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