Sevco: A Storm Off Starboard

ratsI just got done having watched the final season of Deadliest Catch, perhaps the best reality TV show I’ve seen. It reminded me, in many ways, of having read Sebastian Junger’s wonderful book A Perfect Storm last year.

After I’d finished reading that book I wrote an article for this site on the Sevco crisis in which I used a number of examples from the story to highlight issues relating to the club.

I called it Storm Front Coming, and it was prescient in a number of ways, especially in relation to the intentions of a man named Mike Ashley, who some of the media were telling us wanted Sevco as a valuable asset, to be competitive, that he saw value in “Champions League exposure.”

All nonsense, of course, as most of us were well aware.

That piece was well received by non-Sevco readers; I got a lot of nice emails and good comments about that one.

It went down like a lead weight with their fans, though, who took serious offence to any suggestion theirs wasn’t a sound ship, and to the notion that Ashley was only interested in sucking the marrow off their bones.

Yet look where we are now, on the day before Dodgy Dave King goes head to head with Ashley’s lawyers in court.

Much has changed in the year and a bit since I posted that piece.

Yet much remains exactly the same.

This vessel is still sailing in the stormiest of seas.

There’s little good to say about them on or off the park at the moment; their fans will say that’s ridiculous, when they are top of the second tier and in the third tier cup final, but actually some of them realise things aren’t going terribly well.

For all the “great start” they’ve made to the season, Hibs are perilously close to them in the title race and winning the third tier cup competition at the fourth time of asking – if they do – is not going to satiate the appetites of fans who stupidly bought into the Survival Myth and still expect to see this club playing in Europe in the near future.

Their League Cup exit came as a drastic, and sobering, shock although they and their manager try to laugh it off as though it were a minor matter.

The longer you watch this club, and the more you listen to these gullible fans, the more you come to understand what the Survival Myth really is; not a comfort blanket, as some have stated, but a drug they can’t manage to shake, a continuing act of psychological self-harm that combines the worst elements of obsession, arrogance and delusion.

And of course, it has affected all of Scottish football, with our governing bodies willing to bend over backwards to accommodate those who have a vested interest in promoting it.

The dark clouds on the horizon haunt the SFA as much as Sevco, because a lot of people at Hampden are deeply involved in the goings on up at Ibrox. The water level is rising around them. They are, literally, in this up their necks.

We know they were aware that Craig Whyte intended to crash Rangers, and that this would leave hundreds of creditors, great and small, out of pocket.

We know they looked the other way when allegations surfaced in relation to Green, even giving Sevco a green light to investigate itself.

We know too that they breached their own regulations to allow King a seat on the Ibrox board.

I could go on. And on. And on.

There is no hiding place for them if this Force 12 blows across the deck.

This will overwhelm them.

Yesterday, Roger Mitchell, the former SPL CEO, went public with his view that Sevco will come to regret putting King on the board, that he is “damaged” and ought not to have been granted “fit and proper person” status.

I agree with him, but King is just a symptom of the bigger problem.

The bigger problem is at the SFA itself.

After years of studying this stuff, I often ponder just what kind of state Sevco would be in if we had an association that treated them like any other club.

A big part of what makes the coming storm so destructive is that the SFA are about to be swamped at just the moment the Ibrox operation might need them most.

It is inconceivable to almost all of us that Stewart Regan can survive his own court appearance against Ashley in April next year. The Sports Direct supremo has him in the gun sights and he is a dead shot.

The SFA may try to buy him off, or to get him to quit, by throwing King on the fire as a sacrifice, but this isn’t likely to cut much slack with a man so set on winning.

The hurricane sweeping across the sea towards these people is going to blow away everything in front of it.

By the time it passes, the wreckage will stretch over miles of flat, calm ocean.

The scenario we’re looking at is one where Regan has gone and possibly takes a few others with him; it’s one where the clubs are flexing their muscles; where the league’s governing body is under pressure to play by the rules; where the media has been exposed as complicit in the whole Sevco scandal (as they are) and has no moral authority to even attempt to influence the debate, and where the Ibrox club is impoverished and endangered.

Removed of the association CEO who has protected them, without Ogilvie on hand to offer his own brand of “look the other way”, and with Doncaster exposed to the harsher realities of his own position with a mood amongst the other clubs that is in no way sympathetic to another attempted stitch-up, Sevco will be alone, its leaders standing on the deck of a floundering ship, staring out into the rain.

Reform will be possible then, real reform, and not the phony kind that’s raised its head this week.

I mean a reformatted League Cup, to create a group stage, but one which excludes the clubs playing in Europe?

Why does the cynic in me see a clear motivation of providing “more money for Sevco” in that arrangement?

Why, when I contemplate which club will gain the most out of that, do I think of them first?

Could it be that I see most of the matches in this competition being played in front of three quarters empty grounds?

That I see no real benefit to other clubs except more games?

Some of those clubs are already complaining about this, saying they weren’t consulted. Other clubs say they were, but you know what? Regardless of whether they were consulted or not, I have limited sympathy for the leaders of a lot of our teams right now; Doncaster and others only exist because these people haven’t acted decisively and removed them.

What, precisely, will it take for them to act?

When he and Regan all but destroyed the game here as a commercial endeavour in 2012 with their “Scottish football is worthless without Rangers in the top flight” guff, that ought to have been that; jotters, ta-ta, pack your pencils and beat it.

The fans knew it. The fans wanted it.

The clubs failed us all.

You can’t have followed these events and doubt it.

Today, secure in his job, with the “confidence” of the teams, Doncaster is singing that old familiar song about a 14 team top flight, coincidentally as Sevco and Hibs are within touching distance of each other.

I mean, seriously?

These people will do anything to see their beloved Ibrox club in the top flight, and if the directors of other teams haven’t twigged that yet – that their own wishes and ambitions will be subservient to that one – then I don’t know what to say to them.

This failure is theirs too, and if the day ever comes and the duopoly that almost destroyed them is restored they can explain to their own fans why it was allowed to happen.

Sooner or later the directors of other clubs have to wake up. Stewart Regan standing in court, fumbling his words, whilst Doncaster waits on his own turn in the dock as a witness for Craig Whyte … well, yes, that ought to do it.

In the short term, it will barely matter anyway.

This League Cup wheeze has a shelf life of five minutes, and if clubs are complaining about it before it’s even started I have doubts it’ll be more than a one season wonder. Whatever attraction it does have will wane quickly, once the novelty wears off.

The idea isn’t terrible, by the way, but the costs of putting on these games will be higher, in many instances, than the clubs can bring in at the gate, as fans offer their own verdict on the changes.

At Ibrox this is more acute than elsewhere, as the huge expense of match-day can turn a possible source of profit into a loss-making endeavour before you know it, and that this might not even benefit Sevco financially is hilarious to me.

The governing bodies have bent over backwards for this club in the last few years and not one decision they’ve taken has made life at Ibrox better.

Why should this be any different?

Rangers was like a sword boat that the Department of Fish & Game allowed to leave port overloaded with more gear than any other ship in the fleet. It was against regulations, those which existed to protect other vessels from unfair practices, but it also ran against those safety rules which were in place to protect the boat itself.

For years the captain and crew rode their luck, but when the hurricane swept over them in 2012 they went down like a steel anchor.

In a similar fashion, Sevco is like a ship holed below the waterline, allowed to leave port although the authorities are aware of the cracks in the superstructure. Furthermore, it’s one which is captained by a notorious character who cheated other regulatory bodies and was partly responsible for Rangers’ sinking.

As such, he ought never to have been given command of a boat again.

The authorities know this too, and have spent the last year crossing their fingers that everything would be alright on his watch anyway.

That it’s so swiftly gone bad must be haunting their every waking moment, and when this ship starts to sink they’ll do anything to keep the stink of the scandal from their own door.

Anything, that is, except do the only thing that can save Sevco, which is the spending of copious amounts of money.

Without that, their ability to direct influence events once this ship runs into trouble is much as it was when Rangers began to slide below the surface; in other words, zero.

With no Coast Guard cutter on the horizon, what is this club going to do?

One of the things I learned from Sebastian Junger’s book is that sending out a “mayday” quite literally means that everyone on the ship has given up and they’ve accepted that they’re going down.

The word itself originates from the French, “m’aidez”, which in English means “help me”.

For a while now that signal has been getting pumped out of the Blue Room on a fairly steady rhythm.

King’s wee visit to Hampden last week was either them answering or his making sure it was being properly heard; either way, they’re not the people he really wanted to be talking to.

A little sympathy, and maybe the promise of league reconstruction talks, is all they’re able to offer, and he needs those things, but not as much as he needs the money, and besides a change in the weather and he’ll no longer be able to rely on them.

In the meantime, they just keep on repeating the message;

“Mayday, mayday, this is the HMS Sevco … we are in urgent need of assistance … Mayday, mayday …”

But Jim McColl isn’t picking up the phone.

Brian Kennedy is slinging them a deafy.

The “Rangers minded businessmen” who King talked about, but conveniently didn’t want to name, haven’t been forthcoming.

The current board members are keeping things rolling along with soft loans, but they’ll last only as long as their patience does.

When the next distress flare goes up from Ibrox, the one to signify that there’s water in the engine room, shorting the circuits and turning out the lights as well as silencing the radio, it’s more than possible that storm will already have changed everything around them.

There they’ll be, friendless, alone, in the midst of the big waves, waiting for the ship to go down.

King can’t save them, and no-one else wants to, but what will hurt most of all will be that lengthy wait for the Coast Guard … followed by the realisation that help is no longer going to come.

This is the Perfect Storm.

Hell mend everyone caught in the path of it.

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12 comments on “Sevco: A Storm Off Starboard
  1. You touched on it briefly, and I’m sure it was stated while being a new club, it certainly was before liquidation, putting on a game may actually cost more than it brings in (before player wages) the plus side being they are cash rich for a week or so.

    Can this be confirmed by looking through the published books ?

  2. Great article James, just being a pedant (as a naval communicator of 25 years). A Mayday is sent when external help is need from the ship, hope is not lost it just means you need someone else to help you survive which is rather spot on. Also, being really picky. Mayday is sent three times.

    See, if I am picking you up on banal issues like that then you\’re definitely doing NOTHING wrong… Keep up the good one, sir.

  3. The thing that has got me completely bamboozled is why the clubs have allowed this to happen. With their silence in this whole charade, it can only mean to me, that they have been complicit with everything that has went on and are ALL up to their necks. Not one club questioning the 5 way agreement, or EBT Ogilvie who allowed sevco to investigate itself and then the LNS abomination. Not one club with the integrity to challenge the cheats and cheaters, none. Depressing state Scottish football finds itself in, with NO leaders to steer us away from the cabal to clearer waters. HH

  4. We are in fact drowning and being sunk by the powers at be.
    Scottish football needs urgent change.
    I was all for the reintroduction of the sections of the league cup.
    But I was wanting it to be used by Celtic to give meaningful game time to our reserve players and to give proper games to our youngsters. Summer football is the way forward for this country,we should be starting our season in April and finishing for the end of November.
    We should be returning to a bigger league set up where we only play one another twice home and away.
    The product is failing,our champions league qualifiers continues to match us against Scandinavian teams well into their league programme. We have to match that, or we will continue to toil.
    Summer football and the removal of the Regan and Doncaster regime should be the united call from all football fans.

  5. James,

    At a party Saturday night and sitting next to a big Sevco fan.
    Couldn\’t help myself and asked him about the \”Ashley\” situation.
    1. The 5 million and I quote \” CHUMP CHANGE\” was the reply.
    2. Who is going to pay ? DCK was the reply.
    3. When ? I think he has payed it was the reply.
    4. The situation with the merchandising . When Dave brings his wealth over he will buy it out. Was the reply.
    Seriously I ask.

    At this point I\’m pissing my pants , of course the Sevconian is less than pleased.
    Great night .
    Hope I meet one this week.

  6. You’re gonnae laugh at me!…you’re gonnae scorn ewhat I think…BUT! the problem isn’t the SFA or Sevco…or this yin or that yin…the problem is money…cash..turnover..profit and loss…we Celtic fans want our club to compete with Arsenal…Barcelona…Bayern…NO! not compete we want to BEAT teams of that standard….Murray used every device that financial opportusim,,( capitalism?) offered….EBT’s etc to try and do that…With THEM! out of the picture, Scottish Fitba’s financial books take a hefty dunt….sorry but it’s true…..maybe theoir hordes of bigots slushing through my fenian blood are a blight on 21st century Scotland, but their slushing through that imaginary blood to queue at Parkhead’s, tynecastle’s, Pittodries gates,…. with £30 quid each in their hairy paw….the blazers at .Hampden, see the drop in income….recognise THEIR wallets are getting thinner and thus will do anything to pump out the bilges of the sinking SS Sevco…..and do ye know….when I look around Paradise, half full, I can see why……Could we sign a Sutton today,,,,or a Hartson….?? Dinnae think so….The truth is Scotland’s a wee country…..with a fault line running down its middle WE are on one side…. THEY on the other…..their half of the income created by that fault line…..keeps US and THEm…and the others afloat…without THEM….(or us) ….The SPFL/SFA ship takes on a dangerous list..the quicker THEY are LEGITIMATELY back in the SPFL, the quicker my beloved CELTIC will have to properly finaced by our own Green blazers and provide us with a team that can compete in Europe. ..sorry if I made you all sea sick!! but Fields of Green began the sailor-y analogy! S(H)ail S(H)ail! Liam Griffin

  7. Good article, except you need to look up the meaning of the word \’literally\’ and the correct context to use it in. Nonetheless, an enjoyable read 🙂

  8. The one club that really has the power & influence has sat back watching in silence as this sham has gone on and that is my club, Celtic. Lawwell & the board are enough clout to revolutionise Scottish football but they continue to do and say nothing? Selfish greed possibly! ????

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