I’ve spent the last few days arguing with people over their penchant for distorting reality. I’ve been pretty steamed. I blame George Osborne, as it started when the unionist “love bombing” ended during the week and the carpet bombing started instead.
Scotland has never taken too kindly to efforts to bully us, or not all of us have at least. We’ve never been prone to lying down, the easier for people to kick us. We tend to fight our corner, like tenacious wee terriers. I know that’s a stereotype, but it’s one I can live with.
Despite that, there are some of us who seem content to be fobbed off, to be lied to, to be led up the garden path, sold short, messed about, taken for granted, and I’m no longer talking about the independence referendum.
The authorities love people like that. They count on it when they’re planning to stitch the rest of us up. They know a few voices will be raised in protest, but the rest of the huddled masses will be silent.
They count on division, and I can’t help thinking they must have loved the last few weeks in particular. Aberdeen fans who hate Neil Lennon, take a bow, because the focus has largely been on you for what happened at Tynecastle, and if not them then it’s the Daily Record putting the Green Brigade on their front page, for reasons passing all understanding. It’s not as if important things were happening in Scotland, eah?
In the meantime, the powers-that-be have sneaked something by us. Some of us anyway. Some people either don’t get it or don’t care about it, but either way they’ve missed the move. We’ve been well and truly stitched up here.
I refer, of course, to the decision by the SPFL not to impose automatic relegation on clubs who enter administration.
A wee while ago, that was a done deal. Suddenly, it no longer had support. The excuses which were made for this sudden volte face would have made a Liberal Democrat feel right at home.
Questions which, apparently, never dawned on anyone a few months ago were suddenly being asked. Like what happens if a team wins promotion and then goes into administration? Are they relegated from the division they were due to win promotion from, or are they denied that promotion to the next tier? Apparently, these questions were keeping people up at night, so the idea itself was set aside. This is what we’re being told anyway.
What we have, instead, is a pathetic, yellow bellied, spineless fudge, where clubs which enter administration will continue to be docked 15 points for a first offence and 25 points for a second. Why do I call it a spineless fudge? Easy.
Because there are at least two clubs in the country for whom it would have no material affect at all, and one of them – it just so happens – looks certain to prove that when they are subject to the penalty before this season ends.
There’s barely a person outside Ibrox who does not believe Rangers is heading for another administration event. Some say it’ll happen by the end of this month, and whether you agree with that or not, there’s a feeling that it’s as near certain as anything can be. Rangers’ chief executive denies it, but then you’d have to deny it if you were involved in a last ditch fund raising exercise designed to try and spare yourself the embarrassment.
But it’s coming, and most people realise that it’s coming.
Under the SPFL “new rules”, this scandalous series of events – where Rangers has essentially financially doped itself up to the gills yet again, and is about to experience the crash – will spin out without any negative consequences in terms of the club’s climb through the ranks. The hole in the SPFL policy is wide enough to drive a tank division through, and rather than acknowledge that fact and act accordingly we’ve been treated to an embarrassing climb-down and the making of excuses that simply will not wash.
The simple truth is, in Scottish football it’s now possible to pump yourself up with enough financial steroids to put you beyond the reach of the rules. If you can assume enough of a points total by virtue of your spending money you’ve not got, you can probably avoid punishment entirely in the event it causes a crash. Only in this backwater of football could such a thing be embraced as a good idea, as a way forward, as a positive step.
Rangers are heading for administration, some will call it their second in recent years. Either way, a 15 point or 25 point penalty will make no difference at all. The club will still be promoted. They will, quite literally, have spent their way to a title with money they didn’t have, and the net effect of it will be … non-existent in terms of how the authorities treat them.
So the door is now open wide to clubs spending their way to promotion, or European places, or cup wins or whatever it might be, knowing full well that all they have to do is spend enough to buy immunity from the punishment that will be handed to them. It severs all notions that the Scottish football rulebook works on the principle of fairness and even-handedness.
So Hearts, who essentially spent their way into trouble will face relegation as a result of these rules and Rangers who essentially have died once because of their misdeeds and seem determined to seek the grave a second time will be promoted in spite of them. The cause is the same in both cases, but with very different effects. And this is called fair?
Buried in the same announcement is the ruling that the power to decide the fate of clubs which liquidate and seek to emerge as a NewCo has been taken away from the members clubs themselves and put in the hands of the SPFL Board, a quite scandalous manoeuvre which opens up all manner of dark possibilities. There are even provisions in those rules to make it easier for clubs to escape the consequences of their malpractice by going to the wall and reviving again as zombie clubs, merely by posting a bond. We have legalised cheating, and the supporters of our clubs barely noticed at all.
One cannot help but conclude that the situation at one club has, again, been allowed to over-ride the interests of the game as a whole. How many more times will the behaviour of people at Rangers allow Scottish football to be dragged to the edge of the abyss?
The answer; as often as we allow it to.
The people who’ve been sticking it to us are going to do it over and over again until we get a grip on them. Two years ago, we were faced with the prospect of sporting integrity being sacrificed on the altar of self-interest. The supporters of every club came together, united, in a common endeavour to put the blockers on that idea, but many of the people who would have sold us all down the river are still in power, where we left them.
We never finished the job, and the result is that the club they have spectacularly failed to regulate, that they have failed to hold to account, that they have failed to impose proper sanctions on, has ended up right back where it was before … and once again they’re trying to fashion a parachute.
When Rangers slides back into darkness, whether it’s this month or next, the credibility of a number of people will be utterly untenable. On various fan forums, there will be undoubted gleeing, and the jelly and ice cream parties will proliferate once more.
But we would be stupid if we let revelry be our default position. There are people who allowed this basket case football club to act again as if the normal rules don’t apply, and who seem determined to make sure that even when they do, they don’t matter.
On the day when the Charlotte Fakeovers documents pass muster and are allowed to be used in evidence in a court of law, we would be idiots not to go back over those documents and check again on what they mean for the future of our game.
The answers to the future lie in the past. The Big Lie of Rangers continuation was built on and supported by other lies, at the heart of which is the Five Way Agreement, perhaps the most disreputable document ever produced in the history of our sport. Its exact contents remain a secret, but a draft of it is included in those courtroom papers.
Those papers also appear to show that the SFA allowed a fraud to be committed on their watch. That they granted a license to a company that didn’t exist, to a man with no rights to it and to a club that otherwise might never have been.
Scottish football’s present system was built on this appallingly unstable foundation, and if that foundation collapses then everyone who had a hand in it must be gone soon after.
Aberdeen fans and Celtic fans have been at each others throats of late. You could repeat the pattern over the whole of Scottish football. As I’ve said many times before too, the club and its supporters who have been most severely let down by the SFA and the governing bodies are actually Rangers themselves. It was their failure to make sure Charles Green was the real deal, that his business plan was sound, that his backers were legit and that his claim to the club was valid, that have brought the whole of the game to this sorry, sorry pass.
Supporters need to come together, preferably as part of one organisation that can move the game beyond this. A united front to present, to get the kind of governing body we need; one that values the whole sport, and not just one or two clubs in it.
Any solution which puts more power in the hands of ordinary fans has to include Rangers supporters, whether some people like that or not, but they have to ditch the victim mentality which seeks to blame everyone else for the state they are in. Yes, you’ve been used and abused. Yes, you’ve been royally grafted like a couple of Yanks buying London Bridge. But it wasn’t your fellow fans who did it, it was the people inside your own walls and those who helped them get their hands on the keys; the media and those who “run the game.”
Next season, two clubs fresh from administration will meet in the Scottish Championship, battling it out for a place in our top flight. One of them will have been relegated because of a 15 point deduction. The other will probably have been promoted in spite of a 25 point “penalty.”
It makes us a laughing stock. Shame on our “authorities” for allowing it.
[calameo code=00138299326478c1e7cc6 width=550 height=356 view=book page=94 mode=viewer]