And You Dare To Call Us Sectarian?

133605071-c2bc15dd-b8a9-4c80-ab0d-7e6454f88526-1“No, no, no, it’s not ok, it’s not going to be ok, and I’ll tell you why.

Because you’re fair game, so I hope your knickers are clean because every seat-sniffing little shi@bag that’s ever filed a by-line is gonna be questioning you!

Because now it’s in the f@@@@@@ public interest, isn’t it? And they are gonna hit you with any sh@t they can find and you’re gonna be spread out in front of them like a trollop in the stocks!” – Malcolm Tucker.

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We’ve all heard that expression, right? I am amazed at the number of times you catch folk out doing just that.

Supporters do it all the time. This week is the first time – and it ought to be the last time – that a football club does it. Sevco’s statement on the behaviour of our fans was disgraceful, but it was also kind of amazing, in that way watching a posing twat walking into a lamp post is. Being lectured on sectarianism by their board of directors … it is jaw-dropping.

You could write an entire dissertation on the shameful baggage that clubs at Ibrox have carried everywhere with them, from a sectarian signing policy to UEFA fines for the song-book. But you don’t have to go as far back as that, all the way to the OldCo to find scandal and hate wafting down the Marble Staircase at you. You don’t even have to dig as far as the on-pitch outrage at Linfield just over a week ago, although that’s an excellent case in point.

No, you only have to look at the day itself to realise that Sevco’s sanity smashing statement about what their fans had to “endure” stank like a week old corpse. It takes formidable brazenness to point that self-righteous fury at another club’s fans when your own behaved, on the same day, like the lowest order degenerate scum.

I’ve written about the behaviour of a small number of Celtic fans over on The CelticBlog, so as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to accuse me of whatabouttery here can bin it. This isn’t about that. Did some of our fans let us down? Damned right. This is about not wanting – not being willing – to be lectured by anyone who’s double standard is quite so pronounced.

These people aren’t even hiding their own hatred; they wear it front and centre.

Some of them have said the effigies were a reference to suicide, timed to offend their fans and one of their former players, on a day which sought to raise awareness of the issue. I’ll tell you right now that I had no idea Saturday was Suicide Awareness Day and the vast majority of our supporters would have been equally clueless about it.

But of course, they will believe what they want to, that our fans learned this and timed their actions accordingly.

Well it was also the anniversary of Jock Stein’s death. I don’t know whether their fans knew that or not, but there were at least two banners on full display referencing a certain scandal. Did their fans time that well, or was it a coincidence?

I’m happy to accept the coincidence explanation, and not because I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt or because I think the milk of human kindness runs through their veins, but simply because some of these gutter rats fly those banners everywhere they go and have been smearing the great man’s name for years.

So they don’t get to talk about hate, or targeting individuals who were at their club.

They don’t get to make that accusation whilst there are scum amongst their number flying those flags.

We’re not standing for it, not putting up with that.

And I’ll go on, because the National Famine Memorial Day – commemorating the victims of the Great Hunger – was the day after the game, and our club wore a logo on their shirts in recognition of that fact. Did their fans know that? I neither know nor care, but they spent much of the game singing the sectarian, illegal, bigoted dirge entreating us to “go home.”

Coincidence? Who cares?

They’ve been doing it so long no-one even notices anymore.

On top of that we were “treated” to various renditions of The Billy Boys, with its expressions of joy about being up to their knees in our blood. That song is also illegal, and for a while it wasn’t being heard in the Ibrox stands. Now it’s back, as ubiquitous as it ever was, part of that “unique Ibrox atmosphere” Warburton and others go on about so much.

The sight of those effigies at Celtic Park made my skin crawl, but no more than those Sevco fans themselves once brought to Ibrox, one called Green and the other Whyte.

They can spare me the sermon on how vicious the image of the hanging dolls was, because as horrendous as they were their own had names, and wore suits, and did not represent an impersonal generic “they” but were specific, targeted, like one I saw once of “Neil Lennon” and those you see on the top of the Loyalist bonfires every year in July, like the one in the picture at the top of this article, the hanging effigy of Gerry Adams.

And what’s that he’s wearing?

Oh yes, it’s a Celtic top.

“But that didn’t hang from the stands at Ibrox ..” is doubtless the refrain I’ll hear on that, but it doesn’t take much imagination to draw the line from the people who hung that ugly thing and those the club’s players and officials – including some of the hypocrites who okayed that statement – were photographed posing with in Linfield the weekend before last.

Club 1872 can bite me as well; their own foaming at the mouth statement contained an oblique reference to our fans’ support for the people of Palestine, and what do you know? They’ve got a new logo, the six pointed star, so similar to the one on the flag of Israel.

I shake my head at the lamentable nature of that, and marvel at the mind who came up with it.

They will appropriate anything to score cheap points, but this one’s espcially delicious considering their history of Nazi salutes and the undercurrent of far-right, fascist sympathy that runs through their support like a virus. And let them wail about how it’s a Red Hand Salute instead, as if commemorating the killing of Catholics is somehow a better proposition than celebrating the murder of Jews.

Because as they and their media acolytes like to remind us, it’s the visual image that reeks; it’s not what people intend something to be it’s what other people think it is.

See? I too can utilise that particular weapon.

I’ll tell you what; their club and its shareholders group can give us the big talk when they get their own house in order.

They can point their fat ignorant fingers at Celtic Park when they’ve pointed them into their own stands first and said, with loud voices for everyone to hear, “You lot … clear out.”

But that will never happen, because as Rangers was built on the back of barely legal bank largesse, the NewCo, from the moment of its inception, from the moment Charles Green stood on a pitch in front of the media and said that Rangers had been targeted by bigotry and hate – birthing the Victim Lie in all its unholy splendour – was built on bile and hatred, all the better to spoon money out of gullible fools simultaneously preaching their supremacy whilst lamenting the reach and the influence of their myriad, fictious enemies.

Talk about an exercise in doublethink.

This lot are so far outside the margins of reasonable behaviour now that it makes your head throb trying to imagine what they are thinking inside that crumbling ruin of theirs, but see, that crumbling ruin is the point, that wreckage of a football club is the real issue, because if their supporters weren’t all focussed on this kind of nonsense they might instead be focussed on that, because there are real issues there and real problems looming.

But this board knows its audience.

They know its fans.

They know they can get away with anything, anything at all, if they blame every failure on somebody else.

They can blame us for what they like, as they tried with Motherwell fans, as they attempted to do with Hibs supporters. Aberdeen fans will be next, you wait and see, after they leave Pittodrie with a hiding and the gap is even wider than now.

They could go round the block for the whole of this season, hitting every club one at a time or all in one shot, throwing blame hither thither and yon. The media can get behind it, or ignore the double standard, as they like. But sooner or later a reckoning will come, with their own supporters if not with the governing bodies or the legal system.

Until then, this whole country – and their club too – would benefit from a long, enforced period of dignified silence over there. I don’t expect it, because dignity is another word they simply don’t understand any longer … if they ever did.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Crumbling State Of Sevco Threatens Our National Game

26783406.jpg.galleryOne of the ways in which I like to relax is to immerse myself in computer games. I don’t play the sort most people would associate with de-stressing though. I enjoy war games, the more complex the better. For that, nothing beats the Total War series.

The most misunderstood of these games is Empire, which is a sprawling epic set in or around the Napoleonic Wars. What made that era perfect for a wargame was that it was, historically, locked in almost constant conflict. Diplomacy in that age mostly involved getting out of the way of the guns, and the reasons why countries went to war were myriad.

It was a dangerous time right across the world.

Hindsight means we can look back at that era and spot all the places along the path to the wars which redrew the map. Yet even then it must have been obvious which countries were to be watched, which were to be viewed as potential threats. Empire lets you do that too. A country with a weak government, a history of treachery, and expansionist ideology and which is short on key resources is one you have to be wary of. If you’re one its neighbours and you’re not locked in a formal military or diplomatic alliance then start arming up.

We have one of those in the vicinity; not a rogue nation, but a rogue football club and the things that happen there have a tendency to cast a dark shadow far beyond the environs of Ibrox. This organisation still has the ability to self-detonate, and because our governing bodies haven’t taken the precautions that would limit the damage to the club itself any scenario in which they explode could still take much of the national sport with it.

Sevco really does resemble a rogue state, you know.

They have a weak government, run by a guy so thin skinned he makes Donald Trump look like a model of composure. Their history of backstabbing, concealment, dodgy deeds and bending rules goes back beyond the current incarnation and deep into that of the club who’s identity they’ve assumed. Their ideology is, in many ways, aggressively expansionist. They believe they are the biggest club in the land and they seek to be taken seriously as a continental player too. In spite of that their economic situation is not only dire, it’s desperate.

It is run by unscrupulous leaders who pander to the worst elements of the populace. It also operates largely unscrutinised by the media, and if it was a country it would be one of those Security Council members who can do as they please without incurring sanctions. When Rangers collapsed in 2012 people talked about how they’d been punished; in point of fact, they never actually were. What happened to them was simply the inevitable consequences of administration, and then liquidation. They were never actually held accountable for the various corrupt practices that got them there, and it’s that that still rankles many today.

Officialdom is either terrified of the Ibrox operation or broadly in sympathy with it. That’s one of the things that worries us the most. There are lots of rumours swirling around about the club and it’s future. Some are more than just speculation, some are grounded in hard fact and they are of grave concern to an awful lot of people. But the chances of anything ever being done to get to the bottom of them are virtually zero. A media blackout of anything negative is guaranteed over there; that’s what gave men like Murray, Whyte, Green and King license to do whatever they pleased.

So let’s analyse the situation over there, not as Celtic supporters looking to get a good laugh – although we can do that too – but as dispassionate outsiders.

First, is the club is in financial danger?

For me, yes, I absolutely do believe that it is.

Do we believe the governing bodies and the media are aware of that?

I don’t see how they cannot be. The facts are freely available. The club makes losses year on year and they’ve recently embarked upon a quite crazy transfer spree which although it hasn’t involved spending big on fees has increased the wage bill massively. This kind of spending is wholly unsustainable for a club which, even at the height of its power, never made the kind of money Celtic consistently has. When your running costs are nearly £20 million before you pay a footballer or coach and that’s barely met by what’s coming in via season tickets you simply can’t afford to go out and sign nine players and give others huge wage increases.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

They will burn through the season ticket cash insanely quickly, and then the real fun starts when they’ve got to find more.

As I pointed out over on The CelticBlog last week, we’re fortunate that the SPFL elections have given us – albeit narrowly – a board where the majority is in favour of sporting integrity. It’s this organisation that will be responsible for deciding where any Rangers III ended up. Stewart Robertson shamefully finding his way onto the SFA Professional Game board confronts us with another scenario entirely; it’s entirely possible that the SFA would bend over backwards for the NewCo even to the extent where they tried to force the league body’s hand.

Do I think that could happen?

Sadly, I have to conclude that yes, it could happen and probably would happen. When all you have to go on are the lessons of the past, well we can look back four years and see what they did last time. One would imagine they’d view this situation as even more desperate and fraught with dangers than that one was. Because there are issues here above and beyond any that a club at Ibrox has faced before.

There is a very real threat to even the existence of a club calling itself Rangers.

We’re in truly uncharted territory here.

Just the other day I was listening to an ancient Radio Scotland debate, the one where Chick Young and the idiotic Jim Traynor went toe-to-toe over whether or not Alastair Johnson had nodded his head to confirm that Rangers could go bust if the Big Tax Case went against them. It’s beyond dispute that Johnson and the board were fully aware of the likelihood of that and he didn’t need to inform anyone of that fact. But it caused quite the flare up between the two hacks, because back then none of them could grasp the size of the thing in their hands. They still can’t, which is why so many still cling to the Survival Lie like a comfort blanket.

The Tax Case was the sort of crisis that could have closed their doors, and everyone knew it. I once thought that the collapse of David Murray’s companies could have done the same.

Craig Whyte ran up £20 million worth of bad debts, with a huge sum owed to HMRC. They refused the CVA because of non-payment of PAYE; don’t let anyone kid you that the Big Tax Case is what shut Rangers down. It wasn’t part of the equation. HMRC folded that bill into the final sums which were handed to the liquidators, but with the case still pending at the time it was a phantom issue.

Rangers was closed because of those Craig Whyte debts, but even with the Big Tax Case folded in as long as the assets were available in a liquidation sale there was always going to be a club at the end of it, whatever it called itself, just so long as the debts weren’t part of the package.

Those assets were always tremendously undervalued, or at least that was the perception most people had about them. But what if we were wrong? What if the asset valuation was actually right on? There were no debts, sure, but perhaps those assets came with their own, hidden, liabilities? Recent evidence suggests that they did.

Imagine that Sevco, in its present incarnation, was presented with a bill they simply didn’t have the money to pay? They’d go into administration, right? Easy. Whoever the creditors were they’d get pennies in the pound and the debts would vanish. Correct, but what if that bill couldn’t simply be set aside? What if even a third version of Rangers was impossible without it being paid?

There are some bills which wouldn’t be so easy to dodge, such as one for essential stadium repairs. If such a bill ran into eight digits it would be one that administration, even liquidation, would not be able to erase. That’s as bad as it gets.

If Sevco were unable to get Ibrox up to speed, and were rendered incapable of using the ground, where exactly would that leave them? Season tickets would be rendered worthless overnight. Even if they moved to Hampden on a temporary basis – and the SFA would bend over backwards to let them do that – the impact on their supporters would be considerable.

The impact on their finances would be absolutely catastrophic.

The club has just been granted a new safety certificate for the ground. Even the release of that information is suspect, the manner of it and the tone. Yet this news would appear – on the surface of it – to close the story down completely, but like much else it’s nowhere near as simple as that. Glasgow City Council, unprompted, appeared to confirm that there were problems with the matter. They said there was a delay in giving it to them, and that this was the result of a clerical error. That news has been greeted with frank disbelief in many quarters, especially amongst those of us who know there are issues over there which are in dire need of fixing.

I said in a recent article over on The CelticBlog that if a certificate were granted and something went wrong that a lot of people – the club included – would be in the most serious trouble imaginable. There are some suggestions that the certificate has been granted without a proper investigation taking place; a lot of people do not think it remotely likely that the council would take such a glib attitude towards safety at a public venue; that ignores past precedent, financial concerns and that famous old ugly issue of politics.

Do I believe that a safety certificate might have been granted on a nod and a wink? I am not saying that’s what’s been done, but I sadly can’t conclude that it’s impossible or even unlikely, although I wish to God that it was.

For one thing, Sevco’s board would launch their own legal action against the council, for plunging them into financial chaos. That’s why even shutting the ground whilst a full health and safety investigation takes place hasn’t even been considered. That, in itself, would create enormous problems for the club with a new season about to start. A long term closure, enforced by the HSE, would spark a court battle that could expose the council to serious financial risks. For that reason alone it’s not as simple as it probably should be.

But there’s a much more serious issue at stake.

If Ibrox is closed on the evidence of the council, for a series of expensive repairs, Sevco would collapse like a house of cards. In those circumstances it is highly unlikely that the ground would ever be opened again. The effects of that would be enormous, for the local area, for Scottish football, for the council itself. Its officials would be blamed for closing the doors on the club, however unfair that assertion might be, and with elections coming next year that would hammer the final nail into the coffins of the Labour administration.

The dominos do not stop falling in a scenario like that.

But nor do they stop falling in a scenario where someone is hurt, or God forbid killed, in an incident where a structural flaw results in an accident. Then both club and council would be exposed to searing criminal and civil consequences who’s certain, and inevitable, ending would be to wipe Sevco away. That couldn’t fail to have the direst effects on the whole of Scottish football, our own club included, whether we like it or not.

When Rangers was on the edge last time, it was the so-called leaders of our game who talked it into the shredder.

They crushed its commercial viability, collapsing the value of every sponsorship deal we were likely to get and they would have cast sporting integrity itself aside if they thought they could have gotten away with it. God alone knows what they would do faced with a scenario where the Ibrox club looked like it could vanish forever.

When people ask me why I constantly write about Sevco, why I focus such attention on them, why I waste my time on it, the answer is patently obvious. It’s because of stuff like this. The potential for that club going nuclear remains. That creates dangers for every other club in Scotland. The SFA knows there are financial difficulties over there, but they’ve not insured the sport against that, perhaps because they are unable to believe it could all happen again.

It could. It might. The risks are real.

The one thing at Ibrox you can be absolutely assured of is you can’t predict what will happen there. Trouble can come right out of a clear blue sky. The next twelve months could be as momentous as anything we’ve seen in the last four years.

Be ready for anything.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A Toxic Association: How A Soldiers Charity Has Been Dragged Into The Ibrox Civil War

Brits_At_Ibrox_September2013Tomorrow, the Chilcot Report will be published and the clamour will start in Westminster about what it actually says and means.

I suspect it’ll say little and mean less than what we already know about the Iraq War, that it was an un-necessary disaster with consequences that continue to reverberate around the world.

Iraq had a profound, life changing, effect on me.

I was involved in the public campaign to stop that war. Our failure to do it destroyed my faith in the political process and plunged me into a deep personal state of anger and frustration that lasted for years. The demons were exorcised only after I’d written a book and took some time to process my thoughts on it all. I don’t kid myself that I’m over it. I’ll never get over it, but I don’t regard myself as someone who bore the full brunt of it either.

There are millions of people who did.

Some are alive. Most are dead.

Some of those who died wore military uniforms emblazoned with the Union Flag. Those who mourn them say they died for us; actually, they died for US and British politicians and oil interests. Their courage is no less because of it, but Chilcot is important because his report will acknowledge that fact and I expect we’ll see something incredible, a Labour Party leader who’ll stand up in Parliament and apologise for that decision and condemn his predecessor, the man who took it before most of us were even aware.

That apology is overdue.

To the people of Iraq first, and those in the wider Middle East which our actions plunged into turmoil which continues today. It’s also due to the families and friends of the servicemen and women who that government sent over there to fight, some to die, on a false prospectus.

It amazes me that those people would ever trust our political leaders again, and that isn’t good for any of us because we have a volunteer army in this country and it relies on that trust if it’s to keep recruiting.

Let’s face it, we’ll run out of soldiers long before we run out of wars for the politicians to send them to.

The reason I mention this is that tonight a story’s broken about a Sevco fan group allegedly using a website to sell merchandise bearing the Help for Heroes logo, without that organisation’s permission.

Congratulations to James Doleman on breaking that.

The website has been told to desist from doing this – probably under a legal threat – but that they did it in the first place is telling for a number of reasons, and that story segues into a much bigger one that’s bubbling away under the surface, which is that of the Sevco fan groups themselves and their expanding civil war which is going to make Labour’s look tame.

There are major problems at Ibrox, most of which the press won’t bother to fill you in on. They’ve been there for the past couple of years but King has been able to slap a sticking plaster on the bigger ones up until now, knowing even so that this isn’t going to hold forever. Blood still oozes out of a dozen open wounds and the time for changing the dressing on those he’s patched up is long since overdue.

Infections are spreading, and one of them is going to kill the patient stone dead.

This time there’ll be no SFA inspired recovery.

Their need for funds has ignited the war inside the fan organisations, and the realisation is dawning on a lot of folk that those groups are now in the hands of people who’ve got no interest in the wider support or the stated objectives those organisations were set up with. Of particular interest is the fate of Rangers First, a fan group which was established to purchase shares in the club and give the fans a real say in how it was run.

That organisation has effectively been subsumed by a larger umbrella group called Club 1872. Those who support that change like to remind people that the decision was taken by a vote of the members, most of whom had as much knowledge of the inner workings of that organisation as the average voter had of the European Union.

We know what happened when that subject was put to a referendum recently.

Things are murky at best.

Rangers First was set up in the aftermath of a liquidation; the members who formed it offered real leadership to a traumatised and shell-shocked support who needed it more than they ever had.

The plan – and it’s a noble and just one – was to seek influence with the board without getting too close to it. They were there to hold people to account, to do what people like Paul Murray and Dave King had failed to when they were directors at Rangers.

Fans raised money, as much as any fan collective in the country.

It’s to their immense credit that they put it in a bank account and established a commitment to using it only for the purchasing of parcels of shares as they became available. No-one could have begrudged them that. It looked like being the perfect working model for other fan organisations who wanted a say in the running of the clubs they loved.

That all looks set to end in tears amidst bitterness, acrimony and toxic mistrust and that’s not for nothing because £500,000 of their cash is already gone, and I’d guess it will never see the light of day again.

It was “loaned” to the club itself, to a board led by the self-same directors Murray and King who so failed in their own due diligence, on an unsecured basis with no repayment schedule to speak of.

It’s a gross insult to everyone who put their money in.

Three members of the Rangers First board have already resigned over this decision. Some inside the organisation talk about a culture of secrets and of boardroom influence in its running. One of the directors cited the involvement in Rangers First of James Blair, who is actually on the board of the club itself, as clear a conflict of interests as you could wish to see.

Opposition to this loan was widespread, and concerns over the nature of it were raised in public before the vote was taken and continue to be raised today. According to one source, at a recent symposium of supporters groups from clubs all across the country, the Rangers First team stunned the room by asking a representative from another Supporters Trust who’d given their own club a loan, whether they’d have agreed to a proposal that came without security or any timeframe attached.

They were told that would have been simply unthinkable.

That club’s fans got the same security as a bank would have asked for, and they’ll see each and every penny of their cash back.

This is just an abysmal turn of events, and even the hardest heart has to break for the guys who sunk their cash into this scheme because they were sceptical of the direction of their club, intent on holding its board to account, only for that money to be appropriated by the directors to plug holes in their own financial plan. You feel sick for those guys; they are ordinary supporters just like us and no matter how much we might laugh at times, these guys are victims here of an unscrupulous bunch who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Divide and conquer appears to be the tactic of the day, and you have to bear in mind that this is a battle being waged in part by the club against their own fans. So they favour some reps but not others. They invite some for tea and biscuits whilst the rest wait outside the door. Some are given reason to believe there’ll be seats around the boardroom table eventually, and in the meantime there are soft ones in or near the director’s box. Other fans are marginalised, shunted into the cold.

Those who speak out or question this … well there are forums that just love to flame grill these people, even going through their personal lives for information to hurt them.

It is low order stuff, for high stakes.

Rangers First could have raised £1 million by the end of this year and there are people out there making a nice living on the margins of this and they’ve got a vested interest in keeping the faith with King and his boardroom.

After all, with the club at war with its merchandising partner and the intellectual property up for grabs you could be talking about a multi-million pound operation run by a few “fans” if King grants them the franchise, as many believe is on the cards.

This is quite literally a fight for the integrity of the fan groups, but it’s also about big money and the politics of the club itself and we ought not to forget, or ignore, that. It has implications for Scottish football too; who knows who might emerge as leading the “official” fan organisation? Who knows what paranoid theories, ideas or ideology might be governing the second biggest support in the country?

That affects everyone who follows football here, not just the supporters of that club, many of whom would love dearly to drag it back from the knuckleheads and corrupt individuals who have their claws in it right now.

Will these groups be separate entities whose job is to provide the scrutiny the media won’t, or will they be populated by subservient creatures of the board, indirect fund raising conduits doing the job King promised to do himself?

When you look at it like that, it’s little wonder that a lot of people within these organisations are asking tough questions.

It’s a monumentally important issue.

Which is why the fight over it is has gotten so dirty.

Frankly, nothing is beyond King and his cohort.

Why should we be surprised that they’re openly trying to divide their own fans?

They’ve played the sectarian card in an effort to divide the whole of Scottish football. They’ve got their hooks deep into the media, spinning outright lies about “over-investment”, blowing the Victim Myth to spectacular levels. They sabotaged the club’s stock exchange listing and were thrown off the exchange, just so they could conduct their “business” in total secret, away from prying eyes, as some of us explicitly said they’d do when they were flatly denying that. Even some of the money they’ve “raised” is of questionable origin; this site is not the only one to look into the £5 million “loan” they got from the Far East, which some, myself included, believe could have come from King himself, laundered through a company in which he has a level of control.

This, of course, would be a criminal act; money laundering, in effect.

Yet it’s also a crime to use market sensitive information to destabilise a company’s share price so that you and others can pick up a controlling interest on the cheap; stories to that effect are doing the rounds too, and this goes back to when King and his people took over.

Tonight, Help For Heroes has told a website that raises money for Club 1872 to remove listings which include merchandise bearing their logo. I have no idea who told them about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the information came from within one of the fan groups who make up the structure of that umbrella organisation.

That drags Help For Heroes into the ongoing saga of this club and links their cause to Sevco’s chronic need for cash, in an unsavoury episode that shows some of the people involved with the club at their very lowest and running worst.

And this is the inevitable PR catastrophe that was always coming here, an outcome every bit as predictable as it is disastrous for a public body and registered charity that allowed itself to become far too close to this football club, its fans and the people who run it for its own good.

They were warned, and some within its ranks have harboured grave concerns about it for a while.

Those chickens have come home to roost.

In Aesop’s famous fable The Farmer and the Stork, the titular characters encounter one another when the stork is caught in a snare the farmer has laid out in his field. It wasn’t for the stork; indeed, it was set up to catch cranes and geese who were stealing crops. The farmer kills the stork anyway, over its protests, being caught, as it was, “in the company of thieves.”

The military association with this club has always been a bad reflection on the troops. There were obvious dangers in becoming too closely associated with it, and if the footage of serving soldiers singing sectarian songs didn’t do it, and the sight of others holding up flags emblazoned with loyalist paramilitary paraphernalia wasn’t enough then this scandal tonight should be the moment where a lot of the brass take a deep breath and extricate the armed services from what goes on at that ground; everything from the sale of scarves with the RAF logo beside the old Rangers badge to the annual lunacy of Armed Forces Day and all the negative publicity that ensues.

Why it was allowed to go this far I have no idea, and what makes tonight especially repulsive is not just the suspicion that some of the money raised from the sale of these shirts will find its way into the Ibrox coffers but the simple and breath-taking presumption of putting that logo on them in the first place, without asking permission.

That permission was just assumed; people within Sevco simply make no distinction any longer between Help For Heroes, the Armed Forces and the club. One is seen as serving the interests of the other as if James Blair was sitting on those boards as well. That level of cynical appropriation of something much bigger and more substantial than a football club is hard to comprehend soberly.

Chilcot’s report and the reaction to it will go some way towards restoring the trust members of the armed services have in government again; it’s to be hoped so anyway. We owe those people more than to send them to fight and perhaps die on the basis of lies.

That’s a disgusting and shameful moment in the history of this country.

The military needs to be seen to be above politics, and outside of its scope.

Yet tonight, on the eve of that report, some of its patrons are involved in yet another political scandal, a low-grade grubby one, over money and who controls a football team, and some will say they only have themselves to blame for it because they’ve failed to draw a line between the two before now.

At a time when the armed forces are gearing up for a busy time ahead they can’t afford to be perceived here, in Scotland, as the plaything of a football club that stands for such a narrow range of interests and ideas, some of which are anathema to a very many of us.

This is an unfolding story.

I don’t believe it’ll be the last article I post on it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A Union Jack, A Six Pack & Away They Go

England-fans-during-Euro--012If you’ve been watching the news over the last couple of days you’ll know that there’s been trouble in Marseilles, as England fans fought running battles with Russians, local supporters and the police.

Yesterday’s violence inside and around the stadium appears to have been caused by black shirted neds from the Moscow clubs, but in running into the square where white shirted EU sceptics had been holding court for days, telling everyone who’d listen that they’d taken over the city, the hooligans found willing participants for a right good rammy.

Sure, many of the wide-boys of yesteryear regretted it soon afterwards; after all, these are the “large donner kebab and a chicken pakora” sons of cities like Birmingham and Wolverhampton who perhaps thought holding court of a Saturday afternoon down in the Duck & Lion public house meant that they were hard.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Russian hooligans actually train for violence and most of them have the tools for it, as they’re all ex-national service lads. You’d do well to find a flabby gut amongst them. These guys weren’t the least bit intimidated by the “pride of the isle.”

In fact, they’ve been looking forward to meeting these folks for many years.

Nevertheless, whilst the white shirted louts were able to remain upright (a state of being that ended shortly after that first moment when an English fist met with an incoming face and said Englishman was shocked not to see fear in the others eyes but a steely kind of amusement) the Assorted Nutjobs of Bristol were game enough to stand their ground and give it a go.

The media has called this The English Disease; this arrogant booze fuelled lunacy best summed up on a TV documentary I saw where Darren Wells, a former member of Combat 18 and now a police informer, told the film-makers that it was all about being an “island race”, about how England once conquered the world, and how his kind of people wanted to make sure that when they visited a foreign city the people there remembered it for years afterwards.

One suspects he wasn’t talking about the way people in Seville remember Celtic fans.

What might not be as well know to some of you is that Northern Irish fans were also involved in violence over the weekend, fighting with Polish fans, police and locals in Nice. There’s no word to suggest that Welsh supporters were involved in similar with Slovakians or anyone else and I guess I don’t need to tell you that this never happens with Ireland fans and the notion that Scotland supporters would go abroad and riot is frankly ridiculous.

England has a peculiar problem, but as the behaviour of Ulster’s Finest proves it’s not one that is limited to them, and we don’t need to look too close to home to find another set of fans who have many of the same issues. Sevco supporters – and Rangers fans before them – have a similar disturbing tendency and without turning this into a sociology paper I’m going to take a stab at the reason why, and it’s relatively simple; it’s the Union Jack.

Now, England fans are rarely seen with it; they prefer the St George flag.

Northern Irish fans prefer their own take on the same, with their red hand in the middle.

Only a very few of them fly the old flag of blood and war, which some of us call the Butchers Apron.

But that’s part of the problem, you see, because the crazier elements amongst those two supports – and amongst the Sevco one – have their whole sense of nationality identity wrapped up in it.

Note that the Northern Irish and English fans sing God Save the Queen (as do those of Sevco of course) whereas Scottish and Welsh fans sing their own, entirely separate, national anthems.

Note, too, that the whole sense of rank nationalism which you get from the media down south during these tournaments is a peculiar muddle of Old English history and the collective one of this island.

The French are the enemy, because of wars that took place hundreds of years ago, but so too are the Germans and the Argentines, two countries Scottish fans have no animosity towards but who’s countrymen certainly killed more than a few of ours. Yet those wars – the Second World War and the Falklands War – were both fought under the Union flag.

England claims them as its own, and in the way in which they can’t stop talking about them and celebrating them – and I use that word deliberately; this is not commemoration, this is celebrating – they are welcome to them. It makes entire swathes of the population seem bloodthirsty at best, and it is one of the contributing factors in the distrust of foreigners and the casual racism that forms the core of the Leave campaign for the EU referendum.

There’s an unhealthy amount of this coursing through the British bloodstream and it has its dark heart in the West of Scotland, Ulster and in certain parts of England. It manifests itself in many ways, but foremost amongst them is the arrogance that led to drunken yobs in white tops swanning around a city in another country as if they owned the place.

Calling out ISIS, in France, following the two terrorist outrages which have happened there, was every bit as loathsome as the Nazi salutes Rangers fans once made in Tel Aviv, and they can prattle on about this “red hand salute” pish all they like, but even that excuse asks you to forgive the murder of Catholics instead of the murder of Jews, and I don’t really care what goes on in the mind of someone who makes such a distinction with a straight face.

Give these people their flag, give them a six pack of beer, turn them loose in any public setting and wait for the explosion. They always react true to type, and as we’ve seen in the press coverage over the last day or two, and as we saw following the Scottish Cup Final, there’s always somebody else to blame. So people rioted, attacked the police, fought with rival fans … but hey, they were provoked. Normal people don’t react that way to provocation though, but this appears to have slipped their tiny, infinitesimal minds, just as normal people aren’t moved to mouth foaming madness by the sight of an Irish flag or the Sign of the Cross.

We have a quaint little law here, of course, which criminalises behaviour that would “offend a reasonable person” but so many of these cretins simply don’t apply to that description and so much offends them these days that we may as will criminalise everything.

So this weekend, Marseilles joined the ranks of cities set upon by the Little Englanders. But what that really means is that it joined the ranks of cities which fell prey to a warped form of Britishness, and you don’t even have to go abroad to see it work. It was on full display, after all, in Manchester and all the excuse making with it.

Violence like this isn’t the “English disease” any more than paranoia is now the “Irish disease.” Because this is a British thing, a peculiar strand of Britishness, but actually that which is truest to the national nature.

Paranoia and the feeling that everybody hates them is one of its strongest and most obvious traits. Yet perhaps there are reasons why much of the civilised world can’t stand the sight of these people and it doesn’t matter whether there are tens of thousands of them, mob handed and tanked up, wrecking the town square or simply a handful of them in a Tenerife bar singing of how Britannia rules the waves; people automatically move the other way.

I am frankly sick of them, of the embarrassment and shame they bring to everyone on this island, of their sense of entitlement and their smug superiority.

I am sick of people making excuses for them, as if nothing done under the Butchers Flag was ever less than wholesome and pure; it didn’t get that name for nothing though.

Its adherents founded the slave trade. They brutalised all the known world. They subjugated countries beyond count, and only released their grip on those who offered the fiercest resistance and fought for their freedom. It flew over the first concentration camps and those who marched under it practically invented ethnic cleansing.

The outriders of the Empire were well and truly scudded yesterday, but the caravan of hate and loathing (most of it for the self) is already on the road and heading to the next French city, where easier pickings await. Welsh fans will share the town with them, and but for a handful of halfwits who follow Cardiff and who’s mentality is also of a peculiarly British kind – but who care not a whit for their own nation – I expect them to behave impeccably. Whilst most English fans will too, that section will be out in force, as ever, and ready to give it large.

Not satisfied with appropriating every war ever fought by the collective parts of these islands, these people simply can’t wait for the next one to present itself. As long it’s not lean, fit and wearing black. As long as it runs from the sight of a fat git in a Union Jack hat. As long as it can’t stand its ground under the Charge of the Shite Brigade.

For this is England. This is Britain.

It’s why I said Yes in one referendum and why I’ll vote Remain in another; because this bubble of poision has to be punctured once and for all.

If the EU as a whole had a vote in this one, I swear to God they’ve vote for us all to leave in an instant, just so they never had to listen to these whiny bigots ever again, and I cannot blame them for that at all.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A “What If …?” Scenario That Should Scare The SFA

1280px-HK010I’m going to tell you a story here, and please bear with me.

Before I do I want to thank two people; one directly, and one anonymously.

The direct thanks I send to the writer of the John James blog, whose recent works have been great reference points in helping me get to the bottom of a murky story I heard earlier this year and which another source all but confirmed over the weekend.

That source is the one I’d like to thank anonymously. He knows who he is and why it’s important that I don’t use his name.

What I am about to write for the next few paragraphs is all fact.

I’ll tell you when I start speculating, because it’s important to separate the two things.

On a day when The Guardian is publishing unsubstantiated crap in an effort to attack the Resolution 12 team, and maintaing that Scottish football governance issues are of concern only to Celtic and our fans I am not about to claim, for one second, that what you are about to read is all referenced and properly sourced and 100% accurate.

I’m not even going to tell you the specifics of what I’ve heard; I’ll give you the background and a hypothetical scenario based on some of it, and what I don’t write you can check out for yourself. Some of it is already online.

You can then decide what you think.

Nothing I’ve seen is actual evidence; I want to reiterate that now, although I’m equally certain neither John James nor my other sources are going on rumour alone. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t write an article based on such rumours, but it is not how real or not these stories are that bothers me and made me decide it was a worthwhile piece.

I’m writing it because this isn’t impossible. It isn’t even implausible.

It’s all very … doable.

And that’s what worries me.

This story starts in South Africa in 2013, when the tax authorities there brought an end to their campaign of chasing the assets of, and threatening to jail, one David Cunningham King, now the chairman of Sevco, otherwise referred to on the various Celtic blogs as the “glib and shameless liar.”

One of the key provisos of the deal was that he “repatriate his overseas assets.”

In other words, they wanted his cash reserves and his future earnings right where they could see them, where they could keep a close watch on what he was up to.

One of those overseas assets was a company called NOVA.

He sold that company to another, MicroMega. The South African government got the proceeds of the sale.

NOVA had been a pretty important part of the King portfolio. It had subsidiary branches in China, Brazil and Peru.

But it was a strange deal, one that bore scrutiny. It was so strange that the South African government had to independently investigate it to make sure the shareholders at MicroMega got themselves enough bang for their bucks. Because, you see, MicroMega is partially owned, and chaired, by none other than David Cunningham King himself.

This isn’t uncommon in the business world, and here it was a perfectly logical step.

King still does a lot of business abroad and NOVA still has offices in various nations; what’s changed is simply that the company now has its headquarters in South Africa. Although MicroMega also has subsidiaries in various nations around the world, they are registered at home, whereas the registered offices for NOVA had been in Hong Kong.

At various times in the last two or three years I’ve looked into King for this and for the CelticBlog.

It wasn’t hard to discover that his reported wealth these days is mostly on paper, tied up in the share value of companies he is sitting on the boards of and has shares in.

It’s an established fact that all of his disposable assets were seized by the government; the cars, the houses, the wine cellars. His liquid assets were either turned into cash to pay the fines or likewise seized. The settlement didn’t wipe him out, and in comparison to the likes of us he’s still a wealthy man, but it didn’t leave him much to “invest” in Sevco either.

But he still works hard and he has a lot of shares, and based on the values of those he still appears to be quite well off.

But this has always been a fundamentally misleading indicator of actual wealth, because if, say, Mark Zuckerberg were to announce, tomorrow, that he was putting up the entirety of his Facebook shareholding as a public offering, the value of those shares would go through the floor as people wondered why he was bailing out.

King’s done that before, of course, which is what got him into trouble with SARS in the first place, and although it is possible for him to liquidate shareholdings in little chunks, this potentially has a negative impact on the value of the rest of his shares.

In June of last year, King sold 15 million shares in MicroMega for a value of £8.5 million.

I’ll get back to that number shortly.

South Africa is a country that takes a dim view of the things Dave King did in his tax avoiding years.

Other countries have a similarly dark attitude towards tax evasion, but South Africa take it more seriously than most, in particular because much of the cash they lose out on ends up overseas. Their government likes to keep their national wealth in-country, as it were, which is one of the reasons King was told to “repatriate” his assets back to where the tax man could get at them.

South Africa also has rather robust exchange control regulations, which heavily penalise high worth individuals who want to move cash out of the country. They’d prefer that cash was invested, and taxed, right there at home, for obvious reasons.

There’s a financial cost to transferring money out of South Africa.

There are also regulations in place which require disclosure on where the money is going and what it’s ultimately for.

These rules would be even more rigorously enforced with a man like Dave King.

Without prior approval from their government and Treasury, no resident can transfer cash out of the country in any significant sums. There’s simply no getting around that fact.

This site has long argued that the combination of Dave King’s tax settlement, the government’s insistence on the repatriation of assets and the harsh exchange controls which the South African government has in place, make it virtually impossible for him to “invest” in the club to the extent he and others seemed to suggest he would.

In short, even if he had that kind of wealth he’d never be allowed to spend it catering to the egos of Scotland’s most ungrateful and impatient football fans.

This site and others are on the record as having said that King has spent precisely nothing on NewCo Rangers up until now, save for the purchasing of some shares and giving a loan of £1.5 million in the name of New Oasis Asset Limited, which is referenced as a “King family trust” and, for all we know, doesn’t even have his name on it.

Any further “investments” should be very easy to demonstrate because something like that would leave a very long paper trail.

Or so I long suspected.

At the same time, this site and others have long argued that the present directors, none of whom are high worth individuals – save for Douglas Park, who has always shown great reluctance to pour it into the black hole of a football club – will be able, or are willing, to keep on funding the club from their own “soft loans.”

The only person in the history of Sevco who had the financial wherewithal to do that into perpetuity is the one King has worked so assiduously to push away; Mike Ashley, who’s Sports Direct billions could have kept the lights on indefinitely.

That means that without “outside investment” sooner or later it’s going to fall on King to keep his promises, or not.

King can buy shares in, and invest in, any company he likes, just so long as he does it through a South African registered “vehicle”, and the tax man knows how it’s been done. There are “foreign portfolio investment allowances” which have to be run through registered bodies, and individual allowances, which can be up to £400,000.

It is possible to get certain funds abroad for such purposes.

Buying shares in foreign registered companies comes under the exchange control laws and his initial share purchase, plus the £1.5 million in loans, probably doesn’t push him over the threshold depending on what’s in the “family trust.”

In the main, however, the more money he has to “invest” the more likely it is that the South African government will draw a big line and subject him to those more rigorous investigations and rules. South Africa’s government is not of a mind to let any high worth individual – far less one they had to chase for years – take significant sums out of their country.

And this is where our friend Keith Jackson comes in.

On 7 December 2015, Jackson wrote one of his best articles of last year, if not the very best. In it, he questioned King’s “investment” in the club and wondered where the £5 million which they had recently announced would pay off Sports Direct was going to come from. It was one of the first articles to actually ask hard questions about the Sevco board and their long term plans.

And a certain man in South Africa was spooked by that, because he has always been able to rely on a subservient media in order to get the things he wants. He had made promises and Jackson was asking he keep them, but the Record writer was also casting doubt over the veracity of a lot of King’s claims and that bothered him most of all.

Was Jackson reading up on South African exchange control laws?

No, he was simply wondering why, when it only takes 11 hours to fly here from Johannesburg, that King hadn’t already simply delivered the money and given it to the Newcastle owner.

For all it was a ridiculous notion, there was a core of truth in what Jackson actually said … and he was right to be asking the question. He should have asked more questions though, such as where King had allegedly found the two “investors” who were said to be putting up the bulk of the cash. Jackson had doubts about those guys, and those doubts were not without foundation.

Whether Jackson pushed King and his people into speeding things up or whether his intervention was shrugged off inside Ibrox and utterly ignored is something we’ll never know, but that money duly found its way to Ibrox shortly thereafter and the debt to Ashley was cleared. The Sevco board agreed another £1.5 million in loans, and they were able to get through the season.

Just a month after he had written that piece, with the money now in place and with Ashley paid off, Jackson was singing a very different song. Yet oddly he wasn’t giving the credit where it was supposed to be due.

In fact, he was telling everyone that King had actually invested “north of £7 million” in the club himself.

Myself and others mercilessly and brutally mocked him for that assertion.

Where did he get that number from?

Was it “direct knowledge”?

Was it a wee emailed memo, perchance?

Something thrown to him by a PR firm?

If it was then it was the daftest ever released in the history of public relations in Scotland, because it has been focussing minds ever since. As John James has already pointed out, the total “take” Sevco had brought in since King became chairman was not far from that sum and we know much of that had come from other members of the board.

But there was still that rather large chunk of money that came from elsewhere, from “Hong Kong-based fans” Barry Scott and Andy Ross.

Sadly, for Sevco, it quickly became apparent that Ross had some “background”.

In December 2014, he had been charged by the Securities Commission over there, and found guilty of numerous failures in relation to his handling of an audit involving a company that was being investigated for fraud. The charge was “improper personal conduct” and he was fined and banned from serving on an SEC-regulated company for a term of three years.

It’s not clear if he knows, or has done business with, George Latham, the other Hong Kong based Sevco investor, who is rumoured to be deeply unhappy with things at the club. Perhaps he’s aware of stuff that the average punter isn’t. I have heard that he was explicit in demanding that King finally show the others the colour of his money.

And this is where we head into speculative territory.

According to the people I’ve spoken to, and as  John James has suggested quite openly, neither Ross nor Scott has that kind of money. With Ross unable to sit on a board of directors, and with his net worth unknown, we can’t really say whether that’s true or not, but it can’t be easy to just find £2.5 million that’s going spare, even if, as some have suggested, there’s a Wonga rate of interest on it.

If these guys don’t have that kind of money, if John James and others are right, then they’re not the source of the £5 million which is attributed to them in the Sevco accounts and which so famously bought Ashley off and ended his hold over the club.

We know the money is real, but if it didn’t come from them then where did it come from?

Let’s start there. Let’s speculate a little.

Did that money originate elsewhere?

Say, in South Africa?

Was it funnelled through Hong Kong and into the accounts at Ibrox, with those two “investors” playing patsy, and either taking their cut of the interest or being looked after some other way?

In short, did that money come from Dave King himself?

First, with King’s financial situation being what it is, where would he get the cash?

Well, I suppose, if we’re speculating, that it’s possible the genesis of these funds was the £8.5 million in shares which he sold in MicroMega in June last year. This, after all, was the very company he used for the incestuous deal that let NOVA become a South African company, although it was based in Hong Kong. In fact, isn’t it also possible that the £5 million actually went through NOVA itself?

As I said, I’m not saying this is true.

This is all speculative, a “what if?” scenario.

But the way the game is run here in Scotland, it’s not impossible.

It’s not even improbable.

Because this isn’t even about King, not really. This is a scenario that could as easily have involved Craig Whyte or Charles Green or the Easdales or whoever else has sat on the Ibrox board over the last few years. The loopholes that allowed those guys to get their feet under the table are still wide open, and God alone knows what might happen in the future if they stay like that.

As to King himself, well what he does with his own money is his lookout. He’s already proven to be a little slippery, but also a little stupid. In the documented instance which he’s famous for he did, after all, get caught.

I expect someone who screws up that badly would be odds-on to do so again.

It’s not as if there aren’t people looking.

As simple as it would be for someone like him to move money around like that and find ways of doing it, he has to know he wouldn’t be operating in the dark. He’d be doing it surrounded by eager eyes.

I’m 100% certain that SARS keeps a close one on him and they aren’t the only ones. He has seriously pissed off an actual billionaire, a guy who knows his background and will be very aware of South African exchange controls and the corporate structures at NOVA and MicroMega, and will be understandably curious about what the source of the £5 million which paid him off is.

Is that a guy you’d want digging into you?

We already know King provokes him to a foolish, even dangerous, degree but could he really have been that stupid?

Ego does things to people. It doesn’t keep them smart.

But like I said, that’s his business.

If he’s done something daft then it’s on his head, and there’ll be no dodging the bullet this time.

The issue here, as ever, is football governance or what passes for it in Scotland, because I cannot imagine another association where a scenario like the one I just proposed is even remotely possible, in light of all the outside agencies supposed to be watching.

What troubles me is this; what does it mean to Scottish football?

Because we’d be talking about money laundering here, and that’s the best case scenario. That’s the long and short of it, and that goes well beyond the usual nonsense we often hear about. This would be the illegal transfer of funds from one country to another, evading financial controls and other laws, and probably screwing with the tax man into the bargain. Again.

It all comes down to how this kind of thing could easily happen with the people we have running the Scottish game. As John James has pointed out, if someone wanted to do this kind of thing he only has to look at the way the media ignores any issue it doesn’t want to deal with and the way in which the SFA turns a blind eye to all manner of things, no matter how dark.

None of this should be possible with the proper controls, but it is.

Good governance doesn’t even have to be that complicated, not in this case.

I cannot overstate enough times that Dave King is an open book. His history is not a secret and neither is the fact he needs to comply with South African laws involving investment and the transfer of funds. That’s a fact and whether he simply found two Hong Kong based mugs or whether he used them as conduits for a scam is beside the point.

To get where he is right now, he had to pass a “fit and proper person” exam.

We all know that. Ashley took the SFA to court to find out how they arrived at the decision, and he demanded they make their report on it public. He hinted at some deadly information in there. I think I know what that information is. It’s not what they asked King or what answers he gave. It’s what they didn’t bother to ask him at all. It’s the answers they didn’t even look for.

When he sat in front of the SFA for his fit and proper person examination, how much did they really want to know?

Did they quiz him on South African financial regulations?

How much clarity did they seek about how he was going to meet all of his stated commitments about investing tens of millions of “his children’s inheritance”?

We know it’s impossible.

But this guy was presenting himself as the saviour of the club, in the same manner Whyte did, with glib assurances painting over blatant bullshit. Remove Dave King and his grandiose and utterly ridiculous promises and isn’t Sevco a club in serious danger of collapse as a going concern already?

It’s his alleged wealth that underpins the “business plan”, the one on which the club getting a UEFA Level License to compete in the top flight next season legally depends … this is right there, in black and white, in the SFA and UEFA rule books.

Wasn’t it important to know where the cash was coming from?

Surely they didn’t just accept all that nonsense about how easy it would be to find “outside investment”?

Who better than Stewart Regan knows how hard that is?

This is a Scottish club that emerged from a liquidation, which is still haunted by a tax scam and wIth no record of posting profits. As Phil is fond of saying, “this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.”

Sevco’s short term business plan is wholly dependent on Dave King’s promised pot of gold, and as we’ve seen even if that exists he’s not going to be able to use it for that purpose, not legally, not by any means that would be palatable to his government or in line with the deal he’s made with them. So where’s the money actually coming from?

Some folk in a position to know assertain that everything about the Hong Kong deal is fishy. That nothing about it really fits. Where the Hell did King find these guys? Why didn’t they “invest” before? Their £5 million could have bought the assets of the club in 2012, so why now? Why have they only now popped up out of the woodwork?

They were initially touted as being “Rangers men.” But they were previously “investors” in Workington Reds, where they were similarly packaged as “fans” investing their cash in an act of love.

It’s not hard to come up with tenuous links between Ross and King, if we wanted to take speculation to absurd heights. Ross works for Baker Tily. They are one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, so it may just be a coincidence that they’ve worked with NOVA. That they’ve got offices in both Hong Kong and Johannesberg. That there are other subtle connections.

But they were also linked with Sevco itself.

In August 2015 they were being touted as the club’s official auditors, and in an odd turn of events Phil reported that a “senior client” of the company had strongly objected to that. He sent them a bunch of questions on the matter, alleging that they’d turned down the opportunity and that Campbell Dallas LLB had been approached instead. As it turned out, they were duly appointed a day or two later.

Although The Offshore Game and the Tax Justice Network guys have had all the ink recently, they’re not the only NGO to have looked into the dark corners of football. In 2009, The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental agency, wrote a report called Money Laundering Through The Football Sector. It is a damning, shocking, and incredibly prescient piece of work.

Since then, of course, Scotland has seen a parade of less than savoury characters troop across the landscape singing The Billy Boys. As one guy on TSFM said recently (and thanks to him, REIVER, for posting a link to the FATF report, “organised crime has its grubby hands in sport all around the world why would Scotland be left out?”

Who says we’ve been left out?

Does any of this even remotely compute at the SFA? Do they give a damn? Can something as potentially damaging as this really happen right under their noses? Of course it could. Because it’s happened already.

I mean, don’t these people have a fiduciary responsibility to scrutinise the means by which a football club comes into millions of pounds?

My God, doesn’t that open the doors wide to corruption on a grand scale?

How do we know clubs aren’t being financed by the proceeds of crime right now?

That there isn’t at least one Scottish club paying its bills with drug money or loan sharking debts or worse? The Ashley loans were at least open and transparent, his company at least reputable if not entirely wholesome.

King couldn’t wait to get Sevco off the stock exchange. We’ve all wondered why. Is it because, as he puts it, that it’s expensive and wasteful of time and effort? Did he really ditch is so he wouldn’t have to fill in a few forms? It’s a lot of inconvienance, including not being able to start a share issue, just to save on the admin costs.

Or was there another reason? A darker one?

One more to do with transparency and openness?

These are just some of the reasons why a scenario like the one I’ve outlined is more than just a flight of fancy and the stuff of the internet Bampot. We have rules here so lax you could get around them in a hundred ways, and it wouldn’t take an international super villain out of a Bond movie to come up with a dozen strategies for pulling it off.

Doesn’t our football association need full transparency about these sort of things?

Isn’t it way past time for fit and proper person criteria to do what it says on the tin?

Isn’t it time for financial fair play to be introduced so stuff like this is impossible and not just unbelievable?

Because the only reason I’m not wholly convinced of this is that it just sounds so absolutely out there and unreal because of all the implications of it.

And that begs one last question; at what point does a failure in governance become complicity?

When does looking the other way graduate to something more serious?

Is wilfully ignoring a possible criminal act not, itself, a criminal offence?

The SFA is a public body. It has responsibilities beyond covering its own backside and that of a certain football chairman.

If the SFA has helped Dave King commit a crime here – either by accident or design – then not only should heads roll but people should be indicted alongside him as co-conspirators or accessories after the fact.

I can’t put it more bluntly.

This policy of “look the other way” when it comes to Ibrox has been disastrous for the club and for Scottish football but we’re on a whole new playing field if a scenario like the one I just proposed ever comes to pass and the authorities find out about it.

People will say this is a crazy suggestion, and at any other association it would be.

As those who’ve been following the Resolution 12 situation though, we know what these folk are capable of.

The SFA knew what Whyte was planning months before he pulled the plug, allowing Rangers to trade whilst insolvent and continuing to run up debts it had no intention of paying.

They allowed the assets of the liquidation to be bought by a company which wasn’t named on the original sales documents, and they gave that company a license.

They allowed Green to sell shares when it was apparent to many they might not be his to sell and they stood back whilst his board of directors investigated itself over links to Craig Whyte, links which had a direct bearing on that share issue.

I have long contended that this might have made them party to a fraud.

Does it still sound unlikely to you?

Americans have a law that I sometimes think would work very well over here; they call it RICO. The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation Act, which seeks to destroy entire groups involved in what the FBI refers to as a “continuing criminal conspiracy.”

Regan, Doncaster and others have gone out of their way to help first Rangers and then the NewCo avoid the scrutiny every other club would get, and through all of it their only defence is to accuse those of us who question it of bias and being motivated by hate.

What’s the line from The Godfather?

“It’s business, not personal.”

This wouldn’t be a shock if it turned out to be true, and people at Hampden who should have known better either averted their eyes or simply pretended it wasn’t happening at all. For people who understand the words “continuing criminal conspiracy” better than most, having assisted Craig Whyte in one, this wouldn’t be personal.

It would just be business as usual.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Resolution 12 Campaign Leaves Sevco Facing A European Ban

1939633_w2This is an article that was almost written last week, but then the need for it was removed at a stroke by a late Hibs goal at Hampden.

Amidst the mayhem that followed that goal, this story was put on the back burner. Events have moved forward this weekend.

For the last couple of years, a group of dedicated Celtic supporters has been working away, diligently, on the matter we call Resolution 12. Much is at stake; the credibility of the game here in Scotland, SFA reform and exposing the truth about some of what was going on during that period.

Yet Celtic fans, and those of other clubs, still appear largely ignorant of the real scale of what’s up for grabs here.

Celtic supporters have long wondered whether or not getting to the roots of this will do much more than embarrass Stewart Regan and his cohort at Hampden.

This was never about embarrassing people.

One of the consequences of it will be removing them from office entirely.

If it’s found that the SFA helped Rangers to deliberately conceal tax payables owed during the UEFA licensing process then that’s the ball game for everyone involved in that matter. They are gone.

But there’s always been another side to this, and some of the Resolution 12 guys have been wholly aware of it for a while, and their legal reps and those at the SFA most certainly are.

Celtic is well aware of it too, and it’s one of the reasons for their reticence in making a public statement. I am glad to be able to make that clear, and it’s something that only came to my own attention in the last weeks.

Let me make something else clear; Celtic has no interest in this beyond establishing the facts. Our club doesn’t want blood here. It’s not the reason the club or fans are pursuing this matter and you know this because at no time have the guys behind Resolution 12 presented demands for that in a public forum, as a stated objective of the campaign.

But it’s always been accepted that if their case is proved that there will be consequences for people.

So what are these consequences and what do they mean for us?

Well I can tell you now that one of them will be Sevco facing a lengthy European football ban.

Yesterday, the Offshore Game published an addendum to their stunning report into these issues, a document which clarified certain issues. But it also mentioned the UEFA disciplinary committee and its remit to punish clubs after the fact.

I’d heard that might be a possibility in this case a week or two ago. I had been planning to write a piece on the day after the cup final, if Sevco had won, but of course that game went far better than many of us had expected.

But the issue is now starting to come to light anyway. People are beginning to open their eyes to the true consequences should Celtic fans and the club manage to compel a UEFA inquiry into these matters.

This explains a few things about the last week, and in particular the reason Sevco is going on the offensive over the level of “hate” they have to endure. For these things are all connected, all entwined, and people at Ibrox are laying the groundwork for a fresh PR campaign in the event their club is hauled before the beaks.

It will be the most important PR offensive in their history.

Over the last couple of years I’ve written extensively on what we refer to as The Victim Myth, but never more so than over the last few days.

That myth has been allowed to grow to monstrous proportions and at the centre of it is the notion that all of Scotland is determined to hurt their club and that we all played a role in the destruction of the OldCo and would happily send the NewCo the same way.

In the last week I’ve written numerous pieces in response to these fantastic and paranoid claims, but as I wrote every word I knew there was more to them than simple self pity.

When you consider that at the same time as this wailing is going on in the background, that board members have been telling the press that the game has to “move on” you see more to their bitching than might at first be plain.

Go ever further, consider that King himself actually openly criticised the Resolution 12 guys earlier this month, accusing them of having an agenda. Why would he say that, if these issues were not able to impact Sevco?

It’s here that you start to see the outlines of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

People at Sevco are worried about this campaign.

Aside from the Victim Myth, the other toxic issue at the centre of Scottish football is that other great lie on which so much of our game is built; the Survival Myth.

Anyone familiar with these issues knows this one is a real article of faith for many of them. In fact, some of them have accused those of us who scotch it of using “dehumanising language” to refer to them.

I call them Sevconians. They object to that word. Others call them zombies. They object to that even more strongly. One demented article from yesterday appeared to compare the atmosphere in Scottish football to that in Nazi Germany with the Sevconians in the role of the Jews.

It’s an offensive idea, and not just because of how over the top and crass it is. After all, there’s only one club in this country who’s fans stand accused of having used the hated salute of Hitler’s despotic regime; I’ll give you a clue. It isn’t Dundee.

These sort of articles are intended to wed the Victim and Survival Myths, and fuse them into one, and they are a recent addition to the Sevco PR arsenal.

Believe me when I tell you that’s not a coincidence.

Until this week, when the Victim Myth was hyper-charged, I had believed the Survival Myth to be far and away the more damaging and corrupting of the two. In some ways it still is, but it’s not as dangerous to wider society as this notion that their support are social pariahs, “denied their human rights” as that hysterical piece yesterday alleged.

The Survival Myth is hateful not only because it denies reality but it places our game in mortal peril. If this is idea is followed to its natural conclusion clubs which overspend will know they can dump debts, reform and carry on as before.

It will allow guys like Whyte to come and go as they please, looting clubs like a business at the centre of a Mafia style “planned bankruptcy” before walking away knowing the football authorities will barely blink an eye.

It would be open season for con artists, charlatans, even organised crime groups, to come in and use Scottish football for all manner of schemes and scams, and we can’t survive the damage that would do.

Yet at the heart of the Survival Myth and its inherent contradictions, I always believed there were dangers for the club itself.

When Mike Ashley’s loans were all that was keeping their lights on and he seemed as if he might get the whole thing in his grip I wrote that the Survival Myth and this daft idea the holding company and the club were two separate things had created a deadly possibility; that the holding company might well end up in the hands of someone who made a similar distinction. With no ownership over its own stadium, image rights, intellectual property or merchandising the club would be no more than animals in a circus, there to provide the entertainment to a dwindling band of followers, with the company cutting accordingly.

I still think it’s the most stupid – and potentially deadly – separation of a football club and the people who run it that I’ve ever heard of.

How close did Sevco come to ending up just like that? At one point Ashley had an iron grip on nearly the lot of it but ironically the club itself was too unsure about its own hold over the stadium to grant it to him as loan security.

What underpins the Survival Myth is the Five Way Agreement and it’s here the current problems for Sevco exist and present the gravest danger should Celtic fans succeed and UEFA open an investigation into the granting of the European license for 2011-12.

Because that document, whilst giving Sevco a “no title stripping” guarantee, also forced them to accept certain things. The key one was that it should assume responsibility for any “football penalties” the SFA chose to levy.

In the end a dirty, grubby deal was done and those penalties amounted to nothing … but it’s in there, in black and white, and nothing anyone does can change it now.

One of the funniest things in all of football is listening to a Sevco fan or journalist try to square the circle of liquidation and death and the “continuation of history.”

The current club is always trying to distance itself from the old one did, but they want all the good bits for themselves.

The SFA tried to ride the middle of the road on the issue too and it still sits uneasily on the perch where they placed it.

The Resolution 12 guys can blow that all to Hell.

If UEFA opens an investigation into these events – as looks increasingly likely – they will ask for all the information that’s in the public domain and a lot more besides. If they conclude that people with-held information from them there will be sanctions.

Some of those sanctions will fall on the SFA, as the licensing body. Associations have been heavily fined by UEFA for their failures to get to the bottom of licensing disclosures.

But UEFA will also punish the club, and that’s where life becomes interesting.

Because they’ll ask the SFA whether it stands by the claim that Sevco and Rangers are one in the same. What the SFA says in response will dictate whether the Survival Myth is reversed or whether its tenants are upheld.

UEFA do not make the club – company distinction, and they never have, but in handing down a punishment they will be guided by SFA conventions. One of the big issues the SFA will face is the legally binding “Five Way Agreement” wherein whatever they argue, they and the club will still be bound by its numerous clauses, one of which is that Sevco will accept any “football punishment” levied on Rangers.

And then there’s the Survival Myth itself. The SFA cannot escape a choice on that and if they uphold the Survival Myth UEFA will drop the hammer on Ibrox and there’s simply no way anyone can mount an argument against it.

The NewCo will be banned from European competition from anywhere between one and three years. There will be little prospect of an appeal, because the only defence Sevco and the SFA will have is the one they have been busily destroying for the past few years, that these actions were carried out by another club.

Just making that argument will burn the Survival Myth to the ground once and for all and fully vindicate all we’ve said these past few years, which is why the SFA and Sevco are going to have no choice but to stick to their guns on this, to pretend the Ibrox club is still Rangers and take whatever’s coming their way. For either organisation to reverse course on this issue now would be devastating for them.

Had Sevco won the Scottish Cup this would have been looming in front of them all summer long. As it is, the issue remains but it’s no longer one that will disrupt anyone’s passport application process.

Yet I fully expect that before next season starts Europe’s governing body will be well on the way to a decision in this matter and that decision may well have horrendous consequences for the Dodgy Dave King business plan, which is heavily reliant on European footballing income for the club’s very survival.

This coming season will be Year 5 away from that stage. It is not inconceivable that Sevco might spend its first decade without ever playing a game on the continental stage, still paying the price for what its predecessor club did.

I personally don’t think that’s fair.

From the beginning I’ve argued that footballing sanctions shouldn’t be applied to Sevco, that it’s a perversion of natural justice to punish one for the sins of the other just because they play out of the same stadium and wear the same jersey … but through all that time I’ve been told that I’m wrong, that I’m motivated by hate, that the clubs are one and the same. The press and the SFA have backed that line to the hilt.

In the bed they’ve made, now let them lie.

A reckoning is coming, as many of us suspected it would.

The Resolution 12 guys didn’t know this when they opened the can of worms.

It wasn’t even on their radar, far less an objective of the campaign.

But Celtic grasped it quickly and part of their low-key public response was based on that. The SFA and Sevco understood it just as fast, which is why the stonewall strategy came first and now the elevation of the Victim Myth goes into high gear, and with it one last plea for people to “forget the past” and move on.

In this case, the past is like a murder victim, lying in a shallow unmarked grave. Sooner or later someone was always going to stumble over it, and then an investigation would start. Whatever evidence there is out there will find its way to the right place and when people in positions of authority start to piece it together we’re going to see a show.

Then punishment will follow, like night follows day.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Sevco Statements & Charlie Cheswick’s Cigarettes

7110692_origImagine a world where the loudest guy in the room always got his way. Imagine a world where logic, rationality, civilised debate and basic human decency played second place, always, to those who could make the biggest nuisance of themselves.

Do you know what a world like that would look like? I think it would look a little bit like Scotland and a lot like Scottish football. I blame many people for that, but I blame the media most of all.

I can already hear Jackson and Keevins and English and others decry that statement, saying that it’s not fair. I care about their poor hurt feelings like I care how a rabid dog feels in the moment it’s being put down. If it stings a little, too damned bad.

Last night, as everyone who follows Scottish football will be aware, Sevco’s official press office released one of the most astonishing and irrational statements ever put out by a major organisation in this country. Vindictive, spiteful, illogical, hateful, bitter, almost rabid itself, this dragged the club into the dark ages, pandering to their worst elements.

Imagine Celtic behaved like this? Imagine our board has released such an inflammatory communique?

Do you remember when we actually made the first efforts at tackling sectarianism? Before Rangers did the same? Our board was criticised just for the name, with one hack suggesting Bhoys Against Bigotry was a bad choice because of the “provocative H.”

Celtic would have been crucified for something as deranged as this.

A major Scottish organisation, one which calls itself an institution, excused the deplorable behaviour of its own followers. It suggested that the rest of Scotland’s football followers are as mad and demented as they are. It elevated paranoia to staggering heights.

It made a mockery of the very idea that those running things there care a jot for the greater good of the sport. If one positive came out of it, and I am clutching at straws here because a statement like that has profound consequences for society, it’s that Stewart Robertson will never be elected to the SFA board whilst others at Ibrox are literally foaming at the mouth.

They will say that proves no-one likes them, but in fact it’ll be for the same reason no-one wants to sit beside the guy on the bus who stinks of old booze and mutters profanities to himself under his breath. Getting too close to madness makes you feel unclean, as if it’s catching, as if it’s infective and you’ll come away from the experience with the bug.

Such was the content of their statement even I expected the Scottish media to hammer them for it today. I should have known better.

I guess my old man’s cynicism was justified. He told me the second the statement was read to him that the media would either ignore it or endorse whole chunks of it. They did both, deciding not to confront the parts that just contained lies whilst making headlines out of the parts that were simply unhinged. It didn’t matter that it specifically targeted some of them, named individuals right out of Jim Traynor’s Wee Black Book Of Guys Who Stole My Parking Place. After all, this was like a crazy woman throwing her shit. It just went everywhere.

The media never rallies around its own and most of them don’t deserve it anyway, as prone as some are to throwing their own colleagues under the bus when it suits.

I know Stuart Cosgrove won’t tolerate this guff and won’t bend. The others? Gutless to a man, with Tom English already furiously backtracking on his balanced comments of earlier when he spread the blame beyond just Hibs fans.

Jackson and the brand of decorative bog roll for which he works went even further, and put outright lies on the front page, lies which were proven to be that within minutes of the first tweet when Kenny Miller’s own wife publicly scotched them.

The claim that not a single Sevco player made it up the tunnel unhurt was a base lie disproved simply by watching the footage. He claimed he got it from a “dressing room source.”

Either his dressing room source is a liar (and the media is not supposed to protect sources who do that, are they?) or Jackson himself is making it up as he goes along; either way, that the story was ever run without the most basic fact checking tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about him and the rag he’s employed by.

It is unconscionable that a national newspaper behaves like this, giving credence and credibility not only to lies but to dangerous lies.

Our media is filled to the rafters with people who commit fraud every time they collect their wages under the auspices of journalism. I object to that, as someone who wants to live in an informed country where facts are important.

But last night, more than I ever have before, I got honestly angry at their conduct, because it went beyond bending facts till the elastic snapped, or pandering in exchange for an easy life. They gave license to lunatics. They endorsed lies that could get someone killed. We’re all supposed to be angry about that. Because that’s important.

That’s too much. This is where we ought to draw the line.

In not offering blanket criticism to that statement last night the media is helping to fuel the Victim Myth which, this weekend, has scaled dangerous heights. Sevco’s statement excused and justified the violent behaviour of its own supporters and no right thinking person in Scotland should be anything but appalled and sickened by that and in doing this they’ve given not simply a nod and wink to the nutcase element of their own support – which needs no encouragement – but they’ve raised a flag for going on the offensive.

Mark my words, this will end up with people hurt, perhaps even dead.

I am going to blame the Sevco board and Keith Jackson and Tom English and others if that happens, every bit as much as I’m going to blame the psychopath holding the knife or the blade or the bludgeon.

The people who gave the go-ahead for that statement, the institutionally hysterical idiot who wrote it and the hacks whose newspapers covered it without wholeheartedly condemning it will have blood on their hands; it’s as simple as that.

About the club itself I’ve said about as much as I intend to say, except that when someone on CQN last night suggested that the article bore all the hallmarks of Chris Graham I wrote, without thinking on it, that it bore all the hallmarks of Charlie Cheswick.

It was only when I took some time to think about it properly that I realised just how apt the analogy actually is.

I had already written, yesterday, that whereas they used to sing “no-one likes us we don’t care” they now wail and whine and wallow in self pity over the same.

But dig a little deeper and you find the reason why.

They were taken apart at times on Saturday.

They are grossly unprepared for life in the SPL, and they actually realise this.

Celtic’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers only makes that more acute. In fact, if you’re looking for a real trigger for the way their fans behaved as the Hibs supporters entered the field, you’re probably going to have to go back a day.

It was the Rodgers appointment that tipped them over the edge. The idea that Celtic was mired in crisis was their fondest wish. The way that was erased in a single announcement clearly drove them past the point of rationality.

But it’s more than that.

Their anger and their outpouring of victimhood is actually self-loathing because what gets to them most isn’t that no-one likes them, it’s that no-one fears them anymore. No-one would pay them any mind but for their constant displays of irrational behaviour.

Celtic has had bad days. When Rangers was winning nine in a row we didn’t have the proverbial pot to pee in or a window to throw it out. Under the Kelly’s and the White’s we were skint and the suffering seemed it would never end. Parkhead had a funereal atmosphere for some games. At others, do you remember what our response to adveristy was?

We sang “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

Our fans weren’t sitting in grubby backstreet boozers poring over “enemies lists” and fantasising about a great dark conspiracy that was holding us back from being all we could be. All that kept us from that was a weak, incompetent board without a business plan. Fergus sorted the place out in under five years, and the good times were rolling again.

Celtic fans, for all we were accused of paranoia, never embraced it the way these people have. We never wore the coat and knitted the sweater to go with it. These people are in a class of their own, and the Victim Myth hangs over Scottish football like a noxious fume.

And they call Celtic fans “obsessed” for pointing this out, and their lack of self awareness has blossomed to the point where they actually believe this, where they do believe that scrutiny is a form of jealousy.

I’ve repeatedly said this, but it bears saying once more; people are always mesmerised by the freak show, by the sight of a drunk guy who’s shit his pants and doesn’t even know it. People slow down to look at car wrecks. The two headed cat is too fascinating to look away from, no matter how it makes your skin crawl and your mind throb.

Charlie Cheswick, from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, played in the movie by the late, great, Sydney Lassick, has a complete emotional breakdown at a group discussion when he brings up the rationing of his cigarettes, which the institution has imposed because he and the other inmates were losing them all to Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy.

He asks for his back, and he starts out pretty calm, even keeping it civil, but before long his request has become a demand, his demand has become a tirade and his tirade has become a full-on screaming fit at the peak of which he’s shrieking over and over again “I want something done! I want something done! I want something done!”

At the heart of his frustration and his madness is his sub-zero self-image and his complete lack of emotional growth or self-restraint flows from that. In that moment, what tips him over the edge is the knowledge that he’s powerless, unable to get what he wants. His screaming tantrum is that of a five year old child who can’t bend the will of a parent, and so erupts in frustration.

A better-rounded individual would have kept calm, confronting the Big Nurse with the reality of her own psychological tic, which is the need, always, to seem in control but he can’t grasp that concept and even if he could he’s not hard-wired to keep cool and thus retain the high ground.

At Sevco all they had to do was act with some dignity and class.

They had the moral high ground, or a big part of it anyway and had they condemned the behaviour of their own fans, had they behaved semi-rationally, had they treated the rest of the game with respect instead of taking a great big piss on all of it last night, they might even have kept some of it.

Instead they started shrieking, and they did it because they feel powerless and alone and stripped of the pomp and swagger they once had. Their own insanity is based on arrogance and this notion that they are superior. The overwhelming tone of that lunatic screed was entitlement. A sense that the world owed them more than they’d got.

They’ve still not even bothered to offer their congratulations to Hibs.

I ask again; imagine that Celtic had acted this way? You suspect the press coverage would have been very, very different.

What a disreputable shower they are.

And that’s what people will remember.

What they don’t seem to realise is that this diminishes them every bit as much as the skelping the Hibs players gave them during the 90 minutes of football. It reduces them further in the eyes of every normal person, and whilst the media might have collectively shit its pants over this the people running the other clubs have had an almighty wake up call, especially with elections coming.

They now know that the team playing out of Ibrox is run by crazy people, by a board that in the cold half-light of the dawning season has the look of twitching, bug-eyed, shaven headed ghouls in a 16th century tavern, men who’ve been out robbing graves all night.

No-one wants to sit next to men who look like that.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Celtic Fans Crowdfunded Newspaper Ad On SFA Scandals Is Paid For And Ready To Go

stack-newspaper-pile-croppedBefore we go any further, let me apologise to all of you who were trying to access the site, and this article, before now. Although I should be used to all manner of mendacity and hassle by this point I’m clearly still a babe in the woods.

This evening, after I published this article, this site was subjected to what I can only describe as a “brute force” assault.

First it was a Denial of Service attack and then it was straightforward hacking job, which took down this article and infected the rest of the site with God knows what.

This was a pretty bad evening, and costly too. I won’t go into details. It’ll depress me. But you know something? If they’re screwing with you to this degree you’re doing something right.

Anyway, congratulations to the guys over on CQN, and to the Celtic Family as a whole, for another outstanding achievement.

Today, Winning Captains has announced that the costs of two full page advertisements – one in the Swiss press and one in The Guardian – are now paid for and booked, and good to go for next week.

The Guardian ad will bring the Celtic fan led reform campaigns to the attention of an English based audience and seek to spark interest in the cause in the wider media.

As the ad before last season’s League Cup semi-final got people outside Scotland to look at the Survival Myth, this ad will get the media down south focussed on the way the one up here ignores major issues and the SFA continues to be run by people who think they should be immune from scrutiny.

This is a landmark moment; mark my words, it will have an effect.

The ad in the Swiss press is even more important, of course, because it’s the moment we put this issue in front of the eyes of UEFA.

We can write all the letters to these guys that we want, but nothing we do in that regard will have an ounce of the impact taking out an ad in a newspaper right on their doorstep will have. It’s an incredibly ambitious move.

And it’s a game changer.

In addition to all this, the guys behind this campaign are pushing out the boat one last time, to run a third ad in a Scottish newspaper at a later date.

I can’t overstate how important this development is.

I’d urge anyone who’s able to support them to do so by visiting the following link:

Crowdfunding Campaign

I’ll tell you why this is an amazing achievement.

Celtic fans, and a small but important number of those at other clubs have gone to incredible lengths to bring these matters to light. The whole of Scottish football was hurt by what Rangers did, but it was a small handful of supporters who took the lead in driving reform.

This isn’t to say the majority of fans at other clubs didn’t get involved.

When the moves were afoot to parachute the NewCo into the SPL they rallied as we did and lobbied like mad to prevent it.

But it was mostly Celtic fans who pushed hardest and longest to make sure nothing like this could happen again. With a small handful of fans from other clubs, it was Celtic supporters who laid the foundation stones for sites like The Scottish Football Monitor, which sought and still seeks to engage all supporters, everywhere.

Because of that, there’s a perception amongst many that this remains a “Celtic fan led” campaign and whilst not entirely untrue efforts like this wouldn’t be possible without a greater hunger amongst football fans to see real transparency in our sport.

We should all take heart from the way this war is being waged.

Because when you consider what it must cost to place an in just one newspaper you have to be awed at the commitment from our supporters towards making it happen in two, and actually pushing further for three.

I know, from personal experience, how fantastic that commitment is; this site only continues at all (and some big stuff is coming on it soon!) because of donations and the other support that it gets.

It’s humbling to get that support, but I’ve ceased being surprised by it because our fans (and others) are remarkable in that they don’t just talk a good game … they put their money where their mouths are. They are willing to fund challenges to the status quo. They are willing to push agendas, even when it means dipping into their wallets.

I find this incredible, and what it portends for the future can’t be doubted.

If it comes to the crunch, fans will fund legal challenges to the SFA if that’s what it takes to get justice. It’s a long game we’re playing here, and as we’ve all seen getting the results won’t happen overnight – it never does – but I’ve never stopped believing that it will happen.

Take pride in this development, friends, because this is a big one.

Now I’m going to tell you why these ads are necessary; why, in fact, they are vital to the campaign and why they should be given every support, not only financially.

I’ve been doing this now for five years nearly, and there are guys out there who’ve been doing it even longer. There have been books about this, documentaries, and a small handful of journalists have tried to get it into the mainstream.

None of it has crystallised thinking as it should have.

One day I’m going to write a ball-buster of a book about this period, and I know others will do the same, and they might impact the debate in their own way, as these blogs might grow their readerships to the point where Celtic fans don’t bother with the mainstream press at all … but until we get to that point the papers will always have longer reach than we do.

We’ve worked an absolute miracle so far, all of us, together, in transforming the way the debate over football governance in this country is conducted. There was a time when the SFA would never have had to face scrutiny like this, and the idea, five years ago, that we would be able to hound the CEO of the association into answering his critics would have seemed preposterous.

Guys like Tom English can talk the most lamentable bullshit all day, every day, about “flaws” in the Offshore Game report without once pointing out what a single one of them is, but these people can no longer close off the debate completely by doing that.

Our quest for the big three – governance, accountability and oversight – has been unrelenting.

The impact we’ve had so far has been immense.

But it’s not enough.

This is still, primarily, an internet campaign and these ads are a monumentally important step towards changing that, and taking us into a brand new phase.

When you think about what people like Matt McGlone were able to achieve many years ago, getting Celtic fans interested in taking control of our club, it’s extraordinary to imagine that they did it before this great engine of information was invented.

We can learn huge lessons from what they did and how it was done, because the online game isn’t the only one we can play.

This is a move towards a different way of fighting this battle, and if there’s anyone left in the media in this country (and this move absolutely disgraces them; Celtic fans actually paying to put in their papers what they don’t have the balls to write themselves. Try hiding behind “legalities” now you gutless worms) or amongst the governing bodies who has the slightest doubt about our intent and determination this should erase them once and for all.

We are here to stay, and we’re going to hold you to account no matter what.

None of these issues is going away, no matter how much they wish they would.

We will get the reforms we want. We will get the justice we demand. Because we have all the time and the will in the world, and eventually we’ll bring this wall down, whether it’s by chipping away one piece of stone at a time or finally driving a wrecking ball through it.

Those on the other side better brace themselves either way.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Internet Bampots: Right From The Start

craig-whyte-rangers-court_3345309Last night, as I was reading over the incredible catalogue of crimes with which former Rangers and Sevco directors are being charged, something dawned on me.

None of this would ever have come to pass – not Whyte, not Green, perhaps not even King – but for the contempt in which many in the media and in the game’s governing bodies once held (and some still hold) the Internet Bampots.

Yet today, I feel more than a small degree of satisfaction; indeed, I feel fully vindicated in almost everything I’ve spent the last few years writing.

In some ways that’s enough.

It’s time we got some acknowledgement though.

I understand that there are legal minefields here in which I don’t want to tread. That’s the reason Part 3 of my overview of how Rangers and the SFA almost destroyed Scottish football has been delayed so long. It’s not that I lost the thread of it or couldn’t be bothered writing it; much of it is already done. The rest … well, the events Part 3 charts are in the court system at the moment and I’m being careful not to write a word that second guesses those proceedings.

I’m going to be careful here too.

But there are things that I can say with absolute certainty.

Not one single person connected to Scottish football is now in even the slightest doubt that Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the cohort that trooped through Ibrox in the years from 2011 – 2015 did enormous harm to the institutions of Rangers and Sevco.

Not one single person does not believe that some sections of an almost overwhelmingly subservient, cheerleading, wholly ineffectual media was not at least partially responsible for the chaos that has followed, by lending credibility to men who otherwise would have had none.

And not one single person with the remotest interest in the sport here is in the slightest doubt that had the SFA and the SPFL taken their own regulatory roles more seriously that none of these guys would have been within miles of a major Scottish football club.

As a lawyer might say, “these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.”

The only people who can emerge from this with their heads held high are the fans, and in particular the online community who went where the press and the authorities didn’t want to go and who dug into Whyte and then Charles Green.

I’m going to do a few pieces on the coming case, obviously, but for the moment I just want to look at the basic charge sheet, the top sheet, not the more detailed indictment.

In broad terms there are three principle sections to it; 2010 until February 2012, February 2012 until the assets of the liquidated and defunct Rangers were purchased by Green and what followed on afterwards.

From the first, the Internet Bampots were onto Whyte.

Some in the media would rather ignore that.

The governing bodies have turned doing that into an art form.

Some in the media, at least, started nicking our stories and actually pushing them, although claiming exclusives they weren’t entitled to. The governing bodies waited until Whyte had already put on his show, dragged Scottish football through the mud and put a boot print on the national shirt before they did something about it, expressing their surprise the whole while.

According to the indictment, Craig Whyte is being charged with wilfully putting the club into administration, in order to leave behind creditors and emerge debt free.

It would take a neck of solid brass to pretend that comes as a shock to anybody, because he was quite upfront about it right from the beginning, and as the Bampots know well he even told the governing bodies about his plans.

If what he’s done is a criminal offence – and a court will decide that in good time – then it’s not hard to make a case that, based on information in the public domain, Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan should think themselves awful damned lucky they aren’t there in the dock with him, indicted alongside the rest, as co-conspirators.

Above and beyond what he told them himself, Whyte had a string of failed and liquidated businesses behind him, and we pointed this out, with many tweeting Regan at the SFA directly with their findings.

Beyond that, there was actual, verifiable, credible information in the public domain a full four months before the club entered administration, and it was put there by Mark Daly of the BBC, laying out Whyte’s previous MO in some detail.

At the time, not one other media outlet was demanding a fuller exploration of those accusations; indeed, many of his contemporaries in the print media sneered at him, and some of them continue to do so to this day.

But he had the full throated support of, and respect from, the Bampots.

I’ll tell you what I think of Mark Daly;

Scottish football is enormously indebted to him and the team who worked with him on those documentaries, because without them I am convinced – 100% – that Craig Whyte would still be at the helm of a football club calling itself Rangers, whether visibly or working behind the scenes. Oh the hacks might have dug around and found some of it, but Graham Speirs has already told us they knew things they never published because they didn’t want to be seen to have been the people who brought the regime down.

Sure as Hell, nobody in any position of authority wanted to hear us.

We know that because at Hampden they weren’t even really listening to him.

In fact, evidence suggest that not only did our governing bodies know this was going on but they wholeheartedly backed it, as Neil Doncaster himself said on 18 May 2012, when he dismissed the difference between a CVA and a liquidation as an “irrelevance” and said the “attitudes of creditors” should not matter to football governing bodies when dealing with financially stricken clubs.

He went on to say that whilst he didn’t think it was “right” for clubs to dump their debts and emerge unscathed on the other side that “it happens” and he had no problem with it. He had his facts badly wrong when trying to name clubs who had done it – the two examples he gave of clubs which had gone the NewCo route were Leeds and Palace, none of whom actually did – but few can be in any doubt that he wasn’t concerned in the slightest by the sheer immorality of it, or the dangers it posed to Scottish football in the long term.

He ought to have been sacked there and then.

His continued employment is a source of enormous frustration and offence to many people and I long since concluded that he can only be there because he still retains the confidence of our clubs, which means that on some level many of them do support this utter nonsense and don’t want to see him replaced by someone with a different view.

Indeed, this time last year I published a piece called A Moment Of Clarity, after he’d started 2015 with a scandalous interview which turned football reality in Scotland on its head.

I thought, then, that his comments were so absolutely ridiculous that he couldn’t possibly survive them … but a year on down the line, there he is, still in his office.

His presence there is about to heap scandal on disgrace.

He and Regan better understand this; they are our great piece of “unfinished business” and their part in this isn’t going to be simply ignored or airbrushed out of all memory. This is what these two will be remembered for, long after they’ve left office.

We are going to keep on highlighting these issues until they’re both gone, and then far beyond, because their conduct can’t be allowed to escape scrutiny and the verdict of history, otherwise their behaviour becomes a reflection on the wider game here.

They would have flushed sporting integrity down the pan in 2012.

Only the intervention of the fans stopped that.

If Craig Whyte eventually gets up, in open court, and talks about how Doncaster and Regan knew exactly what he was up to the whole time then that’s catastrophic. That’s a FIFA style scandal on our own doorstep, and the world will know it.

The reputational damage to our sport that the allegation itself will do … even if it’s never examined in greater detail … enormous.

The directors of the other clubs have to know some of what we do; are they waiting for legal proceedings before acting to safeguard the game?

Shouldn’t the chairmen themselves be asking for an independent inquiry, not into Whyte and Green but what the governing body CEO’s really knew about events at Ibrox?

I can’t put it more bluntly than to say that these two men and their continuing presence at Hampden represents an existential risk to the reputation of our sport … and the more you dig into the charge sheet the more serious it starts to look for them.

And once again, the Internet Bampots were signposting the way.

There isn’t one Celtic site whose writers and contributors were not asking questions, from the off, about the manner in which Charles Green emerged, as if from nowhere, to bid for the assets of OldCo Rangers. The antennae were twitching from the moment his name was first mentioned and it didn’t take long before numerous links between Whyte and Green were established.

Those links are unmistakably real; there’s not the slightest debate about them and no rational person with a scintilla of knowledge about these matters actually believes these two men didn’t know each other beforehand.

It might not have been Paul McConville who first starting asking questions about Sevco 5088 and its relationship to a company called Sevco Scotland Ltd, but he certainly wrote a series of outstanding, and deadly, pieces on that subject.

Not one newspaper article ever ran asked the questions those articles demanded.

The SFA never once issued a statement on them.

Those question have been ongoing since mid-2012 and were ignored by governing bodies and media outlets alike, although then and now they were enormously significant. I myself posed some of those questions when Green announced the share issue, and Whyte emerged to allege that he’d had some role in setting Sevco up.

Plenty of us were asking those questions.

No-one wanted to answer us.

The media blanked them, or accused of us being fantasists.

The governing bodies … well, I have no idea how they felt about the possibility that they might have assisted in the perpetration of a fraud, but as far as I can see the road would be wide open, in the result of guilty verdicts, for not only the creditors of OldCo Rangers to sue them but for those who bought shares under Green to do so as well.

See, that’s something else no-one else ever explores; the SFA and the SPL/SPFL are regulatory bodies … it is their legal responsibility to assure that the highest standards of corporate governance are being observed by their member clubs.

It’s not enough for them to step back and let those clubs police themselves; this is why fit and proper person criteria exists in the first place, it’s why punishments are handed down for those who violate it.

(Unless those people are connected to Ibrox, which is sort of the point.)

The Pinsent Mason report is an outrage the club should never have been able to get away with, and not one of the Celtic blogs was silent in calling that an embarrassment and a disgrace. That reeked, and it reeks today, especially in light of these court cases.

Anyway, ignorance of these matters – even if we believed they were ignorant – might not be enough to save them from legal consequences, and a judicial inquiry at least.

I repeat; they had, and still have, a duty to do their homework, and not simply abdicate that responsibility to those who run those the clubs. The clubs themselves should be holding them to account for loss of earnings and reputational damage … and I don’t know why they don’t.

And far from learning lessons from those events the SFA continues to ignore its duties, even today.

No-one is asking whether Sevco is technically trading whilst insolvent, and the backgrounds of those who’ve given them the latest loans to keep on the lights aren’t deemed worthy of comment in the press, far less an investigation at Hampden.

Once again, only The Bampots seem interested in what is obviously a major story.

If that money had been dropped off at Ibrox in cash, the proceeds of a heist … Jesus, are we to believe Doncaster and Regan would simply have shrugged their shoulders and deemed that a matter for the club itself to look into?

What kind of people are these?

The technical term for this is “institutional failure”, and on the larger stage it’s what brought us the banking crash of 2008, in which the roots of Rangers’ demise and all these issues can be found.

Ignorance isn’t what happened anyway; what actually happened is partly to be found in the nearly universal contempt for the bloggers that existed then and which will we continue to struggle against in our quest to be taken more seriously.

The governing bodies were well aware of all this stuff at the time, and the media were too.

Enough people on Twitter and elsewhere were sending them links and stories and telling them what we’d found out, and what we were speculating on.

Either the governing bodies decided these issues weren’t worth looking into or they knew more than people were aware, and didn’t like us rocking the boat.

The media refused to take us even remotely seriously, and that was because they didn’t acknowledge us as worthy participants in the debate.

Nobody is laughing at us now.

Nobody underestimates our role.

I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, and I now make a tentative living out of it because of the support some of the readers are able to provide – and I’m beyond grateful to all those who do. Between that and the ads I manage to make this thing work.

As a consequence, I can now devote myself full-time to the task of analysing these issues and others like them, to research and explore evidence no matter where it comes from.

I never expect to make the money a “journalist” at The Daily Record would; if I was interested in that I’d be pursuing it properly as a career, but knowing that I’d have to give up my independence and the right to say what I wanted.

Money isn’t everything. As long as I can pay my bills as they fall due I’m a happy camper, because I’ve come to love this stuff and it gives me the freedom to pursue my grander goal which is to make my way as a writer of fiction. (If I can ever finish the second novel!)

Likewise, I don’t do it for glory because there’s precious little of that when I have to be hypercritical of my own club at times; on those horrible days this feels like shovelling shit uphill … or raking leaves in the rain, if I might use one of my own actual experiences to emphasise the point.

Like other guys, I do this because it’s often fun, it’s intellectually challenging and finally because it’s nice to feel part of a wider endeavour and a community all dedicated to the same stuff.

More than that, I genuinely believe this is important.

What I do, what James Doleman’s been doing, what The Clumpany does, what Paul Brennan has been doing even longer than me, what sites like VideoCelts produce every day … this stuff matters.

This isn’t just a Scottish football story … Rangers was a major social institution, and what happened – what was allowed to happen – within its walls for decades, preceding even these events, was outrageous and an affront to more than just sport.

We’re not PR factories, spinning facts and twisting reality.

We’re in nobody’s pockets and nobody’s employ.

We write what we see in front of us, without fear or favour – and I do this about politics in Scotland as well as on football – without taking our cue from others.

None of us expects to win awards, nor great wealth, nor any special status doing what we do.

We have the respect of our peers and the thanks of a great many people who like to be informed and entertained without the media’s PR filter and that’s enough. On most days.

Beyond that, we don’t ask for or want anything at all.

But today, reading the charge sheets against a bunch of people we’ve spent the better part of five years warning Scottish football against, and seeing the catalogue of offences which bear a striking resemblance to those we were asking questions about before even the Fraud Squad got to them, it would be nice if we got some acknowledgement for it.

It would be nice if we got some credit from those who treated us with such appalling disdain.

Because whether these cases end in guilty verdicts or not, these issues, which we were told weren’t worth bothering about, were serious enough to have warranted a trial.

The questions we were asking, and which so many were ignoring, were prescient enough and forensic enough, to have merited police and judicial attention.

The evidence we were digging for, examining, and highlighting in the hope those with the resources and the reach to do it justice, or in the hope that the governing bodies would take note and move to avert the consequences for our sport – and those consequences are coming – and which those people sneered at or refused to even look at … well they had the substance to start the machinery of legal proceedings.

In short, I do believe, verdicts notwithstanding, that we’ve been vindicated in full.

It would be good if our critics acknowledged that simple truth.

The Internet Bampots.

Right from the start.

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)

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Ian Livingston & The Politicising Of Celtic

bg_video_CEOSometimes in this life there are choices, and causes, which are open and shut.

At other times, you need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture, and ask yourself if something is right, or justified.

That’s not easy to do when your emotional self is screaming at you to lean one way or the other.

In the aftermath of the Tax Credits vote this week – a vote which affects me, as it affects 3 million other people in this country – there was predictable, and justified, outrage levelled at some of those on the Tory benches in the Lords who voted to push through these thoroughly awful changes.

My political views on that don’t have to be guessed at; I find the Tory welfare agenda to be a thing of almost incomprehensible cruelty, even evil.

That is one of those open and shut cases, as far as I’m concerned.

And that, my friends, is part of the point.

As far as I am concerned.

Because what I just did was express a personal opinion, a deeply held one to be sure, and one that is supported by much evidence.

Yet when it’s said and done, this is little more than a political point of view.

But there are other points of view.

I’ve spent the last couple of years banging the drum on one particular aspect of my politics – unrestricted, unconstrained, free speech – and I am not about to ostracise anyone for holding a different opinion than mine.

We all know that Iai Livingston cast a vote in the Lords for a policy that will increase hardship for a hell of a lot of people.

He’s a member of a party I loathe in ways that transcend anything I’ve ever felt about a certain Scottish football club that’s no longer with us.

On my Facebook page, the main picture at the top of my profile is of a protester holding a banner that reads “Decent People Don’t Belong In The Tory Party”.

I’ve never agreed with Tony Blair on much, but when he witheringly told Michael Howard, after one of the failed attempts to rebrand the Tories as the “Compassionate Conservatives” that it wasn’t the first word people had trouble with, it was the second I applauded.

Yet at university, one of my closest mates was the single Young Conservative on campus; his politics and mine could not have been further apart, but he and I mourned the death of real debate and the rise of the centrists of all political shades, who you couldn’t tell apart one from the other.

We both longed for days like now, when his party was run by right-wing ideologues and what was then my party, Labour, were in the hands of the Real Left.

The next few years will be marvellous for the political geeks like us.

Broken down, and looked at properly, things are always much more complicated than sticking labels on people and their views.

It’s the reason I can detest the SNP’s criminal justice policies yet still voted for them at the Scottish and then General elections.

There’s always a bigger picture, and independence for Scotland is a cause I’m wedded to now and they’re the only political party that can secure the second referendum we need to get it.

Does that mean I’m voting for them come what may?

Hell no, because independence itself isn’t the destination, it’s merely a staging post on a much longer journey.

The Scotland that emerges from it will be no better than what we’re leaving down in Westminster if it’s not committed to social justice, fairness, equality and all the freedoms that go with those things.

I’ll balance the SNP’s policies with that particular goal next year and make up my mind which way to go.

I take politics seriously, as many of you do, and I found it amusing in some ways that after posting my article on the Green Brigade’s recent banner, over on the CelticBlog, that I was called a hypocrite by some who supported that banner and much worse than that by some of those who were opposed to it. That’s par for the course.

It’s the price I gladly pay for living in a country that, for the moment, still lets everyone have a say on stuff like this, and on the poppies and a million other subjects.

When I saw that Celtic fans had started a petition to have Ian Livingston removed from the board because of his vote on this issue my automatic reaction was to sign it, and publicise it on every single thing I write for the next month.

And then I stopped myself, and I took a deep breath.

Because all of a sudden, here we are in a somewhat more complicated situation than it looks, because we have a fundamentally political campaign here, suggesting that our football club dispenses with someone’s services for holding their own political view.

And part of me is troubled by that.

I’ve spent months arguing that football fans – and not just Celtic fans; see, this is the part that always gets past certain people – should be allowed to sing whatever the Hell they want, and that no law should prevent that.

I’ve suggested that anyone who supports such a law go off and think about that for a minute, and the dangers it poses to free speech of all kinds when we start making it illegal for someone to express certain views.

Furthermore, I’ve argued that football and politics are spiritual bedfellows; that stadia have always been forums for political expression and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

In a long piece last year I said I understand why UEFA and FIFA instigated rules banning political banners at their games … but that I found that impossible to square with a minute’s silence for Nelson Mandela and their anti-racism initiatives, which are, themselves, when stripped to their core, profoundly left wing causes and clear expressions of political preference.

We get around that inconvenient truth by calling these “mainstream issues.”

You want to know what else has “mainstream” acceptance these days?

Welfare reform itself. Austerity. The retention of nuclear weapons.

The war on terror.

And on top of that, the sacrifice of some of our freedoms on the altar of “social cohesion” and especially security, which Benjamin Franklin decried in his famous quote; “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

I find UEFA and FIFA to be wholly inconsistent in the way they view this stuff.

The banning of political banners was introduced as a measure to combat right-wing views being expressed in the stands, and don’t let anyone kid you about that. It was a politically motivated move, but someone twigged that this wouldn’t fly, and so all political expression was banned.

All except that which UEFA and FIFA sanction themselves, of course.

It’s a nonsense and we all know that it is, and it’s not even applied even-handedly.

Barcelona’s motto “Més que un club” is blatantly political, as are a lot of their banners and flags and the same could be said for the Basque clubs and even their regional signing policies … and that covers only Spain, without us getting into identity politics at clubs in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere, which could take all day and add 2000 words to this article.

Barcelona are an overtly political football club, and they aren’t the only one in Europe.

Celtic, on the other hand, is not and it never has been.

I revere Barcelona for what it is and what it represents; they are as close to a “second team” as I have … but our own culture and identity is not, and it never has been, representative of a political agenda.

Several years ago, before this blog was set up, I found myself in the incredible position of having to write an article for another site criticising the Scottish Trade Unions Congress – an organisation with whom I have a long and happy history of warm memories and battles fought and won – when they released a press statement on the eve of a match where we played an Israeli team.

The press statement urged Celtic fans to make our visitors feel unwelcome, to let them know what our support collectively thought of the oppression of the Palestinian people.

The club in question had no part in that oppression of course; indeed, they had a history of cross culture initiatives designed to lessen tensions between the two communities, and that was just one of the reasons I found the STUC statement ridiculous.

What infuriated me most was the way it sought to hijack Celtic to promote it’s own agenda, something that they had no right to even attempt.

My own views on the Israeli-Palestine conflict were, and still are, wholly compatible with theirs.

I am a supporter of boycotting companies with ties to the Israeli regime, I have been a long supporter of the Palestinian people and would have voted to give them full UN recognition if it was my power to do it … my support for those things didn’t matter.

Celtic is no-one’s political vehicle and it ought never to be.

A lot of people have accused the Green Brigade of trying to use the club for that end, but they need to take a wee lie down. Those lads have never presumed to speak for the support as a whole far less the club.

If they appear to have a political agenda it’s because our country’s government decided to bring politics into our stadiums by passing a law affecting only football fans.

Let’s not forget that fact.

It was the SNP who fully politicised football in Scotland … no-one else.

That aside, The Green Brigade has done no more than express its own political view … which in a democracy they ought to be fully entitled to do. As that view relates to what goes on in a football ground – where, as I said, the SNP brought it – I laugh at those who say that Parkhead isn’t the place for protesting about it.

Talk about a fallacy of logic.

And having spent a long time arguing those facts, how then can I support a campaign which seeks to punish a member of our board for his own political allegiances?

Isn’t that a slippery slope to start going down?

There are a lot of Celtic fans who refuse to support Nir Bitton, some because of his nationality and others more specifically because of a tweet he once sent. There are others who don’t want Leigh Griffiths in the team, with his having pled guilty to singing the Rudi Skacel song.

In Bitton’s case, his “crime” was to have retweeted support for the IDF at a time when their soldiers were going house to house looking for Hezbollah mortars.

It’s easy to criticise that from 3500 miles away.

But if I had family living within range of those rockets I’d be singing a different song, and I know it and most people if they’re being honest know it too. The conflict over there has eluded some of the smartest and best intentioned people in the world; at its heart, though, are individuals on the ground with their own motivations and fears.

It is enormously complex, and there are angels and demons on both sides.

A lot of people miss that, or choose to ignore it.

Knee-jerk reactions are exactly why the place is in such turmoil.

In Leigh’s case, he was just being a daft boy in a boozer and the vast majority of you can understand that as well as I do. Hell, I would crawl under the bed and I would not come out if the full details of everything I’d done in the heat of the moment with a drink in me ever came to light.

Where do we stop with this?

There is a line; if our club contemplated hiring someone, for example, like Ched Evans, this site and all the others would be in meltdown.

But quizzing people on their politics or judging them on their nationality … then you aren’t far from asking them what school they went to, with a nudge and a wink.

We had Labourites on the board once; Brian Wilson and John Reid voted in favour of some pretty drastic stuff, and The Green Brigade’s position on that was clearly expressed when they turned their banner upside down and kept it like that until he was gone.

For those who don’t think these boys understand half of what they do, I say guess again.

They have a clear, and wholly consistent, political ideology encompassing everything from social justice and independence here at home to the rights of displaced peoples abroad.

I wish all our supporters thought as clearly, and deeply, about the things they “believe in” as these lads do, and I wouldn’t care what individual conclusions they reached about the world as long as there was a fraction of rationale behind them.

Doubtless, those who’ve stuck with this article up until now have already surmised that I’ve not signed the petition and have no intention of signing it.

I just did, though, literally between the last sentence and this one.

I am slightly uncomfortable having done this, and I’ll tell you that right now because I have the crawling suspicion I’ll be branded a hypocrite. That’s a charge that may well be levelled, and it might even stick.

I haven’t changed my mind about a single thing I’ve written above; Celtic has no business getting into political discourse except that which affects the club itself and I wouldn’t support us being used as anyone’s political chew-toy.

Yet I’ve made my decision and I’ll tell you how I arrived at it.

I started by asking myself certain questions and one of them was this;

How would I feel if we employed someone who’d supported the BNP?

And the answer is simple. I wouldn’t be particularly concerned.

I don’t expect that to be a popular view, but let me explain it.

You can’t legislate for someone being thick. If we got rid of that person we’d be in contravention of the law for basing employment practises on a person’s political allegiances, and he or she would be entitled to sue.

Let’s ask another question though;

How would I feel if we employed someone who turned out to be a BNP activist?

Well, now you’re on different ground entirely.

My first instinct would be to sack that person, instantly, but on more sober reflection I’d want to know more first.

I’d want to know the nature of that activism.

I’d want to know what it involved.

Are we talking simply pushing leaflets through doors? What do the leaflets say?

Are we talking “street politics”, and if that’s the case are we talking “daft boy singing daft songs in the pub” like Leigh Griffiths, who I in no way shape or form believe is a bigot? Or are we talking Combat 18 stuff?

The answers to those questions would determine the next move.

See, there are shades of grey here … and there’s black and then there’s white.

Iain Livingston does not simply hold certain political beliefs; he’s acted on them, and those actions have had consequences for other people.

Millions of other people, because of the unique position he currently holds within the political establishment.

And, although we, as a club, have no overt political agenda we were founded to feed the poor and Livingston’s political activities bring great harm to large sections of this country.

Yet even that’s not enough, and had it been simply about that I couldn’t have signed the petition no matter how much it makes my skin crawl to think of this guy representing us in any way, shape or form.

What’s more important, and relevant, is that Celtic has a Social Charter, as outlined on our website, the key planks of which are;

1. Improve Health
2. Promote Equality
3. Encourage Learning
4. Tackle Poverty

Livingston’s voting record places him in conflict with at least two, and it could be argued all four, of these core principles and this one in particular leaves him no hiding place.

For there is not one independent agency, from the Institute of Fiscal Studies to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which disputes the central claim of those opposed to this policy that over 3 million people, and probably many more, will encounter deeper poverty as a result of these cuts.

Far from “tackling” that great social scourge, a member of our board of directors is personally responsible for helping to inflict it on the most vulnerable people in this country; this is a fact.

He’s not a “supporter” of those policies … he’s an architect of them.

So even when you remove political considerations from this – as we ought to; as we have to – his position is wholly incompatible, and thereby untenable – in light of our stated institutional values.

The Celtic Family encompasses all social groups, and every shade of political opinion, from those considered mainstream to the far fringes of sanity, and the idea that we should ever exclude anyone on the basis of that is loathsome to me.

Our club states quite clearly on its website that we have no “political identity” per se, in spite of our roots.

I have no argument with that as it stands, but we do have certain fundamental principles, and these are embodied in the Social Charter in which our board places such great store.

Supporters have been banned from our ground for violating that.

Everyone inside the club is subject to it, and internal disciplinary action has been taken against players who have overstepped the mark, as we know from the Leigh Griffiths case.

Leigh has had to give guarantees about his future conduct, and I’m certain he’s given those and means exactly what he says, because at heart he was simply stupid and the Rudi Skacel song was a sign of nothing more than youthful exuberance and daftness.

Ian Livingston’s situation is very different.

It would not be right for our club to ask him to change his political allegiances any more than we should screen potential employees for theirs.

But his political actions flatly contradict what we stand for, and one suspects we won’t be asking him to refrain from those in the future even if he was likely to respond favourably to that.

In short, he’ll do what he thinks is right.

I cannot condemn him for that, and none of us should try to.

Nor should Celtic attempt to interfere.

But what we can do – what our own Charter compels us to do – is examine those actions in light of what we represent as a club and as a major Scottish institution, and in those circumstances he doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

You cannot square that circle, I’m afraid.

Politics has nothing to do with this.

When I said earlier that there are certain things which are pretty clear cut … well this is one of them.

You can sign the petition by clicking on this link.

I’d urge every Celtic fan to do so.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link.)

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In The Court Of Public Opinion

21010524.jpg-pwrt3Let me tell you a story, and please … there’s a good reason why it’s this particular one.

Sometime In the middle of 1973, the Irish Republican Army Council held a meeting to decide on the future course of the Armed Struggle.

The war in the Six Counties had been stagnating and the Army Council believed that the British would only ever leave the North when the people of Britain better understood what was happening over there, and how it impacted on their own lives.

This view, widely held at the top of the Republican leadership, led to an historic, and deadly decision. They would launch a campaign against mainland Britain.

This was to have four key objectives; first, to maximise the economic damage to the British state; second, to “take the heat off Derry and Belfast”, as long term strategist Sean MacStiofain had put it the year before; third, to more readily target the infrastructure of the British state itself (as the early bombings of the High Court and Scotland Yard would ably accomplish) and fourth, and most importantly, with the objective of forcing the British people to more directly confront the consequences of remaining in Ireland and to force public opinion towards withdrawal.

In November 1974, shortly after the mainland campaign began, a Republican unit travelled to Birmingham and exploded two bombs in pubs. Public opinion moved alright, but not the way they had envisioned.

Anger exploded across the country.

Irish men and women who had no part in the bombing were targeted for reprisals by virtue of their nationality.

The outcry was so fearsome that an Irish mother who had lost two sons in the atrocity was refused service by local shops and businesses.

Within a week, public opinion across Britain was so venomous, and avowedly focussed on vengeance, that the government was able to pass the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, by a wide margin, amidst almost unanimous support. Amongst its many provisions was the right to arrest, detain, and question suspects for a period of up to seven days.

During the same fevered period, the House of Commons held a debate over whether to reintroduce the death penalty in terrorism cases, as the clamour amidst the general population reached fever pitch.

More than 200 MP’s voted in favour of that motion, but common sense prevailed in the House and it was defeated.

Within 24 hours of the Prevention of Terrorism Act becoming law, the police arrested six men in connection with the bombings. They were the first people ever to be held under that Act.

Over the course of the next few days they were tortured and subjected to fearsome psychological pressure, during which some of them were said to have made false confessions.

The defence was telling the world those facts from the first day of their trial.

The public wasn’t listening. Not then.

The court case was a travesty, a mixture of fabricated evidence, circumstantial evidence, heresy and botched, and slanted, forensic results.

In spite of the clear flaws in the case, public opinion was overwhelming against any possibility of a Not Guilty verdict, and their conviction was never really in much doubt. People had to pay and that’s exactly what happened.

It didn’t matter, not then, whether they were the right people or not.

A jury, acting in one of the most febrile and flammable atmospheres in the history of this island, found all six men guilty on 21 counts of murder.

Their first appeal was in 1976. It was rejected.

In 1982, the civil rights lawyer Gareth Pierce, who would also work on the Guildford Four case, went to see them and started working on their behalf. Three years later, the first documentary aired disputing their convictions.

It moved public opinion a fraction, but not enough.

A year later, in 1986, Chris Mullen wrote a book proclaiming their innocence.

It offered fresh evidence on their behalf, but it wasn’t enough either.

In 1987, the case went back to the Court of Appeal, and all the evidence was put in front of new judges.

They held off their verdict until 1988, and it shocked lawyers and civil rights activists everywhere, although the general public barely flinched. It upheld the convictions, stated that they were “safe” and at that point it seemed as if none of the men would ever see daylight again.

In March 1990, Granada Television produced a further documentary, this one called Who Bombed Birmingham? It did what none of the other campaigns had been able to do. Not only did it demonstrate the complete breakdown of the case, but it even named alternate suspects, some of whom were willing to discuss their involvement.

Public opinion swung wildly overnight.

By August, the case had been referred back to the Court of Appeal, and in March the following year the entire thing was dismissed as wholly unsafe and the Birmingham Six were released from prison, to a tumult of publicity at a scandal that had rocked faith in the British legal system from which it has never fully recovered.

It is regarded as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in history.

Condemnation of that time, and those verdicts, still rings out today.

I recently re-watched the brilliant Jimmy McGovern scripted drama series Cracker, starring Robbie Coltraine, where the big Scot, in an especially heated argument with Christopher Ecclestone’s character describes the first principle of British justice; “where a man is innocent until proven Irish.”

It was the hope of moving public opinion that pushed the Provisionals to bomb mainland Britain. They misjudged how that would manifest itself. Public opinion led to the passing of a draconian and dangerous law, and the first act under that law was to send innocent men to jail.

They would have stayed there too had public opinion not swung again, and demanded their release.

That only happened when those convictions were definitively held up as the outrage that they were.

I find it ironic that years after the war in the Six Counties has come to an end that a government here in Scotland has passed its own draconian law, one that more and more comes to be seen as something profoundly anti-Irish, whether that was the original intention or not.

This one has not come about as a consequence of a terrorist atrocity; it was the result of a football match.

Let’s not forget either that this football match didn’t end in a riot or a bloodbath.

It ended in a minor skirmish, the kind of thing you can see in leagues all across the world, every weekend.

But a group of politically motivated people, for their own reasons and in pursuit of their own agenda, saw a chance to make hay out of it and although calling themselves nationalists they were quite happy to torch the reputation of their own country in pursuit of that goal.

A summit was called, they said to tackle sectarianism, an issue they magnified a thousand times greater than it was, smearing the whole of the land they professed to love as some kind of backward hell-hole needing saving from itself.

From the first it was clear that this law was not designed to tackle the real issue, or the social and cultural causes of ignorance and bigotry.

An entire nation was declared half out of its mind by its own parliamentarians, and for what?

So they could police what songs were sung at the football.

I mean, come on. Seriously?

That law was hastily drafted and a narrow parliamentary majority – and emotive, misleading language in the media – allowed it to be passed despite glaring holes and serious civil rights issues.

It’s on the statute book to this day.

Every minute it remains there embarrasses and shames Scotland.

Nowadays simply singing about the Armed Struggle will put you in a courtroom and so young lads are having their lives put on hold, or even ruined, for a form of political expression in a country which we’re told is celebrating a brand new awaking of activism and engagement and which our political class is supposed to be fully supportive of.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Everything, my friends.

Every god damned thing.

What was it the famous Green Brigade banner said?

“The terrorist or the dreamer, the savage or the brave, depends whose vote you’re trying to catch or whose face you’re trying to save.”

The law was drafted by hypocrites and is defended by hypocrites.

And I say that as someone who was still prepared to vote for them, because, frankly, I’m not the sort to cast a ballot on any single issue and the alternative was so absolutely unequivocally awful that I simply couldn’t stomach it.

I don’t want this becoming a political discussion piece.

I cast that vote with the bigger picture in mind, but I’ve always been clear; if my fellow supporters of independence gain that only to try and set up the sort of police state where laws like this are commonplace, they’ll succeed only when they pry my cold dead fingers off the door knob of Bute House.

Public opinion supports this law.

That’s what people keep telling me, as if public opinion isn’t often the stuff of wild ignorance and the mood of any given day, as if it’s never been wrong.

Public opinion would have had the death penalty reinstated just in time to send Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker to the gallows.

Paul Hill, Gerard Conolan, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson would have joined them in the cold, dark ground the following year.

Public opinion already has a lot to answer for; the current assault on the welfare state just for openers.

Besides, as I’ve demonstrated above, public opinion doesn’t support unsafe convictions.

It doesn’t support fit-ups and frauds, and perjured testimony.

It doesn’t support the state when it uses poorly drafted legislation as a shield from behind which it persecutes its own citizens.

More and more, that’s what the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act does.

During the last week, the team at Fans Against Criminalisation, the group set up by football supporters in opposition to this bill, have been working hard behind the scenes trying to secure a rather unusual court proceeding of their own.

To summarise very quickly what’s been going on, (you can read the full thing by clicking on this link) they’ve been trying to get the Director of Public Prosecutions to look at evidence they’ve collected that suggests at least one serving police officer has committed perjury in an effort to secure a conviction in a case held under the auspices of the Offensive Behaviour Act.

They say this officer has given sworn testimony in several of the cases involving the people they represent.

If true, this blows those cases all to Hell and gone.

And it ought to blow this disgraceful law to pieces at the same time.

No wonder FAC’s efforts are meeting with a certain level of what we’ll call bureaucratic resistance.

After a long period in which they’ve tried numerous avenues to have this evidence taken seriously they were told, this week, to basically write a wee letter.

“Stick it all in an envelope,” one of their members was told when she called the Crown Office to finally get the complaint on the record, weeks after being told that it had already been looked into (with no-one ever seeing as much as a scrap of paper or hearing a single person make an on-the-record statement).

When asked if she should send it by recorded delivery the person on the other end of the phone nonchalantly told her “if you like …”

To say they’re not taking this seriously would, I think, be an understatement.

This law reeked, it stunk out the house like a dead animal under the floorboards, before this week.

As assaults on free speech go, it’s one of the worst ever conceived on this island.

When the Act was at the Bill stage, Liberty wrote a truly damning report on its implications, stating that “Any intrusion on the right to express ourselves brought about by broadly framed offences will have a chilling effect on free speech, whether it be the freedom to sing an age old anthem or express and exchange new ideas. It is an integral part of the right – and vital to the lifeblood of democracy – that individuals feel able to express their views (even distasteful and unpleasant views) without fear of criminal repercussion.”

That this law is an affront to free expression was never really in any doubt, and only a reactionary mind could try to excuse it as somehow being necessary anyway, in spite of the grave risks this Act and others like it pose to the freedoms of every single one of us.

But what more people do not realise is that it is wide open to official abuse, and allows the organs of the state more power than they should ever be allowed to have.

Because this is framed as to allow police officers and the courts the widest possible remit in determining whether a law has actually been broken.

Let me put that another way;

Laws are supposed to be clear cut.

They are meant to spell out specific offences and a range of punishments for breaking them.

They are not supposed to be open-ended, subject to “interpretation” or at the “discretion” of law enforcement officials or the judiciary.

That really is the road to the police state, where its sworn officers can decide, on the spot, whether something you have done or are doing falls outside the limits of the law.

Liberty were worried about this from the off.

“Giving police such a wide discretion based on subjective factors of what may be perceived to be offensive or hateful will only lead to misapplication and misuse,” they wrote in the same report cited above.

That this has happened, and is happening, is not in dispute either.

This law has been abused, as all vague and broadly sweeping laws will be, by the very people who are supposed to uphold it.

That at least one officer is being accused of perjury will not shock anyone who knows about these cases or about officialdom and its historic tendancy to bend its own rules in pursuit of what it deems justice to be.

What should shock everyone is that this is gilding the lily to an extent not even necessary; this Act is so based on individual interpretation that every single person who attends a football match in this country could be cited under it on any given day.

The framers of the Bill actually acknowledge that in its policy memorandum, recognising that the costs of actually imposing it to the fullest extent would be “unsustainable.”

So they let the police make the decision, on the day, about who to subject to it.

That’s in the Bill, in black and white, an admission that this law is targeted at individuals and relies on the police on the scene making a “judgement call” on who to arrest or charge.

I repeat; laws aren’t supposed to work this way, although far too many do.

The outstanding Scottish journalist Kevin McKenna wrote a lengthy piece on this law at the time when it was passed.

He identified four key areas of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which come into direct conflict with the legislation, and reveal it to be blatantly discriminatory.

“Article 7: All are equal before the law.”

How can this be maintained when those who wrote the Bill accept that arrest and prosecution under it will be a matter for the police on the scene to decide, effectively ignoring large numbers of people committing the same alleged offence to target select individuals of their choosing?

Furthermore, how can singing a song which is legal elsewhere be illegal inside a football stadium or on the way to a game? If you were singing the same song on the way to a rugby match, you would be free to do so as you pleased.

“Article 9: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

The key word there is “arbitrary.”

To give it it’s textbook definition; “based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.”

“Article 12: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

What this law does, in a crude but real way is mirror McGovern’s acerbic line; “Every opinion is permissible until proven Irish.”

“Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinions and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference.”

Quite how the framers and the courts and the police get around this one baffles me.

I am sure that at least one of these cases is going to end up before the European Court, and when it does this Act will wind up in the bin alongside internment.

This law is that bad and attacks from the commentariat aren’t even confined to those on the left.

Even the right loathe this piece of excreta.

One of its fiercest critics has been Alex Massie of The Spectator, who’s been writing acid articles on it since it was passed.

In January of this year, he highlighted a tweet sent out by Police Scotland which read “Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on social media and any offensive comments will be investigated.”

Massie described that as “the most offensive tweet I’ve seen in months”, in an article entitled “Scotland: No Country For Free Speech.”

In it, he takes apart the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act and in particular the way in which it legislates against actions which might cause a “reasonable person to take offence.”

As he pointed out, said “offended persons” don’t even have to be in the vicinity of the “offence” for this to apply.

Indeed, they don’t even have to exist at all … they can be conjured out of thin air in the courtroom or police wagon, theoretical phantoms with fragile egos and easily splintered psyches.

Massie’s contempt for this notion is expressed thus;

“I remind you that the law as written and enforced allows for the creation of entirely fictitious or imaginary people who might have been offended had they existed and had they been present to hear the alleged criminal offences (songs, chiefly) being committed.”

Can you think of anything more dangerous than giving the state license to do this?

Here in Scotland we have.

Now, on top of this, the police appear to be resorting to fit-ups, to lying in open court, to secure convictions … and when they can’t get them clean under a law as broad as this, and that they won’t risk trying, should make everyone question what the real motivations here are.

It certainly isn’t about fighting sectarianism.

Perhaps something like this was always going to be needed to force the ugly side of the Act into the public gaze.

That FAC will not give up on their campaign to have this officer brought up on charges is clear enough; they’ve been trying to get a hearing for months and been rebuffed but it has not ended their determination to see this matter through.

This issue needs rammed into the public sphere.

That we are criminalising people for their political view is bad enough.

Some of the individuals who have fallen foul of this law have never committed a criminal offence in their lives before this, and will never do so again. But as a consequence of “police discretion” many of them have had to put their lives on hold whilst they await trial and sentencing and it is without doubt that some have had their lives ruined as a result.

Are we really a free and tolerant society if we allow this?

What is this “new Scotland” we keep hearing about worth if persecution and the criminalisation of free expression are part of its foundation?

Who wants to live in a country like that?

I know I sure as Hell don’t, and nor will I.

This law was conceived in a febrile atmosphere whipped up by the media in the aftermath of a single game of football.

It was public opinion – or a twisted measure of it – that saw it put on the statute books.

But public opinion changes like the weather, and it most often does so when people stop thinking reflexively and start examining issues on their actual merits.

I know one thing, the people who defend this law in the Scottish Parliament only do so because public opinion still appears to be on their side.

If that were to change then you had better believe they’d find cause to repeal it in due course.

Time to start writing letters to MP’s and MSP’s.

Time to start filling their inboxes.

Everyone who reads this should share it or do at least one thing to raise awareness about the issues in it.

You should all bookmark FAC’s website, and keep abreast of the campaign and read the stories of the supporters they represent, and who have been targeted by this obscene law.

More than that, this story needs to be told to the widest possible audience and that can never be achieved by the bloggers alone.

It needs to be pushed into the spotlight where it is picked up by the media and highlighted properly, perhaps by someone like Mark Daly.

It needs to be investigated by his sort of mind and sharp intellect.

It is more imperative than ever that we wash away not only the social and legal case for the retention of this dire law but any remaining shred of moral authority on which those who devised claim t it still rests.

I’ve never been convinced that such existed in the first place.

It sure as Hell doesn’t exist now.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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No Resolution

_68112347_campbell_ogilviePower corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton.

Last week, Celtic cyberspace was buzzing with two stories; the first was about the Josh Meekings case and the other was about the continuing saga of Resolution 12.

That Resolution 12 is still alive at all is a miracle, owing everything to a group of Celtic supporters who simply will not give up.

Those guys – Auldheid, Canamalar, Morrissey, BRTH and others – have carried this matter forward for years. Their efforts in the name of getting to the truth, to getting justice for our club, have been nothing short of heroic.

It was first put to the Celtic AGM nearly three years ago, and when the fans were asked to withdraw the motion they were told that the club knew their concerns and shared them.

They were told that Celtic would look into matters independently and they would get back to the requisitioners on the issue.

Those guys agreed to do that, knowing there would be a backlash, and there was.

A lot of Celtic fans scoffed at the notion of our club wanting to keep this going.

The guys behind Resolution 12 have been pilloried by a great many on their own side.

I understand – in part – why this happened.

Celtic does its business in private, not public, and that can often give the impression that nothing is happening.

They respect certain unwritten rules of the game here, and they have a policy that they don’t comment on certain issues until things have run their course.

As a consequence, people have been saying that the club has been dragging its feet on this. Or worse, that the fans who put the motion on the table and then withdrew it at the board’s urging were duped.

Now, we may be on the verge of getting some measure of justice as reports suggest the issue is now with UEFA after Celtic sent them a dossier.

At the same time, we’re told that Celtic has sent another to the SFA, requesting that certain issues are clarified and that certain questions are answered.

If true then Celtic are to be commended for not letting this matter quietly die.

They could have. A lot of issues from the post-liquidation Rangers period apper to have been dropped.

But Resolution 12 lives on, as it should, because aside from the damage this affair inflicted on sporting integrity it potentially cost Celitc millions of pounds, and the board had a duty to its shareholders to see it was investigated.

Yet as glad as I am about this, there are some who will say it’s come about too late.

The hour at which this matter will finally be decided comes as one of the guilty men – perhaps the guiltiest man of all – prepares to swan off into the sunset, pension intact, reputation intact, legacy assured.

The media will eulogise and laud the “achievements” of Campbell Ogilvie. They might even talk to you about “integrity”, but those of us who’ve invested time and study in these matters know that few men in the recent history of the Scottish game have done more to damage it than he has.

In my view he stands, alongside the disgraced Jim Farry, as one of the most corrupt leaders the game in Scotland has ever had.

At the end of this month he walks away.

As things presently stand he leaves without a stain on his character, at least as far as the history books go. Indeed, the SFA nominated him for a post at UEFA and he almost found himself there, alongside his other disgraced buddy, Hugh Dallas, who one can only assume was given a reference by the governing body although he’d been sacked for a sectarian offence.

Ogilvie taking up a seat alongside him would have been the grossest insult to Celtic fans for quite some time.

All this makes me angry, as it should make every football fan angry.

Yet this isn’t over by a long way. Resolution 12 may yet destroy all that.

That is necessary for the good of this sport.

Celtic may finally be vindicated over Resolution 12, but the greater series of offences against the sport will go unresolved unless his part in it all is fully brought into public focus and he is stripped of any legitimacy he currently holds.

Graham Spiers is but one journalist who will resist any effort to scrutinise this man properly and bring his story full circle. He once described Ogilvie as “one of the most decent men you could ever meet”, and I suspect it wasn’t to get free match tickets for Hampden.

Spiers and others actually do believe this.

I wonder if they are just ignorant of the facts, or if they’re letting their personal views influence their ability to be objective.

Either way, their narrative will not reflect the facts.

That quote comes from an interview he did with Ogilvie for an article in 2013, where he cited Lord Nimmo Smith’s decision to criticise the Rangers board that implemented the EBT scheme. Instead of taking that to its logical, and correct, conclusion Spiers talked about how the former Ibrox director was a man of “integrity” and never questioned the SFA head when he denied playing a part in running the tax scam.

“The EBTs were set up around 2001 at Rangers and I’ve never hidden from the fact that I was then a director at the club,” Ogilvie said in that piece. That statement says a lot about how he views himself; here he is trying to make a virtue out of being upfront about something that is in the public domain anyway, and which he couldn’t slither out of if he tried.

It’s what he says next that blows the mind.

“I didn’t get involved in the financial management of the club in that context. That’s not an excuse – that’s just a fact. I ceased being Rangers’ secretary in 2002 and I ceased being involved in the football admin at Rangers in 2002.”

Of course, we now know that which he then stated as “a fact” is a barefaced lie. So, too, is his contention that his EBT was “to do with me leaving the club in 2005.” Historical research proves both these things to be absolutely false.

Not content with spinning a blatant untruth, he goes even further, and tries to palm all this off as being someone else’s responsibility, choosing to blame his fellow directors, and even accountants and lawyers.

“Maybe as a director I should have asked more questions about it – I accept that now – but when things are signed off by legal people, by accountants, I tended to accept it,” he told Spiers. “I’m not saying the EBTs were illegal. But, knowing all the hassle that they caused, with hindsight, if I could go back, I wouldn’t go down that road.”

Even if we take his word for all of that – ignoring the evidence we know is to hand – what he has just said there makes him grossly unsuitable for the position he went on to hold, the one he holds today, that of President of the Scottish Football Association.

This is a man who’s best defence of that time – indeed his only defence – is that he didn’t know what was happening, that he never asked, that he neglected even his most basic – and legal – duties as a director.

And, of course, the truth is even more damning.

See, Spiers and others don’t like to go here, but Ogilvie admits to having known about EBT’s.

He admits to having been the link man between the club and the governing bodies for several years after the schemes were set up.

Yet despite a raft of regulations Ogilvie knew full well about (and he should have been sacked if he didn’t) those contracts were never declared to the SFA, as his Head of Registrations, Sandy Bryson, later admitted.

In fact, Bryson’s testimony ought to have seen Ogilvie walk the plank anyway, because although his bizarre assertion that the EBT second contracts did not render those players invalid – because no-one knew about them at the time; all that ultimately prevented title stripping on a grand scale – it also puts it on the record that the man at the helm of our association not only knew of their existence but knew that they were being concealed.

I mean, he was treasurer of the SFA whilst on the Ibrox board at the time when EBT’s were a regular part of the club’s wage structure.

He knew they existed, as he admits himself.

He would have known whether the SFA was in possession of them.

He has no defence, and the only one he can attempt is to plead utter ignorance and, as noted, that should have disqualified him from holding any job in football again.

Quite how anyone can support him I simply do not know.

None of this has ever been disputed. It’s just not discussed at all.

The media silence on it is deafening.

I find all this particularly amusing in the week where Gordon Waddell has suggested that Peter Lawwell’s position at the SFA is compromised by his wanting to do the best by Celtic. It is ludicrous, and scandalous, that the same journalists engaging in that line of attack against the Parkhead CEO are notoriously silent on the issues surrounding the SFA President.

They are shameless. The way they target one man whilst protecting the other reveals a naked bias that makes them impossible to take seriously as journalists.

But of course there are too many facts in the public domain for their view on this to prevail over everyone who watches the Scottish game.

Resolution 12 is what damns Ogilvie.

That Rangers was given a license to compete in European football in the 2011/12 season when they had a “tax liability payable” is an outrage which ought never to be forgotten. This referred not to the Big Tax Case, but to the Discounted Options Scheme, the Wee Tax Case, which, at the time, had not formed part of the larger investigation.

The Discounted Options Scheme was, and remains, so toxic that the SFA and SPL made sure it did not form part of the Lord Nimmo Smith case, because it is almost the textbook definition of “the smoking gun”, damning everyone who knew about it.

That senior members of the SFA, including Ogilvie himself, did, and that they also knew full well how dangerous it was is not in dispute either.

For one thing, Ogilvie and Stewart Regan sat down to dinner with a senior Rangers executive in December of that year to discuss spin control on this very issue. They knew this was going to explode, and that meeting was called so they might come up with ideas about how best to defuse the bomb they knew was primed underneath them.

The club certainly knew that license should never have been granted, because HMRC sent the final demand for payment to the club, prior to legal proceedings beginning, in February that year and Rangers’ own lawyer, Andrew Thornhill QC, was left in absolutely no doubt that the legal position regarding the Discounted Options Scheme could not be defended.

Less than one month later, he sent the club a letter outlining his views on this.

The crucial paragraph of the legal advice he offered reads thus:

“The scheme was carried out in a way which suggests that arguing the case would be an uphill task. However, the deciding factor in favour of settling the matter is the existence of side letters in two instances demonstrating that there was a true intention of putting cash into the hands of players as part of their remuneration package. It does not help either that the existence of these letters has been denied or not revealed by the club.”

Ogilvie took the SFA President’s office in June 2011, just two months after HMRC’s final demand, and less than one month before the final SFA decision on the license was granted.

The SFA’s licensing committee, which made that decision, included Andrew Dickson, then Rangers’ head of football administration. The media which has spent the last week castigating Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell appears not to think that was a conflict of interest.

And who is the man who actually initiated this particular tax avoidance scheme at Ibrox?

Well there’s an answer to that too, because despite his denials that he ever played any part in the EBT affair at Rangers, it was Campbell Ogilvie himself who signed the first piece of paper relating to the Discounted Options Scheme.

He was, in fact, the first “shareholder” in the sub-company at Rangers which was running the entire scam.

The irony of all this, of course, is that the club was roundly humiliated when it entered the European arena that year, being knocked out of both continental competitions within a month.

Yet what is equally clear, from what happened next, is that things at Rangers were so perilous that the absence of European football income utterly destroyed Craig Whyte’s business plan, forcing him to stop paying the bills and leading to the ruination of the club.

In short, those inside Ibrox knew how vital European football was to them.

There is little doubt they informed the SFA of the likely consequences of denying them a license and that this played a major part in the decision to grant them one. Regulations be damned. Sporting integrity didn’t even come into it.

Other clubs would have been forced to sell players and try and get their finances under control. Because it was Rangers, and because they had friends in high places, the regulations were ignored and the law itself was bent to the snapping point.

Those people helped to steer Lord Nimmo Smith away from examining the issue and they have been scrambling to clean up the mess ever since.

But Resolution 12 now looms in front of them, like a mugger in alleyway.

Ogilvie has presided over an association that has allowed things to spiral so far out of control at Rangers, and then at Sevco, that it quite literally boggles the mind, but they are far from his only sins.

The SFA President is the walking epitome of the aphorism that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

This is the man whose organisation has just sat in judgement of Livingston over “undue influence”, almost crushing them under a sweeping array of punishments because a director of that club held shares in another.

The slap on the wrist Mike Ashley received was a joke next to what’s happened to the Championship team, but it’s no less appalling than when you consider that in the time he was at the SFA he, himself, was knowingly in violation of the same rules.

He held shares in Rangers whilst as a director of Hearts.

He eventually transferred those to the control of his wife, apparently not realising – or more likely just not giving a damn – that this, too, clearly breaches the regulations.

At the same time, because of his position at Ibrox, he would certainly have known that the Airdrie chairman and President of the Scottish Football League, Jim Ballantyne, was a Rangers shareholder and the same applied to Donald Findlay, the chairman at Cowdenbeath.

Of course, these men might well argue that they had no “undue influence” over matters at Ibrox, but in the context of the time that, too, is plainly not the case.

When this was first revealed, at the moment Sevco was still trying to claw its way into the top flight, Ballantyne appeared at a fund-raiser for the club, at Linfield in Belfast, wearing a Rangers Fighting Fund badge on his lapel.

Not only was he serving in those other positions at the time, but he was on the board of the SFA, along with Campbell Ogilvie himself.

In the wake of a public outcry over his appearance at this game, he announced that his club would play no part in the vote to grant Sevco a place in the Championship. Yet even that was not an acknowledgement that his position was untenable in light of his open support for a club not his own.

In the end, his club didn’t vote because they would have been a direct beneficiary of a decision to make Sevco start in the bottom tier.

Ballantyne remains on the SFA Professional Game Board to this day.

Neither he, nor his club, have ever been the subject to disciplinary action for his dual shareholding, nor has Findlay at Cowdenbeath, and of course Ogilvie himself has never been asked the serious questions about his and his wife’s shareholding in Rangers that ought to have been levelled at him when he took up a senior position at Tynecastle.

Rangers – Sevco certainly was certainly never likely to pay a price for these activities, although they opened up the potential of one club and people associated with it wielding enormous influence at the SFA and the Scottish Football League.

Ogilvie is, at best, an unbelievable hypocrite.

At worst, he is the embodiment of the SFA’s long history of bent practices and looking the other way.

He exemplifies what happens when someone is allowed to escape the scrutiny that should automatically go to someone in a position of authority and responsibility. In effect, he has spent the latter part of his career deciding what regulations apply to him and the club where he earned his stripes.

The end of his tenure ought to have been forced on him at least three years ago. That it wasn’t will remain one of the great scandals in the history of our sport and if Resolution 12 explodes – and it has the potential to be thermonuclear – it will haunt the SFA for years to come.

When Ogilvie departs, and the post is up for grabs, it must be hoped that someone with more integrity takes over in his absence. The end of the old “SFA blazer” era is long, long overdue. Light has to be allowed to flood into the dark corners.

I have real hope that this organisation can yet be reformed, and made serve the game as a whole.

But Ogilvie, himself, must not be allowed to swan off into the sunset with a hundred unanswered questions about his tenure remaining.

He must not be granted the media send-off which is almost certain, and which he does not deserve.

Justice is still undone.

It will remain like that until Campbell Ogilvie joins Jim Farry in the SFA Hall of Shame.

Celtic can bring to light the scandal of the UEFA License in 2011-12, but until this man is called out for what he is, and his reputation is in shreds much like the SFA Constitution he leaves behind him, there will remain no resolution.

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The Need For Leadership

167444-campbell-ogilvie-and-stewart-regan-sfaOver on The Scottish Football Monitor, my good friend Auldheid has put together a truly special piece of work which I’m going to take apart in more detail at another stage this week.

In the meantime, I would urge everyone to go and read it, and to watch the video that he opens with, even if you’ve seen it before; it’s Alex Thomson interviewing Stewart Regan back in 2012.

Auldheid has been exceptional on these issues, in chasing down facts and putting them together for people to see. He is not alone in this.

There a few truly exceptional individuals out there doing digging, some of them on a daily basis, with the objective of changing the nature of the game here. They are our standard bearers, doing the heavy lifting on our behalf.

But those guys can’t do it alone, and although many of us in the blogosphere are pushing the same agenda, often in concert with these guys, we can’t do it either. The time is coming for the great mass of Scottish football fans to come together and work hard, with an agenda, with a specific plan, to press for the kind of real reform that Scottish football needs.

I don’t even pretend to think it’ll be easy, but it’s definitely required and it’s long overdue. Without it, we’re sleepwalking from one disaster to another, from one crisis point to another, and that will go on and on until none of us can bear to set foot in a football ground again.

The game here will die unless we act. There it is, as bluntly as I can put it.

Our governing bodies have no interest in saving it for the greater good. If we’re being generous, we’ll accuse them merely of lacking the imagination to see past a two team duopoly which has sustained interest in the sport for too long. If we’re being less kind, we’ll call it what it is; a subservience to the whims of one club that makes no sense at all, that damages the game and that will continue until we put a stop to it.

The media will not lead this campaign, because they don’t think anything needs to change except that Sevco Rangers should be “competing” with Celtic every year. In their world, every ill in the game right now can be traced to the decision to “relegate” (their word, not mine) that club from the top flight. As I said in my last piece, I no longer care whether or not it’s because of inherent bias or because they, too, lack the creative intelligence to imagine something better … the point is that they are looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

They can’t help us. They won’t help us.

This campaign can no longer – it never could – be the province of a small group of people being run on a small number of websites, even sites like TSFM which was set up principally for that task and which is, with all respect to a number of others out there, easily the most important of all Scottish football’s forums and weblogs.

This has to go live, to become something more. It really should have happened already, in the aftermath of the Rangers crisis of 2012, but basking in our victory then, and in light of the shambles Sevco descended into afterwards, we took our eyes off the ball temporarily.

The Lord Nimmo Smith verdict should have shocked us out of apathy, but a lot of people saw that as primarily affecting only one club, rather than looking past it to a greater truth.

Auldheid has laid that greater truth out for us all to see.

What’s happened at Hampden, in relation to the Rangers – Sevco scandal has affected every club in the country, and it has dragged down our national game to the point where major competitions have no sponsors and we get in TV income for a year what the average EPL club gets from the same companies in a week.

That’s not right, but it’s the all too predictable result of a summer in which the governing bodies lined up their CEO’s to tell the world how worthless our national sport was without a club called Rangers in the top flight.

Shame on them. Shame on our other clubs for letting these people keep their jobs in the aftermath of such a moment of economic self-sabotage.

Before we can even start to think about getting a campaign off the ground, though, there are a number of issues which need to be resolved first, because without them – without an acknowledgement of them anyway – we’re dead in the water.

Some of these are issues of perception. Some are deeper than that.

I’ll go over the most important, one at a time, listing them first and then going into a little more detail on each.

I am not pretending this is an exhaustive list, and as I’ve said this is not a series of actual proposals. These are foundation stones. Readers should feel free to add to them, or call them nonsense, as they see fit.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers here. Not even close. No-one can.

Which is why we need to focus all our energies on this rather than leaving it up to a mere few.

1) This has to be a multi-club endeavour or it will absolutely fail.

2) This endeavour concerns itself with Scottish football governance; it must not be seen as about justice, or revenge, for the sins of Rangers and Sevco. An exploration – a full exploration – of certain issues in relation to those events, and an accounting for them, is definitely crucial to the overall process, but it’s not the primary objective.

3) This campaign has to be rooted in the fans, and that includes the Sevco Rangers supporters, who I personally think have been let down as badly as anybody by the rank incompetence and corrupt behaviour of the people who run our national sport.

4) Fans have to put aside their tribal tendencies to work together … hugely important or this campaign will absolutely fail.

5) We have to resist the temptation to organise alongside Occupy lines; in other words, this needs a structure. It needs a set of goals. It needs a clear roadmap to accomplishing them. Otherwise we’re a disorganised rabble complaining about everything and fixing nothing.

6) We have to believe we can accomplish our goals, otherwise this campaign will absolutely fail and there will be no prospect of a future one succeeding either.

The first one speaks for itself. As tempting as it is for many fans to point the finger at guys like Peter Lawwell (and it is very tempting, I know it well), they don’t operate in a vacuum. If, as some suspect, the Celtic CEO is pushing the “Old Firm” brand (and I’ve written about my own suspicions on that score right here on this site) he could only succeed in promoting an easy ride for Sevco if other clubs were willing to go along with it.

Scottish football governance is run on a democratic basis. It’s a crude one, and an incestuous one … but it does depend on the consent of the membership and Lawwell can’t be blamed for everything … but nor can he disavow responsibility.

Our member clubs have clearly accepted unacceptable conduct and unacceptable practices over the years, and they’ve allowed people to stay in office who to call them unfit would be to do them a kindness they don’t deserve.

Our member clubs get away with this only because all the scrutiny we give our teams tends to be based on what they do individually; the players they sign, the deals they make, their appointments, sackings and other activities.

We pay little, or no, heed to what they do collectively, in our name.

If we change that, then we can change everything.

If we push enough of them the right way they will influence others and that will bring real reform within reach. But this has to be done in a co-ordinated fashion. We need an agenda and that agenda needs to be presented to all the clubs, individually and as one.

The second is also self-explanatory. This is not a Celtic fans campaign, and it never was. You could argue that Celtic fans took the lead in it, but that’s a surface assumption. Start with the petition that is credited in many quarters as having sunk like a stone Sevco’s chances of starting in the SPL. It came from a site called SPL Survey, and it was set up by two non-Celtic fans.

I think it’s important that the full scale of the LNS scandal is uncovered and that people lose their jobs for it. I think it’s important to establish the full facts of the Discounted Options Scheme, and I’ve written at length on both these things. I also think we need to find out what’s in the Five Way Agreement and what really happened with the SPL TV deal.

Those things aren’t about Rangers. This is a misunderstanding that goes to the heart of our problem here. Too many people, in the media and amongst the fans of all the clubs, have a tendency to believe our intention here is to ruin whichever club is playing at Ibrox.

This has never been about that, and I am tired of saying it.

These things are about how the governing bodies colluded to excuse behaviours from that club that they would not have excused from any other team, and about the potential for even greater rule breaking in future because of the deadly precedents that have been set. Bottom line.

Those things were scandals and they affected us all, firstly in destroying the SPL and the SFA’s mandate to govern the game “in the interests of all the clubs”, secondly because they damaged the concept of sporting integrity – and would have destroyed it had these people got their way – and finally because of the enormous reputational, and as a consequence financial, damage they inflicted on the sport, damage which reverberates through it today.

Thirdly, this campaign has to be rooted in the fans. The clubs have to know, and they have to make clear, that they are acting on our mandate and in our interests and they have to follow the agenda we set out. No fudging. No compromises.

No having certain chairmen telling us they know better than we do and offering to “lead this” on our behalf, only to dump some of our ideas. Only by making sure this campaign belongs to us are we making sure it achieves its aims. All of them. Without exception.

This has to include the fans of Sevco Rangers, who can, and will, play a full part in it because it’s in their best interests to do so, in particular as the people in charge of their club today are already starting to backtrack on more openness, fan involvement and have a business plan which calls for the spending of huge sums the club can’t afford.

In short, once they take off the short-sight blinkers they should be screaming for rigorous Fit & Proper Person tests, for requirements for full and transparent financial disclosure, for Financial Fair Play … these things would have saved their club, by preventing the EBT scandal, the running up of huge debts and Murray’s penchant for hiding unfortunate facts from their sight. They would have won less during the “glory years”, but who now wouldn’t have traded some of those to avoid the ignominy and disgrace of more recent times?

This means putting aside the Victim Myth, and it means Celtic fans having to work with them, as tough as that will be for some of them to bear.

It means that the supporters of clubs outside the West of Scotland really need to get over their own tribal dislike of the clubs which play there – and their fans – and start acting in concert with the fans of those sides who are not just interested in their own quest for glory but who want something more out of the Scottish game. That is probably the most vital requirement here.

I can already hear these ideas being shouted down because I’m a Celtic fan. I’d rather people just asked “who is this cheeky, presumptive arse?” rather than turn this into an issue of “Old Firm fans thinking they have a divine right …” I have no divine right.

I am not suggesting everything I say be adopted … I am offering a possible starting point.

Yet there’s no use pretending that this campaign can just rattle along, adding every perceived grievance and wrong to our list. We have to be realistic in our goals. There’s no point in trying to push clubs to vote the SFA board out because they won’t ban Sky cameras from Scotland until the TV companies give us a better shake. Our aims have to be achievable.

We can’t do this by town meeting either.

Internet polls, fan surveys and everything else can be utilised to get us thinking of what our agenda should be, but it’s going to take an actual structure, with volunteer leaders and those chosen by the individual supports to serve on its committees to make sure this is pursued.

Furthermore, it’s going to take an umbrella organisation to get this stuff done. There’s no point in us “organising” a campaign as a rabble because no-one will take us seriously if we do.

Lastly, those of us who commit to getting involved in this have to understand that there will be people out there who’ll tell us we are wasting our time and that the things we want are beyond our reach and that the game here cannot be changed.

That is defeatist talk, and we ought not to tolerate it. Those who think our governing bodies have already gotten away with murder need to be reminded that we’ve held them to account before and there’s no real obstacle to doing it again except for the idea that we can’t.

I think there are clear objectives we should be aiming for; financial fair play rules; more solid regulations on fit and proper persons; more concrete regulations on administration and the outlawing of clubs being able to “newco” and retain all the paraphernalia they had before they were killed by mismanagement. These are all reasonable aims.

In my view we should also be campaigning for some kind of fans pressure on the Culture and Sport ministers in Holyrood and Westminster for a review of commercial revenues in sport – and whether we’re being hurt by a cartel – and in the meantime we ought to dust off those FansTV proposals Rob Petrie worked so hard on and consider those too.

I’m just a guy with a blog, but for too long Scottish football has tolerated sub-standard leaders who seem to have no long term plan. I have no faith in them, and I believe that I’ve seen enough of my fellow fans to know they have more imagination, passion and courage than these jokers ever have or ever will, and they care deeply about the game too.

We might not get everything right, but we will certainly not get the staggering amount of big decisions wrong that has been the hallmark of the last couple of years. We can only be better than this.

Friends, I look forward to your comments and ideas.

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In Defence Of The Worlds Greatest Fans

celtic-fans_1806391bA few weeks ago, I got an email from one of the readers of this blog.

He’s a pensioner, and in the message he said he thought it was important to keep alive what Celtic means, and to keep on highlighting our “contribution to world football.” He was right.

As time goes by, as I get older, I think about what Celtic has meant to me all my life. I think about the way it has affected everything I do.

I strongly suspect I got my personality from Celtic, everything from my optimistic outlook to the way I handle adversity. I know, for sure, that no other institution, from the church to the political organisations I’ve been a member of along the way, has had as profound an impact on the way I view the world. Celtic is part of who I am.

I do believe this club has made a major contribution to world football, and we continue to.

The Celtic supporters have also had a major effect on the world around them, as the Thai Tims can attest, as the kids from the Kano Foundation know well, as the children of a hundred African villages will grow up to respect. We have changed lives. No doubt about it.

Like every other successful football club we have enemies and it’s probably not exactly unusual to find that the bulk of ours exist in our own country. Whereas Celtic fans can go just about anywhere in the world and be made to feel welcome, here at home we have to run a gauntlet of criticism and spite that we simply don’t get elsewhere.

Right now, the opposition are in paroxysms of joy at the prospect of us getting into trouble at UEFA for our latest wee indiscretion, where a group of morons decided to bring flares into the San Siro not giving a damn what the consequences were.

I say to those fans first that your behaviour is disgusting. You’re not Celtic supporters, and I don’t care that you flew over there on your own dime. You weren’t representing us, you were representing yourselves and you made that quite clear. The club is going to weed you out, and that’s a fact. It will be better off without you.

But to those who would use this event to beat us … well, you’re barking up the wrong tree. A few idiots aside we are what we have always been; the best supporters in the world. You won’t change that. UEFA fines won’t change it. A few halfwits on Sevco sites pointing to our “record” won’t change it. I don’t give a damn what they think … because the rest of the world knows better.

Celtic fans are amongst the moved loved and respected on the planet.

Our reputation wasn’t built on the back of the way we’re viewed in Scotland. It was built on the way we’re perceived by those friends we’ve made across the world … and that part of our reputation will be forever beyond the reach of those who hate us.

Our friends know who we are, just as we do, and they are everywhere; in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Holland, England and elsewhere … wherever we have played in recent years, we have built relationships with the fans of other clubs.

You know, about five years ago I read a Rangers fan site actually mocking Celtic fans for going out of the way to make friends wherever we went.

We had just been invited to Villarreal for a tournament, cementing a bond which goes back a while now.

The writer was expressing his opinion on that.

I would love to say the piece in question reeked of jealousy, because that would be semi-rational, but in fact it was worse than that; it was written in a tone that was honestly hostile to the very idea that a club’s fans should go abroad and try to make friends.

The writer had his own ideas about what a European city should expect from a visiting club’s supporters; mayhem. Chaos. “I want them to be terrified when we are in town,” he said … and I found that the most profoundly revealing statement of all.

It was something they made good on time and time again.

Villarreal didn’t forget them any more than it forgot us.

Likewise Pamplona.

Manchester would probably rather it was never visited by them this side of Armageddon.

We have a few recidivists in our support, a small group who continue to engage in behaviour that I’d call moronic except that morons would be offended, but without defending these people – I wouldn’t even try, they ought to be outcasts – I ask you; what exactly are these terrible crimes of which the Celtic support stands accused by our friends here at home?

Letting off fireworks. Songs UEFA doesn’t like. A couple of banners pointing to the hypocrisy of our the Scottish Government, and telling the game’s governing body what a section of support thought of their decision making.

UEFA takes this stuff seriously; pyrotechnics in grounds, political banners and singing … but without trying to downplay the significance of this, we’re not talking about rioting in the stands here. Celtic’s crime count is the equivalent of loitering, of being drunk and incapable, of peeing in public. This is hardly a list of the most heinous sins ever seen in a football ground.

UEFA charges are bad news. We could find ourselves with a stand closed, or having our fans banned from travelling to away games. Indeed, Peter Lawwell must be tempted to refuse our next European ticket allocation … but that would punish the best fans in the world for the actions of a few and I doubt it will ever come to that.

Celtic fans have always been self-policing. No-one is any doubt that our club is being harmed by the actions of a few idiots. That will not be allowed to continue.

But the damage to the club does not impact on the esteem in which we are held.

Never forget that. Our contribution to world football, the good we have done, will forever outweigh the bad when it comes to how the rest of the sport views us.

On a day like today, with anger replacing our justifiable pride after the heroics on the pitch last night we should have been buzzing and eagerly awaiting the big match against Aberdeen at the weekend.

It is all too easy to be disheartened by negative headlines and a gleeful media who will milk this as much as the Sevco supporters who have been dying for something like this to deflect from their own scandalous behaviour of late … but nothing has changed here.

We are still special supporters. We are still welcome everywhere we go. The Celtic Park atmosphere is the best in Europe, by far, and the vast, vast majority of our away fans continue to do us credit, as magnificent ambassadors.

The respect others have for us, the affection many feel across the continent whenever they see the green and white hooped shirt … it is the same as it was yesterday. A few halfwits will not wreck that, no matter what the press here would have you believe.

Our football club has improved out of sight since this season began. The name “Celtic” rung out across Europe over these two legs. We did more than just regain our pride, we started to rebuild our reputation on the pitch … and that work stands us in good stead as we look ahead to the rest of the domestic season and our next European campaign.

My pride in this football club is undimmed. My pride at being a Celtic fan will never fade. We are what we have always been. The special fans of a special club.

How does the song go? “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high and don’t be afraid of the dark.”

Whatever the media might tell you, this is no more than a light shower.

We know who we are, and so do those friends we have everywhere, because that is what we’ve always been about. Our club will be forced to defend that reputation in the halls of UEFA and that is sad, because this organisation was giving us awards not long ago, but that reputation was not made there and it will not be harmed there.

We are – still, and always will be – the greatest fans in the world.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.

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An Obsession With Celtic

_44673935_d699e27c-4276-4b24-b3c7-e0a228846101Football fans come from all different backgrounds, and this is one of the things that drives some people up the wall. A football stadium is one of the few places on Earth where you get a broad mix of culture and class, sitting together side by side.

I’m sure there are more than a few people who’ve bought season tickets for the first time and come home and said to the wife or the husband or the live in partner, “You’ll never believe the people in the seats next to me …”

I like that about football, although I worry that the rising cost of going to matches is going to change that forever. Sooner or later – sooner, I suspect – football stadiums will be like the Opera … the province of the middle and upper classes, the only people who can afford tickets. I hope I’m wrong, but anyway, it’s a digression from the point of this piece.

Everyone ought to know by now the high regard in which I hold Jeanette Findlay and the members of the Celtic Trust. They are smart people – Jeanette is a genuine intellectual, who can speak with equal confidence on anything from football to politics – and they take their role and their responsibility seriously. They don’t pretend to speak for the rest of the supporters. They don’t undermine the work of the club. They know what they have to do … they are the shareholders organisation, and they look out for them above all.

I am a working class guy, from a working class background. Yet sitting above me, as I write this, in pride of place on the wall, is a Celtic share certificate. It’s my old man’s, not mine, but I like to look at it from time to time, as it reminds me that this family bleeds green.

It is the only share certificate any of us has ever owned or is ever likely to own. Playing the stock market? That’s an upper-middle class pursuit if ever I heard of one, and it just isn’t us.

Maybe I’m just too set in my ways, maybe I take my background too seriously, maybe the right wingers are bang on and I don’t view the horizon high enough … which isn’t to say I am not ambitious and driven and work hard, as anyone who knows all the stuff I’m involved in at the moment can attest.

But I think an organisation that represents shareholders should be run by someone like Jeanette, someone who’s sharp and discreet and a bit sophisticated. I look at the share certificate and I think “yes, that’s who should be speaking on our behalf.”

Because of that, I can say, with certainty, that I would be mortified if the Trust behaved like the one that represents the small shareholders at Ibrox. I would want to curl up and hide under the bed every time they released a statement, because I think the people currently putting out statemens on the behalf of the RST seem barmy and they lack refinement and their stuff, on too many occasions lately, reads like the kind of thing you’d expect to see on high school student Facebook pages, slagging other people and making bizarre generalisations.

The Rangers Supporters Trust has over 5000 members, and that’s an excellent number, reflecting the same sort of broad base as that found amongst shareholders of Celtic. Yet I find it incredible that out of that number they’ve allowed their public face to be that of the village idiot.

It’s astonishing to me that they tolerate this, that they accept it, and that they are content to have morons issuing press releases on their behalf, which demean what their purpose is meant to be.

You know what I find most astonishing? Their apparent obsession with Celtic.

Now, I am often accused of being “obsessed” by the goings on at Ibrox, but I am a writer and this is a Scottish football issues site. If I didn’t write about the stuff that happens there, that would be just inexcusable.

The club is a mess on every level but it is never boring, and they generate stories like no other on this island.

I write about them because it’s fascinating and it’s worthy of attention, especially as the governing bodies – and the media – keep on insisting that this club is essential to the wellbeing of the Scottish game.

I don’t accept that, but it affects everything from league reconstruction to negotiations on advertising and media rights. It is important to keep abreast of developments and, in a media culture which, as Stan Collymore is finding out today, seems intolerant of any truth Sevconian’s don’t like, it is equally important to write what the press won’t and to dig where they refuse to and to keep on looking where they don’t want anyone to look.

I am not “obsessed”. I write for a living. This is the job. And because I’m not a coward I’m going to keep on telling the truth, whatever it does to the fragile egos of people who’ve spent too long looking in the mirror telling themselves they are special, that they are the lords of the isles, that “Britain never ever shall be slaves”, that they are “the Peepil”.

The Peepil, let me remind them, have been grafted royally in the last five years, time and time again, like dumb tourists buying bits of London Bridge for a quid. The vast bulk of them are never getting into Mensa, and we all know it.

When I hear them sing their ridiculously supremacist songs these days I snigger. In all my time examining the behaviours and beliefs of those on the far right, I’ve never understood how they can believe in a “master race” comprised of single digit IQ’s, with overhanging beer guts and jail house tattoos. “The Big House must stay open,” was their battle cry for a while, which was funny considering the one many of them were most familiar with was Barlinnie.

But again, I digress, I want to try and stick to the point here.

These seem to be the type of folk the RST has made its official spokesmen.

These are the ones who seem incapable of acting with dignity or the smallest shred of class.

The RST is a curious group in that it is one of the only shareholders organisations I’ve ever heard of that wanted to deprive the company it bought into of income. They advertise their own line of club merchandise, for a start, and they were doing this long before the details of the Ashley deals were in the public domain. They’ve called for boycotts of their club’s games. They’ve demanded the removal of board members, destabilising the day to day running of the business. They’ve even supported attempts to weaken the share price itself – screwing with their own members and doing the very last thing you’d expect a shareholders organisation to do.

Now, before I go on, I am going to say this; I respect the vast majority of the men and women who have bought shares in their club so that they might play a role in controlling its destiny. That is noble and right and with no reluctance at all I wish them well in the BuyRangers scheme that they’ve set up to, one day, take a controlling interest at Ibrox.

The fans should own significant amounts of their club. It’s the way forward, and Supporters Direct Scotland are a fine organisation who are dedicated to making fan ownership a reality here, and they’ve done sterling work at various football teams across the land already, advising supporters on how to go about things and what the long term goals should be.

So, in the main, I think there’s good stuff going on with them, although I find their tactics to be somewhat bewildering at times. That’s not my concern, but it does provide great copy for articles here and elsewhere, like a soap opera that never ends.

No, where they fall on their backside is their sniping and indulgence in hate, as it manifests itself in those press releases.

I make no bones about using that particular word. The spiteful, vindictive tone of much of what they release to the media is absolutely shocking, and not only in relation to Celtic. But it’s their statements on Celtic and Celtic fans which continue to drag into the gutter the sort of organisation that should be well above petty nonsense like that.

On 7 December, for example, they released a press statement on alleged misbehaviour by Celtic fans at Tynecastle, for reasons unknown to anyone but themselves. Their central allegation – that there had been some graffiti relating to the Ibrox Disaster – was unsupported by a shred of actual evidence, but that didn’t stop them making the claim.

There was a picture, which one irrelevant tabloid ran, of a single bathroom door with some writing on it, a picture which no-one ever confirmed was even taken inside the stadium … and that was it.

If the basis of their allegation had any grounding in truth it amounted to nothing more than a single act of vandalism by a single individual, said individual who no right thinking or decent person anywhere would support or stand up for.

The vast, vast, vast majority of Celtic fans abhor the very idea of mocking the dead of the Ibrox Disaster. Those were just ordinary working class guys like me, who died attending a football game. The kind of people who would sing songs about that don’t even qualify as human beings, and that view is shared by every single person I know.

On the very few occasions – and there have been perhaps three in my lifetime – that I’ve heard someone doing it … well, on two of those occasions it ended swiftly and in a manner the singer clearly didn’t expect and in the other someone had a quiet word in his ear and that silenced him as if his jaw had been clamped shut.

The point is … if it goes on at all, it is the half-witted action of someone too stupid or evil to realise that they’ve been wallowing in slime too long, and often with harsh reminders that the rest of the world doesn’t see things in such a warped way.

The RST statement could easily have said something to that effect, if they felt they had to comment on the issue at all. They could have written something that suggested they understand that this is not even a minority view, but a warped perspective from a fractional number on the far fringes of the species.

They didn’t bother with that. They chose to expand that single picture into a wide ranging attack on the whole of the Celtic support, and they took a shot at the club itself whilst they were at it.

The piece reeked not only with hysterical over-reaction but gave off the faintest whiff of glee that they finally had an issue on which they could launch a broadside in our direction.

Mock outrage always gets under my skin, but it is especially sickening when it seeks to appropriate the memories of the dead. It’s not the first time they’ve done that either, as previous statements over the poppy went out of the way to.

Like I said, these people fundamentally lack class.

Now, bear in mind what I keep on repeating; they are a shareholders organisation, with a very specific remit. It wasn’t their place, wasn’t their job, to grab a passing bandwagon and jump on board it. It wasn’t their responsibility to attack Celtic Football Club over an incident in which they were not involved, even peripherally.

They just did it, because the chance presented itself.

On 29 January, they released their now-infamous statement following the full-page ad which Celtic fans took out in the Sunday Herald. Their response to that was not surprising; indeed, they were fully entitled to respond to it.

The venom and the vitriol in their response went way beyond what was called for.

They started off by relaying their “amusement” at the ad, which, of course, was the kind of reaction any rational individual would have taken. Indeed, many of their supporters viewed it in just such a way, as a piece of self-indulgence which was more worthy of mockery than anger.

I thought – and I still think – the fans who did it were correct to do so, because it wasn’t so much directed at the Sevco fans as much as it was about the SFA and the SPFL’s pushing of the Survival Myth. It was also an effort to play down those who were hyping up the match as the “return of the Old Firm.” That’s significant, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.

It didn’t take long for the RST statement to descend into hysteria.

They started out by saying it proved that a “hard-core element” of the Celtic supporters was determined that their club “and by extension its fans, must cease to exist.”

Hard as that is for sane people to believe, an organisation representing shareholders in a company actually wrote that on its website.

It actually released to the press a statement which suggested that a section of our supporters harbour genocidal ambitions, to erase them from the face of the Earth.

Paranoia doesn’t get more acute than that.

The piece goes on to accuse Celtic bloggers of “stoking sectarian fires” and even named a few for good measure. It was a staggering attack not only on Celtic fans as a whole but a potentially slanderous one against named individuals, who the RST’s membership should be eternally grateful don’t have the lawyers on speed-dial.

No reputable shareholders organisation would have gone so far out on the limb as to court potential legal action in this way. What do the ordinary members think of such action, with its potential for dire consequences? I don’t know, because the vast bulk of their members are largely silenced by the voices of these other folk.

The piece went on to call for “all sane Celtic fans” to reject poisonous rhetoric. It’s just a shame no-one was on hand to calm down the author of that press release, and urge him to do the same because sanity was nowhere to be found in it.

In the aftermath of the game, they released a further statement attacking Celtic supporters, again using paranoid and dangerous language – accusing the Green Brigade of “dehumanising Rangers fans” – in what amounted to nothing more than a bigoted, ignorant rant.

Throughout both of those statements was the phrase “the Old Firm.”

It is the use of this phrase, this effort to link the two clubs, this effort to promote a rivalry which, for too long, was presented to the world as one built on mutual hate, that gives the spokesmen of the RST away, and hints at their actual motives for continuing to write articles about Celtic and its supporters.

The “Old Firm” is something almost all Celtic fans want no association with whatsoever. As far as the bulk of us are concerned, the goings on at Ibrox, amusing as they may be, and relevant to Scottish football as they certainly are, have no significance within Parkhead save for the impact they have on the way our game is governed and perceived outside of our borders.

For Sevco, much of its “business strategy” depends on a perception that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and what better thing to be part of than a rivalry with the biggest club in the land?

They are newcomers to Scottish football, and absolute strangers to the European game, with no reputation to speak of, even if you buy into the Survival Myth as many of them do.

Their absence from the bigger stage, and their acute need, if they are to grow, to get onto that stage, and the desperation that comes with believing they belong there but being unable to achieve that goal, is clearly a source of grief, and requires something to make them relevant again.

Accomplishing that via football is beyond their abilities and they know it, and the media knows it, and the governing bodies do too … which is why the “Old Firm” brand is being so aggressively promoted once more.

And what is the defining characteristic of that brand? Hate.

It is in their interests to stoke hate, to promote it, to associate themselves and their club with it. Otherwise, why would they bother? The Celtic fans released their full page ad in an effort to break away from that hate, to disavow it, at precisely the moment the RST spokesmen and others are trying to tie us back into it … and we want no part in it at all.

Hate is not a marketing strategy, whatever some people think.

The RST have made two further statements this month where they couldn’t help but drag us into their affairs. In the first they sarcastically “thanked” Celtic fans for the fiasco of a second EGM venue wanting nothing to do with them, and in the second they dragged us, for no reason whatsoever, into the on-going spat between Stan Collymore and their fans.

On the EGM, I found their statement hilarious and juvenile, but there was a deeper purpose behind it, which was to deflect attention from the actual facts of that particular case; the shocking behaviour of a section of their own supporters in relation to the ongoing crisis at their club.

I understand why they’d want to do this. Because otherwise it would scare the Hell out of anyone who harboured any notions of investing in this basket case institution.

That a lot of the Sevco supporters have tripped the sanity wire over the board is absolutely without dispute, and the media and certain major shareholders have been perfectly content to ferment this mood … but with things now threatening to spill out of control, these people, the RST spokesmen amongst them, have reached the belated conclusion that it does not help their position.

So they try to blame Celtic fans in some way, and it’s pathetic.

The Collymore press release is far worse, and goes much further than is right, or even rational, for a shareholders organisation. Rather than confront Collymore on the basis of his perfectly valid, perfectly fair, comments, they’ve indulged in an astonishing – and wholly fantastical and inaccurate – attack on our fans, which, once more, veers into paranoia.

I’m not here to engage in whatabouttery, but again it seems clear to me that this is an attempt at deflection.

It is not for me to lecture the Rangers Supporters Trust, which is made up of some fine, and upstanding, people who only want what is best for their club, on who they should have writing their press releases and speaking to the media. That is wholly their business, but they ought to know that they will increasingly be judged on the basis of these statements, and it’s a matter of time before one of them goes way too far and this organisation finds itself in the unenivable position of having to defend itself in court.

If they’re content with that then fair play to them and let them reap what they sow.

My job is to write what I see, and say what I think.

And you know what I think of this?

These spokesmen seem increasingly obsessed by Celtic.

In normal circumstances, that would make them objects of pity, people labouring under their own inferiority complex, unable to cope with the crushing weight of failure that haunts them every day. For fans of a club circling the drain to be so focussed, so fixated, on what’s going on elsewhere … well, I’d think they’d have more important things to worry about.

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Can You Hear The Peepil Sing?

rangers-bannersAs some of you might be aware, when I’m not writing about football I like to blog on politics, and at the weekend there, I released a magazine on the subject for my site Comments Isn’t Free.

When the Charlie Hebdo attacks rocked the world last month, I wrote a big piece on free speech, defending the rights of people to say, sing or write anything they like, without limits and without restrictions at all.

To me, that’s an article of faith, something I believe in religiously. Free speech is the most important of our freedoms, because without it, the rest wouldn’t matter a damn as the government could do what it liked with them and we’d be unable even to protest.

Lately, this is a subject that gets me into trouble, because one of the things I’m doing online right now is aggressively promoting the election of as many SNP candidates to Westminster as possible, and I’m often asked how I square with that with my vociferous opposition to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, to which I devoted fully one third of my free speech piece.

It’s quite simple, really. I’m not a single issue voter; I consider more than just one plank of the party platform before I put a cross on a ballot paper, and right now we’re faced with a ghastly choice of horrors.

Only one party which stands a chance of holding the balance of power down there wants the things I do.

That answer doesn’t go down well with some people, people who’re happy to bang the free speech drum as long as they like what the other person is saying. I find it a bit rich when they try to denigrate my view by hiding behind that, and it’s caused more than a few arguments.

Why am I telling you this? It’s simple, really.

I can’t get to the point of this article without covering the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act first, because it’s the elephant in the room.

For the record, it’s a disgusting piece of legislative over-reach that should never have been put on the books. Unlike some people, I do not regard it as an anti-Irish or anti-Catholic law – indeed, a large number of Sevco fans have been charged under it, along with supporters of Hibs and Hearts – but on almost every occasion that it’s been used against Celtic fans those prosecutions clearly fall under the rubric of attacking political expression.

That makes it even more scandalous and indefensible.

Let me elaborate on that for a moment, and why it’s important.

For one thing, this law accomplished precisely nothing that other, existing laws, couldn’t have done fairly easily and comfortably. When Sevco fans, who sing stuff like The Famine Song and The Billy Boys are prosecuted under this law, they might just as easily have been charged under a ream of legislation that was already in place. Those legislations were specifically created to tackle hate speech, and those songs certainly qualify.

Celtic fans singing about Ireland would not have been prosecutable under those laws, which is part of the reason many of our supporters believe the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was created in the first place. As I said, I think they are wrong … but it is a dangerous law nonetheless and one with which needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

With that said, I can tell you that even writing about this makes me highly uncomfortable, because I’m forced to defend things I abhor.

There seems to be a lot of anger amongst Celtic fans tonight about the SPFL’s decision to take no action in relation to the League Cup semi final. I understand that anger, and I agree that the decision reeks of cowardice.

But you know what? It’s for the best, and I’m coming down on the SPFL’s side. I hate that too.

This nonsense about removing politics from football has had its day, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s UEFA or FIFA trotting out that hypocritical line or if it’s the SPFL and the Scottish Government.

Equally, I find the notion that people should have some right not to be offended to be ridiculous. The world doesn’t work like that. If you start introducing it in football stadiums, how long before no songs are being sung at all?

How long before the scoring of a goal becomes problematic? Players aren’t allowed to properly celebrate them anymore, so that’s not as farfetched as perhaps it at first sounds.

The SPFL could have taken action today, and many people are going to say they should have.

For months now we’ve heard about how “Scotland needs the Celtic – Rangers game”, and without going into all the various arguments surrounding Sevco, to all intents and purposes the world thought that’s exactly what it was watching.

And you know what? The deplorable behaviour of the Sevco support was a shocking, embarrassing, throwback to a dark era which makes Scotland look like a laughing stock and makes the media hype look demented, because it was.

This game is everything our society can do without, and that does make the SPFL’s decision today seem absolutely ridiculous.

Furthermore, as I’ve said, I disagree with the Offence Behaviour at Football Act on the basic principle that it criminalises free speech.

But right now, like it or not, it’s the law of the land, and the SPFL are today saying that they’re perfectly alright with the law being broken.

Amongst the songs sung by the Sevco fans were a number that appeared on the Police Scotland press release of “unacceptable” ones … and whilst I have some sympathy with the argument that the police couldn’t very well have arrested 10,000 people, the SPFL were, and are, in a position where they can take action against clubs who’s fans engage in mass criminality.

They haven’t, and so yes, that decision is cowardly.

Here’s the problem though.

Had the SPFL decided to take action today Celtic fans, who didn’t break the law, would have ended up in the dock with the Sevco supporters who did. If there’s one thing Scottish society understands it’s this “moral equivalence” crap that says both sides are as bad as each other. Try as they might, a lot of people can’t shake it. They see no difference between anti-Catholic singing and songs about the Irish war of independence.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a monkeys about opinions based on such ignorance, but this is Scottish football, where the governing bodies only go after Rangers and Sevco if they’ve got no other choice or if they can find a way to drag Celtic into it to.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We know full well that’s what would have happened.

There are people reading this who probably think both clubs should be hammered. I have no doubt about that at all, and as difficult as it is for some people to wrap their heads around the idea that sectarianism at football games should be tackled by the courts is supported by, according to recent opinion polls, nearly 90% of the population in Scotland.

Many people do believe we’re as bad as each other, and trying to argue the toss with them does no good whatsoever. Those people, like many of us, would rather the so-called “Old Firm game” was never played again.

We have more in common with those folk than they would like to admit.

They can’t wrap their heads around how Celtic fans feel mostly the same way.

So today, fellow Troops in Hoops, be careful what you wish for. The SPFL has decided there’s no case to answer, and as grisly a picture as that paints of Scotland – a country where genuine bigotry and sectarianism is the accepted norm – I can’t even pretend to come down on the other side of the case, because first I support unrestricted free speech and second because I know that even if we’re operating according to the “letter of the law”, whether I like it or not, that law is written in such a way that we would certainly have ended up in the dock too, although our fans did nothing wrong.

The vagueness of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is one of the many, many things wrong with it. It’s too open to interpretation.

I honestly, genuinely, hate writing about this subject because I know full well I’m going to upset nearly everyone, but as a writer that’s part of the job description and I can’t lambast the media for not speaking out when I’m self-censoring.

I find much of the media reaction to this decision to be scandalous and inconsistent. A very few of our journalists – like Ewan Murray – get pass marks because although I disagree with them in principle, they, at least, were demanding action from the day of the game itself and thus have earned the right to call this decision a joke.

Others are just leaping onto a passing bandwagon, after years of silence on the issue.

Anything to have a whack at an easy target.

I despise the sectarian filth that inhabits parts of this country. They embarrass us, they paint a picture of our society which is badly skewed and their hate is as catching as a deadly virus. I wish to God they could be educated out of their arsehole views … but whilst they hold those views I’ve got no choice but to defend their right to express them.

I don’t like the way a small section of the Celtic support can’t get a grip of itself either, in particular those who thought it was alright to disrupt the last Remembrance Day silence with a “protest.” The right to unrestricted free speech carries responsibilities too, and they gave no consideration to the club or to their fellow fans, which is just disgraceful.

I also wish to God so-called neutrals would get over their irrational tendency to lump both clubs together in the same cesspit. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy, and it makes enemies out of people with whom many of them actually have common cause.

Political expression is what it says on the tin, and whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

If you ban The Roll of Honour you’re going to wake up one day and find yourselves unable to sing Flower of Scotland. If you’ve not wised up to that yet, this is the time to start.

Today’s decision was a fudge. We all know it. But it was a necessary one because once this can of worms is open there’s no closing it. When we start punishing clubs for the songs fans sing we are well and truly on the slippery slope … and it only goes one way.

I’m glad this article is finished. Defending the rights of trash who sing The Billy Boys is exhausting and makes me want to take a shower. Defending the SPFL for lacking the balls to actually separate songs of hate from songs commemorating a revolutionary struggle is infuriating and makes me want to hit something hard.

Today’s decision is the right one, for the wrong reasons. It casts a dark shadow on the game here, but that was the inevitable consequence of all the hype that surrounded this fixture, and which a lot of us felt deeply uneasy about beforehand, knowing this was coming.

Thank God for Raith Rovers knocking Sevco out of the cup.

Thank God for the incompetence of Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowell and the Sevco board.

I am no hurry – Scotland is in no hurry – to go through this shaming experience again.

This is a horrible place to live at times, because a small minority insist on keeping it that way.

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