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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Keith Jackson & A Corpse By The Road

c84ac210c673e30ec0698dad83800a2fFor those of you out there who enjoy nothing more than settling down with a loved one for a Saturday night movie, there are certain genres best avoided and within those genres a number of movies which stand out as to be definitely left alone.

One of them is an American “made for TV” film called The Day After. It’s an internationally acclaimed piece of cinema, despite its birth-place on the small screen. That’s because of the subject matter, which no Hollywood studio would touch or ever has.

The movie’s about the consequences of a full-on nuclear strike against the US.

You can imagine this film, without having seen it.

The reality of watching it is much worse (and the British version, Threads, is even worse than that … a searing, harrowing, horrendous, nightmare inducing experience like nothing you’ll ever watch); it’s a film for making you genuinely despair about where we might be headed as a species.

At the end of the movie, Jason Robards is travelling to Kansas City, where he’s from, to see his home one last time before he dies. He hitches a ride with a National Guard unit and in the back of the truck he embarks on a tour of Hell itself.

Yet he barely sees the corpses by the road.

By that point, no-one really does anymore.

Scottish football was supposed to look a little bit like that today.

At the weekend, when Aberdeen came back from a goal down with ten men to win three points at Ross County it was another one of those moments when you marvelled at how good the Scottish game might become again.

But Aberdeen was supposed to be like Hearts, Motherwell, St Johnstone, Kilmarnock and Inverness by this time; a hollowed out shell.

Nothing but a corpse by the road.

How different the picture is to the “Armageddon” they presupposed.

Today Keith Jackson has written a piece about how Scottish football is, as he puts it, emerging from a “long winter.”

I don’t know that he’s thinking about the nuclear sort, but I suspect he is. Because one of the foremost traits our media and the governing bodies have is that when it comes to Armageddon none has ever admitted just how wrong they got it.

Over the last four years, most of our senior clubs have wiped out their debts.

Another thing that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Those debts were supposed to have wiped out them.

The trophies have been spread around.

I don’t like it much, and would rather we’d won the lot of them, but it’s given other teams a taste of glory that has spurred them on.

Attendances are up almost across the boards; the one notable exception is at Celtic Park, where there are reasons a lot of fans are staying away that have nothing to do with “no Rangers in the league” … I would bet that only a mere handful of fans gave up their tickets with that specific scenario in mind.

Our issues go deeper than that.

The game itself is alive, vibrant, healthy … but that’s not how Jackson and others see it.

Apparently we’re only now emerging from a dark period during which “the national sport has been effectively neutered and robbed of its own self-esteem.”

What arrogant, sanctimonious, Sevconian bollocks.

We all know what would have destroyed Scottish Football’s self-esteem.

It was the course of action Jackson and others were urging on the game in 2012; that we allow a brand new club built from the ashes of scandal and disgrace to assume a place in the top flight of our sport – automatically – simply because it bore the name “Rangers.”

Jackson hasn’t noticed that the game has rolled on quite nicely without the Ibrox club, because in his own mind (you can hear it, rattling, in there like a pea in a tin cup) he actually does see the wreckage, the shattered wasteland, the corpses piled up like firewood, the rubble of what was once our national game, twisted and broken.

He sees these things because he has tunnel vision and because he just can’t focus beyond the boundaries of Ibrox, where there really has been Armageddon, and where that wreckage can be seen clearly.

No other club has failed to adapt to the new shape of football like Sevco, still clinging to a corpse, still struggling to accept the new reality, which is that not only did no-one mourn them, but no-one missed them either.

There, there really has been a “neutering” and a “loss of self-esteem”; the end of financial doping on the scale Rangers once pioneered.

The humiliations which have pounded Sevco relentlessly in the past four years were all made within its own walls, and the next crisis to engulf them will, likewise, come from there. These are the profound consequences of their having built a club with a superiority complex that bore no relationship to its place in the real world.

The dark winter there isn’t even close to being over yet.

Jackson has talked, today, about how that club is now entering a “period of normality” again.

I agree with him.

With convicted criminals on the board, looming court cases, allegations of tapping, unsettling players at other clubs, soft loans to keep on the lights, sources of short term funding with decidedly dodgy backgrounds, non-payment of bills, a swelling egotism and the typical fawning of the media, things there are about as “normal” as they can be.

Other clubs might regard all this as decidedly abnormal, but this is Sevco, and of course Sevco is different, operating in a different reality and playing by very different rules.

The more things change around here, the more they stay the same. The media obsession with this club continues unabated and the re-writing of history goes hand in hand with reframing the present into whatever shapes suits the Ibrox club the best.

Today’s article suggests that Celtic have missed a club calling itself Rangers in their league, but then ponders why we would loan a player to Hibs who might stand in the way of them getting there, as though this is really a mystery and not the confirmation of everything Celtic supporters and our board have been telling these people for years now.

We do not want a team from Ibrox playing in the top flight.

We’re not remotely interested in the media-hyped, hate-fuelled “rivalry” that is so necessary to the survival of the Sevco operation.

We hated that warped creation even when it was partly grounded in history, that of Rangers; we have zero intention of getting behind a Frankenstein’s Monster version of it founded on all the old hatreds the game here is better leaving behind, but turbo charged by the twin engines of the Survival and Victim Myth’s that are so prevalent in the excretal articles Jackson and others have produced and are still producing to this day.

This disconnect from reality is more greatly expressed in Jackson’s closing paragraphs, where he says Sevco will complete two signings this week (on no greater information than Mark Warburton suggested it at the weekend), that of Michael O’Halloran (who St Johnstone are saying won’t be allowed to leave for the current, derisory, offer) and a Brentford midfielder who’s own club is less than pleased at how Sevco have gone about their business.

But of course, the Ibrox club will “get their men” without “being held to ransom”, as if it was the two other clubs who were somehow at fault for not wanting to part with their own players for insulting sums.

This is the type of language that flows out of Ibrox; this is the type of language the media uses to frame the terms of the debate.

Jackson says these signings will “cost the guts of £1m in transfer fees”; the biggest piece of artificial inflating since Jordan went in for her last boob job. It will, he goes on to say, “provide solid proof Dave King and his board are not just cleansing their club but also have the wherewithal to properly fund Mark Warburton’s rebuild.”

I don’t know which part of that I found most hilarious, or a bigger insult to our collective intelligence; the notion that a convicted crook who’s keeping on the lights by the non-payment of bills and taking soft loans from other dodgy geezers is “cleansing” the place or that it proves King has “the wherewithal” to fund a series of major transfers.

Neither of those things is remotely true.

I often marvel at the ability our media has to distort reality and see only the parts of history that suit them whilst ignoring the rest.

Today, Scottish football is in the best health it’s been in for a long time.

Four years of work at the clubs has produced real reasons to be optimistic.

Jackson is right about that.

But he conflates these things with “the rise” of Sevco in sheer ignorance of the fact that our top flight is thriving without them in it, that it will continue to thrive if they fail to get promotion … and that all of this flies in the face of what we were told to expect.

When it comes right down to it, Jackson and others still see the destruction as if it actually happened.

That’s what they wanted and it’s what they expected.

What the rest of us see are cool blue waters reaching out from white sandy beaches.

If there’s a corpse by the road, somewhere up there beyond the dunes, it’s that of Rangers itself.

Across from us, down here on the sands, though, are two guys walking on either side of a dead body, supporting it in a despereate effort to pretend it’s still a living person, waving the arms, nodding the head, trying to make the bizarre and illogical seem … normal.

This isn’t The Day After.

It’s Weekend At Bernie’s.

And the joke is on Jackson and those who refuse to see that simple truth.

(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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Reconstruction Talks Go On As Sevco Stumbles

article-0-0C3CF7F7000005DC-511_468x333Once upon a time, I would have sworn that, in sports terms, sycophantic guff and PR pieces spun to say the opposite of what they meant was the province of the West of Scotland media alone.

Then I read the Aberdeen Press & Journal last night.

The article in question was under one of the most cynically deceptive headlines I’ve ever seen; “Now Is The Time For Change In Scottish Football” is what it read.

The actual contents of that article made the headline a sham.

For what was being proposed within it wasn’t change at all. It was the same old tired shite we’ve been putting up with for ages now.

It was more of that Armageddon nonsense, set to a slightly different tune.

The argument it put forward was that Scottish football will never be able to improve as long as the “biggest teams” aren’t in the league.

The architect of this concept – proving not only that there’s nothing new under the sun but that stale socks and empty lager cans are all that some people can glimpse on the distant horizon – was, of course, Stewart Milne, who you’d think would have already offended his own fans enough after a shambolic and ruinous display at Aberdeen’s AGM, where he called for forgiveness for Sevco and expressed his wish that they play in the SPL next season.

I had written about that earlier in the day, over on the CelticBlog, and I knew Aberdeen fans must already be furious with him for those remarks, furious enough, perhaps, to have caused his heart to flutter ever so slightly.

But no; Stewart had grander ambitions than that, although, alas, not for his football club.

He knew he had only dipped a toe in the water of the River Offence.

So, in front of his home town press toadies, he stripped down to his yellow underpants and leaped right in.

Not only did he push this view that only when Hibs and Sevco were in the top flight would the “best teams” be represented – ignoring that for all Sevco’s high cost base they’re nowhere near being a Premier League outfit and that Hibs were relegated two years ago, amidst calamitous circumstances and don’t remotely deserve to be in the SPL yet – but he then splashed around merrily as he offered the view that “Aberdeen is probably similar to most of the larger clubs in Scotland – we want to be finishing every season in the top three …”

And that’s where I sat, open-mouthed, in disbelief.

The top three?

From a side currently second, and allegedly chasing first?

Oh my, what a grandstander he is.

What an ambitious man.

To go from wanting to take the top spot away from Celtic to being willing to settle for … the next rung down on the ladder?

And who, exactly, does he envision being the third – or is it second – team in that equation?

That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

In short, Stewart Milne is preparing his own fans for failure, and worse; he’s readily embracing the idea.

He’s saying not only that he anticipates Sevco replacing his team as our biggest challenger but that it’s perfectly alright with him, that it’s the “natural order.”

Aberdeen fans must be appalled.

Peter Lawwell must be shaking in his boots.

Who knew Milne was capable of such confidence in his vision?

The crux of his argument, the fulcrum around which it turns, is arrant nonsense talked down to us by someone who considers his audience brain-dead. He’s talking about how Scottish football has had a torrid five years, but that in that time the clubs have rebuilt their finances and are now in a healthier position than they’ve ever been.

If that’s a problem then it’s a damned nice one to have, and he knows full well that what changed in the game wasn’t superior thinking or some revolutionary master plan but that one club, the one that had wrought so much damage with spendthrift policies it couldn’t afford, and which they couldn’t afford to compete with, died and vanished from the top flight.

Aberdeen posted record profits this year, due in no small part to their second place finish and their competing in European matches. Most of all, their financial position is better than it’s been in years because the fans returned in large numbers as a consequence of their success and the stated ambitions of the club.

Today those ambitions are in ruins.

Milne’s other big announcement was that he wants to move the club into a new stadium. He forgets that in order to fill that ground week in week out he needs to have fans, and those people drifted away steadily during the decades of financial doping and the Glasgow duopoly.

They came back when that was shattered and they would be perfectly happy to keep on going to games as long as they believed they were watching a straight sport.

Alas, Milne isn’t even offering them that.

He wants Scottish football to put the past aside, he says.

What he means, when we strip it down, is that he wants us to ignore years of cheating. He wants us to pretend it never happened. He wants justice dumped by the side of the road.

Screw sporting integrity because, clearly, in his view, that just holds out sport back.

So he came out in favour league reconstruction, and in time for next season if that’s what it takes.

Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan are already on the record as supporting changes, and although their lackies in the mainstream media say the mood at Hampden is against doing it for next season – not having a choice in that helps – the truth is they’d like nothing more.

And incredibly, they were joined this week by Peter Houston, manager of Falkirk, one of Sevco’s rivals for the Scottish Championship title.

He went on the record about this issue, and predicted that if Falkirk won the title that league reconstruction will be rushed through to give Hibs and Sevco a berth. He was, he said, fully in favour of this scenario.

“Do you think if Rangers and Hibs don’t go up this season there might be league reconstruction?” he asked. “Or if Falkirk go up as champions? I know what I think would happen – there would be league reconstruction. I believe there will be reconstruction because there is an acceptance now that we need our big clubs back in the Premiership. If Falkirk went up as champions they would do it and I hope it can happen like that.”

Did you notice what he didn’t say?

He didn’t say that if his side comes third that he would support league reconstruction on his team’s own behalf!

Maybe that goes without saying, especially as neither he nor his chairman appears to give a damn about sporting integrity.

His chairman is one of the people pushing league reconstruction talks, and no-one is going to convince me that the plans he’s promoting will suddenly make Scottish football better.

It’s nothing more than re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

I’ve studied his ridiculous idea and I can tell you what most people already know; our sport is not going to improve one iota by putting in place a fourteen team league with a stupid artificially created split which has the sum total of nothing to do with sporting merit but will exist solely to assure a certain number of games between Celtic and the club that’s pretending to be Rangers.

When that club died this dire concept, that of the SPL split, should have gone to the grave with it, and we should have returned to a ten team top flight.

It’s time this was laid to rest once and for all.

Besides, nowhere in their considerations does there appear to be an acknowledgement of some simple facts.

First, none of this is about sporting integrity at all.

If the objective is to get the “biggest teams in the country” in one league, then why are we bothering with promotion and relegation? Why don’t we just abandon the idea of a meritocracy entirely, and rebuild the leagues based on average attendance and possible TV audience?

Hell, that way we can have it any old way we like it.

Because otherwise this is probably all academic anyway.

In order to create a bigger league relegation would probably have to be removed from the equation in the SPL, and that would be a travesty.

But in that scenario only two teams from the Championship would go up … which, if Falkirk are in the top two, doesn’t suit the proposed narrative of getting Hibs and Sevco into the SPL for next season.

So what then?

Relegate one SPL team and promote three?

That would work, sort of.

But what if the relegated team was Dundee Utd?

Aren’t they a “big club”?

What if either Hibs or Sevco were unable to get promotion anyway?

Would we end up with a 16 team league? A 20 team one?

How much are we willing to bend this sport to get the result certain people want?

All the way, it seems.

Whatever it takes. And sporting integrity be damned.

They can talk all they like about merit, but a league structure exists, right now, and it works based on that.

The fans made sure of it three years ago.

As a consequence, the top teams play in the top flight and no amount of spin will change that. These people might not like reminded about this, but Sevco finished third in the Championship last year.

Ergo, they are not one of the top teams any longer.

When they can get out of that league by virtue of winning football games then not a single one of us will have cause for complaint, and the same applies to Hibs.

They’re next, by the way, the next club who’ll be pressed for a view, the next club the media will be leaning on to come out in favour of this stupid and corrupt idea.

I’d love to say their board will hold firm; Rob Petrie is one of the real leaders in our game, and the way his FansTV deal was killed to give Doncaster leverage against the other clubs when Rangers went bust was disgusting.

If he comes out in opposition to this lousy proposed setup … well, that man ought to be made the next head of the SFA.

But I fear he’ll put his own club first, and if Hibs fall out of contention could we really hold that against him?

This isn’t Milne, getting ready to abandon his own club’s ambitions to accommodate the Ibrox operation; this is a guy who’s club can’t afford to spend God knows how long scrambling around in the second tier.

He’s in a lousy negotiating position, and he knows it.

It’s not hard to imagine Doncaster and others dangling SPL football in his face if only he votes for the stitch up.

The flipside of that, of course, is that Hibs looks as if they could get there without a grubby backroom deal like this. If he believes in his manager and his squad then he might very well tell those pushing this to go and get stuffed, as he should.

Although his Dundee Utd team is in the relegation zone, Stephen Thompson is not backing a change as early as next season.

He is in favour of reconstruction of some sort, but not now and not if it means sacrificing sporting integrity to save his own club.

Ross County’s chairman is also in favour, but he too is opposed to doing it in time for next season.

These guys care.

They want any reconstruction talks to be based on merit, and on what is good for the sport.

They aren’t in favour out of selfish reasons.

But a lot of others want this done to get a certain club back into the top flight, and the opposition of some chairmen aside they may just get what they want.

The people charged with governing our national sport make me physically sick.

They would turn the whole game upside to accomplish by reconstruction what Sevco was wholly incapable of doing on the park last year and which they might well struggle to do in this one.

The same people were floating this scheme last year … and it’s no coincidence that it’s only raised its head now, when Sevco looks to be stumbling in the race.

Scottish football clubs are drifting ever further from their fans.

If we end up with Sevco in the top flight because of some scam people will desert this sport like never before.

Stewart Milne has spent the last few days banging on about people “looking at things objectively” and embracing “radical thinking and changes.”

How about these for examples of radical thinking and embracing change?

First, let’s see our clubs and football administrators having the imagination to envision a football environment built around what’s good for all of the clubs, and which doesn’t revolve around pandering to the whims of two teams, and in fact just one?

Second, how about we stop grubbing around for crumbs from Sky’s table and look, seriously, at Petrie’s FansTV proposals all over again?

Third, how about we get some leaders, genuine leaders with guts, in at the SFA and the SPL instead of leaving them in the hands of jokers like Regan and Doncaster? These guys ought to have been out the door three years ago; their continuing presence in those offices is an affront to every support in the country, and their conduct is soon to be the subject of at least one court case. Quite how their positions can be defended, by anyone, is mystifying and stinks to high heaven.

Fourth, and finally, how about the clubs – all of the clubs – starting to take the views of the fans seriously instead of treating them with undisguised contempt? And I refer to my own club in this too, for the way they’ve behaved over the Living Wage and the conduct of the chairman at the AGM where his comments were shameful.

2015 was, in many ways, a triumph for the clubs of Scotland, as many of them crawled out of the financial mire and got their houses in order at last. They’ve been on the right road for a couple of years now, and they did this during a period when our esteemed media and governing bodies had assured us that Armageddon would follow from the death of Rangers.

That it didn’t makes mugs out of them. Rather than acknowledge this, many of them have taken to telling us that we’re imagining the good things and that only “reform” can save the sport.

The fans have already done that.

In 2016, we’re going to have to do it all over again, and you know what? I’m game.

I’m up for it, and I’ll commit this website to taking a full part in that campaign.

I’ll do podcasts, re-launch the magazine, even, if it comes to it, attend one of those self-congratulatory Q&A things if that’s what it takes to get in front of people and bring them on board with this.

If we leave this to our appointed “leaders” Hell … well, you’ve seen how they feel about it.

I don’t trust them.

I don’t trust any of them.

But I trust my fellow fans and I always have.

Because they know what’s important.

They know the “credibility” of our game doesn’t come from which teams are in the league.

I firmly believe that the greatest symbol of what our sport stands for was a club called Sevco playing football in the bottom tier; that was our gift to football itself, the one time when the game here in Scottish actually set an example for the rest of the world. We put sporting integrity first, and that was our shining moment, our finest hour.

I’ve never forgotten that it happened in the face of such venom and arrogance and outright opposition, and that some of our “leaders” and many of those in the media still mourn that decision today … well they are an embarrassment and we’d be insane to leave something we love in their hands for one minute longer.

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Dave King: An Obsession With Celtic

Dave+KingWell, … just when you thought it was all quieting down in Sevconia.

You know, I wasn’t even going to bother with an article on King’s comments yesterday, save for the quick one I posted on the CelticBlog about Scott Allan. I figured that it was just another excuse for him to get his face in the papers, which we all know he loves.

What I didn’t expect – although I think this guy is an absolute charlatan – was that he would do the interview in a manner that suggested someone had slipped something into his water. Some heavy dope maybe. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

So tell me, then, how do Sevco fans feel about him tonight?

Are they still liking what they hear? What they see?

Do they still have faith?

Are they worried yet? Concerned?

Because … by God, they should be.

They have a certifiable nut running their club. No joke. I am not being flippant. I really believe this. There are deep issues with Dave King that have nothing to do with his past, but are all concerned with the way he sees the world.

This guy is off his face, and if they’re happy with that then I guess I’m happy for them to be. Because there’s no way this is good for them. There’s no way this wannabe, this Walter Mitty character, has answers to the myriad questions they should be asking.

Honestly, I’m sitting here trying to get my head around what I’ve just read.

Let’s start with this one.

He says the club has no need of his £20 million, although he admits soft loans will be required to get them through the season. I literally don’t know how else to respond to that than with sarcasm, mockery and disbelief.

That, on its own, would have had me on the floor busting a gut.

I can just imagine some fans nodding their heads in agreement at that.

Those who think this guy can do no wrong, and don’t even want to question him.

But the rest of them must be going ballistic.

This is such open nonsense that I have to conclude he thinks they are all thick.

Putting it bluntly, Dave King is insulting their intelligence.

He’s feeding into every negative thing I’ve been saying, and writing, about some of them in the last couple of years. Their own chairman – their big hero – is saying things that don’t even hide that he thinks large numbers of them are absolute mugs.

If their supporters swallow this, they might as well paint targets on their backs because this guy is going to bleed them for every cent he can. Green, at least, was happy enough taking the cash raised from the institutional investors to buy his swanky pad over in France.

King wants the real cheesecake, the untapped tens of millions in their pockets.

The more you look at Dave King, the more you see that this is a guy who dissembles on every subject, no matter who his audience is or how important the issue.

Sometimes he merely bends the truth, sometimes he gives a wrong impression about it, leading the listener away from what he’s actually saying and down a path towards another meaning entirely. There are times when he invents reality whole, like a fiction writer, as if he hopes you’ll get so immersed in the world he’s created for you that you will forget, albeit briefly, the real one.

I cannot think of anyone in the history of Scottish football – and I include Charles Green, Craig Whyte and everyone else connected with the sordid Ibrox operation – who has been quite so brazen as this.

Whenever he gets in front of the media he openly contradicts everything he’s said before.

Let’s cast our minds back to the judge’s view of him in South Africa, and I don’t simply mean the “glib and shameless” part, which I’ve always thought of as being a nice line but one that falls far short of being the real meat in that particular helping of succulent lamb.

For openers, Judge Smallwood pointed out one of King’s key character traits.

“He is extremely arrogant and obviously thinks that whatever he says is so.”

Arrogance can be perilous. At its worst, it confers upon someone a belief in themselves which often far outstrips any actual skill or talent they possess. But look at the second part of that statement; the judge is also calling him delusional.

The next bit should occasion shock amongst even his defenders.

“He deliberately misrepresented the facts of the case to his legal representatives.”

When you’re in the fight of your life and you are lying to your own lawyers … well, that’s not a sign of anything good is it?

As if that’s not enough, Smallwood went on to say;

“As his evidence progressed, it became clear that he has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie, or at least misrepresent the facts, if he thinks it will be to his advantage.”

Smallwood and his fellow judges then delivered what I believe to be easily the most damning verdict of all on the South African who now runs Sevco.

“(We) saw Mr King testify in court and in cross-examination for four days and are unanimous that he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is supported by documents or other objective evidence.”

I didn’t just make those quotes up, or invent them out of thin air.

They are part of the official record, the official court transcript, in a tax evasion and fraud case against him.

The judges are saying that King lied to the court. He lied to his lawyers. He lied to everyone, perhaps even himself, on things both great and small. He lied when huge matters were at stake. He lied to protect himself. But he also lied about little things.

He lied when he didn’t even have to, as if lying itself comes naturally to him, as if it’s a habit or a compulsion.

Does anyone really believe that a guy who would sit in a courtroom and tell blatant, open, brazen untruths to a judge, whilst under oath, would hesitate to do the same in front of a Scottish media pack that is all too ready, and willing, to believe?

That never questions him?

That never goes away and scrutinises even a single word he’s said before accepting it as fact?

If you were of the right mind-set, facing such pitiful interrogators, you might find yourself misleading them for no reason other than that you could. For the sheer thrill of it, to know that no matter how barmy your comments that they’d find an audience and make the front page. You too might well find yourself selling pie in the sky and promising moonbeams.

Of course, this interview was notable for one thing in particular; King’s “plan” to restore the OldCo.

That this is fanciful rubbish – an absolute Dave King fantasy- hardly needs saying, but that he’s even discussing such a loony concept in the press is proof that he just likes to see his name in print.

Yet I think, when you look at the whole interview, and the conduct of this guy and his board in the last six months, you see something else, something I find hugely interesting.

When I posted on the CelticBlog concerning the Scott Allan comments, I said I thought they were typically small minded and petty from this guy, as he seems simply unable to see anything go past him.

But it’s only when I read the whole interview that the over-arching theme comes through.

This guy is obsessed with Celtic, and the entire direction of his club at the moment is geared towards nothing less than matching every single thing we do. His strategy is totally reactive, and it’s dictated by our own actions.

When he talks about the club’s ambitions in a football sense, challenging Celtic is all he sees.

The rest of the teams, they don’t matter to him.

They may as well not even exist, because we’re all he thinks about and talks about.

This is understandable, in a sense, because we are, after all, the biggest club in the country, by miles. That he has set his sights on our rear view lights is perfectly normal, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t stop there.

His determination to catch us means he’s committing his board – for all a commitment from this guy is worth anyway – to over-spending, and risking their existence, if that’s what it takes.

This, too, you could simply put down to a typically Sevconian outlook in order to catch the top side … but he’s also basing his transfer policy on ours and planning to emulate our approach to that.

So it’s buy them young, train them up and sell them on.

Forget the fact this policy has seen Celtic go from a Champions League team to one that can barely handle the Europa League … this is the road he’s going down, or so he claims.

There’s not an original idea in this guy’s head … he’s copying everything from Celtic Park. This is not a guy who’s come to Ibrox with a grand master plan of his own. No, his sole strategy is to bend his club until it looks like ours.

Even here he might just be forgiven as there’s a certain logic in doing things the Celtic way if the objective is to make money – which for him, it is.

This, too, can be rationalised.

Where he starts coming off like a stalker is when he tells the fans they have to be more like us, to spend more money than us, to try and copy us as he’s trying to copy our strategy.

It becomes even spookier when you factor in his reaction to the Allan transfer and the way he sarcastically thanked us for signing the player … although he was their top target.

In light of that, his comments about Allan make perfect sense.

His ego has been pierced here, and the arrogant side of him came rushing to the surface.

No other club could have had this effect on him, though.

He is consumed by his obsession with us.

The Ibrox fans must have squirmed hearing him talk yesterday about restoring the OldCo for no other reason than we badger them about the death of their club. They’ve spent three years telling us this is not an issue … and in a single day he has expressed his own doubts loud and clear, and claimed to want to resolve it. He then says it doesn’t bother him!

Aye, right …

He knows full well – he said it before the CVA was rejected – that Rangers is dead and gone, and that even relisting the company that once existed won’t bring them back to life … the whole exercise is pedantic, and pointless, and stupid and will make no difference at all.

But it burns him that we have that to hang over his head, and it affects him so much that he’s largely oblivious to the myriad footballing issues that would arise – such as another enforced absence from European football for materially changing the corporate structure of the club – as well as the legal implications if HRMC are to claim a final victory in the Tax Case.

This guy thinks about Celtic constantly, and he will risk everything – expect his own money – to catch us.

He talks big, but ultimately he talks nonsense.

Yesterday was the day he finally tripped the wire and veered into outright nuttiness.

His Celtic obsession, his ego and his pathalogical inability to tell the truth … they merged, perfectly, in one session with the media.

If I were a Sevco fan, I’d be very concerned about all of that.

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Complete Incomprehension

article-0-0C3CF89B000005DC-856_634x375Yesterday, when I posted in disbelief and mounting anger about the SPFL’s decision to corrupt sporting integrity for a grubby handful of TV cash, I had no idea that the story would dominate the rest of my day, but it did.

First came the outpouring of venom, and bile, from the Illiterati on Twitter, as SevcoLand went into meltdown over what they saw as a piece motivated by hate.

I’ll deal with that first before I move on to the more substantial issues.

For openers, you really have to have hate on the brain to have read any malice into my article, except at that directed at the so-called governing bodies. Sevco fans erupted anyway, with the usual gush of child abuse comments and supremacist remarks.

I argued the toss with them for a wee while before my common sense kicked in, and I blocked a bunch of the more disgusting ones.

To them I’d say this; if you think being blocked represents some kind of victory you are entitled to that view, but your only mistake is thinking I care what you think. I have no wish to discuss anything with you any more than I want to chat away to those who think point scoring on something as appalling as paedophilia is anything less than repulsive.

Those people are gutter rats, the dregs of humanity, and aren’t worth the shit on my shoes far less the fraction of a brain cell it takes to demolish any flimsy argument they stand up. I have a very clear idea of what my own club is, its history and its culture. I also have a very clear idea what their version of their club is, and its own history and ideology.

I know which side I’m on, and I like to think if I hadn’t been brought up a Celtic fan that my politics and my outlook and my social leanings would have made me one.

Yet I also suspect that all of those things come from being a Celtic fan … and I have never been less than proud of that.

If they are proud of their own institution that’s their business.

If they want to believe it lives on, blindly supporting the resurrected version of it, without realising it’s some kind of Frankenstein’s Monster, all the better to fill the pockets of select English based businessmen, well they are entitled to that too, and I say “good luck to you” much as I would not discourage anyone who still wanted to believe in Santa Claus or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I just wouldn’t want them working in a nuclear power plant.

I have been called a bigot more than once since I started this site.

It’s not true, and I defy anyone to suggest that it is.

Indeed, I’ve threatened legal action against various people who have put that word in writing beside my name. I won’t stand for it, and won’t allow anyone to level that charge at me. It doesn’t stand up to even the slightest examination.

For the record; I do not hate the club that calls itself Rangers.

I do not hate their fans.

I believe some of them are dumb to an almost subhuman degree and that others merely use the club itself to project onto the world their own warped view of it. I do marvel at the club when it panders to those halfwits, as doing so is social, political and economic suicide, limiting their appeal now and forever, but you could say that about any number of other institutions.

I don’t hold that against everyone else associated with them.

In an earlier article, I scoffed at those who would attempt to divide this country into “us and the enemy” because as someone who’s lived beside “the enemy” my whole life, as someone who has loved “the enemy”, worked with “the enemy”, fought alongside them and campaigned for a better Scotland and a better world with some of them, I do not recognise, or accept, the narrow caricature of the “Celtic and Rangers hatred” that some people think drives our lives.

On top of all that, this is a city I love with all my heart, and it’s why I write about it, blog about it and now publish a magazine about it. Everyone says there’s no place like home, but there are few cities in the world – but Glasgow is one of them – where just being from there grounds you and influences you for the rest of your time on this planet.

I resent the Hell out of those who would promote this place as some kind of bastion of hate.

It is not true, it has never been true, it will never be true and I want nothing to do with the lie, or those who have perpetuated it and gotten fat off of it for too damned long.

I write two blogs on football. This is the “big picture” one, the one that I try to make about serious issues.

The other is less high-minded, where I go to vent or to celebrate.

My own club is featured on there, but Sevco are our rivals and so I poke them with a stick where and when I can.

Occasionally I delve into the bigger picture … but mostly I save that for here.

Yesterday’s article was not about Sevco inasmuch as it was about the incompetence and lack of regard the governing bodies have for every fan in Scottish football. Indeed, the sentiments I expressed in the piece were later echoed by the boards at Hibs and Hearts and by Stuart McCall himself, and the media was, for once, almost united in condemnation.

So you tell me; who was on the wrong side of the argument here?

Two groups of people. The Sevco hate brigade and the SPFL.

The hate brigade were doing what they do. Hating. Give them their due, because they do it very well. They’ve practiced it and they have it down to a fine art. They are unimportant to the wider debate because it’s over their heads, outside their narrow ability to comprehend and compute.

The SPFL, well, they are my bigger concern, as the piece made clear.

For the whole day yesterday I got emails from fans of clubs out with Glasgow who were shocked and appalled by the SPFL’s decision, some wondering what my own club’s take on it might be.

I told them that it really isn’t Celtic’s business, but that in SFA terms I hoped we were taking a lead to make real changes.

In truth, my club, acting alone, can’t transform anything. To accomplish any goal that’s worth a damn will take a national campaign, where fans from other teams will need to put aside their differences and work as a team.

Sevco Rangers fans will have to play a part in it too. I know it’s inconvenient for those who want to accuse me of bigotry and hate, but I’ve long argued that and I’ve long said that no other group of supporters has been as badly served by the incompetence of the governing bodies.

Any campaign for meaningful change would help, not hurt, them.

I do believe their club has been pandered to, since time immemorial.

The evidence for it is overwhelming.

Paradoxically, it has done them more harm than good over the long haul. The failure to do “fit and proper person” examinations on their board members, the failure to hold Ashley to account, the way Green was allowed to basically lie his way through 18 months … all of it was tolerated and accepted by the governing bodies, who are mute at the moment as a convicted fraudster takes his place at the club.

If this is love, it is a curious type.

If it was done for their gain, what a mess it’s made instead.

On top of that, unlike a lot of people I don’t believe they “won” anything from the events of the past four years.

Even if you accept their viewpoint that the club lives on, I don’t think you can call it a victory when they’ve lost uncounted millions in revenue, seen an expensive first team of players all walk away for free, had their banking facilities withdrawn, cost them a fortune in sponsorship and watched the infrastructure of club ground down to nothing.

This is to say nothing of the monumental reputational damage it has all inflicted on them.

To cap it all, they wound up in the lowest tier and suffered the ignominy and shame of staggering ineptitude on and off the park, from Ally to Ashley.

That is the damndest victory I ever heard of.

And they had it coming.

They don’t like that either, but it remains true nonetheless.

For the better part of my life they were financially doped to the eyeballs.

They didn’t generate the income that paid for their success; they borrowed it. And then they didn’t want to pay it back, so they bent rules and laws and in the end they folded the hand and the taxpayer picked up the tab.

Shame on them for it.

If the history continues in their eyes, so be it. Their recent past has been the history of disgrace, and it goes on to this day, with Murray and King sitting in a directors box they ought not to be allowed near, and not only because they fail the most fundamental tests.

Two guys who wrought havoc on something they claimed to love, destabilised it to the point of crisis, very deliberately, whilst blaming the previous board for that, and who then used the conditions they had manufactured personally to gain control …

I think to call them parasites would be doing them more justice than they deserve.

If Sevco fans want to support that with their hard earned cash, so be it.

For all that, my gripe is with the governing bodies who allow all this to go on and who, yesterday, shamed themselves and heaped embarrassment on the sport with a scandalous decision which brought the integrity of our game into question.

Then they compounded that grievous mistake – which nearly everyone in Scottish football agrees is a shocker – with a self-justifying statement which is so crass, ill-judged and ridiculous that the only rational response to it is contempt.

Nearly every major piece this website has written in the two and some years since I started it has been, in some way, connected with the way our game’s governors have either failed in their most basic duties or made a mockery of their own rules.

So many of those cases have involved Rangers and Sevco.

The crisis that erupted at the first, swallowed them whole, and gave birth to the second, were not simply manufactured by Craig Thomas Whyte; they existed in embryonic form before he arrived at the club.

Their roots are to be found in what Auldheid and others have painstakingly charted … a decade or more of outright mendacity and concealment of contracts and financial projections, which the SFA was in part aware of and which at least one of its chief officers had extensive knowledge of, if not outright involvement in.

It involved, amongst other things, hidden player contracts and deliberately misleading information over the status of their tax affairs.

For example, we know of at least one season where they were granted a license to play European football when they were materially in breach of the requirements for one.

The documentation proving it is there in black and white, no matter how much people inside and outside the governing bodies, the major clubs and the media might want to ignore it.

The failures of governance that are involved here are colossal.

It is not for nothing that many of us have taken to calling it The Greatest Scandal in the History of Sport.

Yesterday the SPFL wrote another sordid chapter in that history.

Neil Doncaster will have a starring role in the numerous books and essays and studies of this which we’ll certainly see in years to come, and future generations will marvel that he wasn’t sacked in 2012 when he self-detonated the commercial side of the league’s businesses.

That he has remained in post to this day, with all the attendant disgrace he has layered on since, will stagger them.

So much of this happened at one club, and appears to be for the benefit of that club.

I am asked, often, if Doncaster has been “got to” or “bought.”

I tell them the answer is no.

As much as some might shake their heads at my saying this, I believe that if Celtic had been as badly run as Rangers and landed in the same position he and Regan would have been just as willing to bend every rule and co-opt the rest of the clubs, using much the same tactics as they did in 2012, to achieve the ends they wanted.

They would have risked everything, and burned this game to the bedrock if the fans of other clubs had allowed them to get away with it.

The issue here is the duopoly, and the lack of any imagination that our national sport can be something more.

The “two club” scenario in which these people fanatically believe – which is that our game, essentially, only has “relevance” because of the Glasgow sides – is what has corrupted every bit of our sport and got us here.

We Celtic fans, for our own reasons, have long loathed and despised the “Old Firm” tag, which we think insults us in seeking to tie us not to another club but to a pact of mutual hatred.

It markets nothing but bitterness, and tries to tap into something ugly.

We want no part of it and it’s been a long time since we did.

Our national sport could have weaned itself off this evil, corrupting drug … but our leaders and our media wouldn’t let it.

They pushed the Two Club Myth.

To keep it going they invented and nurtured the Survival Myth.

To feed and grow that they’ve invented the Victim Myth, which promotes nothing but anger and resentment and which Sevco fans are mugs to believe in.

Yesterday, even the press were amazed at the ignorance and lack of logic the SPFL showed, and the gaping holes in the decision making process their choices revealed.

The statement the SPFL released late last night, full of self justification and arrogance, but without an iota of insight into the minds of the fans (not that they gave a damn anyway) was greeted with a disbelief and contempt I haven’t heard in the voices of commentators and analysts since Comical Ali stood on the streets of Baghdad and told the world that Iraqi forces were fighting hard against the American invaders as US tanks rolled by in the background.

That’s where we are right now, with these people trying to defend the indefensible, insulting the people who matter most, pissing on us all and not even having the decency to call it rain.

A section of the Sevco support, forever wrapped in its own wee bubble of self importance, saw our condemnation of that scandal as an attack on them. Those who didn’t throw disgusting insults instead chucked back the softball of “obsessed.”

They miss the point, as the clinically selfish always do.

They are at the centre of the story, but they are not the story. I have only the most peripheral interest in their club in all this. My gripe is with the football authorities. They allow this nonsense. They make these decisions. They break their own rules.

Some think that’s none of our business, but they are the same people who come out with crap like “it’s all about the Rangers” and talk through the sides of their mouths about how “necessary” they are to the game whilst wishing every other club had died to prove the point.

Their club is a side-show here. Beyond wanting to see this game made better, I don’t give a damn what happens to them.

My own club is in a position where I’m comfortable that we can handle their pale shadow if it ever lumbers towards our door.

The rest of Scottish football has bigger things on its mind.

Doncaster packing up his pencils should be first on everyone’s list this morning.

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Cover

 

The Need For Competition?

IMG_2620Thank God for Al Qaeda.

Praise Jesus for 9/11 and for Islamic fundamentalism.

Thank the Lord for the more hardcore followers of Allah.

What would we have done without those guys? What would we have done without the War on Terror? How would this country have coped?

The British defence industry would have been on its arse without their holy war. It would have cost us billions in exports, and tens of thousands of jobs and we’d have had a deeper recession.

And what would our poor downtrodden intelligence agencies have done with their time? They couldn’t have given everyone the gig listening to Prince William doing Kate?

Oh yeah, things would have been picking up now, with the Big Russian Bear starting to growl all over again, but what about these last ten years? We’d have had soldiers with nobody to fight. We’d have had tanks sitting in laagers, running their engines.

We’d have had warehouses full of missiles and no-one to use them on. How could we have justified ordering more?

Without the modern day Axis of Evil you get the feeling that the Scottish independence referendum might not have gone off so peacefully. For all we know, tanks would have rolled into Berwick. Special Forces troops might have swept into Edinburgh and grabbed the First Minister. They might even have pulled a Castro on us, and released all the Scottish prisoners from their jails on the condition they all moved back home.

They might have sent Cilla Black up here, to dictate terms of surrender. They might have even have threatened us with John Barrowman. To keep. With the tanks on our border, how could we have said no?

They may even – if they were really feeling cruel – have blockaded the port of Stranraer.

How would football fans have got over to watch our games?

You might not realise it, but our economic prosperity depends on our military having healthy competition. Had we not found some new enemies we’d have had to invent them.

Too much? That’s a measure of the utter, utter, utter bollocks I’ve been listening to tonight. You have to go to extremes to top it.

Yes, I am ranting. Rambling. Raving. It’s because I am fed up hearing guff. Gallons of it are frequently poured onto us, and most ridiculous of all is this “competition” crap.

See, this is what happens when I put on Radio Clyde to amuse myself as I work. I end up like this; going off my nut at the insanity. At men paid fortunes to reveal their own ignorance.

I don’t mind that usually, but these guys call themselves experts and they are condescending arses to anyone who comes on and challenges their sheer stupidity.

The above analogy doesn’t really stack up. Except that the argument that we should put up with something harmful and destructive because it has some minor, positive, effect on us (defence jobs. It’s not like these people could be retasked to making typewriters, after all) … it is the stuff of sheer lunacy.

The analogy isn’t meant to be a good one. It’s a way of my letting off some steam. It’s a way of venting. Otherwise I’d crack up.

I really ought to stop listening to this mind-numbing nonsense.

In a sense though, it’s brought me to a point I’ve been wanting to make for a wee while; I want to tackle this garbage about “competition.” I want to put it to bed.

What brought this on was a Sevconian phoning Clyde and talking about how the club needs to be playing in the SPL next season. Keevins, who is just about the stupidest man making a living in the media in the whole of the country, piped up with the following;

“The whole of Scottish football needs Rangers in the SPL next season …”

And I thought, “Eah? No it doesn’t!”

I’m sick hearing it. There is no truth in it whatsoever. There’s not even any truth in the notion that Sevco needs to be in the top division. Their ridiculous so-called business plan depends on it, but that business plan is a joke that belongs in the bin. It depends on the club maintaining its current level of spending, and that level of spending is a nonsense.

If they were willing to make the appropriate cuts, they’d stand a chance of surviving it. Instead, they’d rather plan for an eventuality that might never come to pass, one that looks increasingly unlikely, if we’re being completely honest.

Let’s continue being honest. All this “the game needs Rangers” rot is about money, and nothing more. It assumes that there will suddenly be more interest, and more money, in the game if that team is playing in the top flight.

Tell me something. Tell me why that should be the case?

Subtract Celtic from the equation for the moment, this notion that more Celtic fans would go to games if there was a genuine competition. Take that out of the considerations for the moment, because all that one does is get in the way of the really important stuff.

Attendances at most of the clubs are up. Barry Hearn can talk all he likes about a single match, and the media can blow his comments up to charity cheque size all they want, but he knows the sum total of nil about the game here and can keep his condescending remarks.

He sells out individual events. Novelty events. Some of the blogs run nights out, and they invariably sell through the roof. Should these guys be running football clubs?

Hearn doesn’t have the responsibility of running a 365 day operation in a country where the average punter no longer has the cash he or she once did, and it’s bad enough our so-called “sports journalists” talking the game down without letting some loud-mouth who probably doesn’t know a football from an Easter Egg tell us where we’re failing.

We needed Barry Hearn to tell us that Regan and Doncaster should be sacked for our top league not having a sponsor? For appalling governance? This website and others have been screaming it from the rooftops for near on three years.

It’s not breaking news, and the fact Keevins and others are calling his speech an “eye opener” demonstrates how long they’ve been walking about with them jammed shut.

The reason attendances are up at most clubs is simple; each of those clubs now has a better chance of getting into Europe and of getting to the finals of top competitions than they would if the steroid pumped Ibrox OldCo was still crashing around like a bull in a china shop.

No-one can tell me why Aberdeen fans would be more likely to come to matches if Sevco were in the top division. Explain it to me. They might get two more full houses, but they would not be more likely to buy season tickets. Nor would the fans of Dundee United. Nor would the supporters of Motherwell or St Johnstone.

The argument makes no sense whatsoever.

“It is important for competition,” people have argued. We’ll get to that in more detail in a moment, but for now let’s think on this:

This concept of “competition” would only matter to the fans of two clubs … for the rest it transforms football into a duopoly again, and how in God’s name does that inspire people to watch the game once more? Are these people suggesting these fans would rather watch their team fight for third place than they would watch them fight for second?

Nonsense. The worst kind of nonsense. Dangerous nonsense.

Scottish football almost collapsed into the abyss because of this destructive idea that we need a football club that believes rules are for other people, that thinks spending money is its right, that can’t get its act together or its house in order. Every club in this land would have ended up paying the bill for their decades of mis-management and greed … until the fans said “Hey, not in this lifetime …” and called their clubs to order.

It’s bad enough that the tax payers had to pick up the tab.

The Frankenstein’s Football Club that emerged from that period has made every horrendous mistake, and shown every bit as much arrogance, as the one that died. It is an insult to every club that lives within its means to suggest our game depends on them.

Even if it wasn’t an offensive notion, it’s a stupid one.

What is this “competition” people are talking about?

This too is insulting. It’s just assumed that their footballing joke would be better than every other club in the league but Celtic. It’s groundless, but they talk about it as if it’s a fact, as if it makes perfect sense … just … because.

This club in whom the media puts so much store is like a drunk man trying to walk in a straight line.

In case it escaped Keevins’ attention, they were knocked out of the third tier cup tournament this midweek, after being two goals to the good with 18 minutes of the game to go against a part-time team.

They are dreadful. Kilmarnock and others might bottle out of single matches at Ibrox, but once teams get the measure of how bad they really are then beatings will be a weekly occurrence. They will provide no competition worthy of the name. They will provide comedy. They will provide laughs. But that is not a good enough reason for wanting them in the league.

Some people – including Celtic fans – have said things aren’t the same without them. Of course not; things are infinitely better. The game here is healthier without the grotesque spectacle of the Celtic – Rangers game, and the top division is better without that club.

If fans want competition, they are watching the wrong sport right now, and besides … what is this crap about competition anyway?

I exile myself from Celtic Park because I won’t fund a ludicrously flawed strategy, and the bonus payments to a certain individual. On the day he packs up his pencils I’ll be back, and I’ll never miss a game. I will do that unless rules are bent to accommodate the Sevconian horde. If that happens I won’t be back at another football match in Scotland as long as I live, unless my club opposes it to the last drop of blood and then leaves the game here behind as a remedy.

This notion of “competition” has no relevance for me and I cannot even kid on I get it. I want my team to win every match, to beat every opponent, and the problems I have with the current squad is not that it has no effective rival but that it’s not winning resoundingly or comfortably enough.

Right now, we get “competition” on a game by game basis, and I don’t like it one bit.

I don’t want competition of the kind they are talking about.

Nail biting finishes? Title races that go right to the wire? Why, in God’s name, would I want that?

I have never sat down at the start of a league campaign and said “I hope we win this on the final day, with a last minute goal.” I want to win it with weeks to spare. With a record breaking goal haul. With our keeper scooping the shut out record. With a clean sweep of the awards, although I am realistic about that and never expect the sportswriters to swallow their bias and vote for Celtic employees.

“There needs to be a bit of interest in the league,” someone said to me recently. Like what? Right now we’re struggling to beat teams like Thistle. How much more interesting do people want it? Losing those games? We’re top of the league for the first time since the season began, and you know what? People were moaning and wanting the manager sacked before this run started.

Why? Because we might not win the title by double figures.

Make your minds up people. I can be that guy, because I won’t be satisfied unless we do, and I never am, but some of you are the same people talking this “we need competition” guff.

If the game needs the Ibrox club “for competition” and people are alright with that, and agree with it, and support it, then why don’t we campaign for giving them ten points of a start? Or getting the league to pick up the tab for the signings?

If it’s “competition” these people want, does it really matter how we get it? Or who we get it from? Can’t we just give Aberdeen these things, and create a new main rival? You see how ludcirous the argument is?

One club – and only one – gains anything from this “the top flight needs Rangers” garbage. It’s the one playing at Ibrox.

I would love to see other teams stronger, and challenging. As long as they weren’t too strong, and challenging too much. But it would have to happen on merit. And within the rules. From clubs which live within their means … or we’re creating nothing more than a rigged game.

It’s Friday night, friends, and I shouldn’t be hammering the keyboard because of something Hugh Keevins spewed out in his usual numb fashion. You’d think I’d be immune to this kind of stuff by now … yet here we are.

Some things though … well, they just won’t keep until Monday.

Enjoy your weekend brothers and sisters. Here’s to destroying Motherwell at home.

Competition? My arse.

(This site needs your help. You can show your support by making a donation at the PayPal link at the top or the bottom of your page, depending on which device you are using. Those donations are vital to me. Everyone who makes a donation has a place in my heart, and I’ll do my best to keep you entertained and informed all through the Festive Season and beyond into 2015.)

All In The Game

UntitledBefore I get to the point I want to say thank you to every person who has read an article, liked an article, shared an article, contributed an article and commented on an article since this website started. You got it here, and I mean that.

In particular though, I want to thank everyone who made a donation over the last few months. You kept us going when things were a bit bleak, and you made sure we stayed up and running. What follows is for you guys as much as anybody, because you gave us that extra push.

Today I’m delighted to announce that months of hard work has paid off, and I’m in a position to release a brand new magazine on Scottish football and the issues surrounding it, a magazine called All In the Game. This magazine will not replace On Fields of Green, but it will run alongside it. I hope to turn it into a success, but for the moment it’ll keep the lights on and the internet running. It will cost £2.46 an issue (on Magzter. £2 on here via donations), £6.16 for three (£6 on here), £12.32 for six (£12 on here) or £24.65 (£20 on here) for the first twelve.

There are two ways to buy a copy. You can buy one at the Magzter link which I’ll provide down the page, or by making a donation to this site. One way or another, you’ll get your copies through the Magzter mailing system, although if you choose to do it by donation we’ll get more of the money and you’ll get an email saying you’ve been given a complimentary issue or subscription free. The magazine is available, now, on all formats except on iOS, which will take another week until Apple approves. (It’s a formality, but a pain in the backside nonetheless.)

Every person who has donated thus far will get their subscription to the magazine based on what they’ve given, which keeps things fair and balanced. Some of you will be reading this magazine for a long, long time! As such, we’ll keep the donations links on the site but we’ll treat it as a subscription system as per what I said above.

So what’s it about, this magazine? Well, as I said, it’s about Scottish football. It’s not about one club or even two clubs! It’s about the game as a whole, and we’re going to be looking for writers from right across the sport, from all the clubs that are out there.

This is a magazine with a mission, as this website has one. We want to tackle big stories, of course, and we want to give the fans a platform where they can tell their tales and express their views – and this site is, has, and always will be an open forum where anyone can submit a piece, and the magazine will be the same – but we want to do more than that.

I am sick and tired, and I am sure you are sick and tired, of being surrounded by people whether in the media or elsewhere, who’s mission in life seems to be talking the game down. They are everywhere around us, from the boardrooms to the press boxes. Their doom and gloom predictions are the reason our major competitions have no sponsors. They are the reason there aren’t more fans in the stadiums. They are why we allow this sport to be sold short in TV negotiations and they are the reason we’ve spent so long stuck in a two club dependence cycle we can’t break even though one of those clubs no longer exists. They believe they speak for the ordinary fan, when actually their aspirations or lack thereof are diametrically opposed to everything we care about.

This website has focussed a lot of attention on the situation at Sevco Rangers, and we’ve done this because that crisis threatens our game, because the people who run it are still stuck to an out-dated and irrelevant footballing model. Their reliance on that model could still be what pushes our whole game over the cliff, and but for the Internet Bampots and bloggers and the response of supporters everywhere it would have happened already.

It has never been more important for those of us who do this to be good at what we do. It’s as simple as that. I hope that in time this magazine will help us do it better, and become a forum for as many of our leading voices as possible.

We’re going to need that. Sevco Rangers is heading for a meltdown and a lot of questions that remain unanswered over the role of the governing bodies in allowing things to get this far are not going to be laid to rest. We are going to find out just what the Hell has gone on over there, and why the people in charge didn’t get a grip on it before now.

That club is a shambles and they are making a mockery of our national game. When a convicted crook who’s already on the board is seen having a business lunch with a man wanted by Interpol, who himself has ties to the club’s backers and the old regime, and when the man waiting in the wings is another fraudster who avoided an 80 year jail term by the skin of his teeth, and our governing bodies scarcely tremble, then we are truly in the realms of surrealism and the people running our sport are a joke.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; there is no club in the land who’s supporters have been as horribly let down by the governing bodies as the supporters of the one calling itself Rangers. Whether it’s the oldco or the newco, the SFA and the SPL have allowed them to be systematically shafted by crooks and spivs since David Murray departed the scene.

This is the club they tell the world our national sport needs, and they’ve allowed it to fall into the hands of men you would not buy a used car from.

It’s the single biggest issue facing our national sport, and one that won’t go away, but it’s not the only one, and so I’m pleased our first issue doesn’t really touch on it at all … but the second one, oh that’s a very different story. I expect us to have plenty to write about.

But anyway … Issue one is upon you and the members of our team think it’s a damned good read. This project has just gotten started. We have a very clear plan of what we want it to be, and a very clear direction as to where we want it to go … but like everything else we’ve done on this site, that’s going to largely depend on you. Your continued support is going to be essential, whether that’s buying an issue, promoting us or writing for one.

Without that, we’re nowhere.

Love and respect to you all. Our next proper article will be up on Sunday morning and we’ll send out our subscriber emails on Monday.

You can buy All In The Game by clicking on the Magzter link below, or by making a donation in the usual fashion. This website couldn’t exist without you, and we’re committed to keeping it going and improving all the while.

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Storm Front Coming

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I recently had the pleasure, and I mean that literally, of reading Sebastian Junger’s magnificent book A Perfect Storm.

I put it away in four sittings, over the course of two days, because I was enthralled in it from first word to last.

It was brilliantly written and superbly researched, but above even those things it was a book with real humanity, telling a heart-rending story in a way that was not sensationalist or sentimental in the least.

There is a particularly chilling section of the book that deals with the sound of the wind at sea. The effect of this is measured on what’s known as the Beufort Scale, going from 1 – 12, with 10 rating as a storm, 11 as a violent storm and 12 as a hurricane. Junger spoke to many fishermen during his research for the book, and they told him that an experienced captain can tell how powerful a storm is simply by listening to the sound the wind makes against the rigging cables.

If the wind screams, you’re looking at a Force 9. If it shrieks, you’re in a Force 10. A Force 11, which no fisherman ever wants to hear, is a moan. At Force 12 the noise is like nothing ever heard before on land, a deep tonal vibration like a church organ without a melody.

I wonder what the sound of the wind sounds like as it rushes through the Ibrox Blue Room at the moment. One thing is for certain; that club is at the centre of the storm.

When you look at the unfolding calamity at Ibrox it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that for it to have gotten this bad there had to be a collective loss of sanity inside the walls. In Junger’s book he talks about how fishermen who have survived a couple of close calls start to think of themselves as invulnerable, and take greater and greater risks as though going head to head with God himself. At Ibrox the same insanity clearly rages. The identity crisis, whereby they refuse to accept they are not the club which died in 2012, has blinded them to their own mortality. Instead, they view the death of the OldCo as a “lucky escape” … and now think they can’t be killed.

Around them, the sea is rolling fiercely. They are being buffered by waves which tower over the small frame of the boat. Sooner or later they will hit what mariners call the Zero Moment, the tipping point where a ship’s position becomes unrecoverable, and down the whole thing will go.

The news all this week has been grim, as grim as that the Andrea Gail must have been getting as it sailed into the hurricane off Sable Island. Perhaps, inside the walls, they still tell themselves, as Billy Tyne must have told himself, that everything can still work out, that they can reach a safe port with the catch, that one day they’ll look back on these days as the closest call of their lives.

They are wrong. There is no coming out of this intact.

Deep down, I am sure most of them realise this. They can look out the portside windows and see that the sea here isn’t blue and calm. A Force 10 has high, cresting green seas streaked with white foam. At Force 11 the foam appears in large patches all over the rising and falling water. Where Sevco Rangers is now, the seas appear almost white, there are 50 foot waves and higher, and the visibility is almost zero as the spray fills the air. No-one will mistake this for anything other than a disastrous situation from which escape is unlikely at best.

Last week was a series of dreadful news days, one on top of the other, battering the psyche of everyone connected with the club. These waves are called flounders, and enough of them will eventually sink any ship, no matter how good the captain.

First is the slow progress of the share sales, which is bad enough for what it portends in the weeks and months to come, but on the heels of it came the news about Mike Ashley and his takeover of the Rangers Megastores and all their staff, and the revelation that he owns the naming rights to the stadium, which he purchased for just a quid.

These waves had already battered in the cabin windows, threatening all on board, but even as the crew were trying to patch up that damage, in suicidal high seas, the next huge wave rolled in with the news that Imran Ahmed, Charles Green’s “little Paki friend” had returned to court for a third time, to try to ring fence over £600,000 which he claims he should have been paid as a bonus.

The courts had already twice decided not to grant him that request, believing the club was still in good shape and capable of making it to any future trial. This time, with the shareholders being asked to put their hands in their pockets just to keep on the lights, the judge agreed with Ahmed’s contention that they are in choppy conditions with a watery grave beckoning.

It’s hard to think of a more damning verdict, or one that does more damage to a company which is actually out there seeking fresh investment.

Of course, the media still pins its hopes to the idea of a saviour coming along, someone with the money to pour into this bottomless hole and make them “competitive” again. The latest candidate, after Jim McColl, Brian Kennedy, George Soros (can you believe we actually read that crap in a national newspaper?) and the eponymous Dave King is Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, a man who’s widely reviled on Tyneside because he won’t spend his hard earned cash on a club in a league where he might actually be able to turn a profit.

What chance does our media and the Sevco support think there is of this man pouring millions into a club that swallows money like a black hole?

Ashley is like all the other vultures circling above this carcass. He smells blood. There is a quick buck to be made here, nothing more. He is not interested in being the Hero of Govan. As Mason Verger says in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal, “when the fox hears the rabbit scream he comes running … but not to help.”

Today there is growing fear inside Sevco that they may be unable to pay their players this month, which would incur automatic SPFL sanctions. This news puts them a hair’s breath from an administration which will wreck their chances of gaining automatic promotion.

The damage it will do to their club, its share price, its financial viability and its hopes for the future will be truly astronomical. Their supporters, who saw the original Rangers go through an administration where nothing really changed will be shell-shocked at the manner, and the effects, of this one. Their playing squad will be smashed. There will be no late efforts to sign players this time. Their cost base will be slashed. If McCoist keeps his own job it will only be because he’s been forced to part company with much of his backroom team.

Their fans will never have seen anything like it. The shock to the system will be like getting battered by a fifty foot swell.

Junger’s sources told him the first thing that happens in a sinking boat is water floods the engine room and shorts out the power and out go the lights. Over at Ibrox we must be only a few months away from that, and that’s if they get lucky.

Junger’s book charts what New Englander’s called The Storm of The Century. It was a natural phenomenon. People facing it could do nothing but try to stay out of its way. It swept up the East Coast of the United States and devastated it.

The storm front that has erupted off Ibrox is entirely man-made. It was manufactured inside the walls, and like an experiment that has escaped the lab it threatens to engulf and destroy those who have created it.

We have watched it rise in power, steadily, over the last couple of years, cycling up through the Beufort Scale from a stiff breeze to the full-blown hurricane we see today, and now all of Scottish football should be battening down the hatches as it roars inland.

As Springsteen says, “Bring on your wrecking ball.”

This won’t be like last time. This one is going to hit that club like a hammer wielded by God.

(On Fields of Green depends on your support . If you can make a donation, we’d appreciate it. You can do so with the Donate button at the top or the bottom of whatever device you’re using. Every bit of help we get is massively helpful.)

The Changing Of The Guard

turnbullhuttonNo sooner had On Fields of Green run our last piece, on the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry and the way in which it had been undermined and then misled, but the Sunday papers were running with a major story on the SPFL and their efforts to trump the SFA on a number of issues.

I was in the process of posting the Nimmo Smith piece when someone sent me a copy of the back page of the following days Mail. It was several more hours before I could actually scrutinise the full text, and so I didn’t offer any amendment to the piece I was about to publish, but even reading the bullet points I knew that this was good news.

It looks as if the SFA have already caved on some of the more important issues, but more vitally these resolutions have answered a number of questions about exactly how we got to this stage in the first place. Campbell Ogilvie’s re-election now makes more sense for a start, as it appears there were very specific criteria required before someone was “eligible” to stand. Those requirements are now being changed, and that’s overdue. Frankly, they reeked.

Ogilvie was elected because SFA regulations made it nearly impossible to stand someone against him. The entire system has been rigged like this for years, which is precisely how we’ve had people like Peat rising to become heads in the game, although they had no discernible skills, and that, in turn, leads to appointments such as Gordon Smith.

Ogilvie, however, is the worst, as compromised as he is by what happened at Ibrox on his watch, and by the way he has behaved during the last couple of years. The organisation that let Sevco Rangers investigate itself is so unfit for purpose you wonder how it has lasted this long.

I had to set aside the Sunday Mail story when I read it, because it was full of the usual speculative trash. It was, in fact, a demolition job, spun to read as if this was a coup so the SPFL could get its hands on the SFA pot of gold. My contempt for our sports media is nearly limitless at this point, because even a cursory read of these proposals made it clear they were not a money grab but an effort to bring accountability – real accountability – to the organisation.

Yet Gordon Waddell and the Mail were leading the charge in the other direction, branding the SPFL as obsessed only with their own power and greed. This was, without a doubt, the spin whoever leaked these papers wanted to read, and in Waddell they had a useful idiot to write it just so. He did not apply one bit of real scrutiny to the plans. He did not make the slightest effort to see them in a different light. He painted them as a disaster, and his paper termed them a shabby effort at money grubbing, missing the real intent completely.

They continue to amaze me with how out of step they are with what supporters really want. Their cack-handed efforts to influence events in recent years have shown how powerless they really are. Fans no longer believe them. Clubs no longer care what they write.

Today’s announcement that two of the proposals have been taken on board – the changes to how election for the President and Vice President positions are run, as well as the addition of two club members to the Professional Game Board – is a huge step towards what we’ve been asking for, and I don’t think I’m alone in welcoming them.

We will never again have the embarrassing spectacle of someone like Ogilvie being elected unopposed. I suspect he’ll decide to step down at the end of this term, because he has no chance of being re-elected once this goes through. The clubs are taking control, and when you look at how they all fought for the integrity of the sport two years ago, I welcome it wholeheartedly. The more say men like Turnbull Hutton have in the running of the sport the better.

This isn’t to say Ogilvie should be allowed to simply slink off into the sunset with a fat pension pot. This man owes Scottish football an apology for what’s happened here, and it will be abhorrent to every football fan if he is allowed to retire with his reputation intact. History will judge him far more harshly than his blazer wearing pals, or those he still has in the media offices up and down the land, but I’d rather we didn’t have to wait 10 years for the narrative to reflect the scale of what this man was involved in, and what he allowed to take place.

It’s on that note that I come to the final piece of breaking news, that there’s a proposal on the table for a new series of regulations on licensing and club membership. To say this is a welcome development is an understatement. It comes in the same week as Sevco Rangers are due to publish the already derided 120 day review, which many in the media and in their support have hailed as if will be some kind of watershed moment. It won’t be. There will be nothing in that review we don’t already know, and as awful a picture as it will paint, there is no way it will be spun as such.

A decision has been taken inside Ibrox that they will gamely soldier on, and get through this season. The objective is to bag enough cash from season ticket sales that they can stagger through the early part of the next before they reach another crisis point. At that juncture, they will initiate a new share issue or find a way of raising some short term cash to stumble on to the next fork in the road. I see no evidence that it’ll end well, or go well. The crash will come.

Speaking as someone with a sadists satisfaction at the current flailing around of the Ibrox club, I could not be more happy with that proposition. The club entering administration once this season ends is the best Celtic fans like me could ever have hoped for.

It ensures that the carnage comes when it will be most harmful, in a league where the club is facing a significant test already, and not a collection of part time footballers who, with respect to them, don’t have the ability or the fitness levels to properly compete with professionals. Some of them have given McCoist’s team a real fright this year too, which speaks volumes about how chronically unprepared for Championship football the Ibrox club, and its manager, are.

I’ve said in other pieces I can’t understand why, with all the drama swirling around Ibrox, they don’t just enter administration right now and have done with it. The 25 points they’d be deducted would not materially influence their position. They would still get promoted, and they would have a summer to restructure and rebuild. As they’re facing a point of crisis next season anyway the chances are good that they’ll be spending an extended period in the lower leagues … this way the pain would be limited and the trauma ultimately lessened.

As a Celtic fan, I would rather it came at the most inconvenient time for the club. I want them to get through the season without taking the hit. Yet, I have another reason for not wanting to see it happen before this one ends, and it’s a more over-riding one than that I’ll get greater satisfaction if it comes somewhere farther down the line.

The spectacle of a club winning a title and then entering administration, taking a massive points deduction and it not affecting their promotion … that would be a scandal at a time when Scottish football is starting to get itself together. It would, in many ways, be a fitting bookend to the current administrative joke, but it would make our game a laughing stock. Sevco Rangers would have spent its way to the edge but enough that it was beyond the consequences of doing so.

The proposed changes on licensing and membership would have prevented the shameful saga I recounted in A Window On A Scandal, and which I explored in part in my last piece. Yet there are still shocking loopholes in our regulations, including those on “fit and proper person” status and those on club financing. Dave King’s ridiculous statements about how he wants to “invest” £50 million in Sevco Rangers, to give them a short-term steroid hit, are a demonstration of what football is up against. It doesn’t matter that these plans are unrealisable nonsense; they are dangerous to the sport, and they are blatantly unfair to those teams willing to live within their means.

For years, English football has been the perfect model for how not to do things. Prices are rising to ridiculous levels. Wages are shockingly, incomprehensibly high. Transfer fees long since passed the point of sanity. Yet, a steady realisation has been dawning as to the damage this is doing to clubs and to the game itself. Changes have been brought in.

Every league below the EPL has adopted its own version of UEFA’s “financial fair play” regulations. Limits have been put on what clubs can spend, depending on their income in years past. This is the future of football if football is to have a future. Over the next decade I think we might see something we’ve not seen before … player salaries starting to come down. A normalisation of transfer fees. A realisation about how out of control it’s all become.

Scottish football must look at financial fair play for our own leagues. The SPFL should require it as part of the new licensing requirements. Clubs can’t be allowed to spend more than they earn. Teams should be required to break even over a three, four or five year period. There should be strict – and severe – punishments for clubs who fail to meet the criteria.

Well run clubs have no reason to fear such a system. It would empower those teams which are currently living within their means and doing their business in a professional, and sustainable, fashion. Clubs would no longer be able to behave recklessly. They would no longer be able to endanger the integrity of the sport and we would avoid the shameful scrambling in the dirt of recent years. Our national sport would be healthier overnight.

The SPFL has to be commended for putting forward these changes. They represent the first effort at tackling the SFA’s old boys network in years, and it’s to be hoped they are merely the outriders of even bigger changes to come. This is what the supporters have been waiting for since the calamitous and destructive events of two years ago.

The clubs are taking control of the agenda, and as the fans are making their own voices heard within the clubs it means we’re now pushing things too.

Democracy is coming to a football ground near you. Blazers, be warned.

Change is on its way.

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