Our Anger Over This Continuing “Old Firm” Insult Is What Must Drive Us On Today.

Celtic F.C.Today Sevco will play against Celtic at our home ground, for the very first time. Two matches at Hampden against a Ronny Deila team have lulled some of these players into a false sense of security. Some of them have never been in an atmosphere like this in their lives.

The media has hyped this game up, as they will forever more. I’m resigned to that fact, but it should give us the upper hand more often than not, because as long as we’re in front of their club they are the ones who have to rise to the occasion.

I don’t want to get into knocking Ronny today; that’s an era at our club that delivered two titles and he deserves credit for that. But in two matches against Sevco we never once showed the limits of our superiority, except for a spell in the first one. It was as if, in that tie, we played within ourselves, treating it as a simple exercise in going through.

I was delighted at the time, but it’s burned me since. We ought to have stuck six past them that day, and I will never fully understand what stopped us from doing so. They were a demoralised shambles, ripe for us handing out a right good tanking.

The second game was a disgrace, pure and simple, with the most negative tactics I’ve ever seen administered by a Celtic boss in a domestic cup match. Back in the days when Rangers were around, I saw Celtic managers who went into those games spectacularly outgunned, but until Hampden last year I never saw one go out and play for a draw.

Brendan Rodgers is not Ronny Deila; he understands what drives our club. He gets it, and as long as the media wants to call this a Celtic – Rangers game, I expect him to approach it as if it were, whilst understanding that we’re much the superior team. In short, I expect him to feel the same raw emotion as we do, the same will to administer the football equivalent of a punishment beating today. This mob are more than just jumped up upstarts; they are vain, arrogant, boastful, prideful and in need of bringing rapidly, and painfully, back to Earth.

Today should hurt. Today should be psychologically wrecking. We should start at high speed and not stop until the final whistle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Barcelona in midweek is a much more important game, but that should not be used as an excuse or a reason to be soft today. Our players and our manager know how important this one is.

The existence of Sevco, playing in the guise of Rangers, the assertion that they are one in the same, is an insult to every club in the land, but Celtic especially.

Because we’re the club who was damaged most in the era of Ibrox cheating, and we are the club the media endlessly tries to shoehorn into this corrupt notion of a rivalry based on hate, and it doesn’t matter what we as supporters say or do. This website has written a thousand times that we want nothing to do with this. I wrote it on E-Tims and on The CelticBlog, and every other Celtic blogger is unanimous in saying the same.

I can’t put it more plainly than to say this; every single word I’ve written on that club in the last four years has been a reaction to this debased idea. As a Celtic fan and a Celtic blogger I do not want any part in this media inspired, PR fantasy and I don’t care whether they call themselves after the OldCo, accept they’re a NewCo or get fully on board, at last, with the facts as we know them; just leave us out of it.

Stop trying to drag us into your grubby circle.

I care about the Survival Lie only inasmuch as it affects Celtic and the reason I am such a passionate advocate of calling this what it is, is that as long as the media pretends they are Rangers they will drag us into the swamp chained to the hated Old Firm term.

So, I suggest this; if the media and their supporters put their guns away, I’ll put away mine. I’ll stop banging on about them being a NewCo. Hell, I’ll even stop calling them Sevco. As long as they accept, at last, that Celtic fans could care less, and just want shot of them.

Take this millstone from around our necks, consign that ugly phrase and loathed tag to the dustbin of history, treat this like just another game, and as far as I’m concerned they can get on with pretending to be whatever the Hell they want and I’ll be as happy to indulge their fantasy as I would be to grant the local glue sniffer his fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Because all I care about is the well-being of my club, and this rancid association and its toxic connotations has been smothering us for far too long.

Back in 2012, when liquidation and death overwhelmed them, any number of their fans and media apologists clung to the idea that, deep down, we needed them and wanted them, as if they were necessary to validate our own existence.

Over the four years of Sevco, one of the things that’s bothered them most is the slow dawning realisation that we weren’t even remotely kidding … if they’d been swallowed up completely and no version of them ever rose again, we wouldn’t have missed them far less mourned them.

They call us obsessed anyway, not recognising for a second that nearly every single word on this blog and others in relation to them has been written from the perspective of people who are happy their club is dead and would be even happier if no version of it existed at all. They can call that hate as they like, but I’ve seen what real hate looks like.

I grew up sharing a city and a country with it, and it didn’t flow from their ordinary supporters, amongst whose ranks I’ve had colleagues, relations, great love affairs and lifelong friendships. No, it flowed from the institution itself, because it was built on that emotion, marketed on it and for years thrived by sucking greedily at every morsel of that hate which spilled into the public sphere. I am entitled to hate the institution a little because of it.

What was it Liam Neeson said in Michael Collins?

“I do hate them. I hate them for making hate necessary.”

When Sevco was formed, it had a chance to consign that hate to the grave.

It didn’t.

It used it as a foundation stone, and so along with the Survival Lie the Victim Lie was born.

They say that Scottish football depends on them, and Celtic most of all.

Paul67 is the guy I credit with best getting right to the heart of the matter; “Whichever part of my club is dependent on Rangers, I am quite willing to lose,” he said, in 2012. He spoke for a great many of us that day, almost every single person I know.

But one of the many truths they just can’t face is that Scottish football thrived without all this, even as every day at Ibrox there was another psychodrama in the media. Four long years of their dirty laundry, hanging out there for everyone to see, as they struggled to stay relevant in a world which wouldn’t have given a shit that they were there at all but for the constant wailing, like a child trying to get attention.

Yet strip it all down and what do you find?

You find the real obsession.

You find the real dependency.

It’s all tied up in the Old Firm tag.

Because they are like a junkie who just can’t kick the habit.

They need it, like a vampire needs blood; they need it for their very survival.

You never read reference to the Old Firm on Celtic sites unless, like here, we’re denying we want any part of it, but it is promoted, endlessly, on theirs, along with the pitiful, almost pleading, suggestion that without it we’d be less than what we are … which is their way of admitting that without it they would be absolutely nothing at all.

Because they do define themselves by this rivalry, and in the end it’s all they’ve got, the one thing they cling to that makes them important in a world that otherwise would have passed them by a long, long time ago. Their backward, irredeemably narrow appeal renders them insignificant without the Old Firm name because without that who outside of Scotland would even care they existed at all?

I believe Celtic survives quite well without it.

Our existence as a football club and a social institution neither relies on nor is helped by an ugly PR invention at the end of which are fist-fights and stabbings and drunken yobs fighting in the street and the promotion over and over and over again of blind hate.

Today I want us to win, and I want us to win big, and it’s not because they are our biggest rivals.

It’s because they aren’t.

It’s not because we’re participants, willing or otherwise, in this rivalry they call the Old Firm.

It’s because we’re not and we don’t want to be.

I want the win, the big win, because I want to be done with this nonsense once and for all, and I’ve come to believe that the best way to do is to expose the lie for what it is, but not by UEFA letters or media admissions, or changing the minds of their ridiculous fans … the best way to do it is to burst the fantasy bubble, to expose this idea to the ridicule it deserves, to destroy the notion that this is a rivalry at all.

Because once that illusion is gone, I think the Ibrox operation will collapse, and then we might well get what we should have in 2012 … a world where the Old Firm tag is never used to define our football club again.

If there was ever a good reason for wanting to see our team win a game, that’s surely it.

In Brendan We Trust.

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No Justice, No Moving On

59cf4bcc9d0a97e18a1085deeb864589Tonight, as I write this, the world of athletics is in uproar over the behaviour of the Russian team in the 2012 Olympics.

It looks certain that Russia will be banned from competing in international competition and that their athletes will face their own sanctions in due course.

These will probably include the removal of all the medals they won during that competition.

Much of the evidence that there was specific wrong-doing has been destroyed. This won’t matter, and is pretty much what guarantees the harshest measures.

The entire national athletics structure appears to have been involved in the offences and that means everyone will suffer the consequences. Consequences are important. When cheating is discovered in professional sport they tend to be rather draconian.

The stripping of titles isn’t unusual. It’s par for the course.

Everyone in Scottish football knows what Rangers did and that it was cheating.

A lot of smoke is being blown to distract people from that simple fact, but it’s undisputable just the same.

Note that no-one is suggesting that what the club did wasn’t wrong. Everyone accepts that. What their defenders are doing instead is trying to square the circle by suggesting that other clubs have done similar stuff. They’re saying that other clubs have spent money they didn’t necessarily have. And they’re suggesting we “just move on.”

Scottish football’s “leaders” – and I say that word with the maximum irony – would do well not to underestimate how angry people are over this.

The incumbents at Hampden, at the SFA and the SPFL, are gutless to their core.

King, as we all know, ought never to have been in a position of football responsibility again in Scotland after his own role in this scandal, to say nothing of his criminal conviction for tax fraud in South Africa, but because our game here is run by little men without a shred of backbone he’s chairman of the club they would have you believe is the same one that caused all this chaos in the first place.

The folk who were at Rangers are now three years past the point where they ought to have atoned, and been punished, for this stuff.

I’ve already laid out the ways in which what Rangers did was a crime against society, and not just against sport, but HMRC took care of that by consigning the club to the graveyard. The SFA has never lived up to its own responsibilities in this case, and it’s imperative that they are now forced to own that failure and act.

The thing is, very few people in Scottish football trust them when it comes to that. We can all too easily imagine a scenario where the SFA or whoever sets up another Lord Nimmo Smith panel, giving it instructions to tread softly and not upset people too much, out of a combination of fear or whatever. Stewart Regan and his “social unrest” comments spring all too readily to mind.

If we’re to truly get to the bottom of this cesspit, this matter needs a public enquiry of the sort not seen in football before. Other sports have them. Athletics is heading for a major one, in the aftermath of the damning report on Russia.

The people in charge of the IAAF have been complacent for a long time, but they’re wide awake now and focussing not only on the integrity of their own competitions but on the reputation of competitive sport as a whole.

In an editorial for The Guardian last night, the journalist Owen Gibson quoted Dick Pound, the boss of Wada, the athletics agency responsible for catching doping, who said “The public is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt and that certainly affects the credibility of sport.”

He’s right.

Mark Daly, the man who broke apart the EBT story, did the same with athletics, which led in no small way to the current crisis there. He is one of a handful of world class journalists – and how proud we should be of him – who’s got the intelligence and guts to go after stories like this.

What he found out – that doping for sport, and faking a blood test, is astonishingly simple – has haunted that game ever since, but other games were reeling before this.

Cycling had been devastated by Lance Armstrong. Bloodgate had taken its toll on rugby. Horseracing has been stalked by a variety of allegations. So too has cricket and golf. Even the Paralympics hasn’t been free of this; the 2000 Games saw Spain accused of having won a basketball gold medal in the intellectual disability section, without any of their players actually suffering from one.

In the US, the “biogenesis scandal” saw more than a dozen professional baseball players indicted and suspended for doping.

There have been scandals in American football and hockey.

We know football isn’t clean.

Even if the world governing body was not descending into total chaos under FBI and Justice Department subpoenas there have been scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and elsewhere.

Associations across the globe have found evidence of corruption at every level.

In Spain just last month, an assistant referee ran to the police, he claims, after his bosses began pressuring him to give decisions in favour of Real Madrid in the coming El Classico match.

In England, they’ve already had the first trial sending people to jail for match fixing in relation to betting syndicates, a subject I’ve written about before.

Scottish football’s scandal eclipses them all.

EBT use itself lasted ten years and the crisis that grew out of it has lasted another four. Rangers went into liquidation more than three years ago, and the governing bodies have mishandled every moment since.

Keith Jackson has said the EBT affair had “scarred the game” here, perhaps in the hope the rest of us will forget that it was the behaviour of one club that caused all this. Yet in one sense he was correct; that event has had serious repercussions and shattered the faith the fans have in the governing bodies, and that has scarred the sport.

We don’t trust these people, and why should we?

The SFA’s own head of registrations, in one of the most perverse moments in this ghastly state of affairs, testified to Lord Nimmo Smith that the player registrations which were with-held from the governing body did not constitute a breach of the rules because no-one knew about them at the time.

This is not just the smoking gun proving the governing bodies are in this up to their necks; this is the smoking ruin of sporting integrity with the Ibrox flag planted on top of it, and messers Doncaster, Ogilvie and Regan posing before it for a photo.

It’s a bit like saying a crime isn’t a crime if no-one actually knows it’s been committed, and that once people find out that it has been it shouldn’t be investigated as one because … no-one knew at the time.

It’s still mind-bending, two years after the fact and that he was allowed to get away with that is almost unbelievable.

The problem he and others have got is that the crime is now public knowledge and the notion that those responsible should get away with what they spent a decade doing is rightly seen as unacceptable.

An “internal inquiry” isn’t going to do it either.

All of this has to be handed over to serious people who can do a serious investigation.

Frankly, I don’t know why UEFA isn’t involved in this. Those footballers played in European games and that has badly compromised their competitions as well as those here in Scotland. All it will take – and I’m shocked it’s not happened already – is for one of the clubs who played Rangers on the continent to complain … and we’re in new territory.

This whole thing reeks, everything about it, from the day the EBT case was uncovered all the way through Whyte and Green and into the disgraced King being given a seat on the board with the SFA seal of approval.

There’s no way in Hell the people who presided over this can be expected to deal with it, honourably, as we go forward.

Who knew what, where and when?

Who got paid and how much?

These are the questions that we most often ask in relation to the EBT drama.

But there are other questions, other things that don’t make sense in all this, potential scandals waiting to be uncovered, and not just the secret list of EBT recipients who’s names were never published, and are known to the BBC and other outlets … but, yes, that too …

Who was on that list? How big is this thing?

Most importantly, these were payments for ‘services rendered’ … and one of the most interesting questions is what, in some cases, did those ‘services’ involve?

There’s barely one of us who isn’t aware, for example, that Graeme Souness got an EBT ten years after leaving Ibrox.

Ten years, friends. That’s not something that can be easily explained away.

What was this cash for?

The name of this scam, after all, was the Employee Benefit Trust … so in exactly what capacity was Souness still employed by Rangers and Murray?

He was at Blackburn from 2000-2004.

In January 2000, Rangers signed Tugay Kerimoğlu.

The following year he went to Rovers in a deal that reunited him with a manager he’d played for in Turkey. That deal appears kosher, but questions have long surrounded what happened three years later, when Souness was in his first season at Newcastle.

Jean Alain Boumsong, a player the Ibrox club signed as an out-of-contract freebie, was at Rangers for less than six month before Souness took him to his new club, paying £8 million for his services.

That transfer was later part of the Stevens Inquiry into bungs and backhanders in transfer deals, with the sting in the tail being that part of that was a raid on Ibrox and the confiscating of computers, and it was on these that the EBT use became known to HMRC.

So, we know what the Geordie side got for their money … and it wasn’t very much.

Boumsong was a dreadful signing for them, playing 40 odd games before they sold him for less than half of what they paid.

What we don’t know for sure is what Rangers got for their cash.

We know too that a number of people who are now journalists got EBT’s.

We don’t know how many did because the full list isn’t known.

Martin Bain got one whilst he was on the Rangers board, but he was also on the SPL Board of Directors at the same time.

That’s a post, similar to that held by Peter Lawwell at the moment, where you’re obliged to act in the best interests of the sport.

Yet he would have known league rules were being breached all the while.

Andrew Dickson, who was at Ibrox at the time, was elected to the SFA Congress this very year … an outrage considering what we know to have been going on whilst he was a club employee, responsible for “Football Adminstration” during the period when the dual contracts were being hidden away from the very body which he now sits on.

How do we know this? We know it because the SFA told us, in their investigation into Craig Whyte, who Dickson had testified to the governing body as being a “fit and proper person.”

He was also the recipient of an EBT, one worth £33,000.

You literally could not make this stuff up.

And then there’s Campbell Ogilvie himself, who left Rangers in 2005, receiving an EBT as a “golden handshake” after departing for Hearts. He was already the SFA treasurer, and two years later he was association Vice President.

Apart from having received a payment from the Ibrox club after he’d left he also held shares in Rangers, whilst at Tynecastle … a clear violation of the regulations he was supposed to enforce.

He knew all of it, along with Dickson and Bain, about the legal advice and the side letters and the non-disclosure and the illegality of the Discounted Options Scheme.

They had to, otherwise you have to surmise that they were absolutely, perhaps even criminally, negligent in their duties.

Their EBT payments compromise all of them in terms of their positions on those boards, and it’s astonishing that Dickson is at the SFA right now with all this swirling around him, but that Ogilvie received part of his after his employment at Ibrox is far worse, and makes me wonder just what that payment represented.

One thing is for sure; he looked the other way on these issues all the way through his tenure at the SFA, and he was still working on the club’s behalf right up to the moment Nimmo Smith gave his verdict in the last so-called “independent inquiry” we had, the one where the frame of reference was all decided in advance by organisations with everything to lose.

A lot of folk in our media have already been caught out as implicated in this.

Billy Dodds had one, Neil McCann had one and so did Stephen Thompson.

Those guys all won medals at the club during the EBT years and their views are still sought today in various media outlets. All are hopelessly compromised, as are the newsrooms in which they’ve spent their time, filled as they’ll be with their mates.

In addition, although he wasn’t at the club itself, Souness frequently appears on Sky Sports as a pundit, although he’s never asked about goings on at Ibrox. He doesn’t need to be. Off-camera, I’m sure he’s pushing the Victim Myth like crack cocaine.

No wonder the media narrative is that title stripping isn’t required, or even wanted.

A lot of former Celtic players have already been lined up to say they’re against it, or so it’s being spun. In fact, many have been asked if they would like the retroactive awarding of titles, which isn’t the same thing, and very few footballers would ever want that.

The campaign being waged on the other side is sneaky, and those behind it are those with far too much to lose to allow an inquiry that’s fully independent of the sport. But that’s what necessary, because the EBT scandal is bigger than it looks and it’s led to other scandals, some of which have the potential to do even more damage.

This thing began with off-the-books payments and concealed contracts but it didn’t end there, of course.

The real scandals came later.

First, the “conflicted” SFA President and the corrupted media, some of whom were in receipt of those payments, fought to see that ten years of cheating went unpunished when Rangers was liquidated and Sevco was born, giving the new owners guarantees of immunity before a shred of evidence had even been heard in the case.

They think we’ve forgotten this, about the secret memo that gave Charles Green his “no title stripping” assurances.

He’s now headed for a courtroom as the people who allowed him to get control pretend none of this is their doing.

They are in this up to their necks.

That’s why what happens next shouldn’t – indeed can’t – be dictated by them.

When these affairs came to light the natural inclination these people had was to sweep it under the carpet.

When it wouldn’t stay there they lied to us all about seeking justice, and gave the offenders a free pass.

An official at the SFA went in front of a tribunal and excused cheating on an industrial scale on the grounds we didn’t know it was cheating at the time.

They did no due diligence on Green.

When evidence of his links to Whyte emerged they let the club investigate itself.

They watched as a share issue was launched on decidedly dicey foundations and then rubber stamped two people who didn’t meet the Fit and Proper Person criteria as it’s laid down in the rules – their own set of rules, which have been used to punish other clubs for offences not even remotely this severe.

We have criminal cases pending.

The tax scam itself has been deemed illegal.

King himself is a convicted crook, running a Scottish club, the same one making threatening noises about not accepting further sanctions, when they haven’t even accepted responsibility for the pathetically ineffectual ones that were imposed on them three years ago.

Our entire national sport is mired in an enormous scandal that would be game-changing in any other national association in Europe.

Yet many of the guilty men still hold office.

In light of all this, a landscape of destruction stretching out for miles, we’re being told to “move on.”

Anybody arguing that needs therapy.

The game needs cleansing from top to bottom, and no-one involved in these affairs should be near its fresh start, which is the bare minimum that’s required before we can even start thinking about putting this in the past.

Dismay was yesterday’s emotion.

Disbelief stopped applying many, many moons ago.

What’s replacing all of that is anger, the anger of fans who’ve had to watch this unfolding, ever evolving shambles for near on three years, which gets worse the deeper into it we go.

I’m not approaching this as a Celtic fan.

I’m approaching it as an outraged football fan who’s more and more convinced that we’re watching something that’s not actually a competitive sport at all.

My girlfriend is a wrestling fan, a staged “sport” which is an interesting spectacle but can’t in any way, shape or form be viewed as a serious undertaking.

If we want to package football in this country on that basis, then great, but let’s acknowledge that fact.

Hibs haven’t won a Scottish Cup since 1902?

Well, wouldn’t that make a wonderful “story”? Let’s fix that for them next year, yeah?

The SPL’s become a one horse race?

Let’s make sure we throw it for Aberdeen, just to create a romantic “narrative.”

Let’s create rivalries between players, between managers, between officials and even fans.

Let’s artificially create heroes and villains, let’s have nothing that’s real.

Let’s remove sporting integrity from the field entirely.

See how many fans go to see it.

I said three years ago, when the initial moves to put Sevco in the SPL were being made, that we’d reached a turning point for our sport.

The fans saved the integrity of the game by lobbying their clubs.

This crisis will require them to do it again, to see that ten years of cheating and all that’s come since doesn’t go unpunished.

I do not trust our governing bodies to do this right.

The inquiry, when it happens, has to be wholly independent with the power to call witnesses and make them answer questions.

This isn’t a joke; the illegal activities of Rangers Football Club cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and there are a thousand unanswered questions about where the money went, and why.

At the end of all of it, justice has to be done and it has to be seen to be done so that our national sport can begin to recover and heal.

That means title stripping.

That means heads must roll.

That means a complete hollowing out of the structures at the SFA and the SPFL and the creation of robust, and meaningful, regulations to assure none of this can happen again.

Then, and only then, can we finally “move on.”

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Jumping the Dijk

virgilLike many Celtic fans I’m pretty much resigned to the fact that Virgil Van Dijk will leave Paradise this summer for pastures new.

Whilst the club have said they want to keep him, the steady drumbeat of articles where he’s allegedly gone on the record with his hopes for a move can’t be ignored. It’s inevitable, and it might even be right for the club. For sure, there will be a pot of money on offer.

Most people will fancy him going to the much lauded English Premiership or, as the marketeers refer to it, the “Greatest League in the World”.

That’s the biggest pile of steaming dung ever to be peddled.

Spain and Germany outdo our neighbours by a country mile.

Even if they bastardised Carlsberg’s clever marketing they wouldn’t even get away with fooling us with “Probably the best League in the World”.

Van Dijk, like Wanyama, Ledley, Forster and Hooper before him fancies a shot at the big time and good luck to him.

He’ll no doubt treble his wages.

Again fine.

The last player I sorely missed exiting Celtic Park was the King, Henrik Larsson.

Celtic will always have favourites and a sprinkling of legends.

Legends come once a generation and it’s a much overused term in football.

Good players come and go but with the Champions League Qualifiers round the corner the race will be on to replace our best defensive pairing in years.

We’ll miss young Denayer, who was an absolute stand out and we’ll have to wait to see if Boyata will live up to his sterling reputation.

Our problem, of course, is that Ronny Deila and Peter Lawwell can sit down with any player they are keen to bring to the Celtic, but they will know that the disincetive is a move to the SPFL.

Yet Celtic’s ability to offer the chance of Champions League football could prove crucial in that regard.

Looking back at the aforementioned players, they came to Celtic and were given a platform on which they flourished and built their careers higher.

All got Champions League football. All won trophies. Despite what rival fans say and what the Scottish mainstream media thinks, Celtic’s standing in the game is still big. The EPL distorts the finances … but our reputation is still enormous.

Barcelona, Manchester United and other European giants love playing at Celtic Park. Why would an up and coming player not?

Furthermore, Celtic has not stood in the way of players wishing to further their careers and aspirations and surely this in in-built in any negotiations? That means players leave us (mostly) on good terms, and that in itself enhances our reputation in the game.

Deila’s opening gambit could be :”Come and play in front of 60,000 on a European night, bag yourself a trophy or two and be paid relatively handsomely for plying your trade whilst you are at it. Then, when the time is right, you can further your career in a bigger league …”

Whilst the SMSM continually peddle the myth that Celtic need a certain other club, I think you’ll find that this is just not the case.

This is why I’m not overly concerned about Van Dijk going. There’s got to be more Wanyamas, Van Dijks and Hoopers out there.

Celtic fans have slowly, but surely, gotten a grip on reality when it comes to the club finances.

Gone are the days of £6m purchases.

We’re a selling club whether we like it or not. The lure of the EPL makes it impossible not to be.

The European football market and its finances dictate our position in the game.

Scottish football, it could be argued, is pretty much bankrupt financially (and some would argue morally too).

Sponsors and TV companies are starting to come back, after Doncaster and Regan’s incredible act of self-destruction in 2012, but they are hardly queuing up to throw pennies at our game.

The disappointing thing about all this is that the team that came close to sealing a domestic treble will be broken up. If we lose Van Dijk we will have to rebuild the back line, and Boyata is the only signing in that area at present.

The rebuilding programme needs to start now.

I firmly believe that teams that stay together tend to win together.

Deila has done a fantastic job in moulding the side despite a ropey start and this is a little unfair on him.

Celtic has been making a lot of noise about getting to the Group Stages in the coming season, so although we have to be realistic we can hope the manager is given a decent budget to meet the expectations of the fans.

My worry is not also confined to Van Dijk. Stefan Johansen had an outstanding season and this could leave Celtic wide-open to bids.

But it’s not all negative….Celtic can give players success and players don’t often want to leave that behind.

It’s down to the board, the manager and the scouting staff to ensure his continues.

Hopefully no-one else is keen to jump the dyke.

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Going On The Record

174388-spl-chief-executive-neil-doncasterSo Scotland’s favourite paper (if you like the truth stretched, like elastic, until it snaps) has done a full interview with Scottish football’s favourite administrator, in which he says that league reconstruction is back on the agenda again.

The headline makes that quite clear.

The accompanying story (separate from the interview itself) makes it quite clear.

The issue is being debated by the clubs, so says this piece, in a manner that strongly suggests that Doncaster himself said so.

Except he didn’t.

Brace yourselves for what you’re about to read. I am going to do something I’ve never done before in the history of On Fields of Green.

I am going to write an article defending Neil Doncaster.

Before I do, let me say that I read the headline with a weary shake of the head, because, as we’re all well aware, the scenario The Daily Record appears to be laying out – that some form of league reconstruction which, deliberately or not, rescues Sevco from itself – well, it’s not impossible to imagine.

Indeed, many of our bloggers suspected they’d try and pull it off.

It seems to me that each and every time Sevco’s predicament has been precarious over the last few years, Neil Doncaster has been touting league reconstruction, in an effort to steady their investors, put steel in their share price and give a timely boost to their fans.

So when I saw their online headlines this morning my first thought was simply this; “Again? How many more times do these people want to turn our national sport upside down for the sake of one goddamned club?”

But you know what? Then I read the piece by Jackson that accompanies the interview.

It offers no contradiction at all to the headline in question; indeed, it repeats the assertion that league reconstruction is being discussed by the clubs. “Shocking,” I thought.

Then I read the interview itself.

And I’m damned if I didn’t come away from it thinking “Neil my old son, you’ve been done up like a kipper here …”

See, the way I read it there’s only person pushing this league reconstruction idea during the interview, and that’s our good friend Keith Jackson. And some of it reads very much like a “but is it possible you could please, please, please, please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE, do it in time for next season so a certain club comes up without any more trauma?”

I’m serious. That’s the general tone.

Doncaster says more than once during the course of it that the 12 team league is the preferred option of the clubs. He makes it clear that there’s a “lock in” period that binds that setup together in its current form until the end of next season.

He says that a 16 team league is virtually a non-starter, and we know the reasons because he’s already given them a hundred times in a hundred interviews; clubs want to play Celtic more than twice.

The prospect is “unlikely” he says. Simple as that.

But Jackson’s own article says something completely different to this.

“The chief executive then admitted another massive shake-up is on the cards as clubs consider ditching the current 12 team top flight for a 10 or 16 team division – and introducing summer football with a revamped League Cup,” he says.

And of course, none of that is even remotely true.

You have to distort Doncaster’s actual statements to the point where they look like Ian Ferguson to get that from what he said.

For a start, is this actually under consideration?

Of course not.

The clubs won’t discuss it until the current setup is near to running down the clock. It has a full season still to go and so there’s no urgent need to debate the issue at the moment.

What about the revamped League Cup?

On the cards, as Jackson said?

“Not specifically,” Doncaster says, before going on to say that people can debate things but that they don’t actually change until someone tables a proposal and clubs vote on it.

In other words, newspaper journalists wishing for it doesn’t make it so.

Moving the tournament to the summer? Anything on that?

“We should look at it and work with the clubs to see what they want.” Doncaster says. No more than that. It should be looked at it. Not “it’s going to be the first line on the first sheet of paper at the next meeting of the league.”

Jackson’s article has already gone from being what Doncaster said to being what Keith Jackson would like him to have said.

Then he asks the SPFL CEO what his own ideal league structure would be.

Doncaster says that anything that led to more games would be wrong, whereas less games would be alright by him and probably alright by the clubs.

Jackson, not Doncaster, but Jackson himself, is the one who brings up 16 teams.

I’ll quote Jackson in full here, so you know what I’m saying is right.

“The cynic in me says you want a 16-team top division. And even more cynical folk out there might think this is a possible safety net if Rangers don’t get up this season. Could you change the league structure this summer?”

The cynic in me thinks this was Keith trying to get the concept of Sevco going up via reconstruction onto the table for discussion. He’s saying, in a sense, “people will question it, but what’s the chances of it being done?”

Doncaster says none.

He adds, “The first time meaningful change could occur would be next summer and any change will only come through consensus.”

Jackson, by now nearly on his knees, desperate for the answer he wants, asks;

“But are you leaving the door open to change this summer?”

And Doncaster tries to let him down gently.

“You would need unanimity from all 42 clubs if you were looking for change in time for next season,” he says. “Realistically, I don’t see that unanimity happening in time for next season.”

On the future of the league setup, Doncaster was equally straightforward.

“With a 12-team league, if you play each team four times a season you end up with 44 games. Twice is only 22 games. Neither is the right number … the split was a way of finding a decent number of games within a 12-team structure. To date, no-one’s come up with a better way of doing it.”

It is, in fact, a full blooded defence of the present setup, and one which he agrees has critics but has not, yet, seen anyone propose a different option that gives teams what they want.

So there will be no artificial help for Sevco.

There will be no summer football.

There will be no League Cup changes.

There will be no league reconstruction.

There is no prospect of a smaller or bigger top flight because the clubs don’t support it.

Has the issue been discussed?

Of course not.

But none of that would have been news.

None of that would got Jackson his one day headlines.

None of it was of any comfort to Sevco fans who realise their side needs SPL football next season, and might not be good enough to get there on merit.

So Jackson wrote an article changing all that, throwing them a bone, distorting Doncaster’s actual statements and virtually turning on its head every word the guy said to him.

I think Neil Doncaster is a clown of the first rate.

He ought to have been gone a long time ago.

Yesterday he sealed a two year deal with a sports betting company – 24 hours after I wrote a lengthy piece about gambling and match fixing for this site; how mad is that? – and for once was having a relatively good day on the job.

But that was before he sat down with The Daily Record.

Quite why anyone speaks to this newspaper, with their propensity for doing exactly this, I really will never, ever know.

It has to be the worst newspaper in the world bar none.

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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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Dreaming Of A Level Playing Field

sloping_field1Here we are, three years on from the scandalous decision making that almost allowed a brand new football club to start in the top flight, and we seem no closer to the level playing we, the fans, thought we had won than ever before.

Today the SPFL, in its “wisdom” has handed Sevco a staggering advantage in the play-off race, by assuring their game against Hearts won’t be played at the same time as the other ties.

This creates a perverse, and shocking, situation which, once more, asks of our governing bodies whether or not they really understand what they’re about or whether they just don’t care.

Picture the scene; Sevco go to Tynecastle 24 hours after Hibs have won their final game. They sit at second in the league.

But Sevco only needs a point to take that spot away from them.

Hearts have already won the title, and their manager will have to decide whether it’s worth giving the Ibrox club a bloody nose, and let their deadly rivals secure that spot … or take it easy and play for the point, knowing everyone in the ground will leave just tickety-boo.

I’m not saying this will happen.

You know what? I like Robbie Neilson, and I think he’s an absolute class act as a man and as a manager.

I don’t think he would compromise his own football club by participating in a scam like that.

But the door for this kind of thing is open, and it’s been left open, once again, by the people who are supposed to be running our sport for the good of all its clubs.

I won’t go into the various other permutations of this, because a mere five points separate three of them at the moment and so they are many, and varied, or of the as-yet unresolved issue of fixture scheduling which impacts on contracts amongst other things and throws up the possibility of Hibs being forced to choose between a shot at winning the Scottish Cup or reaching the play-off final …

This could only happen in Scotland.

Sporting integrity isn’t something that happens by right, as part of the natural order.

It has to be fought for and won, and they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light.

It is shameful. When do they get it? When does it get through?

There is nothing positive about this move. Nothing.

Already some sources are blaming Sky. That simply does not stand up at all.

Move all the games to the Sunday if Sky wants to show the Hearts – Sevco one.

Otherwise it reeks.

It puts cold hard cash before the sport in a way that disadvantages some of the participants.

That’s not what sport is supposed to be about.

And no-one better suggest, even for a second, that this is somehow good for the enjoyment of the spectacle because that is transparent bollocks.

The Championship’s final day should be high drama. It should be one of those occasions when you look at the league table as it changes every few minutes as teams score goals and the situation changes in the blink of an eye.

Instead, a bunch of teams will play one day and the real issues might not be decided until the following one.

How the Hell does that help anybody? They have destroyed the spectacle completely.

Enjoyment of the sport? No wonder a lot of fans are thinking about staying away.

The people running our game have no conception of what supporters actually want.

This decision is disgusting, and it’s further proof that those in charge simply, unequivocally, do not have a clue and do not give a damn.

And isn’t it amazing how many of these wee decisions seem to come down in favour of Sevco?

You know, there are a lot of people who think we’re paranoid.

We’re not paranoid.

Days like today leave you in no doubt as to the measures folk are still willing to take to hand the Ibrox club any wee advantage they can, and to Hell with what it does to other teams.

Hibs and Queen of the South must be livid, but they should know by now this is how it works.

Queens were the team who the SFA were perfectly happy to have completely stiffed back in 2008 when they reached the Scottish Cup Final and George Peat offered to cancel the game without bothering to tell them, at a time when Rangers were demanding that the whole football calendar be put on hold.

Somehow I don’t see Stewart Regan offering to do the same for Hibs, despite a fixture car crash that some people saw coming months ago and about which nothing whatsoever has been done.

But if Sevco lookes like getting to the playoff final, and a number of their players won’t be eligible because of contracts and what have you … oh boy, you wait to see how fast they can get things sorted out.

I am heartily sick of this, and I can’t imagine how it must feel right now to be a supporter of one of the clubs affected by this ludicrous decision.

Scottish football is still being run by the wrong people for the wrong reasons and with all the wrong priorities.

Too often it is still run for the benefit of one club.

I long since stopped caring whether it was bias that caused that, lack of backbone or simply just lack of imagination.

The fans of other clubs, and any concept of what is good for the sport, are being pissed on from a great height.

It’s gone on too long.

That level playing, for all we’ve done, remains a distant dream.

Shame on the people in charge of “running” our game.

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Can You Hear The Peepil Sing?

rangers-bannersAs some of you might be aware, when I’m not writing about football I like to blog on politics, and at the weekend there, I released a magazine on the subject for my site Comments Isn’t Free.

When the Charlie Hebdo attacks rocked the world last month, I wrote a big piece on free speech, defending the rights of people to say, sing or write anything they like, without limits and without restrictions at all.

To me, that’s an article of faith, something I believe in religiously. Free speech is the most important of our freedoms, because without it, the rest wouldn’t matter a damn as the government could do what it liked with them and we’d be unable even to protest.

Lately, this is a subject that gets me into trouble, because one of the things I’m doing online right now is aggressively promoting the election of as many SNP candidates to Westminster as possible, and I’m often asked how I square with that with my vociferous opposition to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, to which I devoted fully one third of my free speech piece.

It’s quite simple, really. I’m not a single issue voter; I consider more than just one plank of the party platform before I put a cross on a ballot paper, and right now we’re faced with a ghastly choice of horrors.

Only one party which stands a chance of holding the balance of power down there wants the things I do.

That answer doesn’t go down well with some people, people who’re happy to bang the free speech drum as long as they like what the other person is saying. I find it a bit rich when they try to denigrate my view by hiding behind that, and it’s caused more than a few arguments.

Why am I telling you this? It’s simple, really.

I can’t get to the point of this article without covering the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act first, because it’s the elephant in the room.

For the record, it’s a disgusting piece of legislative over-reach that should never have been put on the books. Unlike some people, I do not regard it as an anti-Irish or anti-Catholic law – indeed, a large number of Sevco fans have been charged under it, along with supporters of Hibs and Hearts – but on almost every occasion that it’s been used against Celtic fans those prosecutions clearly fall under the rubric of attacking political expression.

That makes it even more scandalous and indefensible.

Let me elaborate on that for a moment, and why it’s important.

For one thing, this law accomplished precisely nothing that other, existing laws, couldn’t have done fairly easily and comfortably. When Sevco fans, who sing stuff like The Famine Song and The Billy Boys are prosecuted under this law, they might just as easily have been charged under a ream of legislation that was already in place. Those legislations were specifically created to tackle hate speech, and those songs certainly qualify.

Celtic fans singing about Ireland would not have been prosecutable under those laws, which is part of the reason many of our supporters believe the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was created in the first place. As I said, I think they are wrong … but it is a dangerous law nonetheless and one with which needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

With that said, I can tell you that even writing about this makes me highly uncomfortable, because I’m forced to defend things I abhor.

There seems to be a lot of anger amongst Celtic fans tonight about the SPFL’s decision to take no action in relation to the League Cup semi final. I understand that anger, and I agree that the decision reeks of cowardice.

But you know what? It’s for the best, and I’m coming down on the SPFL’s side. I hate that too.

This nonsense about removing politics from football has had its day, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s UEFA or FIFA trotting out that hypocritical line or if it’s the SPFL and the Scottish Government.

Equally, I find the notion that people should have some right not to be offended to be ridiculous. The world doesn’t work like that. If you start introducing it in football stadiums, how long before no songs are being sung at all?

How long before the scoring of a goal becomes problematic? Players aren’t allowed to properly celebrate them anymore, so that’s not as farfetched as perhaps it at first sounds.

The SPFL could have taken action today, and many people are going to say they should have.

For months now we’ve heard about how “Scotland needs the Celtic – Rangers game”, and without going into all the various arguments surrounding Sevco, to all intents and purposes the world thought that’s exactly what it was watching.

And you know what? The deplorable behaviour of the Sevco support was a shocking, embarrassing, throwback to a dark era which makes Scotland look like a laughing stock and makes the media hype look demented, because it was.

This game is everything our society can do without, and that does make the SPFL’s decision today seem absolutely ridiculous.

Furthermore, as I’ve said, I disagree with the Offence Behaviour at Football Act on the basic principle that it criminalises free speech.

But right now, like it or not, it’s the law of the land, and the SPFL are today saying that they’re perfectly alright with the law being broken.

Amongst the songs sung by the Sevco fans were a number that appeared on the Police Scotland press release of “unacceptable” ones … and whilst I have some sympathy with the argument that the police couldn’t very well have arrested 10,000 people, the SPFL were, and are, in a position where they can take action against clubs who’s fans engage in mass criminality.

They haven’t, and so yes, that decision is cowardly.

Here’s the problem though.

Had the SPFL decided to take action today Celtic fans, who didn’t break the law, would have ended up in the dock with the Sevco supporters who did. If there’s one thing Scottish society understands it’s this “moral equivalence” crap that says both sides are as bad as each other. Try as they might, a lot of people can’t shake it. They see no difference between anti-Catholic singing and songs about the Irish war of independence.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a monkeys about opinions based on such ignorance, but this is Scottish football, where the governing bodies only go after Rangers and Sevco if they’ve got no other choice or if they can find a way to drag Celtic into it to.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We know full well that’s what would have happened.

There are people reading this who probably think both clubs should be hammered. I have no doubt about that at all, and as difficult as it is for some people to wrap their heads around the idea that sectarianism at football games should be tackled by the courts is supported by, according to recent opinion polls, nearly 90% of the population in Scotland.

Many people do believe we’re as bad as each other, and trying to argue the toss with them does no good whatsoever. Those people, like many of us, would rather the so-called “Old Firm game” was never played again.

We have more in common with those folk than they would like to admit.

They can’t wrap their heads around how Celtic fans feel mostly the same way.

So today, fellow Troops in Hoops, be careful what you wish for. The SPFL has decided there’s no case to answer, and as grisly a picture as that paints of Scotland – a country where genuine bigotry and sectarianism is the accepted norm – I can’t even pretend to come down on the other side of the case, because first I support unrestricted free speech and second because I know that even if we’re operating according to the “letter of the law”, whether I like it or not, that law is written in such a way that we would certainly have ended up in the dock too, although our fans did nothing wrong.

The vagueness of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is one of the many, many things wrong with it. It’s too open to interpretation.

I honestly, genuinely, hate writing about this subject because I know full well I’m going to upset nearly everyone, but as a writer that’s part of the job description and I can’t lambast the media for not speaking out when I’m self-censoring.

I find much of the media reaction to this decision to be scandalous and inconsistent. A very few of our journalists – like Ewan Murray – get pass marks because although I disagree with them in principle, they, at least, were demanding action from the day of the game itself and thus have earned the right to call this decision a joke.

Others are just leaping onto a passing bandwagon, after years of silence on the issue.

Anything to have a whack at an easy target.

I despise the sectarian filth that inhabits parts of this country. They embarrass us, they paint a picture of our society which is badly skewed and their hate is as catching as a deadly virus. I wish to God they could be educated out of their arsehole views … but whilst they hold those views I’ve got no choice but to defend their right to express them.

I don’t like the way a small section of the Celtic support can’t get a grip of itself either, in particular those who thought it was alright to disrupt the last Remembrance Day silence with a “protest.” The right to unrestricted free speech carries responsibilities too, and they gave no consideration to the club or to their fellow fans, which is just disgraceful.

I also wish to God so-called neutrals would get over their irrational tendency to lump both clubs together in the same cesspit. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy, and it makes enemies out of people with whom many of them actually have common cause.

Political expression is what it says on the tin, and whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

If you ban The Roll of Honour you’re going to wake up one day and find yourselves unable to sing Flower of Scotland. If you’ve not wised up to that yet, this is the time to start.

Today’s decision was a fudge. We all know it. But it was a necessary one because once this can of worms is open there’s no closing it. When we start punishing clubs for the songs fans sing we are well and truly on the slippery slope … and it only goes one way.

I’m glad this article is finished. Defending the rights of trash who sing The Billy Boys is exhausting and makes me want to take a shower. Defending the SPFL for lacking the balls to actually separate songs of hate from songs commemorating a revolutionary struggle is infuriating and makes me want to hit something hard.

Today’s decision is the right one, for the wrong reasons. It casts a dark shadow on the game here, but that was the inevitable consequence of all the hype that surrounded this fixture, and which a lot of us felt deeply uneasy about beforehand, knowing this was coming.

Thank God for Raith Rovers knocking Sevco out of the cup.

Thank God for the incompetence of Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowell and the Sevco board.

I am no hurry – Scotland is in no hurry – to go through this shaming experience again.

This is a horrible place to live at times, because a small minority insist on keeping it that way.

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Nothing But The Truth

552589-celtic-v-rangersWhere I come from, there were three ways to stop an argument that you weren’t winning, and you didn’t want to concede defeat.

The first was to “play the man and not the ball”, to make it personal, to rattle the other person, to throw them off their game and have the discussion put aside as things nosedived into the gutter.

The second was to play the stats game. It didn’t matter, back then, if you were making stuff up as you went along, because by the time the other person found out that your assertions were nothing but the metaphorical bulls bum there’d be no point getting back to it.

There was no Wikipedia back then, no stats central, no place to quickly check it up and although you could still fit a mobile phone in your hand some of them were the size of a modern day tablet, which, needless to say, was a device yet to be envisioned far less invented.

Those first two, I had some respect for them. To get down and dirty and start levelling insults or even throwing fists, well you had to be pretty invested in the argument to let it get that far and the ability to just make up stuff on the hoof is one I never underestimate and have a good deal of admiration for when there’s nothing heavy at stake.

The third one bothers me, and it always has. It is, even more than the second, fundamentally dishonest in every way. It is lazy too, both in terms of effort but also intellectually. It requires no thought process at all. It is simplistic to a fare-thee-well and every time I hear it, or read it, I want to scream my contempt for what is a meaningless case.

You know the one I mean. It’s the one that starts, “Oh well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion …” and usually ends with “Let’s just agree to disagree …”

Oh really? Let’s not. That particular opinion should be outlawed. If you were contesting the finer points of particle physics with a ten year old whose case was based on Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber would you accept that particular conversation closer?

Of course not. It’s not even schoolyard level debating.

See, not everyone’s opinion is valid, because some of them are based on sheer ignorance or idiocy. The motto of every radio talk show is “it’s all about opinions” and the same applies to those ghastly write-in or phone-in “discussion” segments in newspapers like The Record, where any fool who can afford the call in charges can have his “view” taken seriously.

But, like believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, some “opinions” are based on nothing but fantasy.

In the days since the Celtic fans full page ad was published in the Herald, every single hack in the country has gone out of his way to find a former player or manager to go on the record and tell the world that, in their opinion, Rangers lives on.

Whilst they were at it, why didn’t the media just ask them their opinions on the laws of thermodynamics, or the theory of evolution or the gravitation phenomenon? If every opinion is valid, you can refute the first, doubt the second and sit on the fence with the third until someone provides you more evidence or information to help you make up your mind.

Look, this is simple.

Football clubs exist as specific legal entities. They hold contracts, pay wages, hire staff, generate income, they own stadiums and training grounds and car parks and other things that are required to stage matches and win points. They hold licenses in associations, without which none of these other things would matter. When their players misbehave the clubs impose fines. When the fans misbehave the football associations fine them.

I could spend all day and all night explaining this, joining the dots, demonstrating the irrefutable fact that football clubs and “holding companies” are the same thing, but it would be futile when you are going up against people who could deny the shape of the Earth and still get a hearing in the Scottish media on the basis that they are “stating their opinion.”

I don’t give a toss how many ex-Celt’s the press can conjure up to state their “opinion” on this. I don’t care how many spineless hacks tell us we are sad individuals for continuing to want the silly thing called “application of the rules” to apply. I feel the same way about them, and the way they’ve debased a proud and noble profession to become steno-clerks and repositories for PR fluff.

I find the majority of them contemptible, especially on this issue where they spent months telling us the CVA was the only way to save the club and then ran banner headlines telling us Rangers was dead when it was rejected, and have spent every day since pretending they didn’t.

I’m not taking lessons in “reality” from the people who have spent the last couple of years blatantly denying it, and feeding fantasy and fiction to a gullible support until it’s now choking them.

They can wheel out every footballer or manager who’s still in the game, or who wants a career in the media – and therefore might, someday, have a vested interest in their own version of the Survival Myth – and they can roll along a parade of has-beens and never-weres, and get them on the record with how wrong headed some Celtic fans are … but there’s a very good reason that the question they’re all asked is as loaded as a Motherwell born billionaire.

Did you notice that the way the answer is framed is always like, “So and so says that, in his opinion, Rangers is still alive”, or “In the opinion of such and such, Rangers history continues”?

The answer is framed like that because the question is framed like that.

Not one of these people was asked hard questions, or encouraged to steer the conversation into grey areas where they might contradict themselves. None of them were asked to defend the claim, or consider any of the issues the ad explored.

As a result, not one fact from the Celtic fans statement has been refuted. Not one of its points has been addressed or its central tenants challenged.

The media simply pretends that it was the work of a group of obsessives who don’t want to live in the real world, but they will not engage us on any level because to do so would risk ridicule and reminding them of their own past statements and remarks, which were unequivocally black for the former Ibrox club.

They won’t even acknowledge the merit that attaches itself to the fact that people paid for this out of their own pockets.

Tired of waiting for someone, anyone, in the press to put these facts – and that’s what they are, facts – in the public domain, these guys risked exactly this kind of opprobrium and ridicule, and they put their money where their mouths were.

That deserved a debate, at the very least. All it’s had is this line of people with “opinions.”

Some have offered loathsome rebukes, asking the fans why they didn’t give their money to charity.

I could ask the same about whatever each of them spends on booze of a Saturday night, but it would be irrelevant and nonsensical, just like their point is.

The funds were raised for an explicit purpose, and spent on that purpose. Furthermore, the guys got such a good deal, and raised such a decent sum, that there was a nice overage, which went directly to those very charitable purposes.

Nearly every report, furthermore, has lacked a grasp of the basic facts, as is evidenced in how almost every one of them has run the same ludicrous figure of £3000 for the ad.

They’ve also conveniently chosen to omit that the police, the ASA, the Herald’s lawyers and even Sevco itself, were given a copy of it well in advance … and that they themselves had the story, and a version of the text, a week before it ran.

And nearly every newspaper published quotes from the wrong draft.

How can you even begin to take criticism from these people seriously?

In doing this, by the way, in placing the ad, the Celtic fans have done nothing various individuals and organisations, everyone from the BMA to Coca Cola, haven’t done before them, and more often than not those people and companies were forced to do it after enduring an avalanche of distorted facts and even outright lies in the press about their own affairs or issues they felt were important.

Using the media’s own tools against them …. It’s not exactly new.

The media’s vested interest in guarding its own turf here is easy to understand but impossible to respect.

Another simple truth is that the Celtic fans wouldn’t have to do this if the media had done it instead, but they had no interest in doing it and instead were busy fuelling the paranoia and anger of a support that already believes in the Victim Myth like an article of faith.

The most responsible thing the media could have done here was help us defuse this bomb by, at the very least, stopping with their endless referrals to “the return of the Old Firm game.” Only a select few people outside of Ibrox actually want the return of that horrible fixture.

The police, who’ve spent the last few days trying to keep a lid on the pressure cooker which the media continues to heat up, don’t. The rest of the emergency services don’t. The majority of neutrals, especially those who live in Glasgow and would rather be anywhere else on the planet come Sunday, certainly don’t.

Some of the pub chains don’t even want to show it, which means not even financial incentives can detract from how ugly it is.

The ad was, in part, an effort to stamp out the hateful Old Firm tag once and for all, and the best, and most obvious, way to do that was to remind the world that this will not be the continuation of that ghastly rivalry but the start of something new, which we can make whatever we want if only those with some interest in raising the dead would give us the floor.

See, people like Tom English can sneer all they want, but what they’re really doing is sneering at us because it’s easier than sneering into the mirror, where that gesture is better directed. The media depends on this fixture because they really do, deep down, believe Scottish football is a dead end without it, and if that’s the case their own jobs are a dead end too.

I like to read the English sporting press, who are, at times, insightful and brilliant and sharp.

They cover a bloated, millionaires playground of a league, but it has the glitz and glamour that the Scottish game doesn’t, and they can walk with a swagger alongside their counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The Scottish sports media is, by definition, wholly inferior to that and this is why there’s barely a brain cell rattling up here. They all go south, to London, to cover big stories. What’s left behind is the dreck, the guys too stupid to go somewhere else because on a bigger stage, having to rely on a reporter’s guile and guts, they’d be found out and bagged in two seconds flat.

And you know what? They know it too. It scares them witless, and so the resurrection of this dead fixture and this dead club is important to them, because it’s their one chip in the big game, their one credible card to play when they meet the boys from London.

“You cover the biggest league in the world … we cover the biggest game in the world.” You can hear the pride in their voices, can’t you?

But it has an edge of desperation these days, because they know it simply ain’t true … and once it’s gone, they’ve got nothing. The inferiority complex kills them. It eats them like a parasite, and so they jam their fingers in their ears and they promote something they know is gone forever, as if it were still around.

So yes, without respecting it I do understand it.

I understand the Sevco fans, and their club’s, reluctance to face the truth even more. I also know that the promotion of the Old Firm myth is essential to their financial future, as they try to scramble together a business model. This is why their own website has been hammering out the phrase for nearly a week.

As I’ve repeatedly said, Rangers was nothing more than a West of Scotland football club and Sevco is even less than that, so there is an imperative for them, as much as there is in the media, to be part of something larger than themselves.

When you break down what they’re doing, this isn’t really defending an opinion at all; it’s defending a way of life, and there’s no end to what people will do to protect that.

Plato was one of the great thinkers of history. He said “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”

I agree with him, but I have a pretty clear view on which end of the spectrum opinion most usually falls.

As the long line of “supporters” of the Survival Myth grows around the block, it’s probably a good time to ponder what Bertrand Russell said;

“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatsoever that it is not utterly absurd.”

I am also with Orwell’s finest creation, Winston Smith, on this one; sanity is not statistical. It does not matter how many people keep repeating this lie over and over again … nothing will make it true, and they can disseminate it and all the nonsense that goes with it as far and wide as they like in addition to this cycle of repetition because that won’t change the truth either.

Rangers Football Club is no more. When it collapsed into the pit of its own debts it took everything with it, history and all.

That some of it has been raised from the far bottom and cobbled together to resemble what was lost is perfectly valid, as it’s perfectly valid for a kid growing up to have an imaginary friend. Invention can be healthy.

But we live in the real world, and if it was after one in the morning and the kid was playing the TV too loud and you went in and asked him to turn it off, and he told you that his imaginary friend needed it on and the volume up like that because he was deaf in one ear … well, you wouldn’t lie listening to it blaring all night just to indulge him.

I am tired indulging this.

Nonsense is not a matter of opinion. It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

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A Little Bit Of History

B7FwY3EIMAApdqaToday, the Celtic supporters made a little bit of history.

Today, they became the first fans in Britain to take out a full page advertisement in a national newspaper to set the record straight on something the governing bodies and the media would rather not report.

The reasons they did it are contained in the ad itself, but it’s worth stating them here.

The purpose is to correct the historical record as regards the precise legal status of the club that calls itself Rangers, setting out the key facts, instead of the misinterpretations and deliberate twisting of them that usually goes on in the mainstream media.

The use of a national newspaper to convey this message is vital in that regard.

The Internet Bampots have marched onto the ground the media in this country once occupied, but we haven’t yet made it our own.

The reach of the written press is still huge … and as they are the ones who spread much of the disinformation, it is only right that we should use this avenue to correct it.

The very fact that our supporters were willing to pay a national newspaper to run this ad should demonstrate, clearly, the depth of feeling on this issue. This site is 100% supportive of this action, and we want to be clear on that right now.

This was necessary.

A lot of people will misunderstand the gesture as one designed to ramp up tensions, or view it as somehow self-indulgent.

Please don’t see it either way.

In the first place, the ad is designed to dampen down tensions surrounding the coming game at Hampden. Refusing to call this an “Old Firm” game, refusing to treat it as one, is the very best thing Celtic fans can do to combat the media’s typical overblown response to the draw.

Furthermore, I can tell you now that the ad came to the attention of Police Scotland before it was published, and they were perfectly happy with the content.

On Fields of Green also believes the placing of this ad is important.

Football governance in this country has broken down. We have, at the top of the game here, people who are unfit for purpose, people with no skill that we can discern, except in tying themselves, and the game, in knots.

The Rangers-Sevco situation is one of the greatest scandals in the history of sport. It has everything you could want in a best-selling book. It has colourful characters, moments of high drama and low farce, it has scenes in exotic locations and in dirty back street pubs.

This is a story where the unexpected happens every day. If you were pitching it to a publisher as a work of fiction, no-one would touch it as it’s too farfetched.

The Rangers-Sevco situation has done incalculable damage to the game here, and the effects have gone way beyond financial costs, which themselves have been substantial. The damage to the game’s reputation has been much worse.

The notion that Scottish football depends on two teams, and that without one of them in the top flight we have a worthless product is one thing – and dangerous enough on its own – but the notion that the chairmen of our clubs deliberately voted against their own best interests, out of spite, envy and hate, to “relegate” one of these clubs is positively toxic.

It makes our national sport look like a basket case.

For this narrative to stay as the “accepted wisdom” is simply unacceptable.

This is why this needed to be done.

The idea that Scottish football acted vindictively is a slur against the game itself, and it has to be challenged and it has to be put straight, and as the media isn’t prepared to tell the truth without a little poking with a stick, it’s fallen to the fans themselves to take this issue up, and to put the facts in the public domain.

We have members of the press who freely admitted, when Rangers was heading for liquidation, that the integrity of the sport would be adversely affected by granting the newco their place in the league and yet called for it to be done anyway.

They would like us to forget that. They would like us to forget a lot of things that are no longer convenient, or in keeping with the prevailing mood, like the front page headlines mourning the death of the football club they now tell us didn’t die at all.

The governing bodies haven’t helped matters any, with Neil Doncaster, in particular, wading into this issue like a clown trying to cross a minefield.

His scandalous statements at the start of this year – statements which not one single club has contradicted – legitimise debt dumping and promote a general disregard for good governance that is quite literally breath-taking.

That no club has called him out on this seems incredible, until you realise that what he’s done is give them a license to overspend that is tantamount to handing them a blank cheque.

The predictable consequence is that, eventually, other clubs will go the way of Rangers, and unless this madness is stayed it will not be an isolated occurrence, but standard operating practice in the Scottish game.

The effects of that will be colossal as banks and sponsors withdraw, as businesses refuse to deal with Scottish clubs except at exorbitant rates, with cash upfront … and on and on and on.

The dominos don’t stop falling with this one.

Sevco Rangers fans will see this as just another proof that Celtic fans are “obsessed” with their club. The point is nonsensical, and barely worthy of further debate, rooted, as it is, in egomania and viewed through a prism of hate … but nevertheless, it’s a point we’ve tried to address on this site on a number of occasions and will do so once again here.

This is not about Sevco or Rangers, hard as that is for their supporters to believe. Our own position on this is clear enough; a football club’s history is not bricks and mortar. It’s in memories. It is passed down in recollections and stories, and it doesn’t matter what some written record says. It exists not on paper but in the memory of the fans.

If they believe in the continuation of history as an article of faith, then who are any of us to challenge that assertion? Speaking for myself, I feel much the same way about this as I did the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, when there was talk of stripping trophies.

Whenever someone asked me if I wanted Celtic to be granted the league titles Rangers won during their period of EBT use, I was, and I remain, emphatic about not wanting them. My memories of Black Sunday and days like that wouldn’t suddenly change and be made better by a decision to retrospectively award us the flag.

Yet with that said, those titles ought to have been taken off Rangers record because it was the right thing to do, and in our considered view that record came to a halt when the club was refused a CVA in 2012.

Fans memories aside, the written record has to reflect the truth, not some version the governing bodies and Rangers supporters wish had happened, otherwise we’re just making up the rules as we go along here.

The idea that football clubs are separate from the companies that own them is lunacy, and it is dangerous lunacy because liquidation is, and ought to be, the ultimate sanction for mis-management, and if it is taken off the table then there really is no disincentive for the people at the helm of clubs indulging their own worst excesses and running them into the ground.

Besides that, the idea itself is based on faulty logic and is fundamentally hazardous.

Here at On Fields of Green we sometimes call this the “Survival Myth.” More specifically, we refer to it as the “First Lie”, because it is the foundation stone for a pyramid of equally ridiculous and dangerous distortions of reality.

Without the First Lie they would not have had the temporary license issue.

They would not have had the Five Way Agreement.

They would not have had the farcical, convoluted nonsense of the transfer ban that somehow allowed enough lee-way for the club to sign eight players.

They would never have had the contradiction of claiming continuation of history without the requisite seeding for the Scottish Cup.

Nor would the SPL have had to give Sevco written guarantees prejudicing the Lord Nimmo Smith Inquiry before it had even begun.

There would have been no need to create the bizarre framework of inconsistencies and paradoxes whereby Sevco and Rangers are interchangeable when punishments are being meted out, with the club sometimes pretending to be one and then the other, and the SFA mirroring that with their own confused, and often incongruous, stance.

Finally, we would not have seen the last few years give birth to what we here call the “Victim Myth”, the notion that Rangers and Sevco have been treated harshly by the rest of the game, and that vindictiveness, if not outright hate, replaced the pursuit of justice in this case.

It’s that which outrages us more than anything else.

What happened in 2012 was something truly special. The people who run Scottish football’s clubs listened to the fans, and put aside their own commercial considerations and did what was right for the integrity of the sport.

In our considered opinion those decisions elevated the stature of our national game, and should have made us a shining beacon to the rest of world football.

The clubs put fairness and justice first. They knew it might cost them, but they did what needed to be done for the greater good.

They rejected, out of hand, the distorting concept that some clubs are “too big to fail” and they restored order, and sanity, to a situation where there was none.

It is something in which we should all take inordinate pride. It was the single finest hour, off the field, in the history of the Scottish game.

Instead of cherishing that, our governing bodies and the media have pandered to the raving mob, and turned the basis of one of our greatest triumphs into something in which, we are told, we should feel nothing but shame.

Our motives have been twisted into an ugly form we do not recognise, and in a manner that we simply should not accept.

The dangers in allowing this notion to become accepted as fact are obvious. The Victim Myth places the blame for the perilous state of Sevco on the shoulders of the other clubs. It absolves the likes of David Murray, Dave King, Charles Green and even Craig Whyte of their responsibility, and it frees the imaginations of the worst elements of the support to run riot, conjuring up conspiracy theories and giving license to the bullet sender and the bomb maker.

As a consequence, it makes next Sunday’s game potentially more volatile than any football match in the recent history of this island.

The Victim Myth and the Survival Myth go hand in hand, one feeding in to the other.

The worst aspect of accepting the notion of Rangers survival is that once you go down that road you cannot help but endorse the notion that the club was treated unfairly.

Without accepting Rangers’ liquidation, and death, you have to conclude that making Sevco start at the bottom was tantamount to cheating, because the “continuation of history” strips all legitimacy from that course of action.

We say it again; to give credence to the Survival Myth is inherently dangerous and creates problems for the future of our game.

This is why the people who organised, and placed, today’s ad are to be applauded for it.

See, whatever else the Sevco Rangers fans might accuse us of, they cannot say we don’t have a settled, consistent, view on these events and what they ought to mean.

Sevco Rangers, as a new club, started where all clubs need to start; at the bottom.

Some rules were bent to fast-track their application, but most of us are willing to accept that. Their status as a new club allowed them to shed all their financial burdens, but that came at the expense of their history.

Furthermore, it’s our view that their status as a new club should have given them blanket immunity from sporting sanctions, including fines and transfer restrictions, which were the province of the liquidated club.

This includes the recent SPFL decision to claw-back £250,000 which was a fine from the LNS case, and which Sevco argues it should not have to pay.

We agree with them on that. The debt rightly belongs to Rangers Football Club, the footballing institution which no longer exists, and we wish Sevco well on their appeal in that case.

But for today, congratulations must go out to the team who raised the money for, and wrote the text of, today’s Sunday Herald full page statement.

It is to their credit that they have taken this step before the coming League Cup semi-final. In doing so they have demonstrated, again, that it’s Scottish football fans, and not the clubs, far less the governing bodies, who are leading the way in fighting for the reputation, and working to safeguard the future, of our national sport.

This statement may carry the “signature” of the Celtic fans, but in truth it is a statement made on behalf of the wider footballing family here.

Today a little bit of history has been made. The media which has played a starring role in spreading the Survival Myth and the Victim Myth will, for once, run the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, albeit on a single page.

Where the clubs didn’t want to go, and where the governing bodies would rather they don’t, the fans have once again stepped in.

I am, today, as ever, proud to call myself an Internet Bampot. This might be a small success, but it’s a victory nonetheless, and it ought to send out a very clear message to the SFA and the SPFL, and that message ought to ring out loud and clear in the boardrooms of the clubs themselves, that we’re not going to let this matter rest until common sense is applied to it, and the truth we all know is written down, and accepted as fact.

Today, for the first time since 2012, that truth is being given a full and proper airing where the widest possible audience can see it.

Do not underestimate the importance of that.

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Friends In Low Places

ThumbThey say a picture speaks a thousand words, but if this one does they are pretty vague. If you didn’t know what you were looking at you might not think it says anything at all.

Before we get to the picture, let’s have a little history lesson, shall we?

I know that some people think our articles are too long; this is where you get off, friends, because this one is going to speak those thousand words and then some.

I’m telling you this in advance, to stop you moaning about it on Facebook and elsewhere later.

Are they gone? Good. Let’s get down to it then.

The State of Qatar has been ruled by one family – the Al Thani family – since the 19th century. This makes the British royal family look like a brand new concept. It is a small country, with a population of 1.8 million, with the highest “per capita GDP” in the world. Qatar is a rich country, with the third largest oil reserves on the planet.

For the last ten to fifteen years, Qatar has gotten big on sport. They have hosted tournaments, sponsored sides and pushed hard to be taken seriously. Above all, as we’re all aware, they made an audacious, and successful, bid for a World Cup Finals, and FIFA has been dealing with the fallout from that decision ever since.

The scandal surrounding it has been truly Sevconian.

We’ve had talk of bribes. We’ve had resignations from FIFA investigatory committees set up to get to the bottom of it. We’ve had allegations of corruption that go all the way to the top, and worse; Amnesty International are demanding judicial hearings, and talking about dead workers. International trade unions are calling the Qatari government killers.

In football terms, the World Cup, normally played in the summer, has now been re-imagined as a winter event, to be held in November, which will have knock on consequences for leagues all around the globe, but especially in Europe, that will reverberate for years.

It seems apparent to anyone who’s been observing events that the Qatari World Cup bid was a shameless fraud, purchased on liquid gold, and that it has damaged the Global Game.

It also seems pretty clear that as incestuous and disreputable the process of governing the game is here in Scotland that on the bigger stage of FIFA and UEFA they make Doncaster, Regan and Ogilvie look like amateurs, and you only have to look to England, the stony silence of the FA and the cack handed delusions of the PFA chairman as the Ched Evans saga burns through the game to see a level of incompetence the equal of anything here.

But you know what? I couldn’t care about any of that stuff.

Well actually, that’s not true, I do care about all of it, but those are matters for others to deal with for the moment.

We, Scottish football fans, can’t intercede in those affairs or change things outwith our borders.

The stuff that goes on here, in our domestic game … that’s still in our hands.

So take a look at that picture. Take a good look, because that picture is important. It’s a window onto the way things work, and the way they are done.

The meeting is in Doha, Qatar, sometime last year.

At that table are two representatives of Celtic, but if you read the piece that accompanies it, you get an explanation as to why Peter Lawwell, at least, is at the meeting.

Celtic was playing in a youth tournament over there, and so there’s a part of me that is glad to see he’s present.

Yet if you’ve read the piece you’ll already know that the other representative from my club is the commercial director, Adrian Filby, who I would presume is there to talk some kind of business with the Qataris.

That piques my interest, and not in a good way.

Read further, and you’ll see mention of the “Scottish contingent”.

Everyone listed in that report is from Celtic, from the boardroom to the youth setup, although only two, Lawwell and Filby, appear to be at the meeting.

There are a couple of other Scottish football personalities in the room though, and they’re not mentioned in that report at all.

One is sitting at the top of the table, looking down at us, which some would say is his default position.

It is, of course, Neil Doncaster.

We know this meeting took place last year. What else do we know about last year?

Well we also know that sometime last year the SPL sent a “delegation” to Qatar to explore several commercial options.

The delegation included Neil Doncaster and Ralph Topping.

Curiously enough, Topping is in the photo, sitting behind Lawwell. It stands to reason, then, that this is in fact the SPL official delegation that was fleetingly referenced in some papers, and on some websites, but in the main passed almost un-noticed by the world.

Celtic, it just so happens, were in town at the same time, right?

Coincidence?

Let me ask you this; If a Sevco delegation just happened to be in Qatar at the same time as the SPL’s team, I don’t think any of us would accept that answer.

So my first question is this; what’s the connection between a commercial delegation from Celtic and a commercial delegation from the SPL? The answer, on the surface of it, is Peter Lawwell himself, who has a foot in both worlds.

Yet this report is plainly about Celtic, plainly about the club, and the SPL Two aren’t even mentioned in it at all.

Added to that, the sparse media reports about the SPL team, in which both Doncaster and Topping are named … they don’t include reference to anyone from Celtic.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the media was keeping that quiet.

Why though? Why would they?

There’s one possible reason why everyone involved wants to keep the lid nailed shut, and it doesn’t bode well for the maintenance of peace and harmony.

You see, as you’ve doubtless read in the report – which is from a Celtic site, with a link going somewhere else, and contains direct quotes I can’t source, but are good enough to suggest they’ve been hived from the mainstream media – the Qatari’s are very interested in a certain match that’s being played on 1 February this year.

In fact, Doncaster is said to have invited a delegation of them to come over for the game.

It seems pretty clear that this fixture is being marketed with an eye on the future, and that offers an explanation into why Doncaster and the SPL delegation was there.

It also suggests the timing of Celtic’s trip being something other than a coincidence.

I’ll get back to that shortly.

Almost every Scottish football supporter – and doubtless some of the clubs – believes that Neil Doncaster is a joke figure who ought to be out on his arse. There is general bafflement that this guy remains in post.

You’d almost think he had a Guardian Angel, a human shield, someone who had the ear of the other chairman and was either propping Doncaster up, or dancing him like a puppet on a string.

Most people could hazard a pretty good guess as to who that is.

When Doncaster went south, to London, to “rescue” the Sky TV deal, the one that actually cost Scottish football £750,000 in production fees to screen Sevco’s long walk through the divisions, it was Peter Lawwell who sat beside him on the plane.

It was Lawwell the press hailed in some quarters as the man who saved the contract … for all that proved to be worth.

What were the details of that contract? What guarantees did these men give, on behalf of Scottish football?

Celtic’s silence – indeed the total silence from the clubs – on Doncaster’s recent assertion that Sevco and Rangers are one in the same has been coached as that of an institution that has nothing more to say on the matter, but those comments are potentially destructive and the need to clarify them is acute because otherwise they offer an alibi to whichever of the factions wins (or even loses) the Ibrox power struggle should they adopt a “scorched earth” policy and burn the club to the ground.

If you close your eyes and stretch out your hands you can grasp the form the campaign to have Rangers 3.0 fast-tracked into the place Sevco holds at present will take. After all, the main creditors wouldn’t be banks or tax payers this time. They would be the spivs who, so we’re told, are stripping the club of everything, and deserve what they get.

Victimless crime, right? Or, at the very least, one where the victims get what they deserve.

Even I could have a pop at selling that. Let me try, in one sentence.

Why should we continue to punish “Rangers fans” and the club – that ephemeral reality which may or may not actually exist except as a word, and a history, depending on who you are talking to and on which particular day – for the sins of a few greedy men?

You can hear that, or a variation of that, if you listen carefully, in the dark. You can imagine what it will read like, on a thousand headlines and amplified by a thousand voices.

Celtic fans are taking out a newspaper ad to contradict Doncaster’s statement, and the assertion itself, that in Scotland football clubs can’t die. They are doing it off their own backs, whilst their club continues to hide from the issue, except when the deign to answer emails on the matter, and then shield themselves with fancy language, which really doesn’t say anything at all.

I understand that there’s been a suggestion that Celtic’s silence has been put in place to protect its staff, and there are some who agree with this on the basis that the 1 February game has the “potential to be a bloodbath.”

I’ve got to say, when eight guys, whose only crime in the world was to draw cartoons, were massacred last week in Paris, the outpouring of support for them, and the courage showed by millions in refusing to be afraid, made my heart swell … and I didn’t even particularly like the work those guys did, as I made clear in the lengthy article I wrote on the subject.

If this game really does have the potential for serious disorder, I would stipulate that one of the reasons why is that, for too damned long, we’ve been in thrall to the kind of people who don’t belong in any kind of society, far less a civilised one.

We did have a manager who was sent bullets and bombs and threatened and attacked. You know what? He won, because he didn’t hide. He stood up to it all, and he picked the time and the manner of his own departure, and that’s his greatest victory.

When that man was suffering all that, when a jury was clearing the guy who attacked him on live TV, for millions to witness, and when the men who sent him explosives in the post were finally charged with “conspiracy to assault” instead of being hurled under the steamroller of anti-terrorism laws (I say again; amongst there other targets were elected officials and members of the judiciary; that would be terrorism anywhere else in the world) the government of this fair land was passing a law to criminalise the singing of Irish songs.

It’s like a bad joke. We’ve been running scared from these people for way too long.

We have pandered to bigots and criminals and thugs, and part of the problem is that the totem pole they danced around wasn’t smashed to bits and scattered to the winds with all the baggage that came with it.

Cowardly men, or those too self-interested to recognise, or care, about the greater danger, have allowed some part of it still to stand.

In our failure to properly get, on the record, the truth we all know and which only some of us dare speak – and myself and any number of others do it openly, in our own names, in contrast to many of the journalists of Scotland who are too terrified to speak out even when they know they should– that the club they called Rangers is dead and gone, we’ve allowed myths and lies to replace truth and reality.

Worse than that, we’ve inspired the haters to think of themselves as victims – and that never ends well – and we’re on the verge of legitimising the next shredding of the rule book rather than treat them as we would anyone else.

Now the fans go where the clubs fear to tread. It’s astonishing.

I can’t be the only person who’s sick of this, sick of this depressing series of retreats and compromises and attempts to deal with the wild beast that won’t be tamed and won’t be sated.

You give these people an inch and they will take the mile and then some more.

If these really are dangerous people … do you think they’ll moderate their behaviour because we lie on the floor, with our hands outstretched, and say “Please don’t hurt me?”

If I believed fear was the only reason for the silence, that would be enough to make me want to go to bed, pull the covers over me and sleep for a long, long time … but I look at that picture and I wonder if there’s more, if there’s another truth that dare not speak its name.

I’ll say it again; Doncaster could not have made those comments and hoped to survive without having some kind of support. Somebody’s propping this guy up. The silence of the last week or so proves it beyond doubt. He’s still in post, despite advertising to every crook and con-man who can read a press release that Scottish football is open for business.

The question is, what kind of business was he over in Doha selling?

The answer might lie in the Qatari’s interest in the coming match at Hampden, because that interest isn’t a recent thing, you see.

On 22 November 2011, The Daily Mail printed a story that suggested Celtic and Rangers were exploring the possibility of a “Game 39” scenario – similar to the one being touted in England, where a top EPL game would take place abroad – only this one would involve a match between the two Glasgow clubs, exploiting the “Old Firm market” for all it was worth.

According to that report, Rangers had already arranged a meeting to discuss it with sports media heads of Qatari owned Al Jazeera.

Whatever was being planned, it never got off the ground, because just three months later Craig Whyte finally lost control of the wheel, and Rangers crashed into the rocks.

But what if they hadn’t? Would those plans have gone ahead?

It appears clear that they were never properly put in the bin where they belong. Some version of them still survives, and there are people who’ve been openly exploring taking a shot at it.

On 2 May 2014, The Express ran an article which said Celtic and Sevco had held secret talks about playing a match in Dubai, and according to the report this was being done with the co-operation of the football authorities themselves.

Was it true? It’s hard not to suspect that it contained at least a kernal of truth.

And if it did, what then? Does a plan still exist? Is it being discussed? Or are we joining dots in the dark?

Is it a coincidence that an SPL delegation and a Celtic delegation were in Doha at the same time, that the media never properly explored it and that one of the outcomes was Doncaster extending an invite to the Qatari’s to come and take in February’s game?

Or that he’s since “clarified” the SPFL’s view on the “continuation of history”, for which no club has offered a public rebuke?

Yeah, maybe it is. Maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors. But it looks an awful lot like a well-thought out campaign to re-establish a shabby brand no right thinking person wants anything to do with, the one that fills up the casualty wards and splits our game into two spheres of influence, to the detriment of every other club, the “partnership” that the media miss, that Sevco clearly needs but is a plague on Celtic’s house.

It could be that I’m seeing things that aren’t there.

It could just be that all Peter and the gang were doing over there was trying to climb into bed with a corrupt football association that’s up to its armpits in black gold and blood, hiving off another part of our club’s soul for a few pennies from the rich man’s table.

I’d almost forgive him for that, in light of the alternative.

He really does have some friends in low places.

That’s the kind of thing that comes back to haunt you, in ways you never expect.

I hope he took his Long Spoon. You don’t sup with the Devil without one.

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A Prayer For The Dying

titlecoffinWell, well, well. Endgame on, eah?

Or maybe not so much.

Amazing isn’t it?

Change is a funny thing. It can happen suddenly, without warning.

After all this time moping about, and watching as the club slowly bleeds, after telling fans not to buy tickets to “starve out the board” – the strategy that drove the club into the loving arms of Mike Ashley – the flags have been raised, the Sevco fans have their day in the sun and the heroes have ridden to the rescue.

Or have they?

Tonight’s news makes me smile. A group of businessmen have sunk £5 million between them into the football club at Ibrox and bought what the media typically, wrongly that is, have labelled “a controlling interest”.

Now all they need to do is take control. Should be simple enough. They certainly have enough votes to call an EGM, and with time running out they ought to get on with it, right?

Because otherwise they’ve just poured their money down a drain.

This raises a lot of questions. More than I can fit into one article. Like why now?

Why’s King, in particular, jumping in at this point in time, after he has refused to buy shares on three separate occasions, including during two club share issues since 2012?

One would be forgiven for wondering whether this has something to do with the South African government being about to re-examine his case, narrowing his involvement window?

For sure, he can’t sit on the Sevco board of directors, because the rules on that are very, very clear, and Neil Doncaster has gone out of his way to tell us recently that rules are rules for all clubs and will be applied without fear or favour.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ll be returning to him in a day or two.

Tonight’s news means that the majority of the “institutional investors” from 2012 have now cashed in their chips and decided to cut and run. The only surprise is that they didn’t bail sooner. It represents a full-scale repudiation of the notion that the club is a good investment … and that doesn’t change whether “Rangers men” own it or not.

But now there’s a good chance that the Sevco fans are going to get their fondest wish; a club owned and run “by their own”.

As I’ve said before, I cannot think of anything Sevco needs less than being in the hands of the Peepil.

At the moment, without Financial Fair Play, there’s nothing in the rule book to stop Sevco-minded individuals from sinking every penny they have into keeping that club afloat, and going even further and spending every buck they have in the bank on chasing the dream.

As far as pumping up clubs with the good stuff goes, steroid use is still legal in Scottish football, and if Dave King and others want to shoot Sevco up it’s not anyone’s business but their own. We’ve been down this road a time or two before, there’s really no knowing what a fool will do with his money.

Except … none of these guys is a fool.

Latham gave Sevco money in the past, on loan, and got interest with it. King didn’t give £20 million to Rangers; he invested it at a time when he thought he might get a return on the cash. He threatened to sue David Murray after he sold up to Craig Whyte, claiming he’d been “duped” – a familiar excuse in this sorry state of affairs.

Did Douglas Park make his bundle throwing good money after bad?

There are certain realities regarding Sevco that a lot of people still seem unable, or unwilling, to face. The first is that the club is not a money-maker. Their playing squad at the present time is of remarkably poor standard, and although it’s the second biggest wage bill in the land it is not as high as the Rangers teams of old.

Yet even with a full house every week, at full prices, this club would be losing as much as £500,000 per month.

Now, factor in spending increases across the board. Millions to set up, and then run, a scouting network. Millions more on first team salaries. The stadium is in bad shape. Millions more will be needed there if the place isn’t to be condemned.

Bravo to Goldfinger and the Three Bears if they’re willing to spend what it takes to accomplish all that. I know that it’s going to be very interesting watching them try to match fairy-tale and fantasy with reality.

This is what the fans wanted. “Real Rangers men” at the helm.

If this group assumes full control those fans are not going to countenance anything less than what I outlined above.

A board that tells them the club has to “live within its means” will be condemned for it. A board which tries to impose austerity, whilst claiming that they are trying to “restore it to its rightful place” (a three year old club. I’m curious as to what that place is) will be run out of town on a rail. No supporters in Scotland are quite as ungrateful as these. The Easdales have been playing the role of benfactors these last 12 months, and they are hated.

You know, there are doubtless people out there who will see a conspiracy in this. They’ll see King’s move coming on the back of Doncaster’s statement, which itself comes on the back of the SFA’s sudden respect for its own rulebook, they will put two and two together and come up with an answer that will cast a dark shadow on the wall.

I don’t know what to say to those people. It’s hard to argue that something about all this is just not right …

See, to an outside party, it might look as if these people are all acting in concert. Even the SFA’s refusal to entertain any more investment from Mike Ashley looks suspect in light of events since, doesn’t it?

But none of that can be the case, right?

Because otherwise the club is being set up to take another hit, and Doncaster knew this when he spoke out yesterday, to give them a nudge-wink assurance that they can drop the hammer and it’ll be business as usual.

Most of us assumed that anyway … but it means something more, doesn’t it?

It means that things have been going on behind the scenes, that people with no controlling interest in a Scottish football club – with barely a share between them – have been negotiating, in secret, with one or both of the governing bodies, behind the backs of the Sevco board to set up a power grab against them, not to mention springing a con job on the rest of Scottish football.

That would be wrong in so many, many, many ways … from the governing bodies interefering in the politics of a member club’s boardroom, playing power games on behalf of, amongst other people, a convicted tax fraudster …. to conspiring to aid a pump-and-dump which will impact on, amongst others, the commercial interests of a billionaire businessman … none of which, I am fairly certain, is within their remit as an independent body interested only in the well-being of the game … well, Hell …

I mean, Peter Lawwell, the CEO of Celtic, is on that board, along with a number of others … if it was discovered that the SPFL was supporting “regime change” at Ibrox … that directors of clubs were deciding on who got to sit on the board of another … well what then? Even if it was being done without the boards connivance, with Doncaster and a couple of others acting alone …

Can you imagine the consequences of that?

No, neither can I. Armageddon is the closest word I can think of … but it seems insignificant somehow.

I think, in light of that, it’s all the more important that we fortify against such an eventuality by lobbying our clubs hard to knock this “continuation of history” issue on the head once and for all … as well as getting some assurances from the SPFL and the SFA that they have not been unduly poking their noses into the boardroom of one of it’s clubs … because otherwise, mark my words, we’re headed for a bad summer.

If the above was true …

The whole of Scottish football, being played for fools, fans most of all, nothing more than an afterthought as the governing bodies intercede in a matter that is none of their business … to get the desired boardroom outcome that will satisfy The Peepil?

Oh we’d really be through the Looking Glass then.

Black is white and white is black.

Of course, all that assumes that Goldfinger and the Three Bears are also stringing the Sevco fans along too …

Which can’t possibly be the case, can it?

I mean, these guys are Rangers men, aren’t they? They are there to protect the interests of club and fans, not to pull a Craig Whyte switcheroo, right? Therefore, if, say, they acquired control, “looked under the bonnet” (although what they’ll find there that this site and others haven’t been saying for nearly two years I don’t know) and decided the club needs to be liquidated “for its own good” …

Well Sevco fans, surely you wouldn’t swallow that, would you?

Would you?

I know one thing for sure – the guys who have, between them, spent a little over £5 million in shares (a £1 million quid each, for all the Broxi Burgers they can eat) well, they are going to have to spend a lot more to even get through the season, and the fans better hope they have the money, otherwise all their celebrations of this evening – believing in those saviours on white chargers – are going to amount to little more than a wake, and all their hopes to nothing but a prayer for the dying.

Cause … well … you know what the alternative is, right?

Yes, you got it in one. The alternative, is you …. You, dear Sevco fans.

I hope you’ve got deep pockets, I really do.

There’s an old maxim, familiar to con-men; “You can sheer a sheep many times, but skin it only once.”

I guess that’s why they call it “pulling the wool over your eyes.”

Life might be about to get very interesting for you, not to mention expensive.

For the rest of us, we better be on our guard. The chess pieces appear to be in motion.

Who do they think we are? The pawns? Guess again ...

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A Moment Of Clarity?

Neil-DoncasterWell, the New Year has barely begun and already Neil Doncaster is demonstrating to the world his total ineptitude and unsuitability for the job he holds.

Today, completely unprompted, he gave an interview to the BBC Sports hack Chris McLaughlin, where he flat out said that Sevco and Rangers are the same club. Although McLaughlin asked him to repeat the assertion, to get it properly on the record, he did not challenge Doncaster on it.

As it stands then, it is now the official position of the SPFL to support the Survival Myth, in spite of the numerous contradictions inherent within it and regardless of the reputational damage it does to our league competitions, and the sport as a whole.

Already the statements are being condemned on websites such as Video Celts. The CQN Facebook page is asking for an official statement from Celtic, and even the politics blog Wings Over Scotland has jumped into the debate.

Stuart Campbell has chosen to focus on McLaughlin’s failure to tackle what is a blatant lie, and to echo sentiments I have on this site and others before; that the way in which the media bows to power, and helps to maintain cushy relationships, including those which are harmful, even dangerous, is absolutely scandalous. He is right to do so, and his article lays out a cogent argument against Doncaster’s nonsense.

I, of course, want to concentrate on the footballing aspect of it.

Doncaster spoke today in his role as the head of the SPFL and so this goes way beyond McLaughlin’s failure to highlight the contradictions in what he has said. If those remarks are not disavowed, then the game in this country is now unmistakably run by men who have no problem with corruption being allowed to flourish.

Doncaster’s comments go much further than merely getting his facts wrong. Today he has legitimised debt dumping and fraud, and because his role is that of the figurehead for all the member clubs he has spoken for them and tied them to this statement, which is precisely why the CQN Facebook moderators are so concerned. And they are right to be.

For the part three years, this matter has been the subject of much discussion and debate, but the governing bodies have resisted comment, and this has been a deliberate policy and one that has allowed the issue to go unresolved, at least officially.

The people running our governing bodies are weak, and they were too afraid of the Ibrox club and its reach. They believed their own nonsense about Rangers being “too big to fail”.

They decided that the supporters of that club would never accept the truth, although there was a point when every sports writer in Scotland, and even people within the club itself, were stating, for the record, that if the club failed to gain a CVA that liquidation would mean the end.

Every decision that was taken in the aftermath of that, from the members making them start from the bottom, to the decision to place Sevco in preliminary rounds in the cup competitions instead of seeding them as should have been the case (seeding is based on the prior year’s league position, not on the current one), as well as UEFA’s three year ban, not to mention giving oldco Rangers a vote on which league the newco played in– it all pointed to the clear truth, that the club which plays out of Ibrox is a different entity to that which did before.

The whole notion that football clubs “cannot die” has been disproved again and again and again, from Ireland to the former Eastern Bloc countries.

It is a nonsense, and it insults the intelligence of fans to pretend otherwise. Ask Gretna supporters how they feel about it. Ask the fans of Hearts, who fought like tigers to prevent their own club sliding into the abyss. Why did they bother?

Doncaster has gone on the record and made a highly contentious set of statements today, which are legally dicey and procedurally nonsensical, and he has stated that these are the official positions of the organisations he represents. If that’s the case then the clubs should have no problem standing behind them when supporters start emailing to ask, right?

I’d like to see the official minutes where this issue was discussed and the vote on it was taken.

When did it become fact that clubs are separate from the companies that own them?

If it’s true, how was it legal for virtually every member of the Rangers first team squad to leave their contracts and go and play somewhere else?

Where is the piece of paper, where is the agreement from the clubs he is there to represent, on which he is basing these spurious, contemptible claims?

Was it passed with a big majority? A small one? Was legal opinion sought?

Doncaster is saying that football clubs in Scotland are immune from paying what they owe. He’s saying they can run up huge debts, liquidate and start again. This isn’t a small matter. This is fundamental to the way our sport is run, and on what basis clubs exist.

He is not mandated to take a decision like that on his own … so I repeat, if he is not simply giving his own opinion – and one would think doing so in this way is a sacking offence – then when did this become fact?

The decision to make Sevco start in the lower leagues is solely based on them being a new football club, one which starts at the bottom because that’s how it has to be. Without that, there was no legal basis for what happened to them.

Is that what he’s claiming? That what the SPL and then the SFL did was illegal?

Because that, too, is surely a sacking offence unless he’s clarified it with the clubs.

It also feeds into the Victim Myth, which, as we all know, is one of the most divisive and pervasive, dangerous falsehoods currently running riot in the game. He is legitmising the views of the lunatic fringe of the Rangers support who claim the rest of Scottish football acted out of spite and hate. Does he have any idea what that does to the image of our game? Does he care?

Doncaster says that the issue was “put to bed” by the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission, which itself is completely discredited in the way it arrived at its decisions, and ought to be the subject of a review and possible re-sit based on the evidence the guys on The Scottish Football Monitor, in particular Auldheid, uncovered, and which I summarised on this site in the article Justice Undone.

Yet even if the Lord Nimmo Smith commissions were still regarded as credible by the vast majority of football fans, Doncaster has actually misrepresented its stated position, and I am sure he’s done so quite wilfully.

Page 32 of the Smith Commission report makes it quite clear where they stand.

“We see no room or need for separate findings of breaches by Rangers FC, which was not a separate legal entity and was then part (although clearly in football and financial terms the key part) of the undertaking of Oldco.”

Doncaster is not only stating, as fact, a change in policy he is not authorised to make but he is doing so hiding behind a report who’s words he has twisted into the very opposite of what they say.

Are we really going to stand for this?

Are we really going to let this stay on the record, as the “official position” of one of the governing bodies of our game?

The clubs make up the membership of that body, and the fans are the lifeblood of the clubs. We are entitled to answers on this issue and I would hope that every supporter in Scotland is writing to his or her club in order to get them.

Today’s interview was an attempt to justify the catastrophic failures of governance in our top flight, which had led to the leagues not having a sponsor. It’s been over a year since the SPFL was founded, and to have not gotten the job done in that time is disgraceful.

What exactly are the clubs waiting for before they convene a meeting and chase this guy? Only in Scottish football could we continue to put up with rank incompetence on this level, allowing a halfwit like this to make such statements unchallenged on a day when he should be getting raked over the coals for the magnitude of his own mistakes.

McLaughlin even gave him an out, seeking to put the blame for Doncaster’s failures on the “uncertainty at Rangers”.

I might accuse the Sevco board of many things, but I will not accuse them of that. Our leagues do not have a sponsor because no-one will negotiate terms with a man who is on the record as having said the product he’s selling is worthless.

When is the media going to get off the fence when it comes to this guy and Regan and call them what they are?

In order to do it, of course, the media would have to come to terms with its own failings.

At one point in the interview Doncaster said “”It’s vital for everyone within the game – clubs, the league, the association, the media – to help talk the game up as best we can.”

I laughed listening to that, at the sheer brass neck of it, and it’s even more amazing to me that McLaughlin didn’t see the irony in his own question, the kind of question that perpetuates the falsehood that the prosperity of the game here is dependent on a club calling itself Rangers.

We are three years down the line, and the success stories we’re seeing everywhere in our sport have happened with the Ibrox NewCo in free-fall. The one club that has been affected – Celtic – is still posting record profits, albeit suffering slightly on the park.

It’s time this ridiculous and dangerous notion was put to bed once and for all.

There’s one other thing that bothers me about these statements today and it’s this; if you watched the interview or read the transcript it is quite clear that Doncaster was not asked a direct question on the issue of the NewCo-OldCo debate. He very deliberately steered the discussion in that direction himself, with no prompting at all.

I find that extremely suspicious, and I worry about why he did that.

It looks to me as if Doncaster has been tipped the wink about what is coming next at Ibrox. Is he laying the tracks for Sevco II? I would urge everyone reading this article to think very carefully about that, and to consider what it might mean.

If Doncaster is right, and the position of the SPFL is that clubs do not die, then there is no legal basis on which a liquidated team which started up again could be denied its place in the league … which is what brought us to the edge the last time.

There is nothing in the rule book covering this. I cannot articulate that enough.

It is at the “discretion of the SPFL Board” what to do with a phoenix club now; the decision will not be left to the members. Despite lengthy debates on what to do with clubs which enter administration, and despite a very clear need to actually put down in writing what will happen to phoenix clubs, the governing bodies has dithered and nothing has been set in stone.

I wrote at some length in a previous piece about how the SPFL and the SFA had automatic relegation for clubs in administration voted down … and this is an even bigger issue than that. That piece was a warning against complaceny, and yet here we are, sleepwalking into it, and having the people who failed us last time dictating the terms of the debate.

Neil Doncaster’s comments today have started 2015 by lobbing a hand grenade into the room. He either doesn’t realise that – in which case he’s too incompetent to stay – or he knew exactly what he was doing and there’s an agenda being pursued.

Either way, how much longer are our clubs going to put up with it?

Or to ask a different question … is he, after all, speaking for them too?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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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.

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A Dance With The Devil

691196-bigthumbnailAt a crucial moment in Oliver Stone’s stunning movie JFK, Kevin Costner’s Jim Garrison looks down the table at the rest of his legal team and tells them they have to seriously adjust their thinking, and the way they see the world.

“We’re through the looking glass, people,” he tells them. “White is black, and black is white.”

Tonight, it’s difficult not to feel that we are now truly in the realms of the surreal.

Celtic Football Club is tumbling into shambles as Sevco Rangers hurtles towards The Second Death. No-one realistically believes that some form of administration at Ibrox is anything other than certain. Their financial woes are far too serious, their club’s balance sheet too far gone. There is a feeling out there that this crisis has reached past the point of no return.

Early on Friday morning, this website published an article called All In The Q&A, where we listed some of the questions the media would leave out when Peter Lawwell appeared before them, as we’d been told he was due to do that afternoon.

What actually happened was even more craven. In a move reminiscent of Murray, Whyte and Green before him, Lawwell did the interview “in house”, from the soft seat at Celtic Park, answering loaded softballs written by a club employee. In other words, it was nothing more than a PR piece, far worse than what we’d anticipated.

The “interview” was then distributed to the press, who ran its contents verbatim, often intimating that they’d got it in a face to face, something I consider an act of fraud against every reader who bought one of their papers. It was, in short, a complete snow job.

Much of what he said was contemptible nonsense. Some of it involved selective use of the facts, such as when he went over the spending of Celtic’s last five managers without any focus on the amounts raised from player sales in that time. He reversed his own position of seven years ago, when he promised Celtic fans that there would always be a number of blue chip players in the squad, around whom the team would be built.

Back then, when he spoke of the Champions League, he said he considered us a “last 16 club”. Now he says we should consider ourselves lucky on those years we do qualify.

It is a shameful surrender of ambition, at every level.

The newspapers who had printed this PR spin, straight from the CEO’s mouth, without questioning a word of it, had even more grist for the mill, and every one of them ran with the headline story today that Lawwell had claimed Rangers absence from the league had cost Celtic £10 million plus. His inference was very clear; their absence from the top flight has damaged us.

This, too, is a reversal of position from some years ago, when he said that Celtic had a business plan that was not impacted by their absence from the league.

Since then, the club that played out of Ibrox died and a NewCo replaced it, with Celtic having been one of the clubs who took the position that the NewCo would have to start in the bottom tier of the game. At the time most of us felt this was the club’s way of saying they believed Rangers was dead. Now Lawwell has cast that perception into doubt.

He now talks about them as having “gone down,” which is a blatant misrepresentation of what actually happened. Tellingly, he puts them in the same bracket as Hearts as having “gone bust”, when actually, as a man in his position should know, Rangers were liquidated whereas Hearts were not. To compare the two is to sit an apple beside an orange (no pun intended). This kind of talk would be offensive in itself, but coming from Lawwell it’s especially worrying as it makes it difficult to be sure just what hat he’s wearing.

Is he talking as the CEO of Celtic, or as a board member of the SPFL and the SFA?

Either way, as an employee of our club this is not talk any supporter of Celtic wants to hear. It’s the most glaring example of all of just how disconnected from the views and the feelings of the support that this man is. He is now in dangerous territory, and if some of us are viewing things correctly Scottish football really is through the looking glass.

White is black and black is white. We have the CEO of Celtic pushing the Survival Myth, and telling Celtic supporters that reductions in the quality of the playing squad at Parkhead are a direct result of the now dead Rangers no longer being in the league.

Just what the Hell is going on here?

There is a suspicion, a dark suspicion, one I wasn’t willing to consider until now.

Is Celtic’s lack of transfer activity in this window deliberate, to sell the idea that we need Sevco Rangers back in the top flight, for our own good?

The timing is interesting, and worrying. Without wanting to sound like a paranoid, it’s hard not to be deeply, deeply suspicious about what we’re hearing here.

Lawwell’s dual roles on the governing bodies means that when the time comes, later this season, for those bodies to deal with the nuclear meltdown at Sevco he will have to make a decision about whether we change the game’s rules once again if it looks as if the Ibrox club will have to pay a points penalty for going into administration.

Sevco Rangers is a newco. The penalty for entering administration should be 15 points as this is their first administration event. Yet, the Survival Myth, which Lawwell was pushing in the interview, depends on the notion they are a continuation of the club which is dead. That means the penalty will be 25 points instead, and with that any chance of the club achieving promotion is certainly gone.

In our last article, Wolves At The Door, we described that as an extinction level event at Sevco Rangers, who have constructed what “business plan” they have on being an SPL club next year. Without that, I firmly believe it’s curtains over there. They will lurch from administration into the virtual certainty of liquidation again, and no-one will be able to stop it.

No-one except the SFA and the SPFL, that is.

When Sevco Rangers announced their stock exchange plan in the middle of last week they were admitting that there are now grave doubts about the club’s ability to get through the season. They need money – a lot of money – if they are to complete their fixtures. It is incumbent on the SFA to call their directors in and question them about this at length, as the licensing requirement explicitly depends on a club submitting financial projections to show they can complete a league campaign. This is not a small matter; it is a fundamental principle of football governance.

There is a precedent, a deadly precedent, for what is supposed to happen here.

Before the 2008 season started, Gretna ran into financial difficulties and they informed the SFA that they could not guarantee that they’d be able to complete the fixtures in their coming league campaign. The SFA took the only appropriate measure they could. Gretna had already been relegated from the SPL to the First Division, but more drastic measures were required to limit the impact on the leagues. The SFA took the decision to relegate them to the bottom tier.

Gretna had been trying to find a buyer for the club. With that SFA decision no-one was ever going to step forward to take up the slack. The club was liquidated. No-one tried to resurrect it, or pretend one could double as the other.

Last year, the SFA had a meeting on pushing through reforms, in light of the Rangers situation. One of the proposals put forward was for automatic relegation for sides which went into administration during the league campaign. That motion was defeated, on the grounds that it was overly complex. This is a bizarre statement, and a bizarre policy, but it happened largely without inquiry.

With automatic relegation off the table, and the penalty now having been clarified by the rulebook, there seems little hope of Sevco Rangers getting automatic promotion should they take the hit, but there is a sting in the tail, and it’s this; the power to decide on these matters will no longer reside with the SPFL members but with the SPFL board.

There will be no more debates between the clubs about what constitutes a NewCo and what doesn’t. If a club should run into difficulties and be liquidated, and the people in charge of that club decide to re-emerge as a going concern it is perfectly feasible, if they have dodged the bullet and amassed enough points before they did, that the SPFL board could decide they were a direct continuation of the club that came before … and life would go on.

Had the Sevco Rangers matter been in the hands of the SPFL board they would have started life as a top tier team, albeit minus 15 points.

It gets worse.

Sevco Rangers will achieve critical mass at some point in the next 12 months. It is nearly impossible to imagine them getting through the current season without taking that 25 point hit. It is likely that much of their playing squad will have to go. They would face a second season in the second tier, impoverished on and off the park, with little or no hope of any kind of quick-fire recovery.

If season ticket revenues fall off, they could be stuck there for years.

That Peter Lawwell, as CEO of Celtic, claims we need this basket case club to provide “competition” is ridiculous. One could be forgiven for believing we are weakening deliberately in case they return to the top flight, to present the appearance that the “competition” is real. There is no other way of making a challenge from them even vaguely credible.

The insult to other clubs in the top flight, well run clubs, clubs who try to live within their means and don’t go chasing dreams, is also shocking, and profound. As well as being well short of catching Celtic (at least for now) Sevco Rangers are nowhere near the level of Aberdeen or Dundee Utd or Inverness and others. The very notion that they are going to provide competition for Celtic whereas these other teams can’t and won’t is offensive, and a spit in the face to those sides who are working hard to get better.

That Peter Lawwell, board member of the SFA and the SPFL, is claiming that Sevco Rangers absence from the top flight has cost his side £10 million, and is responsible for the collapse in revenues to Scottish football, puts him at the crossroads of a very bad moment in the game’s history, where he might find himself taking a decision about whether that club lives or dies.

We have long suspected, and worried, that when the waves were flowing over the top of the barricades at Ibrox that the SFA and the SPFL would come together and reach some understanding that would negate the damage to the greatest possible extent.

The leagues have no sponsor. It’s a disgrace for which someone should be sacked. Lawwell’s claim that Celtic have to sell top stars because there is no Rangers in the top flight ties together his failures to replace key players with Scottish football’s lack of credibility, and finance, and he has held up, as the solution to our ills, the embrace of a clinically insane organisation that has flouted every single one of the precepts of prudence and good governance he has forced on his own club, to the detriment of its team and its reputation.

The hypocrisy and double standard is breathtaking.

It is indefensible for the CEO of Celtic, a club he calls “one of the best run in the world” to actually be taking the position that we need, for our own prosperity, a club which has flouted regulations, spent its way to the edge of death and acted with a recklessness in light of what happened to its predecessor which beggars belief.

We need that club for competition? We need that club to get back to the level we should be at?

This is beyond parody. It is like some kind of malign gag, a sick joke on all of us.

What worries me is that when the choice comes about what to do about Sevco’s financial implosion that he appears to have already made up his mind. These statements, coming in the week Sevco announces that it’s circling the drain, seem almost timed to perfection, and seem, to me and to others, like the beginnings of a PR campaign designed to put fans, and especially Celtic fans, on the side of moves to insulate Sevco from the consequences of its own excessive spending.

He has already moved into the camp of those who subscribe to the Survival Myth. He has as good as said Celtic needs a strong Rangers. He appears to be positioning us to keep on cutting until they return to the league, and even as he does so he has to be aware, as we all are, especially with his role at the SFA, that their chances of doing so next season are receding fast.

Sevco fans are already being blackmailed into buying shares to save their club. Celtic fans are now being blackmailed into accepting cuts to secure the future of theirs, at least until a club called Rangers is back in the league.

How long before these objectives converge? How long before Celtic fans are being explicitly told that our very survival depends on that of the club playing on the Broomloan Road?

The writing is already on the wall. If Lawwell convinces enough Celtic fans that measures need to be rushed through to make sure Sevco can still reach the SPL, in spite of an administration event, and that the costs of them not being there will continue to fall hardest on our own club, how difficult do you think he’ll find it to get a mandate when he proposes other clubs accept the fix?

His roles on both governing bodies puts him in a position to do a lot of arm twisting, and he has allies who’s own clubs have already felt the pinch. If the deal could somehow be spun to help Hibs too, Rob Petrie would be on-board and it would be all the easier for the SPFL board and others to package it not as a measure to save Sevco, but as a plan to save Scottish football itself.

The groundwork could already be getting laid for the most blatant stitch up in the history of football in this land, and it seems to me that one of the key decision makers has already set out his stall, which is that we, the followers of Celtic, are going to need to accept this for our own good.

There has never been a more important time for the bloggers to be about their business and for the supporters of all clubs to be watching the landscape with wide open eyes.

The crisis at Sevco Rangers risks plunging the whole game into the abyss once more, and those who’re running the show are already spinning it so we’re back where we were three years ago; that the club playing out of Ibrox, for all that its wounds are self-inflicted, that although they did this to themselves, they cannot be allowed to fail, and sporting integrity be damned.

We are on the razors edge. The writing is not the only thing that’ll be on the wall if this comes down the pipe, and Scottish football’s supporters are made to swallow the bitter pill of favouritism, cronyism and self-interest benefiting a single club, the most egregious breaker of rules, the most reckless spender of money, the most arrogant and elitist club in the game.

In the movie 8mm, Nicholas Cage plays a private investigator who’s looking into the adult film industry, on behalf of a wealthy client. On his journey through the sewers and the swamps he comes across a kid who’s in the know, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who at a crucial juncture in the picture warns him about getting too close to the subject matter.

“When you dance with the devil, the devil doesn’t change. The devil changes you.”

To all intents and purposes, the CEO of Celtic now appears to be the chief agitator for the swift return to the top flight of a club called Rangers. With that club locked in a downward spiral of its own making, he also sits on the boards of the two governing bodies who will have the final say in whether or not measures are taken to limit the damage they’ve done to themselves.

That should appall everyone who follows Celtic Football Club.

It should scare to death everyone else who cares about the Scottish game.

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Enemies

a3ec11124431369ee03e3de27c482b46The title of this particular piece is taken from one of my favourite television shows, The West Wing. In this particular episode the President and his staff have just beaten back an attempt to stiff them over a banking lobby bill, to which someone has attached a rider.

Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, an honourable idealist in a White House full of them, a man who got into politics to do good and accomplish things, succeeds in winning his political battles on this occasion, but the manner of the victory –and the opposition to it having manifest itself inside the Democratic Party  – leaves him deeply uncomfortable.

As the President is going back to his personal quarters that night, Josh calls to him before he goes in. “We talk about enemies more than we used to,” he says. “I just wanted to say that.”

The President looks at him, and nods, and it is clear that he too is saddened at the way in which idealism and the desire to be part of a high-minded and serious debate have met the inevitable brick wall of political reality, forcing them into a series of battles.

On the day I launched On Fields of Green I swore this would not become a website where people would trade barbs at each other, where the debate would be high-minded and conducted with honour. I wanted that debate here, between people from every corner of football in this country, where they could come and make their voices heard.

Since we launched, we’ve published over 130 articles, and we’ve had a dozen writers, but in almost every case, bar an exceptional few, those writers have almost always written about the Glasgow clubs, the one that plays out of Celtic Park and the one that plays out of Ibrox. I regret that, because it was not what I wanted from this site when I started it.

Yet it had a certain inevitability about it too. My own idealism didn’t take long to crash into the real world. Our second article was an expose about the true cost to the tax payer of the Rangers administration and liquidation process. Those numbers were based on the total debts which sunk the club, and so some will contend that they are no longer valid, but I would disagree.

That was the article which set the tone for this site, for what it has become, and although I regret that we veered so sharply down the road, I am content with where we are.

I still don’t regard this site as a Celtic site, and I never have. I write about my own club on these pages, and I make it very clear where my heart lies, yet my criticisms of Celtic are as sharp as some of those I level at the shambles across the city, and with good reason. When the club lets itself down then it deserves criticism. I am not interested in currying favour with anyone, have no hidden agendas or angles to work and no insider access to protect. It affords me a certain freedom to write what I want and the necessary distance to remain objective.

I still regard this as a Scottish football fans site, about issues affecting the whole game, and even when I have written about the situations at Ibrox and Celtic Park I hope I have been able to keep one eye, always, on how those matters affect the bigger picture.

Yet, here too we talk about enemies more than we used to.

Last week, on Twitter, I got into it with a Sevco Rangers fan, as I sometimes do, and I was accused, as were a couple of others, of “harbouring hate” for their club. It forced me to consider, and not for the first time, exactly what my own personal relationship with the club playing out of Ibrox is, and about wider “enemies” within the Scottish game.

The accusation of “harbouring hate” would not normally stand up on its own, but in this case it came with an almost credible caveat. I was given a motive for my hate, in the form of a tweet where Rangers trophy haul was published.

I have never cared how many trophies the old Rangers won.

For ten years at least, as I was growing up, they had no competition worthy of the name, and yet in one of those seasons Aberdeen took them to the last game and should have taken a title from them. I never cared about a “world record” of league titles either. This is Scotland, and I have known since I was a teenager that the authorities here went out of their way to help the club increase that count.

I have never been jealous of it. It has been a target to beat, and to beat fair and square. I consider at least five of the titles as tainted by cheating, and it has never made a difference to me at all whether the club dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s and beat HMRC or not. I didn’t even care when the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry gave its perverse decision.

I have never given a damn whether what Rangers did was legal. They had good lawyers and clever accountants so maybe it was … but it makes no difference. Legal doesn’t mean right. OJ Simpson was found Not Guilty, but we all know what the sonofabitch did.

Rangers bought a competitive advantage with money they didn’t have and that made them cheats, pure and simple. I make no bones about this.

Much of the “history” they talk about is tainted. The rest of it is a shadow on the wall.

They are no more entitled to claim it than they are to claim our European Champions Cup.

The history does animate some of us, but not for the reasons they think.

There are only two reasons to specifically target the history. First is the notion that such a thing can be passed between corporate entities like a piece of office furniture. It’s nonsensical. If it can be bought, can it also be sold? Who can purchase it? You? Me? Can another club?

How long would Rangers continue to be the “world’s most successful football team” if history was something you could purchase and swap around like a bubble-gum trading card?

It takes only a second of logical, rational, thought to realise how stupid the idea is.

It’s also offensive though. Sevco Rangers very existence is a reminder of the vast and terrible financial calamity they inflicted on Scotland. When the old club died it left behind colossal debts to the taxpayer and to local businesses up and down the land. The club which won that world record title haul left a toxic legacy behind when it departed this world, and it is appalling that anyone would seek to claim that the good bits can be ported over leaving the rest of us holding nothing but the dreck. It is a shameful suggestion.

I started this site because I care about Scottish football, and not just one or two teams in it. I believe the game is far healthier than some of those who are responsible for administering it would care to admit. I blame them for much of what has gone wrong, and is still wrong, with the Scottish footballing landscape as it stands right now.

The failure to find sponsors for major competitions is the direct result of our “leaders” going around the television studios three years ago and telling everyone who would listen that without a team called Rangers playing in the top flight the game here was worthless. That damns them to this day, those moral cowards who could not find it in themselves to do what had to be done and would have cast the integrity which is essential to sport over the side in their quest to buy themselves an easy life, and to give Sevco Rangers a soft landing their disgraceful behaviour did not merit.

In the end, they tried to bully and bribe clubs and when those efforts failed they, once again, announced to anyone who would listen that the game they were supposed to administer was on the edge of the abyss. They were lucky – damned lucky – the TV companies didn’t walk away entirely. Not since Gerald Ratner pissed all over his own merchandise to the national press have people responsible for the commercial side of a business been so shockingly negative about its prospects. That, on its own, ought to have seen Regan and Doncaster run out of town on a rail.

All this is to say nothing of Campbell Oglivie, who’s position at the head of the SFA remains a blight on the national game every bit as filthy as that of Sepp Blatter in the transcontinental organisation that dwarves our own. How dare our “leaders” moralise about his behaviour when the man at the helm of their own organisation is so clearly unfit for office? This too is the same association which sent the disgraced Hugh Dallas to UEFA with their full endorsement although they’d fired him. They have no shame, any of them, and some of us will not rest until they’re rooted out.

We do talk about enemies a lot here. We talk about them because these people, those who ran Rangers like a casino using other people’s money, those currently running Sevco Rangers like a crime family, those who cling to that club like leeches because it panders to their sectarian bigotry, the people in charge of our game who allowed this, and are still allowing it, the incompetents, the corrupt, those who are too lacking in backbone to be allowed near real power … these are our enemies, the enemies of the whole game, because they are hazardous to its health.

This website will celebrate its second anniversary in October this year. I am humbled by the support it’s been given in the short time since it was set up, and especially in the last few months, with some of you making donations to let us keep it going, and getting better. I am working away in the background on a couple of things that will help this site realise its full potential and, hopefully, turn it into the one I wanted it to be when I set it up.

Every one of you has been incredible thus far. You, too, genuinely love the game.

Every time someone has tweeted an article, or commented on one, every time someone has sent an email link to a person they know, every person who has taken the time to email me personally, to wish me well, even those who have got in touch to call me a complete muppet … all of it has been vital in pushing me on. All of it has helped us grow this thing to the point where we can consider what to do with it next.

Whatever changes there are, whatever way this project expands, one thing is going to remain constant, above all else.

We’re going to keep on talking about enemies, for as long as we have them. It doesn’t matter to me whether they are inside Ibrox or Hampden. Whether they are in the newspaper offices or spreading lies and half-truths on the radio. I don’t care what colours they wear or what flag they wrap themselves in. As long as they exist, we will poke them with a stick.

If some people don’t like that, tough. The rest of us don’t like you any better.

Some of us love this game enough to fight for it, and everything up until now will seem like a brief skirmish when Chernobyl FC across town goes critical again. The blame for that will extend, like a radioactive cloud, right across the game and beyond and the fallout will be truly terrible.

In this life, when everything around you turns to shit you have two options open to you.

You can choose to try and get comfortable, or you can pick up a shovel.

Final thanks go to all of you who put on the Internet Bampots tag, with pride. They thought it would shame us. We knew it was a badge of honour and that’s how we wear it.

Keep on digging, brothers and sisters.

Love and respect to you all.

(Remember, On Fields of Green needs your support if we’re to grow. You can make a donation at the link, which is either at the top of the page or the bottom, depending on the smart gadget you’re using! Everyone who does so will get something back … we’re working on it at the moment!)

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The Age Of Unreality

white-rabbit-with-watch-3Another day, another series of stories about the Battle for Sevco, and what makes it an especially interesting day is that one of them has entered the annals of my favourites thus far. It comes from the pen of Colin Duncan, on the Daily Record web-page, and I presume their print edition too.

The article highlights the “rightness” of the Sevco Rangers fans strategy in trying to “starve out the board.” In the first paragraph he lays out how many other clubs out there are at war with their own supporters, choosing a number of examples from England.

None of these supporters’ rebellions has resulted in the downfall of a board. Not one. He says this is because those fans are still funding their clubs, and this, he says, is where he thinks the Sevco Rangers fans are onto something.

He claims that starving out boards is the only way change gets made.

He’s forgotten about one other way, of course, but we’ll get to that.

Tonight’s also been notable for the breaking of another story – and the biggest possible congratulations to the Celtic Research Twitterati who had this one almost a week ago, bravo guys and take a bow. I wish I’d taken a shot at writing this up at the time – about the SPFL actually paying a broadcaster to show Sevco Rangers games.

That’s right … the league is paying the broadcaster to show matches. Because Scottish football is so rich, so weighted down with gold, that we can afford that. Our clubs can afford for the authorities to spend a quarter of a million per year to buy coverage … when the English leagues are awash with money from the satellite and cable companies paying them.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Age of Unreality.

It was Winston Smith in 1984 who said “sanity is not statistical”, and I sometimes feel like him, in a football landscape awash in other-worldyness.

The media, the authorities, some of our clubs, the entire Sevco fan base, even, if you believe the phone-ins, big segments of the Celtic support, appear to believe in all manner of nonsense, and fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Myth, and occasionally, outright lies have replaced facts in this country.

Football clubs cannot die. Only their “holding companies” do. They somehow rise from the ashes, debt free, and the history carries on as if it never happened.

Clubs which spent ten years paying players money they never had by operating a tax avoidance/tax evasion scheme, in which they hid contracts from the authorities gained “no competitive advantage” from doing so.

The granting of a temporary license to NewCo Rangers, meaning there were two Rangers’ on the official register of Scottish football, at the same time as there was a phantom entity called Club 12, does not prove that the current version of Rangers is different from the old one.

Directors who claim they didn’t know what their own clubs were up to are somehow fit to sit in the most senior positions of the governing body for the whole game.

Clubs losing tens of millions per year can still afford to give their manager a “transfer warchest.”

Football in this game needs the club whose indiscretions almost brought it to its knees. We need it so much we ought to have let Sevco play in the top league in spite of everything … and sporting integrity be damned.

I could go on, and I could go on and I could go on. So insane has it become that, yes, there are times when I ask, as Winston did, if this is what most of the world believes, is it me who’s insane? Am I the one who’s cracking up here? Does being in the minority make me wrong? Does believing these things are lies, does holding, apparently, marginal views as fervently as I do make me … mad?

Thank the Lord for days like today, days when the madness is so clearly that, when it is so stark, that it leaves no doubt in your mind at all. Furthermore, this is one of the days when what you’re seeing isn’t madness, but pure and simple craziness.

George Carlin gave a nice wee summary of the difference between the two, and I think it would be instructive for us to examine what he said.

“A maniac will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo. A crazy person will beat nine people to death with a steel dildo, but he’ll be wearing a Bugs Bunny suit at the time.”

Ladies and gentlemen, today our media and the people who run our national sport are fully kitted out in their Bugs Bunny outfits.

Let’s start with The Record. In his piece today, Colin Duncan has missed the mark by such a distance if he was playing darts there would be one sticking out the back of David Cameron’s press officer in Downing Street instead of on the board in the Daily Record canteen.

You can set your watch to the media’s nonsense these days. They are determined to send this Ibrox board homeward to think again, and they have no idea – and nor does anyone else – what happens if they succeed. Let me give them a wee perusal of the most likely outcome.

They spin into administration. That administration will be fully controlled by those who are currently on the board at the moment. They will decide on what terms the club continue, if it does. If they want to keep the doors open, if they give a damn about that, then the cost cutting will start on a scale even the wildest Celtic fan cannot imagine.

(And I’ve tried imagining, believe me.)

If they don’t give a damn, and frankly why should they?, then there is nothing to stop them – nothing at all – to stop them closing the shop entirely, flogging what they can and pocketing the change after expenses. The low cost of buying the club means they can probably turn a profit on their shares even if all they do is sell off the property.

People keep on saying it can’t be done at Ibrox, because of various issues involving the frontage, but a good architect could maintain that frontage and build a nice wee housing block, or a nice row of offices. There are plenty of options, limited only by cost and imagination, and none of those things will be the responsibility of the “institutional investors.”

They only need to find someone who’s not constrained by those things … and they can take as long as they like.

The club will be dead whether finding those people takes six months or six years. If the alternative is that they walk away with nothing … they’ll wait.

The only other way the club comes out of it is if the administration forces them to put the whole thing on the market as a football club again. This is what the fans and the media are hoping for of course, this is supposed to be the endgame, where Dave King sweeps in on his shining steed and resurrects the Rangers of their forefathers … but no-one can explain how it happens.

Celtic fans are almost unique in British football at having brought down a board, you know. The Sevco fans believe that because we did it they can too, but there are differences between those scenarios which don’t really need spelling out. I’m happy to do it anyway.

When our board fell there was man named Fergus McCann standing by, waiting in the wings. Not only did he have the money, not only was he ready to go, but he knew exactly what the plan was, exactly what the next moves were. He took over an institution operating way below its potential and he knew what needed to be done to make it a fully functioning business. Fergus had the means and he had the know-how. His plan was predicated on hard numbers, on a realistic strategy, on a plan involving a gradual building of the club into something that worked.

King doesn’t have a plan. He wants to chase trophies, and Champions League cash, by raising money in a share issue and using it to fund the buying of players. They were lucky enough to get a share issue last time, and it was supposed to be spent on infrastructure. King wants to raise money with the explicit intention of pissing it all down a big hole. That’s not a business plan. It’s a suicide pact, and he’s asking the fans to join him in it.

Fergus, like King, said he would never give the board a penny, but in the end he knew he’d have to. The bank never had to force the issue in Celtic’s case; they only had to threaten to. Fergus got the club he wanted for less than what the board had wanted him to pay … and he always knew it would have to work just so. He paid the price because he had to.

Dave King is absolutely determined he won’t give the board a penny for their shares. but Fergus had spent a long time manoeuvring behind the scenes, buying up shares, to get himself a foothold. King has not done this. He has no interest in the purchasing of shares. He seems to want authority without responsibility, control with it costing him anything. The suspicion persists that King has set up the bank account to collect season ticket money as a prelude to using the same cash to purchase the club in the event it goes under.

He has overlooked two major issues. First, it would take a liquidation for the shares to become available at the knockdown price that would enable him to realise his ambitions without it leaving him pot-less in the process, and in those circumstances it’s NewCo 2 and all the way back down the leagues to begin the long, slow climb again. In those circumstances, I do not believe King – or anyone else – will touch them with a 20 foot pole.

Secondly, as I said above, if it’s not a liquidation it will be an administration instead, in which King will have brought the club to the point of bankruptcy. In those circumstances, and considering who the main creditors will be, he can forget about getting it easily, if he gets it at all. They will sell the club to King on the cheap only if the alternative is getting precisely zero, and as I’ve said above they can realise enough from the assets to render that moot. Otherwise, they’ll either sell it to the next set of spivs who come along or they will, quite literally, bleed him for it.

This also presupposes they don’t sue him, either in the meantime or afterwards, for tortious interference or one of the other many potential charges he faces for leading a campaign to destabilise a company so he can grab the assets in a fire-sale. I flagged this possibility in an article some months ago, and was not exactly shocked when I heard last week that he’s been reported to the Stock Exchange regulators for it.

The long and short of it is simple. Starving these people out is not going to work. The club may die in the process of trying, but, one way or another, these people will get paid. They will walk away with their pockets bulging, and that’s just a consequence of the situation. If King wants the club, he can buy the shares at market value and rebuild it from its present position. Failing that the collapse will be swift, and sure, if he keeps up his campaign.

The media’s support for it is crazy. No other word for it. They are promoting insanity.

Which brings me to the second story of the day, the barmy, lunatic, twisted SPFL policy of paying a broadcaster to show matches. This has to be a one off. I’ve never heard of anything like it, in any other sport, and as no explanation has been offered as to how this has happened I can only conclude one thing from it; this has nothing to do with promoting Scottish football.

The suspicion here, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable when it has Neil Doncaster’s fingerprints on it, the man who was willing to bury sporting integrity to have Sevco Rangers in the top division, that this was done for only one reason.

This is about promoting the Sevco Rangers brand and nothing else. This is, quite literally, the rest of the league being asked to subsidise the promotion of one club. This is every other football team in this country being deprived of income to keepone club in particular “current.”

When the Sevco Rangers fans sneer that their club is the “only show in town” I snigger, because it’s self evident bollocks. The game is thriving for the first time in ages. Yet to see the way the authorities fawn and scrape and bow and bend rules, and even bend over, for this club you honestly would think they were exactly that.

Not for the first time – and probably not for the last – the people charged with running our sport are shafting the rest of it for the benefit of the club playing out of Ibrox.

It is a scandal, my friends, an outright scandal, and I think it’s perfectly valid for this website and others to demand – yes demand – answers about why this has been done, and who allowed it to be done.

Which committee members were involved in agreeing this policy? Which teams, which boards of directors, which clubs, decided to take hard earned cash from their fellow sides in order to give the impression the shambolic NewCo is still a major player?

Who are the guilty men who have ripped off the rest of the game to feed the Ibrox beast?

It’s time the corrupt bastards running the game in this country were brought to heel, and we had all better consider the role our own clubs might have played in this farce, because some of their leaders need brought to book, and rooted out, as well.

I am sick of this. Aren’t you?

Sanity is not statistical. We are the sane people. Keep that in mind.

The rest of the game is … unreal. I am beyond pissed off with it now.

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