The Charade Of Integrity

JS58473599Tonight Scottish football has no soul.

Tonight the Scottish Football Association has traded it all in for what Justin Currie once called “the last cheap shot at the dream.” Their dream. Not ours.

For the last three years they’ve wanted someone to come in and relieve the misery of having to be the governing body that got everything wrong.

At the start of that long, dark period they faced one of the gravest crises the game here has ever seen, when Rangers Football Club circled the drain and then swirled down the plughole.

At a time like that, you really want someone to step up and show leadership. You want the people responsible for running things to act with gravity, with decisiveness and with the best interests of the sport at the heart of everything they do.

It didn’t have to be this way.

They could have defended the integrity of our game, by holding up the dead club as an example to warn others off the path of financial madness.

See, Rangers was the cautionary tale.

It was the object lesson in how not to run a club.

They were the poster boy for living beyond your means, and paying the price.

Everyone knew their stunning demise would have an impact on the game, with knock-on consequences affecting every single club in the land. We knew those effects could last for years and damage football here as a commercial attraction for advertisers.

All of this was a secondary consideration to most of us, including the impact on our own clubs, Celtic fans most of all.

The reason for this is simple, and it has nothing to do with the numerous motives – hate, jealousy, bigotry – which were ascribed to us.

We are not wrestling fans, after all, knowingly watching a rigged game for the value of the spectacle itself. We are football fans.

Football is a sport.

We value it as an endeavour based on merit.

At the time, all the governing body had to do was acknowledge this, and to make it clear that the wounds from which Rangers finally perished were self-inflicted. They were accumulated over years of spending above what they could afford, and had this been any other club in the country that is exactly what the SFA would have done.

Instead they made it clear that the club was not to pay the price for its failure to get its own house in order. Instead, the integrity of Scottish football itself would be thrown on the alter table and sacrificed in its place.

Had that decision been allowed to stand our sport would have ground to a halt. It would be an epochal disaster from which the game here would never have recovered. It was Jock Stein who said “football without the fans is nothing”, and for a brief time in 2012 there was a very good chance that here in Scotland we might have proved the proposition.

The SFA and the SPL tried everything to convince us that this was the right move.

They would have turned this game on its head and emptied out of its pockets everything that made it worth fighting for.

They would have destroyed it to save one club.

The lack of leadership was scandalous.

In the end, it took one brave man – Turnbull Hutton – to take a stand, on the steps of Hampden itself, and in front of the cameras, to tell it like it was, to give the fans someone they could rally behind.

The supporters, and Turnbull, saved the game from its own leaders.

We never ought to forget that; the guardians of our sport would have nuked it, but we didn’t let them.

In the three years that followed, they allowed a guy like Charles Green to make slanderous accusations about corruption and bigotry being behind the decision we forced our clubs to take. He was clearly not “fit and proper” either, and when he made a racist comment about a member of his own board he knew he had to step down … but without the SFA telling him to.

Stories of men wanted by Interpol meeting with his board passed without comment. A rash of police investigations didn’t prompt a response. Scandal piled up on scandal. Crisis swirled around the club like flies around a corpse. The SFA said not one word.

In the meantime, they worked behind the scenes to give the NewCo as soft a landing as they could. They imposed a transfer ban that was easily circumvented, almost as if they and the club had sat down together and came up with a scheme that looked kosher but was as bent as the one they’d offered when they were going to put them straight into the SPL.

The Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry was a fraud from the start, omitting the details of one case in which the club was unequivocally guilty of tax evasion and concealment of documents. A guarantee had already been given to them – behind the scenes – that the inquiry would not end with the stripping of titles, and then to make sure of it the SFA’s registrations officer gave one of the most palpably dishonest statements in the history of professional sport when he said that the rules prevented the SFA from taking action because they hadn’t known about breaches of them at the time.

The more one looks at it all, the more you can see that we didn’t really win anything in 2012 except for time.

The SFA has been playing the Long Game since then, but badly, knowing that Sevco is not a stable ship and worrying all along that it might crash against the rocks and sink without a trace.

That would expose the charade, and force them to admit that their behaviour three years ago inflicted long-term damage on the sport here in Scotland.

Tonight, they have cleared David Cunningham King as a “fit and proper person” despite 40 odd criminal convictions in South Africa for numerous violations of their tax laws. He had also been charged with over 200 other crimes, including racketeering, bribery and forgery.

Those charges were dropped in accordance with his “plea bargain” in this case.

Scottish football’s regulations are quite clear as to what King’s status is.

Anyone in a similar position, who not only had recent convictions but had served on the board of a club that had crashed, would have been disqualified at once, but the over-hyped King has one distinct advantage that none of those guys had; he has tailored himself, and been promoted by the press, as the one guy who can save Sevco from going the same way as Rangers did.

Whether he can accomplish it or not is irrelevant.

I personally have my doubts, because he faces an almost impossible task, but it doesn’t really matter.

King’s being cleared was necessary for an association that, above all else, wants a return to what they and others still think of as the natural state of our game – the Glasgow duopoly beyond which their imaginations can’t quite make the leap.

He is their last throw of the dice, the final chance the club has of gaining credibility, as if that was possible with a guy at the helm with a string of broken promises, evasions and criminality behind him.

The AIM stock market weren’t convinced.

The City of London is so far not on board, and even a virtually unregulated market like ISDX won’t touch them.

It is also probably worth pointing out that King has utilised the full weaponry of the “glib and shameless liar” in his efforts to get approved; he withheld documents until the media crescendo was in full tilt, he appointed a PR firm to spin on his behalf and he used some of his useful idiots in the press to spread wholly inaccurate stories about his being “unable” to invest in the club until the SFA had cleared his appointment.

None of these are the hallmarks of an honest or honourable man, one who will act with probity and in good faith in his dealings with the authorities and with other clubs. It is actually questionable whether he’s been wholly honest with the club’s own fans.

All of these people have been warned; this guy is already walking all over them.

What’s worse though is the way the SFA are walking all over the rest of us.

Our opinions don’t matter a damn to these people.

Our concerns are simply ignored.

The things we care about are unimportant to those who “know better”, who would have destroyed the village in order to save it and who even today can’t understand why we stopped them.

King is a crook.

He and the club he now effectively runs are a match for each other, easily the most perfect marriage of institution and owner that I can conceive of.

But our governing bodies are another matter entirely.

If they are not weak and spineless then they are simply corrupt. Turnbull Hutton certainly thought so.

Tonight, the sport we love has been tarnished again by those who are supposed to be running it in its best interests.

They believe those are served by shredding the rulebook to allow a convicted tax cheat to save a club whose predecessor was liquidated for unpaid tax.

The message it sends out to HMRC and other watching agencies is equally appalling.

In their eyes tonight, Scottish football’s bosses have made it plain that they have no respect for the rules and regulations, and no regard for laws, either constitutional or natural. I cannot think of anything more potentially ruinous for our clubs and the games reputation.

Days like this are wearying, but this one feels oddly liberating at the same time.

Because tonight it’s clear that supporting the game and supporting those who administer it are two wholly separate things.

If it’s going to take fans boycotting Hampden then so be it.

If it’s going to take another campaign to force our own clubs to accept and embrace change, or suffer the consequences, then that, too, is what will happen.

But we owe these people nothing.

No loyalty. No allegiance. No respect. No support.

It doesn’t matter what your club team is, this casual disregard for the rulebook is scandalous and it is damaging and tonight it has corrupted all of football in this land.

Looking at it all this evening, one thing angers me above everything else; the length of time it took them to arrive at tonight’s outrage.

Because the rules were, and are, clear on these issues; King ought to have failed at the first hurdle and been rejected on the first day.

The SFA’s statement suggests that they’ve taken their time to make sure the regulations were being followed.

It is clear to anyone who looks at this properly that this is the precise opposite of what has occurred; in fact, this decision was delayed until King and others could provide them with a cover behind which they could decide not to follow these guidelines.

In short, they’ve spent the last few months looking for a reason to break their own rules.

And this time we were not able to prevent this act of recklessness.

This was not about integrity, whatever people will say over the next few days.

It was about the charade of integrity, about putting on a show, about looking to have been acting when the decision was probably made months ago.

No-one is fooled. No-one is convinced.

This decision shames them, and indirectly all the rest of us.

Scottish football is a lunatic asylum where the inmates are now running amuck; lawless, ruled only by whichever one of the nutjobs has forgotten to take his pills and has the loudest voice on any given day.

I cannot conceive of this matter not haunting them, but whatever happens tomorrow the damage that has been done today will take years to erase.

This is an act of self-sabotage from which we won’t soon recover, if we ever do.

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Comments on The Charade Of Integrity

  • Frankie

    Nail on head James. Chapeau.

  • Allan

    Well said. What\’s strange is that the SFA have had all this time to come up with a reason to pass King but they don\’t seem to have one. What are the documents that were submitted to the SFA and what is in those documents that indicates King is F&P? Still, interesting times ahead with MA\’s EGM and rumours of legal action against King and his poodle. Can\’t wait!

  • WILLIE

    IT,S been corrupt all of our existence, Celtic the most cheated club in history

  • Bill Morrison

    Well said, James. Listening to some of the crap being spouted on Radio Clyde tonight I came to much the same conclusion. My only disagreement with you is that I don’t think the ‘Glasgow duopoly’ comes into the authorities’ thinking, they have bent, broken or re-written their rules ad-lib because they are in thrall to the belief that ‘Scottish football needs a strong Rangers’ and to hell with any other consideration.

  • https://theclumpany.wordpress.com/ The Clumpany

    Another great piece.

    It’s as ridiculous as it was predicable that King was approved. I would love to know what each and every member of the Board taking the decision thought about it.

    If it blows up in the SFA’s face it will be spectacular.

    As you say, King faces an enormous task to get Sevco in any kind of shape. There hasn’t been a whiff of a plan yet. And Mike Ashley still has to be dealt with…

    Here are my thoughts on the SFA’s decision today.

    https://theclumpany.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/the-end-of-the-world/

    Keep up the good work!

  • jas

    1 This could and in all honesty should be the death os Scottish football, I do not doubt there will now be many fans who will turn their back on the game forever, at the end of the day who wants to watch a rigged game.
    2 Where will King go now? I am certain he was expecting to NOT be found a fit and proper person, as now he will have to open his fabled warchest or be seen amongst the darkside as just another charlatan,this could be interesting.
    3 What, if any, was Lawwell’s role in all of this? He was quick to talk about integrity in 2008 when the huns (again) got as much help as possible from their friends at the SFA, did he support King being brought in from the cold? We require answers, and we should demand them yesterday.
    4 Don’t be surprised if the honestmistakeometer goes into overdrive on Wednesday + the 2nd leg and no doubt when they reach the Motherwell play off.

  • Chris McDougall

    Excellent article as usual James.
    One question, directed not at you but at the directors of our club, especially those on SFA boards:
    What’s the point of being in a position of authority, either at Celtic FC or at the SFA if you do nothing to protect our club and the integrity of Scottish Football?

  • Bruce

    Anyone who still pays to go to games in Scotland is enabling this. I can\’t understand why people would follow a corrupt sport.

  • DonieMac

    Good article James. However, one point I must raise…..I understand your justified anger and fustration, but did anybody really expect anything different or better from the SFA? Regardless, this \’appointment\’ to the board of Rangers Mrk II will do little to alleviate their current difficulties.

  • Veritas

    If it was unanimous and Lawell doesn’t resign as CFC CEO and the fans keep buying the STs they are as guilty as everyone in the SFA
    If it wasn’t unanimous and he doesn’t resign from SFA fans should demand he resigns from SFA if not then the CFC job
    Otherwise CFC fans effectively support this charade
    Btw Same for Petrie and the others

    Otherwise you are right James…loonies running asylum!

  • ynra

    A very dark day for Scottish football

  • Paul McCombie

    How long, after Sfa received the paperwork of course, did this actually take?

    An hour? Two perhaps. Maybe a day.

    Very strange that he’s passed as fit and proper in the lead up to us being presented with the first SPFL trophy.

    It’s almost like the paperwork was never forthcoming until such a time so as to inspire anger (division even?) at a time of celebration or at the very least enable the poodles to fill their back pages with more twaddle about Scotland’s least favourite comedy club.

  • Pat

    Willie @ 8.33pm.

    We are of course the most cheated club in history. Sadly, our board is content to allow this to continue so long as it can get its hands on the bigot pound sooner than later. We are no longer at the back of the bus. We are in the luggage area between the front and back wheels. The professional game in Scotland is rigged and is no more credible than World Wide Entertainment wrestling. My green pound will remain firmly in my pocket till my club stands up to the cheats the way the bunnet did over Farrygate.

  • castlerockson

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments James, a dark day for Scottish football indeed. However, I knew he would be deemed fit and proper because of the club that he is buying into. I am also a believer in what goes around comes around, Reagan and co will have plenty of time to rue their indecision over the last 3 years at some point in the future when al this goes booby side up.

  • Thomas McMahon

    Great writing as usual, but to the people attacking Celtic Football Club this is not on encouraging people to stay away from Celtic when our Club has always worked within the rules is so wrong. A strong Celtic support may one day defeat this corrupt organisation (SFA)

  • Paul

    This is the equivalent of giving bonnie and clyde jobs in the bank!

  • http://Google Keith

    Celtic and the ceo have till season ticket deadline to condemn this decision,or for one will not be renewing.
    The game is corrupt to the core,your analogy with the wrestling is spot on!.
    This decision will break my heart,but sunday could be my last game at the park,unless our board grows a backbone.
    Our 1 million bonus man sits on the sfa board ffs and he must’ve help sign this off.
    I’m certainly not telling anyone else to do as im doing,that will be up to them.
    My love of celtic will always be there,and be there till the day i die.

    Hail hail.

  • tommybhoy

    So breaking news has it that Gerald Rather, The Lehman brothers and Arthur Andersen have all sought F and P status and it has been passed by the noddy style governing body.

  • joe mccormack

    So a convicted criminal takes the reins at Ibrox, very fitting.

    Already we have had from TGASL disinformation around the delisting and replacement Nomad.

    Now, despite his earlier pronouncements of investment whether FPP or not, that appears to also not being the case as per his statement yesterday.

    Stand by for more of the same, punted as the honest truth by a Scottish media only to happy to promote their favourites oblivious to the damage being done to the game in Scotland.

    Nothing else matters, it’s Sevco or bust.

    Poor old Hibs tonight, already being ignored as an irrelevance standing in the way of the journey back to where Sevco belong.

    Murray, Whyte and Green have all been promoted and glorified by the diddies that call themselves the Scottish media.

    We know how well that turned out in the end.

    If the Hibees, against all the odds, manage to triumph over the 2 legs be prepared for a big push in the Sunday press for immediate league reconstruction in order that Sevco complete the journey….be it 18, 20, 24,30 team leagues with of course, at the discretion of the SFA/SPFL, no relegation if the Ibrox club find themselves at the foot of whichever ladder.
    A Hibs victory will be a huge boost for fans of Scottish football who have witnessed collusion and corruption on a grand scale since SDM took over at Ibrox.
    The ruling bodies have done everything in their power to aid the establishment team, changing or making up rules as they go along( Bryson being a biggy), handing out punishments not befitting the crimes committed, not enforcing the punishments.
    The flawed LNS enquiry, Rangers Euro licence 2011, the list is endless.
    Today we find ourselves with RRM running the show at Ibrox. With delisting a share option looks unlikely so Kingco and the fans will be the only source of income for the forseeable future…..or should that be the fans then Kingco.

    The fans, the media, and the SFA have all got the result they wanted.
    If it all goes pear shape they have no one else to blame but themselves.

    Mash is due his money back in the next week or so, if appropriate says King………talk is cheap Dave, let’s see you do the walk.

    Ash, the Easdales and other major shareholders have taken a severe dunt due to delisting. Ash has already asked for specifics around timing, who promised what and when etc. If the shareholders are unconvinced with the answers from the board then expect Ash and others to go down the legal route to recover their losses.

    Murray and King FPP?……let’s wait and see.

  • Bluenose Bill

    Not every Rangers fan is happy to see King at Ibrox.

    But there is one thing you fail to address adequately. These days it is Celtic who are running things at the SFA and it is therefore your own club who are complicit in this.

    You either know this and are deflecting or you just don\’t want to admit the truth.

    Peter Lawwell okay\’d this move.