The Need For Leadership

167444-campbell-ogilvie-and-stewart-regan-sfaOver on The Scottish Football Monitor, my good friend Auldheid has put together a truly special piece of work which I’m going to take apart in more detail at another stage this week.

In the meantime, I would urge everyone to go and read it, and to watch the video that he opens with, even if you’ve seen it before; it’s Alex Thomson interviewing Stewart Regan back in 2012.

Auldheid has been exceptional on these issues, in chasing down facts and putting them together for people to see. He is not alone in this.

There a few truly exceptional individuals out there doing digging, some of them on a daily basis, with the objective of changing the nature of the game here. They are our standard bearers, doing the heavy lifting on our behalf.

But those guys can’t do it alone, and although many of us in the blogosphere are pushing the same agenda, often in concert with these guys, we can’t do it either. The time is coming for the great mass of Scottish football fans to come together and work hard, with an agenda, with a specific plan, to press for the kind of real reform that Scottish football needs.

I don’t even pretend to think it’ll be easy, but it’s definitely required and it’s long overdue. Without it, we’re sleepwalking from one disaster to another, from one crisis point to another, and that will go on and on until none of us can bear to set foot in a football ground again.

The game here will die unless we act. There it is, as bluntly as I can put it.

Our governing bodies have no interest in saving it for the greater good. If we’re being generous, we’ll accuse them merely of lacking the imagination to see past a two team duopoly which has sustained interest in the sport for too long. If we’re being less kind, we’ll call it what it is; a subservience to the whims of one club that makes no sense at all, that damages the game and that will continue until we put a stop to it.

The media will not lead this campaign, because they don’t think anything needs to change except that Sevco Rangers should be “competing” with Celtic every year. In their world, every ill in the game right now can be traced to the decision to “relegate” (their word, not mine) that club from the top flight. As I said in my last piece, I no longer care whether or not it’s because of inherent bias or because they, too, lack the creative intelligence to imagine something better … the point is that they are looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

They can’t help us. They won’t help us.

This campaign can no longer – it never could – be the province of a small group of people being run on a small number of websites, even sites like TSFM which was set up principally for that task and which is, with all respect to a number of others out there, easily the most important of all Scottish football’s forums and weblogs.

This has to go live, to become something more. It really should have happened already, in the aftermath of the Rangers crisis of 2012, but basking in our victory then, and in light of the shambles Sevco descended into afterwards, we took our eyes off the ball temporarily.

The Lord Nimmo Smith verdict should have shocked us out of apathy, but a lot of people saw that as primarily affecting only one club, rather than looking past it to a greater truth.

Auldheid has laid that greater truth out for us all to see.

What’s happened at Hampden, in relation to the Rangers – Sevco scandal has affected every club in the country, and it has dragged down our national game to the point where major competitions have no sponsors and we get in TV income for a year what the average EPL club gets from the same companies in a week.

That’s not right, but it’s the all too predictable result of a summer in which the governing bodies lined up their CEO’s to tell the world how worthless our national sport was without a club called Rangers in the top flight.

Shame on them. Shame on our other clubs for letting these people keep their jobs in the aftermath of such a moment of economic self-sabotage.

Before we can even start to think about getting a campaign off the ground, though, there are a number of issues which need to be resolved first, because without them – without an acknowledgement of them anyway – we’re dead in the water.

Some of these are issues of perception. Some are deeper than that.

I’ll go over the most important, one at a time, listing them first and then going into a little more detail on each.

I am not pretending this is an exhaustive list, and as I’ve said this is not a series of actual proposals. These are foundation stones. Readers should feel free to add to them, or call them nonsense, as they see fit.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers here. Not even close. No-one can.

Which is why we need to focus all our energies on this rather than leaving it up to a mere few.

1) This has to be a multi-club endeavour or it will absolutely fail.

2) This endeavour concerns itself with Scottish football governance; it must not be seen as about justice, or revenge, for the sins of Rangers and Sevco. An exploration – a full exploration – of certain issues in relation to those events, and an accounting for them, is definitely crucial to the overall process, but it’s not the primary objective.

3) This campaign has to be rooted in the fans, and that includes the Sevco Rangers supporters, who I personally think have been let down as badly as anybody by the rank incompetence and corrupt behaviour of the people who run our national sport.

4) Fans have to put aside their tribal tendencies to work together … hugely important or this campaign will absolutely fail.

5) We have to resist the temptation to organise alongside Occupy lines; in other words, this needs a structure. It needs a set of goals. It needs a clear roadmap to accomplishing them. Otherwise we’re a disorganised rabble complaining about everything and fixing nothing.

6) We have to believe we can accomplish our goals, otherwise this campaign will absolutely fail and there will be no prospect of a future one succeeding either.

The first one speaks for itself. As tempting as it is for many fans to point the finger at guys like Peter Lawwell (and it is very tempting, I know it well), they don’t operate in a vacuum. If, as some suspect, the Celtic CEO is pushing the “Old Firm” brand (and I’ve written about my own suspicions on that score right here on this site) he could only succeed in promoting an easy ride for Sevco if other clubs were willing to go along with it.

Scottish football governance is run on a democratic basis. It’s a crude one, and an incestuous one … but it does depend on the consent of the membership and Lawwell can’t be blamed for everything … but nor can he disavow responsibility.

Our member clubs have clearly accepted unacceptable conduct and unacceptable practices over the years, and they’ve allowed people to stay in office who to call them unfit would be to do them a kindness they don’t deserve.

Our member clubs get away with this only because all the scrutiny we give our teams tends to be based on what they do individually; the players they sign, the deals they make, their appointments, sackings and other activities.

We pay little, or no, heed to what they do collectively, in our name.

If we change that, then we can change everything.

If we push enough of them the right way they will influence others and that will bring real reform within reach. But this has to be done in a co-ordinated fashion. We need an agenda and that agenda needs to be presented to all the clubs, individually and as one.

The second is also self-explanatory. This is not a Celtic fans campaign, and it never was. You could argue that Celtic fans took the lead in it, but that’s a surface assumption. Start with the petition that is credited in many quarters as having sunk like a stone Sevco’s chances of starting in the SPL. It came from a site called SPL Survey, and it was set up by two non-Celtic fans.

I think it’s important that the full scale of the LNS scandal is uncovered and that people lose their jobs for it. I think it’s important to establish the full facts of the Discounted Options Scheme, and I’ve written at length on both these things. I also think we need to find out what’s in the Five Way Agreement and what really happened with the SPL TV deal.

Those things aren’t about Rangers. This is a misunderstanding that goes to the heart of our problem here. Too many people, in the media and amongst the fans of all the clubs, have a tendency to believe our intention here is to ruin whichever club is playing at Ibrox.

This has never been about that, and I am tired of saying it.

These things are about how the governing bodies colluded to excuse behaviours from that club that they would not have excused from any other team, and about the potential for even greater rule breaking in future because of the deadly precedents that have been set. Bottom line.

Those things were scandals and they affected us all, firstly in destroying the SPL and the SFA’s mandate to govern the game “in the interests of all the clubs”, secondly because they damaged the concept of sporting integrity – and would have destroyed it had these people got their way – and finally because of the enormous reputational, and as a consequence financial, damage they inflicted on the sport, damage which reverberates through it today.

Thirdly, this campaign has to be rooted in the fans. The clubs have to know, and they have to make clear, that they are acting on our mandate and in our interests and they have to follow the agenda we set out. No fudging. No compromises.

No having certain chairmen telling us they know better than we do and offering to “lead this” on our behalf, only to dump some of our ideas. Only by making sure this campaign belongs to us are we making sure it achieves its aims. All of them. Without exception.

This has to include the fans of Sevco Rangers, who can, and will, play a full part in it because it’s in their best interests to do so, in particular as the people in charge of their club today are already starting to backtrack on more openness, fan involvement and have a business plan which calls for the spending of huge sums the club can’t afford.

In short, once they take off the short-sight blinkers they should be screaming for rigorous Fit & Proper Person tests, for requirements for full and transparent financial disclosure, for Financial Fair Play … these things would have saved their club, by preventing the EBT scandal, the running up of huge debts and Murray’s penchant for hiding unfortunate facts from their sight. They would have won less during the “glory years”, but who now wouldn’t have traded some of those to avoid the ignominy and disgrace of more recent times?

This means putting aside the Victim Myth, and it means Celtic fans having to work with them, as tough as that will be for some of them to bear.

It means that the supporters of clubs outside the West of Scotland really need to get over their own tribal dislike of the clubs which play there – and their fans – and start acting in concert with the fans of those sides who are not just interested in their own quest for glory but who want something more out of the Scottish game. That is probably the most vital requirement here.

I can already hear these ideas being shouted down because I’m a Celtic fan. I’d rather people just asked “who is this cheeky, presumptive arse?” rather than turn this into an issue of “Old Firm fans thinking they have a divine right …” I have no divine right.

I am not suggesting everything I say be adopted … I am offering a possible starting point.

Yet there’s no use pretending that this campaign can just rattle along, adding every perceived grievance and wrong to our list. We have to be realistic in our goals. There’s no point in trying to push clubs to vote the SFA board out because they won’t ban Sky cameras from Scotland until the TV companies give us a better shake. Our aims have to be achievable.

We can’t do this by town meeting either.

Internet polls, fan surveys and everything else can be utilised to get us thinking of what our agenda should be, but it’s going to take an actual structure, with volunteer leaders and those chosen by the individual supports to serve on its committees to make sure this is pursued.

Furthermore, it’s going to take an umbrella organisation to get this stuff done. There’s no point in us “organising” a campaign as a rabble because no-one will take us seriously if we do.

Lastly, those of us who commit to getting involved in this have to understand that there will be people out there who’ll tell us we are wasting our time and that the things we want are beyond our reach and that the game here cannot be changed.

That is defeatist talk, and we ought not to tolerate it. Those who think our governing bodies have already gotten away with murder need to be reminded that we’ve held them to account before and there’s no real obstacle to doing it again except for the idea that we can’t.

I think there are clear objectives we should be aiming for; financial fair play rules; more solid regulations on fit and proper persons; more concrete regulations on administration and the outlawing of clubs being able to “newco” and retain all the paraphernalia they had before they were killed by mismanagement. These are all reasonable aims.

In my view we should also be campaigning for some kind of fans pressure on the Culture and Sport ministers in Holyrood and Westminster for a review of commercial revenues in sport – and whether we’re being hurt by a cartel – and in the meantime we ought to dust off those FansTV proposals Rob Petrie worked so hard on and consider those too.

I’m just a guy with a blog, but for too long Scottish football has tolerated sub-standard leaders who seem to have no long term plan. I have no faith in them, and I believe that I’ve seen enough of my fellow fans to know they have more imagination, passion and courage than these jokers ever have or ever will, and they care deeply about the game too.

We might not get everything right, but we will certainly not get the staggering amount of big decisions wrong that has been the hallmark of the last couple of years. We can only be better than this.

Friends, I look forward to your comments and ideas.

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Comments on The Need For Leadership

  • John J

    sounds good I\’m all for a shake up of how these half wits have been running our game for the benefit of one club. I don\’t imagine you\’d get much objection from most fans of Scottish football but do you think \’the people\’ are for playing ball since they already think that we\’re all out to get them and caused all of their problems of late. It\’s ok now though because DK and the 3 Bears are there war chests and all ready to ascend to the top of our game? ….. I know descended into a bit of a rant but don\’t see them playing nice.

  • Dougie

    Hi

    Been a long time lurker rarely posted here I believe it\’s a brilliant idea.

    However I feel that the only way we can bring about change or bring back any kind of credibility in our game is a complete clear out of the sfa a fresh start so to speak.

    There\’s way to much bad memories of those currently in charge at the top and the majority of fans all over Scotland have lost complete faith in them.

    I think complete change at the top of the game then those who come in give them the task of changing the way it\’s run.

    I feel this would be an easier task to accomplish than getting those at the top to change they\’re ways they\’ve had enough chances to do so.

    Thx for you\’re hard work james

  • mark eastbank

    i would like to see a lower league fan get this idea rolling just for the neutrality, though id be happy with a jim spence , or the lads from off the ball. we really cant afford to hesitate with the sale of season tickets just around the corner,we have to act now within a month id say or we wont have the same power till this time next year. so lets create the blog get the numbers and approach the likes of jim spence or turnball hutton to represent us. we can do this.

  • Veritas

    James, your heart is in the right place..but this is really pushing water uphill.
    1 the MSM deeply deeply control the entire narrative. 3 years down the line they have beautifully upheld no problem the Rangers entire mythology set. they don’t even see an SFA problem or allow any agenda to a surface along these linesman do we know why. They are so off the pace on your and the SFM agenda ..their current locus is just getting a King et Al RFC back to the top and ASAP

    2 the bulk of the other clubs are just fighting to survive .they ain’t the answer. i have a SB at league 1 club, I pay the same as seated fans at Borussia Dortmund,shalke Ajax,Porto..Yip!.theres the problem..economic nightmare!..wee club bosses ?.they wouldn’t know the DOS argument from a hole in the ground and couldn’t give a toss..I bet our chairman can’t sleep at night trying to stay afloat .he ain’t gonna do a Turnbull Hutton. so whatever PL and co do will be as good as it gets challenging the authorities. I suspect that will be nada!
    3 where you are right..and the only hope is the fans .Most and almost everyone I I know never heard of you or SFM or PMG They get it all from DR HERALD SSB BBC. You and SFM etc need to somehow get the Auldheid stuff which is superb out to the fans groups ..and get a build up going same as 2012 as you highlighted.

    My own personal view is if / when DK or someone has to liquidate RFC to free up the financial shambles over there..the SFA will say it wasn’t the football club that caused that ..which is BS ..and try to let RFC get promoted or whatever. At that point the other club fans will totally rebel and throw them back down…maybe even lower down than last time ?
    That would be the tipping point and would be when there will be the best chance to add all the CO and SR stuff I nto the mix and get these guys removed
    If that doesn’t happen this crap will limp along for years ..with the obvious potentially horrible consequences when an Unfettered wilder element of the RFC support get loose when their club get any genuine success as they surely will.
    Best of luck..you are on the right track !

  • http://www.onfieldsofgreen.com James Forrest

    Turnbull would have been brilliant as a figurehead back when he was at Raith.

    I think now he’s NOT with a club he’d been an even better one.

    I’ll tell you who else, and he’s hugely respected and liked; Jim Leishman, now Lord Provost of Dunfermline.

  • Auldheid

    James

    On an umbrella organisation I suggest that you send a copy of your blog to

    Paul Goodwin who is setting up an Independent Scottish Football Supporters Association. He was apparently with Supporters Direct who were toothless because of the dependence on SFA for funding but appears to have recognised the need for independent funding to be more effective.

    There is a download at

    http://scottishsfsa.org/downloads/sfa-sponsorship-intro.pdf

    that gives contact details. I’ve followed him on Twitter. He might have experience and wider contacts to draw on.

    I agree with your objectives. If action taken soon before ST renewal it might produce leverage.

  • http://www.onfieldsofgreen.com James Forrest

    Veritas:

    I may well be mate, a lot of us might well be, but as we’re not getting out of Scottish football any time soon we’ve got two choices.

    1) Live in shit
    2) Grab a shovel

    I know which one I prefer, every day of the week.

  • http://www.onfieldsofgreen.com James Forrest

    Already sent mate! I was talking to Paul today, he’s one of the inspirations for the piece.

    I’m meeting up with him in Stirling later this week or next.

  • rodfather67

    James

    2 things

    1 – We need the associations to block universal UK coverage for Sky and BT. There is only one deal. 8.5% of any offer has to go to Scottish game for SFA to endorse UK wide coverage. That\’s it. 1 clause inserted and all coverage back on.

    2. – Celtic underwrite this for Scottish. Clubs by offering CL payments pro rata to all clubs as per current deal until Broadcasters agree to 1. Celtic can then negotiate any other deal for Scottish football in the interim (BBC? plus others) and off set against club guarantees. Any surplus goes to SFA pot.

    That\’s it. It really is that simple.

  • Monti

    James,

    Jim Leishman isn’t as respected as you think.
    The problem with scottish football is trust, the game is broken.

    Only when there is a clear out of Ogilvie, Regan and Doncaster can the game begin to repair itself.
    As it stands, it is embarrassing in the extreme.

  • http://www.onfieldsofgreen.com James Forrest

    Well I need enlightening on Jim Leishman, but yes the trust issue is a HUGE part of why the game doesn’t work.

    Those three need to be removed … it’s a scandal they’ve lasted this long, frankly.

  • JJBhoy

    The whole and entire hierarchy at the SSfa need to gotten rid of,who would be employed,still,as we speak,when the very product they are employed to sell,tells the press of Armageddon and the disaster of Sevco being demoted,again,for that comment alone,they should be hunted out the door.The very man whose job it was to ensure that,ALL contracts submitted to the SSfa are completely true,100%,they were not and this also begs the question,who was the man on the other side that accepted these contracts,from the very man who tried,in vain,to keep his former employers in the top division,the EBT”loan acceptee”,Campbell Ogilvie? You really could not make this shit up,riddled to the core and back again.

  • mickelmac

    Great fan of your writings James, although I think on this occasion you’ve gave a long narrative for a simple problem.
    Cheats out.

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