Today I’m told The Daily Record is having one of its Sevco-soothing days, with them sitting second in a league where we’re already moving towards a double-digit lead. Their “phone in” column is filled with pitiful whining about how unfair the world is, about how Celtic should be “handicapped” by the SFA to stop the campaign turning into a canter. Others suggest that our ability to pay what many regard as “overpriced players” is somehow unfair in itself, that it’s a form of financial doping.
These people are pathetic, and this isn’t the first time I’ve heard these ridiculous arguments. Fans of other clubs have lamented the financial strength of Celtic and suggested that we’ve degraded the value of the game here in Scotland.
All of it is outright bollocks. We’re supposed to apologise for getting our own house in order? Unlike some clubs we run on a sustainable basis; there’s been no fiddling the figures, sugar-daddy subsidies or state aid, no matter what the more moronic element of Twitter appears to believe, or appears to want to believe anyway.
I said towards the end of last week that Sevco isn’t solely to blame for the problems that have afflicted them, and I said I would follow up on that claim. Actually, it’s the fault of the SFA and of the member clubs themselves. Because whilst their supporters bitch and moan about our summit position the simple truth is that it’s their own club that continues to cheat every other team in the sport. It is Sevco itself which is still engaged in the old dark financial arts, soft loans from God knows where, spending what it can’t afford, concealing the size of the problem and thus endangering the whole of the national game all over again.
The club in first place – our club – didn’t buy success in the way the Manchester City’s and Blackburn’s and Rangers’ did. We built the infrastructure that allowed us to sustain ourselves and we spend within our limits. It’s the club currently sitting in second place which is trying to purchase success, by less than transparent means and with cash it hasn’t got.
That gamble is a gamble with the future of the Scottish game, and a lot of people are sitting back and saying nothing as if that’s not readily apparent, as if we don’t all know it for a fact, as if wishing it away will somehow negate it, and keep us on the right track.
When Sevco circles the drain all the efforts people have made to get Scottish football off its knees will have been for nothing; television money will dry up.
Sponsors and advertisers will chuck it.
They’ll do this not because, as some will suggest, that one of the two great planks of our sport has crumbled but because this country’s game will have become an ungovernable joke, with its regulatory bodies shown as craven, self-serving charlatans who let another of its clubs (and they will add to the turmoil by claiming, of course, that it’s the very same club) run itself into the ground.
When Rangers went under, certain people were clearly caught like rabbits in the headlights; there was a general sense of disbelief about it, that the second biggest club in the country could collapse like a house of cards and then when the chips were down nobody came in to try and save them, that the only people attracted to the twitching corpse were the wolves. These developments were not exactly a surprise to many of us – we’d said Rangers was unsustainable and that the great global Rangers support was a myth balloon waiting to be burst – but I can understand why there was a degree of paralysis, brought on by acute shock.
There is no excuse this time, no excuse for the people who have sat back and watched a club bearing the same name, playing out of the same stadium and which even has some of the people on the board who presided over that disaster going the same way. That will be the greatest hammer blow against the credibility of our sport that’s ever been delivered and we will not recover from the damage it does for years if we ever do.
Regulations governing clubs and the way they are run ought to have been tightened. Financial fair play rules should have been brought in back in 2012. Clubs should be mandated to spend only what they can afford, like Celtic does.
That Basket Case FC can publish those ludicrous accounts last week without a tremor from the media or the SFA is scandalous. A business plan predicated on a wing and a prayer, financial projections based on if’s, but’s and maybe’s, a club that is simply making it up as it goes along, and all this would be bad enough if they were Just Another Club, but this is the one we’re endlessly told is essential for the wellbeing of the game, which makes all this even more outrageous and the SFA’s laxity so indefensible.
Yet the SFA runs at the behest of the clubs and they couldn’t be this disconnected if the clubs themselves had a mind to turn this thing around and make it better. There’s no sign of that whatsoever, and so a big part of the trouble Scottish football is in right now is down to those clubs and their directors and their own self-serving policies.
Celtic’s league lead doesn’t embarrass our club, but it should embarrass other clubs. When their fans wail about how dreadful it makes our game look they are, in fact, whining about themselves. We aren’t responsible for the mess other clubs have made of their own league challenge, such as Aberdeen, who stick with the incompetent McInness, our national game’s great under-achiever, even when the writing is on the wall in letters 100 feet high.
Calls for us to be handicapped and for the SFA to pass some slew of new rules about how much clubs can spend would be hilarious even if they weren’t coming from Ibrox fans, from whom it sounds like the petulant bitching of the loser. Some of us have wanted rules like that for near on five years, and have been calling for them almost without end. Handicapping is a non-starter but by all means introduce regulations to cap spending to what clubs can afford because that is a game changer for our sport and will ensure that it gets stronger and that youth football development becomes something teams actually do focus on instead of paying lip service to as they bring in second raters from abroad.
The ultimate irony of this weekend’s moaning, of course, is that the fans of clubs outside Glasgow who are calling for Celtic to be hamstrung for being well run are largely silent on the Ibrox club and its own rampant over-spending. When these clubs look at the league table at the end of this season they better ask themselves who it really is who cost them places, revenues, perhaps even European football. The answer will not lie in Glasgow; it will lie in the mirror.
Celtic fans have to put up with a lot of sniping about our club, but we’re not going to stand for this one, as if we should be ashamed somehow of having crafted something that works. We did it within the rules. We did it straight up and we’re not accepting criticism for that.
They’d be far better asking their own boards to explain how a club that is technically trading whilst insolvent managed to sign 11 players this summer and is talking about bringing in more in January. In case this hasn’t sunk in yet, that club is in second spot right now, cheating its way to a season of relative “success” whilst their own boards stay silent.
That’s Scottish football’s problem, its biggest one, the one no-one seems to want to acknowledge. Their behaviour is a minor irritant to a club like ours; it’s not our pockets they’re going to pick, our success they’re going to threaten.
It’s everybody else’s, even as they point their fingers at Celtic Park.