The biggest story in the history of British football, and perhaps in Europe, has taken another bizarre sideways twist today.
No-one who has read the SPFL statement thoroughly, as many of us now have, can be in the slightest doubt that it is heaped full of contradictions, evasions, inaccuracies (we’ll call the misunderstandings rather than wilful distortions) and assertions which are fundamentally at odds with even the idea of sporting integrity.
Supporters organisations will take their time to review these matters before many of them make a statement; they have their own “due processes” to go through after all, but even a surface reading of what’s in there should swiftly bring us towards certain conclusions.
If this is allowed to stand as the “last word” then football in Scotland is storing up serious trouble for the future and opening wide the doors to all manner of evasion and corruption and even criminality. Even some in the media have reacted in amazement.
Grant Russell of STV has already posed one of the most important questions which this judgement demands to be asked, “So we have a situation by the rules that a “club” can never be sanctioned retrospectively if its “operators” change?”
He has correctly gotten right to the heart of one of the key findings, and its implications and those are not limited to this affair, but will haunt the game for years, decades, to come and threaten it with a scandal that may even make this one look small.
It is but a single facet of that statement today; others are just as troubling.
The way the LNS case was subverted is troubling. The way this advice was sought so that it only covered the idea of whether that verdict could be appealed is troubling. The assertion that LNS was a legal finding when it was quite explicitly not is troubling and the idea that a review should be organised which has been neutered in advance is a suggestion that could only have emerged from a governing agency which has something to hide and hopes some window dressing will cover that.
And that’s what this is, window dressing. It heaps shame on our national sport and on the clubs that have allowed the people responsible to remain in post.
Hey, I’ve been writing this and much like it for the past five years. The Resolution 12 guys have been chasing aspects of it for years. Other bloggers were writing about issues at Ibrox and the behaviour inside those walls for longer than I have, and my first article on the financial state of Rangers was written in 2008. This story has been extensively documented and covered on the blogs and each and every horrible prediction we made has come to pass.
Scottish football now lives with a situation that is completely untenable.
Issues arising from 2012 will overshadow it far into the future; those SPFL chairmen who wanted this to “go away” and hoped that it would must have known this would only increase the demand for scrutiny and for justice, yet they did this anyway. I cannot even begin to understand their thinking.
A review with no power to impose sanctions or recommend changes is a waste of everyone’s time, effort and money. Does Scottish football have money to piss away on a paper-shuffling exercise? It must, because that’s what they’ve decided on.
Everyone knows that this is no longer about what Rangers did. It hasn’t been about that since the SFA and SPL tried to shoehorn Sevco into the top flight and we got the first hints at the extreme measures the governing bodies might take based on the idea that Rangers was “too big to fail.” We understood that in order to maintain that club they might have taken steps other than those which were in the public domain.
We understood that the SFA had allowed its President to stay in post despite a monumental conflict of interest.
We understood that he had signed the original EBT documents and may even have known the club were concealing documents from the governing body he sat on. We know it’s not impossible that the SFA itself might have been helping Rangers conceal a tax fraud.
We understood that if someone had suggested that a Rangers team which didn’t have a European license might be ripe to fail that the SFA might have given them one anyway, although they ought not to, in order to prop up their balance sheet … and consequences to other clubs be damned.
We realised when Regan talked about “civil unrest” he was essentially saying that Scottish football would be willing to bend every which way to appease them, and to give fans the illusion, however preposterous, that things could go on as before.
The media knows all of this too. They always have. Now they have an SPFL statement which openly threatens the future of the game and the application of the rules as we know them and so even they can no longer pretend this is a mere Celtic-Rangers issue and is about much, much more. Even they are aware that one heap of contradictions is being piled on top of another, one layer of farce on top of the layers already there … and that can’t be allowed.
The fans started out asking the media to help us. Not only did the media refuse to, but they coined the term Internet Bampots, which we appropriated as a badge of honour instead. We went from seeking their help to being their fiercest critics, and why not? Because they had open contempt for us, and in their wilful decision not even to look at our case and write about our fears they inspired our contempt in them. It defines our relationship now, a mutual contempt bordering on outright loathing, and thus is neutered one of the only forces that might have brought this matter to a close a long time ago; the combined efforts of all of us.
It’s time the media decided what it’s for.
Are they content to sit on the margins and write around this or are they going to finally, at last, take it seriously and what it means for the sport? Are they going to snap out of the lethargy, or come out from under the bed? Will they be part of the solution or part of the problem?
Grant Russell knows this stinks to high heaven. He’s not the only one who does. Neil Cameron wrote yesterday about how this matter simply will not die until the fundamental issues at the centre of it are resolved. They and their colleagues know something about this stinks, that it can’t stand up if its challenged robustly, that if it’s not challenged that it will pollute everything in our sport in a way that there’s no comeback from.
And it’s their duty to finally write it, I think. It’s their responsibility to the profession they are part of and the sport they all claim to love. They cannot be content to leave this stuff on the table; it will rot and it will stink more than it does right now.
This is their time for deciding which side they are on.