BBC Radio Scotland, in discussing Celtic’s statement, have focussed on the assertion in it that the clubs want a review.
Chris McLaughlin says he cannot find a single club which supports Celtic’s claim.
This is a blatant effort to put the onus on our club to prove this point. The dirty war is well and truly underway. This effort to paint this as a “Celtic only” issue is blatantly designed to weaken what support is out there for us.
If clubs do not want to defend the integrity of the sport, if they are content, indefinitely, to have football governance in Scotland run in the same disgraceful and corrupt manner as has been readily apparent since 2012, that is really between them and their own supporters. If fans accept this then truly they’ve lost all the authority they took into their hands during the Newco scandal of that year, and their clubs can basically do as they please.
Listen, as I say, that’s an issue for them.
Imagine, for a second, that Celtic is isolated here. Imagine that the media campaign succeeds in making us look like the only club who cares. Hell, imagine that we are the only club that cares, imagine that nobody else cares what’s gone on and what’s left to be uncovered.
Should that stop Celtic? Can that stop Celtic?
Of course not. As has been proved in recent weeks, individual clubs can take issues to UEFA and CAS. There is no need for Celtic itself to launch a judicial review, which would potentially put the club into conflict with UEFA. There are procedures for grievances such as this, and they involve taking this outside the remit of the SFA.
Tom English and others are to be commended for stating that they believe a review should take place; I wrote an open letter to the Scottish press just the other day, as regular readers will be well aware. A number of journalists have already called on the SFA to act.
This is more than welcome; it is appreciated, it is necessary, they need to do more but it deserves our thanks.
English, however, said today that Celtic has no recourse beyond the SFA, and in this he’s echoing a widely held view.
Except it isn’t true.
Celtic could take this to either UEFA or CAS, and we’re at the point where that has become possible. We have asked for an independent review; the SFA has refused. Celtic can demonstrate that they have been consistent in their position on this matter throughout. They can demonstrate that they have gone through the proper channels. Every avenue has been exhausted; that is now beyond all doubt. In spite of our best efforts these issues are unresolved.
We can now appeal directly to UEFA and CAS.
CAS’s position on this is laid out in the following paragraph on their FAQ.
“In the case of the appeals procedure, a party may lodge an appeal only if it has exhausted all the internal remedies of the sports organisation concerned.”
The SFA can actually refuse to agree to CAS participation. That option is open to them, but that would be absolutely untenable and would have dire consequences for the association. Celtic has a right to do this, and that cannot be constrained.
We can also make an official complaint to UEFA and request their direct intervention. Once again, it would require a demonstration that we have gone through official channels here in Scotland and that our efforts there have been rebuffed, a demonstration that should be relatively straightforward for us to make.
It is also patently untrue to suggest that Celtic could not pursue a claim against the SFA in a court of law. What is true is that UEFA would impose sanctions on our club but crucially also against the association itself if we pursued such a course … that would be a nuclear option which might threaten the national sport with serious collateral damage.
It is unlikely that we would ever make such a move, but that option does remain on the table, especially when one considers the financial element.
The granting of Rangers’ UEFA license in 2011 cost us a potential windfall of around £20 million or more. It is impossible to conceive of sanctions against Sevco, even if they were forthcoming, which come close to making that figure up. If Celtic were to threaten to pursue a claim for that money against the SFA for negligence in their licensing procedures that would be potentially ruinous for the association and I believe it would move this on.
All this is to say nothing about the rights of ordinary fans, and especially shareholders, to pursue their own legal remedies and to request the intervention of the courts, and whilst I put no faith in pursuing this action via the political establishment I still believe those organising a judicial review should attempt to secure support from Holyrood and Westminster, and to have this issue debated and discussed within the two Houses of Parliament.
Here’s the thing; I know for a fact that the political authorities are already deeply unhappy with the SFA over numerous issues, from youth football, protection of employees, minimum wage breaches and Strict Liability; I suspect that there are people in Holyrood who would view a campaign for an inquiry as an opportunity to get more involved in the running of the game. Their antennae will be twitching as the volume gets turned up on this, and that should scare the blazers at Hampden more than anything.
The SFA is attempting to stonewall. That position is untenable.
Other clubs have already given their views – including Sevco; their opinion could not be less important in the context of this – and those views are interesting, and in some cases infuriating, but they are in no way relevant to our ability to tackle this issue on our own if it comes to that.