There’s a new sheriff in town. Not a lot of people know it, but the SFA has a new compliance officer and has had for a few months now. It also, as we know, has a brand new CEO. He too has been in place a matter of months, but sometimes it takes people a while to figure out the systems, to find out how to switch on the computers, to work out how pencils write.
I am being a cynic, of course. There may well be good reasons why the new administrators have taken so long to get their act together; perhaps we should just applaud the fact that they have.
Let me tell you a story. It is relevant to the point at hand.
Back in 1994, when John Smith died, the general assumption in many parts of the Labour Party was that the next leader would be Gordon Brown. A growing number of MP’s had another candidate in mind; most importantly, the person they had in mind had his own ideas on that score. He was, of course, Tony Blair. He and Brown had entered Parliament in the same year, they shared an office, they were friends.
“More like a marriage,” Blair actually described their friendship at one point.
A slight exaggeration maybe, but they were very close.
And to cap it all off, Brown, who had been the “senior partner” in their reforming endeavour, actually believed that they had a gentleman’s agreement that when the time came he was the one who would naturally slide into the top job.
“We had an actual conversation!” he shouted at Blair in one meeting, after he found out his friend was going to stand.
A series of meetings between them concluded, of course, with Blair standing and Brown taking himself out of the frame. But in return he was given unparalleled power. Blair virtually handed him a veto on all domestic policy. When they got into government three years later Brown became, as he’d been promised, the most powerful chancellor ever.
What Blair had inadvertently created was “a dual government.”
And that’s exactly what Brown understood it to be, complete with a “promise” from Blair that he would step down after a certain period of time and make way for him.
For large parts of Blair’s premiership, Brown blocked him and stymied him and screwed with his agenda.
He frequently managed to have entire policy initiatives reversed or upended. Many times people in the Prime Minister’s inner circle demanded that Blair get rid of him; “You’ll never be master in your own house until you do,” one senior aide told him.
And Blair would not do it. In part, out of some sense of loyalty and regret for the poisoning of their friendship, partly out of a sense of obligation to the man … but also partly out of fear of what Brown might do if his mighty power base was challenged. Brown came close to bringing Blair down several times only to back off at the last minute … he finally pushed hard enough during the “Curry House Coup” of 2006 and Blair announced a departure date.
Blair never got to achieve much of what he had planned to, including reform of the public services and taking Britain into the Euro because Brown closed those options off for him. He never was “master in his own house” because he not only allowed the perception to grow that there was another source of power in the land, but because he frequently gave in when that power actually challenged him on his own doorstep.
I’ve long believed that’s how the SFA should be viewing King and his renegade board; as a group determined to undermine the governance of the game for their own ends. The SFA cannot allow the perception that one club does at it likes and wields some form of power over them; too many people are watching now, and covering the issues. Too many people care.
And when you consider events since the start of this season, it’s blatantly obvious that the organisations at Hampden are being openly challenged by Ibrox.
They demanded, and got, the resignation of an SFA official.
They went after Murdoch MacLellan at the SPL.
They started issuing demands about “Celtic minded” directors recusing themselves from issues involving their club … no other board in the country would have made such demands.
On top of that, they’ve challenged officials over and over and over again. Gerrard openly said there had been a long-standing bias against “his” club … the guy was five minutes in the door before he started banging on like a ten year veteran of Ibrox paranoia.
He made those statements after the first game of the season … the first game.
And that they went unchallenged by Hampden over that clearly emboldened the club when it decided to go after their board members. At the AGM just the other day, they threatened to continue pursuing referees. In the name of “justice” of course, because nobody plays the victim card quite the way they do.
Their media allies are already crawling out of the woodwork to say that the club was “right” to criticise the Candelas decision; actually they weren’t, but that’s neither here nor there now. Their petulant, idiotic, inflammatory response to it is what they’ve been charged with here and that’s the correct decision too, no matter how much their fan sites are foaming at the mouth, no matter what lunatic statement the club releases in response.
Because this is a power struggle, and that much the club itself has made absolutely clear.
Their fans know it too even if they don’t want to admit it.
One barking Sevco fan-site says today that the club must fight this case “for the good of Scottish football”; that is howling mad nonsense and anyone who thinks Sevco cares about anything but its own interests really hasn’t been paying attention.
They could not give a damn about Scottish football and never have.
On top of that, over and over, in the past 12 hours, their supporters have invoked the referees strike of 2010 as if that actually helps their case instead of blowing the balls off it. If they had an iota of understanding about that beyond the simplistic “Celtic are bad” shit they base everything on, they would appreciate that nothing there was what it seemed.
For openers, our club was lied to and wanted something done about it, and we were fully entitled to be pissed off. But that strike was actually about two other issues; Hugh Dallas initiated it and then tried to use it to save his job when his sectarian email came to light and there was, of course, money at the back of it all … it was a wholly self-serving act.
They were striking for a raise.
They didn’t give a damn about harsh treatment at the hands of clubs, and they proved it when a ref who was actually physically man-handled by a Rangers defender during a game actually went to the player’s hearing and spoke up for him in the most craven manner.
Sevco fans really do labour under some bizarre fantasies. Their total lack of self-awareness is extraordinary at times, it really is. You have to see it to believe it.
The need for reform at the SFA has never been more clear.
Just this week, King announced that his club will simply keep racking up debts no matter what, as long as they can find mugs willing to transform those debts into equity everything’s golden. Except that it makes a mockery of every other club in the land which is operating on a break-even basis.
The need for FFP regulations in Scottish football is acute … and that’s just one example of what needs to be done.
Ibrox wants to wrestle control from the SFA so that it can block any proposal it doesn’t like … which will be anything that opens the game up to more scrutiny, which levels the playing field, whch brings true openness and transparency … anything that threatens King in other words.
The SFA will face a backlash here.
It’s already started in the press.
Tom English was the latest to snipe today.
Sevco’s response will almost certainly be venomous. Because they cannot be seen to back down. Neither can the SFA.
Blair’s failure to act on Brown was his undoing in the end.
After a particularly poisonous exchange between them the Chancellor threatened to expose Blair’s part in a “peerages for cash” scandal; a few days later, Jack Dromey, the Labour Party treasurer and a Brown ally, told a national newspaper that he and his colleagues had no idea that vast sums of money had come from individuals who went on to become Lords … the implication was that Blair and his fundraiser Michael Levy had gone outside the party’s structures to raise the cash.
The inferno consumed Blair. A meeting of MP’s at a curry house started the ball rolling and the letters demanding his resignation or announced date of departure started to flow. Within weeks, Blair had to do what he had least wanted to; he announced the date.
For too long he allowed someone else to set the terms of his leadership, and no real leader allows that or can afford to for too long.
It’s the same here.
Either the SFA is running Scottish football or Sevco is.
The power at Hampden cannot afford to lose that battle.
At last, Maxwell and his people have shown their teeth.
Let the games begin.
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