T is for Turnbull Hutton
If ever a single word summed up the crazy summer of 2012, it was the one the late chairman of Raith Rovers said standing on the steps of Hampden on the way in to vote on whether or not to let a brand new club start in Scotland’s second tier.
The SPL had already voted Sevco out of their league; Regan and Doncaster were determinedly ramping up the pressure to have them start in the second tier instead. They had tried bribery. They had tried intimidation. They had produced Scottish football’s own version of the “dodgy dossier” and leaked it to the press. It spelled out the catastrophe that awaited the game if the new Ibrox club was made to start at the bottom.
The whole thing was transparent cobblers, of course, because anyone could tell that having Sevco climb the divisions would have spread more money to those leagues than many of their clubs would ever have seen. The nonsense that the top flight would miss a club calling itself Rangers for four years (hilariously, it turned out to be five) was equally barking; the fans had been the ones who insisted upon it and the clubs had followed suit.
It was fan pressure that was holding back the tide as much as anything, but fans on their own could never have gotten this done. We needed a leader, someone who would say what was in all of our minds, someone with the gravitas to make his voice heard.
The wait for such a figure seemed to be taking forever, and then, all of a sudden, there he was.
It is difficult to state the enormity of what Turnbull Hutton did for Scottish football that day at Hampden.
He paused in front of the media and agreed to talk on camera.
“I think Raith Rovers’ position has been perfectly clear,” he said, in reference to the club’s official statement which had said they intended to vote no to Regan and Doncaster’s grubby stitch-up. “We’ve been lumbered with this,” he said of his fellow SPFL clubs. Then, getting to the heart of it, he said what few had been willing to. “There are rules and we feel that those rules should be followed … (Sevco) should apply for the Third Division.”
He could have left it at that, and none of us would have thought less of him, but he was angry that day, as we all were, and what he said next changed the whole debate. When he was asked for his take on the declarations of doom he was unequivocal that he did not believe a word of it.
When asked if he felt his club and others had been “railroaded” he agreed.
“Railroaded, bullied, lied to … we’ve been lied to by the SFA, SPL … we’ve been bullied, threatened. It’s not football as I know it … it was a ridiculous document that came out last week whereby the threat was there that if you don’t vote for an acceptance into the First Division (for Sevco) that a breakaway SPL 2 will come along and those that didn’t vote won’t be invited … What kind of game are we running?”
The interviewer asked him what he thought the answer to that was and his response became the by-word for the whole affair. “Corrupt,” he said.
Thank you Turnbull, thank you for saying what the rest wouldn’t.
Scottish football will never forget your courage or determination to stand up for what was right.
In the following years he would see his club subjected to further harassment, this time due to Ally McCoist’s tub-rattling which resulted in attempts being made to burn Raith Rovers’ stadium down … through all of it, the never flinched from telling it like it was.
The game misses him and that kind of integrity.