Regular readers know that I enjoy reading about history and politics, and to me it’s obvious that Scottish football governance has much in common with some of the more regressive regimes down through the ages; its defence of the indefensible, its reliance on propaganda and its defiance of public will to name just a few of the similarities.
You could write a book on the obvious parallels.
Who would have guessed, though, that the people who run our game would also reach for the playbook of one of the most calamitous series of governments that ever was; those which made up the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 17th and 18th century?
Those governments were famous for allowing their respective lands to be pillaged and fought over by just about every willing party.
The Commonwealth collapsed under the destabilising weight of political rivalries and civil wars and it was torn to pieces by its neighbours. Much of the chaos can be traced back to a simple parliamentary rule, one which I’ve written about before but never expected to see resurrected in Scottish football.
They called it the liberum veto.
It was proposed as a way to curb the power of the monarchy and those who wished to drag the parliament in an authoritarian direction.
Simply put, it was a rule which allowed any member of that assembly to stand up during a debate and say either, in Latin, “Sisto activitatem!” or in Polish “Nie pozwalam!”; literally, “I stop the action!” or “I do not allow!”
And at that point, any proposed law or change to the government would be defeated.
Think about that for a moment.
It’s wide open to corruption of all shapes and sizes and sorts. Indeed, over the decades, the Commonwealth went through 57 varieties of torment as a result of it as vetoes were bought, sold, coerced and threatened … and the attendant result was that almost all legislation ground to a halt and the country was easy pickings for its enemies.
The historical precedent is there for all to see it, and the consequences of such a stupid rule are obvious at once. Yet when the SFA was putting together its disciplinary committees and setting up its structures, this was the idea it seized upon for its incident review panel.
They put in place a three-person board to take a look at major incidents during matches, but instead of doing what normal organisations would do and giving that board a process which worked by simple majority they gave it the liberum veto instead.
So now, whenever an incident goes in front of their three-person committee it takes just one of them to say the case has no merit and it doesn’t matter what common sense suggests or what the other two members think of it. The issue dies there and then.
Such a rule would clearly be nonsensical even if the SFA’s process was open and transparent and we knew who was making such decisions and what their rationale was. Yet we have secrecy here that would have shamed the Politburo.
Look, there are people who think that it’s better that decisions made by these types of boards are made anonymously but I’m not one of them. If our parliamentarians can send kids off to die and kill other kids in war and have those votes recorded where the public can get at the records, then there’s no justification that can be argued with conviction for why the SFA’s decisions can’t be laid out where ordinary supporters can go and examine them.
I defy anybody to give me a reason that makes a blind bit of sense why things should be done in the manner we currently accept. Forget basic fairness for a second; even concern for the image of the game is clearly not important to the people who insist on this lack of scrutiny.
Even if it hasn’t resulted in corrupt decision making thus far, it is not difficult to foresee circumstances in which it could. At the very least, it stops people from having to explain the decisions they make and so we’ve got no way of knowing how much faith we should have in those who are making them.
There doesn’t have to be corrupt intent for decisions to emerge which boggle the mind.
When you consider that the liberum veto has been applied here, you have to accept that basic stupidity itself has certainly not been rooted out of the Hampden offices, and if that’s true at the top of the tree it surely inspires dread to think of how much of it may be rampant within the ranks of former refs. We’ve seen decisions throughout the years that make it clear that some of the potential committee members aren’t going to be appearing on Mastermind.
I recall one report, during the referee’s strike, which said that if our refs had to sit the same proficiency exams as they do in England and on the continent that almost three quarters would have failed and been drummed out of the ranks entirely. Have standards improved that much?
With John Beaton, Andrew Dallas and Willie Collum at the summit?
You’ve got to be joking, right?
But even if you imagine that there have been radical leaps forward in the current generation of refs – stop laughing for a second and try – we know that those who came before them weren’t exactly setting the IQ charts on fire with sheer brain power.
It’s those whose judgement we’re relying on here, and what that association has done is hand over all the decision making power to the stupidest person in the room, if not the one with the least interest in an outcome based on fairness and justice.
Only the SFA could have conjured that up. Only they would send out a press release advertising their own lack of a clue and hope that it provided fans and managers and players with reassurance. All it did was remind us, as if we needed it, about how out of touch they are and how much the game here needs real leaders who know what they’re doing.
We are a long way from the light at the end of this tunnel folks.
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