Tonight, as the SFA scrambles to limit the likely fall-out should they accept the Ibrox club’s appeal against the red card for Alfredo Morelos, part of the strategy looks like becoming clear; not only has the investigatory panel cited Jozo Simunovic, but according to STV they have also opened a hearing into an alleged dive by Oliver Burke.
The stratagem seems simple enough; let off the Ibrox players as well as those from our club, and pretend that it equates to some kind of balance. This is firefighting in anticipation of the fire. The SFA has tied itself in knots with its earlier decisions, and when Morelos’ case is heard the Ibrox club can point to past precedents when it tries to get him off.
Celtic, in the meantime, are being used as a convenient shield.
Clear everyone and nobody will look too hard at what the governing body is really up to; that’s the theory, I think.
Of course, I could be wrong. It may well be that we actually get presented with the ultimate hellscape scenario where two Celtic players get bans and the Ibrox cohort gets off free and clear … I doubt it. I don’t think even our board would accept that, although desperate for a quiet life.
In the end, if clubs aren’t prepared to do something about the appalling standard of officiating, the onus will fall on the fans. That’s not something the average supporter wants to hear. Some of those who are vocal in demanding that the club does more would be wholly unwilling to take the definitive step of actually voting with their feet.
And the SFA knows it, and survives on it.
Scottish football fans have only once ever threatened their own clubs to get change at the SFA, and it was such a success that the game is still impacted by it today. That was back in 2012, when the governing bodies were planning a stitch-up of monumental proportions which would have seen OldCo Rangers replaced in the top flight by the NewCo.
Fans have never made their voices heard more loudly. The defence of sporting integrity saved our national game. I have never doubted that for a minute. But fans failed to organise properly in the aftermath and so our position of strength was never built from. The results were that sporting integrity is undermined every other week by lax regulations and a disciplinary system which is at the point of total collapse. Fans still have the power to change it.
In the end, that’s what it’s going to come down to.
Celtic fans know what’s at stake here, and if they don’t then they should. The game in this country is not run right. Where the rules don’t contain loopholes so big you could get Derek Johnstone through them the rules we need simply aren’t there at all.
Scottish football is a mess. The SFA is presiding over an organisation that is both anarchic and archaic. The only way this will change is when supporters pressure clubs and the clubs in turn vote for the changes we really need. It will not happen otherwise.
I know this is a tough subject for a lot of our fans, but in the end this is probably going to take some form of away game boycott to move things.
And since the target is the SFA it stands to reason that the best way to do it is to boycott a Hampden match. But the SFA knows how unlikely that is; we’re talking here about semi-finals and finals and those are not games fans want to miss.
Yet the discussion is going to be had. Nothing is surer. It is going to be required. The governing body has no intention of reforming and if the clubs won’t do it then it’s up to fans.
Fan power has really made big changes, both here and elsewhere.
Tomorrow I’ll do a piece on the campaign by fans in England to have the price of away tickets in the top flight limited to £30 a shot. It was started in 2013, when Manchester City fans refused to pay £62 for a trip to Arsenal. They lobbied so hard their own club sent back a third of the allocation. By the start of the following season the Twenty’s Plenty campaign in England had changed the rules and got the first price caps set.
If English club fans can do that to get prices reduced, we can do it to get changes at the SFA.
The only thing that’s left still to be decided is how much our fans really want change, what are they willing to do to get it … and what’s it going to take before the line is crossed where we’re left with little choice but to take the action that’s required.
We have more than a dozen players out injured, in no small part because they are kicked all over the shop every single week. Another Ibrox club is spending its way to oblivion and nobody seems to care what impact that’s having on the game. Fit and proper person might as well not exist. The discipline system is an ever expanding disaster area and a lot of our fans now suspect it is being actively used for Operation Stop The Ten.
The campaign to change this will be the easiest one people ever take part in; that’s what makes it so frustrating that our problems haven’t been solved yet. It’s the ultimate in simplicity; it literally involves people doing nothing whatsoever.
“What did you do to change the SFA?” future generations will ask their parents.
“I stayed at home and watched the telly,” will be the reply.
It will make the kids so proud.
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