Date: 5th May 2020 at 6:47pm
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Someone in Scottish football seems to have studied Cold War American politics.

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy gave a speech where he claimed he was holding a list naming the Communists who had taken over the US government.

A media frenzy followed but the actual ‘proof’ was never published.

The allegations instead were enough to trash reputations and destroy lives.

The event became known as ‘McCarthyism’ and it led to huge numbers of Americans in political and public life being hounded from their jobs.

And, as noted above, all of this achieved without actually having to reveal the original ‘evidence’.

Recent developments in the ongoing SPFL civil war seem to mirror the McCarthyite trials of the 1950s.

The back story is well known.

The SPFL board put forward a motion to all members clubs asking to end the season in the bottom three divisions, and possibly do the same in the top league with no matches being played and no opportunity to use your betregal bonus code for keen punters.

The purpose of this was to let the SPFL pay monies to all clubs, allowing them to continue to function during the Covid-19 shutdown.

However the vote was a debacle. False deadlines were announced, results given before there was actually a result and, most notably, Dundee changed their vote.

Anyone wishing to criticise the SPFL board for this moger would be on strong ground. But that wasn’t enough for some.

Instead we have seen various on- and off-the-record media briefings, revealing private conversations and making claims about the honesty of key SPFL figures.

And most explosively of all, we have the now infamous – and as yet unpublished – dossier.

The Ibrox club claim that they have evidence of intimidation and potentially even corruption in the voting process.

Yet strangely – and like the McCarthy experience – this proof has not yet seen the light of day.

Ahead of a special SPFL meeting on 12 May, the dossier will be presented to all member clubs.

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In the 1951/52 season, SFA chairman George Graham tried to stop Celtic from flying the Irish tricolour flag over Celtic Park, leading to a bitter stand off between him and the club. Which Scottish club backed Graham over his stance?

If there was truly clear evidence of something amounting to corruption, it would surely already be in the public domain, whether officially or leaked to a friendly journalist.

As with Joseph McCarthy, that was never the point; SPFL clubs are not the target audience.

Instead this is all about Sevco’s fans and their club’s footballing failings.

The start of season 2019-2020 offered much hope to those that frequent Ibrox; it contained a genuine belief they were ‘going for 55’.

And the season’s opening seemed to back this up, so much so that Celtic’s Ibrox visit in August was being touted as a potential walkover.

Which it was, just not for the team that play in blue.

Still, Sevco regrouped. They enjoyed success in Europe, reached (but lost) a cup final, and won at Celtic Park in the final game of 2019.

Their Holy Grail was in sight. The excitement was palpable. And then off came the wheels.

2020 was a domestic disaster for everyone at Ibrox.

Knocked out the Scottish Cup by the Premier League’s bottom team, numerous points dropped and trailing well behind a near unstoppable Celtic.

Questions were now being seriously asked of Steven Gerrard, his management team and many of the expensively assembled squad.

Without hope of silverware, fan anger was building.

There was even worries about how they could be inspired to part with the cash desperately needed for season 2020-2021.

How do you inspire fans with the prospect of watching their great rivals make footballing history, possibly after having already secured a quadruple treble?

And then came a global pandemic, bringing with it the chance to do what they couldn’t do on the park: stop Celtic.

Voiding the season – clearly the preference for many associated with Ibrox – would stop Celtic’s nine-in-a-row and give them another season to try to ‘stop the ten’.

And even if that was never going to get footballing support, it had another advantage.

Now the club had a way to rally the fans, with talk of conspiracy and cheating, and an implication that this was being secretly orchestrated by Peter Lawwell and Celtic.

There doesn’t have to be any evidence, the very thought that it could be true would be enough to galvanise the support to stand up against Celtic.

And renew their season tickets. And buy next season’s strips. And on and on and on…

The SPFL’s response to this has been significant.

Often these events see the accused side hide, preferring to not engage in public battles, possibly in the hope that the issue will simply disappear.

Given that this was clearly not going to happen instead the SPFL came out publicly swinging.

Neil Doncaster’s Saturday appearance on BBC Sportsound was impressive for its simple clarity.

Each point put to Doncaster was easily batted away and disproven.

Even if some on the panel seemed desperate to create a ‘gotcha’ moment, which never came.

For instance, the inability to understand the definition of ‘loan’ was a bizarre experience.

Either many of the people promoting claims of intrigue don’t understand basic legal and financial rules, or do but choose to ignore them.

One jibe which has long existed in Scottish football is that Celtic fans are paranoid, believing in conspiracies where none exist.

There are times when this is possibly true for some fans.

But when Celtic as a club have officially complained it has been backed by a weight of evidence.

Fergus McCann is remembered for taking on the SFA and its then Chief Executive, Jim Farry.

McCann claimed Farry had stopped Celtic registering Jorge Cadete, and at first were ridiculed for this.

Except McCann was proven exactly right, and Farry exited stage left.

More recently – in 2010 – Celtic claimed a referee had lied about the reason behind a penalty decision.

Again there were cries of paranoia, before the evidence once more showed otherwise.

Which presents Rangers – and the media – with a challenge.

If publication this coming week of the dossier confounds expectations and includes real substance to Sevco’s complaints, it will cause an earthquake.

The media will lead with the story for days, and there will no doubt be attempts to reverse the earlier vote.

But if not, then the scale of the coverage must be no different.

Joseph McCarthy’s career eventually came to a shuddering halt, his own political institutions condemning and casting him out.

If Sevco have exaggerated or outright made up their evidence, this cannot simply be a story which is allowed to die.

The Ibrox club would deserve the same fate which eventually befell Senator McCarthy.

Matthew Marr is a Celtic fan and blogger. He is a regular contributor to this website.

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