Back in the late days of the Roman Republic, during the consulship of Cicero, an attempted coup took place which would have brought down the system of government and enshrined a dictatorship at the top of the state.
It was to happen eventually anyway, but Cicero opposed what became known as the Second Catalline Conspiracy, uncovered it and successfully prosecuted those involved.
For all his wondrous talents as an orator, and leader, he almost failed though.
Julius Caesar spoke out against the death sentence that the Senate had wished to impose on the conspirators, urging that they be imprisoned for life and all their property impounded by the government.
It was not that his plea for leniency had merit; many of the ruling class were afraid of him (Cicero suspected that he had been involved in the conspiracy and he was probably right) and wanted to appease him.
It was another of Rome’s great politicians, Cato the Younger, who turned the debate.
He excoriated the Senate for their weakness, and turned Caesar’s argument, that because the conspiracy had failed that there was no “capital crime” to punish, against him in the most brilliant terms, by pointing out that had it succeeded there would have been nobody of their number left to demand, far less exact, any punishment.
“Other crimes you may punish after they are committed,” he is said to have told them, “but as to this, unless you prevent its commission, you will … appeal to justice in vain. When the city is taken, no power is left to the vanquished.”
We in Scottish football almost had our own coup-de-tat in the summer, and the conspirators sit still amongst the governing bodies as though nothing had happened. In the Catalline Conspiracy, Cicero exposed Catalina, its head, early on … but he had to lay a careful trap for the others, men who still sat in the Senate house and even took part in the military councils being held to decide on what action to take. It was these men Cicero and Cato eventually passed judgement on.
Who passes judgement on our conspirators? Nobody.
The media took their side.
Even now, as Hearts threaten the whole of the game, the media is four-square behind them.
The press never bothers to ask what was really at the heart of this summer’s chaos.
They turned their guns on Doncaster, McKenzie and MacLennan and they continue to rail against them even now. The press would shoot those men down if they acted now in an effort to punish those who campaigned for their removal. It would be labelled an act of war, an un-necessary plunging of our game into anarchy.
But that’s exactly what Sevco, Hearts and Inverness tried to do here. To allow them to get away with that encourages them to believe they can try it again.
Anyone who believes that this was about Dundee’s vote is kidding themselves on. This was an attempt to decapitate the SPFL board … and that was not simply a matter of opposing the way a single issue was decided. Something much deeper was at play.
I called it an attempted coup, for that is what it was. It seems pretty clear, to me, who would have ended up sat at the head of the table had it succeeded. Those same three clubs, and the discredited jokers who run them. The media was already teeing Sevco up as the saviours of the game; don’t think for a minute that it’s ridiculous to suggest that they’d have ended up running the show, either themselves or through their proxies at Inverness and Tynecastle.
Because that’s exactly what would have happened here.
Sevco has run roughshod over the SPFL and the SFA for a while now. That they’ve been allowed to do so is what made them believe they could act as they did this summer, and the SPFL has left Stewart Robertson on its board and allowed the club to go unpunished.
This is a mistake that we’re all going to regret. Indeed, we’re regretting it already.
Had the SPFL board removed Robertson immediately, and had the SFA moved swiftly to sanction Sevco for bringing the game into disrepute, and whatever other charges they could levy, then perhaps Hearts and Thistle would have been dissuaded from pursuing their own grievances through the courts. It’s the pathetic non-response to what Sevco tried to do that emboldened those clubs into believing they could make their demands and get away with it.
Sevco levelled serious charges at Doncaster, McKenzie and MacLennan. The SPFL cannot make peace with a club that tried to do that.
It cannot allow Robertson, who leaked all manner of information, including details of commercial contracts to the media, to remain on its board of directors. It cannot allow smears against its representatives to stay effectively unanswered in the public domain.
They should have acted with the utmost ruthlessness here; Robertson should have been removed at once for violating his fiduciary duties. The club should have been brought up on charges. Their dossier should have been dismantled one paragraph at a time and shown up fully for the embarrassment that it was. Their smears should have been countered by legal threats.
The media claims that the game cannot have the governing bodies at war with “one of the biggest clubs”; but I ask you, when that club behaves so recklessly, when it acts so selfishly, when it sets out to destroy men’s careers in pursuit of its own goals, how can the game afford that?
How can it function if one renegade organisation is allowed to behave this way?
Sevco is just another club; the rest of Scottish football will not care a whit and will not be affected in the slightest if the governing bodies hammer down on them. Will it stop matches? No, but Hearts and Thistle might and yet much of the media seems to support them … I find the conduct of our media to be more indefensible than it’s ever been right now.
Had Sevco succeeded, God knows who would be running the SPFL right now but the chances are good that last season would have been voided, the League Cup would have been cancelled for next season, UEFA would be on the brink of banning Scottish clubs from participating in Europe and the game would be facing a mass of legal challenges.
And you know what? As Cato pointed out, with the barbarians not simply at the gates but inside the city walls it would have been too late to go “Oh wait a minute, perhaps we should have got a grip on this lot sooner …”
We might get away with it this time, but Sevco is not going to stop.
Their failure has not stopped them wanting to gut the entire upper echelon of the SPFL.
We know they believe Celtic to have too much influence, and they cannot allow that to continue … they will try again, and with Robertson still on the board and Park and others unpunished, the governing bodies have given them no reason not to think they can do so.
Next time, the game might not be so lucky.
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