The Latest Ibrox Horror Story Shows Why SFA Reform Is Celtic’s Critical Unfinished Business.

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Whenever someone says “Tony Blair” to me, I automatically think “Iraq.”

He was the Prime Minister for more than ten years, but whatever good he imagines he did for the world when he looks in the mirror, Iraq will be in the first and last lines of his obituary, and his taking us into that illegal war will taint his name for all time.

Iraq is his legacy, as Brexit belongs to David Cameron, as Clinton will be forever be associated with the Monica Lewinsky affair, as Watergate and Nixon will forever be inseparable.

To use a non-politics example, off the top of my head, murdering hundreds of people is the only thing the world will ever remember about Harold Shipman.

Nobody you say his name to will ever tell you what a great doctor he was.

This is dark immortality.

In the great movie, The Insider, Christopher Plummer, playing the veteran journalist Mike Wallace, rounds on an CBS executive who suggests that a scandal at the broadcasting giant can be overcome because “these things have a half-life of 15 minutes.”

“No,” Wallace tells him. “That’s fame. Fame has a 15-minute half-life. Infamy lasts a little longer.”

In point of fact, infamy lasts a lot longer.

Celtic’s board of directors labours under a profound misconception about how future generations of our fans will recall them when they’ve gone.

I’ve long joked on here that Peter Lawwell, in his heart of hearts, believes that he’ll be the CEO who gets his name on a stand or a room in the building or a statue in the carpark.

People always assume I’m joking, but there’s a core of truth in it, because I know he really does believe that he, more than any manager, is the architect of our successes. I daresay Dermot Desmond has the same mistaken impression, and suffers the same delusion.

But if an Ibrox club wins a league title whilst financially doped to the gills, with sources of financing which are opaque and muddy, playing, in effect, the same shady games as the club which was there before, and whether that title is the one we’re chasing right now or another in the future, then that’s the ball game and Lawwell and these guys will have their place in history.

Regardless of what they believe, that will be their legacy.

Let me be clear; Celtic fans have no problem with our club failing, on a level playing field, when we’re just beaten by a better outfit, whether in a match or over the course of a campaign.

But Celtic fans are sick and tired of being robbed and cheated and disenfranchised by unscrupulous opponents, protected by lax regulations and the unwillingness of Celtic’s directors to confront those issues. We’ve had too much of it already.

The events of 2012 offered us the chance to change this game and to make what happened at Ibrox before impossible in the future.

Clubs built on debt are cheating the rest of the sport, it’s as simple as that, and the historical case of Rangers proves that they endanger it as well.

The case for reform is overwhelming. The case for Financial Fair Play in domestic leagues is an argument that’s already been had, and won, all across football … failure to introduce it in Scotland has but one beneficiary.

Celtic had a chance to close that door forever when Rangers fell into liquidation and our failure to do that is breathing down our necks.

Yesterday’s revelation, by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, that the Ibrox club is behind in its taxes even as it leaks to newspapers that it might be interested in signing Kenny McLean in the January window, should come as no surprise to regular readers.

We’ve been saying for an age now that their club is in dire straits and is only getting by on the issuing of equity confetti.

The Ibrox club has bet everything on winning this title and being a step closer to Champions League Group Stage football.

But if they do win the title this year then that gamble might pay off.

Our club should have been alert to this in the way some of the bloggers have been.

There is not, and there has never been, any virtue in ignoring what they are getting up to over there and “focussing on ourselves”.

It is madness.

Those Celtic fans who’ve spent the last few years trying to tell the bloggers what we should and shouldn’t be interested in … if Gerrard wins the title, will you be interested, then, in how they did it?

Will you care then on what basis it was done?

We scrutinise two clubs on this site; ours and theirs.

We scrutinise ours because we care about it and want the best for it.

We love Celtic, that’s why we’re here.

We scrutinise theirs because we care about Celtic and want the best for Celtic and we love Celtic and their club dedicates every minute of its existence trying to usurp us and they do not care what they have to do in order to achieve that goal.

What they are doing right now is tantamount to cheating, and the reason we don’t call it that is the definition doesn’t appear anywhere in the SFA regulations, because on the subject of financial fair play those SFA regulations do not presently exist.

But some of us are not willing to call it anything else, for want of some words in an SFA rulebook.

We’ve seen what happens when everyone in Scottish football looks the other way as an Ibrox club runs up massive debts to fuel the supremacist fantasies of the Peepul.

I can only say that those in our support who want us to ignore them completely are not people I would ever want in charge of national defence. There is falling asleep at the wheel and there’s getting behind it and fiddling with your phone whilst your foot is on the accelerator.

If their club was willing to play it straight, live within its means and come after us fairly, then it would be nobody’s business but theirs and we could get on with covering Celtic with only the most occasional trip across the city to laugh or mock or poke fun at their delusions.

But that’s not who they are, and the rest of the game is perfectly happy to stand back and watch as this club tries to defy the laws of financial gravity, as if what happened in 2012 had never come to pass at all, as if that year has been erased from the histories and things are more or less just as they were before the administration and liquidation of Rangers.

if it’s not clear, now, why we need to keep a permanent eye on what they do over there I don’t know what evidence of it you’re waiting for. Steven Gerrard holding the league trophy maybe.

I’ll tell you how it looks from where I’m sitting, and I write this as a guy who once described his teenage years as “watching Tories win elections and watching Rangers win leagues.”

I write this as a guy who saw their nine in a row and had just about all I could stomach during it.

I write it as someone who’s looked into that period and what came after it enough that I could (and one day will) write a book on it, and I can tell you that what bothers me most about it all now isn’t the fact of it, but the way it was done. Because I now know we paid for all of it, that the whole thing was built on debt and that when the taxman nationalised HBOS during the financial crash of 2008-09 that you, me and everyone in this country paid that bill.

Even without EBT’s, we, the taxpayers, paid for every league and cup.

Rangers didn’t win titles off their own back … they won them on our backs. The Murray years over there were like a great big free-for-all, a big open bar celebration of their “culture”, with their foot on our throats, almost killing our club in the process, and after it was over they all cleared out of the bar and stuck us with the bill.

I write this as a guy who knows all that and what I see is a financially doped club calling itself Rangers, with much of the media cheering them on, with the SFA sitting mutely on the side-lines, no questions asked about how they can afford an over-bloated squad of players on high wages, a club which has never posted a profit, not once, in its near decade of existence, and they are sitting at the top of the league, and who this summer spent millions of pounds on players whilst behind on their taxes.

And it would take a stupid person not to see that there’s a very familiar pattern to this, that this picture isn’t new, that we’ve seen it all before … and the question that automatically comes to mind is why in God’s name this was allowed to happen again?

That question has an answer; we’re here because our club did not do enough to prevent it. We’re here because Financial Fair Play doesn’t exist in Scotland and the SFA’s licensing policies still allow a club from Ibrox to spend money it doesn’t have. We’re here because our club has lamentably failed to reform Scottish football and the SFA doesn’t’ want to.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, who wrote last night’s outstanding exclusive, has published a new article today where the key term is “moral hazard.”

As he put it to me earlier on the phone, “people (or Peepul if we’re being accurate) will do whatever you allow them to do.”

The only thing that stops most of us from behaving in any way we please are rules and regulations. In 2012, the SFA would have allowed NewCo Rangers right back into the SPL, with all the debts wiped clean and all the sins forgiven … it would have been a catastrophe for the integrity of our sport, but they ignored that and told us, instead, that Rangers was considered “too big to fail.”

Moral hazard describes a situation where one party can assume gigantic risks knowing full well that someone else will pick up the bill in the event of failure. Phil’s use of the phrase today distils, quite brilliantly, the situation Scottish football faces right now, with Ibrox running up the bar-bill knowing that the rest of us will have to pay the tab.

And one way another, that’s exactly how it will go down.

If they succeed in winning this title and reaching the Champions League Groups, then we’ve all been mugs for thinking this was a level playing field and hoping that everyone would treat it like one.

If they collapse, they know the media and the governing bodies will not allow any new entity which emerges to start in the bottom tier again.

And so they see this as representing no risk to them at all … the risk falls on the rest of us.

I cannot stress enough how much damage it will do to our club if a financially doped side from Ibrox gets its hands on an SPL title.

It will, in itself, be a Year Zero moment for Celtic.

All the good of the past decade will be washed away, squandered by a board of directors that in 2012 had won the war but then conspired to lose the peace.

And that’s what we’ll remember them for.

Tony Blair had as many accomplishments to his name as Labour leader and Prime Minister as any of his predecessors save perhaps for Clement Atlee.

He introduced the minimum wage, devolution for Scotland, he helped secure peace for the North of Ireland, he created the Department for International Development, got through the Civil Partnerships Act, his government extended rights for maternity pay, sick leave and they signed the Social Charter …

I could go on. His achievements as Prime Minister are many and lasting.

The achievements of this board are many, and lasting, too.

But Iraq will be in the first and last lines of his obituary, and it is the reason why I can’t even say his name without a curse at the start or at the end.

There are some things which erase all the good that came before them and taint everything that came afterwards.

Our directors may not fully understand that yet.

I hope to God they never have occasion to.

One thing is perfectly clear though; the time for real reforms at the SFA is here, it’s current, it will never be more important.

This is Celtic’s great unfinished business … and the failure to get this job done may yet have profound consequences for our club.

If it does, those consequences will be the legacies of every single person who sits in our boardroom.

It is what they will be remembered for, and they will be damned for it.

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