One of the most unedifying things about the last campaign was the way that it closed out; not with the early finish, but with the way several clubs – the ones at Ibrox and Tynecastle come most to mind – tried to use the global healthcare emergency for their own selfish ends.
It really was quite something to see, an appalling example of grubby backroom dealing even as people were dying all around the country.
Those two clubs are still moaning about the outcome today.
Hearts tried to use it to save them from a relegation that was certain.
We know what the Ibrox club tried to use it for.
Their own campaign involved trying to bring down the heads of the SPFL, a shameless rabble rousing exercise which took advantage of a shambolic vote to cover their true intentions; as I’ve said before, this was an attempted coup.
Their complete lack of concern for the greater game was obvious. Hearts attempted to delay the pay-out to clubs whilst they grubbed around for a league reconstruction variant which might save them. The Ibrox club manufactured its dodgy dossier and then got its allies in the press to sell it. Both clubs tried to paint themselves as the only virtuous people in the game, when in actual fact they were the only ones using the sick and the dying in pursuit of their own goals.
I am still angry about it, as you can probably tell.
Today those events have been brought back into focus as the country prepares for the near certainty of another lock-down. As things stand, both Hearts and the club at Ibrox would be the principal beneficiaries of any attempt to end this season. The newspaper friendliest to the cause, The Daily Record, has an article up today pointing out who would win the league if the season was ended right now, which not a single person is talking about doing.
But this is the start of it, and the set-up for the greatest flip-flop in the history of Scottish football; two teams which last season demanded that every game be played are now moving into position just in case this one ends up in doubt, and they will do so citing the very precedent which they last season claimed was utterly corrupt.
You know what? If that’s how it goes then that’s how it goes.
None of us was in favour of calling the season early in the last campaign, but it had to be done and there was a recognition that only when it was done could clubs get their money and we could all start planning ahead. I didn’t want that to be the outcome, but I didn’t disagree with it either.
I wouldn’t really have any fundamental disagreement if this one had to end for the same reason, although calling it this early would certainly raise questions. We’re not even at the halfway mark of the campaign yet; last season were two thirds of the way through.
The SPFL doesn’t actually have the power to make a decision on this; at the moment it would go back to a vote of the clubs, and I reckon this time any such vote would be roundly rejected by the majority of the members. If we close another season early we might as well write off next season as well, and to be honest I’m increasingly of the view that we’ll still be deep, deep in this when that campaign gets underway, although we now have vaccines in circulation.
This thing is way ahead of us and everything we’ve tried to do so far. What’s worse is that we have a government in Westminster that is characterised by its sheer incompetence … I have no faith in them coming up with a coherent plan for stopping this thing now.
Football, like everything else, is up for grabs at the moment. I just don’t see any way in which we’re going to be sufficiently clear of this by July-August next year that we can entertain the idea of full houses at matches again. It’s just not going to happen.
Football is just going to have to adapt to this as the rest of us are. The “new normal” is going to last a while yet, and the Manhattan Project style endeavour which would pump out enough of this vaccine to get us all squared away early in the New Year still shows no signs of being put together.
It is increasingly apparent to me that what we’re going to require here is something on a different order of magnitude than anything we’ve seen before with this bug; a concerted campaign to virtually eradicate it from this island which will involve a tougher lockdown than the one we saw in May, something legally enforced, something truly draconian.
In those circumstances, football will be an afterthought. And then we’ll see the charlatans and the hypocrites comes forward in their droves. Once again their arguments will be framed around “the greater good of the game.”
No-one will be talking about null and voids this time.