There’s a report in one of the papers today that says Celtic and a number of smaller clubs have been working with Police Scotland to educate their youth players on the perils of organised crime. This is smart stuff, actually, but I can’t help thinking that the police are actually talking to the wrong people. The clubs aren’t the problem here.
I’ve written a lot of stuff on this blog about the wide-open nature of Scottish football. We have three major blind-spots where organised crime could find a way into the game, and not one of those things can be fixed by the clubs themselves.
The first is the complete failure to take fit and proper persons seriously. It’s an alarming hole in the defences. Anyone could buy a Scottish club or get onto the board of one, and the only thing we have standing in the way is the policy of “self-certification” where we rely on dishonest people to be honest about their dodgy intentions.
Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous and self-defeating? I mean, it’s ludicrous. The barbarians don’t need to wait at the gates of Scottish football, this is an open invitation to stroll right in there. Of all the stupid policies the SFA has, this is the worst.
The second gap in our protections is that the SFA appears not to care where the money to fund clubs comes from.
You have a team like the one across the city, with sources of financing which we can call opaque if we’re being generous, pulling cash out of thin air with nobody batting an eyelid. That club has posted losses every single year of its existence; who is keeping the lights on? How is it being done? Does the SFA know? Do they even care?
The day will come when a major Scottish club is being financed with the proceeds of crime, if not used outright as a laundry. We have no way of knowing if, indeed, it’s happened before or currently being done … and the SFA does not want to know either.
The third problem we have is with referees.
Look, Police Scotland is doing the right thing talking to young players about the prospects of being sucked into scams like match-fixing, but the truth is the bigger problem is staring us in the face with a culture that gives undue protection to officials.
Most of the time now, clubs don’t even bother to question baffling, often quite ridiculous, decision because they know it will not do a blind bit of good. Managers are sanctioned for it, yet no ref ever gets censured or demoted, no matter how ridiculous the “error.”
We had a group of officials recently who put their own personal enrichment ahead of public safety when they jetted off to Greece to do a game and came back with one of them virus positive.
The way our game has declared them to be some kind of protected species, the way their decisions are not even subjected to routine scrutiny, is an open door for them to be co-opted into all manner of dodgy schemes and scams … and know they could get away with it.
You can now literally bet on almost anything during a game, including the number of corners, bookings and whether or not there will be a penalty kick. The ability gamblers now have to “build a bet” actually increases the risk that certain matches and thus officials could be convinced to get involved in some sort of scam. We are mad to pretend this can’t happen.
Police Scotland’s campaign is certainly a good thing and I don’t want to knock it.
But they are focussed on the wrong people.
The governing body has left the game open to the possibility of corruption and until their own focus changes, this kind of thing will only have a minimal effect.