If you were wondering what had happened to the Ibrox Five (and frankly, we’ve all had more important things to worry about) then the answer came last night when a national title revealed that the club there is being “made to wait” to find out the final verdict as “discussions” have taken place without any decisions being made.
You note the clever use of language there?
It’s as if it’s the Ibrox club being inconvenienced here; they are the ones sitting on tenterhooks, being “made to wait” as if a grave injustice has been done or is likely to be done to them.
In the meantime, their players – who were caught breaching government protocols, otherwise known as “the law of the land” two months ago – are allowed to carry on playing football as if nothing had ever happened.
And what “discussions” are these which are being had?
Discussions between who? Between the SFA and the club? Is that the normal procedure in a discipline case, that “discussions” happen between the governing body and a party that has been found guilty already?
What are these “discussions” about? Has the SFA sat down with the club and actually asked them what verdict and sentence (if any) they would prefer?
Because that’s what it sounds like.
Before today ends we will probably get a verdict on the appeal and it will probably result in reduced sentences and someone will try to convince us that this represents justice.
But even if there’s no reduction, and even if the players involved were made to sit out even more games, they would all come during this campaign where the issues are already decided.
The process has been abused by the Ibrox club, and the SFA has allowed it to happen. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn from this shabby, and shady affair.
This is a joke now, a joke on the rest of the game. There is no justification whatsoever for an open and shut case like this to take this long to process and to complete from investigation to punishment. To understand how completely outside of the normal this is, you need look no further than the Bolingoli case, which of course involved Celtic.
From the incident itself until he was charged the time that elapsed was five days. From the incident itself until the punishment, there was a gap of just 19 days. Three weeks from the moment we informed the SFA of the offence, Bolingoli was serving a ban.
I think three weeks is a long time.
The SFA disciplinary process is glacially slow at times.
But in fact, this is about average, although fast track cases can be dealt with a lot quicker.
Three weeks is quite reasonable when you look at what’s happened here.
It took the SFA 23 days to even charge the Ibrox Five with the offence; longer than it took for the entire process to be completed with Celtic.
Between charging Celtic and the verdict, two weeks elapsed. In this case it was three weeks on top of the 23 days it took to charge them.
From the moment the SFA was aware of the offence, until the time they gave a verdict in the case, 44 days had elapsed. The verdict on the players was handed down on 30 March.
It was three days later that Ibrox decided to appeal, 47 days after the original offence for which all five players had been handed fixed penalty notices by Police Scotland for breaking the law.
Let’s be clear here; this is as cut and dry a case as the SFA has ever had to deal with. But it took them another 5 days to set a hearing date.
That was on 7 April. The hearing date was 13 days away, giving the Ibrox players the chance to play in the weekend’s cup semi-final, and the hearing was supposed to be yesterday.
66 days have now elapsed since the Ibrox players broke the rules.
Sixty-six days. Say it out loud. Their breach was clear. Their guilt is not in the remotest doubt. They were sanctioned for it by the police. Nobody disputes that they did it. Nobody questions the facts.
During that time the players have been available for selection in every game, and Patterson has played in three competitions including the one that the SFA runs. It makes a mockery of every club which has followed the rules.
And it casts a dark shadow on what our club suffered as a result of those rules, and our adherence to them. Because remember, aside from Bolingoli, no player in the Celtic squad has broken any of these regulations.
Our club has been assiduous in its practices and in maintaining its standards within our bubbles.
Dubai was an avoidable disaster but it was not a scenario in which we were in violation of any regulations as laid down by the government or in the SFA’s regulatory framework.
The club at Ibrox has been in violation of these regulations at least three times that we know of. What’s more, they have displayed a contempt for the lockdown as a whole since the day and hour it was first initiated, with their lunatic statement that the league title would not be legitimate unless games were played in front of full houses.
Then there is the general way they have sought to exploit this crisis at every single turn in the road.
This is only the latest example of that.
There are some who will say that this is none of our business.
There are some who will ask why we should care.
But the last time I looked we were a member club of the SFA and of the SPFL, and as a member club we have a right to ask why it appears, from whichever angle that you look at this thing, that something out of the ordinary has taken place here.
And as an SFA member club, who operates under the presumption that the rulebook is non-negotiable and that what’s in there has to be followed and that punishments and sanctions are to be handed down in any scenario where they are not, we are surely within our rights – and as a PLC answerable to its shareholders actually required – to seek answers on this matter, and to present those answers to the supporters in a timely manner.
Because it looks like special treatment, favourable treatment, at best and we are fully within our rights and acting responsibly if we query that.
Dominic McKay might as well get his feet wet on this one. This is his first week in the job, and this is not a situation which we can afford to simply turn away from.
Our club has been subjected to public shaming and censure at various times during this crisis, and we cannot be expected to stay silent as another is allowed to find every gap that opens up for them and exploit every loophole which exists, and which it seems to me have been stretched ever wider on their behalf. It simply cannot be allowed to stand.
This is not on the list of things which Dominic McKay can afford to ignore; indeed, I think he’s being tested here, and he has to make it clear from the start of his tenure that there are things we’re simply not going to allow to pass without a response.
If he does nothing here, the chances are that he’ll be seen as weak right out of the gate, and then this test will be the first of many, and by no means the stiffest he will face.
He cannot afford to give these people the impression that he can’t, or won’t, fight our corner.
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