“And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention …” – The Talking Heads.
The news yesterday that Scottish clubs are viewing the standoff between Ibrox and the SPFL over the cinch deal with extreme disquiet is not in the least bit surprising, and nor was the bizarre spin that the pro-Sevco media tried to put on the events at Fir Park, which are the cause of the latest bout of high anxiety from the rest of the teams in the league.
According to The Record (but of course; who else?) the decision to tape over the name of the league sponsor when the manager at Ibrox was being interviewed on Sky was a decision taken by the broadcaster itself and not by the clubs. This is an attempt to absolve the away club from any of the blame for what we all rightly regard as a pitiful stunt.
But whether the Ibrox club demanded it or Sky did it to appease them it is no less pathetic anyway and a sterling example not only of how everyone has come to accept their pettiness as a matter of routine but also of how the rest of the game has – shockingly – sought to come to terms with and even to accommodate their behaviour as if they were an unruly child that requires added supervision.
It is this bizarre and dangerous “normalisation” of their conduct that should worry other clubs the most, and it will certainly worry commercial partners now and in the future.
There are things that should never be normalised, or permitted to become normal. There are things which need to be stopped in their tracks before they get to that point, long before it in a case like this where so many clubs depend on that sponsorship cash..
The clubs fear that cinch could either withhold some of their sponsorship cash or ditch the deal altogether; either of those is a distinct possibility, but they aren’t even the darkest or most worrisome potential consequences of this.
If cinch pull out, where in God’s name does the league go next? Potential sponsors and partners are watching this and they must be aghast that Ibrox has been given the latitude to behave like this, and the way it is now apparently just something that the governing bodies and broadcasters accept and make allowances and compromises for.
Ibrox’s behaviour is only a small part of the problem now; the other clubs are entitled to ask why they haven’t been gotten back on the leash, and cinch themselves must be asking the same thing. The next time the SPFL sits down with sponsors the Ibrox question will be foremost on people’s minds, and what can our governors say when they are asked it?
“Oh we’ll do our best but … you know …?”
It is the way that those in authority roll over for them that will worry people with money to spend more than the club’s conduct does, because sponsors and other partners know they will not get the benefits of protection or assistance if Ibrox decides not to play ball.
This whole thing is a manufactured controversy and that has been clear from the very beginning of it when the club’s initial reasoning became public.
Their “pre-existing deal” is with their own chairman and he could have respected this deal as he saw fit, as I am certain other clubs have in the past in spite of similar “conflicts”.
Christ, the Scottish Cup has been sponsored by a betting firm for long enough; that hasn’t stopped their club and ours from having separate betting companies on our shirts.
The recent deal the SPFL signed with a company in the NFT business, and which Ibrox immediately renounced on the same flimsy grounds, is all the warning other clubs need that this was not a one of but is now a point of policy with them.
And where does that leeave us? Well, even in the best case scenario where the SPFL gets deals across the line, does this only happen after their club approves it?
Does Ibrox get an automatic veto now or what?
Who the Hell would do business with the league under conditions like that?
Because if Ibrox has a veto then so does Celtic Park, and if that’s true then every club in the league can spit out the dummy if they find a commercial deal in any way clashes with something they’ve got going on peripheral to it.
See, whether willingly or not, whether by accident or by design, the conduct of Ibrox threatens the fabric of the game in Scotland now. This affair isn’t just about this one deal, it destabilises everything the league does going forward and that is why club’s are worried and why they are right to be and its why the appeasement policy poses a clear and present danger to Scottish football … and still it is the one that our governing bodies pursue.
The insanity of this should be obvious, but it’s as if it just hasn’t sunk in for some people yet and unfortunately these are the people who run the game here. Individual clubs have started to grasp it and that’s all to the good … but unless those who are in charge get a grip on this (and they should have done so well before now) dire times are coming.