The World Cup will kick off in Qatar next week and everyone knows that it will be the start of one of the most corrupt competitions in the history of the sport. Everyone, everyone, is still aghast at the way in which the lamentable decision to award it to them was made.
The recent Netflix documentary about FIFA lays bare the madness of giving the game’s showpiece competition to a Middle Eastern country which didn’t have a stadium built, had no infrastructure plan and where the actual playing of the game in the months it was scheduled for was a physical impossibility. The decision is absolutely indefensible.
I enjoy listening to people in our game moralise about the corrupt state of football abroad. You’d think we had no scandals of our own. You’d think the people we allow into our sport here were squeaky clean. We all know that’s miles from being accurate.
A few years ago, I decided to put together an article on Scottish football’s own record, and I was astonished that it started to grow in a hundred directions.
I quickly realised I’d need to break it down into segments. The challenge of doing so inspired me to a little intellectual exercise; I decided to do it as an A-Z, and initially I published it in separate chunks.
The finished piece, The A-Z Of Scottish Football Corruption, which you can read at the end of this article, is still mind-boggling to contemplate years later.
Today, even as I ponder that piece and the coming World Cup, Dave King is “jetting in” for the Ibrox AGM, and he serves as a reminder of what the SFA itself has allowed over the years.
There has probably never been a less “fit and proper person” to be in charge of a football club in the history of this country, even accounting for the scandals of Romanov at Hearts and Di Stefano’s attempt to buy a major share in Dundee.
King’s plea-bargain was signed just weeks before he was welcomed to the game here by a fawning media and a toothless governing body and his entire time at Ibrox was an object lesson in how one man could cause chaos and division and corrupt everything he touched. Let’s not forget that his tenure at the club ended with the London Takeover Panel sanctioning him, in a case where he was accused of all manner of delaying tactics and misleading statements.
We have a game here where the SFA hired a misogynist and bigot run out of England, and he’s now an SPL boss. Yes, I’m talking about Malky McKay, who the governing body should never have allowed near a major job. We have a convicted drug dealer managing another top flight team. At the weekend, St Mirren drew with the Ibrox club. At the centre of their defence was a guy who has a criminal conviction and served time for baseball batting a guy in a carpark after a wedding. Which is to say nothing for how long David Goodwillie was allowed to parade around in a football strip when the whole world knew exactly what he’d done.
I could go on and on and on. Scottish football has its own share of scandals, and as we’ve seen this weekend – again – the only reason that we’ve not been engulfed by a match-fixing one or corrupt refereeing one is that we refuse, point blank, to even entertain the idea that such a thing could happen here. As though this game were whiter than white.
I don’t know who we’re trying to kid sometimes.
This World Cup will be a travesty, of course, being played at the wrong time of the year, throwing the whole global game into chaos, and helping to burnish the reputation of a country where an estimated 6000 labourers and workers have died just to get here.
That’s a lot of blood for football to have on its hands, but maybe Scottish hacks and those around our game should be careful about moralising too much. We are not squeaky clean.