Celtic Fans May Have A Decision To Make On Whether They Want To Watch A Rigged Game.

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About fifteen years ago, two years after a lot of other people, I found myself an unexpected fan of a fantasy series on HBO called Game Of Thrones. I had two seasons of it downloaded and had never watched either. Season 2 had just finished though, and it ended to such rave reviews that I thought I would check it out.

One of the things that made Thrones so compelling was the absence of what critics and fans call Plot Armour. In other words, even the characters who seemed essential to the story could die at any moment in it. The plot did not serve them, they served the plot. Which is thrilling when you are watching it or reading it for the first time.

What made the later seasons so grim to slog through was that that crucial element was removed from the equation. And once your characters are so beloved by the makers and the fans that they are essentially beyond harm, the story is predictable and even boring. This is what absolutely killed another massive show I got into at the same time; The Walking Dead. It, too, had thrived by doing what no-one expected … until it became safe and samey.

Here’s a little exert from Mad Magazine, and their send up of a Star Wars match-up.

Yoda: Kill you, I cannot! But kill me, YOU cannot!
Emperor Palpatine: Because we are equally-matched opponents on opposite sides of the same almighty Force?
Yoda: No, because already released have the sequels to this movie been! And in them we both appear! Problem this is with prequels – no suspense can there be when already we know which characters live!

When I was writing, the other day, about the WWE story involving “Drew McIntyre” I said that when my girlfriend of that time and I broke up I lost any interest I had in that stuff. I used the analogy of drifting away from a TV show you’ve gotten into as a reason why Celtic should think long and hard about what happens if fans think they’re not watching a real sport.

Well, I lasted all eight seasons of Games Of Thrones, even after it accelerated past the finished books and the two show-runners started to ditch the things that had made it so good.

But I didn’t get through The Walking Dead, because that show lost me at some point and after investing more than eight years in it, I didn’t get around to watching Seasons nine and ten for a long time after they aired … and I’ve not seen the final seasons yet.

Think of what it takes to invest that span of time in one thing, and an episodic one at that. These shows air once a week, the same as the football calendar in a sense, although we have more games in a season than the average show has episodes.

So to put eight years into something, as I did The Walking Dead, and to watch, in that span of time well over a hundred episodes, and to invest in characters and the situations they find themselves in, and then to chuck it just like that … think of the level of frustration that has to be building, for a long time, before you actually say “Enough of this already.”

That’s how a lot of our fans feel about the lack of SFA reform and how our club deals with issues that arise from it, and with Beaton getting Sunday’s game that feeling has never been stronger.

There are a lot of Scottish football fans who feel exactly the same way. There hasn’t been a champion from outside Glasgow for nearly 40 years. Their clubs are playing the role of also-rans. They support their teams because that’s what you do … but there must be times when the act of going week after week seems futile and daft, and that’s because they’re outgunned, that’s because the script seems to be written before a first day ball is ever kicked.

For a club like us, one which consistently wins things, you’d think it would be easier to keep the fan-base happy and entertained. But in some ways, it’s harder, and it’s especially hard right now for Celtic fans and that’s not because we’re in a close race when we really ought to be out of sight. It’s because some of us can’t help but feel that we’re not taking part in a straight game.

Listen, there has always been a view amongst our fans that the SFA and sections of the media have been institutionally biased against us. It’s not a new idea.

But since Fergus overthrew an SFA President and the Big Tax Case uncovered the corruption of another one, and after that series of events led to the creation of the Internet Bampots, the awareness of this has only grown. With sites like Celtic By Numbers even breaking it down for us, it’s never been more obvious.

The fact that we’ve been successful does not, as some people would suggest in order to get us off the subject, prove that this isn’t happening; it proves only that Jock Stein was right when he said that we have to be good enough to make the officials irrelevant, and over the course of several years we have done that to a quite extraordinary degree.

Those who make this spurious claim, that because we’re still winning things that we can’t be suffering that much, appear to believe that football is like horse racing; that when one horse gets to be so much better than the rest that you handicap it by putting ever increasing amounts of weight on its back to give other horses a chance to compete.

But this game is special because it’s not like that at all. You don’t hobble one side to give another side a chance. That’s called cheating in this sport, and nobody wants to watch that and if people think it is going on then nobody will.

Even if you break the game down to just its entertainment level, this is like putting plot armour on all your main characters … and it doesn’t matter how many years they’ve given to the show, eventually they will walk away from it and you’ll never be able to replace them with a new generation.

“Aaaah,” some will say, “but football has an emotional element and it’s not just entertainment,” and they, of course, are correct.

In a sense, though, that makes it worse … how can you stay emotionally invested in something when you’re being taken for a mug? Would you stay in a relationship like that? A friendship?

Ask any fan in Scotland over a certain age and they’re already worried that we’re going to need all the help we can get in keeping the next generation interested as it is.

We’ve got to compete with the global super clubs, particularly those in the EPL. One club dominance up here is bad enough. If the only way to challenge that is by cheating then that affects every other club as well … and you’ll lose people on that basis alone.

It’s worse for Celtic fans because we’ve already watched a rig game. We watched one for over ten years without actually knowing it, but we do know that when the evidence of that was presented and made public that nothing was actually done about it, and that includes by our own club. That is one of the reasons for the distrust in the current board.

No Celtic fan of my generation, or the current one, will ever tolerate that again.

If you can handle another pop culture reference, can you imagine Annie Wilkes from Misery ever going to see another Rocket Man chapter play after he’d somehow got “out of the cockadoodie car” when she’d seen it go over a cliff with him still inside it?

No, me neither, and fair play to her for losing it over that.

Yesterday morning, I wrote a piece about what our club should do in the event that we lose this league title to an “Honest Mistake.” I cannot stress enough how important it is that we make that known beforehand, and that we react forcefully should it come to pass.

Here’s what will be unacceptable; any scenario where such a decision cost us this title and the club does not react properly to it and then asks us to stump up money to watch the same thing next season.

After this club’s inaction has effectively conferred plot armour on the club from Ibrox and their SFA enablers, Celtic will have no business asking us to pay to watch more of it.

I certainly won’t do it, and I know plenty of others who feel the same way. Why should we? The emotional investment, the time out of our lives which we could otherwise spend, and at a financial cost that’s increasingly difficult for so many people to afford … to watch a stitch up?

To believe every week that we’re not so much being handicapped as outright cheated?

No, it’s a brass neck to ask, and expect, fans to do that and especially not when such a scenario has been foremost on everyone’s minds all season long and that more and more the threat of it, the risk we’re taking, has grown until it feels imminent.

To be honest, it will be tough enough retaining some of us if we lose this title fairly and the chairman doesn’t immediately announce that he’s stepping down at the AGM which follows.

His presence is, as I’ve said, an insult to all of us and a continuing drag on the whole club. He’s one of the reasons – he might even be the key one – why a lot of us are worried that if we do get cheated that we would just roll over and accept it, as many think he has previous for it.

As I said yesterday, the message should be clear to the SFA that we won’t do that, that we won’t just accept it, and if the club has any sense, it will go public with that, because the time to build the ark is before it starts to rain and it will be too late to do it afterwards.

In case nobody’s nonsense, Cantwell is in the papers today demanding more protection from refs. They know what’s at stake over there, and they are acting accordingly.

So this is a dangerous moment for this club on and off the pitch, and with season ticket forms due to go out not too far in the future the perception that we’re playing against a stacked deck and won’t do anything meaningful about it would pretty much seal the deal for a lot of fans as far as refusing to renew goes. It won’t be all of us, but my generation has already had enough of this … losing the next generation will be a lot easier than replacing them would be.

If you know the history, and all that … and the thing is, too many of us do and we aren’t going to let it be repeated.

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  • Stevie Mc says:

    Continuing the TV analogy, If John Cleese produced some new TV now, I’d watch it. He left Python when it got samey, Fawlty Towers – 2 amazing series (not seasons, that’s for soccer mate, not TV). The only blemish is his attempt to reheat the magic of A Fish Called Wanda. Even then Fierce Creatures isn’t a remake.

  • John Copeland says:

    I was watching an old BBC interview the other day where George Galloway handed the scoop his ass on a plate ! This was the Education Department ! It was concerning the English empire and it’s colonies back in the day and how disgracefully Ireland was treated by Westminster during the famine poverty shame of events . One English person overseer said at the time that the ‘ sun never sets on the empire !’ To which the Irish gentleman replied ‘ that’s because we can’t trust you in the dark !’ Utterly brilliant answer .Can you see the similarities with Scottish football authorities here ?

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Basically, when the sfa gave beaton this game they were lettin him know they had his back and effectively a ‘ ah can dae whit the fuck ah want’ pass. Tho this game, these officials are gonnae be under severe scrutiny unlike any other so far. Whether this has any influence on their decision makin we’ll soon see. The thing we can’t take our eye off tho, should also be the games after this, which are every bit as important. If somehow and unexpectedly, this game passes without any severely dodgy award or incident, it doesnae mean the remainin games will be the same. Far from it. It’s every game from here we should be watchin closely and that’s no just our own games.

  • SSMPM says:

    Cantwell is such a pussy hypocrite. Prepared to give what he’s not strong enough to take. Someone please pick his toys up and put them back in his pram. Their fat fans are always moaning for even more special treatment for their ordinary talented club.
    There’s nothing special about any of them or their relatively new club. Bloody Rinos.
    I’m not sure we’ve played like a team that deserves this league either. In truth it’s been a poor season for Scottish football where a 4-0 defeat for the national team is discussed as a good performance rather than a shit show.
    As regards to the ST renewal well you’re either content or can live with what’s going on at SFA level or not. Same with this board. I will and I’ll renew my tv subscriptions because the picture can change with the directors. I hope. HH

  • Tonydtic says:

    I stopped going in 2012 and stopped watching any games involving the tribute act (including against us)when their friends at the sfa and in the media awarded them 55 titles in 8 years.
    The events and fallout of 2012 and the subsequent behaviour of all things ibrox has completely ruined Scottish football for me.
    On the bright side, I’ll never see them play again in my lifetime other than goals against on Celtic TV

  • The Messiah says:

    Unfortunately, James, far too many people are “faithful through and through”, which they interpret to mean that you need to keep chucking money at the club in the vain hope that the board will make hay while the sun shines, even while they supply an endless stream of evidence that they’ll never do so (or, to paraphrase Orwell, they are obeying the board’s final, most essential command to reject the evidence of their own eyes and ears). Therefore, the people running the club will be safe in their comfy seats for as long as they choose, as will the likes of Beaton and Dallas.

    • Droopy McCool says:

      I think James just explained it to you, it’s tough to give up something you love and have invested years of your life and buckets of your emotions in. That’s why folk renew. Not because of any vain hope that the board will suddenly rise from their grey haired slumber.

  • Dan says:

    Great piece James, totally agree, I know the frustration I feel at these constant honest mistakes. It spoils the whole aspect of the sport

  • Bob (original) says:

    “…the lack of SFA reform…”

    or to be more specific:

    “…the lack of SFA modernisation…?

    The SFA buffoons are stuck in the 1970’s, imo.

    [And that’s being generous! 🙁 ]

  • bertie basset says:

    james cheaton cannot carry the baton on his own , and has plenty of others to aid him in his cheating , the var man comes into his own on sunday as he takes up the gauntlet and does his piece for sevco and absolve cheaton , this pattern of cheating shows us one thing and that is that the whole lot are involved in it , no one man can sustain damaging celtic alone ,
    If we go back to just one game in oct when sevco was trailing hearts by a goal only for cheaton to award a penalty against them in the 88th minute and then a further 10 minutes extra time , losing 2 1 to sevco , that is 3 points they should have dropped , fast forward to the recent hearts v celtic game , celtic were denied 3 points by cheaton and he gave hearts back their 3 points robbed against sevco , in total these 2 games alone celtic were denied 6 points , cheaton has a track record as long as an octopus’s arm against celtic , this manand his fellow conspirators should be facing jail if we are diddled out of this league , and end them for good this time , i have no doubt dermot desmond is weighing up the situation after being treated with such disrespect ,

    • Michael M says:

      Good post, Bertie, Dermot Desmond is in on the act.

      If he wasn’t none of it would have been allowed, not the financial jiggers pokers, not the new club being handed the old club’s titles and certainly not one moment longer of this cheating.

      Guess who said this ‘Rangers are a great club with a long history’?

      I’ll give you a clue …

      He sports a weird Victorian moustache …

      • nertie basset says:

        Michael , i’m sure desmond had his tongue in cheek when he praised sevco , and i’m also sure that brendan rodgers did not take up both stints at the club believing desmond was part of the OF act , we all know sevco laughing at him over celtic losing the cup was why he sought out rodgers in the first place , while i agree he has a lot to do and gave PL too much control over the club i believe his heart is in the right place , this pizz taking by appointing beaton is another example of them laughing at celtic and in turn at desmond by those running the scottish game , results this weekend will give us an indication how seriously desmond really does care or not if beaton and walsh do their thing and cheating celtic ,

  • Michael M says:

    I’ve told the lads I won’t be watching the game the minute Beaton was announced.

    I see McCoist is acting the innocent now, as though folk have just imagined him saying he’ll be at the game with this corker:

    ‘ See people are accusing me of going to break this act but I’m not even going to be at this game – which I thought I would be, but we are away for a couple of days.”

    Aye, he’s a sleekit little nyaff but he’s still a dunderheid as he could still be arrested for incitement, the daftie.

  • Michael M says:

    At least now,our suspicions have been confirmed as to where the SNP stand on the Ibrox songbook in relation to their so called ‘Anti Hate Crime’ Law …

    ‘(Siobhain) Asked about McCoist’s concerns, Brown said today: “I’m not going to comment on individuals’ comments.”

    But she stressed behaviour would have to exceed a “very high threshold” for a crime to be committed.

    The minister said: “Somebody at these games would have to be inciting hatred, they would have to be threatening and abusive, with the intention of stirring up hatred to an individual at one of these games, that the individual is in fear and in alarm.

    “I would truly hope that a lot of people attending a football match would not go there with the intention of doing that.”

    Your smart readership has made it clear we never expected anything less from the Tartan Tories regarding Ibrox and its fun loving clientele.

    • Michael M says:

      And in case anyone gets offended by my Tartan Tories comment …

      February 2012:

      ‘ (Alex) Salmond told Sir David Frost, in an interview to be broadcast on Frost over the World on Al Jazeera English: “Obviously HMRC have got to pursue, in the public interest, taxation.

      “Equally, they’ve got to have cognisance of the fact that we’re talking about a huge institution, part of the fabric of the Scottish nation, as well as Scottish football, and everybody realises that.

      “The most die-hard Celtic supporter understands that Celtic can’t prosper unless Rangers are there.

      “The rest of the clubs understand that as well. Therefore you have to have cognisance of these things when you’re pursuing public policy.”’

      See also Mhairi Black’s drunken ‘I f*cking hate Celtic!’ tweets and also Ms. Black’s snide side of the mouth references to ‘Plastic Paddies’ covering the wide Irish diaspora of Scotland.

      There are plenty other instances, not least of which is that the SNP were actually birthed in the Cathcart Tory offices in Glasgow as part of double pincer movement to break the Labour Party’s political grip on Scotland, ‘even if takes 80 years’ …

      And, sure enough, just about 80 years was what it took and now there are no political alternatives left.

      • Michael McCartney says:

        Michael what Unionist rubbish you spout when it comes to The Rangers FC and their previous incarnation. Alex Salmond[ SNP ] was wrong, George Foulkes[Labour lord] was wrong, Murdo Fraser Tory was wrong, Mhairi Black SNP as a Partick Thistle supporter was wrong to say what she said and should have apologised. Our board[ made up of Labour and Tories] were wrong to connive with The SPFL and The SFA to meekly accept their years of cheating and let the continuation lie be accepted, and trophies won during those cheating years to still be on the Scottish Football history books.
        As a guy who was a Labour Party Member and active trade unionist from the 1950’s until the late 1990’s I can tell you the Labour Party signed its own death warrant in Scotland by selling out its supporters and the trade Union movement during the 1980’s, my God it even took an SNP Government in Edinburgh to pardon the Scottish miners prosecuted in the 1980’s whilst trying to defend their jobs and communities.
        To this day the miners in the rest of the UK haven’t received a pardon, 13 years of Blair and Brown and no pardon was forthcoming.
        The SNP Government with limited powers, have spent most of the time since being in government in Edinburgh trying to offset the damage Westminster has visited on the Scottish people.
        Starmer will make absolutely no difference if elected, the New Labour Party is a sham and the founders of the original Labour Party must be turning in their graves.
        The SNP is a far more left of centre party and even with some of their faults will be getting my vote.

        • Michael M says:

          You do what you like, Michael.

          Let’s see how the SNP react to the songs of hate on Sunday.

          And I’m no Unionist though I too was involved in the miners strike protests in the 80s.

          But that has nothing to do with the fact that the SNP are wee tartan Tories, as their implementation of the OBFA act against Celtic fans by 10 to 1 proved.

          But it’s your call who you put your trust in.

          Personally I haven’t trusted any of them, nor would waste my time voting for any of them, since the mid 1980s.

  • John says:

    Beaton in, sfa showing Celtic you aint winning this league an go f**k yourselves. The rangers need the money and scotland need them and as we have shown before they come 1st in all matters relating to scottish football.

  • DixieD says:

    I agree 100% with that. However I gave up my ST 15yrs ago. But not through some moral stance or anything similar, it was work related. I just wasn’t getting to many games due to shift work. I would never have given it up otherwise. It was a day out, meeting pals, talking about our week. Fans just don’t want to give up their ticket, especially now there’s a waiting list. It wouldn’t surprise me if the club continued to let fans believe there was a waiting list even if there wasn’t. I laugh at punters who come on here and talk about fans need to hand in their ST, “hit them where it hurts”. And when i read it i usually think “bet you haven’t got a season ticket”. Its in the blood James, and it also becomes a social habit thats really difficult to break. I still get to a few games, and whenever I do i realise how much I miss the ST.

  • Joe McQuaid says:

    No one will want to watch a rigged sport – even one that is not rigged but becomes predictable loses its attraction – think F1 at the moment and Djokovic relentlessly winning without any real sporting jeopardy.
    My question is what do Celtic do and what is our escalation if no reforms are forthcoming? Do we resign from the SFA and cease to be a football club? I note that the members of Fenebarche stepped back from taking this step this week.
    I would hope that a strategy is in place to drive reform underpinned with cast iron legal advice such that we cannot be fobbed off.
    Historically UEFA do not involve themselves in domestic disputes. Whilst they have principles and guidelines as best practice, they leave each country to apply these to their circumstances. Is there a case to be made that the SFA are not applying these principles and guidelines appropriately?

  • Ajay says:

    I agree that, on the surface, Scottish football simply only looks just rigged in favour of one team. But I think it’s worse than that. I’m starting to think that legally Scottish football has become an entertainment and not a sport. If a journalist done some digging they would likely find that the people running things at the top have crafted a contract that all the teams agreed to. This allows referees to make it tight at the top of the SPL between the two richest clubs in the country. I do believe that such a contract exists. If you don’t see the word sport in such a contract and see entertainment instead then you’re most definitely watching a scripted title race.

  • Ceilteach says:

    The game has been rigged in Orangers favour for about 100 years.
    Despite all their cheating Celtic has won countless trophies.
    We are better than the establishment team.
    It’s jealousy and simple minded bigotry.
    GiRU the lottythum!
    They won’t stop us.

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