The Way We Were
And still we hear the argument that the biggest selling point for Scottish football is the ferocious rivalry between Celtic and Rangers; that without this world famous (or notorious) Clash of the Titans, the business model of Scottish football collapses; that you can’t have one without the other. Because that’s the way it’s always been, isn’t it? At least that’s how it has been in some fabled, imprecise ‘modern era’ – which presumably excludes most of the 1990s when Celtic were rank rotten and provided little in the way of a serious challenge to the real title contenders such as Rangers, Aberdeen and Motherwell.
Even if that argument had once carried some weight, it doesn’t seem to consider the financial consequences of the dawning general awareness that the game has been hopelessly corrupted. That single revelation is a brand new factor which renders comparison with previous business modelling invalid.
It has now been discovered, for the first time, that the value of one of the factors in the old equation was completely wrong. Now we know that, far from being an economic powerhouse which poured money INTO Scottish football and the wider economy, David Murray’s Rangers was in fact the exact opposite. Murray’s Rangers sucked hundreds of millions of pounds out of the nation by the massive swindling of taxes, by tearing the guts out of a bank which had prospered for centuries until he came along and also by using this fake money to strip the most valuable assets out of almost every competing business in Scottish football.
Frequently, a player who had been a star performer in the first XI of a fiscally prudent SPL team would be effectively removed from the game altogether to sit amongst the reserves at Ibrox watching his former team-mates lose to his new team-mates. The cost of this reduction in both the competitiveness and the value of his former team was met by the nation’s tax-payers and by an irresponsible bank on its way to perdition. I am unable to grasp how this translates into a net benefit to the economy of the nation.
Thus, the propagation of the myth of “David Murray, financial genius,” distorted the perspective of the real state of affairs in Scottish football. The received wisdom was that Scotland’s “diddy teams”, incompetently run on shoestring budgets and recklessly running up unrepayable bank debt, could never have been expected to compete against the insuperable might of the Murray financial empire. The reality was the polar opposite. The only thing that prevented Aberdeen, Motherwell and Hearts (but not limited to those clubs) from winning league titles in the last quarter of a century was that Murray’s Rangers was a fraud.
The veil has been lifted. The corruption has only begun to be revealed. And, like the loss of virginity, it is impossible now to return to the previous state of ignorance and innocence.
Fairy tales about decisions which “even themselves up in the course of a season” are now exposed as contemptible insults to the intelligence of the spectator when it has become clear that the destination of the major prizes was fixed before the season even started. This was vital in order to ensure that any worthwhile prize money in the game would end up in the Ibrox black hole as it became increasingly apparent to the financial institutions that they were hopelessly over-exposed to the liability of the debts of David Murray and Rangers.
Not Hibs or Aberdeen or Livingston or Celtic; only Murray’s Rangers had the level of toxic debt that could help to tip a stupid and reckless bank into the abyss.
We cannot now unknow what we have come to know. The illusion cannot be restored. From now on, no potential customer of the Scottish football commodity will believe in what he is watching unless he can see the cogs grinding, the gears turning and the axle rotating at all times.
That cannot be achieved without the rigorous, exhaustive examination, in full public view, of every last detail of the scandal which has utterly perverted the sport of football for an entire generation.
When an aircraft crashes to the ground at high speed from a great height, there is nothing to repair. The pieces are collected and examined in an attempt to find out what went wrong. Then a brand new aircraft is built as a replacement, incorporating in its redesign any lessons which have been learned from the catastrophic failure of its predecessor.
If it is discovered that the reason for the crash was that metal fatigue caused the wings to fall off, there will be no confidence in the new plane if it simply patches up the old wings. Nor will it deserve to be trusted if its manufacturer uses exactly the same materials and structure.
And if the failed wings or their identical replacements are renamed as ‘wongs’ or ‘vings’ or ‘wings2012’, that certainly does not mean that the problem has been solved. It means that stupid, irresponsible people refuse to recognise and acknowledge the cause of the original problem.
Passengers may have been content to fly in that aeroplane when the issue of metal fatigue was unknown but they certainly won’t trust the airline if it carries on as it did before while it cites the intervals between fatal crashes as evidence of their perfect safety record. It would be a criminal act of gross negligence to carry on as if the previously unknown phenomenon of metal fatigue could simply be factored out of the equation just because it had never been factored in before.
That is where we are today with Scottish football. Any attempt to glue a pair of Rangers Newco wings onto the fuselage of the new airliner will inevitably receive the thumbs down from the overwhelming majority of rightly sceptical passengers. It is not appropriate to pretend that the option exists to restore the spectacle of two mighty giants battling for supremacy on an even playing field after that illusion has been exposed as a cynical sham. If Scottish football believes that its survival and prosperity can only be achieved by relying upon inherently unsafe wings then it would actually be in the best interests of all concerned that it simply remains grounded.