It’s The Integrity, Stupid!
The key to winning a battle is very often the ability to choose the weapons, the battleground and the timing. Winning a debate is much easier if you can choose the topic to be argued. Passing an exam is much easier if the candidate can choose the questions.
The debate about the fate of Rangers is currently being dictated to a large extent by bean-counters and their media apologists. They have chosen the weapons, selected the battleground, dictated the topic and are choosing the questions while the vast majority of Scottish football supporters want to conduct this debate on different grounds, with different priorities, addressing different questions and using different weapons.
This must not be allowed to continue.
There is one issue which should be the only show in town.
It is integrity.
There can be no escape from this. Without integrity, the game’s a bogey. Every commentator who so much as hesitates to evaluate every other aspect of the case from that viewpoint should be called to account immediately. Such people have abrogated their right to contribute to the discussion of what is best for the sport.
There is no business argument which takes precedence over sporting integrity. The entire point of the game is that players can get a fair test of their ability against opponents on a level playing field. If that fairness is corrupted, the game becomes pointless, irrelevant, redundant and a waste of everybody’s time, effort and money. The sooner a corrupt business dies, the better for every decent person. If football allows itself to be blackmailed by cheats because it isn’t prepared to defend its integrity then it fully deserves to perish.
In short, the essence of the football business is integrity. Everything else is secondary at best and irrelevant at the very least. The further the discussion moves away from the focal point of integrity, the more it threatens the well-being of the game. No journalist or broadcaster or football director or SPL functionary or SFA official should ever even contemplate denying that fair play is the be-all and end-all of professional sport.
Fairness is not about guaranteeing that one particular club will prosper in a competition just because it has more followers than other clubs. It is not about ensuring that, come what may, two clubs will always play in the top half of the top division because that’s what Rupert Murdoch’s shilling demands. Putting that another way, fairness does not permit decent professionals who have worked hard, tried their hardest and played the game to the best of their ability to accept that they are to be swindled out of their win bonuses and honours because they are plying their trade with a club which is held to be a less attractive commercial proposition than its rival. Unless there is fair play at every level of the competition, the entire exercise a complete waste of time and, worse still, a cynical fraud.
Let there be no respect for any argument which is ambivalent about the pre-eminence of the principle of integrity in professional football. To compromise that principle is the ultimate sell-out. There are few surer ways to bring about the ultimate destruction of the game than to let the customers realise that they are being completely conned and sold short. We must refuse to accept any terms of reference which relegate integrity to the sidelines or dismiss it as an impractical ideal which has no place in commercial activity.
Integrity belongs at very the core of football’s commercial activity and it has never been more important to defend it than at the present time when the Scottish game is facing its biggest test.