Stop The Fight, Ref!

Scandal.  Disgrace.  Corruption.  Cheats.  Laughing stock.  Fraud.  Incompetence.  Cowardice.  Fiasco.
Nowadays, these are just some of the words that are most likely to spring to the minds of objective onlookers as an automatic first response to a mention of Scottish football.  It would be foolish to think that the reputation of any Scottish club is not being tarnished by the outrageous conduct of the former football club which was known as Rangers FC.  The stench that continues to emanate from Ibrox is making the entire game stink to the high heavens.  Let us recall that Rangers have already been found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute, a conviction which even their own shameless representatives have sullenly accepted.
Let’s emphasise that point.  They were not found guilty of bringing Rangers into disrepute; they brought the game itself into disrepute.
So now the Scottish game is officially disreputable.  Thanks for that, Huns.

Scottish football has already reached an all-time low.  It can sink  lower still and seems hell-bent on doing so.  It will continue to sink for as long as it clings pathetically to the shattered hull of Minty’s Titanic as if no other course of action could be possible.  One club is entirely responsible for the catastrophic condition of professional football in Scotland.  One club  infected what was a reasonably healthy body, polluted the atmosphere and poisoned the well.   Even from beyond the grave, its putrefying remains present a mortal danger to the rest of Scottish football, not least while its own deluded pall-bearers defiantly insist that the corpse is still alive and about to resume its business.
There are others who, as yet, have not dared to believe that a stake has finally been driven through the cold, flinty heart of the club which, like a vampire, spent most of its existence recoiling from the light while sucking the life blood from its prey, using every dark art and nefarious device at its disposal.

It is now time to truly believe and it is time to start anew.   The first part of the renewal requires facing up to the world as it is and to reject the insubstantial pseudo-reality which is peddled by media spin-doctors and self-serving publicists.  The world as it is sees the potential for a  perfectly viable, sustainable Scottish professional football industry which cuts its cloth according to its means.  It has to stop pretending to be something which it is not.  It is not a smaller version of the English Premier League.  It is not currently capable of producing an international team which can qualify for major tournaments.  It is not a major force in European club football.

However, it is capable of being much better than it is.  Once it takes the necessary steps to release itself from the dead hand of the extinct Rangers FC (1872-2012), a vast panorama of opportunity can open up.   Pre-Minty, the SPL was ranked as the fourth best league in Europe.  Aberdeen and Dundee United were setting the standard for other Scottish clubs to aspire to.  I want to see that level of competitiveness returning to Scottish football.  To achieve that, the first myth that must be destroyed is the notion that the future SPL will be a one horse race which Celtic will win at a canter.  There is a simple counter to that concern.

Now that the Celtic-Rangers fixture is a thing of the past, Sky Sports has no excuse for continuing to dictate – against the wishes of the clear majority of Scottish football supporters – that the top division cannot expand.  There will no longer be four Glasgow derbies every season.  There won’t even be one.  Hooray!  So I see no argument against a top division of twenty clubs, playing each other once at home and once away.  This could completely open up the title race.  Even if a club lost both of its games against Celtic, it would still have thirty-six games against the other opposition in which to make up the loss of those six points.  That is a huge change from the twenty-four points which the wee clubs have contested in the past.  It brings the championship well into striking range for the better clubs (and those clubs will also be stronger for the fact that their best players will not be lured away to Ibrox!)  At a stroke, we will have a more competitive league and a more attractive competition.

The time has also come to revisit the idea of Scottish football taking control of its own television broadcasting.  The Sky deal is lousy.  £16 million per year pales into insignificance in comparison with other second-tier leagues in Europe.  Denmark, whose population of roughly five and a half million is similar to Scotland’s, receives nearly twice as much TV money than the SPL does.  Belgium and Portugal have populations of 11 million but their leagues receive roughly four and five times more respectively than the SPL can attract under the incompetent management of half-man, half-mollusc, Neil Doncaster.  The Eredivisie runs its own subscription TV channel and sooks in around £60 million pounds per annum.  When you see these figures, it’s hard to see why Sky is considered to be a benefactor of Scottish football!  It should also go without saying that the TV revenue must be more evenly distributed than it is at the moment.  I do not think that there will be huge resistance to that argument from Celtic, especially if a well-run subscription based TV service is putting far more money into the pot in the first place.  (There’s a splendid article by Cardiff Bhoy on Celtic Underground which looks at this subject.)

These wheezes are viable.  But they must go hand in hand with a complete house-cleaning of the completely discredited structure of Scottish football as it stands.  A total relaunch is required and it is of paramount importance that the new, improved, shiny clean organisation makes a complete break with its sordid past.  This requires the courage to fully address the extent of the malign influence of the former Rangers FC and declare unambiguously that its financial doping and associated skulduggery mean that no form of the club can be admitted into the league until there has been a complete, thorough investigation into its affairs by the competent authorities.  The brand is too strongly tainted for Scottish football to risk any further contamination from associating with any manifestation of it.  If it looks like Rangers, sounds like Rangers or smells like Rangers (especially if it smells like Rangers!) there is too great a danger that it will continue to behave like Rangers.  For the good of Scottish football, the brand must be retired until further notice.

If nothing else, Sevco 5088 Ltd FC (or whatever it will be called this time next week) actually needs someone to throw in the towel on its behalf.  When a boxer is being pummelled by a superior opponent, the referee or his corner men actually do him a favour by stopping the contest.  He can then take time to recover from his injuries before getting himself into shape for a  future contest.  That’s the position that Zombie-Rangers FC are in just now.  It will do them no good to carry on stumbling blindly onto left hooks and right uppercuts.  There are plenty more of them in store for them.  It’s time for them to touch a knee onto the canvass and if they won’t do it voluntarily, the referee needs to step in.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can look forward to playing and watching football.

Posted on June 21, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Henry throughout this long process it is often forgotten what a great opportunity the authorities have, here and now, to alter the game in Scotland for the good of the country. The MSM and their insistance that TFOD must return – no scratch that – must survive – seems to be the all-consuming argument.
    In your article Henry you have clearly painted viable and just courses of action that must be taken if we are to improve the wealth distribution throughout the clubs, the standard and quality of football in the domestic and international arenas, the entertainment value for the fans and also to show that integrity is a valued and cherised part of life and sporting rivalry in Scotland.
    I completely agree with you that the opportunities for Scottish football, if managed correctly as you have described, are there to be encouraged and nurtured. At the same time, if religious intolerance and bigoted behaviour is driven out of the game and society then the drivers behind the implementation and management of a new era would truly have earned the right for praise indeed.
    I only hope and frevently pray that there are men of courage who are prepared to step up and make this happen.
    Great Blog Henry.

  2. One of your best, Henry.
    A great job, well done!

    When the smell is finally gone and Scottish Football is restored to rude health, it will be because people like you are producing work like this. Your nom-de-plume – like the original, Henrik, will live forever in fitba’ folklore.

    With very best wishes

  3. Fear of the unknown and the erroneous belief that the future without Rangers will be worse than with them is what is driving and sustaining the nightmare that Scottish football has been living in for many years and thought it normal.

    What is happening now could be portrayed as a good v evil battle but it would be more helpful for it to be portayed as a battle between what works and what does not work.

    The attachment to something that clearly has not worked is baffling in rational terms and decisions to cling to the unworkable model will only delay the day when a decision to adopt a workable model occurs. Inevitably only what works is real and lasting or if we use tradtional terminology good always prevails in time.

    [Edit by HC: Fixed the typo for you, Auldheid. 😉 ]

  4. Excellent ideas Henry ,although too late for the coming season .Personally i think TRFC(2012) will also die before then .Doncaster has ”clammed ”up lately,very shellfish,……..dont think he has the muscle the little whelk …………sorry

  5. Agree with almost all you say HC but I can’t see the attraction of a top flight of 20 teams. I’m old enough to remember the old 1st division and the reality, I believe, is that the quality doesn’t exist for such a number nor would it develop over a period of time. The league has to be for fewer than 20. That issue in itself shouldn’t compromise the rest of your suggestions. It’s a point of detail but for me an important one.

    • I’m also sufficiently venerable to remember the old first division of eighteen teams, Octagon. 😉
      The first senior match I ever attended was at Shawfield in the 1966-1967 season when Aberdeen were the visitors.
      Clyde finished third in the table that season and Aberdeen were fourth. The top two Scottish teams played in the finals of the top two European tournaments; Kilmarnock (who finished 7th) reached the semi-finals of the Fairs Cities Cup; eventual winners, Dinamo Zagreb only knocked out 8th placed Dunfermline on away goals after the sides drew the tie 4-4; and 9th placed Dundee United beat Barcelona home and away before succumbing to Juventus, losing in Italy but winning at Tannadice. St. Mirren and Ayr United were relegated that season.
      I don’t imagine that we’ll see comparable quality in depth if we expand the top division but I do believe that the likes of Dundee, Livingston, Falkirk, Queen Of The South and Hamilton Accies are no less worthy opponents than Hibs, St. Mirren or even Aberdeen have been in recent seasons. If only for the sake of variety, I’d rather see two of the four games games against St. Johnstone replaced by two against Dunfermline or Partick Thistle.
      I also think that clubs in the middle of the division will probably play more entertaining football against each other. The idea a couple of football sides having a go at each other over ninety minutes for the sake of serving up a spectacle worth paying to watch seems to be overlooked in favour of a preposterous notion that every game must be “meaningful” in terms of relegation battles and European qualification. It think it’s utterly foolish to ignore the attraction of a decent game for its own sake, regardless of what the “big picture” is. The key principle here is to enjoy the event on its own merits.

      There’s an analogy which I often think about when I hear comparisons drawn between the Scottish league and other major European ones with which we’re supposed to be trying to compete. I’m prepared to pay top dollar for a concert ticket to see the very best acts in the music business (in my subjective opinion, of course). That does not mean that I can’t also thoroughly enjoy very good, semi-professional musicians playing in a local pub or club. I’ve seen a lot of terrific reggae bands other than Bob Marley and the Wailers, for instance. They’re well worth the admission fee and worth watching again and again.
      We should be looking at Scottish football in those terms – good enough to be enjoyed for what it is so long as it’s not pretending it should always be on the same footing as the world leaders.

      • I started attending just a couple of years ahead of you and would visit senior grounds in & around Glasgow though the Tic were not involved. I see and share much of the value of what you say and you put forward a persuasive argument with the summary of impressive European results.

        But…I have a niggling doubt at the back of my mind and it is this. When the 18 team league was disbanded I was mightily relieved to stop watching teams at the lower end of the table come to CP and play defensive football of a type I don’t watch now. I don’t say this in criticism of the clubs themselves as they were sometimes part-time and the resultant gulf in fitness and quality virtually forced them to play that way. I still recall thinking the game was doomed unless action was taken to address this issue. That memory has never gone from me.

        Whatever we come up with now I’ll support partly through love of my club but also because a dark cloud appears about to be lifted from the Scottish game. The stench of cheating – possibly more still to be made public – was in danger of driving me and I think many others away from the game.

  6. Henry great article,as always. The one thing I would add is that the SPL is a flawed concept, that has harmed our game and been of benefit to only 2 clubs. If we are serious about addressing the issue of an uncompetitive league then we must address this issue.

    Playing each club 3-4 times a season gives the big 2 an unfair advantage, most seasons Celtic can expect a guaranteed 12 points against a majority of the othe other teams, this is why the gap at the end of the season is usually between 20-30 points between 2nd and 3rd. Get back to playing each team twice and this gap is reduced, it also means the smaller clubs can regard a game against the big 2 as a cup final which gives them more of a chance of creating an upset.
    As the points gap is reduced it gives those in the chasing pack more of an incentive to be more consistent and competitive over the course of the season.

    On the issue of New Club, I don’t see any way they will be in the SPL next season, also I don’t think there is enough time for league reconstruction before the start of next season. I also believe there are still issues to come to light with regard to Craig Whyte and the floating charge over the assets, so whether any New Club is in a position to actually play next season is debatable.

    The ever excellent Alex Thomson from C4 news has, over the last couple of days, dropped a bombshell with the revelation from Walter Smith’s lawyer that a major fraud at Ibrox is to about to break soon. If true then this will be the final nail in the coffin for New Club and we can all get back to talking about football again.

  7. Living way down south of the border, yer local news doesn’t get here that quick, what is this new fraud case seeping out of hundom via the cardigans lawyer pray tell, Bromley for the cup.

    • Alex Thomson dropped a few hints on Twitter;

      @alextomo 19 Jun
      Lawyer connected to fmr Rangers manager tells #c4news “there’s a massive fraud in Rangers waiting to come out”
      Says “now HMRC have gloves off under liquidation, they’ll go after Whyte and Murray and more.”
      Says: “how on earth was Green ever allowed to buy the assets like that under liquidation – you can’t do that. Not surpised Smith left.”

      Also; ‏@alextomo 19 Jun
      Fact: HMRC have not yet started into the carcase of fmr Rangers. You ain’t seen nothin yet.

      Nothing else solid has emerged, as far as I am aware, but I have absolutely no doubt that this story has legs. It will reappear in a while when it’s ripe.

  8. Of all I have read over the rangers/sfa/Scottish football fiasco this is the first article to really make some sense. Henry, your ideas must now be taken a step further to all Scottish football fans. I don’t know how you, or others in support of your ideas will do this, but I urge you to find a way of getting your ideas across.
    I’d bet a considerable sum that in less than ten years Scottish football would once again reach the heights of the regard it was once held in pre minty if this were to be a blueprint of the best way forward.
    Amidst all the self protectionism, panic & fear is a bright flickering light….let this light shine.

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