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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.

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Rangers Should Lose SPL Place Next Season


I have recently been following Gregory Ioannidis’s enjoyable Sports Law blog.  A well known and internationally recognised sports lawyer, Dr. Gregory Ioannidis is a senior lecturer in Sports Law at Buckingham and a practising advocate specialising in sports law, arbitration and litigation.  Much smarter than me, then.

In Gregory’s latest piece, wearing his objective sports lawyer hat, he considers the legal position ahead of the rematch between the SFA’s Independent Appellate Tribunal and a disreputable football club currently trading as Rangers FC (In Administration).  Dr. Ioannidis thinks that the new, improved, Court-of-Session-approved verdict will punish the disreputable Rangers FC (In Administration) with a ten-game suspension from the SPL and sets out his reasoning in his article.

Now, Gregory does this sort of thing for a living while I am a mere internet bampot but that does not deter me from disagreeing with him and hoping that he’s wrong.  So I replied to his article with the following argument.

There are several grounds upon which I see inherent injustice in a proposal to suspend Rangers for ten games.
1. One of the eleven other clubs will have to beat Rangers in a real game of football by 3-0 just to catch up with the other ten who were awarded a 3-0 victory for nothing.
2. Of the ten clubs which are awarded 3-0 walkovers, about half of them will have to travel to Ibrox in the second quarter of the fixture schedule while their rivals will have home advantage.
3. No revenue at all will be generated from the ten matches which are declared forfeit.
4. Season ticket holders of clubs whose home game against Rangers is cancelled by the suspension will have been short-changed.
5. The multiple offences which got Rangers into trouble persisted for almost an entire season during which they were free to contest 114 points (or 104 after having had 10 points deducted for entering into administration) yet the proposed punishment extends for less than a quarter of a season and affects only 30 points.
6. The offences of which RFC were found guilty were judged to be of exceptional gravity; only outright match-fixing was considered to be more serious. On top of that, you suggest that Rangers will be held to have made their position even worse now because they pursued the matter in an action at the Court of Session.

I accept that I am but a layman in this field but it appears to me, from what has been laid down already, that the ultimate punishment is outright expulsion. I deduce from the tribunal’s findings – viz, that Rangers FC’s offences were second only to match-fixing in their seriousness – that match-fixing is the ultimate offence. I hope that I am right in concluding that the ultimate offence would be punished by the ultimate sanction. Expulsion appears to me to be fair and just punishment in cases where match-fixing is proven.
So I find it hard to see why there should be such a huge gap between the ultimate penalty of outright expulsion and the second worst penalty of a piffling ten-match suspension. What would a club have to do to merit a season-long suspension? Or a four-year suspension?

Proposing a ten-match suspension punishes ten clubs. They will have no match to play; their supporters will have no match to watch. A much better solution is to suspend Rangers for an entire season and introduce another club in their place. Either Dunfermline Athletic FC should remain in the SPL or Dundee FC should be admitted.
A fixture between, say, Dundee Utd FC and Dundee FC, played in a stadium filled to near capacity, is a much more satisfactory outcome for football and its supporters than a phantom 3-0 result, created by the fiat of technocrats and lawyers.

Since proportionality is a key consideration, we must not cause disproportionate disruption to the schedules of the highest professional level of the national game for the sake of a club which has already been found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute. The reputation of Scottish football is already at an all-time low. If it were possible to make it worse, one way of doing that would be publish a fixture list and simultaneously declare that one of the leading clubs is too disreputable to be allowed to participate in its allotted fixture.

What we want to see in the SPL is twelve clubs, each playing 38 matches, contesting every game according to the rules and Laws of the Game and competing in public for the entertainment and enjoyment of the paying supporters. Anything less than that sells everybody short. So let us ensure that we have twelve fit and proper clubs in the SPL for the whole of the season.

I hope the Tribunal bears these points in mind and suspends Rangers FC for at least a full season to give it time to contemplate its massive failings, get its act together and aspire to the same standards of sporting integrity that are expected of every other club.

Exposing The EBT Effect


After coming a poor second to a newly resurgent Celtic side the season before, Rangers entered the following season (2001-2002) determined to make up the lost ground by fair means or foul.  They illegally used EBTs to pay the wages of players whom they could not otherwise have afforded.  The spent lavishly to acquire the services of players such as Shota Arveladze, Christian Nelinger, Claudio Cannigia and Michael Ball.  I know.  Stop tittering there at the back, please.
Neil Doncaster continues to pretend that this is not a matter of the greatest importance as he delays the release of the findings of the SPL investigation into the use of improperly registered players by Rangers.  Here is a glimpse of what he is hiding.

The Rangers team which took part in the 2001-2002 season fielded ineligible players in all competitions.  By the rules of the game, each of the results involving these players should be amended to a 0-3 Rangers defeat.

Yet Rangers official results in domestic competitions still stand in contravention of the rules of the game.
In the SPL, the other teams recorded these results in their games against Rangers.
Rangers’ score is given second in each case.
For comparison, results in parentheses have been adjusted to take integrity into account.

Aberdeen took zero points from 12 with a goal difference of  -8:
0-3    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
0-1    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
GD . . . -8  (+12)  Turnaround in the real world = 20 goals.
Pts . . . 0  (12)    AFC should have had 12 more points according to the rules.

Celtic took 8/12:
2-0    (3-0)
2-1    (3-0)
1-1    (3-0)
1-1    (3-0)
GD . . . +3  (+12)  Turnaround = 9 goals.
Pts . . . 8  (12)    Should have had 4 more points.

Dunfermline:
1-4    (3-0)
0-4    (3-0)
2-4    (3-0)
1-1    (3-0)
GD . . . -9  (+12)  Turnaround = 21 goals.
Pts . . .  1  (12)    Should have had 11 more points.

Hearts:
2-2    (3-0)
1-3    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
GD . . . -6  (+12)  Turnaround = 18 goals.
Pts . . .  1  (12)    Should have had 11 more points.

Livingston:
0-0    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
0-3    (3-0)
2-1    (3-0)
GD . . . -4  (+12)  Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . .  4  (12)    Should have had 8 more points.

Kilmarnock:
1-3    (3-0)
2-2    (3-0)
0-5    (3-0)
GD . . . -7  (+9)  Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . .  1  (9)    Should have had 8 more points.

Kilmarnock would have made the top six if Rangers’ improper registrations had come to light before the split.
Oh.  And if any of the SPL office bearers had had the balls to apply the rules.

Dundee United:
1-6    (3-0)
2-3    (3-0)
0-1    (3-0)
GD . . . -7  (+9)  Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . .  0  (9)    Should have had 9 more points.

Dundee:
0-2    (3-0)
0-0    (3-0)
1-2    (3-0)
GD . . . -3  (+9)  Turnaround = 12 goals.
Pts . . .  1  (9)    Should have had 8 more points.

Hibernian:
2-2    (3-0)
1-1    (3-0)
0-3    (3-0)
GD . . . -3  (+9)  Turnaround = 12 goals.
Pts . . .  2  (9)    Should have had 7 more points.

Motherwell:
0-3    (3-0)
2-2    (3-0)
0-3    (3-0)
GD . . . -6  (+9)  Turnaround = 15 goals.
Pts . . .  1  (9)    Should have had 8 more points.

St. Johnstone:
0-2    (3-0)
0-1    (3-0)
0-2    (3-0)
GD . . . -5  (+9)  Turnaround = 14 goals.
Pts . . .  0  (9)    Should have had 9 more points.

The final league table, adjusted for integrity, sees Rangers finishing in the relegation spot on zero points with a goal difference of -114.
Aberdeen would finish second instead of fourth. Every other club finishes one place higher except Livingstone who remain third.  St. Johnstone would survive in the top flight for at least another season.  Kilmarnock, as previously mentioned, would finish in the top half of the table.

Neil Doncaster ignores all of this and still peddles the preposterous notion that there is a place in the SPL for these cheats.

Let’s look at the cups.  Rangers, through the efforts of their otherwise unaffordable players (who were not properly registered and therefore not eligible to play), ‘won’ both the League Cup and the Scottish Cup.  Because of their rules breaches, they should have been disqualified after their first tie in each competition with their opponents being awarded a 3-0 win.  So that’s a 3-0 win for Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup and 3-0 for the late Airdrieonians in the League Cup.  As well as being eliminated from the cup competitions, Rangers would have missed out on their half of the gate receipts from the subsequent illegitimate ties.  That’s just short of 100,000 paying customers for the League Cup and more than 130,000 for the Scottish Cup.   Those tickets were sold on a fraudulent basis.

Rangers interest in the Champions League should have ended at the beginning of August with Maribor progressing at their expense.  Chalk off one 50,000 home gate for Rangers bore draw a week later against Fenerbahce.
Another 144,000 people would not have been pouring money into David Murray’s crooked club if Rangers had been correctly disqualified from the UEFA Cup after fielding ineligible players against Anzhi Makhachkala in the first round.  Nor would there have been any income from television coverage of matches which would not and should not have taken place.

Neil Doncaster is aware of all of this information but continues to be the poltroon for the cheats who put him in place to try to shield themselves from the consequences of their massive con trick.

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