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.
Rangers haven’t even begun to taste proper punishment.
At least ten years of cheating cannot be atoned for by anything less than expulsion. I, like tens of thousands of other Scottish football supporters, spent years paying to see what was advertised as a sporting competition but was in reality a fix. Looking only at ten years of buying two season tickets in the first decade of this century and ignoring for the moment the likelihood of previous fraudulent activities perpetrated by the same Rangers organisation, I personally have been defrauded to the tune of well over £12,000.
I am by no means alone or even exceptional in that respect. Many, many others have been cheated.
Taking Celtic alone (but also recognising that supporters of every other club were cheated, particularly the supporters of every SPL club which suffered the relegation which should, by rights, have been the fate of the club which lost every match 0-3) and looking only at the seasons in which Celtic were cheated into 2nd place instead of 1st — that gives us five seasons. 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Hugely simplifying the numbers to a low-end, estimated annual average of ~40,000 tickets @ c.£500 each, we get a ball park figure of £20,000,000 worth of mis-sold tickets.
Twenty million pounds minimum.
Without counting millions of pounds of extra prize money.
Without counting millions of pounds of extra revenues from Europe.
Without counting enhanced reputation and consequent sponsorship potential worth millions of pounds.
Without counting potential for merchandising based on 12 In A Row and related achievements.
Twenty million pounds is the tip of the iceberg of the damage and disruption for which RFC were responsible.
Not to mention that tens of millions of pounds more would have been paid into the national tax coffers if Celtic and other clubs had been receiving the prize money which was due to them.
Yet we are currently hearing Rangers apologists telling us that Rangers “have already been punished heavily” or even, “have already been punished enough!” A fine of £200,000 for doing at least £20,000,000 worth of damage to a single set of supporters? A three year exclusion from Europe as a punishment for ten years of European participation? A ten point deduction after stealing five championship titles?
Proper punishment hasn’t even come into the frame yet.