There are occasional gremlins on the rangerstaxcase site which strike without warning and prevent posts from being uploaded. Earlier tonight, I posted some thoughts on RTC’s latest blog but my follow up, in reply to a query from another poster, refuses to upload. Rather than throw my computer out of the window, I’ve decided to post the exchange here.
Regarding the debate on what do about the championship titles which must be taken from Rangers, this is really not difficult.
Every game in which Rangers fielded ineligible players is recorded as a 3-0 victory for their opponents. The points are totalled up for the season. The team which has the most points is awarded the title.
I’ve paid tens of thousands of pounds over the years to see my team competing for the championship title and I’ll be damned if I’m going to settle for seeing an asterisk taking the place of a title which my team won fair and square.
The only reason that those titles weren’t awarded to the correct team at the end of each season is because the game was so riddled with corruption that nobody enforced rules that would have deprived Rangers of their unfair advantage.
Successive SFA and SPL officials came from Ibrox and allowed this cheating to go unchecked. Successive directors at Rangers FC, at best neglected their responsibilities to ensure that their business was on the straight and narrow. At worst, they actively perpetuated the cheating. The bank which happily turned a blind eye to Murray’s financial recklessness and – as is now becoming clearer and clearer – sheer criminality happily wiped other clubs off the face of the earth and threatened others, including mine, with winding up procedures.
And all this time, I was forking out over a thousand pounds per season to see my team competing in tournaments which were supposed to be fair. It was bad enough to be seething with frustration at what I knew at the time were biased refereeing performances; now that it is apparent that the beneficiaries of this bias were not even eligible to compete, never mind take the honours, the frustration has hardened into a righteous and completely justified anger.
This institutionalised fraud will not be rectified with an asterisk.
The very first principle of atonement is to make restitution as far as that is possible. The very minimum requirement is to return what has been stolen to its rightful owners. In the case of at least five titles, that means presenting those titles to the team which won the most points in accordance with the Laws of the Game of Association Football and in line with the rules and regulations of the SFA and SPL. Absolutely nothing less than that will do. And that should only be a starting point.
Taking away from Rangers anything which was never rightfully theirs in the first place is not a punishment. It’s merely the first step in undoing some of the damage. The next step is to restore to the rightful owners that which was stolen from them. The third step is to punish the guilty parties for their crimes. We’re not even close to that third stage yet so any hint of backsliding on the first two steps must not be tolerated.
There is no room for compromises here.
There is a constant creep in the mainstream media towards an assumption that Rangers have suffered enough and that those who want to see them pay in full for their colossal wrongdoing are being vindictive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The issue is purely about fairness. It is fundamentally unfair that hardened, habitual cheats should receive any leniency when those who did nothing wrong whatsoever were seriously disadvantaged, suffered considerable loss of prestige, were wrongly deprived of sporting honours and were financially damaged. In some cases, the financial damage was a mortal blow.
An asterisk won’t cut it.
Gully says: 19/07/2012 at 12:15 am
Henry, does your unwillingness to compromise mean that the Champions League competitions in the affected years will also have to be replayed?
An asterisk is the best compromise, for compromise is necessary.
Henry Clarson says:
This is utter foolishness.
Absolutely no compromise is either necessary or desirable in this case.
Anyone who cannot understand the fundamentals of fair play in sport is never going to be able to understand why the prizes should be awarded to the highest placed competitor who hasn’t cheated instead of to the cheat who wasn’t found out for a while.
For the purposes of this blog, we proceed on the assumption that Rangers did cheat. We have seen more than enough evidence to back up that assumption.
One single competitor stands accused of cheating and is almost certainly guilty.
That competitor must pay the penalty. Yes, even when it’s Rangers.
There is no case for allowing those guilty of breaking the rules to negotiate further breaches of the rules in order to spare themselves the punishment which they deserve. We are not yet so far through the looking glass that we are going to permit cheats to guide us about what is fair and what is unfair.
If you want to grab hold of an uninsulated electrical cable which is plugged into a live mains supply, by all means go ahead and try to negotiate a compromise about just how electrocuted you get. When Rangers decided to ignore the rules, they took the risk that they would get burned. Now they’re getting totally fried and it serves them right. They knew the danger, they took the risk, they lost out, they’re toast. All the blame is theirs and theirs alone.
The penalty for breaking the registration rules is perfectly clear. We have seen the precedents and we know that the punishment for fielding improperly registered players is a 3-0 defeat. Ask Spartans FC, who paid a severe penalty for a careless administrative error on a team-line. They did not complain, they did not whine. They took full responsibility for their own transgression, accepted the defeat and paid the whopping fine. Because those are the rules.
Even FC Sion had to accept the rules eventually.
Replaying competitions is clearly not an option, least of all for players who were already veterans ten years ago. That is an unfortunate physical fact which can not be changed although it weakens still further any case for leniency towards Rangers FC.
In cup competitions, any honours which went to Rangers – including runners-up medals – must be struck off. Since it is now impossible to determine what the ultimate outcome of the cup tournaments would have been if clubs, unfairly eliminated by Rangers, had instead advanced to the next round of the competition, it’s reasonable to consider various solutions on their merits. All of them must start from the point that Rangers have no right to retain honours which they were not eligible to compete for.
The ultimate solution is a matter of practicality, not a compromise of principles.
What can be done and must be done is that the record is at least set straight wherever possible. The records must show in perpetuity that all matches in which Rangers FC fielded ineligible players were 3-0 victories for their opponents. In league competitions, where the outcomes can be accurately recalculated, the medals and titles must be awarded to the correct winners.
This is as simple in the case of Rangers as it was in the case of Spartans or Sion.
The rules must be applied to the transgressions of Rangers just as strictly as they were to any other club.
Rangers have no right to be treated differently.
If anything, they should be hammered even harder because they have relentlessly puffed themselves up as the country’s greatest club, with a monopoly on dignity, the standard to which everyone else should aspire (“we welcome the chase”) and a giant of the global game. If any club should have taken extra care to ensure that it was playing the game by the rules, it was this one with its ludicrous sense of self-importance and its arrogant evaluation of its own stature.
But I’ll quite happily settle for seeing them treated like ordinary cheats rather than elite cheats.
This does not please blinkered supporters of the cheating club or their sympathisers; it does not please those who are too dull of wit to follow simple logic; it does not please people whose concept of sport doesn’t hold honesty, fairness or justice in high regard; it does not please those who are too cowardly to stand up to the myth of the mighty Rangers; it does not please those who are so corrupt that they are still trying to promote any argument for a perverse compromise.
But, by God, it will please anyone (including disillusioned former supporters of Rangers) who thinks sport should be built upon a foundation of fairness. It will satisfy those who believe that the sport is well rid of cheats who would bring football to its knees rather than miss out on prizes which they haven’t earned. And it will delight those who see unrepentant supporters of a rotten, disgraced club hoping and praying that half a dozen SPL clubs will go to the wall as a direct result of Rangers finally being held to account for corrupting Scottish football.
Asterisks be damned.
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.