Craig Burley, yesterday (joke and picture courtesy of @countytactics on Twitter).
At various points over the last few days, I’ve wanted to do posts on here ranting about the utter ignorance and lack of respect displayed firstly by Craig Burley, then by Gordon Smith, and finally from former East Fife player and First Minister Henry McLeish in relation to the SPL/SFL/SFA/Newco/Rangers/Sevco saga.
Rather than dissect each one word for word, I thought I’d pick a few choice quotes. What chills me to the bone about these articles is that, if Scotland becomes an independent country, this is what will pass for informative “national” journalism in our independent nation. Man alive.
Turning firstly, then, to Mr Burley’s article in the Daily Record. Fresh from knowing nothing about Euro 2012 on ITV, he turns to knowing nothing about Scottish football.
Up first, we have this gem, in the context that the SFL chairmen “MUST” vote Sevco into the Scottish First Division:
“Chairmen of part-time teams who are nothing more than afterthoughts in the psyche of our national obsession, yet suddenly they have been handed the most important decision in the history of Scottish football.”
Now this quote is incredibly disrespectful (and wrong) on a number of fronts. Firstly, thousands of us (myself included) follow part-time teams – calling them “afterthoughts” is just a total misrepresentation. This line also discounts completely the work these clubs and their coaches do (often for nothing) in improving the grass roots game, bringing through young talent and giving kids in their respective towns something to do of a midweek evening. This applies not only to current SFL teams (again the one I support included – East Fife are about nto take on 12 modern apprentices) but further down the leagues; Spartans for example have 600 kids playing for them in various teams every week. To describe these efforts as an “afterthought” is frankly horrendous – these are the very core, the very root of our “national obsession.”
“I’ve heard comments from clubs like Cowdenbeath, Peterhead insisting they must start from scratch in the Third – who are these people and how are they qualified to make a decision that will affect clubs 10 times their size?”
Er, Donald Findlay QC used to be the vice-chairman of Rangers, and now he’s the chairman of Cowdenbeath? And all these clubs have been run within their means for a number of years and not gambling the house and tax compliance on success?
“So better to trim the dead wood than give them the power to kill off one of the two clubs that matters most. In short, it’s better them than Rangers when it comes down to a stark choice of who should go.”
Two points here. One, this isn’t particularly a decision the SFL clubs want to take; this has come about because of (a) the SPL no vote and (b) the dereliction of duty (other than bandying various disaster-inducing amounts of money about) of the SFA. Two, how dare Craig Burley deem which clubs are dead wood and which aren’t. Like what happened with the economy and the banks in 2008, the Rangers situation is a financial correction; no-one should be too big to fail.
Turning next to Gordon Smith’s magnum opus, again in the Record. This is worse than Burley’s, in that it’s completely ill-educated rather than just boorish. This coming from a man who used to be the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association. The mind boggles. First up it’s this little beauty:
“It just wouldn’t happen. Real Madrid and Barca had massive debts of around £700million but came to an agreement with the Spanish government, who helped them clear it.
“Can you imagine that happening in Scotland with Rangers?”
This shows a total lack of awareness from a man who at one point was in charge of the commercial interests of Scottish football. Regardless of whether Real or Barca have been supported by the Spanish government (and given Barca are Catalonian first and Spanish second, this seems unlikely), they survive because they are in a position to service their debt. They earn millions from their TV rights, Champions League participation, stellar players and merchandising and the fact they have 80-100,000 capacity stadia to call on. All this means they (for now) can pay the mortgage, even if that mortgage is colossal.
“Manchester United are another club with a large amount of debt but you would never have a situation where club chairmen in League One or Two would be deciding whether they should get thrown out of the Premier League. It seems crazy.”
Again, Gordon, Manchester United can service their debt through TV, merchandising, ticket sales, etc. etc. Also, the hypothetical situation you describe with League 1/2 chairmen (a) isn’t analogous to the current situation (the SFL chairmen can’t decide whether or not to let Rangers into the SPL) and (b) League 1/2 chairmen wouldn’t decide on that anyway, as the Football League and the Premier League (as in this country) are separate bodies. Cretin.
“There is another big Scottish company struggling right now, Halls of Broxburn, and they employ a lot of people in their meat factory.
They are having serious financial difficulties but if someone comes in and takes them over, will they be penalised and punished?”
Few points here. One, Hall’s, if they are bought over, will be bought as a going concern. The new Rangers is a new company (hence “newco”) which must obtain entry to the Scottish Football League on the basis that it is an entirely new club. This seems to be something that various learned commentators (most of them writing in the Record) completely miss when dealing with the Rangers situation – it’s not the same company, and it’s not the same club, hence they have to be dealt with in the manner they are currently. Also, the analogy completely falls down on the basis that Rangers didn’t make sausages. Finally, the Hall’s situation is a serious one; 1,700 people’s jobs are at risk, and the closure could adversely affect both Broxburn and the wider West Lothian area. Linking the two in a “we’re all in this together” fashion is rather disingenuous.
Finally, turning to Henry McLeish, writing in the Scotsman. This is article angers for me for another reason; for a man who once called John Reid a “patronising bastard”, this article does patronising and then some. And as a former East Fife player he is not matching the views of his former employers!
“I congratulate supporters for putting integrity and good governance of the game to the top of the agenda. The fans have done a good job, but it’s now time for them to join us in
addressing the other issues in Scottish football.”
So basically, thanks for shouting a bit, now let the big boys handle it. Great.Thisis the issue in Scottish football at the moment – how about we deal with that first before “addressing the other issues in Scottish football”? I’m pretty sure, Hendo, that integrity and good governance have yet to be dealt with, me old China.
“I don’t have any empirical evidence to justify it but, in terms of the research I did, there are a lot of clubs in a very precarious situation.”
I went on Google for a bit, then made my mind up that Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster’s rhetoric about “social unrest” and varying amounts in the tens of millions must be absolutely kosher. For that reason, Motherwell are doomed.
For some less cretinous views on the current situation, see here and here (and yes, I know Rangers Tax Case is written by a Celtic fan. He is rather impartial all the same).
My view on this situation? Rangers in the Third Division is the only credible solution. Gretna and Livingston were treated in a similar manner; Airdrieonians, Clydebank and Third Lanark disappeared entirely. The Rangers fans themselves seem to want it (those I know anyway – some of them for slightly thrawn reasons, perhaps); only the “guardians of the beautiful game” at the top want to see sporting integrity thrown to the wind for want of a farthing. What Regan, Doncaster and co don’t realise is while Rangers in Division 3 will cause short-term financial pain, the long-term financial pain of hundreds of thousands of fans being alienated from the game and going to the Eastgate, Union Square, the Buchanan Galleries, the Overgate, the St James Centre or the Burns Mall on a Saturday instead – should Rangers go straight into the First – will be a rather bigger, and more real, figure.