Land of the One Horse Race

If the last twelve years have told us anything, it is that the football authorities are far less interested in the actual sport, the processes of playing the game and maintaining fair competition, and totally devoted to the acquisition of the spare cash lying around in fans’ pockets.

The lies and contortions which went into attempting to save the dying Rangers Football Club, and the subsequent ridiculous proposition that the dead club had come to life again as the One True Rangers (despite two of them having actually participated in the same vote at the same time), and in fact had never died at all; we were only kidding etc etc. These were all targeted at the fantasist notion that the blue pound was a prerequisite for the success of the game.

But it was never about the turnover of Scottish Football as whole, rather the ringfencing of cash by those in charge of our top half-dozen clubs, whose boardrooms could easily serve secondary purposes as Tory Party committee rooms, populated by those who insist on conflating aspiration with acquisition.

Of course, it is not just Scotland that the malaise has visited. The inequitable distribution of wealth in society, grotesquely in favour of those at the top and in charge of the means of distributing information is mirrored in football all over Europe, where cash-rich clubs routinely pick up titles giving them access to even greater riches in European competition. Apart from England, where there may realistically be four or five challengers for their championship, there is hardly a top league in Europe where you can’t predict who will be on top of the pile come the end of the season. In short, European football is the land of the one, or two-horse race

It is curious therefore that national leagues remain the most important competitions to fans and TV companies, despite UEFA competitions being far and away more competitive.

One odd anomaly is that despite Scotland’s football leagues being the best attended in the world in terms of percentage of population, the TV and streaming cash available to our game is multiples less than the cash available in similar sized countries, for example in Scandinavian, Dutch and Belgian football. One would think that this stat alone would result in P45s being issued at Hampden, but ho-hum …

Leaving the last paragraph aside, the point I am arriving at (slowly, but hopefully steadily) is that the logical progression to the inequitable distribution of the game’s riches is a move away from national leagues to elite European and world competition. This is a move which takes participants in the game away from the roots of the sport itself, and distances the owners, the managements and the players even further from the fans. The relationship between fans and clubs, players in particular, is based on the belief that there is a common cause, a shared goal between them. Further evolution into the kind of sport I see in ten years time will I believe finally break that bond, and the beautiful game we grew up with, the wonderful shared joy (and pain) will be no more.

If they all buggered off and started new clubs with different names, like Glasgow Gorrillas, Edinburgh Hadyertees, Dundee Donkeys, that would be fine, but what they have all taken from us is our clubs’ histories and identities.

They knew that when Rangers died. Having that brand was not enough. They needed the history because they thought that was the effective way to monetise it. My own feeling is that it wasn’t necessary to pretend. The old club was gone anyway. Rangers fans would not have deserted the new Rangers playing in blue at Ibrox.

However the rest of our clubs are still here after a century and a half of serving their communities. Taking those histories, those traditions, and using them just to enrich the few is to mind appalling.

A sizeable section (though absolutely not all) of Rangers fans believe in the continuity myth, but like our government knows, having a compliant media allows the lie to peddled ad nauseam. Football has that compliant media to help grow it into something it was never intended to be.

My own view is that a more equitable formula for sharing gate, sponsorship and media monies is the only way forward if we are to get the game back to what it was intended to be. Not a view popular amongst fans of clubs based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen – and yet ironically, the real glory days of those clubs all took place when there was a more equitable distribution of cash in the game and where real competition was allowed to grow.

Like our country, now in the grip of neo-fascists who want to stifle freedoms and rights at their whim, football is in the grip of like-minded greed. In both cases, it’s probably too late to do anything positive.

39 thoughts on “Land of the One Horse Race”

  1. vernallen
    11th September 2023 at 22:49
    Rather than touring the Ranger’s museum………

    For some reason, I keep reading that as Rangers’ mausoleum. Can’t think why.

  2. Far removed from football matters and by way of light relief can I say that I have just been viewing the live transmission of the impeachment trial v the Attorney General of Texas, Paxton.
    Interesting to see the less deferential attitude of the proceedings and note that the judge consulted his own legal team, sitting behind him, switching off his microphone as he did so!
    Give me the Court of Session anytime.
    Except, perhaps, when it comes to its body-swerving on the death of a football club!
    And its careful brotherly readiness not to question the ridiculous notion that TRFC of 2012 foundation is RFC of 1872!
    Honest to God.

  3. Sometimes JC you have to tip your hat to the better team – the talent England have in their attack minded midfielders and forwards is several levels above us. And in Bellingham they have a World Player. Not comparing us to them, but we do not appear to be producing those types of players in Scotland at this time. Personally I would like to see Shankland given a chance and if Harvey Barnes can be convinced to join us that would be a boost. And I note that Spain had their youngest ever international player capped this last week – if Ben Doak is good enough then age shouldn’t be a barrier…

  4. wokingcelt
    15th September 2023 at 22:19
    ‘….Sometimes JC you have to tip your hat to the better team .’
    You’re right of course, wokingcelt. And I readily acknowledge the brilliant skills of Bellingham and one or two of the other England players.
    But why where we so out of it in the first half? There seemed to be no self-belief, and a definite dysfunctionality as a team.
    I’m not knowledgeable enough to even think of criticising Clarke, but there has to be a connection between the substitutions he made and the better functioning of the team thereafter. Why did he not see that a substitution might (ought to have?) been made earlier?

    But being beaten by England in a meaningless sporting event (as opposed to a money-making opportunity for the Associations!) is neither here nor there, except in so far as it serves as a lesson in avoiding ‘hubris’!
    But here’s to us, and wha’s like us!

  5. Incidentally and by the way (and I imagine that not every reader of SFM is particularly interested) can I say that I have tonight sent an email to the Financial Conduct Authority forwarding the e-mail chain of my correspondence with AIM Regulation.
    ‘AIM Regulation’ (the in-house disciplinary body) told me that since the would-be plc (RIFC) was not a member company of AIM at the time, their remit gives them no power of investigation.
    And that since RIFC ceased to be a member company of AIM a few years ago (because they had no replacement for the ‘nominated adviser’ who had resigned) they were unable to act!

    My email to the FCA asks, basically, who the **** looks at the Prospectus issued by would-be PLCs to check the truth of what is said or implied?
    Of course, me being me, my email is written in the most polite and civilised manner.

    But it is a mucky, mucky world out there, the world of business. The FCA is not a government department. It is funded by the world of business!
    It ultimately has to watch its step vis-a-vis the ‘world of business’.
    And, as we know, the world of business doesn’t give a tuppenny damn about truth and morality!
    As exampled by our own SFA and SPFL, in my opinion.
    Honest to God!
    What were they, what are they, like!

  6. From Friday’s Rolls of Court :
    LORD BRAID – R Hamilton, Clerk
    Court 6 – Parliament House
    Tuesday 19th September
    Debate (2 days)
    COS/CA6-23 Livingston Football Club Ltd v Neil Hogarth Blackwater Law Limited Shoosmiths LLP Traditional

    COS/CA40-23 Neil Rankine v Livingston Football Club Ltd
    Drummond Miller LLP Blackwater Law Limited

    I don’t think I’ve even heard or read of this matter!
    Can anyone carefully shed some light?

  7. paddy malarkey above

    One of the attractions of this site (unlike many other ‘partisan’ ones), is that folk like yourself are prepared to come on and admit when they feel they may have caused (even unintentionally) offence, and I think you’ve gracefully done that.

    However, I have no doubt that there will be some glee amongst the more ‘rabid’ supporters (you get them everywhere to be fair) down Govan way – so don’t be too hard on yourself.

  8. As a Celtic supporter I think the club has (belatedly) taken the right step with regard to the historic abuse cases. One can argue about strict legal liability but my take is one of perception and association. I have no idea how one begins to calculate compensation for such abuse and then allocate on the basis of what I believe the lawyers call “proportional liability”, but on completion of that process I would like my club to make a donation to a reputable charity that helps young people who have suffered abuse regardless of where the abuse took place. No doubt such abuse was more widespread and the damage caused less understood in the past – let’s support those who work to improve lives.

  9. wokingcelt
    21st September 2023 at 22:28
    ‘.One can argue about strict legal liability but my take is one of perception and association..’
    I think I agree with you.
    Any chancer claiming to set up a Celtic boys’ club would have been given short shrift (in my opinion) if the Celtic board had not been happy to allow him to do so,
    It was a good idea at the time.
    been supported and allowed to use that title by Celtic unless they were supportive of

  10. my post 22.28 refers
    made a pig’s ear of it accidentally pressing ‘send’ before I had finished and edited!
    It seems to me that Celtic were happy enough to have someone run ‘boys’ club, using their name as if it was an actual part of Celtic plc (or the previous Celtic Football and Athletic Club).
    They have, as seems to me, at least a vicarious liability, perhaps, in that while they may have benefited from having the ‘product’ of that boys’ club they appeared not to have checked it out in any way.
    ( Voice from the ether: you! shut your mouth about Res 12 and integrity)

  11. John Clark
    18th September 2023 at 22:36

    From Friday’s Rolls of Court :
    COS/CA6-23 Livingston Football Club Ltd v Neil Hogarth Blackwater Law Limited Shoosmiths LLP Traditional

    COS/CA40-23 Neil Rankine v Livingston Football Club Ltd
    Drummond Miller LLP Blackwater Law Limited

    I don’t think I’ve even heard or read of this matter!
    Can anyone carefully shed some light?

    Possibly tied into :

    Best regards

  12. fitbawfan
    22nd September 2023 at 19:14
    ‘….Possibly tied into :
    That’s extremely helpful, fitbawfan, and thank you.
    I wish I had followed my first impulse which was to attend the hearing in person, but I was sure that I read that the business would be live-streamed. But when I read the info page on the website there was no ‘case code'(you need to quote the case code when you phone to get linked in)
    That was for the Tuesday, and if there was a case-code for the Wednesday I wouldn’t in the event have been able to attend.
    I’ll now try to find other earlier articles satisfy my curiosity!
    Thanks again.

  13. paddy malarkey
    23rd September 2023 at 12:27
    ‘..Hadn’t seen this posted but sorry if it’s a duplicate..’
    I hadn’t seen that report, pm, not being a reader of such a Pinocchio of a ‘newspaper’ as the DR which can write garbage such as
    “Detectives and prosecutors believed the law had been broken during the time the club was sold to now-disgraced wheeler dealer Craig Whyte”!
    Honest to God! What are they liek, who cannot admit the plain, objective truth:
    that it was Rangers Football Club of 1872 (and not some ‘holding company’) that was required to surrender its share in the SPL and ceased thereby to be a football club entitled to membership of the SFA
    and that Charles Green did not buy Rangers Football Club of 1872: his band of footballers did not become a shareholder in the SPL but had to beg for a place in the SFL before it could even apply for membership of the SFA.
    The good thing about Grier’s knock-back by the UK Supreme Court is that it saves us taxpayers having to shell out some more millions on account of the feckin balls-up made by our polis and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service!
    We will never hear the full story of course-and I imagine that the SMSM has no interest in anything other than perpetuating the fiction that RFC of 1872 is simultaneously both alive and kicking in the SPFL and lying in Liquidation awaiting dissolution as soon as the Liquidators have signed off.
    Not for the SMSM to seek truth that might be inconvenient and cost them loss of revenue!
    I don’t think there is a journalist working in the SMSM who is a member of the ICIJ?

  14. Re my post at 22.31 tonight, it’s my turn to apologise!
    Of course Craig Whyte bought Rangers of 1872.
    I am so determined on getting the SMSM to recognise that CG did NOT buy RFC 1872 that I got carried away!
    [Mrs C and I were in Pitlochry yesterday to celebrate our 53rd wedding anniversary and take in a play at the Festival Theatre featuring Taggart actor John Michie. I bought ‘The Scotsman’ but never had time to read it, so I don’t know if they reported the Grier result. Came back down the road this evening, without the paper]

  15. On the Boys’ Club thing, I think that Celtic are being a little disingenuous with regard to liability.
    There is no question that the CBC was not officially part of the club, but neither is it reasonably in doubt that CBC was sanctioned and encouraged by the club.
    If there are mitigating circumstances they would be the same for all institutions and individuals in the context of the times.
    These were not matters that were discussed freely as they are now. It is understandable that folk swept it under the carpet in the hope that it would “go away”. I know of people who simply stopped their kids going back to play football at the CBC rather than make an issue out of it.
    I was never involved in any of that kind of stuff back in the day, although there was always chat, which the 15 year-old me chose to classify as just gossip, and that leads me back to how the culture at that time made it difficult to speak out.
    Having never been abused as a child, I can’t imagine what my reaction would have been, but I often think to myself how on earth I could have gone to either of my parents to tell them that a priest, or some other trusted pillar of society had made sexual advances. I think it would have been out of the question for me to do so.
    We don’t live in those times any more, and instead of getting out from under the whole thing by admitting shortcomings, organisations (like the Catholic Church in particular) have compounded the felony by continuing to bury the truth, and in Celtic’s case to offer a flimsy “nothing to do wiv us guv!” proffer.

    The difficulties faced by individuals which resulted in failing to acknowledge what went on in the 60s/70s are one thing, but they no longer apply. As a Celtic fan, I would much rather the club took responsibility for its part in the mess. They do have an historical sins of omission case to answer, but they most definitely have failed to properly face that fact.

    The real problem for Celtic as an institution is not the financial liabilities they face as a consequence of court action, but the reputational damage that will surely follow if they fail to step up.

  16. The FCA asked me to give them the name of the ‘nominated adviser’ who acted for RIFC plc in relation to the Prospectus issued by that company in 2012.
    I replied giving the name of the firm [Cenkos Securities].
    This is their reply:
    “FCA – Individuals Inbox
    (me) Fri, 22 Sept at 12:16
    Our ref: As before

    Dear Mr ….,
    Thanks for your further email and for providing the information requested. This additional information has been shared with my colleagues in the team that supervises the conduct of the NOMAD for their consideration.
    Please be aware that as much of our work is covered by legal and policy restrictions, I won’t be able to provide feedback about how the information is used.
    I hope this is helpful and thanks again for taking the time to send me this information.

    Yours sincerely.
    Nicci Grady
    Supervisor / Supervision Hub
    Supervision – Retail and Authorisations / Tel: 0207 066 1000
    Financial Conduct Authority
    12 Endeavour Square
    E20 1JN
    Tel: +44 (0)20 7066 1000
    I shall be writing again to the FCA to insist that I be told that there will at least be an investigation, even if ‘confidentiality’ rules out the possibility of me being told the outcome of such. [Interestingly enough, the FCA’s Annual Report 2022/23 itself does name a small number of the companies which they hit with penalties for breaches of one rule or another]

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