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.