Dysfunctional SFA: Time to Make a Stand

Written by Jim Thomas

The following is a reproduction of a message sent today to Celtic FC ahead of their upcoming AGM. Fans of all clubs now have their eyes on how principled the Board will be in doing what is right now and for the future. This is a governance problem at the SFA not a club issue. It will take a club solution to fix the cancerous infestation though since fans and fan organisations have been sidelined by clubs and the games regulators from having their own voice. We all look to see if they will do the right thing and start the wheels rolling on real and meaningful change. The letter in full:

Dear Mr Nicholson,

I represent the group for SFA reform known as Fans Without Scarves. As a body we own no shares in Celtic though one of our 4 founding members fully supportive of these contents does. We retain a deep interest in the progress of the matter referred to in the title due to its potential implications for improving Scottish football governance for the better. To this end it is one of many troublesome issues relating to the stewardship of the game listed on our petition of no confidence at https://www.change.org/p/scottish-football-association-fundamental-change-at-the-sfa and which we write about on our website https://fanswithoutscarves.org/.

We have contacted the SFA several times for an update on their notice of complaint and possible reference to CAS in Strasbourg but received no response. It will be no surprise we have little confidence in their effective management of the game, but their processes have so far been trusted by clubs including Celtic to properly investigate and action an investigation into the circumstances of the 2011/12 licence applications.

The SFA took inordinately long to do this even after statements under oath in the Craig Whyte trial. When a case was finally brought it was restricted to the monitoring period – an issue we consider materially incorrect based upon evidence we understand you have been provided with regarding actions between member clubs and their finance providers and minutes relating to decisions of member clubs during the time of initial UEFA license applications.

It would appear that through the terms of the Five Way Agreement the SFA has no longer jurisdiction to commence such actions on a now defunct member club, though why it signed up to such an agreement that restricts its ability to govern properly has never been made clear. This should be properly explained to all stakeholders including fans.

In any case this issue has now stalled and the SFA appear to be particularly afraid of the consequences of referring this to CAS, presumably as it’s own role in an area of extreme concern would have proper scrutiny applied.

As the club principally harmed by decisions which appear to be fundamentally flawed, the rest of the fans of Scottish football are looking to Celtic to stand up for the integrity and governance standards that we should be able to expect from those charged with providing them. To that end we would like to know:

1. Have Celtic themselves received satisfactory response from the SFA that would enable them to conclude the SFA handling of this since passing the issue to their processes in 2017 can provide the sort of confidence in the running of the game we fans are entitled to?

2. Are Celtic in a position to provide such information to such fans if it does exist since the SFA have failed entirely to do so despite one of their ‘strategic pillars’ being Trusted And Respected To Lead?

3. If such explanation has not been satisfactorily provided, can Celtic provide a proper explanation for continuing to trust in the SFA judicial process when it continues to drag on without communication or delivery? Or failing that a plan for how they expect to move this issue forward which is too important to continue to let fester?

4. Given in particular that agreements that have not been made public appear to have been signed with at least one member club which restricts historical actions that can be taken to improve accountability and governance of the game, but more generally also the compromised position of the regulatory bodies; are Celtic able to satisfactorily say to fans when selling to them that they are contributing to a fair game run on sporting principles with a completely empowered and impartial regulator?

5. Have Celtic sought the views of other clubs and supporters organisations on the above issue? We have so far over 4,000 signatories (many fans of Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Hibs, Hearts etc) exasperated to the point that they have signed a vote of no confidence in the SFA, many using phrases such as corrupt, not fit for purpose, old boys club and biased in their justifications for doing so.

6. Given such concerns from the fans do the Boards of such clubs share and reflect these concerns? We are strong advocates for fan representation as our experience is often that clubs do not adequately represent the views and concerns of that biggest stakeholder and provider of income to the game. This is a chance for the club boards to show that they do listen.

7. Certain letters relating to the disputed relevant tax demands indicated that the avoidance scheme and actions to hide it were tantamount to fraud. There is evidence from testimony in the highest court in the land that those involved concealed and made false representations in relation to the disguised remuneration and the tax liability. The objects were to obtain sporting and financial benefits at the expense of competitors who did not break the law, rules of the game and set out to deceive. Given the possibility of fraud and that being a criminal matter, have Celtic contacted the police seeking investigation into this?

8. Given FFP within domestic football is considered part and parcel of good sporting governance, would Celtic lobby the SFA/SPFL for the introduction of ongoing regulatory financial reporting and restrictions within the domestic league to ensure responsible club management going forward?

9. Would Celtic support the sharing of domestic shared revenues being at least partially contingent on FFP compliance?

10. Would Celtic support and encourage the Scottish government to make public funding for football contingent upon set codes of sporting governance (similar to those already in place in England and Wales)?

Thank you for taking the time to read and consider the above. We would be very grateful for a response to these issues and would hope to be able to count on teams such as Celtic to drive forward much needed reform to the antiquated and dysfunctional model currently run. For 20 years the major clubs have tried to reform unsuccessfully from within by musical chairs on committees and holding key positions but the truth is that the model is broke. If Celtic is really a club for all, then let it be the one that stands up for all the fans in the Scottish game and brings the game back to those that really matter. Starting with these issues right now.

Kind regards,
Fans Without Scarves

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