Stigma in Scottish Football- Part 5: Where do we go?

It had been intended that Part 4 would have been the concluding part of this series, but it felt like the series needed a bit of a summary and conclusion.  To recap, the ‘Stigma’ series:

Part 1  : Too Big to fail

This part of the series dealt with the issues of risk in football. Specifically systemic risk and financial risk. It noted the similarities between the banking crisis and football and that lessons of better regulation and control of risk could prevent further failures.  It talked about monitoring and regulation as a means to reduce the risk of further failures, particularly where they could be catastrophic. It summarised what controls and protections were currently in place and whether they were fit for purpose.

It noted modern Scottish football relies on Celtic and Rangers to drive its scale and international interest. It noted that either of them failing has disproportionate effect on the economy built upon its back and therefore demands extra care that they do not.

It walked through a history of financial failure in Scottish football and whether the warning signs had been heeded.

Part 2 : A Lesson From History

This part of the series sets the scene for Scottish football ahead of the 2011/12 season, examining the state of the finances of Scottish football in general, the financial situation at Rangers in particular and the direction football had been taking and effect it had on Scotland’s place in the footballing world.

It covered the situation the SFA had found themselves in. The situation Rangers had found itself in by the time Whyte’s takeover happened. It looks at what the options would have been at that time and the possible consequences. It covers the known knowns when Rangers were approved for a UEFA license for the 2011/12 season, the contentious nature of the decision which continues to rumble on through ‘Resolution 12’ and why Whyte was given a chance to roll the dice one last time.

It notes the conflation of self-interests that keep fans at arms-length and how participation by fans both at clubs and the regulator should really be considered a positive thing.

Part 3: Tumbling Dice

Covers Whyte’s short and tumultuous reign at Ibrox. How and why he was able to keep things going without putting any money in and how when the gamble failed, the music had to be faced.

It covers how once it had failed, the SFA and the Clubs (via the League bodies) stepped in to crush Whyte as a scapegoat and mask the underlying problems that had made his throw of the dice necessary. How they set about avoiding culpability for their own parts in it and how in the chaos some spotted opportunities to improve their own lot.

Part 4: Negotiations and Deals

The last substantive part of the series addresses the furious deal-making, the clashes of self-interests, the threats and bullying, the bluffing and posturing and the eventual bargaining in the wake of Rangers prolonged failure and re-launching.

It addresses how various interests were balanced and how the financial situation was once again at the forefront.  It covers how ultimately when the very worst is happening, bluffing it out just doesn’t get you the deals you want.

It then talks about what this all means for the financial situation of our football clubs going forward, how it really is all about money for those that run our clubs and how they will always have priorities that aren’t necessarily in the interests of fans nor football itself.

Conclusions

The upshot of all of this has included a number of conclusions throughout, some outright said and some obliquely referenced. Some of these we’ve discussed further in our other articles and series.

  1. That big money, a shrinking world and the polarisation of wealth has had transformative effects on football in general. In Scotland in particular it is still desperately trying to find its place in the new order and stop itself sliding into irrelevance (see Roger Mitchell: The Circle of Milne for more on this). While the focus has been on money and European relevance however, there is a growing clamouring also for ‘real football’ and a sport that remains true to what football has been about in the past (What Happened to the Soul of Football?).
  2. That the level of monitoring and licensing in Scottish football still is not effective enough at protecting against future failures (The Ongoing Case for FFP in Domestic Football). We have asked fans how they feel about this and they provided some significant feedback saying that they’d prefer at the very least basic levels of financial protection in place to protect their clubs (Financial Fair Play: A Fan Voice).
  3. That in order to drive revenue, Scottish football is complicit in monetarising bigotry, but that may change as the rest of the world gets less accepting of what are fundamentally unacceptable behaviours in the modern world (our series on this starts here Bigotry in Fitba’: A New Tomorrow? – Part 1)
  4. That the current model built on only owners having the say on behalf of clubs and only clubs having the say on behalf of all football is inherently undemocratic. It leaves fans on the outside looking in, despite being the driving force of all revenue generation in the game. That other models for football club ownership can help address this issue (Fan Representation – Part 1: It will happen, embrace it) and that other models at the SFA itself could potentially help ensure those that really care about the game are given a meaningful voice (Ménage à Trois: Blazers, Clubs and Fans).

None of these issues exist in a vacuum and meaningful change on any of them really necessitate some movement on all of them. It makes achieving meaningful reform so much harder, but really fans always have the power to be heard by closing their wallets.

What we would really like to see as the legacy of the crazy days of 2012 would be to put some of the hurt, pain, hatred and angst to one side and make the sort of meaningful changes to the running of our game that can help prevent disasters like these happening again. But trying to get unity of opinion and action in Scottish football is akin to nailing jelly to the wall. It is both frustrating and brilliant in equal measures. Again this is something we’d written about in the past (and in particular this piece is very personal to me Scottish Football: Passion, Hate, Love and Orange String).

I’m not sure even after 7 years that things are any less raw, but our game needs to adapt or be left behind and I really don’t believe that many who love the game think we have the right model and the right people in place, but are at a loss as to how to make things better. But we can try.

Sometimes its better to be an outsider playing the fool than an insider trying to be wise.

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