21 Jan 2013

Scottish football: sport first, business second?

As I head north to Edinburgh, hopefully leapfrogging the incoming blizzard which has turned Stansted white, news of an interesting initiative going out to the main fan organisations and thence clubs across Scottish football.

It arises from the community of contributors to the Scottish Football Monitor site. It also arises from the rubble of last year, the shockwaves sent out across Scottish football by the Rangers implosion and most of all the shameful, tawdry attempts by the football authorities in Glasgow to keep Rangers in “the SPL” at all costs.

The latter, the proverbial straw that imposed spinal trauma upon the Caledonian Camel, for many fans. So they want change.

Fans said “Enough!” So did Rangers fans too and many for reasons of integrity as well. And so, memorably did the clubs whose chairmen converged upon Hampden to remind sporting officials that they officiate over sport.

The draft resolution has a covering letter the key message of which is:

“It is our view that the SFA is as tied to the commercial impact of Rangers demise as the SPL and so had to be reminded that to the fans, football is sport first and a business second. Both the SFA and leagues on the face of it still appear to be too commercially oriented to act in a way that balances the demands of commercialism with the need for maintaining sporting integrity.”

So it is that I print the draft resolution to fans’ organisations in full. The voice of the silent and silenced majority? The soul of the game derided or ignored by Scottish football’s MSM? Or just a bunch of mavericks?

You decide.

“DRAFT proposal for representative supporter groups e.g. trusts or associations to send to their club to convey to the SFA/SPL/SFL Boards.

We [insert association/trust name here] and in association with fans’ groups of other clubs, ask [insert club name here] to convey the following to the Scottish Football Association, SPL and SFL on our behalf.

1. We believe that the commercial viability of Scottish football at the professional level depends absolutely on the belief by supporters that sporting integrity is at the heart of all competition, and that those governing them and the rules by which they exercise governance, must hold sporting integrity as paramount above ALL other concerns. This belief can be summed up in the one word “trust”. Without trust in those responsible for governing Scottish football, commercial viability will suffer, to eventual ruin of our game.

2. There is a perception (accompanied by some dismay and anger) among football supporters throughout Scotland that those who were charged with upholding the rules of the SFA and SPL/SFL, only did so partially – and even then only because of the threat of supporter action if they did not.

3.There appears to be no distinction or order of hierarchy between those governing the game (the SFA) for whom we believe preservation of sporting integrity should be the prime purpose, and the leagues (SPL/SFL) for whom commercial aspects are (understandably) uppermost. As a result sporting integrity lost its primacy and it was left to supporters to insist on it.

4. Consequently many Scottish football supporters have lost confidence that the Scottish Football Association will fulfil their purpose of safeguarding the sport. Indeed their silence following the revelation of a five-way agreement last summer on the future of the liquidated Glasgow Rangers has exacerbated this loss of confidence in the SFA’s ability to administer professional football in Scotland in a manner that reflects their duty of care to all aspects of the game and everyone who takes part in it.

5. Decisions and deals have been taken by the SFA, SPL, and SFL without any public scrutiny. The operations and decisions of those bodies lack transparency and they are not accountable in any recognisable form to the football supporters throughout the land, without whom there is no professional association.

6. In our view this loss of trust can only begin to be restored by the SFA publically committing itself to:

(i)The production of an unequivocal “mission” statement of purpose/intent which will state (in whatever form they may exist) that maintaining sporting integrity is and will always be their prime goal. The statement will also describe how they intend to ensure this principle is followed in their interactions with leagues and clubs, particularly when commercial decisions that might undermine sporting integrity are implemented by the leagues. (eg In the case of TV contracts, sponsorship or any significant league reconstruction).

(ii) Further: in recognition of the inability of some individuals to provide leadership during the past year simply because of conflicts of interest, take steps to remove any such conflict, and in doing so enable the organisation and its office bearers to function unhindered.

(iii)In the interests of transparency, publish the “five point agreement” that allowed The Rangers entry into SFL and SFA, provide a supporting rationale for entering into the agreement, and confirm that the terms have been or are being complied with.

Along with other trust restoring measures (see attached Annex) these steps should mark the end of the continuing lack of trust in the authorities.

7. We appreciate that it may be the start of next season before there is any visible evidence of our concerns being addressed although the statement of purpose/intent by the SFA (i) and action at (ii) can be readily put in place – would be a welcome early development.

8. All club’s supporters groups will be watching closely for signs of progress before advising our members and our other supporters if we feel the necessary trust restoring steps are being taken and advise that they can purchase their season books for 2013/14 knowing that sporting integrity is once more absolutely paramount in Scottish football to the betterment of our game.

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