Barely a year ago a state of national emergency had been declared in Scotland following a league match between Celtic and Hearts. COBRA meetings were being held, the Trumpton Fire Brigade was rushing across the border and every useless poltroon in the country was mobilised to appear in the media. It even resulted in sightings of a character called Crawford Allen, head of referee operations at the SFA.
Nothing to do with the pandemic; Celtic had been the beneficiaries of an extremely marginal offside call which resulted in Kyogo scoring the winning goal against Hearts.
For a week the media had it as the main story amid scenes of collective anguish amongst the hacks that wouldn’t have been out of place at the funeral of Kim Jong Un.
Slack-jawed bumpkins like Kris Boyd were bouncing up and down on their studio chairs proclaiming, “There you go – Celtic getting all the big decisions again.” Jeez, we even had calls for VAR to be introduced here, a system that would mean employment for yet more of the Beatons and Maddens of the land. What next? Financial Fair Play maybe?
Well, here we are but a twelvemonth later. VAR is here as well and, if anything, the whole shitshow has taken a turn for the worse. A plethora of decisions derived at withe the benefit of the new technology has had most clubs in the country enraged at one time or another. Yet one club stands alone as an outlier – the only one still to be on the receiving end of an injustice.
The statisticians have been churning out mind boggling numbers about penalties awarded to sevco (and not awarded to their opponents) while defenders of match officials have been lining up to dismiss Celtic fans as paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists. Dogmatic delusion is alive and well.
The persistence of dogmatic delusion is something that one can only wonder at. There are still some people alive in the
world today who deny that the Holocaust ever occurred. There are still little confraternities of believers who continue to insist, Columbus notwithstanding, that the world is flat. And there are still people in Scotland who go on maintaining, a Himalaya of evidence to the contrary, that our football is completely untainted by pro Rangers bias. They say this with an air of disappointed indignation that anyone would dare to suggest otherwise.
One recalls the story of the husband caught in fragrante delicto by his wife in the most compromising of situations with another woman. He rushes off to patch things up with his enraged spouse and when she accuses him of infidelity, he reproachfully demands, “Who are you going to believe – me or your lying eyes?”
What we see is, apparently, not really what happened. They assure us, hands on hearts, speaking in the accents of injured innocence, that everything is as it should be with our game and that we should disregard the evidence of our lying eyes in favour of their protestations on behalf of its purity.
The issue, of course, isn’t whether a ref or VAR makes errors, it’s how one club consistently gets the benefit of the doubt and the others don’t. If all refs are rubbish and we have crazy handball rules none of them understand or can interpret, why are other clubs not experiencing the same number of terrible decisions even if it’s a few terrible marginal ones by accident like everyone else?
Cod psychologists like Alex Rae (himself an EBT recipient), Hugh Keevins and Ally McCoist have taken to the media to dismiss such observations as the ravings of the lunatic fringe and dismiss Celtic fans as conspiracy theorists. No one is claiming it’s a conspiracy, but if I was to look for a precedent it wouldn’t take long to find it.
For over a hundred years our most prominent team was allowed, without rebuke or reproach from the game’s governing body, to pursue an openly anti-Catholic policy until they themselves decided, for their own opportunistic reasons, to change. There was never any official pressure or even persuasion from within Scotland to get them to change; they were in no sense penalised for being anti-Catholic – some, indeed, have muttered darkly that they were, if anything, rewarded for being the people’s team, the team to defeat the unwelcome Irish intruders. Before they were liquidated Rangers became not more tolerant but more judicious, realistic and circumspect. To have gone on recklessly pursuing their traditional anti-Catholic policy might have led to expulsion from Europe; Scotland had always turned an obliging blind eye on the people’s team, but Europe might not have.
Then there was Chief Executive of the SFA Jim Farry and his handling of the Jorge Cadete transfer in 1996, Ask any follower of Celtic if he would have preferred the transfer of Cadete to have been handled in Zurich or Glasgow and ponder the implications of the answer. We are, remarkably, still in the dark as to what actually happened – all we know is that Farry was completely exonerated by two internal SFA enquiries before being sacked for gross misconduct after independent counsel advised an out-of-court settlement in a case that could not, in his view, be defended. But for Fergus McCann’s tenacity, the old jibes about paranoia would still be being levelled at those who complained about the handling of the transfer.
If two conspiracies aren’t enough, cast your mind back to 2010. What should have been a straightforward penalty decision led to referee Dougie McDonald first awarding it then crapping himself after being hounded by Dundee Utd players. He then went to his assistant linesman before deciding to rescind the penalty and do a bounce-up! Instead of tidying it all up post-match, the referee, linesman et al made a mess of it. Each was said to have asked to lie and as things started to unravel they all started to blame each other. The match report had fabrications which should have led to obvious punishments. However, the SFA being the SFA, each apparatchik was watching their own backs and it was long dragged out in the press. Paranoid and vindictive are some of the terms that were thrown at Celtic fans. However, it wasn’t Celtic fans or staff who created these issues. It was the SFA officials themselves.
As conspiracies go, however, the two aforementioned pale into insignificance compared to the death of Rangers 1872 and the subsequent spawning of sevco. To quote Rangers Tax Case: “An entire club caught in the most fully documented fraud possible, and Neil Doncaster signed a side-letter to the 5 Way Agreement promising Sevco wouldn’t be punished for any old Rangers act. Then there’s Andrew Dickson, current Director in charge of player files since 2004 with side letters who sat on the Licensing Committee in 2011 that granted them a UEFA licence in ignorance of the Wee Tax Case and two side letters Rangers denied having in the files when HMRC asked about them in 2005!” There has never been a better documented conspiracy in football. If the SFA, SPFL and press all decided to close ranks and protect their golden goose then, why wouldn’t they do so to try to keep Sevco’s titles hopes alive a bit longer? (Dickson and Doncaster are still in post)
Perhaps the most delicious irony of all is that the latest accusations of ‘conspiracy theorists’ comes in the very middle of the most recent example of conspiracy. Just this month it was announced that in the Rangers malicious prosecution saga the lead detective has retired and the Rangers supporting Sheriff who “colluded” with police to write “misleading” reports also retired, both without sanction. Perverting the course of justice appears to have no consequences for the perpetrators leaving the taxpayer with the £40 million (and counting) bill. The malicious prosecution affair started just after Dave King had visited Glasgow to round up support for his Ibrox takeover. All of those raided, arrested, or prosecuted were connected to the Rangers’ asset purchase by Charlie Green.
Yet again the powers at be going above and beyond for one team and one team only, as with the ‘no sporting advantage’ verdict on the cheating of the original club. A clear conflict of interest on the part of the sheriff has cot the taxpayer multi millions of much needed revenue. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing clear conflict of interest vis-a-vis referees in Scotland.
Same approach in both cases: nothing to see here, timmy, move along. The same mainstream sports hacks who denied there was a serious tax issue at Ibrox, it would all be settled for pennies on the pound, RFC would not be liquidated, and who try to pretend none of it happened- are telling us that Celtic fans are just paranoid.
There is no bias in Scottish football. Alex Rae, Kris Boyd and Ally McCoist have told us so. What other assurances could one possibly require?
and a Gentleman or two
All true. But when are Celtic going to do anything about it. Until this happens, the cheating will continue.
Bring back Fergus!
Great article. One correction: Rangers* season ticket holder Detective Jim Robertson is under criminal investigation and his early retirement into the sunset in May is on hold!! A malicious prosecution that’s cost £180m so far and no heads have rolled