Clubs must walk fine line to avoid more Holyrood action
THE politicians are coming and, once again, Scottish football is fixed in their sights.
Their weapon of choice is strict liability; Holyrood’s silver bullet for society’s ills.
Let’s be honest. There is plenty to aim at.
A stain on Scottish football. That’s how Rangers described the SFA’s failure to punish Hibs for the deplorable scenes which followed the Scottish Cup Final.
An independent judicial panel looked at goading Easter Road fans on the pitch, assaults on Ibrox players and violent clashes with Rangers rivals and offered nothing stronger than a sharp intake of breath.
Rangers were outraged and the Scottish Government saw their chance, releasing a statement calling for ‘robust, meaningful measures’ to avoid a repeat of scenes at Hampden.
For ‘robust, meaningful measures’ read strict liability.
Within Rangers there are some who believe the club should take the moral lead on this. That they should publicly back the measure.
But a statement from Ibrox the other night made no mention of strict liability. And it’s not hard to see why.
Implemented in full, Rangers and Celtic would have most to lose. They attract more column inches than the other clubs. Misdemeanours from supporters are gleefully leapt upon by rivals desperate to see ‘justice’ meted out and the Glasgow clubs would be first in line for docked points or closed stands.
Politicians and the anti-sectarian lobby group Nil By Mouth think that’s how it should be.
People are increasingly weary of sex doll effigies, ‘hun scum’ banners, wrecked toilets and sectarian anthems.
And calls to *do something* are rising in volume.
Precisely *what* to do is the tricky part.
To say erring supporters are escaping ‘scot free’ is inaccurate.
Police Scotland have arrested three men over the sex doll stunt.
And the number of arrests following the Scottish Cup Final is up to 76
Laws exists to deal with this stuff and the criminal justice system is doing its job.
But that’s not enough for MSPS. They want football clubs to pay for behaviour they can’t control.
The SNP’s James Dornan is now pursuing a private parliamentary bill to impose strict liability on Scottish football.
The last political interference in Scottish football led to the Offensive Behaviour in Football Act, a horribly drafted, shambolic piece of legislation. Described as ‘mince’ by a sheriff, the OBFA is a lesson politicians refuse to heed.
Their war on Scottish football supporters goes on and the double standards at play are staggering.
After two drug related deaths at T In the Park the silence from Holyrood was deafening.
Yet when football supporters step out of line they are quick to the lectern.
Strict Liability has one fatal flaw. There is no evidence it actually works.
On Thursday Celtic were fined £8600 for the widespread flying of Palestinian flags at the European home clash with Israelis Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
A ninth fine in five seasons, the Parkhead club have now shelled out £172,000 to Europe’s governing body. And still bad things happen.
Two years ago UEFA also fined St Johnstone £15,000 when a supporter displayed a ‘political’ Palestinian flag at McDiarmid Park.
Could the club have stopped it? No logical person would think they could.
But they were blamed anyway.
Persistent fines change nothing. Many are unjust.
Teenage kids who sing offensive songs about the IRA or UDA and wave fireworks around couldn’t care less if their club is fined ten grand. The *cause* is the thing and to hell with the consequences.
Campaigners argue tougher penalties – such as closing stands – would fix this.
But it only takes an hour watching Sportscene to see how Scottish clubs are already closing stands of their own accord.
Would the SFA and SPFL really have the will or the courage to impose tough sanctions on their biggest member clubs?
Not when those clubs can afford expensive lawyers to show they did all they possibly could to root out unruly behaviour.
German clubs are currently engaged in a battle to show how strict liability *can* work fairly.
Fined 50,000 Euro by the German FA when a supporter injured seven people throwing a firework in 2014, Cologne are aggressively pursuing the offender for damages.
It’s unlikely they will ever see a penny. Football trouble makers are not noted for their independent wealth.
Nevertheless, Scottish clubs have to show a renewed desire to develop a fair, viable alternative to strict liability. One which works for all.
If they don’t there are plenty of posturing, publicity seeking politicians in Edinburgh only too willing to do the job for them.
Blame lies squarely on Sam’s shoulders
YOU can almost forgive Sam Allardyce for being a greedy old fool.
Let’s be honest. Offered the chance to trouser £400,000 for four ‘meet and greets’ in Singapore and Hong Kong, most of us wouldn’t need a second invitation.
In a football industry driven by ego, machismo and insecurity speaking engagements and public appearances add to a man’s currency.
The manager of England can be a syntax-mangling, nonsense spouting one man cliché machine – and often is. But people will still pay good money to be in his company.
The temptation to cash in and earn some easy money, then, must be overwhelming.
Neverthless, Alladyce was a midguided clot to fall victim to a Daily Telegraph sting.
Allardyce broke cover to claim ‘entrapment has won.’
BT Sport presenter Jake Humphries joined other media lickspittles in blaming a ‘poisonous press’ for his downfall.
Yet when Big Sam looks in a mirror he’ll find the real architect of his downfall gazing back.
The man was weeks into the job of his dreams and earning £3million a year.
How much money do football people actually *need*? When is enough actually enough?
What the Telegraph revelations expose is disturbing culture of greed and entitlement in the game.
When someone says ‘there’s a drink in it for you’ it means something very different to how you or I might understand those words.
It’s coded slang. An enticement for unprincipled characters to tread a dangerous line.
So far this week Allardyce, Barnsley coach Tommy Wright, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Aberdeen legend Eric Black have been implicated.
As author Irvine Welsh tweeted the other night, the best thing the Telegraph could do is to set their investigations team the task of compiling a list of managers who *refused* to take a bung.
Right now that would be the *real* story.
Contrived Ryder Cup reeks of double standards
IT’S been a bad year for Britain’s Ryder Cup bores.
BHS has gone to the wall, robbing many of a much-loved supplier of golf club slacks.
Now comes the confusing, contradictory side effects of Brexit.
In June the UK narrowly voted to leave the European Union.
Three months later Middle Britain is suddenly expected to roar ‘Europe, Europe’ at their TV screens like Jean-Claude Juncker on a Christmas night out.
This is the reality of the Ryder Cup, the most plastic, contrived, artificial sporting event on the planet.
‘Team Europe’ didn’t exist until 1979, when dear old Great Britain & Ireland finally tired of losing.
In a naked act of sporting gerrymandering Seve Ballesteros and Antonio Garrido were hauled in to even things up.
Since then the Europeans have been the dominant force.
Carry on like this and Rupert Murdoch might have to fix it so it becomes Europe vs America and the Rest of the World. A modern day alternative to ‘It’s a Knockout.’
Listen, the Ryder Cup is a marketing and broadcasting phenomenon. It’s clearly doing something right.
But forgive those of us who cringe every time some bozo climbs to his feet in a Glasgow boozer and screams, ‘come on Europe….’
It’s enough to make a man go full-scale Farage.