Excellent food for thought which we thought worthy of inclusion…

Glasnost (and a Pair of strikers)

Fiat justitia, et pereat mundus
(Let justice be done, though the world perish)

Picture the scene. A wealthy old lady decides to disinherit her only son. So he kills her before she gets the chance to make a Will. What should happen to her estate? Succession law couldn’t be clearer: she died without leaving a valid Will and, under the intestacy rules, her son is entitled to inherit all her wealth. The extended family bring a legal challenge.

You’re the judge: what would you do?

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Everything Has Changed

The recent revelations of a potential winding up order being served on Rangers Newco certainly does have a sense of “deja vu all over again” for the average reader of this blog.

It reminds me of an episode of the excellent Western series Alias Smith & Jones. The episode was called The Posse That Wouldn’t Quit. In the story, the eponymous anti-heroes were being tracked by a particularly dogged group of law-men whom they just couldn’t shake off – and they spent the entire episode trying to do just that. In a famous quote, Thaddeus Jones, worn out from running, says to Joshua Smith, “We’ve got to get out of this business!”

The SFM has been trying since its inception to widen the scope and remit of the discussion and debate on the blog. Unsuccessfully. Like the posse that wouldn’t quit, Rangers are refusing to go away as a story. With the latest revelations, I confided in my fellow mods that perhaps we too should get out of this business. I suspect that, even if we did, this story would doggedly trail our paths until it wears us all down.

The fact that the latest episode of the Rangers saga has sparked off debate on this blog may even confirm the notion subscribed to by Rangers fans that TSFM is obsessed with their club. However even they must agree that the situation with regard to Rangers would be of interest to anyone with a stake in Scottish Football; and that they themselves must be concerned by the pattern of events which started over a decade ago and saw the old club fall into decline on a trajectory which ended in liquidation.

But let me enter into a wee discussion which doesn’t merely trot out the notion of damage done to others or sins against the greater good, but which enters the realm of the damage done to one of the great institutions of world sport, Rangers themselves.

David Murray was regarded by Rangers fans as a hero. His bluster, hubris and (as some see it) arrogant contempt for his competitors afforded him a status as a champion of the cause as long as it was underpinned by on-field success.

The huge pot of goodwill he possessed was filled and topped-up by a dripping tap of GIRUY-ness for many years beyond the loss of total ascendency that his spending (in pursuit of European success) had achieved, and only began to bottom out around the time the club was sold to Craig Whyte.  In retrospect, it can be seen that the damage that was done to the club’s reputation by the Murray ethos (not so much a Rangers ethos as a Thatcherite one) and reckless financial practice is now well known.

Notwithstanding the massive blemish on its character due to its employment policies, the (pre-Murray) Rangers ethos portrayed a particularly Scottish, perhaps even Presbyterian stoicism. It was that of a conservative, establishment orientated, God-fearing and law-abiding institution that played by the rules. It was of a club that would pay its dues, applied thrift and honesty in its business dealings, and was first to congratulate rivals on successes (witness the quiet dignity of John Lawrence at the foot of the aircraft steps with an outstretched hand to Bob Kelly when Celtic returned from Lisbon).

If Murray had dug a hole for that Rangers, Craig Whyte set himself up to fill it in. No neo-bourgeois shirking of responsibilities and duty to the public for him; his signature was more pre-war ghetto, hiding behind the couch until the rent man moved along to the next door. Whyte just didn’t pay any bills and with-held money that was due to be passed along to the treasury to fund the ever more diminished public purse. Where Murray’s Rangers had been regarded by the establishment and others as merely distasteful, Whyte’s was now regarded as a circus act, and almost every day of his tenure brought more bizarre and ridiculous news which had Rangers fans cringing, the rest laughing up their sleeve, and Bill Struth birling in his grave.

The pattern was now developing in plain sight. Murray promised Rangers fans he would only sell to someone who could take the club on, but he sold it – for a pound – to a guy whose reputation did not survive the most cursory of inspection. Whyte protested that season tickets had not been sold in advance, that he used his own money to buy the club. Both complete fabrications. Yet until the very end of Whyte’s time with the club, he, like Murray still, was regarded as hero by a fan-base which badly wanted to believe that the approaching car-crash could be avoided.

Enter Charles Green. Having been bitten twice already, the fans’ first instincts were to be suspicious of his motives. Yet in one of history’s greatest ironic turnarounds, he saw off the challenge of real Rangers-minded folk (like John Brown and Paul Murray) and their warnings, and by appealing to what many regard as the baser instincts of the fan-base became the third hero to emerge in the boardroom in as many years. The irony of course is that Green himself shouldn’t really pass any kind of Rangers sniff-test; personal, sporting, business or cultural; and yet there he is the spokesman for 140 years of the aspirations of a quarter of the country’s fans.

To be fair though, what else could Rangers fans do? Green had managed (and shame on the administration process and football authorities for this) to pick up the assets of the club for less (nett) than Craig Whyte and still maintained a presence in the major leagues.

If they hadn’t backed him only the certainty of doom lay before them. It was Green’s way or the highway in other words – and speaking of words, his sounded mighty fine. But do the real Rangers minded people really buy into it all?

First consider McCoist. I do not challenge his credentials as a Rangers minded man, and his compelling need to be an effective if often ineloquent spokesman for the fans. However, according to James Traynor (who was then acting as an unofficial PR advisor to the Rangers manager), McCoist was ready to walk in July (no pun intended) because he did not trust Green. The story was deliberately leaked, to undermine Green, by both Traynor and McCoist. McCoist also refused for a long period of time to endorse the uptake of season books by Rangers fans, even went as far as to say he couldn’t recommend it.

So what changed? Was it a Damascene conversion to the ways of Green, or was it the 250,000 shares in the new venture that he acquired. Nothing improper or unethical – but is it idealism? Is it fighting for the cause?

Now think Traynor. I realise that can be unpleasant, but bear with me.

Firstly, when he wrote that story on McCoist’s resignation, (and later backed it up on radio claiming he had spoken to Ally before printing the story), he was helping McCoist to twist Green’s arm a little. Now, and I’m guessing that Charles didn’t take this view when he saw the story in question, Green thinks that Traynor is a “media visionary”?

Traynor also very publicly, in a Daily Record leader, took the “New Club line” and was simultaneously contemptuous of Green.

What happened to change both their minds about each other? Could it have been (for Green) the PR success of having JT on board and close enough to control, and (for Traynor) an escape route for a man who had lost the battle with own internal social media demons?

Or, given both McCoist’s and Traynor’s past allegiance to David Murray, is it something else altogether?

Whatever it is, both Traynor and McCoist have started to sing from a totally different hymn sheet to Charles Green since the winding up order story became public. McCoist’s expert étude in equivocation at last Friday’s press conference would have had the Porter in Macbeth slamming down the portcullis (now there’s an irony). He carefully distanced himself from his chairman and ensured that his hands are clean. Traynor has been telling one story, “we have an agreement on the bill”, and Green another, “we are not paying it”.

And what of Walter Smith? At first, very anti-Charles Green, he even talked about Green’s “new club”. Then a period of silence followed by his being co-opted to the board and a “same club” statement. Now in the face of the damaging WUP story, more silence. Hardly a stamp of approval on Green’s credentials is it?

Rangers fans would be right to be suspicious of any non-Rangers people extrapolating from this story to their own version of Armageddon, but shouldn’t they also reserve some of that scepticism for Green and Traynor (neither are Rangers men, and both with only a financial interest in the club) when they say “all is well” whilst the real Rangers man (McCoist) is only willing to say “as far as I have been told everything is well”

As a Celtic fan, it may be a fair charge to say that I don’t have Rangers best interests at heart, but I do not wish for their extinction, nor do I believe that one should ignore a quarter of the potential audience for our national game. Never thought I’d hear myself say this, but apart from one (admittedly mightily significant) character defect, I can look at the Rangers of Struth and Simon, Gillick and Morton, Henderson and Baxter, and Waddell and Lawrence (and God help me even Jock Wallace) with fondness and a degree of nostalgia.

I suspect most Rangers fans are deeply unhappy about how profoundly their club has changed. To be fair, my own club no longer enchants me in the manner of old. As sport has undergone globalisation, everything has changed. Our relationship to our clubs has altered, the business models have shifted, and the aspirations of clubs is different from that of a generation ago. It has turned most football clubs into different propositions from the institutions people of my generation grew up supporting, but Rangers are virtually unrecognisable.

The challenge right now for Rangers fans is this. How much more damage will be done to the club’s legacy before this saga comes to an end?

And by then will it be too late to do anything about it?

Most people on this blog know my views about the name of Green’s club. I really don’t give a damn because for me it is not important. I do know, like Craig Whyte said, that in the fullness of time there will be a team called Rangers, playing football in a blue strip at Ibrox, and in the top division in the country.

I understand that this may be controversial to many of our contributors, but I hope that this incarnation of Rangers is closer to that of Lawrence and Simon than to Murray and Souness.

A Question of Trust (Updated)

by Auldheid for the Scottish Football Monitor

On these pages at least there is a mounting lack of trust that the Scottish Football Association can or will govern our game in a fair and honest manner that recognises the principle of sporting integrity as paramount.

This mistrust is equalled only by the frustration at being unable to do anything to change the attitude and action of those at the SFA (and Leagues) responsible for that governance, a frustration compounded by the reluctance of the mainstream media to focus on the very issues of trust and integrity that concern us.

Back in early 2010 Celtic supporters represented by the Celtic Trust, various Association groups and individuals felt the same frustration and found a way to make their voices heard at the SFA – by using their club as a channel of communication to articulate their concerns.

A resolution was agreed and passed to Celtic to convey to the SFA and it was heeded by the club. There is no reason in why a similar conduit cannot be used by supporters groups of all clubs.

The enormity of the task, to get the majority of trusts and associations of all clubs to support this approach and give it sufficient weight, should not be underestimated, but in the interests of amplifying our voice, it is worth the effort.

Based on that 2010 experience, and on the discussion that has taken place on TSFM we have arrived at a (now amended) resolution below under the auspices of TSFM and which has been sent to all representative club supporters groups.

We believe one of the reasons the SFA and SPL were able to mislead (or simply fail to provide leadership) was because of the lack of clarity surrounding who should take provide that leadership and what principles should have been paramount.

The SFA were as tied to the commercial impact of Rangers demise as the SPL and indeed had to be reminded by the supporters of the importance of that sporting integrity. In the aftermath of the Rangers implosion, both the SFA and Leagues on the face of it appear still too commercially oriented to act in a way that balances commercialism and sporting principles.

We have attempted to address this in the resolution below. It also contains additional points raised already on TSFM and elsewhere. It is designed to assist in the widening of accountability in the sport.

We are not wed to the draft or the language. It is there to be revised but we hope it contains enough food for thought to be acceptable to the supporters groups and the clubs.

As recently as today, the SFA has published a Fans Charter. We welcome this development, and although it does not address our specific concerns with respect to governance it is a step in the right direction (http://www.fanscharter.com/).

Some of the principles published are;

  • Challenge is to make a National Fans Charter known, accepted and influential
  • Getting fan involvement in drafting charter important to acceptance,  influence and growing awareness.

We think our resolution is an even bigger step in the direction of those principles.

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 5 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. (e.g. 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.

Signed __________________________ on behalf of

[Insert supporter trust/association name here]

Date ______________

Annex to resolution.

The following is a list of other measures that the SFA should take in order to satisfy supporters that they should be entrusted with the job of governing Scottish football.

  1. To increase transparency and accountability in a meaningful way – possibly via creation of an active supporter’s liaison group drawn from representative supporter groups of each club. Its remit, using an agreed consultative mechanism to generate dialogue, to hear supporters’ concerns and consider them before key decisions are made. In an industry that is totally interdependent it is folly to exclude a major stakeholder from key decision making.
  2. A tightening of and an annual and independent audit of the process for granting UEFA Club (FFP) and National Club licensing reporting to the representative supporter liaison group as well as other SFA members to ensure all clubs are living within their means.
  3. Introduction of a rule requiring all Scottish football club directors to declare any financial interest/shareholding in any club other than their own and to rule that disposition of those shares/interest should be a part of a fit and proper assessment of a person’s qualification to hold office at an association club.
  4. A feasibility review of Scottish refereeing to assess the potential for creating a professional service that the SFA provide to the leagues by recruiting and training referees, but where the leagues monitor and reward consistently good performances to an agreed standard. Given the sums dependent on referee decisions, the current system must change for everyone’s sake including the referees.
  5. A full explanation about the circumstances (including dates) surrounding the award of a UEFA Club licence to Rangers in spring/summer of 2011 when there was unpaid social tax that prime facie did not meet the conditions for deeming the granting of a licence acceptable under the UEFA FFP rules on unpaid tax (the wee tax bill).

The [Insert Club Name here] Trust/Supporters Association asks [Insert Club Name here] to convey our concerns above with their provenance to the appropriate authorities as they see fit viz:

    • Football Authority in Scotland (The SFA)
    • Europe (UEFA)
    • Scottish Government (on the issue of accountability to supporters and       proper checks and balance governance.)

A Roman God, a New Year, a Paycheque a Sports Jacket and that thing called football!

Guest Blog by Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan

Good Morning,

Can I start by wishing everyone who reads this blog a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2013.

In a few weeks’ time a couple of working class lads from Walsall and Wolverhampton will receive a reasonably sizeable cheque through the door. The money will be entirely expected and meticulously accounted for. A similar cheque will have arrived last year, and both will expect the process to repeat itself automatically this time next year.

The sum concerned will be sizeable—many thousands of pounds— and does not come from any insurance policy, institutional pension plan or other type of financially regulated investment. Further, in order to receive a similar amount next year, the two men will have to do precisely nothing! The money will simply come automatically!

Magic eh?

Well no—not really.

You see Neville and James ( for that is what they are called ) earned this money many years ago by completing a job of work, and they have been getting paid for the same job year in and year out ever since!

Except that you don’t know them as Nevile and James! No you may know them as Jim Lea ( who? you may say ) and Noddy Holder (aka Neville John Holder MBE ) the co author of that perennial Christmas classic “Merry Christmas Everybody”.

These two clever boys came up with their “pension” song by making a Christmas cracker out of tunes they had written and discarded in the past. Lea’s chords from years before provided the tune for the verses, while an earlier rejected composition of Holder’s became the chorus, and in this way it was the past work of both men that secured their future—even back in 1974!

As the song is played to death on Radio, in clubs, in pubs, in shops, on TV and everywhere else at Christmas, the New Year always brings a cheque of sizeable proportions for Messrs Lea and Holder.

However there were four members of Slade and not two, I hear you say!

Whilst that is correct, not every member of the band shares the royalties for ever more, with only the actual composers receiving the big bucks year on year — unless of course the gang of four agreed otherwise between themselves – as sometimes happens—but often doesn’t — in bands and other artistic collaborations!

And that, dear reader, neatly takes me to the current topic of the day on this here planet!!! The reconstruction, reorganisation and profit sharing in Scottish Fitba!!!

It strikes me that the SFA, SPL and SFL all want to come up with their own version of the pension song or product — Something that will make future performances interesting and lucrative for ever more without anyone having to put in too much effort in future.

Of course it is recognised that the clubs at the top of the financial tree have the greatest influence in composing this song, but there is an insistence, and so a desire, that even the minor band members should get a greater share of the royalties going forward.

All very honourable. All very interesting,— and all completely missing the point in my humble opinion.

Now, there is a clamour from the fans that the proposed structure of 12 – 12—18 is flawed and leads to daft consequences when worked through. We want 14- 14 – 14 say many fans or 16- 14 – 12 or some other composition altogether!!

Oh—and the fans want the chairmen to consult the fans before making a decision on anything, and they want Messrs Regan, Doncaster and Longmuir to stop telling fans that they need to be “educated” about what is best for the game!

All very noble! All very interesting, —and all completely missing the point once again in my humble opinion.

Jock Stein once famously proclaimed that football is nothing without fans— almost everyone knows that. Yet how many actually stop to consider those words and what he meant.

There is nothing without fans!!!!!

How many times have you heard commentators, journalists, ex players and even fans refer to the fans as “the paying customers” ?  This phrase has made its way into common parlance and is rarely- if ever- challenged or qualified.

So I will ask—is that what the football fan is prepared to be called—“The paying customer”?— is that it?

Are you, dear reader, a paying customer?—and nothing more?

Or is a football fan a “member of a club”—a “ supporter of a club” or even “part” of a club?

If you are just a paying customer does that mean that anyone who turns up at a ground and pays over some money on a solitary Saturday afternoon is to be seen in exactly the same way as the guy or gal who has been a season ticket holder for years and years?

Does the person who sits behind their keyboard and blogs and comments for Britain on matters football—but who never goes to a game or who does not spend a penny following or promoting their proclaimed club – have the same strength of voice as that season ticket holder—or even the guy who stumps up the cash to view a game once a year?

Not a chance in my view!!!

Equally though, if you have a Football Club Board who do nothing whatsoever to attract people into the club apart from throw out a team on a Saturday Afternoon with mixed degrees of success – are they worthy of support from the “paying customer” or anyone else for that matter?

In my view the answer is no— a very loud —NO!!!

If we are going to reconstruct Scottish Football then I am sorry you have to start by looking at exactly what it is you are trying to reconstruct—reconstruct being the appropriate and important word.

The job is to reconstruct—and regain— viable and important interest in Scottish Football and the teams—or clubs—who play in Scotland.

League reconstruction is only part of that process, and the redistribution of television money is only part of the league reconstruction part of the process!

The month of January is named after the Roman God Janus—who had two heads— one for looking forward and one for looking back. Janus was the God of transition—The God of change— and it was always clear that you could only have change going forward by casting an eye back to the past—to see what you wanted to keep from that past, to see what you wanted to jettison, and to see what could be learned from past times.

In the past , football crowds were far larger, revenues proportionally bigger and closer together when comparing clubs, and consequently it might be said that the football product was much better on the park—with various teams outwith the two big Glasgow teams—please do remember the Jags come from Glasgow too and that in the past Clyde and Third Lanark were also natives— competing for and winning trophies.

Nowadays, football clubs have lower attendances—unless of course one of the smaller teams ( I refuse to use the derogatory and well hackneyed phrase that is banded about re smaller Scottish Clubs ) gets to a Hampden final when low and behold anything between 20,000 and 30,000 lost football fans appear as if out of nowhere!!

And hey—if you happen to be a fan of the Ibrox Club or the Parkhead club—don’t go getting too comfy in your seat— where the hell were some of you before Seville or Manchester?

The point is that football is like politics — it all means nothing without participation— real participation. That means fans buying into, spending money on and in, and promoting their club at every opportunity. It means the clubs and their boards using every trick in the book to generate income away from the football pitch. A “Club” in law is no more than a collection of people coming together for a common purpose and a football club is perfectly capable of having genuine “club activity” which does not primarily involve football.

Where are the regional and local initiatives to promote the social aspects of football clubs? Do the facilities for women need upgrading to help persuade more mothers and girlfriends to come to the ground whether that be for games or other events or functions?

In a time of never ending football memorabilia, how many people went to their club shop this Christmas and bought merchandise for family and friends – even if the same family and friends support another club? How many people invite visitors or non football supporting friends to a game on a Saturday—even if it is only every now and then?

In short what do you do to support your club—and what can that club do to get more and more people involved in the club itself or its functions? And what functions could that club become involved in using existing facilities and resources?

Is there a kids club? A  weekday crèche? Are there facilities that are not used six days a week which could be used for community groups who have nothing to do with football—or even sport? Should the club hold daft things like race nights, bingo nights— functions that may well attract people who would no more likely  go to a football ground on a Saturday than suddenly develop Noddy Holder style sideburns?

How many people take an old shirt or T shirt or towel bearing the club colours on holiday to give to a waiter or a stranger or someone who has no connection with the club—with a view to creating a fan or someone with a bit of interest who might just one day become a season ticket holder or even an occasional “paying customer” at the door?

Further, are there folk out there who could actually go along and volunteer services for their club for nothing and so save the club from spending hard earned cash out of necessity? Could you be a gateman? Could you perform a task for your club on a voluntary basis?

You may think that a daft or utopian ideology but sports clubs traditionally always had a social purpose as well as a sporting one. Clubs were a focus for a locality, or a workforce, or a congregation or just about any group of people who want to come together for sporting or social purposes. Further those who volunteered their services for the common good often got great local recognition for their dedication and spirit.

Ask any Dons fan about Teddy Scott—who although a paid employee was Aberdeen FC through and through—pay or no pay!

The clamour for change in football should not be blinded by the words of the three official bodies and the more vocal chairmen of the clubs that want to play in the league – or not as the case may be. Change should come from the fans of the game up—but to be honest until the fans—or should I say the mysteriously disappearing armchair fans—actually come out and support their clubs a lot more often, then we are not going to see valuable and worthwhile change no matter what the league set up or composition.

On Saturday, I listened to Off The Ball on Radio Scotland where the contributors waxed lyrical about journalists of yesteryear who made the game and broadcasting interesting. Jimmy Sanderson, Bob Crampsey et al – they all got a mention.

The discussion sparked a memory for me when they came to discuss the legend that is Arthur Montford—famously referred to by Jock Stein as “ The Sportsjacket” with reference to his never ending collection of blazers.

Arthur was a journalist—both print and broadcast— with the BBC and then STV since 1957 in terms of television—and with the Evening Times and other papers in terms of the written press.

A lifelong follower of Morton and a keen Golfer and golf commentator, Arthur has been retired this many a year although he can still be seen walking up and down Byres Road occasionally. At one time he became Chairman of Morton and he used to write in the club programme on a regular basis—possibly still does! He is by all accounts a nice man—a good man— sufficiently good and of sufficient standing to have been elected as the Rector of Glasgow University in 1975—beating George Brown and Janey Buchan ( if you don’t know who they were then look them up! )— in the process.

He was the first sports journalist to hold that post.

In his Rectorial address Arthur went to great lengths to highlight what can be achieved if volunteers— individuals— club members if you like— put their shoulders to the wheel and strive for change, for a common purpose, and for society in general. He stressed that such communal effort brought about change—brought about improvement— brought about advancement in numerous situations. This was only three years after Jimmy Reid had used the same platform to denounce the “Rat Race” declaring “ I am not a rat!”.

For football to change in this country we need action—action by the fans—action by the clubs—action by the journalists and commentators to highlight initiatives and opportunities for our football clubs to play a greater part in our communities— from kids to pensioners, from toddlers to mums and dads, local residents to occasional visitors.

That is the way to make your voice heard and to make that voice count. That is the way to bring about the change that you want for the future.

There were four members of Slade—but only two wrote the words and music to Merry Christmas Everybody and it is they who earned the right to the pension royalties for ever more. The other two bit part players did not!

Janus was meant to oversee transition to the future by casting an eye on the past and learning from what went before—as should we when considering Scottish Football—and in that spirit you will find a link to the whole of Arthur Montford’s address below— there are things worth learning there.

Here’s to the future—-NOW—– its only just begun!


2012 in review

We thought it would be good to show the audience we have had over the last few months, and to say thanks to all those who have helped to make this a thriving community in the short time we have been on the go.

A Happy New year to all from everyone at TSFM.



The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 3,500,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 64 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

The Dismal Art of Whataboutery

by Stuart Cosgrove for the Scottish Football Monitor

In the early years of the new millennium, ‘The Battle of the Saints’ was a First Division encounter. Both St Mirren and St Johnstone had been relegated and were among the favourites to return to the spiritually suffocating SPL. Winning the First Division title was a mixed blessing. It provided a football moment that old firm fans could only dream of – an open-top bus round. But victory meant you were back in the SPL, a league that had been shaped for the benefit of the two big clubs.

Television revenues were skewed, there were no play-offs, only one team could be relegated and the voting structures would bring shame to a tin-pot dictatorship. It was a league you could never realistically win and so never fully enjoy. I remember being in the ‘Wee Barrel’ a traditional football boozer near St Mirren’s old Love Street stadium. It was soon after the St Johnstone drug scandal.   On 5th January 2001, George O’Boyle and his teammate Kevin Thomas had been sacked following allegations that they had used illegal recreational drugs. They had allegedly been caught taking an “unidentified white powder” at the club’s injured players Christmas Party at That Bar in Perth. The drugs scandal undermined St Johnstone’s much peddled identity as a local family club. A bitter industrial dispute unfolded and widespread dressing-room unrest. The team’s form catastrophically dipped. Inevitably, St Mirren fans were delighted to play host to such a “scandalised” and “drug-addled” club. Football fans relish the misfortune of others with almost satanic glee. So the Buddies cheered sarcastically when any Perth fans went into the Wee Barrel’s less than salubrious pub toilet. They made pantomime sniffing noises interjected with animal impersonations and at times it sounded like a famer’s convention had turned into a massive cocaine bender. I vividly remember that one St Johnstone fan became so enraged that he blurted out the unforgettable phrase ‘Aye but what about Barry Lavety?’ Further back in 1995 the St Mirren striker Lavety had been arrested for using the then ‘designer drug’ ecstasy making him the first footballer of the acid-house generation. In this short, pithy response outside a toilet door in the Wee Barrel, all the gut instincts of football spectatorship came to the surface and all the components of what was later to become known as ‘whataboutery’ were laid bare.

Whataboutery pre-dates the internet but it has been kindled by it. The web has transformed the way we talk and think about football. Suddenly and profoundly new forums for discussing the game quickly followed. Facebook was launched two years later in 2004, Twitter joined the social media firmament in 2006 and by 2012 and Scottish football’s summer of discontent the micro-blogging platform had 500 million active users. The rise of social media invoked an ‘epistemological break’ with previous eras of spectatorship and with other forms of media and communication. For the first time ever, fans had a way of instantly communicating, of answering back and disagreeing with each other in real-time. Whataboutery is a dismal art that can be defined by three often sub-conscious characteristics – a refusal to engage with the question at hand; an attempt to deflect the discussion on to others and a failure to engage with the morality of the subject.

Go on any web forum today and you will find many debates are pock-marked with whataboutery. The financial meltdown of Rangers is the most recent and most virulent example. What about Hearts they owe the taxman? What about Dundee they’ve gone bust twice? What about Leeds, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth? Sadly, the misdemeanours of others is an unstable platform on which to mount a moral defence and celebrating victory in a tax tribunal about complex offshore loan-trusts does not magically airbrush away tax-debt involving VAT and PAYE. Nor does whatboutery explain why already rich footballers should enjoy the moral right to hide behind complex off shore tax schemes, irrespective of their legality.   Every football fan at some time in their life has felt a deep primal urge to defend their club. We are emotionally instinctive creatures and quick to play the martyr. But however passionate you are about football – and I would count myself as ‘combustible’ – being loyal to your club does not permit disloyalty or contempt for the institutions of a fair society.

Not surprisingly, the origins of the term whatboutery can be traced back to the sectarian divisions in Northern Ireland. Last year I met the journalist and blogger, Mick Fealty who is one of the driving forces behind the blog forum Slugger O’Toole, a site that has bravely tried to provide a platform for localism and for non-sectarian political discourse in Northern Ireland. It is often cited as the place where the term whataboutery was invented. Taking its lead from Slugger, the online dictionary wikitionary defines whataboutery as “responding to criticism by accusing one’s opponent of similar or worse faults.” Recently, at the height of rioting in Belfast in the aftermath of Belfast city council’s policy shift on flying the union flag, a major local newspaper the Belfast Telegraph said in a trenchant editorial – “For everyone who cares about democracy; who wants an end to sectarian posing and mind games; an end to mindless thuggery; an end to immature reactions to complicated issues; an end to whataboutery ….” An end to sectarian posing and mind games – how refreshing would that be? The recent case of Anthony Stokes is a case in point. Most fans would concede that Stokes is a fool to have associated himself with the Real IRA and criminal elements within the Dublin republican scene. But some fans – believing they were supporting their club and its Irish origins – are hard-wired to romanticism and a re-hashed history. Nothing that Stokes has done is either romantic or historic – it is grubby and pathetic. Nor is deflection acceptable either. Yes of course Andy Goram has associated with some fairly disagreeable characters but that does not absolve Stokes of responsibility. Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been unambiguous about that. Stokes is on a final warning and rightly so. Whataboutery is the glue of entrenched opinion. It cultivates extremes rather than subtleties, and favours glib comment over deeper dialogue.  That is why TSFM should always be vigilant about the forum slipping into whatabouterty.

It seems almost banal to say it, but you can be a supporter without being a supplicant.   You can be Rangers daft without endorsing morally bereft tax loopholes, you can want Neil Lennon to enjoy a life free from intimidation without defending complicated film investment schemes; you can relish a goal by Garry O’ Connor without admiring his self-defeating lifestyle,  you can be a big Jambo but still expect staff to be paid on time, you can be a Red Ultra without having to urinate on videos of Gazza and  you can soak up the atmosphere in the Dundee Derry, without cushioning its sectarian associations. And, yes I do know that there was once a dairy behind the goal at the Derry End – but when fights erupted in the 1970s, it wasn’t lactic pasteurisation they were fighting about.

Football fans can be emotionally passionate yet hold on to moral values.  We can be vocal without being vacuous. We can be diehard fans without being robotic ideologues for our club.  Many of us have found ourselves tied in knots trying to defend our clubs and in some cases defend the indefensible. The roll-call of whatboutery in Scottish football would shame a mature society. There’s defective flat-screen televisions in Manchester; hearses at Celtic Park; programme notes at Montrose; unidentified white powder; porn peddlers in the 1980s, Joanna Lumley’s love-life, urinal-videos in Aberdeen; Leigh Griffith’s unique contribution to fatherhood; Hugh Dallas’s emails; Maurice Edu’s car and Lee Wallace’s air-rifle. They are surreal and seemingly endless.

As new technologies surround us daily, whataboutery has gone digital and online disputes are now frequently backed up by a stream of phone-footage, rogue tweets, photo-shopped imagery  and spectacularly desperate analogies.  We live in the white-heat of social media where whataboutery goes on ad nauseum and in perpetuity. It is the dismal art of the web and a habit we have to overcome if Scottish football is ever to find a settled democracy. The financial collapse of Rangers has brought us to a cross roads. Unless there is some kind of rapprochement and an ‘appliance of compliance’, then whataboutery will last for many more decades to come.  Whataboutery is a defence mechanism which allows fans and the clubs they support to avoid moral responsibility. But it need not be like that. In February 2007, Scottish football was given a simple lesson in how the game could be run if we could look forward. It was a cold and wet night at Fir Park during a midweek Scottish cup tie. St Johnstone’s Jason Scotland was unexpectedly targeted by a small band of racist Motherwell fans. By most reasonable accounts of the events, a gang of right-wing casuals taunted the player with monkey chants. Season tickets were not valid and many fans were not in their regular seats. But within a few minutes, groups of decent Motherwell fans turned on the racists, shouted them down and alerted the police.

Online there was a brief and half-hearted flurry of whataboutery. Some denied it had happened, others said that Jason Scotland was “playing the race card” and a small vocal minority argued it was Airdrie fans. This is an unfamiliar twist on an age old deflection. Blaming phantom support from elsewhere is quite common in Scottish football, although it is usually the demonology of Chelsea, Millwall or England fans that are cast as the mysterious villains.

Whatever the motives of those that posted their defence of Motherwell, the whataboutery was short-lived and brought to a shuddering halt by a simple, prompt and unambiguous apology. In an official club statement, Chairman John Boyle said: “These people should never show their faces at Fir Park again and they have no place in football,” adding “We are utterly appalled by this behaviour by a small group of people who have tarnished the name of our club. We are writing to Jason Scotland and St Johnstone today to apologise for this disgusting behaviour which is totally alien to all of us.”

Motherwell had scripted a blue-print for change. Rather than deflect attention elsewhere or dispute the minutiae of events, clubs, fans and officials have to become “better at being wrong.”  When there is a clear injustice, evidence of wrong-doing or powerful proof that mistakes have been made, then it is no longer acceptable to hide from the moral consequences. Apologise and pay the price. That applies equally to all of us and there is no hierarchy of importance. No special cases. The SPL may have a history of gifting privileges but common decency does not.

Stuart Cosgrove

Stuart Cosgrove is a St Johnstone fan. He was previously Media Editor of the NME and is now Director of Creative Diversity at Channel 4, where he recently managed coverage of the Paralympics, London 2012. At the weekend he presents the BBC Scotland football show ‘Off the Ball’ with Tam Cowan. This is the second of a trilogy of blogs he has agreed to write for TSFM. The first was about the era of Armageddon. He writes here in a personal capacity.

The Real Battle Begins?

The increasing attacks on social media by the main stream press, fuelled in some respect by David Murray’s vague threats of litigation against bloggers, has brought into sharp focus the challenges facing the Blogosphere. It also brings into even sharper focus the prescience of Stuart Cosgrove’s assertion that this summer’s ‘epistemological break’  had begun to marginalize the Scottish sporting wing of the MSM.

The reality of that assertion is embedded in the misreporting of the FTT decision as a victory for RFC, falsely alleging that those who operated the EBT scheme had been exonerated, that RFC had ‘done nothing wrong’, and consequently accusing ‘vindictive anti-Rangers bloggers’ of playing a part in the downfall of that once great Scottish institution. It is also evident in Tom English’s rather bitter and one-dimensional anti-RTC polemic today in the Scotland on Sunday. Had it been entitled “Self Preservation”, it may have rung a few more truth bells.

I am not of the belief that the MSM is an instinctively pro-Rangers estate, but I do think that their reportage of the FTT is more geared towards discrediting the newly emergent forces in the social media area than it is towards rehabilitating the public image of RFC or David Murray.

However despite the contempt in which many people here hold the MSM and Murray, English does have a point that we would be foolish to ignore. No-one can deny that we do have a duty to ensure that we are responsible in how we present ourselves to the public. Now that our (and others’) success as a real and creative alternative has spurred the MSM into action, we are subject to greater scrutiny than at any time in the past. Our view is that we have to be pro-actively engaged in setting a standard for ourselves that is above those that the MSM have set for themselves.

We have on TSFM an audience exponentially greater than the number of posts. That presents us with a great opportunity to get our message across, but it also burdens us with an increased responsibility not to fall into the trap which has besought the Succulent Lamb Brigade.

We are a very different animal from RTC. RTC him or herself had information and insight to bring to the table that the administrators of this site do not. The founder and former admin of TSFM had the idea that the talent available from posters on the RTC – not just RTC himself – should continue to have a forum in a post-RTC world, and that those talents could be used to challenge the myths regularly represented as facts by lazy journalists in the MSM.

We have at our disposal on this blog forensic analysis of legal, media and corporate matters. We have an abundance of creative minds, all passionate about the game of football AS WELL AS a partisan love for their chosen club. With all that talent and expertise, we can make an impact on the agenda by challenging the misinformation and substandard journalism of the MSM, and our finest moments are when we do that. We lose authority and influence when the debate is impeded by bald accusation or innuendo backed up with little more than an historical view of our country.

Our biggest impact (and largest audience) is to be found when when our experts have collectively torn apart those myths presented as truths by the MSM, and when we have asked the questions that the MSM either can’t or won’t ask or answer. Those are the things that have driven the traffic to this site, and many of the emails we get congratulate us on that.

Our credibility plummets though when we go down the partisan path. We also get literally hundreds of emails from fans who ask that we cut down on the comments of those who are merely venting outrage at how they see the game being mismanaged (mainly so they can access the important stuff more quickly), and from fans who are just fed up with the constant name-calling – almost exclusively aimed at Ally McCoist and other Rangers figures.

If we claim to be an intellectual and journalistic rung or two above the likes of the Red Tops (not to mention to be decent and respectful of others), we need to refrain from the name calling and accusatory culture. We can ask questions, put items for debate on the public agenda, point out apparent irregularities and anomalies. In rushing to judgement of others from the comfort of the glow of our own laptop screens, we are guilty of the same lazy journalism we see in others. Name calling (all good fun of course on a fan site) is just a lazy thought process and as English says, comes across as “nasty”.

We never saw RTC as a fan-site. The original administrator of this blog never saw TSFM as one either, and nor do we. In order to succeed properly, we need sensible fans of ALL clubs to be comfortable and feel secure in our midst. Of course we are not breaking any laws, but can anyone honestly say that we have evolved into a welcoming place for Rangers fans?

TSFM is not about hounding any one club out of existence or into shame or infamy. In the Rangers saga we have sought to ensure that the football authorities play fair with everyone and stick to their own rules. One well kent RTC contributor, and no friend of Rangers, often said that if the FTT found in favour of Rangers we should move along and accept it. Well they did find in favour of Rangers in the majority of cases. That may not suit many of us, but we are the Scottish Football Monitor, not a Judicial Watchdog. We can say why we disagree with the decision, but criticism of the process through which the decision was arrived at is beyond our purview.

Since the accusation is often made in the MSM, we should state, unequivocally and unreservedly, that we are NOT anti-Rangers. Their fans face the same issues as the rest of us and they are welcome here. We are however, equally unequivocally against the gravy train journalism of the Scottish Football Wing of the MSM (with one or two honourable exceptions).

If the Anti-Blogateers in the press are correct, the popularity of the TSFM will recede as the Rangers Tax case reverts to the back pages before disappearing for good. However I do not believe that they are correct. I don’t believe that Scottish football fans are only motivated by either hatred – or even dislike – of one club. I believe we are more concerned with the game itself than the pot-stirrers in the MSM would have us believe, because we understand the interdependence of football clubs.

But we also understand that the people who run football clubs do not always run their clubs for the benefit of the fans. In the business world, that may not be out of the ordinary, since businesses are run for the benefit of shareholders.
However football reserves for itself a special place in the hearts of people in this country. If the people who run football clubs want to retain that favourable status, they have to be accountable to the fans.

The difficulty in holding them to account though, is that the cosy relationship cultivated between club directors, managers and players and the press renders the access to information a closed shop, and the information itself is heavily filtered and spun.

As long as we keep asking questions in response to the fruit of that cosy relationship, we will be providing people with an alternative angle and viewpoint, allowing them to come to their own conclusions, and not the one the MSM post-presser huddle delivers to us wrapped up in a bow.

For the SFM specifically, we believe that to have any influence, we need to enable the expertise at our disposal to flourish. It is also vital to our project that Rangers fans are included in our dialogue. We just can’t call ourselves the Scottish Football Monitor if they are largely excluded from participation because they feel they are being treated disrespectfully.

We can’t tolerate the accusations and name calling. We need to stick to what we have done best; factual analysis, conjecture based on known facts and on-line discourse leading to searching questions being asked.

One of the things we are looking at for the near future is to set up some kind of formal and transparent channel of communication between the SFM and the football authorities. Being truly representative of fans will make that easier to achieve.

The MSM will continue to attack the social media outlets. In one way you can understand it. Their jobs are at stake. The business model of the print media in particular has changed massively over the last five years, manifesting itself mainly in increasingly under-resourced newsrooms. Consequently it is besought by increasingly unreliable and under-researched journalism, even to the point where much of it is no longer journalism at all.

By comparison the Blogosphere has access to greater human and time resources, is able to react to unfolding events in real time, and crucially (because it has been eschewed instead of embraced by print media proprietors) has been occupied by ordinary folk with little or no vested interest.

We are still in position to provide a service in our small niche of the on-line world. We have rights to publish and speak freely about our passion, but we also have to live up to the attendant responsibilities, and thus the appeal for discretion on posting comments.

Where Tom English got it completely wrong (in the uniquely ironic way the MSM have about them), is that his industry has mistaken the rights others have earned for them as entitlement, and ignored almost completely the responsibility they had to act on behalf of those who pay their wages.