It’s worth getting a few things straight before kick-off. This isn’t about relegating Rangers FC. Rangers don’t exist anymore. This isn’t about Craig Whyte. Craig Whyte’s not around anymore. It’s about a culture of failure, a total lack of transparency and connivance from the very top of the SPL and the SFA in a rigged cartel that has brought Scottish football to total crisis. The good news is that the inept coterie at the top of the game has been bypassed by ordinary fans and smaller clubs. This is what democracy looks like.
Just when you thought the corporate takeover of society was just about complete, an event takes place, or a movement pops up to renew your faith and make you realise that big change is not just possible, it’s inevitable because right across society the elite that runs our world is being daily exposed as a corrupt and incompetent failure.
SEVCO5088Ltd being forced to start their existence in Scotland’s lowest league is one of these events, and the sweeping grassroots network that made this happen is one of these movements. Only a few months ago this was completely unthinkable, and only a few days ago it seemed like the efforts of the now utterly discredited Neil Doncaster to parachute this new entity into Division 1 would succeed. Sporting integrity, or integrity of any kind, would it seemed be crushed under the weight of corporate expectation, a conflation of embedded sports and business journalists and the staggering sense of self-entitlement of Rangers and their allies in the governing bodies.
Instead, incredibly, we’ve just seen the transformation of Scottish football, realised almost entirely through twitter and key web sites that have proliferated as the story has dominated every media outlet for over a year: the award-winning Rangers Tax Case, fans site Pie and Bovril, rebel journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, Wings Over Scotland, Scotzine [http://www.scotzine.com/] and Paul McConville, to name a few. These sites give us hope that what may follow is not just a renaissance in Scottish football but in Scottish media. A core part of this saga has been the failure of the sports and business media with allegations of laziness, partiality and just a complete lack of any critical faculties.
Whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of Rangers, the fact is that SPL chairmen would have quite happily connived to drop the Newco into the top flight. Without a networked resistance of ordinary fans unconvinced by the governing bodies (or the mainstream media’s) account of things the money men’s perpetual short-termism would have prevailed. Faced with unsubstantiated apocalyptic scenarios, ordinary fans put huge pressure on their own clubs in advance of the vote at Hampden this week, withholding their season tickets.
An absolutely pivotal institution of establishment conservative Scotland has been brought to account by united action across Scotland. This is a sizeable result by any standards, and one achieved by a network without any single identifiable leadership. If lessons are learnt from these networked movements it is that the strength comes from the network itself. Resilience comes from the model of many speaking to many, not the model of one to many. Leadership looks different these days.
You could argue that while the fans’ movement is great for tearing things down it’s not so good at rebuilding and re-creating. But online network action doesn’t have to be negative. Think of CarrotMob or MoveYour Money. Time will tell but there’s a (completely unreported, unacknowledged) unity and respect amongst Scottish football fans, across divisions and from east to west.
The collapse of Rangers and the shock it’s put through the entire Scottish game has wider consequences. The allegations of widespread tax evasion and the brutal gangster behaviour of football executives has exposed an entire class of feral businessmen. Will the tribal nature of the football world blind supporters to these people and their practices at the same time as Bob Diamond and his ilk are also brought into the light? That seems unlikely.
But this is about more than exposing bad business. The model of endless growth has been challenged. The consequences of consigning Sevco Scotland to start where any new club would start may well mean drastic cuts in Scottish football. Some clubs may have to close or downsize to an appropriate level. This is no bad thing. We know we have too many clubs in this country. Endlessly chasing an utterly unsustainable model is a failed economics. It doesn’t work. The club chairman and journos still bleating about the SPL and SKY are just clinging to the wreckage.
The deeper lesson from Rangers collapse is that, if they represented the very worst practices – they were surely not alone in living desperately beyond their means. This is the drive behind our current economic model we all signed up to: grow or die. It’s been rejected.
But this has been a profound failure of governance, not just amongst the series of dodgy geezers who lined up to fleece Rangers fans for decades, but the entire edifice of Scottish football, especially the leadership of Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster. The reality is that the SPL, founded in 1998 has failed by any metric you can choose: attendances, club success in Europe, entertainment value, national team success. Incredibly, Since the SPL began, five of its member clubs have entered administration. The newly leaked email from the SFA’s Stewart Regan (see here) marks him out as a clueless fixer, who’s failed at every effort to collude with Rangers. BBC Scotland reported yesterday that a vote of no confidence in Regan was proposed and seconded at last Fridays SFL meeting. Given this vulnerability it seems extremely unlikley that there will be energy or goodwill for whatever dark arts are proposed when the SPL meet tomorrow.
But something amazing’s happened. Just when you thought you were entrenched in the clutches of narrow-minded directorheads and functionaries a whole world of possibility has opened up. By having the courage to break from the old failed model, the SFL clubs have done the whole of Scottish football a huge favour. There won’t be any ‘social unrest’, there will be renewed enthusiasm. But there’s still a problem. There’s still a lack of real accountability for this year long farce. As Rangers Tax Case has written: “They still dish out fatuous lies and peddle disinformation as if Sir David Murray was still in his heyday. The hysterical exaggerations and tales of impending financial doom should be transparent to the businessmen who fill most of the Chairman roles at Scottish football clubs. Anyone with even a few minutes of business experience will see through the lies of the Scottish football establishment.” True, and they did. But Regan and Doncaster must go immediately. They presided over this shambles.
More people in Scotland per head of population watch their domestic top-level league than any other European nation. Let’s rebuild, let’s transform Scottish football. Let’s learn the wider lessons not just about the failed corporate economies but the lively powerful networks that can offer a real alternative.
Next week Bella will be hosting a forum of ideas for how to support and innovate to develop the Scottish game. This is a new day. A shorter version of this article appeared on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website here.