The Big House and the Beautiful Game
Some people view ‘Rangers’ as the embodiment of bigotry, gangster finance, deference and all that is worst and retrograde about Scottish society. Others take a more negative view.
But if the stories of their second imminent demise turn out to be true, they are at the very least suffering from the malaise of deep denial and hubris, all springing from their own incredible incompetence and all-consuming greed. The ongoing questions of SPFL oversight and management we’ll set aside for now, but at least let’s look at some alternatives, because nothing about this story is inevitable.
With a sort of quaint naiveté many ‘Rangers’ fans have been manning the airwaves to mock the SFA and cheer for Mike Ashley, assuming blithely that he will win, (or win them over) in his attempt to have them re-write their rule book for his ends. This seems to be based on the idea that rich people are good and clever and can do whatever they like.
Given what’s happened this belief and adoration of very rich businessmen is an extraordinary phenomenon, far more extraordinary than any enduring celebration of a 17th C Dutchman.
At what point does the penny drop that these people do not have your interests at heart?
The sad / funny thing is that there’s no need for any of it.
As Hearts, Motherwell and now a debt-free Hibs have shown, following different models, fan-ownership is a credible and some would say liberating alternative to top-down misrule by an incompetent elite of unchecked corporate goons.
As Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster today announced the Leith clubs plans saying: “The board’s plan is radical, a real first in Scottish football. I think it’s daring, exciting and we now need all supporters to rally behind the plan and take the club forward on a united footing. The opportunity exists, and now it’s up to all of us to take it and make it work.”
Pat Stanton is backing the proposals and the news has also been welcomed by Mike Reilly, chairman of the Hibs Supporters Association.
Hibs seem to be taking a leaf out of the German model .
As Pitch Invasion reported:
“The basis of the German model is the 50+1 rule whereby a minimum of 51% of the club must be owned by club members. This still allows for considerable investment opportunities for private business to invest while preventing them from having overall control of the direction of the club. A Bundesliga club board is made up of delegates selected by the shareholders. That way the supporter membership associations or Mutterveiren have a direct say on the management of the club.”
Is there a gender aspect to this with Ann Budge and Leann Dempster leading a new way based less on ego, control and big bucks and more on practical openness?
2014 has seen all the talk of ‘Armageddon’ dismissed as a resurgent Aberdeen and Dundee United and St Johnstone (who won the Scottish Cup for the first time ever) setting a new agenda alongside the highland clubs and the incredible success of Hamilton Accies.
But as ‘Rangers’ stagger endlessly in a media circus of their own making – other alternative models are appearing.
These are long overdue and don’t make a dent in the structural problems of Scottish football, which need long-term investment, strategy and fresh thinking, but they do do something that is incredible in itself. They begin to start a process whereby ordinary fans are given a role in the game and people begin to register that the people that pay at the gate are not just a resource you exploit, they are the lifeblood of the game.
There’s a parallel here with the democratic renaissance we’ve seen this year, and it gives hope that 2015 may bring better things to Scottish football. Our game – like our democracy – ‘is fundamentally broken’ – and the solution isn’t to repeatedly cling to the old failed models that have brought us to the brink of oblivion.
In short, there’s a relationship between the 45 and there 51.
The lessons are simple enough. Here’s five:
1. Don’t spend money you don’t have.
2. Transparency builds trust. Trust is essential.
3. Spread and share responsibility.
4. Look forward not back.
5. Welcome people.
Any solution has to be grounded in the here and now – not on past grandeur – based on a solid and viable economics – and has to be open and transparent. Clubs like Hearts have led the way fielding a young team with great success. The parallels between football and politics extend here again – invest and believe in young people – and cut your cloth to the reality of your situation and the fast changing world, or live (and die) in the past, staring backwards.