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Sporting Integrity and other such words of wisdom

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Supporters of clubs across our fine land are railing against the perceived injustice of allowing the holding company of The Rangers Football Club back into the higher echelons of the SFL, just as they did in advance of the same vote with respect to the SPL.

It’s been an annus horriblis so far for everyone with a stake in the game, but when will it all stop? Perhaps not wholly content with the SFA’s meanderings during the whole saga, the gloriously non-corrupt FIFA have chosen to wade (albeit tentatively) into the debate and have highlighted their rules to the press.

FIFA’S STATUTES ON “PRINCIPLE OF PROMOTION AND RELEGATION” IN FULL

1. A club’s entitlement to take part in a domestic league championship shall depend principally on sporting merit. A club shall qualify for a domestic league championship by remaining in a certain division or by being promoted or relegated to another at the end of a season.

2. In addition to qualification on sporting merit, a club’s participation in a domestic league championship may be subject to other criteria within the scope of the licensing procedure, whereby the emphasis is on sporting, infrastructural, administrative,
legal and financial considerations. Licensing decisions must be able to be examined by the Member’s body of appeal.

3. Altering the legal form or company structure of a club to facilitate its qualification on sporting merit and/or its receipt of a licence for a domestic league championship, to the detriment of the integrity of a sports competition, is prohibited. This includes, for example, changing the headquarters, changing the name or transferring stakeholdings between different clubs. Prohibitive decisions must be able to be examined by the Member’s body of appeal.

4. Each Member is responsible for deciding national issues, which may not be delegated to the Leagues. Each Confederation is responsible for deciding issues involving more than one Association concerning its own territory. FIFA is responsible for deciding international issues involving more than one Confederation.

If “sporting merit” be the core of the right of any given club to play in the Scottish leagues according to FIFA, and the SFA have replicated this within their own rulebook, then the SFA must believe that they are displaying integrity by attempting to shoehorn Sevco into the First Division of the SFL.

However, is this correct…morally or legally?

As I understand it, primarily from the recent Duff & Phelps statement, the “old” Rangers FC Plc had their old licence application refused. By “refused” I mean that the liquidated company no longer hold an SFA licence nor, for that matter, does it hold a
European licence.

Why? Because the rules are quite clear…three years of company accounts, and no football or tax debts.

Yet Channel 4 News are indicating that our glorious leaders in their plush Hampden offices are treating Sevco’s current application as a transfer of “old” Rangers licence! If this is true and, as Duff and Phelps have published, “old” Rangers don’t actually have a licence to transfer, we could find an interesting situation arising that would challenge the entire “sporting merit” argument once more.

I would go so far as to suggest that for the SFA to grant such licence without first being provided with the stipulated three years of audited accounts, they could be in breach of their own regulations.

However, perhaps it is a case of all rules not being created equally? Sporting merit is only one of five considerations: sporting, infrastructural, administrative, legal and financial considerations. Maybe the SFA, and by proxy the SFL, are acting within the letter of the law rather than the substance? It could be argued that on infrastructural, administrative and financial grounds there are reasons to permit Sevco to recreate Rangers in the First Division.

I also feel that it is clear, within FIFA’s guidelines, that it was the SFA’s responsibility to take charge of the Rangers situation as it developed and control it. The fact that we are now left in a position where lower league clubs are being placed
in a compromising position, and having to decide the fate of one of the bastions of world football is ludicrous, and is another indication of the lack of leadership in the Scottish game. By permitting this momentous decision to be delegated to the SFL,
and through them to the Chairmen of the other clubs, it appears that the SFA may be in dereliction of their duties under FIFA regulations.

Once again, sporting integrity at the highest level in our game appears to be lacking.

Now, let’s look at the SFL. Dundee have been told that they cannot vote because of a clear conflict of interest. While there is integrity in that decision, why are Dunfermline being allowed to vote? Surely both clubs have the same conflict of interest? Would sporting integrity not be served by disallowing Dundee, Dunfermline, Airdrie and Stranraer any vote because of the obvious conflicts of interest?

And on what grounds of sporting merit will the SPL leaders decide on which club is allowed into their division. The experience of the recent past suggests Dundee are a certainty to be allowed in because the addition of a Tayside derby will be commercially more attractive than allowing Dunfermline back in.

Sporting integrity, my ar*e!

There does not appear to be an ounce of integrity present within our game at this present time, despite the words being thrown around like sweetie wrappers in a playground.

When a rotten tree appears in a forest, the lumberjack gets out his axe and cuts it down, replants and waits for it to grow. The Chairmen of the SFL, if indeed it is their responsibility to decide the fate of a once great club, should take note of the metaphor. Let’s not allow the entire forest to die because of one tree. Yes, there will be more branches to prune on some other trees in the forest, but in the end the forest survives.

However, sometimes to protect from fire, the lumberjack will reshape the forest, cutting protective space between the trees to prevent fires consuming them all. If we consider the SFA as the lumberjack in this instance, then they are once again guilty of
not protecting the interests of Scottish football.

If Michael Johnston abstained because he feared breaching a fiduciary duty to protect the “long term interests of” the club and to “ensure it’s success as a business” then perhaps the SFA are also in breach of their own equivalent of such duty. Interviews
today with the head of the English FA in the House of Commons have suggested as much, with our esteemed English counterparts pointing out our failure North of the border to include such protective rules as the English FA have. Who would have thought that cross border communications within football would be so lacking?

All in all, and it saddens me to write this, I think that the time has come for the leaders of the our national game to step aside, shamefaced, and allow the next crop to step in and lead us forward…if there is anything left to lead forward.

Written by Colin Young

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