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It’s all about opinions until they ban you for those opinions

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On the same day as Scotzine was named as one of the top 50 Scottish football blogs in the UK, it was confirmed that the site had been banned by the Scottish FA at the behest of Head of Communications Darryl Broadfoot. Although he didn’t have the decency to inform us until we actually questioned him over it.

Our crime? Giving a voice and platform to a Dundee United supporter within our fans blog section.

The man who has ‘It’s all about opinions’ on his twitter profile, didn’t like the opinions of the author Stuart Milne nor those fans he was quoting, claiming they were mostly offensive and potentially actionable.

Milne, who is a published author, wrote a blog in the aftermath of the red cards shown to Paul Paton and Virgil van Dijk being rescinded – as well as the charge imposed on Nadir Ciftci being unproven – last week.

In the said piece, Milne criticised the way that the Scottish FA has went about their disciplinary proceedings. He labelled them ‘clueless Magoo types’ who don’t understand their own rules or that they threw out the rule book to ‘diffuse a potentially heated and angry Cup Final this Sunday’.

He also reported on the comments people were calling the Scottish FA after van Dijk saw his red card rescinded. His exact comment was: ‘The announcement made anyone who wasn’t a Celtic fan throw their arms up in dismay and declare the Scottish FA corrupt.’. Milne was not commenting personally merely reporting the comments of others who questioned the decision by the governing body.

Surely this is not what Mr Broadfoot means as mostly offensive and potentially actionable? A blogger claiming that opposition fans could come to the conclusion that the governing body could be seen as corrupt.

Surely the Head of Communications didn’t pull our access for what has been mentioned on phone-ins amongst other media outlets by fans and ex-Pros who have the help of a lawyer to rewrite copy so as not to state the ‘corrupt’ word.

Another thing that puzzled me was how can a potentially actionable comment see access pulled? Surely an actionable comment would see such access removed while a potentially/possible actionable comment borders on the periphery – surely if there were comments that broke any laws then my door would have been chapped by the Scottish FA lawyers. They have my contact details.

Despite asking Mr Broadfoot to point out the potentially actionable and mostly offensive parts of the article, some 12 hours on I am still waiting for the former chief football writer at The Herald to reply to my specific questions on the matter.

Unsurprisingly he has dodged the questions that I sent him, which is nothing new really as he has a history of dodging questions and requests posed to him by this football writer. Not that I believe I should be given the right of access that is. But when the Head of Communications agrees to a meeting to resolve issues that he has with our coverage then ignores our correspondences to arrange said meeting you have to query why he bothered in the first place.

It’s not the first time that the rug was pulled out from underneath us by Mr Broadfoot. In 2011, our access was pulled  over claims that I had verbally abused Graham Speirs at a Scottish Cup game – this was proven to be a blatant lie [Speirs backing my side] perpetrated by a member of the press who was not taken to task over their lies. Yet I was still banned for Scottish Cup and Scotland games.

This was on top of comments I made on my twitter page and when I again asked for confirmation on what comments there was silence from the Head of Communications.

Deja vu.

turnbullhuttonNearly three years ago, the respected former Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton claimed that the Scottish game was corrupt and that the Scottish FA had lied, bullied and threatened clubs as they tried to secure Newco Rangers’ access to the First Division rather than follow the rules which eventually saw them start life again in the Third Division.

At the time, Hutton said: “It is not an SFL issue. We’ve been lumbered with this. There are rules we feel they should be followed. They [newco Rangers]should apply for the Third Division. [We are being] bullied, railroaded and lied to. We are being lied to by the Scottish FA and the SPL. We are being threatened and bullied. It is not football as I know it.

“It was a ridiculous document which came out last week whereby the threat was there that if you don’t vote for an acceptance into the First Division, a breakaway SPL2 will come along and those who didn’t vote wouldn’t be invited. What kind of game are we running here? It is corrupt.”

Surely this was offensive and actionable Mr Broadfoot? And yet no knock on the door at Stark’s Park.

Or how about a Rangers supporters group spokesperson who commented to Sky Sports that the Scottish FA were both biased and corrupt after their failure to deal with disgraced former owner Craig Whyte.

Was this more actionable and offensive than our published piece?

thoughtpoliceIs Mr Broadfoot simply picking and choosing those who he pulls the plug on? If I had a team of lawyers and a large wallet of cash to throw into the Scottish game would Scotzine and myself specifically see our access pulled? Especially when far worse comments aimed at the Scottish FA and individual officials have been published in the mainstream press.

Remember Barry Hearn’s scathing comments?

So what has Mr Broadfoot succeeded in doing with this ban?

Well Scotzine cannot gain access to Scotland Women’s games and Scotland Under-21 games. That’s it. The ban on accessing Scotland national and Scottish Cup games was still in force since the initial ban in 2011.

Unfortunately for Mr Broadfoot and the Scottish FA – we will continue to give the ordinary fan a platform to voice their opinions unless their comments are actionable. Rather than just potentially actionable. We will continue to comment on issues as we see it.

We will not brown nose or kiss arses just to get a press release sent to our email inbox nor to access games. We will certainly not kowtow to such pressure or the lies peddled by certain journalists labelling me a ‘mad bigot’ or a ‘liar, a thief and copy & paste merchant’ as they believe internet trolls when it suits their agenda.

And we will certainly not churn out press releases as exclusives just to keep PR companies or individuals sweet so as to worm our way into the ‘industry’ as some like to call it.

I doubt very much that our ban will be lifted while Mr Broadfoot is still in office as the Scottish FA’s propaganda minister. Especially as he has his hands full with a chief executive Stewart Regan doing more damage with his comments than a mere internet bampot can ever do.

“You can cage the singer but not the song.”
-Harry Belafonte

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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