.. is More Secrecy
We all now know Lord Clark’s judgement on Friday has kicked off an arbitration process to solve the case raised by Hearts, Partick and their sleeping partner, Stranraer.
He seemingly had no option and did this because it is the “pre-decided” SFA procedure for football disputes.
Accordingly three qualified persons will be chosen from an existing SFA list and in effect become the judges and jury tasked with coming to a decision on a complex and complicated situation.
Be cogniscant that this is a situation where relegation will have huge financial impact to the three clubs and their members of staff at a time of pandemic related economic hardship.
Real people and real jobs cast aside by what could be classed as myopia and lack of leadership.
And potentially exacerbated by a decision made in secret, in an unreported process, with no avenue to appeal.
Did Hearts and Thistle and Stranraer deserve to be relegated I hear you ask?
Yes so far, and on points per game, but there were enough games left and all three could easily have avoided the drop.
By the same judgement Hearts should already have been awarded the Scottish Cup as they were statistically the remaining club with the best cup record and goal difference!
The three Arbitrators will now hear the SPFL case and the Hearts and Thistle case put forward by their expensive legal teams and then decide.
From press reports the SPFL even tried to block their own members, Hearts and Thistle, getting access to their co –owned SPFL documents but Lord Clark seemingly stopped that.
It seems being aware of the severe time constraints, and maybe also possibly suspecting downstream game-playing, he also offered his and the court’s availability if required.
Let me clarify something that I didn’t know until last week.
Arbitration is not the same as mediation.
Not even close.
From what I’ve read since, mediation would have been better for all concerned but progressing that way that would have taken a less dysfunctional corporate structure across our game.
It could and should have been the best way forward for us all.
But fair enough we all need a result and arbitration we’ve been told can maybe deliver that in around 10 days.
In the meantime ask yourself if an arbitration decision made and dished out without any kind of public scrutiny or redress is the way to go?
What if deep inside the system there is any kind of unseen bias?
By the way that’s just a question.
I’m not suggesting that there is inherent bias.
Surely no biases in Scottish football exist.
Being positive I can see the advantages of coming to a conclusion in a process that is quicker and less costly to our game than going to the courts but something about the whole thing is wrong.
My instinct says it’s the secrecy.
Most of the people I have spoken with agree.
We all live in Scotland where our government is open to the public and where government committees are on the public record.
The fourth estate is all over everything they do.
Likewise our courts are generally open to the public and to the media to report on what is happening within.
There is nothing in this dispute that should be kept secret from the real stakeholders in the game, the fans.
We all have a stake in the game.
There is nothing healthy about this closed doors charade.
It should all be out in the open.
Any judgement made without the presence and scrutiny of the media and SFM’s very own Easyjambo and John Clark is open to retrospective revisitation ad infinitum and will never bring the fairness and closure we all need.
It is not in any way the formula for the reconciliation that is needed across all 42 clubs.
Football fans don’t always have to agree but we need to know that it is refereed fairly. Arbitration rules laugh at that basic requirement.
How The Hell Did We Get Here?
As I write the countdown to the new season is underway and a sans-Hearts fixture list is imminent.
I have no idea what will happen if the three wise arbitration men decide to block the Hearts, Partick and Stranraer SPFL enforced demotions.
They might indeed.
The majority of fans wouldn’t disagree with them if they did even if it becomes a mess.
Yes that would be a doomsday scenario for all but we’d bounce back.
If it is the right thing to do for our game then a bit of hassle for Neil and Co should not stop it happening.
10 days or so will tell.
Were the Leagues Called Too Soon?
Chick and Tam on the radio certainly, and indignantly think so.
Most fans concur with many of us already watching English football nightly and wondering what if?
I think only four countries in Europe ended their leagues early.
We’ve been told the SPFL came to the decision to trigger payments because of our new TV contract.
Seems plausible enough and to be fair there was great club impecuniosity and huge amounts of uncertainty at the time.
I’ve since also heard that the old broadcast contracts were renegotiated and compensation paid for the lost games as the new Sky deal became the focus and probably the driving force.
Money rules and Sky calls the tune in their 4 old firm games view of our world.
This combined and meant two big decisions were immediately on the horizon.
First Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer were to be relegated.
(“Bye-bye guys, tough luck and take your medicine”, from your erstwhile football family friends, almost certainly avoiding eye contact in the zoom meeting)!
Secondly Brechin City, or another, was spared the play offs and with the pyramid chain broken the top team from the play offs was told to forget their hopes of joining the SPFL.
Someone at the SFA should have thrown a hissy fit and done something for their 2 disadvantaged members but I don’t think they ever did.
A real insight into how heartless our game can be.
Along the way
We all sat back in amazement as Neil’s “Good Friday Disagreement” evolved when John Nelm’s Dundee’s vote got first lost, then found and then changed over the weekend.
Didn’t smell right then.
Smells even worse now.
Along the way Dundee somehow became the casting vote.
(I hope there are full records of what really happened for the Arbitrators).
At the time, and rumbling still, there was huge criticism of the SPFL board for conflating approval of something or other to the much-needed payments due to the clubs.
(Apologies for the brevity but it all merges. So much was going on and a lot we never heard about too).
Rangers then came in live on radio demanding Neil D and Rod McKenzie to be spanked very hard but never quite being able to tell us why.
Other stuff happened after the vote too.
Maybe it was clever diversionary tactics, maybe something else, but for two or three weeks it was all go in all directions.
We had task forces set up here, there and everywhere.
So many I can’t actually remember their remits and to be honest like so many I can’t quite be bothered now.
It seemed we had the game looking at the genuine change that fans want and even us the independent SFSA were asked to help by Les Gray one of the task force co-chairs.
We did by taking it to our members and to the SFM too, in good faith even though deep down we thought it was all part of a game and said so.
Sadly it was a waste of effort and time moved on but fair play to Neil and the SPFL board.
Fair play because at the 11th hour they tried to get approval from their members to temporarily extend the leagues.
Neil’s attempt to do that wasn’t an actual formal vote.
That never happened.
What was termed by the SPFL as an “Indicative Vote” was heavily defeated.
Several weeks on and 18 of our 42 clubs still won’t even tell us their fans how they voted.
I had already asked Neil Doncaster how clubs voted and he told me it was secret ballot.
So it’s still mostly secret and like all secrets has the inherent ability to fester.
None of us can blame the clubs for voting the way they did.
A couple of weeks ago when trying to analyse the vote I highlighted that Hibs inexplicably voted against an Edinburgh Derby.
Having enjoyed many I still don’t get that.
I’m also on record recently stating that Ross County also voted no and effectively sentenced their two nearest neighbours and friends, ICT and Brora, to significantly less revenue in the next year.
And at the same time their no vote helped stymie the pyramid that was introduced to allow clubs like Ross County of old access the higher leagues.
(I well remember them in the Highland League – and played against them at the time).
I haven’t spoken with Roy MacGregor about his vote but I know that if I was a chairman of a bottom six club I too would have foreseen the approaching tsunamic, post-Covid crunch coming down the tracks. That was the season when the Covid induced “temporary league” of 14 had to be reduced back to 12, meaning 3 clubs get relegated, and 1 goes into a play off position.
4 out of 14!
Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! and ouch!
Not good business for anyone.
Like Roy, I’d have said “Sorry” to ICT and Brora and voted the same as he did. Roy’s fiduciary duty is to his club not to his neighbours.
Roy, I respect your position and all other chairmen too but it should never have come to this in our totally unnecessary football civil war.
And you know after hearing John Collins say on the radio today asking “Where’s the fairness in any of this”? I can’t disagree.
Words Of Wisdom For The 3 Wise Men
Fairness would be my starting point.
We know fans will never all agree about anything because we love our clubs and they will always come first.
But we crave fairness, openness and transparency.
That’s probably the first time I have written the transparency word since Stewart Regan nearly wore it our 8 years ago.
Out message to our Arbitrators is as follows.
The Scottish Fans are the bona fide stakeholders in the game and fund the clubs.
We collectively want and will welcome bigger leagues.*
We want no extra damage to any club from Covid.
We believe that there should be transparency in everything in football.
We abhor and have no trust in closed doors and secrecy.
Please publish your results and allow access to the process along the way.
What would be wrong with that?
What harm could it do?
A significant majority of fans don’t agree with these enforced relegations and would prefer either to finish the season or enlarge the leagues permanently.
And finally fans demand to be listened to because it seems we are the only ones who are able and willing to see the bigger picture for the good of the game.
No Closed Door Festering Secrets in Scottish Football
- Arbitrators we are happy to share our research with you.