Every good wrestling fan knows, in order to enjoy “sports entertainment” you have to “suspend your disbelief” that what you are seeing has not been loosely pre-arranged.
The outcome of each wrestling match is “fixed” by those in the back, while the performers play their part. Just like the Scottish Premier League.
It’s a Fix
You & I have known it for years, but Scottish Football has finally admitted it’s fixed.
From the time the SFA had to fire it’s own Chief Executive for “Gross Misconduct” regarding the registering of Celtic players; to the time when the governing body of Scottish Football it had to fire it’s own Head of Referee Development for sending bigotted, sectarian and filthy messages about a minority culture – we’ve been called paranoid for suggesting that something was amiss.
We now find ourselves in a position where the current (**1) League Champions find themselves placed in administration (due to financial & sporting irregularities over 10 years) – a first for any organisation in the history of FIFA & UEFA.
**1: This post was originally written prior to Celtic winning the League 2 weeks ago.
But more on that in a later post…
It’s not about Celtic
I’m obviously a Celtic fan; but none of my friends are or were. I grew up with a mixture of Hearts and Hibs fans, with the odd Rangers (in administration) & Dundee United fan thrown in – there was also one Blackburn fan (back in the days they were in the 3rd Division).
From Heart’s “Back from the Brink” season in 81/82 (and the subsequent forced monthly watching of the video by 2 friends); to the relegation and promotion of both the Hibees and the Arabs – I’ve become a fan of Scottish Football, and what it means to each and every fan out there regardless of the team they support.
So I say this truthfully, this is not about Celtic.
“We don’t need the Old Firm”
Regardless of whether you believe that Scottish Football can survive without Celtic and/or Rangers (in administration); the simple fact of the matter is that contractually Scottish Football can’t.
There is a clause in all major contracts with sponsors, as well as the current/new TV deal, that both Celtic and Rangers (in administration) must be in the league in order for the contract to be valid. And I quote:
One of the conditions of this deal — as with all major sponsorships — is that Celtic and Rangers remain in the league
To clarify, the removal of Celtic and/or Rangers (in administration) would result in the almost immediate collapse of the SPL, as it’s income would instantly become Zero.
This sets a horrible precedent, but more importantly flies very close to “bringing the game into disrepute” by removing the potential for 16% of the teams in the league to be relegated regardless of the position they find themselves in at the end of the season.
What is more worrying, especially in this day and age where UEFA are pushing for financial fair play, is that it allows teams that cannot be removed from the league to spend money irregularly knowing that there can be minimal consequences at best e.g. Rangers (in administration) owing £93million in taxes.
How can this not be considered “Fixed”?
Regardless of league position, only 10 out of 12 of the teams are contractually allowed to be relegated (or removed from the league due to financial or sporting irregularities).
In what way is this not a fix?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a fix as “prearranged as to the outcome”. Thats what these contracts are; they are prearrangements of the outcome of the Scottish Premier League. The SPL has set in stone, before a ball has been kicked, what the outcome of the season can and can not be.
What are the odds…
That said, I understand that many people will take the view that the chances of Celtic and/or Rangers (in administration) coming last over the course of a season is… remote to say the least.
I understand that view, but it misses the point.
Just because something is unlikely to happen, does not mean that the SPL should be signing long term contracts with financial commitment requiring that it won’t happen. “Unlikely to” happen, and “will not” happen are very different phrases – especially when you move into legal / contractual terminology. Instead we have contracts in place that violate the sporting fairplay rules set out by UEFA on the basis that it’s unlikely they will have to enforce that clause on the contracts. That is not a good position to be in.
Still not convinced?
You see, thats not all.
The current AND proposed SPL TV deals have an additional clause, one that requires Celtic and Rangers (in administration) to play each other in 4 televised league games each season.
Lets once again hear a quote from the SPL’s Chief Executive:
It is also a condition that they play each other four times a season. That’s been with us for the entirety of the current deal and before that with Setanta.
To those of you new to the SPL that might seem obvious; but the like everything else in the SPL, nothing is simple. After 33 games, when each team has played each other three times, the league ‘divides’ into the top 6 and the bottom 6. Each team in each “half” of the league split plays each other once more; therefore making it so that each team plays 5 teams 4 times, and 6 teams 3 times. Yes, even we think its daft.
The issue here is that both Celtic and Rangers (in administration) need to finish in the same “half” of the SPL split in order to play each other in the 4th televised game.
Should either Celtic or Rangers (in administration) finish outside of the “top 6″, then the SPL would fall foul of their contractual obligation to have the teams play 4 televised league games.
If that was to happen, the SPL would have to promote the lower team to the “top 6″ and demote the team in 6th to 7th place – regardless of actual league position of the team in the bottom 6.
In essence, the SPL has continually signed a deal that not only stops 16% of its teams from being relegated, but also stops those same teams from finishing in particular league positions (outside of the top 6)!!
Again, how is this not the very definition of a fix?
But dont’ take my word for it, lets ask the rule makers…
Lets look at some quotes from UEFA’s disciplinary regulations shall we:
ARTICLE 4: the competent disciplinary body shall take a decision on the basis of recognised legal principles and in accordance with justice and fairness.
ARTICLE5.1: member associations, as well as their players, officials and members, should conduct themselves according to the principle of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship.
ARTICLE5.2: For example, a breach of these principles is committed by anyone:
d) whose conduct brings the sport of football, and UEFA in particular, into disrepute;
But for me the real kicker…
ARTICLE5b.1: All persons bound by UEFA’s rules and regulations must refrain from any behaviour that damages or could damage the integrity of matches and competitions organised by UEFA
5b.2 A breach of these principles is committed, for example, by anyone:
a) who acts in a way that is likely to exert an influence on the course and/or the result of a match or competition
Given that we already know the outcome of the Scottish Premier League to be a certainty, that Celtic and/or Rangers (in administration) cannot be relegated and indeed cannot contractually finish in positions 7/8/9/10/11 or 12, how does that not fall foul of protecting the “integrity of matches and competitions” or of any organisation that “exert an influence on the course and/or the result of a match or competition“?
I’ve already had a few folks on Twitter inform me that Neil Doncaster has stated that these clauses are not going to be in the new TV deals (you know, the ones he was talking about in November that he’d already negotiated).
When probed on when or where the SPL’s Chief Executive said these rather important words, no-one could give me an answer. Apparently everyone knows that he has said it, but no-one could tell me what he said (not uncommon in Scotland).
After 2 days of research, I found the following quote, which is the ONLY quote I can find which questions his previous interview:
The current contract, which comes to an end this season, says Rangers and Celtic must play each other four times a season. That’s in line with most of our large contracts – our title sponsors are the same.
What will be in the next contract from the summer remains to be seen. You do a deal originally in a short-form agreement and then the long-form agreement follows that later on. That’s in process at the moment.
Hardly a resounding nor definitive statement that the offending clauses are going to be removed from the new contract.
While Neil has said that nothing is set in stone, we have to remember that he previously said “There is no room to manoeuvre … One of the conditions of this [new] deal .. is that Celtic and Rangers remain in the league. It is also a condition that they play each other four times a season”.
Additionally, a big thank you to ScotFootBlog for pointing me in the right direction with this tweet:
Neil Doncaster’s comments re TV deals and Old Firm games today absolutely fly in the face of what he said in November. Leadership?
Wish you were here…
Based on the comments I have received it seem that people have forgotten a few key things.
So you think you can tell Heaven from Hell
The current TV deal with Sky & EPSN has an additional 2 years left to run. If no new deal is signed, then the old deal is still in effect, and Celtic & Rangers (in administration) being in the SPL is a contractual requirement – as is the 4 old firm league games a season. There is no room to manoeuvre on this.
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
The SPL has traded it’s sporting integrity for greed, and is in a position where it no longer has the power to control it’s own destiny. Its entire existence is reliant on a contract that dictates rules to which it’s affiliated organisation deems to be in breach of it’s regulations.
Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
Should a “Newco Rangers” be formed, the SPL will have no option but to parachute them back into the league, or face certain financial ruin as they become in breach of contract from each of their major suppliers and sponsors. In essence, the decision regarding a “Newco Rangers” inclusion in the SPL was decided years ago, prior to the Setanta TV deal.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
So it doesn’t really matter what Neil Doncaster said regarding what might or might not be in the new TV deal. Clydesdale Bank, the sponsors of the SPL, have publicly stated that they are not going to renew their contract; and the existing TV contract has an additional 2 years to run unless superseded by a new deal. In essence, nothing has changed.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
Football history’s biggest scandal is about to land on the SPL’s doorstep one club’s 10 years of illegally registered players, improper tax returns making granted UEFA licences invalid, and debts over £125million (making it the biggest ‘toppling’ debt in the history of all sport).
The SPL is fixed; and inherently broken at the same time.
Mr. Platini, In the words of Pink Floyd :
Wish you were here.