Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Amazing And Fantastic Sporting Integrity Of Dundee United, Raith Rovers & Cove Rangers

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

I started watching a new Netflix docuseries the other day, a rehash of an old show from years back, Unsolved Mysteries it’s called. What’s that got to do with football? Not a lot but the name of the show could describe Scottish football perfectly well.

The show’s one of those generic, typically American tv shows that goes into detail of an unsolved crime, with friends and family interviewed who’ve been devastated by the loss of a loved one. A decent enough watch but incredibly frustrating as it kinda leaves you hanging with no conclusion or with any real inclination as to what’s happened to the victim.

Victims. There’s a word for you. Scottish football is full of them. Paranoid, raging victims. None more so this week than Dundee United and Raith Rovers. Those particular two clubs released statements on Monday suggesting that Hearts and Partick Thistle, by taking the SPFL to the Court of Session have damaged the integrity of our national game.

Yes, they really did. Both clubs released statements that said they both fear the financial implications of having to defend themselves regarding the Court of Sessions verdict on the dispute between the relegated Hearts and Partick Thistle and the SPFL.

The dispute is about whether the relegation of those two clubs, which was agreed via a member vote and whether that decision by the Scottish clubs was legitimate and legal.

Due to that, the promotions of Dundee United, Raith Rovers and Cove Rangers are legally questioned, which is a perfectly reasonable stance to take for those clubs being relegated due to a member vote. Hearts and Partick Thistle believe the decision to be unfair and the SPFL rulebook states that no decision made can be unfair on its member clubs.

Well. Dundee United and Raith Rovers don’t think so, in fact, they appear to not like being dragged into this dispute one iota. The notion of this being taken all the way seems not to have entered the heads of anyone connected with these two football clubs, which is a bit naive if nothing else.

The issue I have with that is a fairly basic one. Hearts told them way back in April they would seek to deal with this mess via the legal route which was open to them, which is precisely what they did.

Why Dundee United and Raith Rovers would be surprised at this is what I don’t understand here. Hearts told them for months that if they were relegated, they would challenge that in a court of law and here we are in the situation we’re in.

Neil Doncaster
Motherwell, Scotland; Neil Doncaster of the SPFL in the stands xVagelisxGeorgarioux PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxSWExNORxDENxFINxONLY ActionPlus11860269

The Court of Session ruled that the decision should be made under the auspices of the SFA with those arbiters being picked as thus…

One picked by Hearts and Partick Thistle.

One picked by the SPFL

One decided by those picked by each party, who will chair the arbitration.

That, in all honesty, seems quite fair to me. After all, shouldn’t we follow the Arbitration Act? Not according to Dundee United and Raith Rovers though, who feel the cost of this could bring some kind of financial meltdown.

Yip. Can you see the irony here? Those two clubs who’ve benefited from a vote to end the season are banging on about sporting integrity, while at the very same time complaining about Hearts and Partick Thistle, who are being harshly treated here, so much so that the damages claim is for up to £10 million between them.

Let that sink in for a minute. All of it.

Hearts told them they’d go to court to seek redemption here. All the way through this fiasco, Ann Budge has been crystal clear on her intention to get fairness for her club. What sticks in my throat though is the hypocrisy of those promoted clubs, particularly Raith Rovers who just so happened to be a point clear of Falkirk with eight games to go.

Not only were they only a point clear, they still had Falkirk to play, at Falkirk no less. Raith Rovers just so happened to be in the most complex situation of all clubs in the league, where five points were separating the top three and eight points separating the top five teams in that league (League 1).

They weren’t a stick on for promotion at all. They weren’t even guaranteed a playoff place.

They do have the temerity to question the decision by the Edinburgh and Glasgow clubs to take this all the way and had the audacity to suggest the sporting integrity of the game is under attack due to the Court of Session telling them to pay their own costs last week when they attempted to get this issue thrown out of court.

If they were to lose the arbitration ruling, they’d also be liable for their own costs at that hearing too which has seen them come out and question the sporting integrity of such things.

Which is a bit strange, isn’t it?

Honestly, the sheer brass neck of those two promoted clubs bamboozles me here so much so, it actually beggars belief, and I’ve found myself laughing at the pair of them. Rangers called this all out on April 10th. They released a dossier that both Hearts and Partick Thistle have used quite significantly during their pursuit of justice and compensation.

Neil Doncaster
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 07: Neil Doncaster takes part in Leaders U-40 Advisory Day at Stamford Bridge in London, England. (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images).

Rangers alluded to the vote to end the season on April 10th being invalid due to the SPFL receiving Dundee’s vote before the deadline. The SPFL denied this, therefore, allowing Dundee a further five days to change their vote. It would seem that may be a significant problem for the SPFL as it appears that the rules of the resolution on April 10th suggest that whether a yes or no vote is delivered, it can’t be changed, meaning the resolution would have failed.

Lord Clark’s ruling at the Court of Session which allowed for it to be overseen by SFA rules, with full disclosure of what exactly went on during that vote and the subsequent shenanigans thereafter will hopefully get to the bottom of this shambles, but that remains to be seen.

No matter what the outcome eventually is, my lack of sympathy for Dundee United and Raith Rovers will remain. All this pair had to do is…. well they could’ve done many things here, and any of them could be seen to be doing the right thing.

Rangers called for an independent inquiry. It was voted down. Only thirteen clubs voted for it, and ultimately Douglas Park offered to pay for it meaning not one club would’ve been out of pocket. Both Dundee United and Raith Rovers voted against the invitation provided by Rangers and Mr Park.

Hearts offered league reconstruction. Three leagues of fourteen which would’ve seen Dundee United and Raith Rovers promoted while Hearts, Thistle and Stranraer would’ve escaped relegation. Dundee United and Raith Rovers voted against that proposal.

Rangers then offered another option for league reconstruction, similar to the Hearts proposal but with Kelty Hearts and Brora Rangers (who were denied the opportunity of promotion due to the SPFL abandoning the playoffs) being included in the bottom tier along with Colt teams from both Rangers and Celtic. That was rejected.

The SPFL then asked member clubs to consider the original three leagues of fourteen. That was also dismissed out of hand. Both Dundee United and Raith Rovers voted against such a proposal. Now if you cast your mind back through the last four months, Ann Budge has stated quite clearly she would take this all the way to the courts to protect her club and her club’s fans and quite rightly too.

The absolute brass neck of Dundee United and Raith Rovers, a pair of self-serving and self-interested clubs who’ve shown a complete disregard for anyone but themselves. How they can dare mention sporting integrity yesterday and keep a straight face is beyond me.

In fact, it’s contemptible, to be honest. The cheek to mention sporting integrity and suggesting they won a league fair and square while ignoring Hearts and Partick’s plight has got me to the point where I hope their promotion is legally denied.

If it isn’t, then I hope the clubs seeking reparation get full compensation. For me, this entire shitshow since April exemplifies exactly what Scottish football has now become. A national game so full of hate, antipathy and self-interest that’s getting precisely what it deserves.

Decisions that have cost many millions of pounds, approximately £10 million already, a claim from Hearts and Thistle for another £10 million, a league with no sponsor and an executive board that’s got down on its hands and knees to kiss the feet of Sky Sports. A Sky Sports that treats the Scottish game with such disdain and disregard that I’m always stunned when we get any kind of build-up to a match at all while the post-match analysis is non-existent nine times out of ten.

This is where Scottish football finds itself. The only money coming into the game is via tv companies who show us such disregard and contempt, give the league a pittance when you compare and look at other leagues throughout Europe, our league is the poor man of the continent. No sponsors, no leadership and no money.

Yet we’ve got this pair of jokers talking about sporting integrity? If it weren’t so severe, it would be funny, but nobody’s smiling or laughing here, it’s in no way funny at all. The most selfish group of football clubs on earth. The most antagonistic supporters in world football. The most incompetent governing bodies on the planet. That’s where Scottish football’s at.

We are getting everything we deserve so spare me the sanctimonious bullshit about sporting integrity, there is none, and there hasn’t been for years. Scottish football is eating itself to a slow, miserable death here and frankly, no one cares anymore really, do they?

Do I believe the mystery of the Dundee vote and what exactly went on with the SPFL executive board thereafter? No, not really. I have a feeling it’ll remain an Unexplained Mystery you could squeeze right into that docuseries I was talking about…

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