Monday, June 27, 2022

Sporting Integrity For Them, Not You!

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

Well, here we are with football locked down until the middle of January. The decision was made by the SPFL last week, and as is always the case with the league’s governing body, that decision was made for the benefit of one member in particular while being detrimental to others.

I think most fair minded football fans have seen through the charade, to be honest. If their decision to bring forward the winter break was about fans being given every opportunity to be in football stadia after the shutdown, then would the games on Boxing Day have been played?

It’s that astonishing decision that makes a mockery of their attempts to suggest it’s about having fans back in to watch games. In fact, in my opinion, it actually beggars belief to even hint at it being the reason.

If it were the case, then surely it made sense to call a halt immediately so that no club was on the receiving end of a financial kick in the balls?

Rangers game against St Mirren went ahead at Ibrox with five hundred fans inside the stadium, meaning atleast forty nine thousand weren’t allowed in due to the SNP Government’s outrageous restrictions on outdoor gatherings.

Not one hint of scientific evidence suggests football has been the cause for a single outbreak of this virus, but here we sit with the game shut down due to the implementation of restrictions.

Out came Celtic with a statement within twenty minutes of Sturgeon putting capacity restrictions in place. They did, after all, have a Glasgow Derby to play in front of a mere five hundred fans, did they not?

Well, no. Celtic have not been affected by this due to the SPFL deciding that the game would shut down after the Boxing Day fixtures. It is all very convenient when you consider their injury list, the almost empty stadium, and the loss of revenue from hospitality and matchday takings.

For me, if it’s a decision made regarding hoping fans get back into games, then why play on Boxing Day? Why not bring the shutdown forward an extra three days then restart three days earlier?

Why force some clubs to play home games with restrictions while going out of their way to ensure others aren’t affected?

Rangers have now been forced to play that game while conveniently the governing body has managed to postpone a game that Celtic publicly tell us is nothing more than a game against another team from Glasgow.

For a club that goes out of its way to say there is no Old Firm, they really do try everything to get their fans into that fixture, don’t they? Their bare-faced cheek to continually attempt to play down the fixture and demean it while coercing their place men at Hampden to make decisions to maximise their income is both pathetic and laughable in equal measure.

They managed it last year; the only year I can recall the game was the final fixture on the roster. It gave them every chance to get fans into their ground. All the more astounding that the computer ‘randomly’ achieved what their manager at the time suggested he wanted to happen only days before, eh?

Serious question here, but when are other clubs going to start calling the SPFL out on this blatant reactionary decision making?

Celtic shout jump and Doncaster, MacLennan et al at Hampden squeal “How high??”

Think about it; one club gets everything they wish from the wet wipes that run our league.

Yes, I’m fully aware the majority wanted the shutdown earlier. Still, for the benefit of all and in the interests of Sporting Integrity, the choice of when the shutdown should have happened had to be made with parity at the forefront of the SPFL’s decision. It clearly wasn’t, and as ever, Rangers have now lost more out of this pathetic, compliant motley crew that run our league than any other member club.

Yet again, Rangers get turned over while Doncaster does Celtic’s bidding for them.

I have to say Rangers comments on this nonsensical ruling has been conspicuous. I’d like to know what the Rangers boardroom makes of this. How incredibly convenient for Celtic that their game against the Champions and league leaders comes after they can sign new players and get their injuries cleared up.

It matters not to Rangers or Rangers fans right enough. Going to Celtic Park is always a tough fixture, so it makes no difference when it is or who the eleven in the starting lineup will be.

It seems to make a difference to the other half of the Old Firm though otherwise, they’d be right up for it and fancy their chances of narrowing the gap at the top of the table.

My hunch is their manager, who’s been bumping his gums about the ridiculous amount of games his team are being forced to play was more than aware his players were dropping like flies with muscle injuries. One by one, the hamstrings have popped. Aye, that’ll be the number of games they’ve had to play, said no one in Scotland ever.

This is the way it’s been for years, Mr Postercoglou. Rangers and Celtic play two games a week from July to January, and no amount of protesting about it is ever going to change it. You knew it from the instant you qualified for the Europa League, didn’t you, as did every player, fan and board member.

I watched his after-match interview at the end of the St Johnstone game. Thou doth protest too much, mate. It’s about playing in front of fans, he said, while just finishing a game in front of five hundred fans. Away from home.

That club has long thought we all button up the back, but it’s not taken long for their new manager to learn how to play their game. If he had any integrity about him, he’d have insisted that playing St Mirren Under 15’s last Wednesday shouldn’t have gone ahead as Jim Goodwin was actually telling his board of directors just to forfeit the game.

He’d have been telling his own board not to play St Johnstone, who’d been smacked about the face by isolation rules in an almost empty stadium, surely?

No. Those two games had to go ahead for some reason. Those games weren’t included in his ‘it’s all about the fans’ rhetoric. No matter that St Mirren didn’t have a first team or St Johnstone were denied the opportunity to make some much needed money out of one half of the Old Firm coming to town.

It doesn’t really fit the narrative, does it? As I said, they think we are all daft and can’t see how they want to manipulate every situation to meet their own ends. No one is buying their bullshit, and all I’ve seen on social media is people mocking them for their blind panic under duress.

They don’t want to play Rangers with an unfit Furihashi, no Jota, McGregor, Forrest or Turnbull. They’ve bottled it, and we all know it.

You can’t be ok with playing weakened teams but not ok to face up to bigger challenges and be taken seriously.

This is now clear. Rangers don’t just have to get more points than Celtic to win the league; they have to accept that those running the league will do everything in their power to bend their own rules (St Mirren being forced to bring back loanees from the lower leagues in order to fulfil the Celtic fixture) in order to allow Celtic every advantage possible.

They can paint it whatever way they choose, but that’s the picture in black and white.

Make no mistake here; the SPFL is pandering to them at every opportunity. It’s tedious, it’s mundane, and it’s as clear as can be.

There can be no debate about this, regardless of what outcome different clubs wanted. If it was about fans, then the game should’ve been shut down last Wednesday at the latest. As soon as our First Minister put restrictions on the game, the SPFL should have told clubs they were calling a halt immediately. Forcing St Mirren to bring back kids from loan spells makes a mockery of our league.

What’s even more outrageous is that Celtic didn’t manage to beat that St Mirren side. A little bit of bad Karma, I suppose…

On the other hand, Rangers have gone about their business in December quietly and efficiently. Maximum points gained and playing some sensational football into the bargain.

The Champions started December four points clear and ended it two points better off compared to their nearest challengers and now six clear at the top of the table.

Rangers have now played Livingston away, Hibs away and Hearts away; all tough fixtures against good opponents. To take five wins out of five in December is terrific with the change of management team and the upheaval that can bring.

Rangers have the best team in the country. They have the best squad in the country. They look to have kicked on from the up and down performances of earlier in the season.

It bodes well for the biggest club in the country. As with everything in football, it can change very quickly, but this season has been very reminiscent of the previous couple of years. One team looks to be motoring on and destroying teams while the other hangs onto the coattails of the other, ultimately being unable to sustain the intensity required over the course of a season.

Time will tell, of course, but as a Rangers fan, I see nothing about this Celtic team to be wary of. Yes, they’ve improved in respect to last season but let’s not kid ourselves here.. that wouldn’t have been hard, would it?

Meanwhile, all those games they’re being forced to play seems to be a strain on just about every single one of their players’ hamstrings. I don’t know; maybe it’s just me that thinks asking your players to go flat out in every single match over a fifty plus game season isn’t conducive to athletes being in prime physical condition. Modern football is about managing players physical condition; there’s no hiding away from it, Ange.

Oh… did I mention Celtic wanted the winter break brought forward a week, incidentally they had a game against Hibs scheduled as well as a game against the best team in the country…

I expect Rangers to kick on. Three weeks of coaching and the squad gaining more understanding of what Giovanni Van Bronckhorst wants from his team will only see them improve.

By the time football is back, we’ll see where we’re at in terms of who’s in, who’s out in the SPFL. For me though, the most significant out should be with the SPFL itself. It isn’t fit for purpose. Its only function appears to be to make sure that one football club gets every conceivable advantage possible. It really does need to stop, and my wish is that other clubs would be much more vocal than they have been on this.

Year in, year out, we have laughable situations with the organisation that runs the professional game. The latest is the scandalous situation where they’re now under investigation from the SFA for having breached the rules of the game while attempting to sanction Rangers regarding the cinch deal.

That along with the utterly humiliating TV deal they have with Sky Sports among the countless catastrophes they’ve overseen in the last few years means this needs to come to a head as soon as possible.

All fans want is a professionally run national sport where Sporting Integrity (big words, eh?) is of vital importance and parity is prevalent. I don’t see it in our game; what I see is tantamount to corruption at a time when transparency is required, no demanded.

Enough is enough, and to paraphrase, “call it all out”. Something has to give soon with the way professional football in Scotland is run. Those running it are genuinely unfit for purpose.

Editorial Note: I have a favour to ask you. Did you know this article was published first on our exclusive Patreon page days back? If you love Scottish football while sick and tired of the same old biased MSM coverage, this is for you. The 4th Official needs your support. Due to the unprecedented situation as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, the digital media space has been completely devastated. There has been a massive shortfall in revenue (even while viewership is up) as we scramble how to make sure that we go on with our daily job. We are proud to put up exclusive stuff on Scottish football as well as an early release of our podcast interviews with relevant personalities of the game (recent guests have been Marvin Bartley, Matt Polster, David Martindale, Greg Docherty, Daniel Stendel & a lot more) on our Patreon account and hope you would support us in these tough times. We have supporters from at least 12 countries, and you can be too by chipping in just £2.99/month (or become an annual supporter). Become a proud Patron of The 4th Official!

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