A grassroots network has exposed the connivances at the top of the game. Now's our chance to rebuild Scottish football
It's worth getting a few things straight before kick-off. This isn't about "relegating" Rangers. Rangers don't exist any more. This isn't about Craig Whyte. Craig Whyte's not around any more. It's about a culture of failure, a total lack of transparency and connivance from the very top of the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football Association in a rigged cartel that has brought Scottish football to total crisis. The good news is that the inept coterie at the top of the game has been bypassed by ordinary fans and smaller clubs. This is what democracy looks like.
Just when you thought the corporate takeover of society was just about complete, an event takes place or a movement pops up to renew your faith and make you realise that big change is not just possible, it's inevitable, because right across society the elite that runs our world is being exposed daily as a corrupt and incompetent failure.
Sevco 5088 Ltd being forced to start their existence in Scotland's lowest league is one of these events, and the sweeping grassroots network that made this happen is one of these movements. Only a few months ago this was completely unthinkable, and only a few days ago it seemed like efforts to parachute this new entity into the First Division – the next tier down from the Scottish Premier League – by Neil Doncaster, the now utterly discredited SPL chief executive, would succeed. Sporting integrity, or integrity of any kind, would, it seemed, be crushed under the weight of corporate expectation, a conflation of embedded sports and business journalists and the staggering sense of entitlement of Rangers and their allies in the governing bodies.
Instead, incredibly, we've just seen the transformation of Scottish football, realised almost entirely through Twitter and key websites that have proliferated as the story has dominated every media outlet for over a year: the award-winning Rangers Tax Case, fans site Pie and Bovril, rebel journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, Wings Over Scotland, Scotzine and Paul McConville to name a few. These sites give us hope that what may follow is not just a renaissance in Scottish football but in Scottish media. A core part of this saga has been the failure of the sports and business media with allegations of laziness, partiality and just a complete lack of any critical faculties.
Whatever you think of the rights and wrongs of Rangers, the fact is that the SPL chairmen would have quite happily connived to drop the newco into the top flight. Without the resistance of a network of ordinary fans unconvinced by the governing bodies' (or the mainstream media's) account of things, the money men's perpetual short-termism would have prevailed. Faced with (unsubstantiated) apocalyptic scenarios, ordinary fans put huge pressure on their own clubs in advance of the vote at Hampden this week, withholding their season tickets.
The collapse of Rangers and the shock it's put through the entire Scottish game has wider consequences. The allegations of widespread tax evasion and the brutal gangster behaviour of football executives has exposed an entire class of feral businessmen.
But this is about more than exposing bad business. The model of endless growth has been challenged. The consequences of consigning Sevco Scotland to start where any new club would start may well mean drastic cuts in Scottish football. Some clubs may have to close or downsize. This is no bad thing. We know we have too many clubs in this country. Endlessly chasing an utterly unsustainable model is failed economics.
This has been a profound failure of governance, not just among the series of dodgy geezers who lined up to fleece Rangers fans for decades, but the entire edifice of Scottish football, especially the leadership of Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster. The reality is that the SPL, founded in 1998, has failed by any metric you can choose: attendances, club success in Europe, entertainment value, national team success. Incredibly, since the SPL began, five of its member clubs have entered administration. The newly leaked email from the SFA's Stewart Regan marks him out as a clueless fixer, who's failed at every effort to collude with Rangers. BBC Scotland reported yesterday that a vote of no confidence in Regan was proposed and seconded at last Friday's Scottish Football League meeting.
By having the courage to break from the old failed model, the SFL clubs have done the whole of Scottish football a huge favour. There won't be any "social unrest", there will be renewed enthusiasm. More people in Scotland per head of population watch their domestic top-level league than any other European nation. Let's rebuild, let's transform Scottish football. Let's learn the wider lessons not just about the failed corporate economies but the lively powerful networks that can offer an alternative.
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