Calling out unacceptable behaviour

Date: 12th November 2021

Calling out unacceptable behaviour

The latest blog from SFSA writer Donald Stewart

“Passion runs high in any game despite the fact that it is a game.

The world over has examples of fans and supporters losing their heads in support of the team that, from being a child they have invested heavily with their money, time and heart. It is a passion upon which is grounded the club, their fortunes and their financial security.

Of late it has saved Hearts, Rangers, and many other clubs who have been close to ruin. Behind the scenes since COVID hit there have been many examples of fans finding their paint brushes to go in and do some maintenance, raiding their piggy banks to respond to appeals and get up off their backsides to be part of initiatives from the SPFL Trust to show they can get fitter and be a credit to their club. Initiatives that have provided some employment for the coaches that keep the clubs alive.

That passion is a fickle thing.

There is a darker side to the heated exchanges, the belief that sees people harbour the intent of following to the ends of the country and to be resolute in the face of reality that the club, THEIR club can and will achieve.

Seeing the likes of Brechin City fall down the leagues but retain the loyalty of their support is chastening.

There are many other examples where if you look at the old First Division of the 1970’s you see clubs like Clyde frequently close to the top but now they sit in League One in unhealthy fettle.

But people still flood message boards and buy tickets.

The connection between you and your community through the football club is spectacular.

But that darker side keeps coming out. It is not banter.

I was once told by a close friend that he had been asked to become a director of the club he had come to support. He was a man of some means and had cash in the bank. It was clear what the advantage of having him with tremendous financial acumen would mean for the club.

It was less clear what he would get out of it.

The reality was that he would get nothing much that was positive.

He was being sold on the idea of contributing to the locality in which he lived, being part of the pride that comes with the club achieving and then he could hold his head up high and be seen as one of the saviours and people behind the scenes of a successful club.

Sitting in the director’s box whilst being courted did not change his decision., he was already aware that though it was a tempting offer it was one he would decline.

He had canvassed opinion including that of someone who had been a director of his own hometown club some distance, geographically, from where he lived. It was a chastening conversation. Aside from the financial cost of becoming involved, especially when the manager needed cash to save the season or avoid relegation, there was simply the cost of abuse.

The darker side see many withdraw from their posts and positions.

Recruited into the club, directors have what feels, for many, like a privileged position. They invest onto the infrastructure and the team and then they are told it is not enough. The voluntarily attend board meetings and go to games to sit apart from people who feel it is acceptable to shout things which if they were in a street on a Saturday would constitute a breach of the peace. They get a chance to have their online profiles attacked and their names nicknamed to become terms of abuse because they have been unable to provide the necessary success to stop their families from having to watch their loved one slink and shudder each time, they hear a raised voice.

Don’t get me wrong, there are rogues and vagabonds who have slunk round the halls of Ibrox, disgraced the streets in Livingston or been the real villains of the piece in many a demise. There should never be any director who does not pass a fit and proper test. And perhaps there needs to be a real fit and proper test and not some flimsy commitment to stop dodgy people until dodgy people have the cash to save clubs and pressure is exerted to allow the takeover to happen because the alternative is unthinkable – the loss of their club.

But the abuse suffered by people like Ross McArthur at Dunfermline Athletic is simply unacceptable. I have never met him and he may have made terrible decisions which took the club from pre-season promotion favourites to fighting relegation in the Championship but to have to resign from his post due to “abhorrent personal abuse and attacks” is nothing short of an additional shame being played out on behalf of Scottish football.

At one point, in 2013, Dunfermline Athletic were on the brink of extinction. I was at Airdrie when Jim Leishman, prior to the Diamonds v Pars game that day,  announced his bid to save the club. A posse of reporters were given a masterclass in how to work the media by Leishman and the confidence Pars supporters had in a legend of the game and their club being involved in save the Pars was clear to see. That day we all felt something for the Dunfermline fans.

McArthur was part of that rebuilding process – then and now. That is what the club have lost. He will still oversee a legacy that will include changes in and around the club to keep it going, but we cannot keep going back and back to the dark ideals of having a go at people because they are club officials. Criticism is all well and good, but somebody somewhere needs to take a grip of these idiots who turn their passion into vile abuse. If we do not, then clubs shall start to disappear because the cost of being on a board of any football club shall be far more than financial.”

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