Date: 4th March 2022
First a hat trick of quotes that have helped me frame this strangest of weeks.
‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor’.
‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
‘When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do sir?
(With thanks to Desmond Tutu, John Dalberg-Acton and JM Keynes).
1. Our ‘Inconsequential’ Support for Brothers in Trouble
Ukraine was scheduled to be a big part of Scottish football’s year having replaced Israel as the team we get to play the most.
Our men had three games slated, at home on the 24th March, 7th June, away on Sept 26th, and our women were due to play at home on April 8th.
The reality is the world cup qualifier due in three weeks just won’t happen and probably the other games too because no one knows if Ukraine will even exist then.
So back to current matters.
Eventually Fifa would have got round to announcing something, but Ukraine have already requested a postponement for the first match.
The 7th of June date could potentially host a double header for both competitions.
But that is not easily workable either because of the problems getting a date for the final game against the winners of the Welsh v Austrian game.
Meantime, Russia have been kicked out and Poland given a bye into a match against Sweden or the Czechs.
Poland have offered to play us in a friendly on the 24th as that might suit us both and could work, but as Rod Petrie press released this week, ‘Football is inconsequential’ when real stuff is going on and affecting innocent people.
I agree Rod.
The truth is when something like this happens, we are all Ukraine.
We all support the underdog.
But football can and is making a difference Mr Petrie.
Other football associations have done just that and driven the message home.
They have forced multiple U turns by those paid millions to run our game.
Russia have long used sport as an international badge to show the world how special they think they are.
Sporting boycotts to countries like that drive home a very hard message.
Russia did everything they could to avoid the ban and are appealing aggressively through the International Court of Arbitration in Sport.
I hope they get a bloody nose too.
And if they manage to fornicate a result I hope the other teams then simply withdraw.
I am however a tad frustrated by our SFA and think we should have done more.
We could have used the 4 games we had scheduled as a ‘because’ and been at the forefront of the debate.
We didn’t and weren’t.
The reality is the politics of Fifa and Uefa are deeply disturbing.
Some would say they are inherently corrupt.
But for some reason the SFA keep quiet about all things Fifa and Uefa.
They are not alone and to be fair the organisation of these behemoths is intrinsically difficult to negotiate, but football needs better and more open governance.
And countries like us have to work to change it.
Football also needs less corruption.
And talking about corruption this is all for a world cup in bloody Qatar.
Awarded and originally to have been played in the summer heat.
A pariah hosting venue, ‘gifted’ the privilege by Mr Infantino, proud holder of ‘The Putensian Russian Order of Friendship’.
A wee something given to him after he had similarly ‘gifted’ and delivered the last world cup to Vladimir Putin, his Russian pal.
Gianni Infantino, Italian/Swiss, Fifa head and himself under investigation for corruption was given this grandiose, high-Russian honour after being part of the (allegedly corrupt) awarding process that took the 2018 World Cup to Russia.
It’s hard to disagree that Gianni is indeed a worthy successor to Sepp Blatter, but for all the wrong reasons, and together they are forecast to be keeping future Swiss courts busy.
Last week Gianni had used all his powers to try to keep Russia in ‘his’ tournament.
He favoured an ‘Olympic type fudge’ that offered individual participation with games outside Russia and no anthems.
Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, England and more stood up, made a fuss, and brought change.
Rod told us in his press release that he had sent an email of support to his Ukraine equivalent.
We could have and should have done so much more, and faster.
We should have taken sides and been part of the change.
We weren’t and our inaction is not a badge of honour, but luckily it mattered not.
2. ‘It’s not an SFA Decision, It’s a Decision for the Clubs’
You probably heard that quoted this week about David Goodwillie’s move back to Clyde.
Well SFA, that just wasn’t and isn’t good enough.
People power has made two clubs and those who run our game look bereft this week.
It is all too easy to blame the system or someone else.
But football has led to a justifiable public outcry.
Raith and Clyde have screwed up and I‘ll talk about that in detail but the biggest issue is how Scotland treats certain crimes against women in its court rooms and how deals get done behind closed doors at the highest level.
The clubs deserve all they get and for one it will be a significant financial hit, but our COPFS, The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, should be under Nicola’s spotlight.
But once again football has made and is still making itself an easy target.
I’m talking specifically about what we named the ‘Second Battle of Raith’ when we talked about this self-induced nonsense a couple of weeks ago. Well now it has spread to Cumbernauld then back to Kirkcaldy and places like Edinburgh in between.
It’s complex, complicated and a mix of politics, power, morals, and money.
Money is the key element and all pervading.
It can be a wake-up call for our game and a platform for change for the good but that will only happen if the game wants it and there is no sign of that yet.
I’m in a sunnier clime as I write and have just explained this ugly episode and the latest U turns to some friends who don’t follow Scottish football, didn’t know the story, but whose starting point was that ‘everyone has the right to work’.
And that is where I started just 5 weeks ago, so here we go.
The Second Battle of Raith, Long-Story-Short, (all from public domain sources)
David Goodwillie an ex Scottish internationalist (3 caps) signed for Raith Rovers in January from Clyde where he has played since 2017.
David had been declared a rapist by Lord Armstrong in a civil court in 2016 after a private prosecution.
Goodwillie and David Robertson, his co-accused then appealed that judgement and in 2017 a bench of three judges backed up Lord Armstrong’s decision.
So, 4 judges have seen the evidence and unanimously said both were rapists.
After this decision Goodwillie left higher profile Plymouth and joined Clyde FC.
Reassuringly there was a fuss when he did that.
But not a big enough one.
Without SPFL or SFA guidelines on player suitability (Why?) and with the absence of publicity Mr Goodwillie stayed and played at Clyde till his move to Raith in 2022.
We now know a lot of other stuff.
He has prior convictions for violence.
Pre-Lord Armstrong’s decision the players had tried to buy the victim off with a £115K settlement.
And after Lord Armstrong awarded a six-figure financial payment Mr Goodwillie declared himself bankrupt in 2019 while playing for Clyde, allegedly to avoid paying anything to his victim.
He has always denied the allegations and never shown contrition. That may or may not be on the advice of lawyers.
In January Raith signed him on a two and a half year contract worth anything between £150 – £200K and this is copper-bottomed and has to be paid to the player by the club whatever happens.
The Raith board had pre-recognised this was not a normal signing and expected a fuss.
Somehow they decided ‘collectively’ that it would die down and that his value as a goal scorer was better for their community club than the short term noise and the loss of maybe a few fans and sponsors like Val McDermid.
Two directors vehemently disagreed, walked out of the ‘approval’ meeting and resigned.
We now know the Raith board called it wrong.
Scotland had moved on.
Goodwillie had maybe been playing under the radar at Clyde but the fuss at Kirkcaldy brought a reappraisal by the fans and general public of who can play professional football and in particular whether rapists can ever be role models and acceptable at any club.
The same way as they couldn’t join the police force.
Raith were swamped by the public outcry, promised they would change and had been quiet for a couple of weeks.
We had all heard that some fans at Clyde were chanting Goodwillie’s name and telling their board they wanted him back.
One guy on the radio this week argued his point saying, ‘Football is a man’s game and playing against men there is no problem’.
One other said ‘Goodwillie has become the victim of a media created, politically correct, outpouring and is doing nothing illegal in trying to earn his living’.
My pal, a lifelong Clyde fan, heard them and emailed me this, ‘Total mess, won’t be back to see them. Clyde Board changed their mind after pressure from some fans singing ‘we want our captain back’. But decent Clyde fans can’t believe it. No decency, common sense or business acumen shown by the board. We will be the pariah of Scottish football’.
And the Saddest Thing – The Raith Board Hadn’t Learned its Lesson
Imagine their decision making process second time around.
A group of individuals discussing what to do with an expensive player on the books who they can’t play.
Someone must have said, ‘let’s try and minimise the hit to our bottom line and offload him somewhere like Clyde where nobody seemed to mind too much when he was there, and anyway, the Clyde fans want him back.
That way the hit to us will be smaller’.
The Battle of Broadwood
More a skirmish than a fight.
Clyde were first offered Goodwillie on a deal and said no.
Then they were offered him again and said yes.
Then their girls team resigned and the local council said he was excluded under the terms of the stadium lease and finally Mr G is back as a non-playing Raith player till his contract runs out.
Football Has to Change
It is a privilege to play professional football and there should be criteria that have to be met.
Get the clubs around a table and agree what they are.
COPS Has to Change
None of the questions about how it failed the victim are Rocket Science.
Just what happened at each stage at our COPS?
A series of excellent articles by Marion Scott in the Sunday Post suggests a deal and a letter of immunity was negotiated by the late Paul McBride, representing Goodwillie.
It is said Paul was pals with Frank Mullholland, the then Lord Advocate and now a judge.
The case was somehow then dropped despite his prosecutor team saying at the time the evidence was strong.
Denise Clair, the victim told the Post ‘For months I’d been assured the case would go ahead, that the evidence was strong and that a top QC would lead the prosecution. Then, out of the blue, I was told the charges were dropped.
Hours later, Goodwillie was being picked for Scotland, and days later getting a £2.8Million transfer. Meanwhile, I was left broken, suicidal that a man had raped me and was now being held up as a role model, a hero’.
Denise was let down by Football.
But Denise was even more let down by the COPS.
It is easy for Nicola to attack the player and see the clubs as trying to fecklessly and naively wave their two fingers back in the air at her.
But the bigger fault remains closer to home.
3. ‘Shove Your Old Firm Friendly Up Your Arse’
It must be the Sydney Super Cup.
A money-making wheeze scheduled for Australia in November with Celtic, Rangers, Sydney FC and West Sydney Wanderers.
The Green Brigade said ‘We’re not half of anything and suggested where to deposit the idea.
Meanwhile their blue shirted rival fans said ‘Money over morals’.
So now you know.
Anyway, for what it is worth I had a wonderful night very late one June evening in Sydney in a pub as a guest at Sydney’s Celtic & Rangers Supporters Club’.
They were an eclectic group of football fans who realised that what united them was bigger than the differences that divided them.
They got together for all big matches including English football and were a thriving informal society enjoying sport and a few beers.
The game I watched in their back room of that hotel-bar cum clubhouse wasn’t the old firm and wasn’t even football.
It was the 1995 Scotland v France rugby game in Pretoria where we wuz robbed 22- 19.
Just imagine the idea of fans getting together to celebrate sport and how it binds us?
4. Approval for a Class Action
Lord Arthurson gave permission this week for 22 ex-Celtic Boys Club players to take a US Style Class Action against the club who have long maintained that Celtic FC and Celtic Boys Club were separate entities so there is no case for them to answer.
Abuse had been reported from the 70s and the subject was allegedly raised several times at later club board meetings.
From conversations I know this is bigger than just Celtic.
If you enjoy ‘Sting’ tell your pals.
If you don’t then that’s nice too.
Have a nice weekend.
Comments and input always welcome
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