A wee quiz for a Friday afternoon. Three pieces writing about the financial ruin of Scottish football, causes and effects. See if you can identify the three writers. Each piece was written prior to the Rangers CVA proposal being rejected.
Links to the full pieces, and answers, are at the bottom of the page.
Article Number 1
When they conduct the post-mortem on the death of the once-beautiful game in this country, there will be only one verdict: suicide.
The killing of Scottish football will be self-inflicted. But it won’t have fallen on a sword or swallowed an overdose. This is death by financial strangulation – and it put the noose around its own neck.
What have we done to the old man? For over 100 years, he strode along fit and healthy and financially stable, but now he is all but battered into submission, ready to give up the ghost and I don’t know whether to be angry or sad.
I was brought up to believe in the immortality of the Scottish game – until, that is, 1967 and the demise of dear old Third Lanark, the club that died of shame, murdered by a board of directors most of whom couldn’t have organised a nightcap in a distillery.
Suddenly, for the first time in a generation, it began to dawn on us that football clubs were subject to the laws of financial accountancy: that expenditure can never, in the final analysis, exceed income.
But the great Houdini act continued, with clubs making miracle escapes from the Grim Reaper despite acts of financial lunacy. St Mirren, for example, went from being £1.5m in the black to £1.5m in the red in a period of three years. This wasn’t helped by handing a signing-on payment of £100,000 to an average defender. And, remember, this was 35 years ago.
But, compared to what has happened since at other clubs, that was frugal book-keeping. The game has gone nuts.
I have a problem with clubs who can eject their debt by going into administration and then resume normal service in the same division while former employees – and not just players – are left drowning in a sea of debt. It is morally wrong.
You don’t have to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer to work out why your balance sheet is seriously unbalanced. It’s written on the wall in great big neon: player wages.
For too many years, too many average foreigners have set up camp here: over-paid, over-valued and over-here.
Sure, one or two native Scots have banked a few bob, but the game stands accused of blocking young native talent in favour of dishing the dosh to mercenaries who have contributed the square root of sod-all to our game (H. Larsson esq. being one of the few exceptions who prove the rule).
I could never understand the criticism of Brian Quinn, of Celtic, who refused to increase the already spiralling debt of his club, pay more wages and drag them back to the darkest hours just before the wee man in the bunnet promised the outgoing board who had taken them to death’s door “not one thin dime”.
The more time goes by, the more I am convinced that Fergus McCann really did know what he was talking about. Van Hooijdonk, Di Canio and Cadete all tried to hold him to ransom, but he tore up the notes.
It strikes me that football fans have not the slightest grip on reality when it comes to matters of club finance. And the same seems to go for otherwise successful businessmen elevated to a directorship of the club they have always worshipped.
It’s a shambles – a downright sad shambles – and my heart bleeds for the young players whose careers have come crashing into the buffers. It is of scant consolation, but history might record that at least they were around when there was a game of football to love.
Article Number 2
Celtic fans who are eager to dance on the grave of the Ibrox club should be careful what they wish for, trust me. Even if Rangers manage to cough and splutter out of administration with a CVA they will be weary and wounded for years to come. And one-horse races tend to be a little yawn inducing.
Rules have been breached and therefore there must be punishment. But I find it distressing that the priority is not saving the club. Scottish football cannot afford to lose any organisation that promotes our game, from Third Lanark to Gretna, far less a business which attracts 50,000 customers to home games.
These people will not spread in the breeze to new adopted clubs, to Paisley or Maryhill or Motherwell or Greenock. They will chuck it. And the national sport will shrink accordingly.
Celtic will have no competition and the league will become a parade. It will be an embarrassment of a competition.
If we have liquidation it would trigger a full investigation into what has really been going on at the club under his term of duty and that of his predecessor Sir David Murray.
Transparency? If that is what they really want then rip the body apart in the post mortem. And be prepared for some grim truths.
Creditors will be horrified at the prospect but it is in truth the only real option now.
Article Number 3
If you are drowning, you don’t get choosy about whose hand pulls you out the icy deep.
I really cannot see that anything but a “newco” and the embracing of that by the Scottish Premier League is left for the club now. If only there was another way – relegation to the First Division maybe as punishment for the behaviour. But there is no mechanism for that.
The death of the Ibrox club would toll the bell for the Scottish game. In fact, it may already be too late. It strikes me that too many have little concept of how serious the situation really is.
Those who want Rangers wiped from the face of the planet for their misdemeanours, who want their chairmen to don the black cap when it comes to judgement day, are entitled to their opinion, but they should be prepared to live with the consequences.
Consider this: on a match day when Rangers are at home and Celtic away, far in excess of half the paying customers in the SPL are at Ibrox. Remind me on what basis you can dispense with half your custom and still thrive and you, my friend, have found the secret of business heaven.
In the meantime, have compassion for 11 good men at the SPL who will stand in judgement of a football club needing mercy. Condemned if they grant it, pilloried if they don’t.
Only a game? Aye, right.
Article 1 – http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/scotland/3251514.stm – by Chick Young
Article 2 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17900130 – Chick Young
Article 3 – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/18011398 – Chick Young