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The Convenient Pretext of Sporting Integrity


“We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought.”
- Václav Havel

I was looking forward to the Euro’s starting. For me it was a welcome distraction from what was going on with Rangers and the goldfish bowl that is Scottish football. Like most workplaces, we did a sweep. It provided much amusement for my colleagues that I drew England. I know there are Scots out there that support England and wish them well but I’m not one of them. That’s why I was happy to see them deservedly crash out to the Italians even though I would have won 20 quid should they have won the tournament. For me the money didn’t matter, I’d rather see England get beat.

Although the Euro’s have been a welcome break, my attention always returned to matters closer to home. The SPL clubs may face a financial loss now that Rangers will be relegated to a lower division, however, that's not what's important here. It's never been about money but about integrity, sporting integrity to be precise. Or so we’re told.

Within the last 6 months, there are many in the world of Scottish football who appear to have become beacons of morality as they want to see Rangers (or “Rangers” as some have childishly labelled) held accountable with justice served appropriately. It’s nothing to do with money, it’s about doing the right thing. Really? It’s incomprehensible that SPL clubs only contemplated voting no to a newco as their fans had threatened to boycott them otherwise. Does anyone really think that the SPL clubs would vote no if their fans were still willing to line the pockets of their clubs although they did so begrudgingly? Probably not.

You could argue that they’re listening to their fans and that’s why they’re voting no. Because it’s all about sporting integrity right? The same sporting integrity that saw Aberdeen and Motherwell avoid relegation due to a loophole, therefore punishing 1st Division teams who had earned a right to promotion those years? Surely if any team feel they've been dealt with unfairly from a sporting perspective it's Falkirk. They had the talent but the not the criteria to bring in the money.

The newco issue is about one thing, money. Clubs merely weighed up the potential losses of a fan boycott against no Rangers. A Rangers, I may add, that many people claim doesn’t exist anymore. The SPL have dragged their heels so much in this saga it's almost laughable. Where’s the integrity in treating customers with disdain? Fans have a right to know the league structure and that has a knock on effect right through the divisions, where fans and clubs are given less consideration. Then there’s the division 1 argument which sees Rangers demoted one tier and (hypothetically) return to the SPL one year later leaving the TV money intact. The stench of integrity is overpowering in that decision.

Truth be told, that a vote was even considered removes any integrity from the process. If Rangers weren’t a cash cow, they would have been banished in much the same way Livingston and Gretna were. Sporting integrity might make a good hook and a nice headline for the front page, but it’s nonsense. The SPL know it, the Chairmen know it and a few fans of rival teams I've spoken to have admitted it also.

A few years ago when Gretna got hammered, I spoke to a Queens Park supporting mate of mine. He was overjoyed, Gretna in his eyes bought their way through the divisions and were now paying the price. He was bitter, and didn’t deny it. Not once did he mention anything about integrity. Yet it seems to be the new buzz word as of late with Rangers being used as an example of the polar opposite. A Rangers, remember, who have yet to be found guilty on many of the charges they face. A Rangers, that some people claim, is dead. Can the fans be honest and say this is more about punishing Rangers than it is fairness?

I was talking in work earlier about how I was glad Italy beat England as they deserved to go through. I wasn’t lying, however, I wanted England to go out whether they deserved to or not. There’s nothing wrong with cheering the defeat of your rivals. Just be honest; truth and integrity go hand in hand. Just out of curiosity I typed “sporting integrity” into Google. I was a little surprised to see the term has become synonymous with Rangers because it's almost as if it's a new concept.