What Could You Have Done Differently?

In my days of being in sales, I used to coach and be coached in many varied situations by many varied coaches. One who always sticks out for me was Brian. He was a ‘top seller’ and his sales record was unblemished. No dodgy deals half truths or customer complaints-a real professional. When he coached he never really said too much until towards the end of the session but one of his favourite questions to coax the best learning from you was a very simple one: ‘what could you have done differently?’

This mantra can be applied to many things in life. If you have ever got yourself into one of those situations-an argument with one of your kids, communication breakdowns with a partner, you realise you have made a mistake in work, an aggressive encounter-it is not a bad question to ask as long as you are completely honest and learn from it.

Celtic beat Barcelona in the Champions league on the same day Hearts issued an astonishing statement that suggested the club would be dead within a matter of days unless fans dug deep and saved it. Nothing could more sharply contrast the enigmatic nature of Scottish football. But for me, the most disappointing thing is we could have been enjoying a true renaissance or at least be in a much better place in Scottish football. Not papering over cracks and using one team’s European success to do it.

What if we had done things differently?

What if common sense and clear thinking had been the order of the day rather than the hysterical drive to see Rangers ‘punished’? What if the opportunity had been grasped to allow Rangers re-entry into a restructured, extended SPL with a one up one down automatic and a play-off type scenario including the second bottom SPL team and positions 2 3 and 4 of the 1st Division?

What if we have been able to go to SKY and say we now have a Glasgow derby, an Edinburgh derby, a Dundee derby and Highland derbies and we also have a play-off scenario? Maybe then we could have asked to SKY to up the £17million per season that was on the table as we had a better product instead of being left begging for a deal. A deal that is still shrouded in mystery in terms of the finances and what, if any, demands were made by Sky? A deal that, best case scenario, has been put at £11million though I seriously doubt that. And as a side note, absolutely no credit has been given to Rangers and the SFL for allowing their games to be shown. One look at the viewing figures will tell you how important that was to SKY and ESPN to get a deal done.

I wrote an article for The Rangers Standard back on 27th June 2012


In it I raised the issue of being careful what you wish for. The zeitgeist was very much to punish Rangers and to hell with the consequences. There were even those who thought totally removing them from the game was the way forward. I argued that the Rangers v Celtic fixtures and their games out with the derbies were massively important to SKY. I said that Rangers may ironically find themselves to be the most financially viable club in Scotland. I don’t think I was being particularly clever there, it was just common sense. Most observers outside Scotland looked on with incredulity as football chairman and many in the Scottish media waxed lyrically about how it would be good for the game. One journalist attended a Kilmarnock meeting with 150 fans and was thus convinced that the fans’ anger was too strong to be ignored. No seriously, he did. The dismal attendance at the ‘No to Newco’ protest was ignored and the fan apathy was never addressed. Remember the full stadiums with 3pm kick offs and no need for TV money? Remember the ticket season counters that slowed down to a trickle? It was nonsense and then there was the shambolic attempt to shoe horn Rangers into the first division.

And yet we have learned nothing from it. Stuart Cosgrove’s blog the other day insisted that Scottish Football was doing well. With ironic timing, this came hours before Hearts dire situation was fully revealed. The most interesting thing in the blog was Cosgrove alluding to his and Jim Spence’s dislike of the ‘old firm’:

‘But even in those distant days, we shared a mutual distrust of the ‘old firm’ and in our separate ways wanted a better future for our clubs. We both grew up to become products of the fanzine era, Jim as a writer for Dundee United’s ‘The Final Hurdle’ and me as a staff writer for the NME. Without ever having to say it, we had both engaged in a guerrilla-war against what Aberdeen’s Willie Miller once characterised as “West Coast Bias”.’

Is this the real reason why Jim never missed a chance to put his cherry reds in including lying about Aberdeen season tickets on live TV? Is this why Cosgrove went to silly extremes such as naming Al Jazeera TV on live radio as possibly being interested in covering the SPL? At best, it is not good journalism.

And Rangers Tax Case seem to have no interest in the corporate governance of Hearts or the outstanding tax bill or the question of the higher tax bill hanging over the club or to have any interest in how Hearts players were paid under Mr Romanov. They have moved quickly to blame Rangers:

‘Murray's ability to control the media via RFC (and borrow £800m) will have encouraged Vlad to get in on the action.’

It then went on to say that it was Souness who was to blame and:

‘HMFC would be in exactly the same place if Sevco had been parachuted into the SPL =Sevconian schadenfreude is misplaced.’

I think Sevco/Sevconian means Rangers. How did this blog ever win a prize for political journalism?

You really have to read that a few times to believe the audacity of that statement. And then there is the denial that Rangers in the SPL would have helped. It would have meat at least £6million more in TV money not to mention the away support, corporate, advertising etc. This is real denial.

And what change has taken place in the management of Scottish football? The SFA continue to bumble and yet some still make excuses for Reagan. We now have a very poor ex-Scotland manager not happy at getting paid full salary for doing nothing for 2 years and who now wants to sue the SFA. Meanwhile, a chief executive of the SPL who had to call in Peter Lawwell to help him fudge some SKY deal remains in place.

So what now for Hearts? Well I can understand the glee some Rangers fans are feeling. Their owner and many of their fans delighted in our misery. But here is the stark truth. Hearts are the 3rd best supported club in Scotland and are in real danger of dying and never coming back. This is going to further damage a weak football economy and could set off the meltdown of other clubs. Administration will leave them on -4 points and with probably a much weakened side but because of the way the Rangers case was handled, no quarter can be given. They are unlikely to stay in the SPL that way and other routes could see them without football until starting in Division Three next year-if they can make it through to then which must be very unlikely. For me those in the media, fans and clubs who went after Rangers’ blood should hang their heads in shame. Those whose propaganda wooed some to believe football did not need Rangers will now possibly want to revisit articles and blogs they have written. They might want to ask themselves, what could I have done differently?

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