Two schools of thought exist when it comes to lying successfully. Roosevelt said “Repetition does not turn a lie into the truth”, something the SFA would do well to try and remember. Two chief executives have gone having ignored that simple truth but the SFA chooses to embrace the second ideology instead, the one endorsed by Lenin when he said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” In the strange mind of George Peat, ensconced in his office at Hampden, perhaps he really is able to convince himself even as he tries to convince the public; in Orwell’s 1984, where the Ministry of Truth existed solely to supply the people with an endless supply of lies, every citizen of Oceania who wanted to live developed the critical facility to hold “two completely contradictory ideas in their heads” at one time, and to know, instinctively, which was the correct view; it was called doublethink, and stripped to the basics it was basically the ability to believe that any lie, no matter how blatant, was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but.
With people like this at the helm, perhaps we should cut Dougie McDonald some slack. When he told his “little white lie”, first to Neil Lennon, then to the press, then to his own bosses, he was, perhaps, only doing what came naturally to an employee of the Scottish Football Association. Certainly, nothing which has happened since suggests the SFA frowns on lying; their defence of McDonald in light of what Steve Craven told the press has been a masterpiece of following Lenin’s maxim, even going as far as to repeat the original lie again. To defend against the truth with lies is not a new strategy, but they are so bad at it I am tempted to suggest they talk to some of the politicians for lessons in how to do it well.
The issue with Dougie McDonald has cast a number of people into a spotlight they would not have wished for. Hugh Dallas (more on him later, I assure you) has been caught in this scandal. He has survived, by some miracle, despite questions arising from his part in this which cast dark shadows above and below him on the SFA hierarchical scale. For example; when Dallas was making his report to his own superiors, which version of events did he give them? The truth, or the lie? It seems clear he knew which was which from an early stage; which version did his bosses get, and what is their reaction to it? If he told them a lie, why wasn’t that enough to see him turfed out the door? If he told them the truth, why did the lying continue until Steve Craven spoke to the press and blew the cover story?
Is lying systemic at the SFA?
One club only, so far, has broken cover to criticise McDonald and insist he never referee another match. I felt one of the more incredible things about this scandal was that, from early doors, our principal ally in it appeared to be Jim Jeffries at Hearts, who was vocal in his criticism and condemnation. The club itself made a remarkable statement, one which echoed a piece I wrote last year, dismissing the idea of institutional bias and raising the spectre of match-fixing as a possible cause for concern and requiring scrutiny.
We know institutional bias when we see it, but we are not going to get an inquiry by alleging that, not even when the head of the referees committee is sending out sectarian emails. (More on this soon). But the question of match-fixing is one which is too big to ignore. There is a long history of decisions in the Scottish game which are inexplicable to say the least; as the Hearts statement said, only a fool would simply dismiss as fantasy the idea something dark might be afoot. Referees are supposed to be professionals; for people in their jobs to make such an appalling number of errors would see mass sackings in another profession. Are we simply to believe we have an inordinately high number of “honest mistakes” in the game here or are we to examine for something murkier? Hugh Keevins once said that to have such an examination would be bad for the game because “we might not like what we find”. For a journalist to talk such obvious nonsense disgraces the very profession of journalism. The better question, of course, is “can we afford NOT to know?” if something like that might be going on.
I am not going to allege here that referees and their “honest mistakes” have cost us leagues. The sad and simple truth is that internal problems and policies have cost us the last two titles, and may yet cost us a third, but referees in this country are either hopelessly unfit for purpose or they are bent. Whether it is institutional bias or something else is largely irrelevant; there is a culture of covering up and lying at the SFA and this state of affairs is only tolerated because the “pals act” within the association allows it to. It would be tackled anywhere else in the football world, and it is partly the fault of Celtic that it has gone on this long. We didn’t always fight our corner when we should and by staying out of the SFA internal politics, we have allowed our rivals to infiltrate, and then take over, every section of the game here in which there is any influence on matters.
Times have changed. John Reid is not my favourite person; I think he disgraces our club with his very presence, but look at the reaction to him by David Murray two years ago. Look at the way his words carry weight, even in the Scottish media. Look at how he pummelled Rangers over the Famine Song, and look at how his getting involved elevated that debate to the levels it reached; the Scottish Parliament, the UK Parliament, the European Parliament. We have severe political power as a club; people cannot push us around as they used to, and considering the work we have put in on McDonald’s decision, we now have the stomach for a fight. Neil Lennon today has said the matter will not be resolved until he gets his apology from those who told him lies; that, actually, is the least our club is prepared to settle for. The people running things at Parkhead want heads on plates; McDonald and Dallas are the names being “targeted for termination.”
No-one from our club, so far, has commented on the latest goings-on at Hampden, but then they don’t need to. Hugh Dallas and his sectarian e-mail goes well beyond the world of football, and has become a matter of social and political relevance. The SFA, lest we forget, is a body which takes a good deal of funding from the public purse; that makes Dallas largely public property. He and Darryl Broadfoot might think this stuff is funny, but it is not. Sectarianism is not banter. It is not “just a joke”. Uncovering it, rooting it out, eradicating it, should be the responsibility of every person in Scotland; the media seems to think this is a private matter, and one it should not explore.
The SFA takes a lead in anti-sectarian campaigns. If it allows men who have openly violated its own principles to stay in their posts it is hypocritical at best. At worst, the institution itself has to come under severe scrutiny. This, after all, is the body which, for decades, ignored a sectarian signing policy and the disgusting chants of the Rangers fans. It needed UEFA action to force their own so-called “crackdown”, a crackdown which has seen no action taken against that club despite the continuing behaviour of its fans, who now break the law of the land every time they launch into a rendition of “Why Don’t You Go Home?”
The SFA has institutionalised lying. The world now has apparent proof that they have institutionalised bigotry as well. This is a view which is dangerous to the whole game here, and if it is to be countered it will take swift, harsh action. There is a growing swell of opinion against the people inside that organisation; this matter goes far beyond the simple national sport. It could damage their reputation now and for all time. It needs to be addressed.
Sectarianism is dangerous. It is offensive. And in Scotland, as I said above, expressions of the same are now illegal. Dallas and Broadfoot have brought their organisation into disrepute, and it did not need this latest incident to do that. That they should both be fired is a matter of course; that they seem determined to cling on is not a surprise. Having being proved stupid, it must be only a matter of time before they are condemned as the bigots they are, fired from their jobs and cast into the wilderness as men in disgrace. The “pals act” should not save them, as Ron Atkinson’s friendships did not save his career; he is a pariah in the English game, as befits a man who screwed up in the manner he did. It took one offensive remark to undo him utterly, but that was in a country where racism has been ruthlessly eliminated from the sport; not so in Scotland, where sectarianism is still the sin where you dare not speak its name.
Our national sport is in crisis tonight, its upper echelons in turmoil. At a time like this, you want a few good men to step forward and set things right. It appears as if there might actually be one good man in this case; Stewart Regan, the new SFA chief executive, a man who has a big week ahead of him.
Regan is not “from here”. He is a stranger to the alien landscape of Scottish football and the cesspit of sectarianism which lies at its dark heart. Like many confronted with this issue for the first time, his first reaction has doubtless been shock at what he has found. He may well already regret having taken on the post. But if he is a brave man, and I believe he is, and he is also a good man, as I believe him to be, his next reaction should be revulsion and, with that, determination that these things will simply not be allowed to go un-checked on his watch.
This man has the power to seek the removal of those who have broken the law and alienated vast sections of our society, at a time when the association he runs needs all the friends and the good publicity it can get. Once upon a time, the SFA would have tried to cover misdeeds inside by putting on some show of community action; that has been rendered impossible, that door closed, by the nature of the allegation in this sordid case. They have nowhere to run.
Excuses are already being made. Defences are being built around the two men at the centre of the latest storm, best amongst them that “just because the emails came from their computers it does not meant these men sent them.” An internal inquiry will resolve that issue in seconds; first, do their accounts have password security? If so, this would render it near impossible that someone else sent the emails. Secondly, what other work was being done on the computers at that time? A good IT specialist could source that information in minutes, and resolve that both men were sitting at their machines when the mails were sent. And thirdly, and most importantly, who else forwarded these messages, and what was the content of their own emails? Who drew smileys? Who thought the joke was funny? Who made a complaint and thought it reprehensible?
Most important, who in the SFA knew about these emails and is there an internal inquiry already going on? How far up the ladder does this go?
It may be that others need to follow Dallas and Broadfoot out the door. That is for later. For now, these are the men in our crosshairs, and purely and simply there has to be blood on the walls as far as they are concerned, not because it is satisfying, but because it right.
There will be times in the next few days when, as in the last few, the media and the SFA tries to protect its friends in low places. We must not be disheartened by that attitude or put off in any way. On the issue of reforming the SFA the Celtic Family is at one, and united we cannot be defeated. George Patton said it best; “Nobody ever defended anything successfully. There is only attack and attack and attack some more.” These walls will fall. These men will go.
We must keep the pressure on. Nothing should be allowed to divert us from the course of action we are on. Nothing should be allowed to distract us from accomplishing our goal. No poppies, no banners, no manufactured divisions, must be allowed to get in our way. This is a fight we simply have to win, and only by staying united will we reach the objective.
Forward to Victory friends. We have them on the run.