Sporting Integrity, Louis XVI and ‘Spit’ the Dog


Good Evening.

Sound the alarm!!!! PANIC!

Celtic have written a letter.

To the governing body of Scottish Football.

Asking about a particularly glaring error by officials in a major televised fixture.

I only hope that they remembered to put a stamp on the letter otherwise we could be looking at the end of civilisation as we know it. [Yes, yes they probably *did* email it, but let’s enjoy a more retro image for a moment…]

I discussed some of the issues raised by *that* handball at Hampden yesterday in my debut blog. And mercifully for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves reading these pages, I am not going to go over it again…

Things have moved on today. Celtic issued this statement.http://www.celticfc.net/news/8087

It offered ICT fulsome congratulations and compliments, stated that the club had been inundated with queries about the handball incident, and said they had written to the SFA “simply to understand the circumstances of what went on and why such an obvious error was made“.

Big deal.

The club isn’t crying foul, asking for a replay, or for sanctions against officials. They are asking a question. They could of course have asked the question privately without telling fans and the media. However, they have made the call that interest in the incident – which occurred in the semi-final of the Cup – warrants a public comment.

It is possible they have calculated the publicity will make it more difficult for the SFA to avoid replying. Who knows? But it’s the club’s call to make, and fair play to them. I suspect a large number of Celtic fans will be pleased to see the Club being responsive to their concerns and asking a question of authority.

So far, so reasonable…

But no! Cue sneering from some quarters of the media and (if we are honest) from some fans of other clubs for whom the “Celtic: always moaning/cheated when they are beaten” narrative is an attractive one. I am not going to address the views of other fans on this occasion as I enjoy the friendly banter on Twitter and would like to keep it that way!

But back to the views of some members of the MSM…

For example:

@TomEnglishSport: “This Celtic statement is embarrassing. Is that the way of it now? A club is wronged in an incident in a match and there’s an uprising?”

Embarrassing for whom Tom?

And a letter to the governing body following public interest is akin to an uprising?!

Aye Tom. Who can forget how Louis XVI’s Ancien Regime in 18th Century France was brought crashing down by correspondence?! Clearly those quill pens were dangerous revolutionary things…

"No! Please! Anything but a letter asking a question..."
“No! Please! Anything but a letter asking a question…”

To be fair to Tom English, he was at least consistent, saying that the FAI’s calls in 2009 for the infamous ‘Thierry Henry handball’ World Cup play-off to be ‘invalidated’ were “mortifying”.

And then there was a comment from Chris Jack:

@Chris_Jack89: “The Hampden postman will have some workload if decisions now warrant a letter. SFA should set up a ‘Sporting Integrity’ PO box just in case”.

It is just possible that he was being ever-so-slightly sarcastic about Celtic’s actions… Maybe tomorrow’s Evening Times will carry a dispassionate analysis of why Celtic might want to ask a question of the SFA, and how doing so won’t actually risk jeopardising the future of humanity..? I will await the article with a keen sense of expectation.

Incidentally, I hope the Hampden postman isn’t the one who used to deliver bills to RFC (IL). The poor guy will be knackered…

Lurking in Chris Jack’s Tweet was a mention of our old friend ‘Sporting Integrity’. Time and again I see some journalists and bloggers use that phrase in inverted commas and in a way that could suggest they are almost spitting it out in the style of Bob Carolgees’ famous canine friend…

"What do you think of Sporting Integrity, Spit?"
“What do you think about Sporting Integrity, Spit?”

Keith Jackson gave it a mention this morning, referring to “the Molotov Cocktail of ‘sporting integrity’ and ‘extending the season”.http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/opinion/sport/keith-jackson-word-warning-neil-5551005

What’s so wrong with Sporting Integrity? Absolutely nothing. There’s no genuine sporting competition without it. In the normal course of events it should be so embedded in the way things are done on the field, in the boardroom and along the ‘corridors of power’ that you wouldn’t give it a second’s conscious thought. It simply underpins ‘how things are done’. Day after day.

But in the unique world of Scottish football, ‘Sporting Integrity’ has sometimes become a stick with which to beat someone or something: a way of suggesting that someone is falsely whining about unfairness, disingenuously seeking an unfair advantage, or perhaps trying to do down an opponent. That it is sometimes used in such a warped way tells us so much about what has gone on in our game over the past couple of decades or so.

Is it too much to hope that the MSM might recognise – and treat – ‘Sporting Integrity’ for what it should be? Or do the fans (and clubs as events encourage them to do so) have to keep pressing its cause?

The resistance to the proposed shoehorning of the new Ibrox Club into a higher league in 2012, and the recent outrage over the proposed staggering of the final round of Championship fixtures have shown that there is a strong appetite for Sporting Integrity to underpin our game in a way that it hasn’t always.

Others, such as those behind Celtic AGM Resolution 12, and those seeking to have the LNS investigation reopened, are doing sterling work to ensure that past instances of Sporting Integrity apparently being cast aside are put right. This would allow us to definitively ‘move on’ with a game that operates on a level playing field for all.

I will save comments on those leading Scottish Football for another time, but I certainly share the view of many fans and indeed journalists that the game would benefit from a fresh start with new people at the top…

The above-described actions in pursuit of Sporting Integrity are being done for the best of reasons. A sneery attitude towards the very concept does no one any favours at all. Revelatory as it may be to some in the media, if Sporting Integrity is allowed to prevail, we might just end up with a re-energised and competitive game that more people want to watch and which broadcasters and sponsors might want to put more money into.

What a crazy thought eh?!

So, to return to my opening point… Celtic have written to the SFA after a particularly comment-worthy incident in a big game.

Big deal.

They might find out something helpful about what happened yesterday. They might help to prompt action to improve the quality of officiating, which would be in everyone’s interests. You never know…

I for one have no appetite to see our footballing authorities remaining unquestioned. We have been there, done that, and it resulted in “hilarious consequences”…

Hopefully you feel the same.


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