We at 25thMay1967 have been reflecting on the recently reported new Sky/ESPN/SPL deal that is apparently dependant on a guarantee of at least 4 Celtic/Rangers games a season for the duration of the contract. If, indeed, that is the case, it’s that word “guarantee” that we find so intriguing.
Just how, exactly, can the SPL deliver on that “guarantee” without compromising the integrity of the competition? Under the present set-up, it would amount to a “guarantee” that neither Celtic nor Rangers would drop out of the top six prior to the end-of-season split, let alone get relegated.
Now, admittedly it’s unlikely that they would, at least in normal times, when the theoretical possibility of a heavy points deduction penalty, or even demotion to the lower leagues, was not hanging over either of them; but even so, such “unlikelihood” falls somewhat short of the required “guarantee”. Factor into the equation the reality that such a punitive scenario actually IS potentially looming for one of them in the not-too-distant future and the “guarantee” begins to look increasingly impractical – unless, of course, the integrity of the disciplinary code itself is also up for grabs in the event of certain (as yet hypothetical) scenarios.
Setting such conveniently versatile disciplinary speculation aside for the moment, it seems to us that the only way the required Celtic v Rangers “guarantee” could be absolutely delivered would be through league reconstruction to, say, a ten-club SPL, with no relegation (or, at least, not for Celtic or Rangers) for as long as the deal remains in place. The rest of Scottish football might have something to say about that, one suspects … at least, those not invited to the party would!
Interesting times, then, in terms of the next potential bout of league reconstruction and overriding integrity issues.
Reverting to disciplinary matters, albeit purely hypothetical at present: historical precedent seems to decree that clubs found guilty of the kind of wrongdoing currently alleged against Rangers, should, depending on the gravity of the offence and attendant circumstances, face a combination of possible sanctions, ranging from fines, through swingeing points penalties, to relegation – arguably, even, to the lowest league level of the jurisdiction in which they compete. But where would that, were it ever to come about with either Rangers or (God forbid) Celtic, leave the required Scottish football broadcasting “guarantee”?
No-brainer, really … it just ain’t going to happen!
Of course, there’s no issue if Rangers ultimately emerge unscathed from their current travails – and don’t be too surprised if they do, despite all the hype and lurid speculation that has surrounded the whole affair.
On the other hand, in the event of a seriously negative outcome for our city neighbours, what’s to be done if contractual expediency and the “national interest” preclude adequate punishment, going forward? Should they simply get off with a slap on the wrist?
We think not.
Any penalty, therefore, would need to be, at the same time, immediate, forward (to the extent possible within the need for broadcasting contractual compliance) and retrospective – collectively reflecting the haughty aspirations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s mythical Mikado, “to let the punishment fit the crime”.
In that spirit of judicial balance, the powers-that-be may wish to consider the following cocktail of possible punitive measures, dependant, of course, on a range of potential circumstances, including the extreme possibility of closure and re-emergence as a new entity:
1. A proportionate fine, reflecting any unfair financial advantage gained through illegal, unethical, or unacceptable practices.
2. Points handicaps, both current and going forward, as deemed appropriate.
3. The expunction and re-allocation by default of all competitive success achieved throughout the period in which the offence(s) … call it cheating, if you like … prevailed.
Yes, folks, re-write the record books for posterity. Now, there’s an intriguing thought …