For as long as anyone can remember there have always been certain areas of Scottish football which, to most right-minded people, is utterly ridiculous, however, the last few weeks have taken a very sinister twist and it’s getting to the point where it’s causing damage to the game that just might be irreparable. Now, anyone that has read blogs I've written in the past, heard me on podcasts or even seen my stuff on social media will find it hard to disagree that I am genuinely passionate about Scottish football.I started my 'career' covering youth games across the Central Belt for nothing more than the occasional free pie and a Bovril. As garbage as the 'product' on the pitch can be, I love it. There's, unquestionably, better football available all around the planet but, at the end of the day, Scottish football is what I watch most of and what I enjoy most but the sheer hatred aimed towards Rangers over the last few weeks is reaching a point where it can't be ignored any longer.
Over the best part of the last decade, one of the main topics of discussion has been the issues over the use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) and the long-term dispute over whether they were loans or taxable as part of the players' contracted financial package; the details of what has gone on are easy to find so I'll not go over them again but since the Supreme Court's decision that EBT's were contractual and therefore taxable, Scottish football has been on the brink of ripping itself apart. Supporters groups have released statements demanding investigations and stripping of titles, Celtic have demanded an independent review of an independent review they spearheaded in 2013 and fans of clubs across the SPFL Premiership have threatened boycotts of their respective clubs and sponsors. There's also a slew of petitions online (one of which, comically, has more people signed up than 8 of the 12 Premiership clubs get through the turnstiles on a typical match day).
Later today, the SPFL is expected to release a statement confirming that there will be no new investigation or new sanctions in light of the Supreme Court's decision and I half expect some fans, and I don't mean Rangers fans, will go supernova when their worst fear is confirmed and it's announced that the findings of the 2013 Lord Nimmo Smith commission that they rushed to convene is binding and there is no change in the SPFL's position. I don't even mind the nonsense about Rangers apparently 'cheating' and somehow having an unfair advantage over other clubs; it's an easily dismissed point and just makes its proponents look ridiculous as they argue a company's tax efficiency is related to sporting performance; Arsenal also used EBTs at a similar time to Rangers and I've yet to hear the argument they had some sort of advantage by doing so.
The problem is the almost life-or-death aura that's surrounded it all in recent days and weeks. Over the last 48 hours or so I've seen it compared as a 'cover-up' in the same manner that the Hillsborough disaster was proven to be. Aye, that's right. Someone put the deaths of 96 people at a football match on the same level as NOT PAYING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF TAX! Honestly, this isn't something any rational person should even think privately never mind publicly state on Twitter. I'm by no means a 'high-profile' member of the online Scottish football 'community' but I attract a fair number of utterly bonkers Celtic fans but, by and large, they are all harmless enough and probably feel a wee bit empowered by some of the anonymity provided by websites like Twitter, Facebook and various forums but there is an ever-growing number who seem to struggle to remember the relative seriousness of the 'offence' they spend so much of their time and money on in the name of 'justice'. The only vague explanation that I can come up with is that the most vocal have spent so much time and money being peddled nonsense by various Celtic bloggers that they simply NEED whatever fairy tale they've been spun to be true. Whether it's a 'Club Stand' season ticket holder; an Irish resident 'tarred with a sickening sectarian brush' or any of the others who've made more than a few quid off people's gullibility, many have spent five or six years making 'donations' and won't accept they've had the wool pulled over their eyes. Even now their preferred bloggers will be cooking up their latest fantasy to grab as they ask for their readers' hard money. Some of them are so entrenched in their positions that they'll argue that tax expert QC is wrong on the legality of EBTs and they, from their learned position as a part-time delivery driver for the local Chinese, are in fact correct. At one one point they even took out an advert in a Swiss newspaper bearing the tagline 'Persistence Beats Resistance' however, in reality, you can persist in telling the world that the sky is red and you'll always be wrong.
When the SPFL's statement is released later today it won't change a thing. With a section of fans proposing crowd funding a judicial review of the Lord Nimmo Smith decision, which the then-SPL members insisted upon a full four years before the outcome of Rangers' tax case, it's not going to get better any time soon either. What comes out of Celtic tomorrow once will also make for an interesting reading. I'm not convinced that Peter Lawwell stepped away from the SPFL board for any other reason than he can dispute it as Celtic Chief Executive despite having been a participant in every meeting involving the SPFL board to come to their stance. Celtic have as much an obligation as anyone to move on, realise they tried to get their pound of flesh in 2013 and accept that Rangers have already been punished.
If Celtic and the fans of other clubs don't, and they continue to push what should be a non-existent issue, they might just end up with victims of their own hatred.