Who Guards the Guards?
It was interesting to see the response to Leigh Griffiths' sing song with his fellow Hibs fans in the pub before the recent Edinburgh Derby match. Here we had a working class lad joining his mates for a beer and engaging in the sort of tribal chanting we have all joined in on many times. Big games don’t start at kick off time they start as soon as you wake up on the day with that excitement in the pit of your stomach. It continues as you get the tunes blasting before picking up your scarf and heading off to join your friends. Those couple of hours in the pub when the singing starts and the banter flows are an integral part of the big game experience. As is heading out and joining the stream of Celts heading towards the stadium, a stream which then merges with the green river as you near Celtic Park. So what exactly has Leigh Griffiths done that the Joy Division of the SFA seeks to punish him for?
He was asked for a song by fellow Hibs fans in a pub full of Hibs fans and in the tribal tradition of football taunted Hearts in the mildest way with a chorus of ‘The Hearts are going bust.’ If it hadn’t have made Youtube we wouldn’t even know about it and Mr Lunny, the SFA’s Chief wet blanket would have to find some other way of occupying the empty hours he seems to have sitting in his Hampden office. Do these Puritans not understand that part of the fun of football is the rivalries and ebb and flow of banter which bounces between fans? The SFA, who allowed Rangers to maintain a virtual apartheid system for a century with no criticism at all, are now attempting to police the behaviour of a private individual in a pub on a Sunday afternoon! Let me remind you that this is the same SFA which did nothing as Donald Findlay, then Vice Chairman of Rangers, was filmed singing anti Catholic songs. Some apologists tried to argue that it was a private party and thus no one’s business. Mr Findlay, currently Chairman of Cowdenbeath FC, then popped up at a Rangers Supporters club in Larne in in the wake of the death of Pope John Paul and began his speech by saying…’It’s very smoky in here tonight, has another fucking Pope died?’
What was Leigh Griffiths singing about that was so offensive that he was charged with misconduct by the SFA? This is the same SFA remember who held two internal inquiries into Jim Farry’s holding up the registration of Celtic player Jorge Cadete for weeks at a vital stage in the season. Both of their ‘inquiries’ cleared Farry. All of this before Fergus McCann brought in his Lawyer, proved the deliberate nature of holding up the registration and saw Farry sacked for ‘Gross misconduct.’ Volumes have been written about the behaviour of the SFA during the collapse and liquidation of the old Rangers. That the governing bodies of Scottish Football were prepared to bend or ignore the rules of the game to admit the newco into the top division is beyond dispute. It took a Spartacus type revolt from ordinary fans up and down the country to make them think again about their chosen path. I could go on about Campbell Ogilvie owning shares in the old Rangers while working as Chief Executive at the SFA and the huge conflict of interest this engendered but you get the point by now: it is simply laughable that charges have been brought against Leigh Griffiths for a normal piece of football banter.
This is Scotland, a land where some can sing about paedophilia or the death of a million people in a man-made famine and the SFA stays silent. A place where you can even sing about the need for a section of Scottish society to ‘Go home’ now that that famine is over at the 2011 League Cup Final and be told by a senior politician after the game that it was a great showpiece and the fans were excellent. It’s hard not to get cynical about the cronyism and self-interest at the heart of our football administration and they do themselves no favours by allowing Mr Lunny to press ridiculous charges against a young man out with his friends enjoying the pre-match banter. Of course there is a line about decency and acceptable conduct in a public place but are we really so thin skinned that a chant of ‘The Hearts are going bust’ is going to give us sleepless nights? It seems yet another symptom of demise of football as the ‘working man’s’ game. Just when we need to reconstruct Scottish Football on more open and honest lines we see this petty attitude from people who should be busy addressing real issues such as grass roots coaching, ticket pricing and how to attract fans back to our stadia. The SFA are the guardian of Scottish football and should always work in its best interests. The Romans had a saying which warned us of the need to hold those in authority to account. Its Latin origins are found in the words; ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ It translates into English as ‘Who guards the guards?’
As for Celtic fining Leigh Griffiths, it’d be nice if it was an amount commensurate with his ‘offence.’ I’d say 1p, the lowest coin in the land would be a fair amount.