Much has been written this past week about the crass and rather cryptic comments of George Peat the former President of the SFA. He said in an interview with the BBC…
‘I remember when Rangers reached the UEFA Cup Final in Manchester I got a phone call from a prominent Chairman of a club requesting me not to help Rangers in any way. It so happened that I already had a meeting with Lex Gold at the SPL- what we were willing to do was extend the season because of the fixture pile up that Rangers had and I was most disappointed when I got back to the office to receive this call to ask me not to help them in any way. That really stuck in my throat.’
You’d have to wonder why an SPL Chairman, rumoured to be John Reid of Celtic, would phone Mr Peat about such a matter given that fixtures or proposed season extensions in the league wasn’t controlled by the SFA? Peat’s comments were also strange given what occurred during his tenure at the SFA. Scotland continued to fail to qualify for major championships, Referees actually went on strike, three clubs went into administration (Gretna, Livingston & Dundee) and the tax man was banging on the SFA’s door with regards to Rangers and their EBT tax avoidance scheme. There was also the matter of Rangers being granted a licence to play in Europe when all was not well financially at the club. All of this going on during his time in charge and yet the biggest disappointment for the head of the SFA was a chairman phoning up and asking that the existing rules could be applied without fear or favour? What does that say about a man tasked with overseeing the good of the game in Scotland?
Peat is a disingenuous old fox who knew exactly what he was doing coming out with unsubstantiated statements like that. It feeds directly into the current victimhood mentality held by many followers of the Govan club that the demise of Rangers was some nefarious conspiracy against them by other clubs jealous of their success. The creation of this myth relies not on verifiable facts but in denying the historical reality of cheating and greed on an industrial scale which in the end brought the whole edifice crashing down. The failure of the football authorities to adequately deal with the fall-out from the EBT years lead to an erosion in trust between fans of many clubs and the ruling body which lingers today.
What then are the demonstrable facts about 2007-08 Season? Firstly, the season was extended to help Rangers in a manner Celtic didn’t seem worthy of when they reached the UEFA Cup final in 2003. Indeed Celtic flew home from Portugal after a gruelling semi-final with Boavista on a Thursday night and had to face Rangers at Ibrox at lunchtime on the Sunday. Alex McLeish had at the time stated that Celtic should get on with it and wished he had their problems with fixtures as it was a symptom of success. Rangers had earlier requested a match with Gretna be postponed to help them prepare for a tie with Lyon in the Champions League, this was granted meaning it would need to be fitted in later in the season. It didn’t help in the end as they were crushed 3-0 at Ibrox by the French side. They also drew two Scottish Cup ties leading to replays. Just as Celtic found in 2003, Rangers success in Europe led to them playing more fixtures. It’s a natural situation which occurs now and then and successful teams have bigger squads to cope with it.
During the fraught run in to the league campaign in the spring of 2008, Rangers faced Celtic twice at decisive times and lost twice. They were also involved in a match with Dundee United at Ibrox which saw a succession of astonishing refereeing decisions hand Rangers a vital win. United manager, Craig Levein was later fined £5000 for his brutally honest assessment of what went on that day at Ibrox. The SFA found him guilty of ‘Bringing the game into disrepute and criticising the performance of match officials in such a way as to indicate bias or incompetence.’ Any honest assessment of the pictures below would suggest bias or incompetence was at play that day in May 2003; it is up to the individual to decide which.
In March 2008, Rangers had a ten point lead in the SPL following their 1-0 win over Celtic at Ibrox but the cracks were starting to appear. As Celtic began a fantastic seven match winning streak, their rivals faltered badly. In those final 9 SPL matches they won just three, one of them being the contentious match with Dundee United mentioned above. They lost to Celtic (Twice) and Aberdeen as well as drawing with Dundee United, Hibs and Motherwell. Celtic deservedly won the title that year and Rangers found, as Celtic had in 2003, that competing on various fronts is physically and emotionally draining but at the end of that day that’s the nature of football.
Of course Mr Peat’s comments have been picked up and amplified by the tabloids. His actual phrase was, ‘a prominent Chairman of a club requesting me not to help Rangers in any way’ but this has been spun in the press and become ‘demanded’ and ‘urged,’ words he used nowhere in the interview. We even have Lee McCulloch muttering about folk conspiring to hinder Rangers. All of this elicited from Mr Peat’s cryptic comments in which he didn’t even have the courage to name the chairman involved, no doubt as litigation might follow.
Scottish football has always been clannish with suspicions and conspiracy theories abounding. The demise of Rangers in 2012 was followed by a rewriting of history by elements of the media which completely contradicted the way they reported it at the time. The failure of the SFA to show real leadership and deal with the situation with honesty and transparency remains a blot on their already chequered history. Mr Peat’s comments are at best stirring the pot and at worse malicious. They don’t exactly help the SFA either in its desire to move on from past controversies. Men who held the position he did at the SFA should be part of the solution to our game’s problems, not part of the problem. The organisation needs fresh, dynamic leadership and Mr Peat and his ilk look increasingly like the same old blazer fillers who have led our game into the wilderness.
How fitting he kept a dinosaur on his desk while in office.