“There are none so blind as those who will not see.”
Attributed to John Heywood, the 16th century English playwright and poet, this proverb has echoed down the generations. Based on the premise that the most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they know to be the case, Heywood’s words of wisdom have particular relevance in this day to Scottish football – that is, if the ArabTRUST and The Federation of Dundee United Supporters Clubs’ recent joint statement is anything to go by.
Published in response to Rangers’ decision not to accept any tickets for the Scottish Cup Fifth Round tie due to be played at Tannadice next February, the statement sought to take the high ground by stating:
“In a time when Scottish football needs to look to the future and how we can rebuild our game, it’s sad that some parties choose to refer to past alleged indiscretions against their club as an excuse to not attend the match.
In the instances referred to by Rangers supporters, a court of law decided that Dundee United had acted appropriately in respect of ticketing post the abandoned game in 2009.”
Where does one start with this doggerel? The following are a few humble suggestions.
1. It is surely beyond parody for Dundee United supporters groups publicly to state that forward-looking and progressive attitudes should prevail. They say that Rangers’ stance is symptomatic of an obsession with the past, that the club is allowing the festering sore of historic indiscretions to get in the way of progress.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Indeed, a mere three letters is all that is required completely to torpedo Dundee United’s righteous indignation: EBT. One of the focal points of the fiasco which has surrounded Rangers’ operation of this remuneration scheme has been the Scottish Premier League’s determination to strip titles and cup wins from the club for allegedly failing to disclose certain payments to players.
Despite the First Tier Tax Tribunal’s decision that Rangers operated the EBT scheme legally, and that payments made were discretionary loans and not wages, the SPL has continued its crusade to punish the club – an exercise in nothing more than flogging a dead horse out of spite. Given Charles Green’s comments regarding Dundee United, we can be reasonably certain that Stephen Thompson’s club were one of the main players in having the club refused entry into the SPL and, one can reasonably assume, in orchestrating the process to have Rangers stripped of silverware.
So how does that sit with this new-found desire at Tannadice that we all just move on with our lives? Answers on a postcard.
2. The irony is compounded when one considers the outcry which went up among Dundee United supporters when Rangers applied for SPL membership. Almost 100 per cent. of ArabTRUST members polled stated that a “newco” application to the SPL should be refused. While 45 per cent. said that they would refuse to purchase season tickets at Tannadice if Rangers were admitted. All in the name of sporting integrity no doubt.
And now the very same group seeks to chastise and berate Rangers fans for boycotting a single cup match against one of the most poisonously anti-Rangers clubs? Gie’s a brek pal!
3. Ah, the infamous double charging. That which is dismissed as a “past alleged indiscretion” was in fact a cynical and immoral (remember that word) attempt by the Dundee United board under Stephen Thompson’s leadership to fleece the Rangers support.
It should be noted that at this point the ArabTRUST and its counterpart really outdo themselves in the hypocrisy stakes. I quote: “In the instances referred to by Rangers supporters, a court of law decided that Dundee United had acted appropriately in respect of ticketing post the abandoned game in 2009.”
Perhaps the irony is so blindingly clear that I could end the article at this point. But I’m warming to my task too well to stop now. Throughout the First Tier Tax Tribunal’s hearings and deliberations, we have heard no end to the allegation that Rangers “cheated” Scottish football; that Rangers “cheated” the tax man; that Rangers’ “cheating” meant that schools and hospitals were going unbuilt.
Since the Tribunal’s ruling which, to use the ArabTRUST’s own construction, “decided that [Rangers] had acted appropriately…”, the legal argument has fallen away. What Rangers did was legal and legitimate. Has this stopped the hand-wringers and professionally outraged? No chance. The moralising has continued – “aye, but you still cheated” has been the war cry of our detractors. Never mind the legality of it, focus on the morality of it we are incessantly told.
But when it comes to “past alleged indiscretions” perpetrated by Dundee United we are now being told to focus on the legality of it, never mind the morality of it. Never mind the morality of charging full price for a fixture re-arranged because of a waterlogged pitch. Never mind the morality of cynically seeking to lift the Rangers support by their collective ankles and shake them for every last penny.
Dundee United is in no position to take anything like the moral high ground on our situation. But it takes a special kind of blindness to moralise and pontificate about another club’s misfortune while ignoring the moral quagmire into which your own club has sunk.
Just ask John Heywood.