Nov 042015
 

A Football Scandal of Epic Proportions

 

 

Earlier today, it was confirmed that Rangers Football Club (now defunct) had lost their so-called “Big Tax Case” battle with the folks at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. This verdict has, of course, enormous ramifications on several levels, but for the moment I would like to focus on the effects it has on the average Scottish Football supporter. Before continuing, I would like to highlight two things.

Firstly, Rangers cheated. Although this has been well known for some time, today’s verdict simply adds to the proof of that fact. If for any reason you disagree with this point, I’d advise you not to bother reading the rest of this article. Secondly, this is not a “Celtic-Rangers” issue, nor should it be construed as such, because Rangers cheated Scottish Football as a whole, with victims across the length and breadth of this country.

Now, if we now consider the financial aspect of all of this from the supporters’ point of view, the devastating impact of this scandal begins to emerge. For the sake of clarity, allow me to state that the following figures are estimates. Should anyone wish to attempt a thorough and detailed investigation of the true cost of this sordid affair, I would very much encourage you to do so as I have no doubt it would make interesting reading.

Say the average season ticket between 2001-2010 at Celtic Park cost £400. There were cheaper and more expensive seats, but I’ve chosen this nice, round figure as a happy medium. Adding in the extra cost of travel, food, programmes and perhaps the odd home cup match, I feel it is safe to assume that the average fan will have spent at least £600 per season attending Celtic’s home ties.

In many cases, this individual expenditure will have been far higher, as long distance trips and away match costs cannot be easily estimated. During the period in question, the average attendance for league matches at Celtic Park was about 58,000. Therefore, a quick bit of maths suggests the total spend of Celtic supporters to watch their team compete in home ties during the decade of debauchery could have been about £350 million. I’m aware this calculation presumes all 58,000 people are adult season ticket holders, which would obviously not have been the case, but even to make a very conservative estimate it is apparent we have spent over £300 million watching home matches in competitions which did not boast a level playing field.

One can only speculate about the true total cost of this affair, but if we add in the potential impacts of each of the following factors: Celtic fans attending away matches, Celtic fans attending domestic cup matches away or at Hampden, fans of every other Scottish team attending their own home and away matches as well as domestic cup ties, corporate ticket costs, television subscriptions, travel expenses and many other such costs, we are easily entering into the range of several hundred million – if not a billion – pounds.

Make no mistake about it, the average Scottish Football supporter will never see any of their financial investment from this time repaid. Nor indeed, will the agonising memories of league or cup final losses be erased. However, the historical record can and must be set straight so as to ensure the deceptions of this decade are not forgotten and are never allowed to repeated by any other club. The perpetrators of these crimes and anyone complicit in them should be publicly shamed for their role in a scandal of epic proportions, and they should never be allowed any future official role in Scottish Football.

 

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It is abundantly apparent to all but the most blinkered individual that Rangers’ intentional tax evasion allowed them to attain players whom they would otherwise not have been able to afford. Pictured above is the Rangers squad of circa 2004. Every player with a red dot over their face received one of the much fabled – and illegal – EBT’s, and therefore were ineligible in each and every professional match they took part in whilst enjoying benefiting from these payments. This, I would suggest, is an undeniable image of a “sporting advantage”. Therefore, it is entirely just and valid to wish to see all of the honours which the defunct club “achieved” during those years expunged from the record. In simple terms, they should be stripped of their titles and cups. For such cheating to go ignored in many other sports would be considered sacrilege (see drug use in athletics and cycling as prominent examples), and as such, we cannot allow this shambolic tale to be quietly swept under the carpet (again). It must be dealt with openly, fairly and honestly.

Regardless of whether my crudely estimated calculations are particularly accurate or not, it is certain that a mind boggling amount of money was spent by fans of all clubs to watch a game which, fundamentally, was not fair. That alone should cause an uproar from every Scottish football fan, be they a Celt, an Arab, a Don, a Hibee, a Jambo or whatever else. As a Celtic supporter, I predominantly like to read and write about Celtic, but this matter is of such importance I felt compelled to discuss it today.

Gracefully, our national sport will survive and hopefully enjoy a bright and transparent future, unlike the Football Club whose sins ultimately sent them into a financial abyss from which they could not escape. They are not, and shall never be, missed.

 

Nov 022015
 

General Release – 9th November 2015 – Pre-Orders Now Available

 

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Ladies and gentleman, following on from the tweet of a few days ago confirming the release date of my new book, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide you all with a larger insight into this work as well the relevant order details for anyone who may be interested in obtaining a copy.

In October 2013, I released “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and was delighted with the response which it received. One of the main themes therein was my choice for potentially the greatest Celtic side ever (pre-Lisbon Lions), with each player’s life stories being told at regular intervals. There was, of course, also the tales of numerous Celtic supporters, as well as the then oldest surviving ex-Celtic player, Bill Boland, who sadly passed away shortly before the book’s publication. As ever, I feel it is worthy of mention that without Bill deciding to take a chance and tell his story to a young and untried author, it is unlikely the first book would ever have come to fruition, let alone a second.

 

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Bill Boland

 

 

In the new book, I have intentionally taken a somewhat different tact whilst keeping the life stories of both players and supporters alike as mainstays of the work. Important players, many of whom were in possession of incredible talents, are again discussed, but many of the names and tales of these men are not as widely known as those of Jimmy McGrory, Patsy Gallagher, Charlie Tully etc.

The story of James Kelly, Celtic Football Club’s first captain, is explored at great length, whilst the life and times of James Hay, George Paterson and Willie O’Neill amongst others carry the reader forth through the trials and tribulations of the Celts from the turn of the century until the end of the sixties. The stories of some more obscure figures are told briefly also, with the aim of keeping the names of these men and their achievements alive in the minds of the modern day Celtic support.

However, the chapter devoted to a single player which I believe to be of the utmost importance is that of Willie Fernie. Having been put in contact with one of his sons, I spent time talking with him, Willie’s only surviving sibling and the wider Fernie family, it has been a tremendous honour to pen the story of one of the finest Celtic players in more detail than has ever been done before. From his youngest days in Fife and the natural exuberance of youth, through a playing career which saw him win many fans both domestically and internationally – a large number of whom did not support Celtic or Scotland but appreciated entertaining football – onwards into his time in management and his later life, it is my hope that I have done not only a great man but his welcoming and passionate family proud.

There are several stories of wonderful Celtic supporters, with everything from a man who first saw the Celts in 1941 to another carrying out charitable work in Africa discussed. Others have crossed continents and overcame great personal adversity during their lives, the tales of which are told here for the first time. Spliced in between the larger chapters are smaller pieces, some of which carry themes throughout the book. Snippets from newspaper articles allow Willie Maley to discuss his involvement in the earliest days of the Football Club, whilst others consider statistics or recount interesting tales which have been lost over the years. For example: When were greyhounds almost raced at Celtic Park? What was stolen when the ground was subject to a burglary? And why maybe – just maybe – there could have been two horses buried underneath the stadium. Also, there is much, much more content besides.

 

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At more than 540 pages and very nearly 200,000 words in length, “Uniquely Celtic” dwarfs its predecessor in size, coming in at almost 100 pages and 30,000 words bigger than “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”. There are also twice as many photographs, half of which come from the collection of personal and press images still held by the Fernie family (used with their permission and in some cases painstakingly restored).

Therefore, I am now happy to accept pre-orders for the new book, priced at £15 + P&P. If anyone who is not planning to attend the book launch – which I shall come to momentarily – would like to pre-order a copy, all you need to do is get in touch with myself on Twitter or send an email to maleysbhoysenquiries@hotmail.co.uk and I will get back to you. These copies will be posted out on the mornings of the week beginning November 9th, so should arrive with many of you shortly thereafter (international postage may take a little longer as one would expect). As always, I’d be delighted to sign copies as requested.

Copies of “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” – now on to a second edition – are still available in the same manner as that which is outlined above for £12 + P&P. However, should anyone wish to pick up both books together, these will be available for a combined cost of £25 + P&P whilst stocks last. Electronic copies of both books are available from Amazon, although the previous offer only applies to physical books bought via myself.

Now, should anyone be interested in attending the launch of the new book which is set to take place this weekend in Glasgow (prior to the general release on Monday), please feel free to contact me for more information and whilst there is space available, you’d be very welcome indeed.

With that, all that remains to be said is thank you to everyone once again who has supported me during the last few years. Whether you’ve been directly involved in either book; someone who purchased a copy of “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” or simply an individual who drops me a tweet every now and again, your support has been very much appreciated and you have my sincere thanks.

 

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Willie Fernie

 

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