There’s been a lot of focus on the Premiership this week from the English media…
In 2018, you would be forgiven for forgetting that football is a sport played on a pitch. The season has just finished, but for many, it has just begun. Now that the kicking and jumping and heading has stopped clubs can finally focus on the serious business of transfers. The World Cup will merely serve as a notable aside.
Many fans have spent their formative years masterminding countless triumphs on the back of masterful squad overhauls – and now they expect their club to do the same. Thousands of tweets are sent every day demanding transfer news. Media outlets respond by publishing unprecedented levels of football coverage online. Off-field scandals, storms, and spats are seemingly endless.
Fortunately, the owners of dozens of European clubs are happy to engage in the online frenzy. Many of these super-rich, football enthusiasts are of course fans themselves. And now hoping to buy a share of the on-field glory, they have made European clubs their playthings. They and their cohorts have helped accelerate the commercialisation of the sport, exciting die-hard fans with news of the clubs’ newest Official Dishwasher Tablet Sponsor.
In Scotland, there is also a sense that off-field distractions are taking over. As a proud nation of innovators, however, the sideshow in Scottish football has retained a distinctive character from those of our European neighbours.
The wage budget of perhaps every team except from Celtic ensures that transfer speculation is tempered by realism. Even the fun of predicting Pedro Caixinha’s next signing has gone. Executives, though, have filled that void with a series of gloriously petty Club Statements.
Celtic Football Club statement. https://t.co/dOgSDp3CmM
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) May 24, 2018
Presumably considering Twitter responses to be beneath them, executives and board members have taken to issuing impressively convoluted statements, with a thesaurus close at hand, to air their very dirty laundry. Hamilton had issued a statement to admit they had been scammed out of £1 million and Hibs had issued a statement to respond to an HMRC statement on Rangers.
Statements have kept rolling in ever since as owners seek to entertain ravenous fans ahead of the World Cup. Scottish Premiership newcomers St Mirren confirmed their arrival to the top division with not one but two statements on the future of Jack Ross. Rangers and Celtic exchanged heated statements after it was announced that away allocations are to be reduced. Rangers even shot a statement across the bow of the SFA, demanding the resignation of a board member.
“It feels like we’re discussing club statements every week”, said Lewis Cumming, a Twitter user who was determined to put Scotland’s unique sideshow into perspective. He was so impressed with the commitment to pettiness from top-flight teams that he took some time off from caring for his new-born baby to compile the Scottish Premiership Club Statement league table.
It is only right, therefore, that Lewis be given the opportunity to select his three favourite statements of the season.
Congratulations Hearts – SPFL Club Statement League Champions📝🏆
Despite a fierce comeback from Rangers it wasn’t enough to knock a strong Hearts PR team that occupied top spot all season.
It’s been a thrilling campaign full of tantrums and incompetence… canny wait for 18/19 pic.twitter.com/37alLNsHdX
— Lewis Cumming (@LewisCumming) May 20, 2018
On August 4, Hearts owner Ann Budge sought to put “a little bit more meat around the bones” of recent announcements explaining delays to the Tynecastle main stand refurbishment. Aside from declaring that the club had been “swamped” with applications to become the manager in light of Ian Cathro’s departure, Budge had other important news.
She urged supporters to ignore “headlines which talk about delays to the completion of the new Tynecastle main stand”, explaining that no such postponements existed. However, at the beginning of the next paragraph, she conceded that a later “new target date for being ‘open for business’” had been established. The reason for this simultaneously existent and non-existent delay was simple: they had forgotten to order seats. “Ann Budge’s statements and updates are written as if she’s speaking to her pals on MSN messenger,” Lewis commented.
On November 18, Partick Thistle performed a textbook execution by Scottish Premiership statement on Hearts. Once again linked to the opening of Hearts’ main stand, Thistle were angered by a last-minute safety inspection. The club had a choice: handle the matter in a mature fashion, in direct contact with Hearts, or pander to the public and release a petty statement.
In a wonderful display of solidarity with the rest of the league, Thistle opted for the latter. They announced they were “deeply frustrated” with Hearts’ disorganisation.
On December 7, six weeks after a 95th minute Chris Burke equaliser had sealed Pedro Caixinha’s sacking, Rangers were stumbling around in the dark on their search for a new manager. Derek McInnes had been approached. But perhaps wary that Rangers’ latest crisis was in fact just a brief episode in what seems to be an eternal calamity, he declined.
Rangers’ resident Malcolm Tucker, Jim Traynor, saw it differently. He declared in a statement that the club decided to “endorse” McInnes’ choice, “because moving to a massive club like Rangers is a big step with concomitant risk”. They vowed only to “appoint someone in whom we have full confidence and who feels he is ready for the job”.
It sometimes feels good to sneer, but ultimately, Scotland’s uniquely petty sideshow is yet another reason to celebrate football up north.