“Very strange that none of the reports on football abuse today seem to mention the Celtic Boys Club scandal. 20 years ago”. Jack McConnell, former First Minister of Scotland, 25-Nov-2016.
It’s a tragic subject. The key parts of it certainly are. You can only hope that the legal system works effectively and sees ample justice for the victims of child abuse in football. Sensitivity needs to be applied when considering them and that goes without saying.
But that doesn’t mean the subject should not be discussed nor should the perpetrators automatically get a free pass. Accusations of point-scoring shouldn’t be enough on their own to shut-down discussion, as we’ll see later that exactly what some people hope. And it’s not incorrect to say that the whole sordid mess at Celtic developed through the will of those at the club to shut-down and cover-up what went on.
An often heard component of the don’t mention it mantra is that the feelings of the victims should be respected and by that they’re inferring that the victims wouldn’t want the story aired. Do they want the specifics forensically dredged up and poured over? Of course not. But they do want the story told. We know that a lot of the victims feel that Celtic FC are wholly responsible, in some cases, and need to accept responsibility in for that. That is from the mouths of the victims and it has been emphatically stated by the lawyers representing many of them.
We also know that some family members of the victims are on social media and online and are actively trying to build exposure, promote discussion and ultimately get some closure through the acceptance of responsibility from Celtic FC for the crimes carried out under the banner of Celtic Boys Club.
As an aside to this and in terms of respecting victims, if you open any newspaper you are met with scandal, tragedy, death and disaster. The news has to be dealt with sensibly, mostly, but the press are seldom reserved in covering the big story. Rarely would anything news worthy not get coverage because there are victims involved; in short news is news. The don’t mention it line only seems to come from those looking to keep Celtic out of the news, when the news happen to not show their club in a good light.
And it is a big story. In the past year court cases have been underway and convictions have been handed down. A summary can be found here.
One observation is that this scandal is getting nowhere near the level of coverage you would expect from a major news story. Perhaps as isolated items these cases would get scant mention in the national papers, but these items are not isolated. They are tied together by something bigger, an institution that claims to be world famous, an entity that fills sports pages and news bulletins and perhaps more than that cloaks itself in myth and sanctimony. Therefore, it has to be concluded that it is being suppressed in the media in some form.
There have been rumours of injunctions, the usual contempt of court rules during the trials; but this is what rankles me – that key players in the Scottish media go out of their way to avoid this being the story. Celtic might eventually avoid any formal punishment on the subject but they are also avoiding the due shame that should be attached to it.
There’s the suspicion that key staff from the BBC have had meetings at Celtic park, with Celtic personnel to minimise media exposure and PR damage in Celtic child-abuse scandal. One chief sports correspondent, usually so authoritative and commanding on issues surrounding football has been very withdrawn on this topic. His latest sound-bite merely a reiteration of Celtics latest plea of nothing to do with us. Contrast this with the probability that the same staff had meetings at Celtic park, with Celtic personnel to maximise media exposure and PR damage in Rangers financial collapse saga.
The SuperScoreBoard phone-in on Clyde FM is another notable party that were keen to spend years tracking off piste and into all sorts of new environments, when it suited, but now resolutely determined to stick to football.
Added to the BBC doubling down on Celtics claimed innocence was the implication of victim shaming. One BBC interviewer questioning the motives of the victims. The clear implication that seeking reparations for what is often life-defining abuse is somehow wrong. This was a tact employed by Neil Cameron at the Herald.
In an article that makes some very clumsy calls on the subject, Neil Cameron’s sketch certainly seems to stem from the same brief as the recent BBC work. Again, painting the victims as greedy opportunists was inferred by suggesting real Celtic fans would keep quiet and just get on with things (yes, really). The common threads, appearing at the same time, suggests this is being spun and controlled from one location. I wonder if the media or Celtic are concerned about how the victims would view this rhetoric?
There’s even more well-known faces in high places that have got Celtics back on this.
When brought into a discussion about the biggest scandal in Scottish football history Alex Thomson of Channel 4 news felt the need to state on twitter “Cant get bigger than cheating your way to trophies pal”. I’m not quite sure what moral reference points are required to consider borderline tax efficiency schemes above industrial scale child abuse and an orchestrated cover-up lasting decades, but Thomson clearly has them.
Unsurprisingly a few Celtic bloggers bounded to Thomson’s defence. Apparently, the reference point was that any child abuse didn’t affect how many trophies Celtic would’ve won or not? Which is wrong on many counts, because the protection of the kids should’ve been paramount in any strategy and placed above trophies, always. And if Celtic do not benefit from denying it then why the hell are they persisting with this denial, complicity and the passive-aggressive character assassinations? To answer that would be to acknowledge that they benefit greatly from denying it and that absolutely affects how many trophies they have accrued.
Another backer, this time in the political circuit. When it was put to James Dornan of the SNP that “Cynics would assume it’s a cover-up for your beloved Celtic”. His reply was “Not cynics mate, bigots”. Which is a novel twist on a now familiar theme. Apparently it’s not just point-scorers or opportunist victims that are cynical about Celtic, but a paid member of parliament would have them all derided as a bigots as well. Like I said, anything goes to protect the club, which suggest very strongly that the club needs protected. Out of interest do any other football club in the world feel the need to claim and repeat that their youth team is separate and distinct from the parent club?
There’s obviously a fear of accountability in the Celtic boardroom or more accurately a fear of significant pay outs. Even decades ago this was realised. Perhaps back then it could have even buried the club? Is every trophy since then therefore tarnished? People will do all sorts of things for large amounts of money. And that is what will be due, as a precedent and reference the 33 Sandusky victims have received a combined $93 million in settlement payments from Penn State. So with these figures morals and sensitivity go right out the window. Celtic and their mercenaries go forth and shut things down. That’s the game. Any tactic goes, just get it done. They’ve reached out before – rumours of pay offs in exchange for confidentiality. And if a few folk get upset or take offence, or if some in the media or Holyrood are seen to sell their professional integrity down the river for the club, or that justice doesn’t complete its natural course, then that’s all fair game if the club can hold on to $100m?