Across the world, there are people who specialise in getting what they want by any means necessary. In Japan, they have the Yakuza; in Hong Kong, the Triads; in Italy (and Little Italy), the Mafia.
Maybe we should add the Scottish Football Association to that list.
Those criminal groups can, and do, use violence, but most often it’s just blackmail and threats that get them their way. Stewart Regan of the SFA must be a student of organised crime, because he’s using these techniques to shoot down Scottish participation in Team GB.
On the surface, his comments are innocuous. “We are not going to say, ‘You cannot play’ or ‘If you do, you’ll be dropped’” and “they wouldn’t be looked upon any differently from any other eligible player.” You can almost see his upturned palms and shrugged shoulders, his wide innocent eyes, as he says these things. It’s almost as if he means it.
“It will be disappointing from a fan’s perspective,” he says, artfully applying some emotional blackmail. It’s like the “think of the children” argument in US politics: who would want to hurt the children? Likewise, who would want to upset the Tartan Army, who sing their hearts out at Hampden, no matter how dire the result?
The emotional blackmail is followed up with a veiled threat: “There is an element of supporters who are really hoping we don’t have players taking part.”
An element? What word often pairs with element? Ah, that’s right… criminal. Criminal element. In a country where, in the name of the game, bricks have been lobbed through referees’ windows, players cars have been torched, bullets have been sent to managers through the mail – best not upset any “elements”, eh?
Our leader then talks of a “backlash” from fans (no-one can control a backlash!) and again, this unknown “element” is alluded to. “I’m sure there will be some element within the support who would want to protect Scotland’s independence.” It’s not me, he’s saying, it’s those crazy Nats, Salmond’s boys! You wouldn’t want them mad at you, would you?
It’s not what he says; it’s what he doesn’t say. And that’s why it’s genius.
I hope he maintains this public barrage of emotional blackmail and veiled threats, and has Levein follow up with a judicious team selection or two. Scott Brown on the bench? Oh, I just wanted to see how Andrew Shinnie would do at right midfield. Craig Gordon, who hasn’t played a first-team game in over a year, back between the sticks in place of McGregor? Just letting him know we still value him.
Stewart Regan: capo di tutti capi. No Team GB.