The forgotten role of the chairman

Mar 15, 2021 00:03 By Dave Hooper
The forgotten role of the chairman The forgotten role of the chairman
The Short Corner Column by Dave Hooper
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Is the club chairman really just the chairman?

Growing up in the 90’s there were three constant and somewhat surprising sporting items to today’s youth!

Liverpool, Celtic and Dublin were rubbish! Yes I’ve said that out loud! Anyone under-20 is probably reading that with absolute shock on their face!

Glasgow Rangers league win last week caused a number of covid-19 breaching parties as Rangers fans celebrated their first league title in a decade!


Any young man or woman who started following soccer or sport in the last 10 years is probably looking jaw drawn at the celebrations in Scotland or elsewhere as Gers fans partied like it was 2010 again.

In the opening years of my sporting life, Rangers were kingpins of Scottish soccer. My friends and I all hoped that Celtic would pin them back, but we were missing two things. Rangers were good and Celtic were hopeless!

For the years 1989-1994 Celtic failed to finish in the top two of the Scottish Premiership. In contrast to the previous seven seasons, three times Celtic won the league. Of the four they didn’t win, Celtic finished second.


Yet that period of Scottish soccer saw an anomaly in its history as Dundee United and Aberdeen (twice) lifted the title.

For three years 1982/83 to 84/85 Celtic and Rangers didn’t reign in Scotland. Previous to this old firm absence was 1980 (Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen) and Kilmarnock in 1964.

In the years since Aberdeen’s last win in 1985, either Celtic or Rangers have been champions. So in the 57-years since Kilmarnock’s one and only Scottish championship only on four occasions have old-firm name’s been missing from the trophy.


The last 10-years of Celtic dominance have totally been down to the self-inflicted bad business management at Glasgow Rangers.

The Rangers themselves owe their demise to bad management, but bad management during the good times!

As Celtic’s bad management caught up with them and very nearly saw the club fold, Rangers had taken off and in 1993 came extremely close to reaching the first newly branded Champions league final.


That season saw two groups of four with the group winner progressing to the Champions league final. Rangers missing out to Marseille by just one point. Marseille winning that years Champions league although in suspect match bribing circumstances.

While Rangers went looking to become not just the outright kings of Scotland, they looked to claim Europe too, throughout the late 90’s and into the 2000’s the Ger’s were constantly running up loses which eventually came home to roost via Scotland’s inland revenue.

It’s hard to remember that faithful season of 2011-12 where Ally McCoist led the Gers unbeaten for the first 15 games, winning 26 matches in total and finishing second 20 points behind Celtic, albeit with a deduction of 10 points for entering insolvency.


Low and behold there were very few friends for the all-conquering Gers who licked their wounds and reformed entering the Scottish third division – tier four of Scottish soccer.

And up went the Gers winning division three and two, getting stuck in division one before eventually returning to the top flight for the 2016/17 season. With that Celtic were well on course for 10-in-a-row and famous history.

Yet with Neil Lennon steering the ship it was always going to sail to close to the rocks and this time Lennon didn’t have the smarts to steer them clear! Rangers deservedly are Scottish champions and while the fans cheer away the memories of the last 10 years, so too will they forget their journey home.

Like Celtic previously and indeed Liverpool to a degree, bad management brought them to their knees.

The chairman; always the forgotten man in sports clubs for their management and ambition. John Smith the forgotten chairman of Liverpool from 1973 to 1990.

Just four European Cups, 11 league titles, two UEFA Cups, three FA Cups and four league cups in his reign as chair, but sure the chairman does nothing.

Without him Liverpool fell off their perch and faded away until begin rescued in 2010 by John W. Henry and starting to build again with Jurgen Klopp.

Like the way the people element is overlooked instead of the process, even-though economists see people as big a part of the cycle as the process and the product!

Rangers fall from grace arrived because the wrong people took the reins. Liverpool because they didn’t have the right person to take over the reins!

Celtic were similar too, near bankruptcy in the mid-90s and saved by Fergus McCann who eventually found Martin O’Neill.

Dublin GAA, well they had a little help from then finance minister Bertie Ahern, when the more traditional help from Croke Park wasn’t as forthcoming.

The Dubs I remember are the ones from 1995 to 2010! In that 15 years not once did they make an All-Ireland final. While soft Leinster titles arrived under pillar, confidence in it being their year was never high.

The man who drove the GAA revolution in the capital to some degree, albeit with help from Bertie was county board chairman John Bailey.

While the dubs are now riding high, it can very easily happen that the wrong chairman can take the reins. And just as Rangers, Liverpool and yes Celtic too can attest, when you lose the reins it’s hard to get them back on!

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