Celtic should embrace the Asterisk to explain a 30 game season, and a £47m EBT Scam involving 72 imperfectly registered players

Those encouraging the use of an asterisk beside Celtic’s record equalling 9-in-a-row campaign should be careful what they wish for.

Alex Rae on Radio Clyde’s Superscoreboard was the most recent to try and muddy the waters around Celtic’s title win, joining Ally McCoist and Walter Smith in their somewhat sneering attitude to the 9-in-a-row champions. It really is a joy to revel in not only a famous win but also in their own pain, it’s like an extra layer of enjoyment has been added to it all.

When it comes to its use in sport and the recording of the results the asterisk is used to denote supplemental clarifying information at the bottom of the page. Simple as that.

There have been many cases where this has been controversial. Let’s take a couple for example from Baseball.

Babe Ruth is a name than transcends the confines of Baseball as a legend known throughout the sporting world. Roger Maris status – the man who broke Ruth’s legendary 60 home run record in 1961 – was perhaps more confined to his sport. Ruth was not only the record holder he was revered in New York Yankee circles. His popularity, coupled with his undoubted charisma, left a cloak of invincibility attached to a record that many felt unsurpassable when achieved by an immortal of the sport.

Maris, also a Yankee was a great hitter, yet far more introverted. It is fair to say Maris never really captured the public’s imagination. In 1961 he and Mickey Mantle were both vying for this seemingly unbreakable record. Mantle, by far the more popular of the two, faded in the run in while Maris hit a purple patch and a flurry of home runs as the season reached its climax and finished with 61. The record was broken.

Despite the fact all three played for the Yankees, those who could not accept a record that was deemed as unbreakable, fought the corner for Babe Ruth’s legacy. They deemed Maris achievement as being unworthy and protests ensued. The reason for this was given that season had been lengthened from 154 games in Ruth’s era to 162 in Maris’s.

As Maris had needed the extra games to break the record, so Ruth’s fans claimed it shouldn’t count and the asterisk was born. The official records of baseball placed an asterisk on Maris’s record with an explanatory note about the change in season length.

There is also a second example from Baseball that is worth considering.

Barry Bonds broke the home-run record and then some. Bonds hit 73 in 2001. But there was a big problem. Bonds was accused for using performance enhancing drugs, which of course was deemed as having assisted him somewhat in gaining an advantage over his fellow professionals when it came to breaking the home-run record. Of course there was a bit of a fall-out from that particular issue with the fans of the sport. Doping, as with every sport, you can safely say is frowned upon.

As such a campaign grew momentum, one that asked for Barry Bonds name not to be stricken from the records but instead to be included but that an asterisk be added, so that future generations could see that the record was indeed broken, but at the same time allow people to make their own minds up as to whether history would decide if the record was broken by fair means, or if it was a doping advantage that influenced the achievment.

That particular story didn’t end there. The ball that Bonds hit to break the record was sold in an auction. The chap that bought the ball held an online poll as to what he should do with the it. In the end, the poll showed that people wanted the owner of the ball to brand an asterisk on it and donate it to the hall of fame, this he did. The Hall of fame accepted, and the ball resplendent with a penned asterisk was put on display.

It is for these reasons that I have absolutely no problem with an asterisk being attached to Celtic’s title win. When future generations see the asterisk and scan to the foot of the page for the explanation it will read:

* Denotes Shortened football season from 38 games to 30 due to historical global pandemic Covid 19.

The reader will see Celtic led by 13 points, and assume not only was the title still deserved but that there was also nothing they could have done to avoid the situation. History would decide and there would be no controversy. The asterisk would simply denote the unfortunate circumstances, it would be an asterisk against the length of the campaign not the achievement itself. I’m happy with that.

Yet much like Barry Bonds alleged doped Home Run record there are of course other titles won in Scottish football against which an asterisk should also denote an aberration.

Against those titles future generations may not be so understanding. Whilst Bonds doping was drug induced, in the case of Rangers those titles marked with an asterisk should be explained at the foot of the page of the record books as being financially doped.

It would explain that between 2001 and 2010 Rangers paid more than £47million into their Employee Benefit Scheme. 72 Rangers Players, staff and officials had money paid into sub-trusts by the Murray Group, owned by ex-chairman Sir David Murray, that it allowed the Ibrox club to sign players who they would have otherwise have been unable to afford, thus gaining a sporting advantage over their rivals. It could further explain that the Supreme Court ruled that the payment arrangements for Rangers players under individual EBT schemes were deemed to break tax rules, and were tax avoidance.

Like I say I have no problem with an asterisk being placed beside Celtic’s 9-in-a-row win as long as the record books are balanced, if Scottish football, as baseball did, explains the asterisks denote the difference in length of season, and at the same time those won where doping may have impacted the outcome.

I’m fairly comfortable as to how history would view both Celtic and our rivals in those circumstances, very comfortable indeed. I’m not so sure the ‘Rangers’ media cheerleaders would be quite so keen.

Niall J


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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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