In the mid-1980s a friend moved from Glasgow to Los Angeles, where he met Javier, a fellow immigrant who had been born and raised in desperate poverty in Mexico City, but who had made a new and highly successful life for him and his family in the city of angels.

Sometime later, my friend invited Javier to accompany him to Scotland, to attend an important football match involving his beloved Glasgow Celtic. At the game, the Mexican was rendered speechless by the disgusting state of the toilets at Celtic Park, the like of which he had never seen in all the years he had spent in the slums of his home city.

I relate this story to illustrate that in football then, as now, when it comes to power and influence, fans are at the very bottom of the pile.

Last month’s ruling by the European Court of Justice that UEFA and FIFA, football’s governing bodies, abused their dominant position and acted unlawfully by blocking a breakaway European super league is likely to change the future direction of football.

The legal action brought by the European Super League (ESL) is principally aimed at challenging the current structure of European competition, where clubs compete in their home leagues, with the most successful qualifying for one of three annual competitions organised by UEFA. But at its heart, as with most things, is money.

The ESL claims to be championing the voice – and the rights – of the clubs. The clubs, for their part have distanced themselves from the ESL’s current proposals, but they will go where the money is, now or in the future – that much is certain.

UEFA and FIFA – both opaque, amoral, and self-serving cartels – have been squealing like overfed sows whose trough has been moved.

To date, little has been said by or on behalf of the fans, for whom any future change will have the most impact. When they do speak, will it be with one voice? Will the views of those following Liverpool or Manchester City be the same as those who support Rangers, or Kilmarnock or Queen of the South? In a world of globally televised football, owners of the biggest clubs pay even less heed to what their fans think than they did previously.

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The 75,000 season ticket holders of Manchester United, who pay millions to watch their team every fortnight, have become angered and disillusioned because the club’s owners conspicuously direct so much more of their attention to consumers in south-east Asia, Africa, and North America, who spend billions buying their merchandise, downloading their apps and viewing their matches live on TV.

Back in the mid-1980s, the cost of standing on the terraces at Celtic Park was £2.50. For that, as well as watching a team in decline, compared with its heyday of the late sixties and early seventies, you were also transported back to a place of grim, post-Victorian squalor and degradation.

The crumbling terraces and overpowering stench of urine were the physical manifestations of the miniscule attention paid to the comfort and security of fans by the club’s then owners.

Improvements to stadium conditions came about, not because clubs wanted to do right by their fans, but because they were a requirement of the Taylor Report, commissioned in 1989 after 96 Liverpool fans died at Hillsborough, home of Sheffield Wednesday, whose design was typical of football grounds across the country.

Other significant changes since then have come about through the actions of outside agencies rather than because of clubs bowing to fan pressure.

They include the introduction of live, televised matches, the creation of the SPL and the Bosman ruling, which meant players could move on from a club at the end of their contract without the club being able to demand a fee. Freedom of movement for workers among EU member states also had an impact, allowing Scottish and English clubs to sign more overseas players.

For the fans, other than being able to sit down, better pitches and (at some grounds) less odorous toilets, there’s little difference attending a Scottish football match today, compared with 40 years ago.

If anything, the standard and quality of football, and the competitiveness of teams playing in European competitions, have all got worse.

Much of the decline is down to the financial gap between clubs in Scotland and elsewhere – most notably England – becoming a chasm. In the 2020-21 season, Manchester City and Liverpool both earned £145m in TV rights to their matches. Even relative minnows like Crystal Palace and Brentford – whose stadium capacity is 17,250 – earned £114m and £112m respectively.

In contrast Celtic and Rangers – whose ground capacities are 60,411 and 50,817 respectively – earned a share of £28.5m, distributed among all of Scotland’s 42 SPFL clubs.

The ESL’s latest proposal envisages a new, three-tier midweek European league to replace the current UEFA competitions, with a guaranteed minimum 14 matches per season, compared with eight from next season.

The proposal also includes the pie-in-the-sky notion that all matches will be free-to-air so, inevitably, it will be shelved but, when a replacement bid is tabled, it should be embraced by fans in Scotland.

For a start, it would mean significantly more money for Scotland’s two biggest clubs, even if they were initially competing with the 16-club Star League, top tier, helping to bridge the income gap that currently exists between them and other, similarly sized European clubs.

It would also offer the possibility of smaller Scottish clubs, such as Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, and Motherwell, competing for a place in the lower tier leagues.

Scottish clubs taking part would continue to compete in the SPL, so there is no question of them abandoning their commitment to their home league. They may choose to field weaker, or development, teams in the Scottish League Cup, which already happens in the equivalent competition south of the border.

The principal argument against Celtic and Rangers joining the English Premier League has always been that the income which matches involving them generates, would be lost to the rest of Scottish football.

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It follows then, that the richer the two Glasgow clubs are, the greater the “trickle down” effect will be on other clubs.

The noise generated by opposition to the ESL when it was first proposed in April 2021, threatens to drown out sensible voices in favour of change.

The backlash then was legitimate, because the breakaway tournament proposed was a closed shop that would have protected Europe’s biggest clubs, with no promotion or relegation. There was also no equivalent women’s competition.

The latest proposal is a positive step forward, even if it is financially unworkable without TV revenues, but something better and more realistic will take its place.

For the first time football fans in Scotland have a genuine chance to make their voices heard and they should not be negatively influenced by vested interests who speak only for themselves.