Football: Levein's Fine Snub Is More Than Just a Spoken Gesture

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Byline: Stuart Cosgrove

WHEN it comes to human rights abuses Craig Levein is hardly manacled to a fence in Camp X Ray, but he is amassing support for refusing to pay an SFA fine.

For too long, summary justice has been handed down from the offices of Scotland's football authorities with scant regard for the real world and changing legislation across Europe.

Levein's crime may have got him hanged by the Kampalas if the late Idi Amin had been around, but in modern Scotland his "crime" barely registers.

If Levein has the will to fight on, it's a case he could easily win. But even if he feels resigned to pay up and reluctantly puts a cheque in the post, he has stoked up a fight that will finally be won by free speech.

Football is living in the dark ages and there is a desperate need to bring in new regulations for managers, players and officials alike.

Freedom of speech is an inalienable right and Levein's refusals to pay a fine, which has now doubled under some bizarre accumulator rule, could become an unwelcome cause celebre at the SFA.

Most football fans could be forgiven for forgetting the circumstances - it was a match against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, where Hearts defenders Andy Webster and Austin McCann were red-carded.

Levein half-joked that he had given up counting the referee's mistakes after "the 97th time". You will not be surprised to know that the umpire in question was the inimitable Dougie McDonald - the Frank Spencer of referees.

The issues are many and varied. We know from Chris Sutton's outrageous outburst against Dunfermline that free speech can be inflammatory and that words uttered rashly after a match are often hard to withdraw.

Rights come with responsibilities and the freedom to mouth off has to be moderated. But we will never return to the days when managers remained tight-lipped until they retired.

Television has football in its grip and it is hard to imagine a scenario where the media will want less access to players and managers. Some journalists are even demanding the open access given to players in the major professional leagues in the USA, where cameras are allowed into the locker room. …