They’ve Learned Nothing

By Mike Small

The idea of Rangers as some sort of parable of our times is becoming compelling. A club riven by debt and mired in bad practice collapses under the weight of it’s own illegality and bad management, then lashes out at everyone around them in a perpetual circle of self-deceit.

Perhaps having been given – what they perceive to be outrageous punishment and what many consider hardly any punishment at all – they might reflect on the financial models they’d pursued and considered how sound they were? They might have reflected on the culture of the club and considered a root and branch overhaul was required? Contrition might be a good idea. You’d think.

Instead we get the £1 Million Crossbar Challenge .

But it’s not all their fault. A pliant and unquestioning media continue to exacerbate the problem. What could have been a watershed moment for Scottish football and sports journalism continues to be a missed opportunity.

On the day when the truth about the Sun, the police and the Hillsborough Disaster cover-up finally comes to the cold light of day, it’s worth thinking about this. This is the day when we discovered how 96 men, women and children met their horrible deaths and how unforgivable lies about the Liverpool fans’ behaviour came to be spread (and recycled by The Sun), and further how there was a systematic cover-up involving police and politicians, as the victims’ families believed all along.

The paper is still bought by millions of people, it’s former editor Kelvin Mackenzie is aregular on BBC Question Time, one helluva

The report by the Hillsborough independent panel, established three years ago and chaired by the bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, found that there was a failure of authorities to protect people and an attempt to blame fans.

The panel concluded that the main cause of the Hillsborough disaster was a “failure in police control” but also revealed “multiple failures” within other organisations that compromised crowd safety. It underlined the “clear operational failure” that led to the disaster and the attempts by South Yorkshire police (SYP) and the ambulance service to cover up their shortcomings. The fact that the ambulance service also altered statements from staff is revealed for the first time. The evidence shows “conclusively” that Liverpool fans “neither caused nor contributed to the deaths” and shows the extent to which attempts, endorsed by the South Yorkshire chief constable Peter Wright, were made to smear them.

As writer Owen Jones has said on Twitter: “Blood was taken from the fans to check for alcohol, including children.” #jft96

Documents released to the panel show how high-ranking police sources, the South Yorkshire Police Federation and the Tory MP Irvine Patnick were responsible for feeding the stories to White’s News Agency in Yorkshire.

You can see the report here.

This is just an appalling litany of malpractice and deception. But it was only made possible only by a tabloid press and a whole cultural backdrop which can be summarised as: hating ordinary people and holding ridiculous deference to authority.

Consider the press in Scotland and the Club Formerly Known as Rangers.

An early account of this is outlined at Rangers Tax Case but the problem persists in language and lack of editorial enquiry to this day. What people want more than anything else is ‘for things to go back the way they were.’ The EBT scandal is treated as a sort of irrelevance now as is Sir David Murray’s involvement who still holds a spectacularly inappropriate position of high regard in Scottish society.

As RTC states:

“Once the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) finally rules, the SFA will have to act. If, as I expect, that the FTT finds that Rangers had been knowingly operating an illegal implementation of the EBT scheme, it would discredit every trophy ever won in Scottish football if the honours acquired by Rangers during this time are not withdrawn.”

Little if anything is said about this from the 3rd Estate. Now the Sun, who’s own credibility surely after the Hillsborough inquiry can not ever have been at  a lower ebb, seems to be kowtowing to threats and intimidation – a persistent motif of Rangers culture.

A book detailing the downfall of the great institution was first trumpeted as a scoop then buried after complaints from Rangers fans. It’s an extraordinary example of how the press has a complete lack of faith or integrity and how little has been learned in the past extraordinary year.

The Scottish edition of the paper had planned to start running extracts today from a book entitled Downfall: how Rangers FC self-destructed by the journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain.

But within 24 hours of its lengthy puff announcing its serialisation the paper ran a leading article explaining that it had changed its mind. The reason given reason was a blog from earlier this year called The Incubator, it was a satire on the bigotry of many Rangers’ fans. It employed some pretty offensive images. But you could only really be offended by it in the same way as you’d think Mr Swift was actually advocating eating Irish babies.

The ironies of this are threefold.

1) The Sun boldly featuring an investigation into the biggest sporting scandal in Scottish history, folds under pressure from that club, with Ramsay Smith from Media House said the Sun would have no access to Ibrox if they published.

2) It was The Sun’s Scottish editor, Andy Harries, who admired Mac Giolla Bhain’s work and, on hearing about his book, made a swift decision to buy the serialisation.

3) Yet a story about lies and liars takes a further twist as the Sun claimed they didn’t know Phil’s work. But Mac Giolla Bhain was well known to The Sun, having previously freelanced for the its now-defunct stablemate, the News of the World.

Finally as we consider the role of The Sun in British society, here’s the verdict of Guardian’s Roy Greenslade on why the Sun stopped publishing extracts from Downfall:

“Two experienced non-Sun journalists, both of whom did not favour serialisation, read the situation differently. They believe Harries was shocked by the hostility of Rangers fans and feared a possible sales boycott not unlike the one that the paper suffered after its infamous accusation against Liverpool fans following the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.”

You couldn’t make it up. Unless you were a Sun journalist that is.

Now it seems the efforts to suppress this book look to have completely failed. I’m told it’s outselling Fifty Shades of Grey in Waterstone’s Edinburgh branch, and is last week it climbed to be at No 8 in Amazon’s UK rankings and stayed there for two days.
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Categories: Football, Identity, New Scotland

24 replies

  1. Answers to a few simple questions are needed.
    Did Rangers go bankrupt? If so, their history died with them, along with any titles and debts.
    Did Green buy the assets of the bankrupt club? Obviously he did, and joined SFL League 3 as a new club, using the assets he had just bought. He used his contacts to gain admission to the SFL before other clubs..
    Therefore Green isn’t liable for any misdeanours of the now finished Rangers.
    Folk should stop bullying Green over this new club he has started called ‘The Rangers’. As a brand new club, they have no history to answer for.
    Or celebrate.

    • See the saltire in the books picture flying above Ibrox? Its been there since 1899, and its still there. The club, Rangers Football Club 1872? Well, dont take my word for its unbroken existence, just look at the commission examining side contracts wording; club and old/new companies: SFA and legal authority. Now, go find something uselful to do like drumming up support for your own team.

      • My old doctors practice is now an Indian takeaway. It still has the same ornate mouldings on the door.
        You’re point is?

    • The club is one thing, the trading company is another – it’s the way all football clubs operate. The trading company was liquidated, the football club hasn’t changed – not one iota in legal terms. The only business change has been the company behind the club (trading company, holding company, call it what you will). I really don’t understand why this seems so difficult for people to understand – unless, of course, they simply don’t want to understand it.

      Your Doctor’s practice/Indian takeaway analogy is just stupid. You are talking about one single company which is not the way professional football clubs are structured.

  2. Does anyone proofread this stuff before publication?

    It’s a very tenuous link to make between the Sun’s poor handling of unrelated football stories more than 2 decades apart.

    Whilst the RTC blog was roundly and deservedly applauded for its investigative reporting of the events surrounding Rangers’ demise, Phil Mac Gillivan has been widely discredited, and is known to have a biased agenda. He has rushed to publish too quickly, and takes advantage of punters keen to learn more.

  3. Is it? It’s about power and deference and groveling to vested interests and authority.

    By ‘widely discredited’ what exactly do you mean?

    Btw no-one proof-reads anything – it’s jut a team of chimps who randomly batter out articles on typewriters.

  4. Several major flaws in your slanted and distorted view of the world. Firstly, the crossbar challenge is nothing more than a bit of fun for match days funded by fans own enter fees and a suitable insurance policy. This is also done at numerous MLB stadia in the US with a pitching competition. Your article also states that it would be a disgrace if every trophy Rangers had won during the period they used EBTs was not withdrawn. Do you feel the same way about the trophies Celtic won during the period they allegedly covered up child abuse within their club. The US authorities stand as a shining example of how to treat this type of scandal and have set the bar beautifully with their handling of the whole Penn State affair. Lastly, as I understand it, the FTT has not yet ruled and Rangers actually reduced their wage bill during the EBT years and lost more league titles than they won. Where exactly is the sporting advantage here, because I am at a loss to see it?

    • ‘Allegedly’ disallows the rest of your odious sentence. Grow up and have an adult discussion about the situation Rangers engineered for themselves. I agree that the Crossbar Challenge is entirely a matter for the new Rangers as a fundraiser and should have no place in the article but it’s difficult to find anything online from an Old/New Rangers fan that doesn’t revert to comment on child abuse.

      • Are there things we are not allowed to discuss? Things that are hard and uncomfortable to hear? I thought that was the raison d’etre of this blog. I guess some pigs are more equal than others and some sacred cows, well, more sacred.

    • Strip the cheating b******s…you know they cheated..same as the rest a the world knows….let justice be done hh

    • US football is different from SFA…US law is different from scots law..NFL has no jurisdiction over SFA..so Penn State is not an example to drool over…even a different continent…Rangers shall be punished..DEAL WITH IT!!!!!

  5. What a load of Rubbish

  6. Supposed new club, same old obsession.
    Rangers the club goes on, run by a new company (or “newco”).
    As for comparing Mac Giolla Bhain to Swift, just wow! Mac Giolla Bhain’s extremely nasty piece was in now way satire. That claim is a poor attempt at an excuse.

  7. Mike, see you are still turning out the bile and hypocrisy. Not getting out the ivory tower much.

  8. Well in Mike and truly spoken – although there is only one fitting punishment that the spl should administer – sevco should be forced to use the name “Rangers mark2 – jazz odyssey” – for eternity. Post independence, more of these institutions that weren’t really institutions will be subject to scrutiny. I’m not saying anyone’s going up against a wall – but more and more colonialist functionaries will become redundant. That’s not to say unionists are the only people capable of being corrupted by power, it’s a lesson for everybody – even Bella Caledonia.

  9. Oh Mikey!

    If you had spent as much time and effort following your own football team as the time you spend spewing your hatred for Rangers, then perhaps, just perhaps, your team might be less likely to disappear, never to return.

    Your plagiarism is noted. Throwing Hillsborough into your piece is sickening and I could spend a fortnight picking holes in the drivel in your blog. You’re not worth the effort any more.

    Your blogs and wanderings are riddled with a cancerous hatred that blind you beyond belief. You are a bitter little man who has become an unlikeable and sad individual.

    You will probably have noticed your phone ringing less, chums not inviting you out for a pint as often as they used to. Or will you have noticed it? Your sad little world dissolving, making you more and more bitter. Gollum?

    Time to go for glory? Or is it better to spend your life clattering away on your keyboard about glories that you and your team will never realise?

    Try to be happy with what you have and build on that.

  10. Thanks for the comment Jupe. All very interesting. Get in touch?

    • Major League Soccer,

      You’ve always been anti-Rangers. I’ve never had a problem with that, you’re far from alone on that one. But EVERY time I read your posts, blogs, articles etc. it appears obvious to me that you are agenda driven.

      The blog above is a classic case in point.

      You may believe everything that you type on that subject, I don’t know you well enough any more to be sure.

      I do know what you have written. Some of it I can laugh at, some I laugh off, some of it I shake my head at, but some of it makes me very angry.

      Now, as a “writer, blogger or freelance journalist” then maybe stirring up debate and being controversial is just part of your game.

      Maybe.

      But I don’t think so. Not any more.

      I’m now of the opinion that you will write anything, absolutely anything that will help to demonise Rangers. Sometimes I’m not convinced you believe some of it, but you will damned if you won’t publish it if it helps “the cause”.

      I say that I’m not convinced that you believe it, but times change. People change. Stock-markets fluctuate. etc.

      I really hope that you’re not as bitter as you come across.

      With regards getting in touch: With everything above, and all of the water under the countless bridges, is that really the way ahead?

      I suspect that we might have “grown” too far apart. No?

      I hope you and all of your family are well.

      Please pass this on to those/any who may care.

      Jupe.

  11. I find Bella Caledonia’s interest in Rangers (and in fact ‘football’ in a general sense) is completely anomalous. What are you guys on about?

    As someone who is undecided on how to vote in the Independence Referendum, this is the third time I’ve logged onto your website to try and find some debate on Scottish Nationalism, and each time the headline article has been about Rangers. I feel like I should point this out because it’s absolutely crackers, and reflects badly on your collective priorities / interests. I really think you should sort this out.

    I’ve gone and dug out the articles: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2012/02/14/rangers-on-the-edge/

    The first time I logged on was soon after Rangers had been put into liquidation – the football club was essentially labelled an evil relic of British colonialism; it’s demise was seen as some kind of omen that Scottish Nationalism’s time was nye. Or something like that. I paraphrase, but that was the gist of it as I recall. I thought to myself “This is beyond a childish over simplification, and points towards real malice and hostility, but I suppose plenty of people do have real malice and hostility towards Rangers, whatever…”

    The second time I logged on a was pretty surprised to see the same guy taking the same angle on the same story: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2012/06/21/walking-away-from-north-britain/

    Like a febrile dog with a bone. A really stupid, poisonous, immature bone.

    I thought to myself “This guy’s surely a nutter. I wonder if Scottish Nationalists really ARE all about Braveheart and England hating? And somehow Rangers are an evil embodiment of all things ‘Unionist’. I don’t think I like this place.”. I see you’re promoting the guy’s book now. Think I’ll give that one a miss.

    The third time I log on was today, about 20 minutes ago, and I got so pissed off that I felt compelled to waste 20 minutes of my life typing up a meaningless criticism of your apparently weird, Rangers-hating, ‘let’s look at politics through the lens of football’ thing. I’ve skimmed through the above article, and there are some salient points about the Hillsborough Cover-up, and some justified digs at Rangers directors potentially criminal activities, and it seems okay; it’s fair enough; it’s not like the emotional wibble of the last couple of log-ons, but…. it’s about football?

    I can’t take you guys seriously anymore. I’m not logging on again. I think you’re nuts. I could go down to any pub in Glasgow and overhear this kind of stuff.

    A football club, and even football as a universal is like anything else; it is what you perceive it to be. What you perceive it to be says more about you than it does the object.

    • Thanks for the comment Robin.

      I guess we cover art, music and culture more widely than just the constitutional issues – and football’s a big part of popular culture. No?

      Second, there’s no doubt that this issue, the demise of one of Scotland’s biggest institutions, is a massive issue. Take for example the Rangers Tax Case blog which won the Orwell Prize this year: http://theorwellprize.co.uk/news/orwell-prize-2012-winners-announced/

      So, it’s not just us that has an interest.

      Third the question revolves around the role of the media and how it relates to power and authority in Scotland. At the heart of the supposed obsession with Rangers or football are wider questions about the changing nature of media and who it affects our perception of society.

      Finally I’d challenge the idea that we are constantly bagging on about this. Check the category cloud on the bottom right hand of the blog. ‘Identity’ – ‘Scottish culture’ – ‘arts and culture’ – ‘anti-capitalism’ and ‘referendum on independence’ are the issues we’ve written most on, for good or ill.

      Sorry you don’t like the focus – we’re always open to have contributions form people and hear what you DO want us to write on.

    • If you’ve only logged into Bella three times and each time it was an article about The Rangers, I think that says more about where you find your links to the blog, rather than Bella itself.

      Those of us who get to Bella from places other than The Rangers forums or links in the Twitter feeds of The Rangers fans find it has a pretty wide variety of stuff about Scottish culture. There’s been far more about Scottish literature than The Rangers in recent weeks. But I don’t suppose those articles get linked to on The Rangers forums…

  12. There are a lot of issues about freedom of expression and the rights of people to be heard in these early days of a batter nation.

    It seems to me that the Sun, which has commecial interests in selling newspapers are not wrong from a financial point of view in listening to perhaps the majority of their readers. I am led to believe you can’t even sell the paper in Liverpool to this day.

    It is also true that a newspaper requires access to news. If Rangers have threatened to boycott the Sun then that is newsworthy in itself. Commercial organisations are not usually very open to criticism. Football clubs have a history of being quite uppity with the fourth estate. It is the blurring of entertainment, sport and newspaper credibility that is at the heart of the issue here.

    It is because of that somewhat incestuous relationship that blogs like RTC had such an impact. He or she built a readership based on not allowing a PR machine to dictate what could, or could not be revealed. It will be interesting to see if TSFM manages to widen it’s brief or becomes, instead, a single issue blog.

    The whole idea that the serialisation of a book can be effectively cancelled because of pressure might give the proponents of that power a warm fuzzy feeling. I have Medhi Hassans account of a similar situation in what is an even greater affront to a free media – ‘From Fatwah to Jihad’. There are, sadly, similarities. Angry people acting irrationally, etc, etc…..

    The whole event leaves a question mark over what, if any, is the social purpose of our red top newspapers? It is that question that I think this article was trying to address.

  13. ‘better’ rather than ‘batter’. Though I quite like ‘batter nation’.

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