New Order


Alan Taylor – author of possibly the most hackneyed weekly column in the multiverse – is sad about the state of the Scottish game (‘Fans are the losers’). He writes:

I last saw Rangers play on television. Channel hopping, I paused at BBC Alba and caught a few moments of the Gaelic commentary of their match against Albion Rovers. It was surreal. Rangers – the mighty Rangers – against Albion Rovers described in Gaelic? It was like some mad god’s nightmare. But it was real alright and proof were it required of the depths to which Rangers, and by extension Scottish football has sunk. For there can surely be no doubt now that Rangers’ downfall is bad in general for the game in these parts.

There’s so much to ponder in those few sentences which combines seamlessly cultural self-hatred and a bizarre metropolitan snobbery. Three notions stand out:

1. This is establishment Scotland befuddled by the modern age, dazzled some ‘mad god’ (in other culture’s this god is called ‘the rules’). The assumptions blur in a dizzying display of nostalgic myopia.  Nothing could be worse for this writer than ‘the mighty Rangers’ being described in gaelic, which represents for Taylor some kind of cultural haemorrhage, an affront to the natural order of things.

2. One stand out assumption is this: Rangers are Scottish football. There can not be one without the other. This assumption is, to say the least, problematic, not least for all the other clubs in the leagues, but also for the extraordinary revelations by Paul Hutcheon in the same week, which no-one has really bothered about, presumably because its such old news.

3. Ranger’s downfall is bad in general for the game in these parts. Is it? Casting aside those pesky things called ‘the rules’ and those other pesky notions called ‘ethics’ this is an odd analysis. Despite St Johnstone’s sad exit last night – they might not have been in Europe at all had the Old Firm not been severed. Rangers’ downfall is not bad for Scottish football because the alternative – as almost all clubs recognised after some persuasion by their less compromised fan base – to give special dispensation for law breaking – wasn’t remotely credible.

The attitude is rife. Neil Doncaster managed to launch the SPFL’s grand new era with Graeme Souness, for some reason, and for an undisclosed fee. What message did this end out? Doncaster, a figure who’s shambolic and disgraceful stewardship of the game lies largely unchallenged and who was rewarded for spectacular incompetence with effective promotion, managed to launch the new league with a very old vision: John Collins and Graeme Souness, Celtic and Rangers.

As Alan Patullo wrote at the time:

Their substance, in terms of footballing talent and achievement, is obvious. Well dressed and camera-friendly, they possess abundant style as well. Making them even more appealing to those charged with promoting another new league set-up in Scotland is the fact they are so easily recognisable south of the border, where it is clear more than a little inspiration for the new league was found. The new top-flight will be called the Scottish Premiership, with the old First Division renamed the Scottish Championship. Divisions Two and Three will now be known as Scottish League One and Scottish League Two. These are all names associated with the shake-up in English football in the 1990s, although the Premiership has long since been re-branded as the Premier League. Indeed, “Premiership” is now associated with a creeping venality within English football.

Again, problems emerge. We’re not really dealing with any of the fundamental problems, we are ‘rebranding’ league names. We are appealing (for some unexplained reason with unexplained benefits) to south of the border. Why will it benefit us because Graeme Souness is recognisable in the Costwolds? Is that really the SPFL strategy for getting a significant sponsor for the national game?

Doncaster is modeling Scottish football on English football – a crass and unimaginative idea given that the English game is awash with SKY money, possibly to its detriment. This is money we don’t have. A different model is required.

But Patullo is right to note the ‘creeping venality’. The problem is not just £12 m embezzlers, or Angelo Massone, with plastic bags behind the sofa and this level of ineptitude at the top of the game, we have our homespun version of venal, money-grabbing ‘management’.

A ‘brave new era’ – if it were to mean anything at all – would be launched by some of the young players we are seeing emerging from some of the new clubs that are performing with energy and drive, if little money. These are well managed clubs with some ambition. You can watch them each week, even in gaelic. The problem is not these clubs or players with integrity and hard work, the problem is the complete dearth of imagination at the very top represented by Doncaster and the sort of wistful sentimentalism of Taylor for an old order, long gone.

Comments (8)

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  1. An Duine Gruamach says:

    “For there can surely be no doubt now that Rangers’ downfall is bad in general for the game in these parts.”

    Though presumably very good for Albion Rovers (and all the other lower league sides, who are getting good money from Rangers’ sojourn in their leagues. My own team will host Rangers in what will be our first ever all-ticket home game) – not that this matters, of course.

  2. Murray McCallum says:

    “Rangers – the mighty Rangers – against Albion Rovers described in Gaelic?”

    I’m a fan of BBC Alba but do not speak Gaelic. I can read sub titles. Gaelic is something I would still like to learn though. I have stumbled across some really good piping documentaries – things you would never get on any other channel. Different can be good and is usually interesting.

  3. CW says:

    To be fair to Alan Taylor, he is a pretty good literary journalist and I always enjoy the Scottish Review of Books. Perhaps surprisingly, I have never heard any football fan complain about watching the match on BBC Alba. They’re just grateful that they can see it for free without a subscription, and it does a lot of good in terms of exposing the language to a broader audience. The SPFL launch was a disgrace, but Scottish football is as good as a colony of English football now. Everything about the way the mainstream media and the supposed leaders of our game talk about it makes it obvious. The way they see it, it’s all about the Old Firm, and if it’s not, it’s all about England. Who cares about the rest? They’re just holding the Old Firm back. The media, managers and players, they all treat the rest of Scottish football as a feeder sport for English football. They talk about proud professional clubs with deep historical roots in the European game as if they were local amateurs. I’m well aware of the financial discrepancies involved, but these seem to be enthusiastically embraced as a confirmation of a long-held inferiority complex. There is no sense of scale or context. As a supporter of a non-Old Firm team, the whole atmosphere can be extremely dispiriting. That’s why last summer was so refreshing. We stood up for ourselves to make sure that the game remained a sport. Without that, you have nothing. But people like Doncaster, Regan and the majority of journalists and commentators will never understand this. There’s a tangible atmosphere of resentment towards us. It’s incredible that somebody like Craig Burley can be regularly employed as a media commentator on the Scottish game. He actively hates it, yet he gets a regular platform to ridicule Scottish football in front of its own audience. In any other country he would be told in no uncertain terms where to go. Graeme Souness is almost as bad. His rhetoric at the launch was a model of restraint compared to his usual standards. The game is decades behind the rest of the Scottish society, trapped in a servile and inferiorist mindset. Somebody should ask Alan Taylor if he thinks can square his views on football with his writing on politics and culture.

  4. alimath247 says:

    Alan Taylor’s inability to see any other perspective on the sport apart from the Old Firm’s is the type of thing that sickens fans of other clubs. The view that the Scottish game should be grateful for the Old Firm’s money is short term and unimaginative to say the least. And infuriating. Surely a true fan would forego the financial income over the next year or two in favour of a league with a more equal distribution of wealth in Scottish football in ten years. There needs to be a radical rethink of how the game is run to regain some sort of balance and to make the league competitive. Perhaps – and I know this is a bit left-wing – a salary cap? Perhaps fans having a controlling financial stake in their club? Who would stand to lose most from the introduction of this?

  5. I think it has been great for Scottish football too, way more pros than cons, not that any of it is pretty to see in the financial and boardroom stuff, but ultimately that stable will be cleaned out . . . we can hope. My nephew plays in a team that played them 4 times last season . . . plus, when the rest of football has been dullish these last 18 months, the Rangers saga has always been incredibly funny and tragic; sort of as entertaining as the Tories were in the 90s when they were mired in scandal and fucking up publically all over the place . . . good entertainment . . .

  6. I also think Mr Taylor was being sarcastic when he said *mighty* I certainly would be

  7. Tocasaid says:

    Scottish football is Rangers/ Rangers is Scottish football. We are all Rangers…

    Surely BBC Alba and Scottish football have been good for each other?

    Lastly, Doncaster’s continuing involvement at the top of Scottish football does not a promising future make.

  8. The commentary on BBC Alba is the best I’ve ever heard, never disagreed with anything the commentators have ever said 😉

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