Liquid Lies and Solid Facts

Nixon had Ron Ziegler, Thatcher had Bernard Ingham, the Pistols had Malcolm McLaren, Saddam Hussein had Comical Ali,  Trump had Sean Spicer. Everyone needs a frontman, a spin doctor, a Svengali to smooth the unpalatable reality of what’s going on. But the eternal message down the ages is ‘Don’t become the story’. Media managers, by definition, need to stay out of the picture, in the shadows. To weave their magic, to distort the truth they need to be in the background, Wizard of Oz-stylee. Last week, Jim Traynor, ex BBC Sport Scotland head-honcho and long ago decamped to manage media matters at Ibrox broke this rule, and not for the first time. In an exchange with the Rangers captain Lee Wallace big Jim intervened:

 

The problem of course is that everyones knows this to be true, not least of all Traynor who wrote in 2012:

“Some Rangers fans believe the club’s history, which would end with liquidation, must be protected but there is a shameful part of that history which they should want to forget and any newco should make it clear a new beginning means exactly that.  A new club open to all from the very beginning.”
Jim Traynor, Daily Record, 13th April 2012

and

“They’ll slip into liquidation within the next couple of weeks with a new company emerging but 140 years of history, triumph and tears, will have ended. No matter how Charles Green attempts to dress it up, a newco equals a new club. When the CVA was thrown out Rangers as we know them died.  They were closed and a newco must start from scratch.”
Jim Traynor, Daily Record 13th June 2012

After leaving the Record in 2012, where he was associate editor, Traynor became Communications Director for The Rangers for a short time and now handles the club’s press relations through his company, Level5PR. After this week I’d hate to see what Level4PR looks like.

This is a sports media contaminated with sycophancy who can’t dig itself out of it’s own embedded status because editors and journalist alike need access. They need to have access to the players and the managers to sell papers.  But the longer this continues their own credibility dips as mismanagement after mismanagement of the Scottish game goes untested and unquestioned.


So here we have Jim Traynor, trying to control the message and re-write history and the vast majority of the Scottish media standing idly by.

There may be many of you who don’t care or are simply bored by this endless story that rumbles on and on. There may be many of you who just hate football and don’t care about anything to do with football.

But this isn’t really about the game it’s about the press and key institutions in Scotland. It’s about good governance and accountability and fair play, none of which we have.

It’s also just about truth.

If something can happen and then an entire press lobby just turns away when someone pretends it hasn’t, that’s not okay.

What if Willie Rennie announced that Princess Diana was fine and was living in a flat in Pimlico getting a weekly Ocado delivery?

What if a PR man for RBS just pretended that the bank had never collapsed and ABN Amro was a Swedish techno outfit?

Shit happens, and it actually does happen.

Believe me this is dull, but the SFA’s refusal to allow a review of Scottish football after the events of the last few years is completely unacceptable. The events that led to the Ibrox clubs liquidation and re-emergence in the lower leagues did not bring Armageddon to Scottish football as had been forewarned, but it did bring insecurity and ridicule. In  November 2015 the Daily Record told us that five clubs would be dead in a month. The myth we were being asked to swallow was that Scottish football couldn’t survive without Rangers, and specifically without the Old Firm. A now dead and frequently toxic duopoly was, we were told, exactly what the game needed. It wasn’t just part of the game, it WAS the game. This is the thinking of both Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan.

 

 

As @tirnaog09 explained: “Project Fear in 2012, withing a few years most of those clubs had won a major honour or appeared in a cup final.”

Now, we are being told the same story over and over again, only this time we are to indulge in the fantasy not just that the events at Ibrox simply never happened at all, but that this duopoly of the Old Firm, is the same – and it is equally vital and benevolent to the games survival.

This is cognitive dissonance on an industrial scale.

In one of only a tiny amount of actual engaged responses from our media, Stephen McIlkenny wrote in the Scotsman:

“The SFA’s announcement last week that they had rejected the offer to take part in a review into the handling of Rangers’ use of Employee Benefit Trusts could signify a real roadblock for the future of the game in our country. Celtic have accused the SFA of “a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership”. Contrary to what some have reported, Celtic are not calling for a review of Rangers, but a review of the governing body as a whole in the light of new evidence. The Parkhead club’s statement read: “This is exactly the same position as adopted by the SPFL board on behalf of all Scotland’s 42 professional clubs. The club believes that such a review is essential if a line is to be drawn under this whole affair. On that basis, Scottish football could learn lessons and move on.”

He continues:

“A truly independent review offers a unique opportunity that would not only provide closure over an exceptionally controversial chapter of Scottish football but would repair much of the damage that has already been inflicted. The simple fact is that if a review was to be held, we do not not know what would happen or be revealed, but at least fans and clubs would have answers and a line could be drawn under a sorry saga in Scottish football.”

It seems an astonishingly simple fact that to go through such a tumultuous period and then refuse any responsibility or accountability or transparency and effectively just pull up the shutters and say “Nothing to see here”, is not okay.

As the Rangers Tax Case blog has commented: “SFA’s refusal to investigate extent of corruption in Scottish football 1998-2012 rumbles on and the press refuse to address the real issue – how can SFA claim to have fixed anything if they refuse to investigate what actually happened?”

As Roy Greenslade of the Guardan Media remarked about what he called “a petty act of censorship at Rangers football club” when Traynor intervened at a disastrous Mark Warburton press conference:

“In his final column for the Record, incidentally, he wrote about the (alleged) demise of journalism in Scotland and launched a scathing broadside at fellow journalists, calling them “despicable, pathetic little creatures”. Traynor’s petty act of censorship was rightly described on Twitter by former Sunday Mirror journalist Brian McNally as “comedy gold”. But there is another worrying aspect to this incident. After a 20-minute hiatus, the press conference was reconvened. Yet no reporter took the opportunity to pursue Warburton over the status of Barton.”

 

 

The Rangers fiasco is just one of many many problems in Scottish football, including the lack of competition at the top, the quality of our broadcast coverage, the pitiful Ladbrokes sponsorship, the appointment of Malky Mackay and the state of youth football. Not all of this is the SFA’s fault and the clubs themselves are in hiding.

This is a rotten media failing to carry out its basic duty. Scottish football is being bullied and censored by a PR firm. The press aren’t “fans with typewriters” they are gatekeepers to access. But that age of deference is gone and that sealed world is busted open.

The reality is that the SFA is not fit for purpose and Stewart Regan should not be in charge of Scottish football. In an interview in 2016 he explained it all: “I still find it an incredibly negative environment at times. I don’t know whether it is part of the Scottish psyche, whether there is so much demand and expectation that when things don’t happen, people feel really negative.”

That will be it, it’s just a part of the Scottish psyche.

 

*

We really need your support to develop and we’d like to ask you to support us by donating to us here.

We’ve got big plans to launch our new site, to launch new publishing and events projects, and to extend our platform of writers – but all of this needs your support.

Bella Caledonia remains free (and ad-free) and takes me hundreds of hours a month to research, write, commission and edit. If you value what I do, please consider supporting with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing. GoCardless to set up a small monthly donation to support independent journalism in Scotland.

Thanks!

*
Go here to subscribe for free and get each Bella article sent to your email
Go here to follow us on Twitter @bellacaledonia
Go here to follow us on Instagram
Go here to join our Facebook Group
Go here to follow us on Spotify
Go here to write for us

Comments (12)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Brochan says:

    “But this isn’t really about football it’s about the press and key institutions in Scotland. It’s about good governance and accountability and fair play, none of which we have.”

    This is just your opinion Mike. You may find that a large majority of Bella readers have no interest in football matters. Many of them will only have heard passing references to the Rangers EBT thing. They will have taken no interest in it and they just will not care.

    It has nothing to do with the governance or lack of press standards. All of us here witness daily the depths to which our media has sunk and the Rangers situation changes nothing. I would suggest that you are elevating fitba’ to a level of importance it surely does not merit. It’s only fitba’. Let’s get on with the day job because who cares about this? Who really cares?

    1. Hi Brochan, I acknowledge that many people don’t care about football in the article. But the SFA is a national body and it is about governance and corruption. It is our national game. It is about intimidation of journalists which we should care about in democracy even if we don’t care about football.

      The Scottish Premiership attendance of 108,587 last weekend was the 4th highest aggregated attendance in the top flight this Century.

      In Week 6 of the SPL – 129,894 fans attended games – 2.4% of the Population, and that’s not even counting the rest of the game, lower leagues, amateur football etc

      You might not care, and that’s fine, but many people do.

      1. Lost interest years ago. says:

        I don’t care what any journalist or blogger said regarding RFC membership transfer, it was within SFA rules(14.1) and that is all that counts.
        I care even less JT or anyone else for that matter did not know about,understand or accept the precedent,it was always a potential option from the get go.

        As for EBTs the SC ruled RFC owed tax and that is not against SFA rules nor does it retrospectively mean player in-eligibility.
        EBTs in of themselves did not create an unfair sporting advantage,non payment of tax did.
        RFC did not pay tax due to insolvency which was a breach of SFA rules for which they were sanctioned, just like every other insolvent club.

        There are some who may feel the sanctions were insufficient and that is understandable, however this does not mean the SFA is corrupt.

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    Journos need access. The arse crawling that traditionally is practised by football writers is exactly what is found in other areas of coverage – like politics for example. The reporter needs to nurture the hand that feeds him/her. Both sides piss into the same pot. And that is how the world goes round. (and don`t shout “that`s no fair”. So far no one has ever claimed the world is “fair”. So we all have to suck it up!).

  3. Michael Barile says:

    A decent article, bold and genuine journalism. A pleasant and refreshing change from the succulent lamb. Time for the people and government of Scotland to investigate the corruption at SFA. We must be the only country in the globe where journalists resist a full and proper investigation to establish the truth.

  4. chris says:

    “There may be many of you who don’t care or are simply bored by this endless story that rumbles on and on. There may be many of you who just hate football and don’t care about anything to do with football.”

    Bored . That’s the word for me .

    WHY ?

    Because in my opinion nothing will ever change .

    1. Josef O Loan says:

      Hi Chris: A quick flick through any history book will show that change is the unchangeable and has nothing to do with personal opinion or preference.

  5. Erik says:

    It’s not even a ‘sport’ when the corruption extends to these levels. Scottish football as it is and a feart to be independent Scotland deserve one-another.

  6. Davie says:

    Only a country with a massive inferiority complex would the two main authorities in the national game be headed up by their bigger neighbours. It’s not even that Regan and Doncaster were big hitters that we were blessed to get – Regan was involved in Yorkshire Cricket Club and Doncaster the board at relegated Norwich immediately prior to thier appointments.

    Can you imagine the Dutch system being run by Germans?

    Then again when you are headed up by Englishmen is it any surprise they side with the Unionist, Establishment club?

    For Regan to state on record “I don’t know whether it is part of the Scottish psyche” about what he perceives as a failing really does show the arrogance of the imperial yoke. For us to accept it……well

  7. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Quite frankly to be talking about a club that ceased to exist some years ago is pathetic when the will of the Catalan people are being usurped, The Caribbean islands have been devastated and the people of Mexico City are still digging for survivors – come on get real. Who cares about bloody football and Rangers in particular, I don’t.

  8. Derek Rossborough says:

    I agree with Mike on this.What we are seeing is a corrupt institution(SFA) being covered up by the MSM for political/ financial reasons.It mirrors what is happening as regards the MSM treatment of the Independence movement.

Keep our Journalism Independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address to subscribe for free here and receive Bella direct to your inbox.

 
Bella Caledonia