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:
Listen tae Jabba’s pain 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/ZEJwYkyHgz
— tam sellics son (@gibbygibbo1) September 14, 2017
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
“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.
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.”
“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.
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