Football fans come from all different backgrounds, and this is one of the things that drives some people up the wall. A football stadium is one of the few places on Earth where you get a broad mix of culture and class, sitting together side by side.
I’m sure there are more than a few people who’ve bought season tickets for the first time and come home and said to the wife or the husband or the live in partner, “You’ll never believe the people in the seats next to me …”
I like that about football, although I worry that the rising cost of going to matches is going to change that forever. Sooner or later – sooner, I suspect – football stadiums will be like the Opera … the province of the middle and upper classes, the only people who can afford tickets. I hope I’m wrong, but anyway, it’s a digression from the point of this piece.
Everyone ought to know by now the high regard in which I hold Jeanette Findlay and the members of the Celtic Trust. They are smart people – Jeanette is a genuine intellectual, who can speak with equal confidence on anything from football to politics – and they take their role and their responsibility seriously. They don’t pretend to speak for the rest of the supporters. They don’t undermine the work of the club. They know what they have to do … they are the shareholders organisation, and they look out for them above all.
I am a working class guy, from a working class background. Yet sitting above me, as I write this, in pride of place on the wall, is a Celtic share certificate. It’s my old man’s, not mine, but I like to look at it from time to time, as it reminds me that this family bleeds green.
It is the only share certificate any of us has ever owned or is ever likely to own. Playing the stock market? That’s an upper-middle class pursuit if ever I heard of one, and it just isn’t us.
Maybe I’m just too set in my ways, maybe I take my background too seriously, maybe the right wingers are bang on and I don’t view the horizon high enough … which isn’t to say I am not ambitious and driven and work hard, as anyone who knows all the stuff I’m involved in at the moment can attest.
But I think an organisation that represents shareholders should be run by someone like Jeanette, someone who’s sharp and discreet and a bit sophisticated. I look at the share certificate and I think “yes, that’s who should be speaking on our behalf.”
Because of that, I can say, with certainty, that I would be mortified if the Trust behaved like the one that represents the small shareholders at Ibrox. I would want to curl up and hide under the bed every time they released a statement, because I think the people currently putting out statemens on the behalf of the RST seem barmy and they lack refinement and their stuff, on too many occasions lately, reads like the kind of thing you’d expect to see on high school student Facebook pages, slagging other people and making bizarre generalisations.
The Rangers Supporters Trust has over 5000 members, and that’s an excellent number, reflecting the same sort of broad base as that found amongst shareholders of Celtic. Yet I find it incredible that out of that number they’ve allowed their public face to be that of the village idiot.
It’s astonishing to me that they tolerate this, that they accept it, and that they are content to have morons issuing press releases on their behalf, which demean what their purpose is meant to be.
You know what I find most astonishing? Their apparent obsession with Celtic.
Now, I am often accused of being “obsessed” by the goings on at Ibrox, but I am a writer and this is a Scottish football issues site. If I didn’t write about the stuff that happens there, that would be just inexcusable.
The club is a mess on every level but it is never boring, and they generate stories like no other on this island.
I write about them because it’s fascinating and it’s worthy of attention, especially as the governing bodies – and the media – keep on insisting that this club is essential to the wellbeing of the Scottish game.
I don’t accept that, but it affects everything from league reconstruction to negotiations on advertising and media rights. It is important to keep abreast of developments and, in a media culture which, as Stan Collymore is finding out today, seems intolerant of any truth Sevconian’s don’t like, it is equally important to write what the press won’t and to dig where they refuse to and to keep on looking where they don’t want anyone to look.
I am not “obsessed”. I write for a living. This is the job. And because I’m not a coward I’m going to keep on telling the truth, whatever it does to the fragile egos of people who’ve spent too long looking in the mirror telling themselves they are special, that they are the lords of the isles, that “Britain never ever shall be slaves”, that they are “the Peepil”.
The Peepil, let me remind them, have been grafted royally in the last five years, time and time again, like dumb tourists buying bits of London Bridge for a quid. The vast bulk of them are never getting into Mensa, and we all know it.
When I hear them sing their ridiculously supremacist songs these days I snigger. In all my time examining the behaviours and beliefs of those on the far right, I’ve never understood how they can believe in a “master race” comprised of single digit IQ’s, with overhanging beer guts and jail house tattoos. “The Big House must stay open,” was their battle cry for a while, which was funny considering the one many of them were most familiar with was Barlinnie.
But again, I digress, I want to try and stick to the point here.
These seem to be the type of folk the RST has made its official spokesmen.
These are the ones who seem incapable of acting with dignity or the smallest shred of class.
The RST is a curious group in that it is one of the only shareholders organisations I’ve ever heard of that wanted to deprive the company it bought into of income. They advertise their own line of club merchandise, for a start, and they were doing this long before the details of the Ashley deals were in the public domain. They’ve called for boycotts of their club’s games. They’ve demanded the removal of board members, destabilising the day to day running of the business. They’ve even supported attempts to weaken the share price itself – screwing with their own members and doing the very last thing you’d expect a shareholders organisation to do.
Now, before I go on, I am going to say this; I respect the vast majority of the men and women who have bought shares in their club so that they might play a role in controlling its destiny. That is noble and right and with no reluctance at all I wish them well in the BuyRangers scheme that they’ve set up to, one day, take a controlling interest at Ibrox.
The fans should own significant amounts of their club. It’s the way forward, and Supporters Direct Scotland are a fine organisation who are dedicated to making fan ownership a reality here, and they’ve done sterling work at various football teams across the land already, advising supporters on how to go about things and what the long term goals should be.
So, in the main, I think there’s good stuff going on with them, although I find their tactics to be somewhat bewildering at times. That’s not my concern, but it does provide great copy for articles here and elsewhere, like a soap opera that never ends.
No, where they fall on their backside is their sniping and indulgence in hate, as it manifests itself in those press releases.
I make no bones about using that particular word. The spiteful, vindictive tone of much of what they release to the media is absolutely shocking, and not only in relation to Celtic. But it’s their statements on Celtic and Celtic fans which continue to drag into the gutter the sort of organisation that should be well above petty nonsense like that.
On 7 December, for example, they released a press statement on alleged misbehaviour by Celtic fans at Tynecastle, for reasons unknown to anyone but themselves. Their central allegation – that there had been some graffiti relating to the Ibrox Disaster – was unsupported by a shred of actual evidence, but that didn’t stop them making the claim.
There was a picture, which one irrelevant tabloid ran, of a single bathroom door with some writing on it, a picture which no-one ever confirmed was even taken inside the stadium … and that was it.
If the basis of their allegation had any grounding in truth it amounted to nothing more than a single act of vandalism by a single individual, said individual who no right thinking or decent person anywhere would support or stand up for.
The vast, vast, vast majority of Celtic fans abhor the very idea of mocking the dead of the Ibrox Disaster. Those were just ordinary working class guys like me, who died attending a football game. The kind of people who would sing songs about that don’t even qualify as human beings, and that view is shared by every single person I know.
On the very few occasions – and there have been perhaps three in my lifetime – that I’ve heard someone doing it … well, on two of those occasions it ended swiftly and in a manner the singer clearly didn’t expect and in the other someone had a quiet word in his ear and that silenced him as if his jaw had been clamped shut.
The point is … if it goes on at all, it is the half-witted action of someone too stupid or evil to realise that they’ve been wallowing in slime too long, and often with harsh reminders that the rest of the world doesn’t see things in such a warped way.
The RST statement could easily have said something to that effect, if they felt they had to comment on the issue at all. They could have written something that suggested they understand that this is not even a minority view, but a warped perspective from a fractional number on the far fringes of the species.
They didn’t bother with that. They chose to expand that single picture into a wide ranging attack on the whole of the Celtic support, and they took a shot at the club itself whilst they were at it.
The piece reeked not only with hysterical over-reaction but gave off the faintest whiff of glee that they finally had an issue on which they could launch a broadside in our direction.
Mock outrage always gets under my skin, but it is especially sickening when it seeks to appropriate the memories of the dead. It’s not the first time they’ve done that either, as previous statements over the poppy went out of the way to.
Like I said, these people fundamentally lack class.
Now, bear in mind what I keep on repeating; they are a shareholders organisation, with a very specific remit. It wasn’t their place, wasn’t their job, to grab a passing bandwagon and jump on board it. It wasn’t their responsibility to attack Celtic Football Club over an incident in which they were not involved, even peripherally.
They just did it, because the chance presented itself.
On 29 January, they released their now-infamous statement following the full-page ad which Celtic fans took out in the Sunday Herald. Their response to that was not surprising; indeed, they were fully entitled to respond to it.
The venom and the vitriol in their response went way beyond what was called for.
They started off by relaying their “amusement” at the ad, which, of course, was the kind of reaction any rational individual would have taken. Indeed, many of their supporters viewed it in just such a way, as a piece of self-indulgence which was more worthy of mockery than anger.
I thought – and I still think – the fans who did it were correct to do so, because it wasn’t so much directed at the Sevco fans as much as it was about the SFA and the SPFL’s pushing of the Survival Myth. It was also an effort to play down those who were hyping up the match as the “return of the Old Firm.” That’s significant, and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
It didn’t take long for the RST statement to descend into hysteria.
They started out by saying it proved that a “hard-core element” of the Celtic supporters was determined that their club “and by extension its fans, must cease to exist.”
Hard as that is for sane people to believe, an organisation representing shareholders in a company actually wrote that on its website.
It actually released to the press a statement which suggested that a section of our supporters harbour genocidal ambitions, to erase them from the face of the Earth.
Paranoia doesn’t get more acute than that.
The piece goes on to accuse Celtic bloggers of “stoking sectarian fires” and even named a few for good measure. It was a staggering attack not only on Celtic fans as a whole but a potentially slanderous one against named individuals, who the RST’s membership should be eternally grateful don’t have the lawyers on speed-dial.
No reputable shareholders organisation would have gone so far out on the limb as to court potential legal action in this way. What do the ordinary members think of such action, with its potential for dire consequences? I don’t know, because the vast bulk of their members are largely silenced by the voices of these other folk.
The piece went on to call for “all sane Celtic fans” to reject poisonous rhetoric. It’s just a shame no-one was on hand to calm down the author of that press release, and urge him to do the same because sanity was nowhere to be found in it.
In the aftermath of the game, they released a further statement attacking Celtic supporters, again using paranoid and dangerous language – accusing the Green Brigade of “dehumanising Rangers fans” – in what amounted to nothing more than a bigoted, ignorant rant.
Throughout both of those statements was the phrase “the Old Firm.”
It is the use of this phrase, this effort to link the two clubs, this effort to promote a rivalry which, for too long, was presented to the world as one built on mutual hate, that gives the spokesmen of the RST away, and hints at their actual motives for continuing to write articles about Celtic and its supporters.
The “Old Firm” is something almost all Celtic fans want no association with whatsoever. As far as the bulk of us are concerned, the goings on at Ibrox, amusing as they may be, and relevant to Scottish football as they certainly are, have no significance within Parkhead save for the impact they have on the way our game is governed and perceived outside of our borders.
For Sevco, much of its “business strategy” depends on a perception that they are part of something bigger than themselves, and what better thing to be part of than a rivalry with the biggest club in the land?
They are newcomers to Scottish football, and absolute strangers to the European game, with no reputation to speak of, even if you buy into the Survival Myth as many of them do.
Their absence from the bigger stage, and their acute need, if they are to grow, to get onto that stage, and the desperation that comes with believing they belong there but being unable to achieve that goal, is clearly a source of grief, and requires something to make them relevant again.
Accomplishing that via football is beyond their abilities and they know it, and the media knows it, and the governing bodies do too … which is why the “Old Firm” brand is being so aggressively promoted once more.
And what is the defining characteristic of that brand? Hate.
It is in their interests to stoke hate, to promote it, to associate themselves and their club with it. Otherwise, why would they bother? The Celtic fans released their full page ad in an effort to break away from that hate, to disavow it, at precisely the moment the RST spokesmen and others are trying to tie us back into it … and we want no part in it at all.
Hate is not a marketing strategy, whatever some people think.
The RST have made two further statements this month where they couldn’t help but drag us into their affairs. In the first they sarcastically “thanked” Celtic fans for the fiasco of a second EGM venue wanting nothing to do with them, and in the second they dragged us, for no reason whatsoever, into the on-going spat between Stan Collymore and their fans.
On the EGM, I found their statement hilarious and juvenile, but there was a deeper purpose behind it, which was to deflect attention from the actual facts of that particular case; the shocking behaviour of a section of their own supporters in relation to the ongoing crisis at their club.
I understand why they’d want to do this. Because otherwise it would scare the Hell out of anyone who harboured any notions of investing in this basket case institution.
That a lot of the Sevco supporters have tripped the sanity wire over the board is absolutely without dispute, and the media and certain major shareholders have been perfectly content to ferment this mood … but with things now threatening to spill out of control, these people, the RST spokesmen amongst them, have reached the belated conclusion that it does not help their position.
So they try to blame Celtic fans in some way, and it’s pathetic.
The Collymore press release is far worse, and goes much further than is right, or even rational, for a shareholders organisation. Rather than confront Collymore on the basis of his perfectly valid, perfectly fair, comments, they’ve indulged in an astonishing – and wholly fantastical and inaccurate – attack on our fans, which, once more, veers into paranoia.
I’m not here to engage in whatabouttery, but again it seems clear to me that this is an attempt at deflection.
It is not for me to lecture the Rangers Supporters Trust, which is made up of some fine, and upstanding, people who only want what is best for their club, on who they should have writing their press releases and speaking to the media. That is wholly their business, but they ought to know that they will increasingly be judged on the basis of these statements, and it’s a matter of time before one of them goes way too far and this organisation finds itself in the unenivable position of having to defend itself in court.
If they’re content with that then fair play to them and let them reap what they sow.
My job is to write what I see, and say what I think.
And you know what I think of this?
These spokesmen seem increasingly obsessed by Celtic.
In normal circumstances, that would make them objects of pity, people labouring under their own inferiority complex, unable to cope with the crushing weight of failure that haunts them every day. For fans of a club circling the drain to be so focussed, so fixated, on what’s going on elsewhere … well, I’d think they’d have more important things to worry about.
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