The cameras were rolling as he spoke, and a thousand TV comedians were grateful for that fact, because they’ve been playing (and mocking) a moment in that press conference ever since, although it was a linguistic and grammatical masterpiece, simplifying a very complicated situation in a single sound-bite, one that has lasted the test of time.
“As we know, there are known knowns,” he said. “There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
For all we know about the plans of Dave King, that could have been written in any of today’s newspapers. It wasn’t, as you hardly need me to say. Instead, those who were daft enough to buy one of the dailies this morning were treated to page upon page upon page of PR fluff, all of it pretending that there are no unknowns at all.
If all this looks vaguely familiar that’s because it is. We were here with Craig Whyte. We were here with Charles Green. We read page after page of sycophantic trash when Graham Wallace joined the Sevco board, when Adam Early was brought in to play a role, when first Walter and then Malcolm Murray were brought in as chairmen.
They, too, were “Real Rangers men”, like those the fans have clamoured for.
The circus really is in town, now friends, and the press is going along with the show, blowing up the balloons and preparing for a party. Jelly and ice cream might not be on the menu, but the main course is lavish helpings of the most succulent lamb.
Here’s the thing; so far, no-one’s been able to tell me exactly what they are celebrating.
I know what they think they are celebrating, but with the benefit of distance, and detachment, I am just not seeing it.
Perhaps it’s so obvious that I can’t see the woods for the trees.
And perhaps it’s because it’s not there.
For three years now, Dave King has been hovering on the fringes, making trouble and throwing up roadblocks to everything successive Sevco boards have tried to do. Every time he’s stuck his head up or poked his nose in, people have asked – the bloggers, not the media – “what’s the plan”?
Now he’s taken over without once having answered that simplest question of all, and the hacks, and the Sevco fans, appear perfectly content with that.
Like they learned nothing at all.
Now, I expect this from their supporters to a certain extent. The Peepil never did get used to being the followers of a lower tier team, and they certainly have no wish to see that team attempt to live within its means if that requires being on the losing side.
They are practically foaming at the mouth at the moment, the desired effect of a long term campaign to convince them that they are, somehow, victims here … that theirs is the most ill-treated football club in the world.
Yes, I expect it from them. And I expect it from the media too, and the governing bodies with them. Most of the hacks are desperate frauds who would literally die cold and hungry if they had to rely on their wits and their skills in any other field.
There are a handful who can see clearly and speak freely, and it is no coincidence that those who have been the most vocal about the Ibrox scandal are those who have no allegiance to the club, the genuine supporters of other teams, who feel no need to gild the lily; Richard Gordon, an Aberdeen fan. Jim Spence, a Dundee Utd fan. Tam Cowan, a Motherwell fan. Stuart Cosgrove, a St. Johnstone supporter.
Of the rest there are a number, very small in size, who were genuine and honest and could be trusted to give a fearless accounting on the issues.
One of them used to be Graham Spiers, who, with respect to the others I’ve named, is a writer in a different league and was once a real crusader on Rangers issues … in no small part because he grew up following them and knew that a certain element of the support, not to mention the club’s spendthrift ways, was endangering their future.
That seems to be over now, as he positions himself in the feed line with the rest.
Perhaps Spiers has become too close to the story. He has spoken with genuine warmth about the hapless and arrogant Paul Murray, who he apparently considers a friend.
If not for that, I am honestly baffled as to why he thinks this guy is anything other than a joker who’s bluffed his way to a boardroom chair having contributed virtually nothing to the endeavour. Scottish football writers do themselves no favours in the incestuous nature of the relationships they build.
As such, he too has become a cheerleader for the corruption at the heart of the Scottish game, the corruption that wafts out of Ibrox like a bad smell and will, in no way, be rooted out by the media’s embrace of a convicted tax cheat just because he talks about bringing the Rangers “glory days” to the Ibrox Newco.
I cannot overstate how much genuine regret I have reading his recent stuff, in particular the blurb of his latest piece, where he predicts that the SFA will “do some light airbrushing and waive King through.”
And why? Because “The Rangers fans want him … the media wants him …”
The Roman’s had a saying for this; corruptio optimi pessima.
The corruption of the best is the worst.
Spiers will argue day and night that all he’s doing is stating a personal opinion. But the nicest thing I can say about that argument is that it’s disingenuous at best.
“The media wants him …”?
Unless Spiers quit his job before pressing Send on that piece, he’s part of that media and to use that phrase and then hide behind weasel words, saying, as he did last week, that if the SFA does waive King through without a thought that he should be allowed to get on with things because “Rangers have suffered enough” … it’s inconscionable.
What reeks about it is that a harsher reading of those comments could suggest they are part of a concerted campaign to present King’s “coronation” as a fait accompli, as something that the SFA has no choice in at all.
Spiers knows most of his media colleagues will raise nine kinds of Hell if the tax cheat is treated like anyone else … and so I think putting the media’s wants and wishes into this argument suggests, to me, a form of not-too-subtle intimidation.
Let’s be generous and say that’s not intentional. But he is a smart guy, and if, in hindsight, he looks back and genuinely can’t see how that impression can be formed, and how it stinks to high heaven, I would suggest he books a neurological exam post haste.
Once again the integrity of our national sport hangs by a thread because certain people cannot get behind the concept of the team playing out of Ibrox being treated like any other would be.
It means that the whole game here is rigged, that the rules only exist for certain clubs, that everyone who invests in Scottish football or attends a match, thinking they are enjoying an even, straightforward contest is, essentially, a mug.
Level playing field? What does that look like?
The “level playing field” is Livingston being deducted five points for non-payment of taxes whilst a guy with enough offences in the same area to have bought him 80 odd years breaking rocks on Robben Island can waltz into a boardroom whilst Regan, Doncaster, Ogilvie, Lawwell and others can barely raise enough protest to constitute a fart.
It infuriates you to think of it, doesn’t it? When do we see real changes?
Where, for example, is the financial fair play framework Scottish football’s loyal fans deserve?
These are the regulations that would actually help Sevco recover, by stopping in their tracks the insanity of people talking about spending tens of millions they don’t even have yet on “reaching second place and then challenging Celtic”?
It’s been mooted enough times … so what happened?
King’s comments about delisting from AIM should have terrified Sevco fans and media hacks alike, as they are a reversal of his stated intentions. It’s curtains up, too, and drawn over the issue which he made such a song and dance about in the papers; openness and transparency.
See, removing the club from AIM does away with a lot of pesky disclosure regulations which he clearly has no time for or interest in.
This was his first press conference, and he was basically dumping two of the central planks on which he “swept to power” in the first place.
Shameful, and scary if you are someone who believed him and bought into this only to have the rug pulled from under your feet on day one.
Not a single hack raised questions about it, how the “glib and shameless liar” had glibly, and shamelessly, abandoned those priorities the moment he had what he wanted.
That, too, is shameful.
It does the Sevco fans, and the game, a monumental disservice.
So once again, the bloggers have to take up the slack, writing the truth about what’s going on at Ibrox – and what the governing bodies appear ready to let happen.
Why do we do it?
I’ve been asked that question a hundred times, and many of those who ask don’t believe the answer when I tell them.
We, more than the press, think that real scrutiny should be afforded everyone who wants to play a major role in our national sport. It’s as simple as that … and I stopped caring a long time ago about who believes it and who thinks I’m just a “Rangers hater” with too much time on his hands.
This isn’t about them, and it’s not really about King either when all’s said and done.
It’s about governing bodies who have forfeited any mandate they once had and I don’t care what their motivation is for the corrupt decisions they make. I am uninterested in whether they are cowards, bigots, hopelessly biased or men simply lacking in imagination or in over their heads and without a clue. I stopped caring about causes long ago too.
Only solutions matter now.
The fans need to start putting pressure on the clubs to get these people out.
It’s also about a hack pack that pushes agendas, lies to fans, bullies clubs, corrupts the decision making processes and has, for too long, been out of control and out of touch, whilst still wielding a lot of power. For the moment.
That, too, has to change but citizen journalism will take care of that.
So what are the “known knowns”? What do we know we definitely know we know?
We know this a debt making company without a bank overdraft or a line of credit. We know 12 of its players are out of contract at the end of the season and the whole team needs rebuilt. We know that there are onerous contracts, we know Mike Ashley has some of them and we know that if it comes to a fight he can put the fat end of £3 billion behind his punches.
He probably spends enough on outside legal every year to turn Sevco into the Champions of Europe, and considers it no more than a cost of doing business.
Of all the people to pick a fight with, guys … and for King to make it personal? What is he thinking?
God forbid Ashely ever makes it personal.
King, and the club with him, will feel like they were hit by a hammer from the Heavens.
We know the supporters are enormously ungrateful and have no patience at all with talk of not challenging Celtic for years. They are already hollering like asylum inmates at dinner time, reeling out the first demand before King has even unpacked his pencils; we want a manager, and we want one now.
A “Real Rangers” man, of course.
We know the stadium is a wreck. We know there’s no scouting system.
We know there’s no real coaching team. We know those things all eat money like Ally in a Greggs.
We know all this, and more besides. These are the known knowns.
What are the unknown knows, which is to say the things we know that we don’t know?
Well we don’t know the actual cost of putting all of the above to rights. But it’ll be high.
We don’t know how much King actually knows, or guesses, about the size of the black hole which is now his to fill, but he’s very likely to be miles out and in for the biggest shock since David Laws walked into the Treasury office vacated by his predecessor Liam Byrne and found a note saying “’I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.”
We don’t know where King will get the capital. We don’t know who the secretive “business men with an affection for Rangers” are, and neither do the fans who were promised an end to all this “they want to stay at arms-length and protect their anonymity” cobblers.
We don’t know how many players from the current squad will get their contracts renewed or whether Ally and his backroom team will settle and go quietly, or if they’ll hang in there sucking out sustenance like a tick in a pair of pyjamas.
We don’t know who Ashley will nominate to sit on the board, or what he’ll do if he thinks he’s being thwarted.
We don’t know whether the issue of who owns Ibrox has been broached.
We don’t know what King might find out when he finally looks into this, the blackest book of all.
We know we don’t know these things, and a lot of other things besides.
Which brings us to the unknown unknowns, the things we don’t even know we don’t know, those great intangibles, the secrets still buried, the contracts, the clauses, the debts falling due, hurricanes brewing just over the horizon …
We know there are things we don’t know about yet, things we haven’t even guessed at, things that could roll up the Asbestos Staircase and wash it all away. We know this because at Ibrox there always are, and every now and again there’s a blink on the horizon that is the faraway flash of a nuclear firestorm … presaging one closer to home.
We know there’s trouble coming here, but we don’t know the form it will take, or the direction it will come from, or the damage it will do.
That should be keeping Sevco fans up way past bed time.
But it won’t. We know that too, because it never has before.
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