Let me be clear, in case it isn’t already. I find the vast majority of our sporting press to be hypocritical beyond belief, and almost uniformly useless.
They have elevated PR spin and the shilling of bullshit to a High Art. They cannot be trusted, and they cannot be relied upon to do their jobs to what most of us would agree was an appropriate standard.
The irony of this, of course, is that it’s this site and others that have stepped into the breach, going boldly where they won’t, saying the things they are too afraid or too compromised to say. If it wasn’t for their shocking performances, sites like this would not exist.
There would be no need for us.
They’ve been especially infuriating and inconsistent in the last few days, but on the Aleksandar Tonev situation and the crisis howling out of Ibrox they have shown their hand, as if we were ever in any doubt about what it held.
Tom English, Roddy Forsyth, Craig Swan and others have united in a common cause; to smear Celtic, whilst the Ibrox NewCo circles the drain.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out how the two are linked.
Before I start, there’s something I should point out.
On the day the allegations against Aleksandar Tonev surfaced, I told some friends, and I wrote on this site, that on the balance of things – Logan’s reaction, the fact he informed his captain and his manager right away – I thought something had probably been said that he didn’t like. Was it racist? I thought that he had reacted so angrily that – on balance – it probably was.
I made it clear that this was a personal opinion, and that if I had to render judgement on this guy I would not be able to vote him guilty just because of a gut feeling.
I – mistakenly as it turned out – assumed the burden of proof was still weighted in favour of the accused, as it should be. The accusation is far too serious to be decided on the “balance of probabilities.”
When Celtic decided to mount the strongest possible defence of the player, I began to suspect that Logan had misheard something, and my view on the whole situation flipped over. The balance of probabilities, as I saw them, had changed to one where I was willing to give the player the benefit of the doubt … not just benefit of a reasonable doubt.
I thought then, and now, that Logan deserved enormous sympathy … but that Tonev deserved the presumption of innocence.
Throughout all of this, Celtic’s position has been resolute, no matter what the media line is, no matter what Derek McInnes says. He is criticising our club for doing simply what he’s done; standing up for someone who presently plays under our roof.
Where there is still considerable doubt – and two tribunal verdicts later there is not a soul in Scottish football who can actually question the assertion that this doubt remains – Celtic has a duty of care to those within our club, to protect them from allegations such as this.
Duty of care. Is that clear enough for the hacks to understand?
This is a highly complex situation, one which inspires emotion and anger in a lot of people, and understandably so. I have long argued that the game has not done anywhere near enough to tackle racism.
Where the evidence is clear cut bans should range beyond the horizon.
Where fans chant racist slogans teams should walk off the pitch and the clubs or national associations whose supporters behave like animals should be deducted points and fined heavily.
When it comes to this issue I do not equivocate, and I say this quite deliberately because it stands in stark contrast to the likes of English and Forsyth and others who, for years, were perfectly happy maintaining silence as the most appalling racism and bigotry poured from stands all over Scotland, much of it, but not all, emanating weekly from Ibrox.
For long enough they said nothing at all about sectarian singing, or about the scandalous anti-Irish racism meted out to Neil Lennon, to Aiden McGeady, to James McCarthy and to others. Some of them even tried their hand at blaming the victims.
I am not about to take morality lessons from these people, and neither should my club.
Celtic has been steadfast in protection of one of its employees, who they have questioned extensively and believe in. Full stop.
How that harms our reputation, I don’t know, because I don’t think it does, except here in Scotland, in the press boxes, where many of the inhabitants will find any excuse to write a negative story about Parkhead, all the better to divert attention from their shameful lack of proper scrutiny and critique of events elsewhere.
Comparisons with the Luis Suarez case – which one campaigner made, and which the Scottish press, without an original idea amongst them, have jumped on – are ludicrous.
Liverpool were backing a player with a long list of offences, for a start. Where is the corresponding incident in Tonev’s career? Answer; there isn’t one. It doesn’t exist. This guy came to Scotland with a clean record, having played in three different countries before arriving here, and doubtless alongside and against players of every nationality, colour and creed.
Furthermore, Suarez was a guy who didn’t simply represent Liverpool’s best hope for winning a league title but he was a multi-million pound asset they were never going to throw on the scrapheap, no matter what the circumstances.
Celtic, on the other hand, has nothing to gain from standing by their man, and indeed much to lose.
Yet we’ve done it regardless and if the media fails to see the courage, and moral standing, which is inherent in that position I can’t explain it to them. Tonev isn’t even our player. He’s a loanee who has played a handful of games, and not exactly impressed on a grand scale. It would have cost us nothing to let him go back to Villa, and we could have washed our hands of this whole affair.
We haven’t. We have stuck it out, knowing we’d take flak for it.
I understand why the media don’t get this, why they don’t understand that in its way Celtic’s is a moral and courageous stance. They don’t know the meaning of those words, having never shown an ounce of either courage or morality.
English and Forsyth have been particularly shocking, in the way they’ve sought to conflate Celtic’s position with that of the Sevco board in terms of their fights with the SFA.
Celtic is standing up for a player they believe has been wrongly accused of something and the actions of our club are neither selfish nor particularly unique. Sevco, on the other hand, is pissing all over the rule book again, and trying to sweep under the carpet past assurances they’ve given about paying what they owe to the football authorities.
One side is trying to make sure justice is properly served. The other side is trying to dodge justice entirely, and make a mockery of the laws of the game.
One of those sides is being criticised for its stance. As regards the other? One or two probing articles aside, the deafening silence we’ve come to expect.
English says Celtic are behaving like “a law unto themselves.” For standing by their man. For keeping the faith with him. This wasn’t a fight we chose. It was one we were compelled to join.
Yet where is his criticism of a Sevco board which lied about Dundee Utd in the Charlie Telfer case, obfuscates and distorts reality on the issue of Mike Ashley and which flat out refuses to pay its bills in the case of the EBT fine?
He, Forsyth, Swan and others are part of the media which has called for rules to be set aside or warped entirely to get a club called Rangers back in the top flight. What does that do for reputations?
This is the media that, last week, was publishing gob-smacking PR cobblers about Ally offering his resignation out of his affection for all the “ordinary people” who were paying the price for Sevco’s long overdue austerity drive.
In the week since that story broke, though, we’ve found out that McCoist sanctioned unbelievable salaries for third rate footballers, some of which the club continues to pay. He’s also going nowhere until he gets his money – money that could have kept dozens of people employed at Ibrox way into the future.
In fact, perversely, at the very moment McCoist’s acolytes were briefing their media pals about the altruistic motives behind his “resignation” he was getting a pay bump which almost doubled his already over-inflated salary.
Where is the condemnation of this? Where is the scrutiny into Ally’s moral standing?
It’s nowhere at all. He has too many mates amongst the hacks for that.
Aleksandar Tonev, on the other hand, is just a Johnny Foreigner who won’t be in Scotland much longer. He has forged no relationships with the press. He has not worked the room or met the “opinion makers”. He’s not shoved a few hours wages behind the bar to get them all pissed or turned up at their kids birthday parties with an armful of presents.
He has no friends here. He’s an easy target.
Hitting him, and Celtic, offers a nice diversion for the hacks. It lets them appear crusading, and relevant, whilst the ash cloud spews up from Ibrox. They’ve sat on their hands so long over that one, it’s a wonder they can still use their keyboards.
There are people, of course, who are hurting Scottish football, who are doing it immense reputational damage. But the hacks sit beside them at certain football grounds, or they control the level of access the journalists get, so they are off limits.
The media itself has done our game no favours.
When they get their own house in order, I’ll take them seriously when they criticise mine.
Until then they have no credibility at all.
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