The Suckers

Shutterstock-photo-of-mosquito-sucking-blood-615x345Aside from running this blog, I also run a music magazine. I love music, it’s one of the great, calming, soothing influences on me. When I feel bad it’s music that lifts me up. Good occasions are marked out in tunes, to heighten the experience.

Way back when there was a club called Rangers playing in the SPL and they came up against Celtic, my routine, where I was watching it, would be to spend the ten minutes prior to kick-off, and indeed a chunk of the half time break, with my IPod on, switched off from the game itself, to relax me before it got underway. I don’t yet know if watching my team play Sevco Rangers will have the same buzz, or necessitate the same wee tradition.

We’ll have to see, if they manage to claw their way through the divisions.

Some of their supporters, in the meantime, are in a league of their own. The reason I mention music is that there are some song lyrics currently dancing around in my head, as good lyrics and a catchy tune tends to do. It’s the Snow Patrol song “Hands Open.”

“It’s hard to argue when you don’t stop making sense,” say the first two lines. The next two are even better, reading “My tongue still misbehaves and it keeps digging my own grave …”

If only the first were true. Arguing with some of the Sevco Rangers support is increasingly frustrating because as much as they do keep on digging their own arguments deeper and deeper into the hole, they do keep it up, and show no sign of embracing reality.

I find them remarkable. A small section of their support is obsessing over land deals and bank loans at Celtic, whilst their own club rots from the inside. They call out Celtic fans for scrutinising the goings on at Ibrox when we should be focussed on our own club, perhaps missing the point that we’re in a position of such supremacy that the occasional diversion does no-one any harm at all. We have time, and circumstances, on our side. In rude health, and sitting atop the Scottish professional game, well run and in no need of crisis meetings (or crisis loans haha), we are, by comparison, staid, conservative and boring compared to what’s happening across town.

That affords us the luxury of being able to indulge in a wee bit of nose poking. It lets us get on with taking in the bigger picture, whilst our club essentially runs itself.

I have to single Chris Graham out for special treatment here, the self-appointed fans spokesman, a guy who preens and struts for the cameras even as he imparts ignorance dressed up as wisdom to a support that’s already heard enough of that. Today, as I was writing this, he was posting a piece on The Copeland Road site, a hard-hitting investigative piece nonetheless, the result of some actual, honest to God research, for which I suppose we should commend him.

Thing is, the piece is about whether the journalist Graham Speirs buys Twitter followers. I kid you not. His club is bleeding from every orifice, and this guy is burying himself in irrelevancies like this, playing wee games of “slander the hack”, as though the hacks in our country were actually in need of such humiliation, when they routinely write the kind of guff that pours it on them by the bucket load, and all without any help from the bloggers.

Graham is one of those widely promoting this “state aid” nonsense that’s doing the rounds, this allegation that Celtic are the recipients of government assistance by virtue of cheap land deals and loans on rock bottom terms. This conspiracy story is up there with the barmiest of the Kennedy assassination theories. For it to have any validity, this far-reaching mendacity would have to encompass corruption at two councils, the Greater Glasgow Health Board, the Scottish government, the Treasury, it would have to involve politicians from the Lib Dems, Labour, the Scottish National Party and even the odd Tory, like Lord Iain Livingstone, who sits on the Celtic board.

These professional haters would have had to lay all the angst aside, to “leave politics outside the door”, get around a table and conspire to help their favourite football team. And they’d have had to keep that help a secret, for years, until nosy members of the public, looking for proof that Celtic is the most corrupt organisation on Planet Earth (except for The Vatican, let’s not forget The Vatican in all this, the old Unseen Fenian Hand) dug it all up.

It is beyond barmy, and it’s a theory based on either a fundamental misunderstanding, or just a complete misrepresenting, of land valuation charts. The co-conspirators, civic organisations, government departments, registered charities and even a bank, would need to be filled with people perfectly willing to squander public funds, risk their careers and screw their own stakeholders based on … a love of Celtic Football Club.

God, if wishing made it so … Top club in Scotland? Right now, we’d be reigning supreme in the EPL, with a budget that would make a US Air Force General blanch.

These are the things Sevco Rangers choose to concern themselves with, even as their own club rots from the inside, and is asset stripped like a two bob company that’s been bought in a fire-sale. I find it almost unbelievable that the people who accuse Celtic fans of being “obsessed” by their club can be so disengaged about the same subject. Where is the organised movement to reform their ailing institution? Where is the groundswell behind one course of action or another? Is there a plan? Is there even the beginning of one?

Some Celtic fans have called them “suckers”. But the real suckers are the ones sucking the life from them, even as their attention is focussed elsewhere.

Ally McCoist has been in the news a lot this week, supporting the players over their refusal to take 15% pay cuts. It’s not surprising that he’s behind them, as the paperwork on his own drop in salary is presently unsigned, even as he’s calling for members of the board to hand back their own Fortune 500 earnings and bonuses.

I hear a lot of talk about Sevco Rangers being the victims (yes, victims, again) of mismanagement, and this is where I have to laugh longest and loudest of all, because the very idea that Sevco Rangers has actually been mismanaged is ludicrous.

Sevco Rangers is not being mismanaged at all.

It is actually being managed properly, and competently, and everything that has happened and is happening was planned in advance. This isn’t a company being run into the ground because the people in charge have lost their bearings. Sevco Rangers is being run precisely as its “saviours” intended. The big bonuses, the siphoning away of vast sums of money, the leeching of its financial lifeblood … this is not an accident, but was inherent in the design. This is a company being run for the benefit of its owners, and stakeholders, and the people at the top. This is business as usual.

Understand this, this thing above all. These people put down their money when what once was Rangers Football Club Ltd went the way of the dodo bird. They picked up the pieces, they put them back together and they got it up and running again. These people were not dyed in the wool Rangers men, or with any interest at all in Scottish football … so I’m moved to wonder just why the supporters thought they resurrected a dead company in the first place? Altruistic motives? Come on, people, get real.

These are business men, and over the stench of the pure manure being slapped on top of what they were doing by a media which never learns these people had their noses open for the distinct smell of money.

They saw 40,000 unquestioning fans who wanted to believe their club was still alive. They saw a media which wanted to push that line. They saw footballing authorities scared to death of “life without Rangers” and they knew if they said the right things and did the right things that they would get their licenses, their season ticket money, their share issue and that there would be plenty of cash to spread around. Think of these men as sharks, patrolling the seas, following the faint trace of blood in the water. They’ve never had easier pickings.

This is what these people do for a living. They don’t have the best interests of Rangers at heart, and they never did, something many of us here in the blogosphere have been trying to tell you time and time and time again. This was never about “the great adventure” or the restoration of a club calling itself Rangers and playing out of Ibrox.

In case it’s not yet clear to some people … this was, and remains, about money and nothing more, and the idea they should, or will, give back what they’ve laboured for the last two years to earn is as much a fantasy as the notion that professional footballers should voluntarily give back 15% on their own contracts. Why should they? Why should any of them?

They don’t see Sevco Rangers as a football club at all, you see. They see it as nothing more than their own private cash machine, and they bought it for that very reason. It may not be palatable, it may not be exactly ethical, but none of this is illegal, and these people are under no obligation either to stop or to pay back what they’ve taken out.

Much has been made of the “salaries” being paid at Ibrox, some £17 million plus, of which “only” £7 million is being spent on the playing squad. It means, simply, that £10 million is going out the door in other areas, an amazing sum of money when you stop to think about it. Where’s that money going? Well, directors salaries combined, believe it or not, barely equal Ally McCoist’s salary of nearly £900,000, which he’s still drawing despite repeated assurances that he’ll stop.

Where’s the rest of the cash going? There are less than 130 people employed at Ibrox, so for that sum of money to be going out, every single one of them – from the cleaners to the guys who cut the grass – would need to be on a mind blowing wage.

Yet there are ways in which it could be done. Legal ways, if you are the guy writing the cheques and sending out the bills. Hell, if you have the ultimate power to do it, and the sanction of the board of directors, there are a million ways you could bleed a company of every last bean, and all of it legal and above board. Want your brother running the Department of Cleaning Boots at £160,000 per annum? Hell, create the post and get him in. Want to put your wife in charge of the secretarial pool, with her own corner office and a £75,000 salary? Done.

“Stadium repairs need made? I know just the guy. Only £25,000 for a call out fee, and in the interests of full disclosure, I’m a minor shareholder in his company, and they’ve got me on commission. That’s okay with you all? Great. There’s the invoice.”

As long as you and the other major shareholders and directors are all in this together, and as long as you can demonstrate, to the forensic accountants, that you got “value for money”, i.e. that you required a service, that job is being done and someone is being paid to do it, then it doesn’t matter if you paid your next door neighbour £26,000 to paint your office. There’s nothing illegal about any of it. This is how it’s done, all over the world, every day of the week.

It helps, of course, to have a PR machine running alongside your activities. When you are a major institution this should be a lot harder to do, because there’s public scrutiny, there are people watching all the time. This kind of legal daylight robbery should be virtually impossible for a company with the profile Sevco Rangers has.

Thankfully, for the blood suckers, the disinfectant of sunlight is not an issue here. Because aside from the paying customers, who’s chief voices are more interested in the twitter followings of hacks and phantom scandals at other clubs, these professional leeches are dealing with a media which is hand fed, ignorant and lazy, if not outright corrupt and in this up to their eyes.

(That’s not an accusation. It’s an observation.)

Let’s take just one example, that of Graham Wallace, the latest in a long line of men the media here has fallen in love with and trusts to “get the job done.” We’ve seen the pattern over and over again here. There should be no room for doubt with this guy. His track record should be exposed, for everyone to see, in the interests of full transparency. Right? Wrong.

Graham Wallace is being hailed as a genius, as a man with a “cast iron reputation”, as a man who is capable of turning the Good Ship Sevco around on his own. The media is urging the fans to keep the faith, to trust in this man, pointing to his “unimpeachable record” and his “experience in football”, as if these things are iron clad, going back years.

Yet who is Graham Wallace? Well, prior to working for Sevco Rangers, Wallace cut his teeth at Manchester City, where he worked for four years. His “experience in football” prior to this, in real terms, is precisely zero. He worked for a media company before going to City, a sports media company, yes, but he was not involved, in any way, with football operations at any level which would qualify him for the job he presently holds.

So his entire footballing experience amounts to his time at the Etihad Stadium.

And what was his “unimpeachable record” whilst at Manchester City? What did he bring to the table? What was his job there, and what kind of period did he oversee?

Well, from March 2009 – October 2010, he was Chief Finance Officer at City, before taking on the role as Chief Operating Officer, which he held until January 2013, when he left.

And what was his record like during that time? Well … in the 2010/11 season, the “Chief Operating Officer” had to face the City shareholders to announce losses of £194 million. The following year, their operating losses were a mere £104 million.

Now, Wallace can’t be held accountable for those losses. In his job, after all, he was subservient to Chief Executive’s Gary Cook and then Fernando Soriano, who, ultimately, were the big decision makers. Yet, that actually sort of proves my point.

Wallace has no experience at all as the CEO of a football club. He worked at a lower level at City, a club where the vast annual losses were swallowed up by sugar daddy owners par excellance, the kind of men who can carry losses in the hundreds of millions as a vanity project. Wallace has never been on the sharp end at a loss making company, far less a loss making football club, and those can swallow cash like few other endeavours.

People have pointed to his smarts, and I bow to them on that. You have to be smart to go from low-level experience as little more than an administrator at a debt weaving behemoth like Manchester City to the Chief Executive’s job at Sevco Rangers … with a cost cutting mandate.

One journalist said, live on the air not a week ago, that if he can bring the level of success to his role at Ibrox that he brought to Man City the Rangers fans would be well pleased. I beg to differ. Because if he carries out his role to the same “standard” not only Sevco Rangers, but Sevco Rangers II, III, IV and V will die a thousand deaths before we ever see them in Scotland’s top flight.

With no experience at all as a “cost cutter”, in his first CEO post at a professional club, his salary at Ibrox, whatever it is, must seem like the best offer he’s ever going to get in his career.

And the fact is … none of this is a secret. Far from it. It’s all out there, for anyone who wants to take a close look at the man and his CV. It doesn’t even require reading between the lines, which our press is pretty hopeless at. No, this is much simpler. Look at the first thing he’s done since walking in the door. What was it?

He hired a guy to tell him how to cut costs. He’s spent money the club doesn’t have, to tell him how best to save them money.

With his great CV, with his “wide ranging business experience” you’d think he’d already have some grasp on the intricacies of using a calculator. Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of business is capable of working out that to change losses into profits you need to cut costs and increase turnover. The second part is harder than the first … and he needs help with the first.

So who hired Graham Wallace? Who knows? Who cares?

None of this seems to matter to Sevco Rangers fans or our intrepid sporting media. They are going along with the idea that this guy is the one who’ll turn it around, who will root around in the petty cash box and find the missing beanstalk beans.

In the meantime, the support lets its attention drift in other directions and the money continues to seep through the cracks. And they call us “obsessed.”

If they paid half as much attention as we do, it’s tempting to think they wouldn’t be in such a god-awful mess as this. Instead, they focus on other things, they cross their fingers, and they hope for a miracle.

As the boys from Snow Patrol say though:

“It’s not as easy as willing it all to be right ….”

Bad times are just around the corner. Again. It’s not like they weren’t warned in advance ….

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

5 thoughts on “The Suckers

  • 20 January, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Excellent post once again. Thank you.

  • 20 January, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Magnificent post once again!

  • 20 January, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Brilliant straight to the point blog, we have and could carry on until we are GREEN in the face keep telling the Sevco lemmings about exactly what is happening at there new club and what the future holds but its to late, far far to late, when you live through ignorance and denial then when reality comes a knocking then its always going tae end in tears, and not ones of laughter, there saved for timmy and his bampot fenian friends.. hail hail, TIK TOK TIK TOK

  • 20 January, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Crackin’ read as usual James. As you rightly say, the truth is out there (hidden in plain sight). Yet the Sevco/Rangers support blindly refuse to see it. Good on them for that, it keeps us entertained. Long may it continue.

  • 20 January, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Good post bud,well said as usual.
    BTW,sorry I can’t help you out with Snow Patrol but here’s a wee website you’ll enjoy.
    Its been up n running for a good few years and has over 67k of ‘live’ gigs,cheers.

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