The Herald Sacks Angela Haggerty As Journalistic Freedom Hangs By A Thread

Angela Haggerty 1 SAToday, as the bulk of Scotland’s journalists keep a low profile and say nothing in support of Graham Spiers, a second columnist at the Herald has been carpeted after pressure from Sevco.

This time it’s Angela Haggerty, and this time the paper didn’t stop with embarrassing her.

In fact, they sacked her.

To call this a crisis for the profession is an understatement. Its entire reason for being is hanging by a thread. No-one working within its ranks is safe today if they collectively allow this to happen, without comment, without criticism, standing idly by as they currently do.

One organisation – and it’s a skint West of Scotland football club; we’re not talking about a multi-billion pound transnational corporate behemoth with unlimited funds and a legal department that would make Coca Cola’s CEO piss his pants – has decided it will not tolerate any negative press, at all, and it is now set on threatening any media outlet which doesn’t play ball.

And most of Scotland’s press has fallen shamefully silent.

I have never had less respect for them than I do today. I have never felt this much contempt for those who work within its ranks.

They are cowards almost to a man.

The rare exceptions are hung out to dry and made twist in the wind for the amusement of a mob.

There’s no excuse for it.

If their business is really all about money – and commercial considerations appear to be high on the list of factors in what The Herald has done – then they’re essentially putting a price tag on their integrity.

And in this case, that appears to be around £40,000.

So an entire generation of real journalists, of writers of conviction, decades of breaking big stories and a proud history of bringing truth to power, it’s all been flogged off and betrayed, for less than the half the price of a one bedroom flat in the drug addict part of town.

What price a free press in Scotland, eah?

In England, Peter Oborne resigned last year from The Telegraph, after he said their entire coverage of the banking industry and the politics surrounding it had been slanted by the advertising fees paid by organisations like HSBC, who were under investigation for multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and other offences … none of which his paper wanted to write about.

This is where we are now in Scotland, it seems, only a smaller scale.

A much smaller one.

An embarrassingly small one.

There’s no such thing as a free press; now you, too, can buy it for the price of a family car.

For some at these papers, the stench must be overwhelming.

Oborne wasn’t a man working alone, as Graham Spiers isn’t. Yet Angela was the first mainstream journalist working in the media here in Scotland to stand up for him, and based on what’s just happened to her certain people will be calculating that she’s going to be the last.

She better not be.

Everyone who can hold a pen should be behind her.

You know, when the Charlie Hebdo attacks murdered so many of that publication’s journalists in Paris, it brought forth a wave of support for journalist freedom that filled me with enormous pride.

I now realise how phony that all was, because it’s easy to express support for the dead when you’re not personally in the gun-sights. It’s easy to take a stand, or to look like you’re taking a stand, when you’re not being put under pressure. What we saw wasn’t courage; it was calculation. An entire industry lathered itself up in self congratulation for its “courage”, and all the while it buried child abuse allegations, government scandals, allowed criminals to escape justice and corrupt corporations to escape scrutiny … out of fear.

Fear of less than a bullet.

Fear of losing a few quid.

Here in Scotland journalists fold the hand because they get some abuse on Twitter. Editors refuse to let plainly true stories run because the Blue KKK might organise a dozen or so unemployed yobs to protest outside on a Monday morning. And God knows how much gets buried because advertisers issue veiled threats about pulling their copy.

Can you imagine these people ever doing anything so serious as to warrant the attention of real fanatics, and not just the Saturday afternoon variety?

No, me neither.

A collection of cowards, that’s what we have instead of a press.

The only people with guts in all this are the Bampots, of whom Angela is a shining example.

She’ll continue to write the truth, no matter what it costs her, because she gets it. She understands. She takes the job seriously and she knows that, in the end, she herself is a cog in a big wheel and her voice is important, and maintaining it through this kind of shit is what will keep the nature of what she does going long after those who sold it out are dead and gone.

Those of us in the blogosphere don’t do it for huge rewards.

I work for limited advertising and donations, and entirely without regrets.

The bills get paid (most of the time) but I’m not driving a sports car.

I have a media degree and could have pursued a career in the press, but I never wanted it.

On a day like today I’m glad of that.

Because I couldn’t do as Graham Spiers may have to.

I couldn’t go into the offices of an organisation that just shafted me.

I couldn’t call myself a journalist and have my livelihood dependent on the whims of the advertising department.

And that’s not a criticism of Graham. I’ve read his work, and I know he has balls. I also understand where he is right now. The guy probably has a mortgage to pay and a wife and kids to support; he’s not in a position where he can spit the dummy out of the pram and walk away.

Which is exactly the point.

No newspaper worthy of the name should ever put one of its writers in such a diabolical, heart-wrenching position.

It makes me sick. It makes me physically sick.

Graham knows now what his lifetime of work has been worth, and what it means to the bean counters. That has to hurt like a bastard and to say I feel enormous sympathy with him, and with Angela, and with every other writer out there who’s facing similar pressure … well words don’t do justice to how absolutely scunnered I am for them all.

Here on the blogosphere, we operate entirely without those concerns.

But we also work entirely without a safety net.

The media is fond of telling their readers that there are no restrictions on what we are allowed to write – as if the libel laws and contempt of court laws don’t exist on the internet. In truth, our every article is a walk along the tightrope. Our every utterance has to be weighed against the possible consequences, and I’m not just talking about legal ones.

We know what’s out there.

We know those people exist.

Some of us deal with their abuse on a day to day basis.

But we’re big boys and girls, and we can take it.

We have to, because on days like today it looks as if no-one else will.

But I could be wrong.

Maybe every journalist in Scotland is furious about this. Maybe they’re organising industrial action in support of their colleagues even now. Maybe they get that to walk away from Graham and Angela is to paint a target on their backs. Maybe they get what an enormous moment this is. Maybe.

And then again, maybe some of them just don’t care.

Hell, the money is good, it’s steady, and you get to see your name in print.

What’s not to like?

Like career politicians, with not one iota of political conviction, maybe that’s what really matters to them.

And if that’s the case, hey, fair play to they.

But they ought to stop pretending to be journalists.

This is the third article in a row I’ve written on this site, on this subject, and that is depressing and infuriating in equal measure.

Yet it’s important to keep on doing it.

It’s important to keep on speaking the truth, even when it does come at a cost.

Even when it does have consequences.

Because the cost and the consequences of silence are even greater still.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Spiers “Apology” Heralds In Dark Days For Scottish Journalism

hqdefaultThere’s a moment during the film Nuremberg, starring Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Christopher Plummer and a host of other top stars, when Hermann Goering is relaxing in his cell awaiting the next phase of his trial, when he is visited by a young American soldier named Tex.

Goering, played to perfection by Cox, greets him warmly, as the two have formed an unusual bond during the course of his imprisonment. The kid is impressionable, and Goering knows this.

Goering starts to tell him stories of the Reich, and of the Fuhrer.

At one point he starts to hum a tune, and then he begins to sing the song, whilst tapping his feet and waving his arms. It sets the mood he’s trying to evoke quite brilliantly.

Tex is now completely caught up in the Nazi leader’s memories of watching thousands of men march in front of the Glorious Leader. When Goering suggests the remnants of the despotic regime should be freed, and that both sides should “unite to fight the Communists” Tex agrees with him wholeheartedly.

I’ve always wondered if Tex went away humming the song.

If he did, he would quickly have found himself in trouble with the brass.

It’s a catchy enough tune, and one that predates the Nazi Party’s usage of it. In fact, it’s an ancient German folk song, but it’s one I strongly suspect isn’t heard anymore. The modern incarnation has closed off all avenues of revival.

We now know it as the Horst Wessel Lied.

I would never describe it as “a great song.”

Because it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics contain nothing explicit about bigotry or hate; it’s about a shoot-out with Communists where Wessel, a Nazi Youth member, was killed – other songs dealt with the racist stuff – but it was the Nazi Party’s anthem and if you played it at parties you’d run out of friends quickly and if you sang it walking down the street you’d get a sore face shortly thereafter.

This isn’t about musical appreciation.

I have eclectic tastes and listen to everything from country rock to classical.

I am big on lyrics, above all else, and whilst I think, for example, the Spitting Image song I’ve Never Met A Nice South African is one of the best (and most hilarious) that biting, satirical show ever turned out I would not play it, far less sing it, in a public forum because it would be staggeringly offensive in a modern context.

It is hard to think of any setting – outside a dingy back street boozer in Glasgow or the Six Counties, or, of course, at Ibrox – in which there wouldn’t be people who found The Billy Boys not only to be offensive but bigoted with it.

Yet a director at Sevco, a current director, apparently described it as “a great song” whilst talking to a journalist.

There is no context in which that is anything other than a shocking statement.

That journalist, Graham Spiers, a guy this site has criticised as well as praised, rightly decided that this was a news story.

On 30 December, he told the tale in a piece he wrote.

In fact, I would go much further than just to say it was newsworthy. It ought to have been the headline above the piece.

It was a massively important news story; current, informing public debate, challenging officialdom, suggesting that a football club that perceives itself as a tremendously powerful social institution had, on its board, someone who had sympathies with people engaged in criminality and sectarianism.

The enormity of that cannot be overstated, especially as the debate over the issue has blossomed since the piece was run.

Now football’s governing bodies, the police and non-governmental organisations such as Nil By Mouth are pressing for Strict Liability rules to be implemented inside Scottish grounds.

We also know that the SFA is also seeking public funds for facial recognition software to be installed in stadiums.

Current rules, which the SFA believes are not robust enough, mean that clubs have to demonstrate that they’re “taking all possible measures” to keep discriminatory chanting out of their stands.

The Ibrox club is currently under investigation by the football authorities, with a decision due based on that criteria.

In other words, the importance of that story has only grown since publication.

This is what good journalists do, and good newspapers are supposed to stand by them when they do it.

Here in Scotland, of course, that doesn’t always happen.

A number of journalists have, in the past few years, been targeted for daring to deliver the news and in some cases their employers have not done enough to lend them support in the face of it.

Jim Spence was just one case in point, but there are others.

With respect to Jim, I think what has happened to Graham Spiers, in this case, is of a far worse, and much more sinister, nature. He has been well and truly hung out to dry by The Herald, and he knows it. Whilst his independent statement is coached in conciliatory language, for the most part, his anger is plain and his disillusionment is clear.

They could not make him apologise or retract the story, although it’s clear they tried to make him do both. When he stood by his piece their one and only question – if they even had to ask – should have been “Is this true?” When he answered in the affirmative that should have been that.

They should have stood by their man, and resisted the “pressure.”

Instead they apologised for him, and “clarified” things in his name.

It is beyond scandalous, gutless and embarrassing for everyone at the paper who isn’t up in arms over the way the top brass have behaved.

Frankly, I’ll never trust a word I read in The Herald or any of its sister papers again. Because if they can be spooked into retracting a news story on the basis of pressure from a second tier football club or a rabid pack of its followers then nothing they say can be relied on when it comes to challenging those who have real power and influence.

Their credibility as a journalistic vehicle is shot, pure and simple.

As far as I’m concerned they have joined the tabloids in pandering and sucking up, in framing “the news” so as not to offend certain people, people who, these days, are offended by everything anyway.

It is cowardly, and corrupt, almost beyond comprehension.

I am amazed he’s not already tendered his resignation, because his statement makes it pretty clear just how pissed off he is.

I hope he’s taking the matter to the NUJ and making it clear that he’s not going to stand for it.

In addition, he might want to take a look at the Rangers Supporters Trust website and their article on the Herald’s craven crawling, because there are things in that statement that are unmistakably libellous, such as the assertion that he has “made a career out of fanning the flames of sectarianism” and numerous examples where it calls him a liar.

I’ve written about the way that organisation behaves before; if I were a Sevco fan reading some of their press releases I would be cringing with embarrassment and shame and this one is as base ignorant and deliberately provocative as any I’ve had the misfortune to read, and it crosses a line in the sand that it should not be allowed to get away with.

These people, the conduct of their club and those who run it, and the assortment of idiots, cretins and vile bigots who swarm around in the vortex, never cease to amaze me with the level of their bile and intolerance.

These things are probably to be expected in those with 15th century attitudes still fighting the wars of their grandfather’s forefather’s ancestors (and without really understanding them), but the level of bullying and intimidation they get away with is what really takes the breath away.

I’m not even remotely afraid of these people, and it stuns me that senior editors on national newspapers are.

On the days when my inbox fills with invective and my Twitter feed oozes with their slime, in the moments when my Facebook page is crawling with trolls, all ending their posts with some kind of reference to child abuse or closing off with their standard statement of racial and religious “supremacy”, I don’t despair or get spooked.

I am emboldened.

Because I know I’m doing it right.

Chris McLaughlin was “doing it right” when he reported the outbreak of sectarian singing at the Hibs game.

For this he was banned by the club itself.

Jim Spence was “doing it right” when he called out the Survival Myth for the aberrant fantasy most rational people know it to be.

For that, he was harassed and bullied and his employers threatened until they offered a ridiculous apology simply because he stated the facts.

Angela Haggerty was “doing it right” when she called time on the way she’s been treated by these appalling bastards and their sickening level of hate.

She no longer lives in Scotland, and has been forced to seek redress in the law courts because of what she’s endured.

Other journalists have suffered similar persecution for behaving in a way that’s consonant with the job description, and what the Herald has done to Graham Spiers for “doing it right” is dangerous, and an affront, to every single one of them and every single person in Scotland, whether at a mainstream publication, a local paper, or simply blogging online and who is dedicated to telling the truth.

The last article I published on this site was on this very thing; about the way certain Sevco fan sites and organisations are forming an “orchestra of hate” against anyone who dares to offer any criticism, however justified, about their club.

I asked at the end if these people were “winning.”

That question is more pertinent than ever.

Does the Herald’s editor even have the first clue what he’s done here? What the significance of this decision actually is, beyond the impact it has on his own shitty circulation figures? Beyond even sport?

Does he even care?

This is a sad, dreadful, tragic day for “journalism” in this country, and I mourn it like a death because myself and others care deeply about this profession and the important role it plays in our world.

The Herald has pissed all over that.

They have betrayed one of their own, but the betrayal is felt by more than just Graham Spiers himself. It is felt by every one of us.

It makes “doing it right” more important than ever.

Today, “I Am Graham Spiers.”

We all are.

(This site depends on your support. If you like what I do, and are able, you can make a donation at the link. Many thanks in advance.)

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Celtic, Bloggers & A Bankrupt Media Culture

CHINA-KENYA-AFRICA-MEDIA-NEWSPAPERRecently I’ve taken to closely watching the media’s falling circulation numbers.

There are a few people in Celtic cyberspace who’ve been watching those for a while, in particular the Scottish Football Monitor guys and some of the folks over at CQN.

Some of them publish the numbers every so often, and they’re all showing the old media in steady decline.

Paul67 over at CQN mourns this in a way, and says we’ll always need the media with their resources and the few diligent reporters who are capable of tackling a big story.

I agree with him, and there are some outstanding examples of what he means.

One of the best pieces of journalism I’ve seen in the last couple of years came from the BBC not long ago; it was Mark Daly’s magnificent and game changing investigation into doping in professional athletics. It was courageous and devastating.

It was a sensational example of the media doing what it is supposed to do.

We definitely need more of that.

Daly, of course, has been on our radar for a while.

He was the front man for the equally astonishing BBC documentary on Rangers “The Men Who Sold The Jerseys”, which their fans should have applauded for the way it dug into things the hacks hadn’t bothered with.

Of course, in the end they went hysterical, started their campaign against the BBC and that sowed the seeds for the recent ban on Chris McLaughlin.

Daly is at one end of the scale, the high end, that which sees journalists go out and find the news. That’s a small number of top quality operators doing the kind of work we’ll always need them to do, and which makes their profession shine.

Alex Thomson is another of them, and it’s really Alex I want to talk about here.

I read his recent article, on football teams banning journalists, with great interest, in particular as he chose to highlight Celtic in the piece.

I want to take issue with him on some of it.

For a start, because Alex of all people should know better.

He’s been up here to cover stuff they either missed or didn’t want to.

He knows what most of our hacks are worth.

He knows the ranks up here are filled with those who indulge in sensationalism and creating controversy where there is none.

Worse, it is populated with a more dangerous sort, those who write soup stirring, provocative nonsense.

Those people are an affront to journalism, an embarrassment to a profession which needs more people like him in it and less of them.

He is a real journalist, the kind who believes the calling is still sacred, that it’s still relevant and that it’s still important.

The problem, as he well knows, is that these people fall far below that standard.

I remember him going onto Radio Clyde and castigating the hacks for their failures in getting to the bottom of the Rangers story.

I remember him writing that it was not simply incompetence, but actually a media culture that exists up here whereby whatever comes out of Ibrox is all too often simply accepted without question.

He understands the “succulent lamb” culture very well.

He knows that’s how it works in Scotland, a country that for too long took way too seriously the pretensions and “cultural aspirations” of what the rampant egotist Murray called “the second biggest institution after the church.”

But you have to actually live here, and cover the media full time, which in a sense is what I now do, to truly understand there’s more to it than just that.

Take the John Collins thing that has filled the papers over the last week, pouring unrelenting negativity onto Celtic Football Club and its assistant manager.

This is a fine example of why our club has banned hacks in the past.

It is a complete non-story, blown up into something more by a media that creates these little dramas for its own ends.

At the same time, they’ve been endlessly promoting the line that Scottish football is basically worthless without a club called Rangers in the top flight for the last couple of years.

To look over their coverage during the period in which the future of our sport itself was up for grabs, when the SPL and SFA CEO’s wanted Sevco in the top flight, is to glimpse a world where this game only had two teams, and without them our sport was dead.

They know they are hypocrites.

That’s not the point.

The Collins furore was nothing more than an exercise in slapping Celtic and the same people who are stirring this soup have spent the last month trying to destabilise Scott Allan’s relationship with his own club and get him a move to his “boyhood heroes” (who he’s already spurned two chances to join) at Ibrox.

Today those same hacks claim Celtic are in the running for his signature, and a couple of them have suggested that this is “mischief making” on our part, as if we’re in the habit of spending six figure sums of money for the purposes of one-upsmanship … an idea so preposterous that I would be in the carpark with a Board Out banner if I thought it was even remotely true.

Some of these guys are very obviously working hand in hand with PR companies too and if those PR companies happen to have very clear, historical, leanings towards a certain Scottish football club … well that neither seems to bother the hacks or their bosses.

In fact, when said club was trying to sell season tickets last month some of the hacks were only too pleased to help … and a PR firm publicly thanked them for it in the aftermath.

It’s wee things like this that bother a lot of neutrals, and definitely Celtic fans.

And it ought to bother Thomson more than it does, because this isn’t what their profession is supposed to do. In fact, it debases what it exists for.

So for the record, I have no problem with our club banning people who can’t report accurately or fairly and who routinely bang the drum for PR firms and their clients instead of doing the news.

Thomson himself is still allowed at Celtic Park having once compared us to Millwall, and people like English, Spiers and others are perfectly welcome despite their own articles criticising transfer policy, team selection, managerial decisions and much else.

I don’t have a problem with those kind of articles and neither does Celtic.

Those are simply reporters doing their jobs, and giving their opinions, and even if those opinions are thoroughly barking – like Spiers today, and his “mischief making” headline in relation to the Allan saga – by and large I don’t mind them.

Our club is not anti-journalism.

It’s simply not prepared to put up with constant abuse and the twisting of the truth.

Truth. You know, that thing the whole profession used to strive for?

Negativity day on day, just for the sake of it, or to try and unsettle our club … that’s not journalism. As far as I’m concerned that’s an abuse of responsibility and not something we should be allowing from our front room.

Thomson was, of course, writing in the aftermath of Sevco’s decision to ban Spiers and Chris McLaughlin of the BBC. Where he went wrong was in falling into a famous Scottish sports journalist trap; in the interests of trying to find “balance” he equated our decision to ban Keevins last year with what happened at Ibrox, when there’s no similarity between the two.

Keevins’ brand of hackery is a discredited joke, and Celtic’s decision not to credential him for matches simply freed up a seat in the press area for a real journalist.

No-one should be mourning that, or questioning why Celtic did it.

The reasons for it – including a blatantly untrue story relating to Sean Fallon’s 90th birthday – are well known and have been explored here and elsewhere at length already.

The reasons why Sevco banned two journalists a couple of weeks ago are also well known, and they were exactly the kind of attacks on free speech that Thomson has been seeking to highlight in his piece.

He says Celtic’s bans harmed the club … actually the individuals we banned harm his profession and its standing and that offered an alibi to people like Dave King when he decided he was going to go on a crusade against probing questions.

The problem here is that the media has a tendency to protect all of its people, all of the time, as if an attack on one was an attack on all of them … utter nonsense as he doubtless knows.

Too many people hide behind a press card when they want to go off on one, using the concept of “journalistic freedom” to justify agenda based attacks and sensationalism.

A lot of members of that profession come to their aid and lend them support reflexively, instead of considering whether or not their behaviour is suspect.

I’ve looked into getting my NUJ card and so I know they have guidelines, rules and regulations on professionalism, honesty and integrity.

I’m not suggesting they start weeding people out if they devalue those concepts, but everyone knows that a lot of people in the profession have signed the paperwork and then paid lip service to those ideals.

It was Truman Capote who said “The problem with living outside the law is that you no longer have its protection”.

When journalists go off the reservation and start pursing wee personal vendettas and acting as the PR wing for certain institutions that ought to end all discussion of offering them the protections that go with freedom of the press.

Those protections exist to promote the telling of hard truth, and tackling abuse of power; they are not there to give a shield to those who sensationalise and lie.

What I’m saying is that I would have no problem whatsoever with what Thomson wrote if his own profession was more equipped to deal with those who disgrace it rather than waiting for other people to do it and then getting defensive.

Phil Mac Giolla Bháin has echoed exactly the sort of sentiments Thomson recently did, and has called the banning of journalists “the road to succulent lamb.”

He worries that it will lead to the press developing an unhealthy relationship with our own club, in due course, which prevents fans from getting to the truth about what we’re up to.

I understand the sentiment, but I don’t think it’s likely.

Because whereas Paul67 is right that the media will always be needed to do the job of chasing the stories the bloggers can’t, we are becoming very skilled in our own way and we’re perfectly capable of taking our own clubs to task when it comes time to do that.

It was the bloggers who blew open the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport. RTC and other sites were there well ahead of the mainstream press, including Mark Daly and the BBC. Where his documentary proved useful was in holding a megaphone to work done elsewhere, amplifying the volume a thousand times, to a national audience we weren’t able to reach.

He made it a mainstream story rather than one on the fringes.

But the gap between the mainstream and those fringes has blurred of late, and the number of hacks and former hacks now on Twitter and in the blogosphere increases our visibility every single day, because aside from name recognition we’re all on the same playing field.

And holding our own clubs to account is part of that now.

For myself, I’ve tried to tell the truth as I see it. I’ve probably got the facts wrong on a couple of occasions, but I never set out to deliberately mislead … which is the difference.

On top of that, I’ve never been particularly bothered about who my stuff annoyed.

I have criticised Celtic – venomously – on any number of occasions, and whereas a lot of the Celtic blogs and their writers have been invited to Parkhead for tea and biscuits I never have and frankly I never expect to be.

And this is not me complaining or saying those guys go easy on the club; I know a lot of them well and they are nobody’s lackies or puppets.

It’s just that some people at Celtic Park see some value in opening dialogue with them and that’s pointless as far as it goes with me, although I understand that a good relationship between the blogs and the club is valuable.

But I self-exile myself from Celtic Park in light of how strong my views are and, speaking personally, I prefer it this way for the moment as it allows me the benefit of distance and detachment and I feel more comfortable with that.

For all that, I bear the club no ill will as a consequence of my position, because it is a personal choice, and I feel pretty sure that if I were to open that dialogue myself that the club would be happy to extend me an invite to talk on the same basis as the rest.

In short, I do not believe Celtic is in the business of censorship. Phil has little to worry about in that regard, and that’s where I think Alex Thomson was 100% wrong to base much of his article on that proposition.

The truth is that there are people inside Celtic Park who simply will not tolerate day on day attacks on them and the club itself.

Speaking as someone who defends free speech in a way the club doesn’t believe in – the right of our supporters to sing Republican songs and fly their political banners for example – I cannot fault them for taking a hard-line position on certain hacks.

What’s more, Keevins and others were not encumbered in any way by the ban; it was symbolism and nothing more, but symbolism has its importance.

They themselves boasted that it had no impact beyond that; they were able to continue writing whatever they liked. Celtic was not impacting on their ability to make a living or carry out their duties.

They just weren’t allowed to do it from soft seats in the stand, provided to them free of charge.

Sevco’s decision to ban Chris McLaughlin and Graham Spiers, and perhaps others in due course, is different, and it is ludicrous because it is very clearly an attempt at censorship.

Celtic, to my knowledge, never publicised the bans on Keevins, Jackson and others.

They didn’t use those bans as explicit warnings to the rest of the press pack to start toeing the line.

Sevco, on the other hand, went out of their way to make their position public, and their supporters groups were happy to throw their two bobs worth into the discussion for good measure.

What’s more, they were very clear on the reasons for the action.

They didn’t like the journalists involved writing stories that put them in a bad light.

They make no bones about that, or what the objective is.

You have to give them credit for being brazen if nothing else.

It was clearly a move designed to intimidate those who were perhaps starting to ask some long overdue questions, or who were, in McLaughlin’s case, drawing attention to serious, inherent, problems those in the boardroom ignored the last time they were there and would rather pretend weren’t still affecting the club today.

They are gleeful about this on the Sevco forums, where they have learned nothing from recent years when PR companies sold them on Craig Whyte, Charles Green and others and are now feeding them from the same dirty spoons a feast of the same from Dave King.

Alex Thomson chose to focus the bulk of his article on effect, not on cause. His effort to find balance equated one with the other, when they are not alike at all.

There are good journalists out there, those who are in the profession to “do the news”, those who want to uncover the things those in power would rather remained secret, those who are doing the best they can to see that facts and truth come to light.

We will always need them, and those of us who care about the profession and about the truth itself will always have their back.

One of my heroes of the last twelve months is a guy whose opinions and mine could not be more diametrically opposed – Peter Oborne, formerly of The Telegraph – who resigned from his job because of what his newspaper had become; little more than an advertising board, with editorial content skewed accordingly.

Because this isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing with what we read day after day. Intellectual integrity is about respecting differing opinions and even bending some ways towards them.

All we want to know for sure is that our press is well informed, and well intentioned, and that its output is not simply constructed to further agendas or deceive the readers.

As the media appears unable to self-police – and you only need to look at the political writers in Westminster to see how unlikely that is to change – then, sadly for us all, other institutions will have to take a stand against shoddy journalism and the manufacturing of controversy for its own sake, not to mention the dissemination of lies.

It’s all very well for Alex Thomson to point to legal recourse as the way to get justice, but you need very deep pockets and to be in it for the long haul to pursue that avenue, as he knows full well, and the best you can hope for in the bulk of those cases, after you’ve paid lawyers’ fees and court expenses is a short apology on page 51.

Not good enough. Nowhere near it.

Too much of Scotland’s sports coverage is slanted, biased and ignorant.

Some writers even manage to slap together pieces that are a combination of all three.

Not everyone involved in the media here has noble intentions or pursues the higher goals for which the profession exists. Wild egotism, bias and self-interest are rampant.

A press card doesn’t come with a halo, and even if it did there are some who would wear it well and still perform the Devil’s work.

That is an offense against all of us and the media shouldn’t expect that we will simply sit back and take it.

Those days are over with, forever.

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A Terrible Week For The Hacks

JS69303298This has been an interesting seven days for those of us who watch the media.

First, let me say how tremendous it was to see Jim Spence talking to one of the blogs, on the record, over the weekend.

That’s what I predicted when he left the BBC and I’m delighted that one of his stated reasons for doing that was that he wanted to be less constrained in what he could say.

A guy like Jim, with integrity and passion, and who understands the fans, is a voice we should have articulating his views without fear or favour. He will be a supreme asset to our national sport debates going forward, and I am looking forward to his next intervention.

With other journalists, I have less sympathy and less desire to offer praise or support.

I refrained, at the weekend (although only just) from posting a full-on rant over Neil McCann’s latest spitting out of the dummy, over whether Craig Gordon should have been sent off against Ross County, this time complete with pamphlet waving as if he was holding the Ten Commandments.

McCann isn’t my favourite person. He can’t hide his dislike of Celtic (and yes, I know he grew up a Celtic fan; King Kenny and Danny McGrain grew up Rangers supporters and neither has a whole lot of love for the blue half of Glasgow) and that’s an appalling thing in a so-called impartial reporter.

I let it slide because there’s not much more to say on the subject. I’ve ranted about him a couple of times in the past and most people have a pretty clear idea of how I regard him; I would not let him into Celtic Park even if he was paying at the gate.

The club has, to the best of my knowledge, done nothing to keep him from our door and that’s up to them. Perhaps it’s not wanting to piss off Sky and perhaps it’s just that they don’t regard a torn faced hack and his ludicrous opinions as more than a minor irritant and they probably don’t want to give him the oxygen of more publicity, which a ban would do.

I can get behind that view and I can only imagine the squealing he’d do if he was given martyrdom to wrap himself in.

When we banned Keevins I thought it was about time, and his own wailing was sweet music. He, too, has had an odd seven days. I didn’t listen to Clyde myself last week (I never do unless there is an expanding crisis on or off the park at Ibrox, because then it is just beautiful; at any other time it is  a hellish drag, so pro the Ibrox club it would make you sick) but I heard about it afterwards from numerous friends, most of whom were incredulous.

Apparently the “poor man’s Gerry McNee” (and you can have no concept of just how low that standard is unless you once endured that eejits writing) thinks Warburton is a proven quality who will lead Sevco to the Championship title by ten points at least.

Let’s forget for a moment that he thought his mate Coisty (he freely admits this) was of similar skills and made exactly the same prediction last year … let’s focus on this one.

For one thing, he like many of his hack mates has been impressed by Warburton’s track record although none of them have been able to say just why. I’ve gone over that subject here before too, but in case any of the hacks is reading here’s a wee refresher course.

He’s in his fifties and has exactly eighteen months experience as a coach. He has won nothing in that time, save for a couple of manager of the month awards. He came from Brentford, not AC Milan, and only then because their ambitious and brilliant chairman made a decision halfway through last season not to renew his contract. Get that? He was let go and out of work and there was not a queue of clubs at the door, enquiring about his services.

If we contrast that with the way Keevins and others reacted to Celtic’s appointment of Ronny Deila we see the old familiar pattern; we aren’t a million miles away from the days when Jo Venglos and his signings were being slated without mercy.

Deila, apparently, “had to prove himself” and was seen as a huge risk. Despite being in his mid-thirties, with a national league title and cup to his name already.

These kind of “expert opinions” from lickspittle gutter grabbers are why Scottish sports journalism is viewed with such absolute and utter contempt. You don’t ask for much more than consistency, than some intellectual integrity, some basic honesty. What you get instead is spiteful, wilful idiocy designed to earn controversy points.

It’s because of people like Keevins that there’s very little sympathy going around for Chris McLaughlin and Graham Spiers, in light of their ban from Ibrox.

Now, as a guy who has called for Keevins’ ban from Celtic Park to be extended to everywhere within 100 miles of the stadium (or any stadium where we are likely to play) and who wants McCann to do his next Sky commentary at Parkhead from the carpark, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to criticise Sevco for handing out bans to hacks they don’t particularly like.

Yet there is a difference and you don’t have to be a genius to see it.

Just take off the blue tinted glasses.

I do have some residue of empathy with Graham Spiers. I’ll get to him in a minute. But I find what happened to Chris McLaughlin almost painfully funny even if the club is disgracing itself in pandering to its lunatic fringe with the move.

All McLaughlin did on this occasion was to highlight that a number of the vermin who follow that club and who keep on shaming it had been arrested following the match at Easter Road and that the match delegate had noted sectarian singing in his report.

Now whether some Sevco fan sites and groups like it or not, that is news. It’s a big story and I was glad to see that the BBC was acting responsibly by covering it and not simply ignoring it and hoping that it would go away. McLaughlin was right to highlight it and the ridiculousness of the reaction from the Blue Room puts the writing on the wall for every hack in the land.

And it will work too, because most of them, and most of their papers, are gutless frauds. Not everyone has the integrity and courage of Jim Spence.

What laces this with deadly humour is that McLaughlin has been one of the most sycophantic pro-Sevco, pro-King supporters out of all of the BBC’s resident line animals. He is mocked almost constantly on Twitter for the way his nose is constantly pressed against the backside of whomever occupies the Ibrox boardroom at any one time.

He was entitled to better than this, he really was. The Dave King Medal of Honour at the very least. In my view he has been treated abysmally considering the services he’s rendered over the years, all of it whilst working on the taxpayer’s tab too.

Spiers is a different ballgame entirely, and his being singled out is significant and should be a big flashing warning light for everyone who believed, for a second, King’s claims that he wanted to run a more transparent club.

We’ve said from the start that you can’t believe a word that comes out of King’s mouth and it not greatly surprising to see the notion of openness go by the boards. These people, for whatever reason, are determined to avoid scrutiny of any sort, even when, as McLaughlin has done, all the hacks are doing is reporting the facts.

But Spiers has simply been critical and asked some questions about the club and how it’s being run. He’s asked the questions a lot of the supporters of the club would want a good journalist to ask. The decision to ban him reeks of fear and suppression of dissent.

It is the behaviour, frankly, of people with something to hide.

Sevco fans ought to be grievously concerned by that, instead of stupidly dancing on the tables at the purging of “enemies of the club.” Haven’t they ever heard the phrase “sunlight is the best disinfectant”? Do they not know what it means?

They are only following a NewCo In the first place because Whyte was able to bamboozle some of the media and silence the rest whilst he got on with running them into the ground. Murray only got away with his own disastrous policies because he was doling out the succulent lamb.

The media has been the club’s most effective ally in keeping the truth from the supporters for many, many years now … and every journalist who has broken ranks in that time and delivered the facts to those who needed them most ought to have been a hero amongst the fans.

Instead … they get this.

Witch hunted by the websites and the supporters groups.

Madness. They just never will get it.

In the meantime, the dearth of good sports journalism in Scotland has taken a battering and a half over the last seven days … with only Spency emerging with much credit.

It was ever thus, though.

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A Fool & His Money

twenty-pound-notes-007Okay … we’re going to talk about money and how the foolish are parted from it.

(A cagey proposition for someone who has a Donate button on the bottom of his website and basically scrapes out a living as a writer!)

There are three reasons why I think this is an important topic for this piece.

First, it’s that annual time of digging deep for football fans – the renewal of season tickets, the buying of jerseys, the booking of trips and, for some, even eyes on distant horizons as clubs prepare for European football.

Second, it’s the transfer window and there’s always a lot of money being squandered during that.

Look down south at England, where Daryl Murphy – a player who barely functioned in a Celtic shirt and who is in his thirties now – might be leaving Ipswich for a reputed £4 million plus.

In the meantime, Raheem Sterling, a guy few had heard of until a couple of years ago, is engineering himself this summer’s big move to Man City, for over £45 million.

Third and finally, I’m moved to write this because of a tweet from Graham Spiers, who has bet one of his colleagues an unknown sum of money that Sevco will win the SPL by 2020.

Five years from now. Just in time to stop Celtic’s ten in a row.

This one amuses me. I’ll get to it in due course.

Football is about money, and it’s about finding more and more ways to get that money out of our pockets and into those of the players and the sponsors and the advertisers.

Getting the cash out of your pockets and into theirs requires a lot of work, but it has to be worth the effort because the game itself is booming like never before, especially south of the border where the insanity of the transfer window grows more unbelievable – and loathsome – every single year.

This year’s will be particularly gruesome, with the aforementioned Sterling setting the general tone for what will be an avalanche of spending as we near the end of it and the closure of the window.

Here, in Scotland, Celtic has just bought Nadir Ciftci for a mere £1.5 million, and unless we’re going to pull something major out of the hat that will be our striker signed for the Champions League.

It almost seems like a sick joke, considering the above.

The club, in the meantime, markets itself as a European giant, surrounding the stadium with images of the great and the good.

Will Ciftci have his image alongside them one day?

I’d say it was doubtful, except that there’s a guy up there called Larsson, who cost us £600,000.

Still, one suspects that all these two players will have in common will be the number 7 shirt, which Celtic has seen fit to award to a player for the first time in years.

Since the King of Kings left the most famous football shirt of them all has been worn by six different players; Zurawski, McDonald, Juninho, Keane, Ljundberg and Miku.

None came close to living up to his legend; indeed the latter two were simply wastes of a jersey and Juninho may be the biggest disappointment of my time as a Celtic fan.

It was Cyndi Lauper who sang “Money Changes Everything”, and with so much of it flowing into the coffers of English clubs it was gratifying to hear Ciftci talk about how he’d turned down a move there to play at Celtic Park.

All in all I’m not deliriously happy about this window, but I’m content.

Content because we have a settled side to which we’ve added some players.

Big Nadir will give us something different up front. He looked very comfortable against Sociedad but time will tell if he’s got what we need, but he’s got a physical presence and he’s not shy about putting it about, and when you look at the money English clubs are spending you can’t help but think less useful players will be costing clubs down there fortunes.

Does having the money necessarily mean you should spend in? In England, apparently yes.

All things considered, you’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

Across Glasgow, things are hilariously disjointed and lack of cash is at the root of it.

They lost 11 players during the close season and have signed just four.

The chairman, our old friend King, spoke at length about building an SPL quality side, but there are no signs at all that he’s serious about that or even knows where to start.

The excuses have started instead.

Now it’s “oh but we don’t have a scouting system in place” as if anyone who’s ever played Football Manager doesn’t know where to start looking.

Warburton must have watched thousands of footballers in his time in the Championship and during his much heralded world tour of the clubs.

Is he saying John Eustace and Rob Kiernan are the cream of the global game?

Their recent signing, Wes Foderingham, their second choice goalie, was signed from Swindon after a career trawling England’s lower leagues at clubs such as Bromley, Boreham Wood and Histon.

If this is the best their management team can come up with then they need a hell of a lot more than a new scouting system.

Of course, this is all about money and not so much about the scouting.

The purpose of the scouting network, as they see it, is to do what Celtic do – sign players on the cheap who they can later sell on for a huge profit.

There’s just one wee fly in the ointment; what we do costs millions.

The infrastructure itself is expensive and complex and it took us years to build.

They don’t have the money.

They sure as Hell don’t have the years.

Without even an auditor they can’t get a NOMAD.

Without a NOMAD there will be no Stock Market listing, even if other issues can be overcome.

Without a Stock Market listing their hope of raising money via a share issue looks dead in the water, and even if they somehow had all these things the issuing of shares depends on a boardroom vote they might not even win.

It is chaotic. It is shambolic.

And yet a lot of their fans have bought into it all.

There’s nothing more amazing to me than the continuing dumbness of the Sevco supporters.

King and his board have been in place now for four months – the EGM was in March – and they have yet to keep a single promise to the supporters. This website had major fun with Graham Wallace and the 120 Day Review, but at least he produced something, some kind of wishy-washy list of objectives and a proper timetable.

It was laughable how little there was to it … but where is King’s version?

They’ve had three major “acts” thus far; to secure a new nominated advisor after the one they’d threatened to sack resigned in the wake of their victory.

They’ve failed. The media’s given them a free pass on it. Fair enough.

Then they had to replace Kenny McDowell with Stuart McCall (which worked out well, eah?).

Finally they had to appoint a new manager, and they went out and brought in a 52 year old from Brentford, with a whole 18 months experience and who’s never worked under the kind of scrutiny he’s about to be subjected to … not to mention the loving embrace of the fans, who aren’t exactly known for tolerance, patience or even rationality at times.

This won’t end well.

The players he’s buying in don’t seem good enough to take the team forward and the idea of relying on kids … well watch as that one is tested to destruction pretty rapidly. A team full of young players, with all the immense expectation and pressure that will swirl around that club like a tornado … careers have been ruined on less.

Which brings me nicely to Graham Spiers, who is watching this unfolding shambles like the rest of us, but still thinks the tailspin Sevco is in can be reversed, and that they will be at the top of Scottish football in five years.

He has bet a colleague to that effect.

From where I’m sitting he’s just kissed off some readies.

He has no basis for his belief at all, except the club that plays out of Ibrox wears the name Rangers.

How can an otherwise intelligent man be so daft?

I know too what his rationale is.

That sooner or later someone has to turn the club around, because they are “too big” to forever languish like this.

Tell that to Leeds fans, who probably thought the same.

Money makes the world go round, and Sevco has none of it.

You might be able to part fans from their cold hard cash by promising moonbeams, and you might even get some Scottish hacks to part company with theirs, as Spiers will certainly have to do … but trying to get hard-nosed businessmen to do it is a different ballgame entirely.

No-one ever became rich by being a fool.

Indeed, many of them got rich on the back of that old adage that there’s “one born every minute.”

To run losses on the order that would be required to make Sevco champions in five years would mean some Abramovich type holding onto chits in the tens of millions.

Spiers and others still believe they are out there; the Real Rangers Men with oodles of cash, just dying to chase the dream.

Barking mad.

Those people do not exist.

If they did they’d be here already, they’d never have allowed the club to fall into such ruination and shame.

King claims they were waiting on the right board of directors

Well, Hell, it’s been four months now, of his lot, and there’s no sign of them yet.

If Sevco fans are waiting on these people they will wait a long time.

Because if these people do exist they’ve sat on their hands for years.

They watched the club they loved die and saw its reanimated corpse broken like a Walking Dead extra.

What, exactly, was the moment at which they were going to step in and save the day?

Graham Spiers knows all this.

He knows this talk of Real Rangers Men with bags full of money is a demented Louden Tavern Friday Night Fantasy.

Yet he’s clearly unable to get past the idea that the club in question is skint and going nowhere.

I have one question for him, and I do ask it with all respect since he’s willing to do what King so far hasn’t and put his money where his mouth is;

Where’s the cash to rebuild them coming from, Graham?

This is the question every journalist should be asking, and which none are.

Where’s the money coming from?

If we accept that the King consortium isn’t going to fund this out of their own pockets – and they’ve said as much; the South African is on the record as saying he will put in money which matches outside investment pound for pound, which has netted the sum total of nil and doesn’t look like resulting in an influx of big bucks any time soon – then where?

If we accept that the Real Rangers Men with billions in the banks aren’t there … then where?

You’re talking about expanding every single facet of the club, increasing running costs three or four times.

King even talked about quadrupling the wage budget not long ago before he realised that talking in abstract numbers is one thing but someone has to write the cheques in real life.

Getting people to invest in Scottish football is a non-starting event, so you can forget the City of London coming in this time to snap up shares, especially when they look at the shambolic state of the club and its history of fan revolts, boycotts, boardroom strife and the media savaging of anyone who doesn’t know all the words of The Sash My Father Wore.

If I were a money man, who wanted to put cash into football and live the dream … Hell, there’s a country just south of me where you can find many a team on its arse.

I’d buy one of them.

Sink my fortune into reaching the EPL, and then going for the tens of millions which are available there.

Why in God’s name would I choose Ibrox?

Where’s my profit coming from?

Where’s the money in it?

No less a Real Rangers Man than Walter Smith said “The Rangers Way” is always to be in debt.

Think it through.

Champions League income, even if you got there, is worth an additional £20 million per season at most.

But to get there you’d need to be spending five times what you are now, easily, and they are making a loss even on their modest outgoings at present.

Do the maths. This is not complicated stuff.

So, profit aside, what’s the purpose of this “investment”?

Stroking my ego?

There are easier ways to feed the beast.

Cause what’s the End Game?

A statue outside, that pigeons can crap on and drunks can piss up the side of?

A stand named after me?

Why would I want that, when I can donate my wedge to a hospital instead, saving people’s lives, and one day, in the distant future, have my grandchildren proudly stand outside the James Forrest Wing?

There are better ways of leaving a monument behind you than being the guy who “saved” Sevco for The Peepil.

So come on, sell it to me, Graham.

Tell it to me like you picture it in your own head, because you clearly do believe there’s a turnaround coming, and that hard cash is going to flow in their direction sometime soon.

So tell me how they’ll do it.

Sell it to me.

Imagine I’ve got the readies and that I’m not a Celtic fan who’s enjoying this whole thing.

Sell me on the idea.

Without a chance of turning a profit, what’s the “unique selling point”?

The annual Poppy Day “celebrations?”

Or maybe the Linfield friendly, marching bands and all?

Jesus wept … I mean really?

Sevco, for all it thinks in global terms, is a provincial West of Scotland football club with a small following in the North of Ireland because of their “cultural” embrace of all that ‘flegger’ crap.

They have already spent three years in the lower leagues, and this will be number four.

So even if you’re talking about “the brand”, and even if that brand were not tainted and stained with sectarianism and supremacy and backward ideas … they’ve spent an awful lot of time out of the light, a lot of time without their “brand” being seen by a global audience, a lot of time on the side-lines watching the big boys.

All this is to say that there is next to no chance of “institutional investment” this time around.

Charles Green managed it, or so it seemed, but we now know that he raised the money selling the bulk of his shares to his mates and all manner of dodgy individuals who used their voting influence and their appointed representatives to make some rather sweet deals and siphon off as much of the cash as they could reasonably get away with.

There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.

Indeed, the rainbow itself is a 3D art job on the side of a brick wall.

This club isn’t going to “recover” in the way Graham Spiers and others use the word in ten years, far less five.

What will happen – eventually – is that the reality of their position will sink in and the club will undergo a dramatic realignment in structure and expectations, engaging, at last, with the truth.

They will stop kidding themselves that what was Rangers still exists or can ever exist again.

That name, on its own, will not make them challengers far less champions.

But the name is all they have left.

That’s nowhere near enough, and the day they accept that is the day all this stops hurting.

Then, and only then, can the real healing begin.

In the meantime, those running the cash registers at Ibrox are marketing “the name” for all they are worth.

And a lot of people who should know better are still buying into it.

There’s one born every minute right enough …

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Dave King: The Unknown Known

2015-03-07_spo_7594966_I1On 12 February 2002, Donald Rumsfeld appeared in front of the press for a Q&A at the US Department of Defence.

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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