A “What If …?” Scenario That Should Scare The SFA

1280px-HK010I’m going to tell you a story here, and please bear with me.

Before I do I want to thank two people; one directly, and one anonymously.

The direct thanks I send to the writer of the John James blog, whose recent works have been great reference points in helping me get to the bottom of a murky story I heard earlier this year and which another source all but confirmed over the weekend.

That source is the one I’d like to thank anonymously. He knows who he is and why it’s important that I don’t use his name.

What I am about to write for the next few paragraphs is all fact.

I’ll tell you when I start speculating, because it’s important to separate the two things.

On a day when The Guardian is publishing unsubstantiated crap in an effort to attack the Resolution 12 team, and maintaing that Scottish football governance issues are of concern only to Celtic and our fans I am not about to claim, for one second, that what you are about to read is all referenced and properly sourced and 100% accurate.

I’m not even going to tell you the specifics of what I’ve heard; I’ll give you the background and a hypothetical scenario based on some of it, and what I don’t write you can check out for yourself. Some of it is already online.

You can then decide what you think.

Nothing I’ve seen is actual evidence; I want to reiterate that now, although I’m equally certain neither John James nor my other sources are going on rumour alone. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t write an article based on such rumours, but it is not how real or not these stories are that bothers me and made me decide it was a worthwhile piece.

I’m writing it because this isn’t impossible. It isn’t even implausible.

It’s all very … doable.

And that’s what worries me.

This story starts in South Africa in 2013, when the tax authorities there brought an end to their campaign of chasing the assets of, and threatening to jail, one David Cunningham King, now the chairman of Sevco, otherwise referred to on the various Celtic blogs as the “glib and shameless liar.”

One of the key provisos of the deal was that he “repatriate his overseas assets.”

In other words, they wanted his cash reserves and his future earnings right where they could see them, where they could keep a close watch on what he was up to.

One of those overseas assets was a company called NOVA.

He sold that company to another, MicroMega. The South African government got the proceeds of the sale.

NOVA had been a pretty important part of the King portfolio. It had subsidiary branches in China, Brazil and Peru.

But it was a strange deal, one that bore scrutiny. It was so strange that the South African government had to independently investigate it to make sure the shareholders at MicroMega got themselves enough bang for their bucks. Because, you see, MicroMega is partially owned, and chaired, by none other than David Cunningham King himself.

This isn’t uncommon in the business world, and here it was a perfectly logical step.

King still does a lot of business abroad and NOVA still has offices in various nations; what’s changed is simply that the company now has its headquarters in South Africa. Although MicroMega also has subsidiaries in various nations around the world, they are registered at home, whereas the registered offices for NOVA had been in Hong Kong.

At various times in the last two or three years I’ve looked into King for this and for the CelticBlog.

It wasn’t hard to discover that his reported wealth these days is mostly on paper, tied up in the share value of companies he is sitting on the boards of and has shares in.

It’s an established fact that all of his disposable assets were seized by the government; the cars, the houses, the wine cellars. His liquid assets were either turned into cash to pay the fines or likewise seized. The settlement didn’t wipe him out, and in comparison to the likes of us he’s still a wealthy man, but it didn’t leave him much to “invest” in Sevco either.

But he still works hard and he has a lot of shares, and based on the values of those he still appears to be quite well off.

But this has always been a fundamentally misleading indicator of actual wealth, because if, say, Mark Zuckerberg were to announce, tomorrow, that he was putting up the entirety of his Facebook shareholding as a public offering, the value of those shares would go through the floor as people wondered why he was bailing out.

King’s done that before, of course, which is what got him into trouble with SARS in the first place, and although it is possible for him to liquidate shareholdings in little chunks, this potentially has a negative impact on the value of the rest of his shares.

In June of last year, King sold 15 million shares in MicroMega for a value of £8.5 million.

I’ll get back to that number shortly.

South Africa is a country that takes a dim view of the things Dave King did in his tax avoiding years.

Other countries have a similarly dark attitude towards tax evasion, but South Africa take it more seriously than most, in particular because much of the cash they lose out on ends up overseas. Their government likes to keep their national wealth in-country, as it were, which is one of the reasons King was told to “repatriate” his assets back to where the tax man could get at them.

South Africa also has rather robust exchange control regulations, which heavily penalise high worth individuals who want to move cash out of the country. They’d prefer that cash was invested, and taxed, right there at home, for obvious reasons.

There’s a financial cost to transferring money out of South Africa.

There are also regulations in place which require disclosure on where the money is going and what it’s ultimately for.

These rules would be even more rigorously enforced with a man like Dave King.

Without prior approval from their government and Treasury, no resident can transfer cash out of the country in any significant sums. There’s simply no getting around that fact.

This site has long argued that the combination of Dave King’s tax settlement, the government’s insistence on the repatriation of assets and the harsh exchange controls which the South African government has in place, make it virtually impossible for him to “invest” in the club to the extent he and others seemed to suggest he would.

In short, even if he had that kind of wealth he’d never be allowed to spend it catering to the egos of Scotland’s most ungrateful and impatient football fans.

This site and others are on the record as having said that King has spent precisely nothing on NewCo Rangers up until now, save for the purchasing of some shares and giving a loan of £1.5 million in the name of New Oasis Asset Limited, which is referenced as a “King family trust” and, for all we know, doesn’t even have his name on it.

Any further “investments” should be very easy to demonstrate because something like that would leave a very long paper trail.

Or so I long suspected.

At the same time, this site and others have long argued that the present directors, none of whom are high worth individuals – save for Douglas Park, who has always shown great reluctance to pour it into the black hole of a football club – will be able, or are willing, to keep on funding the club from their own “soft loans.”

The only person in the history of Sevco who had the financial wherewithal to do that into perpetuity is the one King has worked so assiduously to push away; Mike Ashley, who’s Sports Direct billions could have kept the lights on indefinitely.

That means that without “outside investment” sooner or later it’s going to fall on King to keep his promises, or not.

King can buy shares in, and invest in, any company he likes, just so long as he does it through a South African registered “vehicle”, and the tax man knows how it’s been done. There are “foreign portfolio investment allowances” which have to be run through registered bodies, and individual allowances, which can be up to £400,000.

It is possible to get certain funds abroad for such purposes.

Buying shares in foreign registered companies comes under the exchange control laws and his initial share purchase, plus the £1.5 million in loans, probably doesn’t push him over the threshold depending on what’s in the “family trust.”

In the main, however, the more money he has to “invest” the more likely it is that the South African government will draw a big line and subject him to those more rigorous investigations and rules. South Africa’s government is not of a mind to let any high worth individual – far less one they had to chase for years – take significant sums out of their country.

And this is where our friend Keith Jackson comes in.

On 7 December 2015, Jackson wrote one of his best articles of last year, if not the very best. In it, he questioned King’s “investment” in the club and wondered where the £5 million which they had recently announced would pay off Sports Direct was going to come from. It was one of the first articles to actually ask hard questions about the Sevco board and their long term plans.

And a certain man in South Africa was spooked by that, because he has always been able to rely on a subservient media in order to get the things he wants. He had made promises and Jackson was asking he keep them, but the Record writer was also casting doubt over the veracity of a lot of King’s claims and that bothered him most of all.

Was Jackson reading up on South African exchange control laws?

No, he was simply wondering why, when it only takes 11 hours to fly here from Johannesburg, that King hadn’t already simply delivered the money and given it to the Newcastle owner.

For all it was a ridiculous notion, there was a core of truth in what Jackson actually said … and he was right to be asking the question. He should have asked more questions though, such as where King had allegedly found the two “investors” who were said to be putting up the bulk of the cash. Jackson had doubts about those guys, and those doubts were not without foundation.

Whether Jackson pushed King and his people into speeding things up or whether his intervention was shrugged off inside Ibrox and utterly ignored is something we’ll never know, but that money duly found its way to Ibrox shortly thereafter and the debt to Ashley was cleared. The Sevco board agreed another £1.5 million in loans, and they were able to get through the season.

Just a month after he had written that piece, with the money now in place and with Ashley paid off, Jackson was singing a very different song. Yet oddly he wasn’t giving the credit where it was supposed to be due.

In fact, he was telling everyone that King had actually invested “north of £7 million” in the club himself.

Myself and others mercilessly and brutally mocked him for that assertion.

Where did he get that number from?

Was it “direct knowledge”?

Was it a wee emailed memo, perchance?

Something thrown to him by a PR firm?

If it was then it was the daftest ever released in the history of public relations in Scotland, because it has been focussing minds ever since. As John James has already pointed out, the total “take” Sevco had brought in since King became chairman was not far from that sum and we know much of that had come from other members of the board.

But there was still that rather large chunk of money that came from elsewhere, from “Hong Kong-based fans” Barry Scott and Andy Ross.

Sadly, for Sevco, it quickly became apparent that Ross had some “background”.

In December 2014, he had been charged by the Securities Commission over there, and found guilty of numerous failures in relation to his handling of an audit involving a company that was being investigated for fraud. The charge was “improper personal conduct” and he was fined and banned from serving on an SEC-regulated company for a term of three years.

It’s not clear if he knows, or has done business with, George Latham, the other Hong Kong based Sevco investor, who is rumoured to be deeply unhappy with things at the club. Perhaps he’s aware of stuff that the average punter isn’t. I have heard that he was explicit in demanding that King finally show the others the colour of his money.

And this is where we head into speculative territory.

According to the people I’ve spoken to, and as  John James has suggested quite openly, neither Ross nor Scott has that kind of money. With Ross unable to sit on a board of directors, and with his net worth unknown, we can’t really say whether that’s true or not, but it can’t be easy to just find £2.5 million that’s going spare, even if, as some have suggested, there’s a Wonga rate of interest on it.

If these guys don’t have that kind of money, if John James and others are right, then they’re not the source of the £5 million which is attributed to them in the Sevco accounts and which so famously bought Ashley off and ended his hold over the club.

We know the money is real, but if it didn’t come from them then where did it come from?

Let’s start there. Let’s speculate a little.

Did that money originate elsewhere?

Say, in South Africa?

Was it funnelled through Hong Kong and into the accounts at Ibrox, with those two “investors” playing patsy, and either taking their cut of the interest or being looked after some other way?

In short, did that money come from Dave King himself?

First, with King’s financial situation being what it is, where would he get the cash?

Well, I suppose, if we’re speculating, that it’s possible the genesis of these funds was the £8.5 million in shares which he sold in MicroMega in June last year. This, after all, was the very company he used for the incestuous deal that let NOVA become a South African company, although it was based in Hong Kong. In fact, isn’t it also possible that the £5 million actually went through NOVA itself?

As I said, I’m not saying this is true.

This is all speculative, a “what if?” scenario.

But the way the game is run here in Scotland, it’s not impossible.

It’s not even improbable.

Because this isn’t even about King, not really. This is a scenario that could as easily have involved Craig Whyte or Charles Green or the Easdales or whoever else has sat on the Ibrox board over the last few years. The loopholes that allowed those guys to get their feet under the table are still wide open, and God alone knows what might happen in the future if they stay like that.

As to King himself, well what he does with his own money is his lookout. He’s already proven to be a little slippery, but also a little stupid. In the documented instance which he’s famous for he did, after all, get caught.

I expect someone who screws up that badly would be odds-on to do so again.

It’s not as if there aren’t people looking.

As simple as it would be for someone like him to move money around like that and find ways of doing it, he has to know he wouldn’t be operating in the dark. He’d be doing it surrounded by eager eyes.

I’m 100% certain that SARS keeps a close one on him and they aren’t the only ones. He has seriously pissed off an actual billionaire, a guy who knows his background and will be very aware of South African exchange controls and the corporate structures at NOVA and MicroMega, and will be understandably curious about what the source of the £5 million which paid him off is.

Is that a guy you’d want digging into you?

We already know King provokes him to a foolish, even dangerous, degree but could he really have been that stupid?

Ego does things to people. It doesn’t keep them smart.

But like I said, that’s his business.

If he’s done something daft then it’s on his head, and there’ll be no dodging the bullet this time.

The issue here, as ever, is football governance or what passes for it in Scotland, because I cannot imagine another association where a scenario like the one I just proposed is even remotely possible, in light of all the outside agencies supposed to be watching.

What troubles me is this; what does it mean to Scottish football?

Because we’d be talking about money laundering here, and that’s the best case scenario. That’s the long and short of it, and that goes well beyond the usual nonsense we often hear about. This would be the illegal transfer of funds from one country to another, evading financial controls and other laws, and probably screwing with the tax man into the bargain. Again.

It all comes down to how this kind of thing could easily happen with the people we have running the Scottish game. As John James has pointed out, if someone wanted to do this kind of thing he only has to look at the way the media ignores any issue it doesn’t want to deal with and the way in which the SFA turns a blind eye to all manner of things, no matter how dark.

None of this should be possible with the proper controls, but it is.

Good governance doesn’t even have to be that complicated, not in this case.

I cannot overstate enough times that Dave King is an open book. His history is not a secret and neither is the fact he needs to comply with South African laws involving investment and the transfer of funds. That’s a fact and whether he simply found two Hong Kong based mugs or whether he used them as conduits for a scam is beside the point.

To get where he is right now, he had to pass a “fit and proper person” exam.

We all know that. Ashley took the SFA to court to find out how they arrived at the decision, and he demanded they make their report on it public. He hinted at some deadly information in there. I think I know what that information is. It’s not what they asked King or what answers he gave. It’s what they didn’t bother to ask him at all. It’s the answers they didn’t even look for.

When he sat in front of the SFA for his fit and proper person examination, how much did they really want to know?

Did they quiz him on South African financial regulations?

How much clarity did they seek about how he was going to meet all of his stated commitments about investing tens of millions of “his children’s inheritance”?

We know it’s impossible.

But this guy was presenting himself as the saviour of the club, in the same manner Whyte did, with glib assurances painting over blatant bullshit. Remove Dave King and his grandiose and utterly ridiculous promises and isn’t Sevco a club in serious danger of collapse as a going concern already?

It’s his alleged wealth that underpins the “business plan”, the one on which the club getting a UEFA Level License to compete in the top flight next season legally depends … this is right there, in black and white, in the SFA and UEFA rule books.

Wasn’t it important to know where the cash was coming from?

Surely they didn’t just accept all that nonsense about how easy it would be to find “outside investment”?

Who better than Stewart Regan knows how hard that is?

This is a Scottish club that emerged from a liquidation, which is still haunted by a tax scam and wIth no record of posting profits. As Phil is fond of saying, “this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.”

Sevco’s short term business plan is wholly dependent on Dave King’s promised pot of gold, and as we’ve seen even if that exists he’s not going to be able to use it for that purpose, not legally, not by any means that would be palatable to his government or in line with the deal he’s made with them. So where’s the money actually coming from?

Some folk in a position to know assertain that everything about the Hong Kong deal is fishy. That nothing about it really fits. Where the Hell did King find these guys? Why didn’t they “invest” before? Their £5 million could have bought the assets of the club in 2012, so why now? Why have they only now popped up out of the woodwork?

They were initially touted as being “Rangers men.” But they were previously “investors” in Workington Reds, where they were similarly packaged as “fans” investing their cash in an act of love.

It’s not hard to come up with tenuous links between Ross and King, if we wanted to take speculation to absurd heights. Ross works for Baker Tily. They are one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, so it may just be a coincidence that they’ve worked with NOVA. That they’ve got offices in both Hong Kong and Johannesberg. That there are other subtle connections.

But they were also linked with Sevco itself.

In August 2015 they were being touted as the club’s official auditors, and in an odd turn of events Phil reported that a “senior client” of the company had strongly objected to that. He sent them a bunch of questions on the matter, alleging that they’d turned down the opportunity and that Campbell Dallas LLB had been approached instead. As it turned out, they were duly appointed a day or two later.

Although The Offshore Game and the Tax Justice Network guys have had all the ink recently, they’re not the only NGO to have looked into the dark corners of football. In 2009, The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental agency, wrote a report called Money Laundering Through The Football Sector. It is a damning, shocking, and incredibly prescient piece of work.

Since then, of course, Scotland has seen a parade of less than savoury characters troop across the landscape singing The Billy Boys. As one guy on TSFM said recently (and thanks to him, REIVER, for posting a link to the FATF report, “organised crime has its grubby hands in sport all around the world why would Scotland be left out?”

Who says we’ve been left out?

Does any of this even remotely compute at the SFA? Do they give a damn? Can something as potentially damaging as this really happen right under their noses? Of course it could. Because it’s happened already.

I mean, don’t these people have a fiduciary responsibility to scrutinise the means by which a football club comes into millions of pounds?

My God, doesn’t that open the doors wide to corruption on a grand scale?

How do we know clubs aren’t being financed by the proceeds of crime right now?

That there isn’t at least one Scottish club paying its bills with drug money or loan sharking debts or worse? The Ashley loans were at least open and transparent, his company at least reputable if not entirely wholesome.

King couldn’t wait to get Sevco off the stock exchange. We’ve all wondered why. Is it because, as he puts it, that it’s expensive and wasteful of time and effort? Did he really ditch is so he wouldn’t have to fill in a few forms? It’s a lot of inconvienance, including not being able to start a share issue, just to save on the admin costs.

Or was there another reason? A darker one?

One more to do with transparency and openness?

These are just some of the reasons why a scenario like the one I’ve outlined is more than just a flight of fancy and the stuff of the internet Bampot. We have rules here so lax you could get around them in a hundred ways, and it wouldn’t take an international super villain out of a Bond movie to come up with a dozen strategies for pulling it off.

Doesn’t our football association need full transparency about these sort of things?

Isn’t it way past time for fit and proper person criteria to do what it says on the tin?

Isn’t it time for financial fair play to be introduced so stuff like this is impossible and not just unbelievable?

Because the only reason I’m not wholly convinced of this is that it just sounds so absolutely out there and unreal because of all the implications of it.

And that begs one last question; at what point does a failure in governance become complicity?

When does looking the other way graduate to something more serious?

Is wilfully ignoring a possible criminal act not, itself, a criminal offence?

The SFA is a public body. It has responsibilities beyond covering its own backside and that of a certain football chairman.

If the SFA has helped Dave King commit a crime here – either by accident or design – then not only should heads roll but people should be indicted alongside him as co-conspirators or accessories after the fact.

I can’t put it more bluntly.

This policy of “look the other way” when it comes to Ibrox has been disastrous for the club and for Scottish football but we’re on a whole new playing field if a scenario like the one I just proposed ever comes to pass and the authorities find out about it.

People will say this is a crazy suggestion, and at any other association it would be.

As those who’ve been following the Resolution 12 situation though, we know what these folk are capable of.

The SFA knew what Whyte was planning months before he pulled the plug, allowing Rangers to trade whilst insolvent and continuing to run up debts it had no intention of paying.

They allowed the assets of the liquidation to be bought by a company which wasn’t named on the original sales documents, and they gave that company a license.

They allowed Green to sell shares when it was apparent to many they might not be his to sell and they stood back whilst his board of directors investigated itself over links to Craig Whyte, links which had a direct bearing on that share issue.

I have long contended that this might have made them party to a fraud.

Does it still sound unlikely to you?

Americans have a law that I sometimes think would work very well over here; they call it RICO. The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation Act, which seeks to destroy entire groups involved in what the FBI refers to as a “continuing criminal conspiracy.”

Regan, Doncaster and others have gone out of their way to help first Rangers and then the NewCo avoid the scrutiny every other club would get, and through all of it their only defence is to accuse those of us who question it of bias and being motivated by hate.

What’s the line from The Godfather?

“It’s business, not personal.”

This wouldn’t be a shock if it turned out to be true, and people at Hampden who should have known better either averted their eyes or simply pretended it wasn’t happening at all. For people who understand the words “continuing criminal conspiracy” better than most, having assisted Craig Whyte in one, this wouldn’t be personal.

It would just be business as usual.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Celtic Fans Crowdfunded Newspaper Ad On SFA Scandals Is Paid For And Ready To Go

stack-newspaper-pile-croppedBefore we go any further, let me apologise to all of you who were trying to access the site, and this article, before now. Although I should be used to all manner of mendacity and hassle by this point I’m clearly still a babe in the woods.

This evening, after I published this article, this site was subjected to what I can only describe as a “brute force” assault.

First it was a Denial of Service attack and then it was straightforward hacking job, which took down this article and infected the rest of the site with God knows what.

This was a pretty bad evening, and costly too. I won’t go into details. It’ll depress me. But you know something? If they’re screwing with you to this degree you’re doing something right.

Anyway, congratulations to the guys over on CQN, and to the Celtic Family as a whole, for another outstanding achievement.

Today, Winning Captains has announced that the costs of two full page advertisements – one in the Swiss press and one in The Guardian – are now paid for and booked, and good to go for next week.

The Guardian ad will bring the Celtic fan led reform campaigns to the attention of an English based audience and seek to spark interest in the cause in the wider media.

As the ad before last season’s League Cup semi-final got people outside Scotland to look at the Survival Myth, this ad will get the media down south focussed on the way the one up here ignores major issues and the SFA continues to be run by people who think they should be immune from scrutiny.

This is a landmark moment; mark my words, it will have an effect.

The ad in the Swiss press is even more important, of course, because it’s the moment we put this issue in front of the eyes of UEFA.

We can write all the letters to these guys that we want, but nothing we do in that regard will have an ounce of the impact taking out an ad in a newspaper right on their doorstep will have. It’s an incredibly ambitious move.

And it’s a game changer.

In addition to all this, the guys behind this campaign are pushing out the boat one last time, to run a third ad in a Scottish newspaper at a later date.

I can’t overstate how important this development is.

I’d urge anyone who’s able to support them to do so by visiting the following link:

Crowdfunding Campaign

I’ll tell you why this is an amazing achievement.

Celtic fans, and a small but important number of those at other clubs have gone to incredible lengths to bring these matters to light. The whole of Scottish football was hurt by what Rangers did, but it was a small handful of supporters who took the lead in driving reform.

This isn’t to say the majority of fans at other clubs didn’t get involved.

When the moves were afoot to parachute the NewCo into the SPL they rallied as we did and lobbied like mad to prevent it.

But it was mostly Celtic fans who pushed hardest and longest to make sure nothing like this could happen again. With a small handful of fans from other clubs, it was Celtic supporters who laid the foundation stones for sites like The Scottish Football Monitor, which sought and still seeks to engage all supporters, everywhere.

Because of that, there’s a perception amongst many that this remains a “Celtic fan led” campaign and whilst not entirely untrue efforts like this wouldn’t be possible without a greater hunger amongst football fans to see real transparency in our sport.

We should all take heart from the way this war is being waged.

Because when you consider what it must cost to place an in just one newspaper you have to be awed at the commitment from our supporters towards making it happen in two, and actually pushing further for three.

I know, from personal experience, how fantastic that commitment is; this site only continues at all (and some big stuff is coming on it soon!) because of donations and the other support that it gets.

It’s humbling to get that support, but I’ve ceased being surprised by it because our fans (and others) are remarkable in that they don’t just talk a good game … they put their money where their mouths are. They are willing to fund challenges to the status quo. They are willing to push agendas, even when it means dipping into their wallets.

I find this incredible, and what it portends for the future can’t be doubted.

If it comes to the crunch, fans will fund legal challenges to the SFA if that’s what it takes to get justice. It’s a long game we’re playing here, and as we’ve all seen getting the results won’t happen overnight – it never does – but I’ve never stopped believing that it will happen.

Take pride in this development, friends, because this is a big one.

Now I’m going to tell you why these ads are necessary; why, in fact, they are vital to the campaign and why they should be given every support, not only financially.

I’ve been doing this now for five years nearly, and there are guys out there who’ve been doing it even longer. There have been books about this, documentaries, and a small handful of journalists have tried to get it into the mainstream.

None of it has crystallised thinking as it should have.

One day I’m going to write a ball-buster of a book about this period, and I know others will do the same, and they might impact the debate in their own way, as these blogs might grow their readerships to the point where Celtic fans don’t bother with the mainstream press at all … but until we get to that point the papers will always have longer reach than we do.

We’ve worked an absolute miracle so far, all of us, together, in transforming the way the debate over football governance in this country is conducted. There was a time when the SFA would never have had to face scrutiny like this, and the idea, five years ago, that we would be able to hound the CEO of the association into answering his critics would have seemed preposterous.

Guys like Tom English can talk the most lamentable bullshit all day, every day, about “flaws” in the Offshore Game report without once pointing out what a single one of them is, but these people can no longer close off the debate completely by doing that.

Our quest for the big three – governance, accountability and oversight – has been unrelenting.

The impact we’ve had so far has been immense.

But it’s not enough.

This is still, primarily, an internet campaign and these ads are a monumentally important step towards changing that, and taking us into a brand new phase.

When you think about what people like Matt McGlone were able to achieve many years ago, getting Celtic fans interested in taking control of our club, it’s extraordinary to imagine that they did it before this great engine of information was invented.

We can learn huge lessons from what they did and how it was done, because the online game isn’t the only one we can play.

This is a move towards a different way of fighting this battle, and if there’s anyone left in the media in this country (and this move absolutely disgraces them; Celtic fans actually paying to put in their papers what they don’t have the balls to write themselves. Try hiding behind “legalities” now you gutless worms) or amongst the governing bodies who has the slightest doubt about our intent and determination this should erase them once and for all.

We are here to stay, and we’re going to hold you to account no matter what.

None of these issues is going away, no matter how much they wish they would.

We will get the reforms we want. We will get the justice we demand. Because we have all the time and the will in the world, and eventually we’ll bring this wall down, whether it’s by chipping away one piece of stone at a time or finally driving a wrecking ball through it.

Those on the other side better brace themselves either way.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Crisis At Sevco: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

Downfall-Der-Untergang-downfall-der-untergang-32193090-1920-1080On 16 January 1945, Adolf Hitler moved into the final home he would ever know, the Fuhrerbunker underneath the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

Over the next few months, as his detachment from reality grew more acute, he and the members of the general staff felt the noose grow ever tighter round their necks as the Allies closed in from the West and the Soviets closed in from the East.

It was the Soviets who got there first, on 16 April.

The Battle of Berlin began.

A day later, Eva Braun threw a party in the chancellery itself, to celebrate the dictator’s 56th birthday. It was the last hurrah. During the festivities a Soviet shell landed yards from the building and blew out a wall.

The party ended, those who could escape did and the others settled down to await the end.

In the movie Downfall, which charts the final days of the regime, there is a discussion about whether Hitler himself should try to flee the city.

It is his senior adviser Albert Speer who speaks the words that will determine his fate; “You must be on stage when the curtain falls,” he says, and Hitler nods.

From that moment on, those who had wedded themselves to the dictator, who had pledged to stand by him to the last, had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Those who stayed knew the ultimate fate, and they accepted it with him.

Those who have chained themselves to the Dave King regime at Ibrox must feel like that, as if the walls are closing in around them today. It’s been a dreadful, a thoroughly appalling, last few days, from Friday’s bizarre late night press release to the hammer blows which have hit them, one after the other, in the last 24 hours.

Erase any thought that I feel bad for them.

These people deserve everything they get.

Sympathy isn’t exactly my default position when it comes to these folk; corrupt administrators, compromised journalists, braindead and ambitious fan reps. They’ve all conspired to put the club in the hands of a man a South African judge called “a glib and shameless liar” and they tied whatever was left of their reputations to his.

What a colossal error in judgement, one for which they will pay a high price before this matter is fully resolved.

This is a club on the brink of a catastrophe.

Let’s look at where things stand this morning.

Yesterday they published their accounts, and what a shambles they are.

The top-line figure of £7.4 million in losses would be dreadful enough, but that hides a multitude of sins. Without a series of loans, including the Sports Direct £5 million, the sale of a player and some other add-ons the actual figure would have been twice as high.

The club admits it doesn’t have the capital to get through the season, with the cash needed to do it supposedly coming from a proposed debt-for-equity swap that might not make it past the shareholders.

They are in hock to current directors at the moment, and rumours continue to circulate that these guys have had it.

Their other key lender is a guy they’ve pissed off so much he’s now taking legal action to have the chairman thrown in jail.

King himself has already been indicted and convicted for a tax fraud in South Africa, but before this he was on the board of the previous football club, which has just been found guilty of a massive, and long term, tax evasion scheme which in any other football association would have immediately opened an investigation leading to title stripping and historical disgrace.

As Andrew Smith has said, in an astonishingly blunt, and uncompromising, piece in The Scotsman this morning; “At the very least, the titles Rangers won in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010 should be declared void. These honours were won in the most dishonourable fashion.”

He’s correct. The Big Tax Case verdict is a moment that will haunt the club forevermore.

Their liquidation was all the more inevitable in the light of it, and Craig Whyte, the man the media and the Sevco fans love to blame, is shown to have been a spiv and a chancer, but also is absolved of the historic responsibility for their ultimate fate.

Rangers did not “die for nothing”, as some of their more ridiculous supporters reps have claimed.

They died because for too long they spent other people’s money, and finally yours and mine. When they were forced to pay their own way – and Whyte’s season was the first time in decades when they had to do that without European income – that fate was sealed.

At the same time, the manager has reversed himself on team building policy.

He’s seen his club crash out of one of the two main domestic cup competitions already and they just lost to their biggest challengers in the league.

On the football front, things aren’t bad.

They’re certainly not in crisis, but if they lose another match in the next few weeks the pressure on that end will begin to stack up.

The squad as it stands appears capable, but only in their current division.

Furthermore, with this club surrounded in uncertainty that is bound to take its toll.

There’s also the question as to whether the manager feels he’s going to get the backing he was promised.

He seemed genuinely excited a week ago when he talked about bringing in a better class of player. Just a few days later, he was no longer signing them and the statement that the club released later that night made it clear the money for them isn’t there unless it comes from more soft loans from the boardroom.

How long before he’s fed up with that?

This isn’t a guy with “Rangersitus” here. He’s a hardnosed professional, a guy who came from the financial markets. He believes he can build a reputation in football, and he will realise in the fullness of time what a car-crash Sevco actually is, if he isn’t already becoming aware of that.

Remember, this isn’t a guy King and the board can buy off with some cobblers about jam tomorrow.

He knows how to work with numbers. He knows you can’t build the kind of club he wants them to become without cold hard cash. He’s worked in the City, and he knows what it takes to go out and get financing. He knows about market credibility … and if he doesn’t already realise that Sevco has absolute none of that well, how the Hell did he make his money?

So there aren’t immediate problems in the dressing room, but those problems are on their way and you can see it for miles and miles.

If things get too difficult and Warburton believes his own reputation is being tarnished, this guy will walk and not look back.

All this is to say nothing of asset ownership issues, court cases mounting up, and persons connected to the club being under indictment.

Throughout all of what’s come before we’ve heard the usual bleating that none of this is the fault “of the club” itself, that the fans are victims, as if directors don’t make decisions on behalf of the institution that they’re running and those supporters didn’t have a chance.

This is a club where crisis is a permanent state of affairs, where one boardroom shyster is soon replaced by another and where all of them – without exception – are cheered in and jeered out later by a support which appears stone stupid and unable to learn from past mistakes.

They backed Whyte before they turned on him, even as we told them he was a charlatan of the very worst kind.

We exposed his lies even before he took over, and they didn’t listen and hailed him a hero.

They were still unbelieving right up to administration day itself.

They welcomed Green with open arms, buying not so much into his business plan (which had more holes in it than a Jerry Bruckheimer film) as his bombast when he talked about “Rangersitus” and how every other club hated them because of bigotry.

I ask you, if you were a dodgy geezer looking for people to fleece, could you do any better than tens of thousands who would reach into their wallets the moment you started talking about how they were special and the rest of the world was against them because of it?

That’s the easiest money the guy ever made in his life.

Now there’s Dave King, the “glib and shameless liar”, the man who a court condemned in the harshest language permissible without resorting to swearing.

This guy has reversed himself so many times since taking over it’s become impossible now to recognise the place where reality ends and the pipe dreams begin. Fact, fiction, even fantasy, have merged into one with this joker, and you get the impression watching him, reading him and listening to him that he simply says whatever comes into his head, or whatever he thinks the audience wants to hear, whatever its relationship to truth.

The media loves him, for reasons passing understanding as he is not evenly remotely credible.

His record in front of them is deplorable. He treats them like absolute mugs, clearly thinking of them as useful idiots without a shred of backbone at all. He has to, otherwise he wouldn’t so freely, and fearlessly, lie to their faces.

Even today, Keith Jackson has praised King for “openness” in how they’ll get through the season; loans from existing shareholders.

Those loans, according to Jackson, have already been agreed by the directors.

Is that true? I think he should check and make sure this isn’t just a case of King being economical with the facts again.

He’s bought, wholly, into the stated figure of £2.5 million being enough to get the club through the season too. I’m willing to bet that long before the current campaign ends we’ll be hearing that it isn’t quite enough, that it’s going to take the same again – at least – to actually complete their fixtures. And where’s that coming from?

He’s talking the usual nonsense about how the club can “untangle the finances” with a share issue, and goes on to call those of us who are predicting “imminent catastrophe” as indulging in “absurd wishful thinking.”

First, none of us said this is “imminent.”

That is to say that it won’t be tomorrow or the day after that.

They may even limp to the end of the season.

But there are long term structural problems at Ibrox that won’t be resolved as long as Dave King is at the helm, and sooner or later his fellow directors are going to tell him there’s no more gas left in the tank.

Imminent? No. But certain, and it doesn’t take a genius to work this stuff out.

Basic math is all that’s required.

With their losses at the current level – even taking loans into account, by God – this is a club heading for disaster.

That’s a simple statement of fact.

And this share issue he’s talking about … let’s surmise that they’re able to launch it. Let’s even surmise they can hit their target, whatever that is.

This isn’t money for infrastructure spending. It’s going to be spent on the team; King’s made that pretty clear. So the wage bill will rise. Fans will get a temporary hit and buy season tickets.

Then what? Scottish football revenues aren’t enough to sustain their greedy over-reach. Once the share issue money is gone – and it won’t take long – then what?

With a new cost base that will be twice what it currently is they’ll be counting on European income to survive, if they make it that far.

Haven’t they been there before?

That way lies the boneyard.

If Jackson, Scotland’s most clinically stupid “journalist”, wants a textbook example of “absurd wishful thinking” he just gave it to us himself.

The supporters and the media have gone “all in” with Dave King, as have the governing bodies, who passed him as fit and proper despite his criminal past and his relationship with the old club that went bust on his watch.

That they allowed this guy to take up a senior position with a Scottish football club with the words of King’s national judiciary completing his disgrace was stunning to all of us who, nevertheless, had been expecting it to happen.

Like the acolytes of Hitler, who crowded into the bunker, his future and theirs are now inextricably entwined.

If he should, for example, wind up in the jail come the end of the year – and whatever Jackson reckons his suspended sentence for contempt in a South African court, and the noxious mix of what Ashley is accusing him of, makes it dangerously possible that he will – the first thing that will happen is their collective credibility will tank.

He doesn’t even have to wind up in prison for that to happen. Jackson has dismissed, as if it’s nothing, the possibility that the court will simply fine King instead. For contempt of court. Because that happens to football chairmen all the time, right?

Yes, somewhere a village is definitely missing its idiot.

If King is actually admonished by the court the consequences for the club will be further disgrace at the very best.

If he’s jailed they’ll be catastrophic.

My prediction is that they’ll enter administration on the same day, or shortly thereafter, as the directors run to distance themselves from a crisis of Chernobyl proportions.

Their fundraising capability will be obliterated well into the long term future, at least as long as King is chairman and for many, many years beyond.

The reputational damage to the club and to many in the game here, especially those who waved him through Fit and Proper person, will be monumental.

Disaster is closing in on this club, whatever optimistic press releases they might put out and whatever their friends in the media might want people to believe.

There’s a reason a judge in South Africa called King a “glib and shameless liar” and there’s a reason the Scottish sporting press have a toxic reputation with their former readers and the Bampots.

The undertone of panic in some of the coverage today is palpable, and it’s there because these people know that when the roof falls in it’s going to land right on top of them.

That’s the consequence of getting down into the bunker with a madman and his circus of fools.

And with crisis now coming at them from all sides, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Sevco Mind

JS56038833It was Alanis Morissette who once asked “What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?”

The song was called Hands Clean.

The album was called Under Rug Swept.

Tonight, all that seems peculiarly apt.

As we get nearer to a denouement in the Sevco situation, it becomes ever clearer that many people have a lot they’d like to sweep under the rug.

Few involved in this continuing saga have clean hands.

When it comes to selective memory, there’s no-one in this land of ours who can compare with those who inhabit the Ibrox universe, whether that’s the fans or the media or those inside the walls. They have elevated doublethink to an art form.

Last week, over on The CelticBlog, I mourned a media culture that thinks a routine training ground bust up merits front page stories and large tracts of the sports section.

Was it a slow news day, I wondered?

No, because there was a lot going on in the wider world and in football.

It was simply a chance to pile pressure on my club, with the added benefit that it stopped questions being asked elsewhere.

No sooner had I posted the article, than a truly extraordinary media conference took place, when Mark Warburton reversed himself completely on the subject of making new signings in January.

He had initially said he wanted five.

Now, just days later, on Friday, he told the media that such a policy would be disrespectful to his team. No-one in the press pack thought to ask what had changed in the intervening time, but to some of us it was pretty obvious.

The media accepted his explanation although it was transparent nonsense. He had made it clear what he believed the team needed, and the press had been breathlessly reporting it for days. He didn’t want squad fillers. He wanted “stars”, players who would walk into the first team and take them to the level required to challenge Celtic.

His statements to that effect had been unambiguous.

Something – or someone – had compelled him to get in front of the hack pack with a “clarification”, and as per usual the Ibrox manager got away with a blatant, and humiliating, climb-down as if it was nothing.

King had “jetted in” to meet with him in the days before.

It seemed pretty clear that he’d told Warburton there was no money, and to get in front of the press and tell them he’d misspoken when he’d talked about making January signings.

Only hours later we got confirmation of all we had suspected, and straight from the Blue Room itself, when someone cynically issued a late night press release out of the club to clear things up for those who were still in denial.

Before I go into that, a confession; part of me wants to express admiration for the way this was handled.

Any political organisation would have been proud of that.

As a former activist I know the value of the Friday night press release. It gets lost in the weekend, drawing no scrutiny or comment. Even huge stories have been largely left alone when “taken out with the trash” between the close of business Friday and mid-Monday.

Just because Sevco has had to cut back on the PR it doesn’t mean they don’t still get good advice.

They knew what they were doing with that one alright.

Yet it amazes me that more hasn’t been made of that statement, because in it lies the confirmation of everything this site and others have been saying for months. Even our intrepid hacks can’t deny that it’s news – and big news.

This is Sevco’s press team admitting that the central problems we identified months ago are now acute, and without realistic solutions.

The statement admits that a new share issue is impossible at the current time.

It admits that this would have been the preferred fund raising option for the club at a time when, it now acknowledges, it needs cash badly.

It admits that this cash will have to come from the current directors, or those who don’t live in South Africa anyway.

And it confirms that there is no money in a transfer kitty for the manager, that any signings will have to be sold to the board, funded by soft loans, and only on a case-by-case basis.

It’s a statement that contradicts all King’s bombast when he took over, and as I said in my second to last piece on this site confirms that they are stuck in the mud and in no better a position than they were in before the Great Revolution.

The club is all over the place; the statement makes that clear, coached as it is in a “don’t worry, be happy” tone.

It also says that a couple of million will get them “comfortably” through the rest of the season; a claim so ridiculous it’s simply begging to be challenged.

Most importantly, the statement makes it clear there’s no real prospect of the directors who loan the club money being paid back anytime soon, and it proposes what is essentially a “debt for equity” style arrangement; the loanees – all current shareholders – will get more shares in exchange for the cash.

This is perfectly valid and they don’t need a share issue to do it. But it essentially dilutes the value and voting power of every other person who owns a piece of the club.

All those supporter organisations and individual fans who’ve “invested” risk seeing the value of what they hold reduced to virtual worthlessness.

All the work the Supporters Trust at Ibrox, all the efforts of Rangers First, it’s all going to be for nothing if this goes through.

Getting it passed requires 75% shareholder approval.

That presents problems on its own.

Ashley and his people certainly won’t vote for it.

Whatever is left of the “institutional investor” organisations will certainly oppose it.

The ordinary fans have no incentive to support it whilst King is yet to put his hands in his own pockets, but the man has the nuclear threat, of course, if he’s willing to use it; that without this influx of money there might well not be a club left to support this time next year.

That might well be the most honest thing he ever says to them.

All of this is news, and what looms over all of it is the unspoken truth that King is trying to raise money just to keep on the lights.

This isn’t investment in their future; this is to assure that the future itself lasts past January.

Sevco is spiralling downward, and it’s not surprising that our intrepid media doesn’t want to focus on that. They’d rather look at Celtic, of course, a club sitting top of the SPL by six points and chasing a domestic treble.

Is everything inside Celtic Park as it should be?

No, of course it’s not and a few good results don’t change that.

I think the manager’s tactical inflexibility will hurt us whenever we venture onto the European stage, and sure as Hell The Strategy will continue to strangle our ability to even aspire to that level.

These things don’t need to be; they aren’t inevitable.

They are the result of choices consciously made, and there are other choices and other options that could have been explored but weren’t.

I still harbour doubts, and they are real and won’t be erased quickly or easily.

I have written about all of those doubts.

Our supporters have debated and discussed – and they continue to debate and discuss – what Celtic is, what it’s doing and what it should be aiming to do better in the future. That’s not unhealthy; quite the opposite.

This is scrutiny. This is how it ought to work.

The Scottish sporting press doesn’t do “scrutiny.” They stir the soup. They do the bidding of PR firms who aren’t our friends.

The media’s “scrutiny” of Celtic would be more palatable to many of us if they gave Sevco occasional harsh examination.

That they so rarely do tells you what the nature of their attention to us is about.

The media leaves Sevco to its own devices, never questioning a thing unless it suits an agenda.

The last board got criticism because the media narrative was structured around getting The Real Rangers Men into office.

That has been achieved, and now these people have no alibis left but those the press is willing to allow, but it’s not the media these people will have to answer to when – not if, but when – the wheels fall off the bandwagon.

The title of this article comes from a movie of course, one in which the pain of a bad breakup leads the two main characters to have their memories of one another erased.

Yet it opens with them meeting on a train, after the fact, and it ends with them falling for one another again.

What’s the moral?

That some things are pre-determined?

If that’s true then we know their future before it starts; another bad breakup.

Regardless, they decide to try anyway, leading me to wonder if the real moral is that people just don’t learn anything.

At Sevco, and in the media that constantly tries to deflect from trouble there, we can see the shadows of what brought Rangers low.

Ibrox is haunted.

It’s haunted because for all the supporters and those on the board claim to have kept the history, they’ve chosen to erase the parts of it that they’d rather not face up to, the lessons of what brought Rangers low and which now threaten to destroy what’s left of the reanimated corpse.

That history stalks Sevco like a horror movie monster.

It’s going to catch up to them.

(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.)

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Shooting The Messenger

stock-footage-a-man-in-a-fedora-typing-on-a-vintage-manual-typewriter-film-noirThere are things you get used to when you do this sort of thing.

One of them is the criticism of those who’s closed minds don’t want exposure to the truth, the kind of people who would rather live in ignorance than confront reality.

There are a lot of them in Scottish football.

The last article this site published – on Dave King and why his fortune might not be as large or readily available to Sevco as many of their fans, and our media, seem to believe – was extraordinarily well received, at least in terms of the number of hits it generated.

A lot of those who read it were the supporters of the Ibrox club, and it’s fair to say not all of them liked it.

I understand that. But shooting the messenger … that’s harder to comprehend.

I have a long history with these people taking pot shots at me.

Phil has the same issue, and Paul67 too.

Forget that we’ve been right on the money far more often than we’ve been wrong.

Forget that King has behaved exactly as we predicted up until now – putting not one penny of his own cash into the club.

They don’t want to hear any of it.

Especially not from us.

Check out their forums if you don’t believe it.

The second they realise that a challenging article came from a “Celtic site” they shut down at once.

This marries bigotry with stupidity in a way that makes me want to gawp in amazement.

In truth, though, any blogger who consistently tries to paint a picture of the real world for these people – and I include some of their own; McMurdo has been required reading in the last few months, as one of the very few who won’t touch the Kool Aid – is branded an idiot automatically.

I can take being tagged like that.

What I won’t take is being called a bigot myself.

It’s a charge I refute utterly and anyone who throws it around better be prepared for consequences; I’ve threatened to sue for that in the past and I repeat that threat to anyone who’s game enough.

Simply put, myself and others are going to keep telling these people what they don’t want to hear.

And they’re going to continue resisting that.

Because the truth hurts … and the truth is all I have for them.

Why do we do this so much?

People ask me that all the time.

There are a few reasons.

For one, they are sheer entertainment in a way that has nothing to do with sport, or football itself.

To me, now, they’ve become the ultimate cautionary tale, the example future football fans will come to study in order to learn what not to do as a support, in much the same way as business school students will study the bank who let them, and Murray, live it large only to be brought down when things took a turn for the worse.

I think the Rangers fans will make an excellent case study.

I find it fascinating that so many people can wilfully unplug themselves from facts, logic and even common sense and go on believing that the world is what they wish it were, rather than focus on what it is.

I find it incredible that they can ignore clear evidence and wrap themselves in the comfort blanket of fairy tale ideas as if they were little children who still believe in Santa.

For what is a sugar daddy owner to football supporters but Father Christmas himself, in a good suit?

First it was Murray they believed in, then Whyte, followed by Green and now, finally, they’ve arrived at King.

Along the way they’ve destabilised their club to the point where a man of genuine means, who could play Santa until the cows come home, has become their implacable foe instead.

And this, in itself, is an achievement, of course.

They’ve turned an honest-to-God “nothing personal, strictly business” type into a guy who might well shoot them just to watch them die.

I have the luxury – we have the luxury – of being able to indulge in this guilty pleasure, because we do so from a secure vantage point.

We are the biggest club in Scotland, without dispute, and liable to be that for a long time to come.

There’s no escaping from that fact for them, no matter how much they might wish it were otherwise, and we’re comfortable enough with our position going forward that the occasional diversion to check out the parlous state of the club that kids on it’s our greatest rival is something we can easily afford.

If our position were not so strong, would we be focussing so much attention on them?

Of course we wouldn’t.

We’re not like them, gazing around, looking to pick fights, when we should be trying to drag ourselves up.

Their club is in a chaotic state.

Instead of focussing on that, some of their fans are still chasing dreams of “nailing Celtic” in a discredited “case” over land.

I mean … seriously?

We do this because we can, because our own club, well run (for the most part) and with a plan (whether we like it or not) can navigate whatever troubles come its way. We’re not constantly dealing with crisis at every turn.

They are worthy of our study because of the sheer lunacy of their behaviour.

We’re trying to find method in the madness, perhaps, and we can afford to take time out to look.

That’s the first reason.

The second reason we do it is that we like it.

There it is. I confess. We enjoy their suffering, and why not?

They sure as Hell enjoyed ours.

I rememeber their nine in a row. It’s what made stopping the ten so thoroughly satisfying, and these last few years into something almost blissful.

That’s an unpalatable truth though, one that’s hard to take because it makes me wonder if we’re any better than gawkers at the scene of a car crash, which is undoubtedly the best representation of them I can think of.

They are a car crash, happening in slow motion.

They can hide behind that pitiful “obsessed” nonsense too, and for as long as they like, but we’re no more obsessed by them than we are at the circus freak shows which once drew a crowd.

There is something in human nature that makes you slow you own vehicle down when you see emergency service lights on the motorway, surrounding a hunk of twisted metal.

Maybe we’re sadists.

Watching them flail around these last couple of years has definitely been fun.

Why else do they think a lot of us have OD’d on jelly and ice cream?

The hint is in the stuff itself.

It’s party food, but it’s kids party food, which should tell them how seriously we really view them in our lives.

I am amazed more of them don’t get that.

The final reason I do this so much is that this mind-set of theirs has been truly damaging for Scottish football.

If the only effects of it were to their own club then they would be justified in telling us to butt out and mind our own business.

But when the governing bodies and the media try to bully other clubs into accepting the wholescale bending of the rules, when league reconstruction is constantly being mooted as an alternative to clubs reaching the top flight on merit, when the atmosphere at grounds is polluted by the most appalling, retrograde singing from a section of their support and whilst they continue to indulge in a re-write of history that excuses the most scandalous practices ever seen in Scottish football whilst they simultaneously play the “victim card”, telling the world they have been unfairly treated … well that is our business and no mistake.

All the calamities which have struck them in recent years, whether you’re talking about Sevco or those which obliterated Rangers, were self-inflicted. This constant casting about for people to blame not only damages our game but stops them learning the lessons of history.

They blame Craig Whyte for their demise, ignoring the fact that had they been in good financial health and able to meet their funding requirements as per every other club in the leagues that he wouldn’t have needed to take such drastic action when they were knocked out of Europe.

When you boil it down, their real complaint against Whyte isn’t that he was a bad man. It’s that he wasn’t a rich one, as their media friends had led them to believe. He didn’t have the cash to continue funding a playing squad the club could not afford.

They think we’re stupid, that we’ve forgotten that for a while they were gleeful at the prospect of “starting fresh” without debts.

They spent their first year as Sevco boasting about it, and King was still boasting about it last week, even as BDO continued to sift through the rubble out of which they crawled, blaming everybody else.

They are back in the courts this week too, as the Big Tax Case drags on, another area where they claim to have been the targets of unscrupulous people, as if the Unseen Fenian Hand has reached as far as HMRC and turned it against them.

You really have to take your hats off to them for the scope of what they allege.

It really is something.

In their world, officials at BOS and Lloyds colluded against them.

HMRC came after them out of hate.

Every club in Scottish football lashed out vindictively.

At the same time, numerous Scottish based public bodies were coming together to let Celtic have land on the cheap, and in violation of the law.

This is mind-boggling … a kind of multi-track, multi-agency, multi-level conspiracy involving political corruption, misuse of company funds and public resources, cover-ups and deceit which could send people to jail if true … based on jealousy of a football club.

That is the definition of paranoia.

And to think they used to call it “the Irish disease.”

What’s the truth about all this?

That the governing bodies of football, run by one of their former directors, one heavily implicated in their scandals, let them away with murder and continues to.

That the bank which gave their owner unlimited access to funds, with which he built their ego-stoked “glory days” and let them run up debts in the tens of millions before the financial crash of 2008 stopped all that in its tracks, was the same one that almost closed Celtic’s doors over a deficit of only £7 million.

That they get an easier ride from the newspapers than any other football club in the UK.

That we here in Scotland invented “the Internet Bampots” to counter that.

That we re-wrote the media lexicon to include the phrase “succulent lamb journalism” and were the nation whose press once sat in silence at a media conference after a calamitous result for Rangers because no-one wanted to ask a negative question and there were no positives to be had.

That the whole of our political and media class, as well as the governing bodies themselves, ignored sectarian singing for decades and a religious based signing policy which should have made them a pariah club across world football.

That even the scandalous behaviour of a section of their support, in numerous European cities, including Pamplona, Barcelona and Manchester, was excused – and even blamed on the fans of other clubs.

That they still claim HMRC had no basis to go after them in the first place, and have distorted the verdict in the case as it stands as “a victory” when, in fact, it highlighted numerous breaches of tax rules and revealed a pattern of concealment and dishonesty which is breath-taking.

I’ve long argued that I, personally, do not care what the final verdict in that case ends up because that will simply tell the world whether their smart lawyers dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s properly and so kept their tax scam “legal.”

I’m more interested in whether or not it was moral.

We know the answer to that one.

The consequences we see for society are pretty clear. It was anything but.

In only the second article for this site – “More Than A Sports Story” – I examined those consequences in terms of hard numbers and it still blows you away to go back and look over today.

Through all this, I’ve said, repeatedly, that I do not hate the club that plays out of Ibrox.

There is a section of their support, mired in sectarianism, fuelled by paranoia, wallowing in a superiority complex that is woefully misplaced, which I despise, and I make no secret about that.

You know the ones I mean; those who proclaim their patriotism by making the Nazi salute.

Those who “honour” their “culture” by reminding the world every single year how backward it is.

Those who think hiding behind abused children and even clambering onto the corpses of the dead, is a way to score cheap points.

It is impossible not to loathe such people.

They are uncivilised scum.

They are what we call the Huns.

Furthermore, I would argue that many of their “fellow fans” feel the same way about them.

I know they do.

I know for a fact they do.

I’m going to keep highlighting those people too, because the game (and their club) will be better off when they are rooted out of it.

All of this poisons our game here.

The scandals, the corruption, the rule bending, the bigotry, the Survival Myth and the Victim Myth.

They all feed into a perception, which our media is happy to promote, that our game is a mess; that we’re a basket case country instead of simply one with a single, renegade, basket case club which got “too big to fail” and then failed anyway, changing our perceptions of football reality overnight in a way a lot of people still don’t accept.

But of course, what it really did was introduced that reality to a world which had lived in denial of it long before the Internet Bampots got here.

The real problem they have with us is that we keep trying to make them confront that fact, and all the unpleasant truths that go with it.

They can shoot the messenger all they like.

Their problems won’t go away.

We won’t either.

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Paying The Piper

Richard-GoughSometimes you read, see or hear something so ludicrous that your very first reaction to it is to burst out laughing.

I felt like that yesterday, reading Richard Gough tell the Sevco supporters that they should get behind the team, and buy season tickets.

Dear oh dear. Is this supposed to be funny?

Am I supposed to chuckle when I think back on the time, not so long ago, when he was urging those same fans to starve out the old board?

Do the supporters of this club ever get a clean break? This guy is speaking on behalf of the new hero, the man who pushed the old board to the brink, and the club with them. It’s because of men like Gough, like his man King, that they were forced to go cap in hand to Mike Ashley for the loans to keep on the lights, which in turn handed him the keys to the kingdom.

This is one of the most bizarre situations in the recent history of Scottish football. These are the men who wrecked a company by destabilising it at every turn, and now they are in charge of the same company and blaming their predecessors for the state of it.

Imagine the brass neck it takes to do that.

More than that, imagine the contempt for the fans. To present yourselves as the solution to the problems you helped to create. To advise the opposite of what you did when you were outside the walls. To think people have forgotten that.

It helps, of course, to have a shameless, spineless, clueless local media on your side.

What was the truth about the previous board at Ibrox?

We’ll never really know because they never got a break. They had no chance.

The argument against them isn’t that they didn’t support the manager; they did.

It’s not that they didn’t talk to the fans. They did that too.

Is it really just as simple as they weren’t “Real Rangers Men” and they didn’t have the support of the media?

How can one club experience so much turmoil?

We caused some of it. We, the bloggers.

Some of us did it by leaking stories, others by putting the worst possible spin on things.

Some of us did it because, in all honesty, we enjoy baiting Sevco and their fans.

Some of us did it for the sheer pleasure of it.

For others, it was strictly business, nothing personal at all, covering every moment because that’s what had to be done.

For myself, I’ve drifted in and out of each of these groups.

There are days when I’ve done it because someone had to, and others where the pleasure of it has been sharp enough to taste.

But make no mistakes; we didn’t bring the wrecking ball.

The people swinging that were the “Real Rangers Men” themselves, with a little help from their pals in the press.

Do you remember when this site and others mocked Graham Wallace for his “120 day review”?

He announced that to great fanfare, and the press and Sevco fans loved it, at first.

It was only the bloggers who wondered why it should take four months to produce a policy document.

At the end of it, what they presented was so vague we all wondered why they’d bothered, and I savagely mocked it here as a consequence.

But you know something? King has been at Ibrox almost as long.

Where is his “120 day review”?

Where is the plan?

He’s given a few press conferences, but every single word he has uttered has contradicted what came before.

He treats the media with as much contempt as it’s possible to do … and they print every word he says anyway, without question, as if they don’t have basic comprehension skills.

Do these people have any backbone at all? Any concept of how gutless they look?

In my last article, I wrote about Warburton and how he talked a good game at his own first press conference, and I wondered how it would translate into action. I knew that either way he’d get a free ride from the hacks.

The plan, according to him, was to build a young team capable of playing passing football.

Remember that? It was only last week. It’s fresh in my memory, and I’m sure yours, for that very reason.

It hasn’t taken long for the nonsense to start though.

John Eustace? Eah? He’s 35!

If the manager wanted experienced players to help guide the youngsters he could have re-signed McCulloch, Miller, Boyd or one of the other old crocks who helped guide them to third place in the league and humiliation last season.

The media would have scorned that. Or maybe they would have. So … a fresh face was needed.

But Eustace doesn’t fit the profile at all except in that he’s cheap.

And how has the media responded?

The Daily Record describes him as a “cornerstone signing”, which makes me want to laugh uncontrollably.

Note to the breathless hack who wrote those words; a cornerstone signing is supposed to last more than one year. You build a team around him. Not sling him into a midfield for one season to try and win promotion.

This level of coverage is pitiful and even disgraceful, but it’s all part of the pattern, all part of the quest to make it look as if this club is on the up and up, instead of stumbling from one crisis to another.

And so our media become PR men themselves, working to help the club sell tickets.

They are a mess, and patching it up with an unknown defender and a 35 year old midfielder isn’t going to make them into Barcelona.

Are these the players King promised, the “Premier League” class footballers, who are going to be challenging us next year?

Little questions like that are inconvenient.

This is a club that has mastered the art of feeding disinformation to the press and its own fans, but deep down I think it goes much further than that. I think Sevco is a club that no longer knows when it’s lying to itself.

So you have people like Gough, a hero to their supporters, advising them to put their faith in a man who helped wreck the last three years … on the basis that the last three years were a wreck.

He says King being chairman “vindicates” the policy that resulted in Mike Ashley holding the assets and strangling them for money.

Gough also claims there is a plan, which no-one has seen.

He says it’s good the club is now talking about “signing players” rather than focussing on the chaos off the pitch, but he’s oddly ignorant of the fact that last year, whilst players were being signed, it was he and King who were causing the chaos.

Our media clearly doesn’t think that’s very important.

They even let him away with slandering the character of Lee Wallace, one of only a handful of players who was prepared to transfer over to the NewCo, and play his way up through the ranks with them. If that’s not captain material I don’t know what is, but rather than write that, or something like it, the media is on board with a complete unknown who won’t be at the club 18 months coming in to take his place.

That’s how you reward loyalty, eah? Can you imagine if Celtic did such a thing?

Then there’s the extrordinarily favourable coverage King still gets.

The mark of how much the new chairman cares is demonstrated by how little time he spends here in the UK.

Celtic’s Dermott Desmond is often criticised for being an absentee landlord, but in his place is a board of directors that gets things done on the day to day. He’s never sought to be the man at the helm.

King positioned himself for the chairman’s seat, but will probably spend less than one third of the year actually sitting in it, doing the job.

It’s a vanity post, and one that so far has cost him not a red cent.

Loans don’t count.

This may have escaped his notice, as he appears to believe the opposite, but the defining characteristic of a one is that it’s repaid someday.

Maybe he thinks they work like EBT’s.

When the recent EGM came up at Ibrox, neither he nor Ashley even bothered to turn up for it.

Sports Direct, who sent five lawyers to a minor legal skirmish the day before, didn’t even send someone to represent them during it.

The media doesn’t even try to cover the implications of that, and they are enormous.

The club is a chessboard being fought over by a “glib and shameless liar” and egomaniac and a businessman who takes no prisoners and has spent so long being insulted and vilified here in Scotland that he’s got no incentive to do them a turn and come to some arrangement.

He knows that if mug punters will buy season tickets that they’ll also buy jerseys.

He knows that if the team starts to win games and there’s a “feel-good factor” he’ll make money.

And he knows other things too.

He’s an actual billionaire, not a media spun one.

He knows he has the wealth and the resources to ride out a bad spell and whatever losses comes with that.

He knows Sevco don’t, that King doesn’t, that Park and his people won’t carry the water if it’s going to be an uphill journey.

He knows the City of London won’t touch them, that Sevco is weak and that the right (or wrong) nudge could bring it all down.

This is the legacy the “Real Rangers Men” share responsibility for.

The media laps it all up, because they did their own part in bringing these guys to the club.

Now they have what they wanted; access.

Exclusives. Succulent lamb, fresh from the hands of a glorious new messiah.

He’s using them, but that’s fine because they’re using him too.

The man who pays the piper calls the tune, after all.

We’ve heard this song before, of course.

It ends with the orchestra standing on the deck of sinking ship, instruments in hand, playing as the whole lot goes down.

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The Empire Strikes Back

showbiz-mike-ashley-newcastleOh how bad must it feel to learn you’ve lost a battle where you thought you’d won the war?

Oh how tough must that be to take?

Tonight Sevco Rangers fans are pondering the future again, after Iron Mike Ashley threw the gauntlet down to Dave King and the board of directors at Ibrox, by demanding they repay his £5 million loan.

For giggles, he threw in a sweetener; a renegotiation of his merchandising deals if they agreed and wrote him a cheque.

As a piece of political theatre it is quite brilliant.

Ashley, like the rest of us, has doubtless been listening to the grapevine, and so he knows the board at Ibrox has been touring the finance houses of London and elsewhere, trying to find the money to keep things ticking over until the fans dip into their pockets for season tickets.

For reasons we can only guess at, King doesn’t seem to want to pay this out of his own pocket and there are rumours about ructions on the Ibrox board as the rest of its members are already tired of being asked to pick up the financial slack.

So, they’ve been trying to raise cash from elsewhere.

The club’s parlous financial state is a well-known fact out there, so there was never any real likelihood of them finding the cash from top brokers or investment houses.

When Charles Green went there he had pie in the sky to sell.

These guys have neither the piss not the pot, and those big doors were never going to open wide to greet them.

So I’m hardly surprised they didn’t get any joy there.

What is a shock is that they didn’t even manage to secure a loan from one of those high-interest houses, the ones that make Wonga look like the Co-Operative Bank. When the Ronnie and Reggie Lending Company won’t give you credit then things are beyond bad.

If your company is in that position you’re circling the drain for sure.

Ashley will know all of that.

He had his men on the inside until very recently, so I would doubt that there’s anyone in the country better informed as to the state of the Sevco finances. He has worked hard to secure himself as much control over the club as possible – making a mockery of this idea that you need a place on the board to exert influence – and he’s checkmated the assets.

Now, he’s offering them all back and more … to no gain for himself.

Why would you do that, unless you knew they didn’t have the money to pay you?

The Sevco fan representatives have all been on the telly already, with the leader of the Sons of Struth appearing on STV to indulge in a wonderful piece of fence sitting; if the club has the money to pay Ashley off they should do it. But if King tells the fans that he’s comfortable repaying the loan in instalments, then great. The club should do that instead.

Is he really dumb enough that he’s missed the point here?

Mike Ashley is no longer willing to wait for his cash.

This idea of paying in instalments … that’s off the table now. It’s done with.

The Sports Direct supremo wants his money, and I suspect that if Sevco’s board stalls him he’ll send in the billionaire equivalent of the heavy mob; a team of lawyers who will turn Dave King to jelly inside a minute.

And I’ll tell you something else; these won’t be like the harried, outgunned, poorly paid, low morale state prosecutors he faced in South Africa.

These guys will be wearing £1000 suits.

They’ll arrive in brand new shiny Mercedes’.

They’ll be wearing Rolex watches, and they’ll be well acquainted with the fresh smell of blood in the wind.

It was always going to go this way.

King and Murray, in their arrogance, backed up by a media that was baying like wolves for changes in the boardroom, they really did believe their own nonsense. They bought into their own fiction, that they were better for the club than a guy who’s built a fortune from nothing, one that dwarfs what any of them has.

They really did believe that someone who’s clawed his way up the Sunday Times Rich List without the inconvenience of a tax evasion trial was just going to go away, scared into submission by the ranks of the Peepil.

Not in this lifetime. How could they be so stupid?

All that talk of victory, it was hubris.

All that stuff about King and his people bringing a long term vision; it’s been months now and all that’s happened is the club has gotten itself into even more trouble.

This time last week they were picking a wholly ridiculous and un-necessary fight with the SPFL over tickets, wanting to give them away to their own fans at a time when they are skint, and for no other reason than it would have deprived other clubs of money.

You cannot even conceive of the mind-set that conjures that one up.

It has the whiff of madness about it.

They play on Sunday for a spot in the play-off semi-finals against Hibs.

If they win they’re still a ways from being able to take a place in the SPL.

If they lose they are consigned to the Championship for another season at least.

The damage that would do to them, financial as well as reputational, would be absolutely enormous.

King and his people could have come in and acted like conciliators.

They could have mended fences with the SFA and the SPLF.

They could have rebuilt their shattered relationship with other teams.

Instead of acting like a mafia don, King could have offered to keep Ashley’s people on the board, and found a way to work with them.

Instead, they swung wildly in the direction of their own lunatic fringe.

They embraced the old mind-set and pulled it to themselves like a comfort blanket.

This is the result; another round of fighting.

Another year of turmoil.

Another spell of worry and hardship and doubt and fear.

When does it cease to resemble crisis?

Well an avalanche can start with a pebble. A snowball going down a mountain gets gradually bigger as it rolls until it looks, from below, as if the whole side of the hill is on the move.

A visual analogy, right? But I prefer this one.

If you put a frog in boiling water, it jumps right out. But if you put a frog into cold water and heat it up steadily … well, you can serve that little critter in a soup when you’re finished because it’ll sit there until it cooks.

That’s what life is like for anyone at Ibrox now.

Like sitting in a pool of water that’s slowly getting hotter and hotter and hotter.

When does a crisis cease to be a crisis?

When it’s just another day.

Sevco and all its supporters continue to live in “interesting times.”

And it makes damned fine entertainment for the rest of us.

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A Tissue Of Lies?

23734723Welcome to Day Five of the Josh Meekings handball debate.

Today, it appears clear that every single question the fans have been asking, in the course of the last week, has been fully justified and vindicated.

The final confirmation of it came last night, when the BBC Scotland website obtained information on what was in the referee’s report that was presented to Inverness and their lawyers at Hampden yesterday.

According to that report, Alan Muir told Steve McLean that he had seen the ball hit Meekings on the head, and that McLean had decided, on that basis, not to award the spot kick and send the player off.

This story, although certainly plausible, flatly contradicts the version of events the SFA has been pushing all week, and which they used in their justification for bringing a case against Meekings in the first place.

It suggests that at some point between Sunday and now a bunch of people sat down and fabricated a cover story.

It suggests that one of two people is lying; either John Fleming was when he briefed the media on Monday, telling them the officials had all missed the incident, or Steve McLean is lying in the version of the match report he handed over for yesterday’s hearing.

I am going to assume that Fleming will have read McLean’s initial report, or at least spoke to him at length for his version of events prior to the head of referees talking to the media earlier in the week.

Based on that, I can only assume that he either read or heard that same story as was in McLean’s report yesterday, and which he miscommunicated, for reasons unknown, or he heard a different story, one in which none of the officials had witnessed the incident.

It’s important to understand the significance of this.

Since the start of the week, incredulity has been growing amongst football fans over what the official line is here.

I said yesterday that I suspected that Celtic had queried this decision and were initially told the officials hadn’t seen it.

Once the outcry on Twitter exploded and Celtic were made aware that footage demonstrated, clearly, that Muir had seen something they then queried this matter with the SFA. That’s how it would have started.

Let’s forget, for a day, the bunch of hacks who used this as an easy excuse to have a kick at Celtic.

There will be time, later, for scrutinising the behaviour of Messer’s Durham and Spiers, amongst others.

For now I want to present a challenge to the rest of our journalists.

I know you guys read the blogs. I know some of you read this one. You might not like everything we say, but you’re not intellectually dishonest. You know a story when you see one. You know what will sell papers. You know what will stir the soup.

You also know that as much as you might have disdain for us (and we for you, who am I kidding?) that it comes from the fact that a lot of bloggers see shadows that aren’t there and write everything whether true or not.

(Much as some of you have in the past. Off the high horse, right?)

But you know (as we do) that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

When we’re on to something you know it, and on occasion you’ve nicked inspiration from us.

We all know it happens. None of us minds it, really.

There are times when we do all want the same thing.

I know some of you can smell the stink on this.

For once just write the fucking news.

Don’t pick sides or worry about who you’re going to piss off. This is what you got into the gig to do. Some of you know that the issues we’re raising are right. Some of you know that something really major might actually have happened here.

Work with the bloggers for once instead of seeing us as shit stirrers.

We’ve been presented with stories that don’t fit. With facts that don’t add up.

Those facts, by the way, have largely come from you.

We’re not all conspiracy theorists. Sometimes there are conspiracies and sometimes we spot them first. Hey, I’m even willing to acknowledge that it may be a symptom of paranoia in itself. We see them first because we’re always watching for them …

Regardless; you can get back to calling us nutjobs later.

For now, there’s business to be done.

And there’s a story here, and you know it as well as we do.

You have access many of us don’t have. Use it. Write what you find out.

If we’re wrong, if somehow we’ve missed something, fill us in on what that is.

If we’re right, all we can ask is that you join us in demanding reform.

So get the reports. Talk to the officials. Speak to the clubs.

Ask the SFA to explain their actions here, to explain these contradictory stories.

Satisfy yourselves, fully, that what you’re hearing is on the level and present the facts without fear or favour.

First, what actually did pass between Alan Muir and Steve McLean out on the pitch? What did Muir tell him he’d seen?

Secondly, when did Celtic ask for clarity on this matter and what prompted them to do so?

If anyone believes it was simply a case of the supporters being outraged on social media then I have a big bridge spanning the Clyde to sell those people. If Celtic were in the habit of responding to supporter demands on Twitter Lionel Messi would be in a hooped shirt and the media and legal offices would be on continuous shifts, “24/7, we never close.”

No, Celtic had a more compelling reason for what they did than just fans being cheesed off.

Something didn’t add up here, and they wanted answers.

Third, when Fleming spoke to the media on Monday and told them none of the officials had seen the incident, what information did he have that led him to say that? Who did he speak to? What reports did he read? Was he guessing? Making it up as he went along?

Fourth, when did Fleming receive the final reports from the match officials, and what was in those?

If the same information is in those as was disclosed to the BBC then the SFA has one of many problems here, because unless the system of governance is completely arse over head Fleming and the rest of the hierarchy must have known, prior to the filing of a charge against Josh Meekings, that the referee had been informed that there was nothing to the incident and made a judgement on it at the time.

Fifth, if Fleming was telling the media on Monday that no-one saw anything, and this was based on what he had been told by the match officials, when did they change their story, and was it changed for them at the suggestion of Fleming or others when it became clear that Inverness were going to involve lawyers in this case?

Sixth, if Fleming coerced their story or was involved in helping them craft it, does the SFA really believe he is fit to be head of referees?

If Fleming was misled by his officials, on the other hand, what sanctions will be imposed on them, and will the SFA explain why they felt they had to lie to their superiors, and apologise to both clubs, the press and the fans for allowing this to become a week of back and forth allegations?

If this is simply a mistake of some horrendous nature, a missed translation if you will, then tell us how that happened.

Seventh, was the decision to discipline Josh Meekings taken when John Fleming and others were in possession of a report which rendered the charge groundless, and if so who took the decision to proceed with the case anyway, and why?

Or did the officials persist in the “we saw nothing” story right up until the day of the hearing itself?

Is it the officials who almost cost the player a place in the final?

Eighth, at some point in this affair FIFA got involved.

What representations did they make to the SFA, what assurances did they seek, what advice did they give and what was the result?

Nine, what information did the SFA present to them regarding the charge, and was it different from that which they were still telling the media and the player before the hearing began?

Ten, at what point did it become obvious to the press itself that this was becoming a scandal?

These are just some of the questions that need to be answered here.

The SFA has spent the past week telling us that nobody this incident clearly. Had the official SFA line been what it is today – that Muir saw what he thought was a ball hitting a player’s face, and communicated that to the referee – this thing would have died in a day.

Instead, Fleming said no-one had gotten a proper look at the incident.

Television evidence proved that to be false before they admitted as much when they dismissed the case that they had, themselves, brought about as a result of that twisted version of events.

It looks, to many people, as if Josh Meekings was to be the scapegoat for God knows what, to protect God knows who.

Inverness rightly resisted that railroad job and when they involved their legal team it was clear to everyone the SFA was in big bother.

Do they really think dismissing this case changes that?

Give Neil Doncaster his due anyway – and this is the only time you will ever read those words on this page, I guarantee it – when this site and others hammered at his organisation over their ridiculous decision to move the Hearts – Sevco game, they saw the writing on the wall pretty damned quick and reversed the decision within 48 hours, albeit only after they had made it 100 times worse with a ludicrous press statement that made jaws drop everywhere.

In this case the SFA appears to have clung to a cover story that was never going to hold, and they did this for four full days before, under the scrutiny of Harper and McLeod, it all fell apart.

We need to get to the bottom of this, and right quick.

I really don’t want to still be writing about it a week from today.

There are other stories out there, after all.

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Cover

The Seven Year Itch

JS26991791I caught a cracking TV show last year called True Detective. If you spend as much time on the internet as me, you really can’t have failed to hear about it.

I expect that it generated talk around a lot of work depots and water coolers as well.

There’s a moment, a pivotal moment, in an episode maybe halfway through the eight episode run, when Rustin Cohle, one of the show’s two main characters (both cops; he is played by Matthew McConaughey, in a career-best performance) is sitting, drinking heavily and talking.

All he does in this show is talk, often in bizarre metaphors.

The one that I’m thinking about is perfect though.

“Someone once told me, ‘Time is a flat circle.’ Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again.”

This morning I got up early and I read the online editions of all the newspapers. One story from the sports pages leaped out at me; Graham Speirs column, focussing, today, on the Many Claims of Paul Murray.

You know something? I thought it was an excellent article … right up to the end, when he laid into the claim that it will take Sevco until 2022 to be at the level of Rangers just before Craig Whyte rode into town.

He thinks that, run properly, they should be competing with Celtic in just two years.

There is no greater example of why Rust Cohle’s quote can be so beautifully applied to Sevco and their ongoing situation than Graham Speirs nutty assertion. Run properly? Was that club ever “run properly”?

Oh, where to even start here?

Well, how about with this? The level he’s talking about … it was a phantom.

It was funded by debt, by other people’s money, by financial doping. It was Rangers on Steroids, and the reason he and others have such trouble facing up to that is that it had been going on for so long that it had become the norm. It had become expected.

They’d not simply gotten used to it, but they forgot that it had ever been any other way.

The fiction became their reality.

The media might want to dance around this, but I’m bored with that.

David Murray was not a financial genius, or some kind of business guru who accomplished amazing feats. He was a beneficiary of largesse from a bank that was out of control and certain executives within it who’s actions were tantamount to fraud.

His entire “business empire” was a product of an inflating debt bubble that exploded spectacularly and which, in one of the greatest scandals in the history of public finance, we, the tax payer, ended up carrying the can for.

I consider David Murray a crook on the level of the bankers who almost brought the system down in 2008. He is the most widely lauded charlatan since Robin Hood, except that the straight shooter in the green garb took from the rich and gave to the poor whilst Murray and his ilk took (and continue to take) from the poor and gave money to themselves and their rich mates.

It was via this enormous misappropriation of what were then bank, but ended up public, funds that the Rangers we grew up with was built. They were never “well run.” They were a basket case. Sevco was born, and remains, one.

You have to remember how much debt there was at Ibrox during this period and how much was shuffled between one Murray company and the next, like a street magician’s pea under his paper cups.

To offer but one example, there was the notorious “underwriting” of £50 million of the club’s debt, which he effectively transferred to Murray International instead. Let’s be clear about what this meant; he didn’t “pay” that bill himself. He didn’t really underwrite anything. That money was still owed to the bank; it just wasn’t owed by Rangers any longer.

But there was no great “sacrifice” on Murray’s part.

Rangers effectively got that money for nothing, as did he in the end, although that didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

Like every other part of the Murray “empire” Rangers was sold off when the wheels came off the wagon following Lloyds’ takeover of BOS.

We know what happened next.

This club hasn’t lived within its means for nearly 30 years. Now they are being forced to.

Those who incessantly ask the ridiculous question “where has all the money gone?” should do a little homework, because the answer isn’t hard to find. It’s gone on infrastructure spending and wages, because they are still trying to live large, as the Rangers of old, instead of as Sevco, a lower tier team which ought to have cut its cloth accordingly.

Yet in spite of this, the fantasy persists that everything will be back to normal in short order.

Even if the “normal” was not a club blown all to hell and back on artificial money the idea would be demonstrable nonsense.

How many times does this have to be repeated? The club is living beyond its means right now and getting by on short-term loans to avoid another administration event.

Yet the only answer some people can think of is spending more money … I feel like an idiot going over and over and over it, but this is Economic 101 stuff here; you cannot spend your way out of debt … is this hard to understand?

The people pushing this line, and there is another mad piece on the same subject in The Evening Times tonight … they keep on telling us that the club will get the money back “when they reach the Champions League.”

Oh yeah?

How much will they have to spend to get there?

How much will they have to increase wages, and how much will they have to squander on transfer fees?

Do they really think the rest of Scottish football is simply going to roll over for them?

The club needs significant spending on infrastructure. If they want to untie the “onerous contracts” they’re facing expensive legal battles on top of that. Can they afford to do all these things at once? Or what areas will have to suffer to promote others?

How is this supposed to work? Because I’m not getting it.

To over-haul Celtic within two years, they’d need to spend £30 million (at least) on players, which is money the club doesn’t have, on the off-chance of a £15 million “windfall” the club might not get … and that’s supposed to help?

Do they realise that even as SPL champions they’d need to navigate a qualifiers minefield?

Or are Europeans teams supposed to roll over like the Scottish ones?

The presumption in these kind of articles is appalling.

Is all this anything other than an arrogant fantasy?

You know, I’m sick saying all this. I’m equally sick reading it.

Paul Murray’s sins against fact and logic are many. He and his people basically waged war against their own club, destabilised the business to the point of crisis and then sought to capitalise on their own actions.

It is staggering, and shocking, to contemplate but even more unbelievable is the media, and certain sections of the support, applauding this as if it was virtuous behaviour.

But you know something? What he said the other day, about Sevco being seven years from the level they think they should be … well, that might be the closest thing to honesty we’ve heard coming out of Ibrox for many, many years.

I think it’s wildly optimistic – by about three years at the very least – but it is a move in the direction away from the mad fantasies of quick glory.

Murray and King helped promote these fantasies, of course, and doubtless they’ll say the mess was bigger than they realised and try to blame the previous board for the scale of the work that needs done … but as we’ve outlined before, some of that ought to be laid at their own door.

Lying to the fans in the run up to the EGM came naturally to those guys. They didn’t worry about the time when they would have to clue the supporters in on the truth. They hired a PR firm in anticipation of this moment, and one run by Jim Traynor at that, a figure so discredited in the eyes of everyone in Scottish football that I’d be amazed if the club wasn’t his only client.

In the interim, that firm has been busy planting stories, obfuscating and distorting the reality … but yesterday Murray took a step towards acknowledging that it cannot forever be held at bay.

Amazingly, it is the media – again – who are pushing the lunacy.

It is the press promoting the idea that the timetable can be accelerated, that the glory days of Rangers, funded on debts, can be realised at the Newco, even now, when it is skint.

See, Murray and his people can talk about a club “living within its means” all they like, and they can attempt to move them towards that, but a lot of the supporters don’t want to hear it and the media most certainly doesn’t. They will fight against the imposition of sanity, and common sense, until those paths are abandoned for madness … because that’s how it works there.

At Ibrox, time is a flat circle. Everything they’ve done, they’re going to do over and over again … because no-one wants to stand out front and centre and say the cycle must be broken.

This is reality, for any board that takes over the club.

Years of pain lie ahead. That’s an established fact. Years of disgruntled fans paying inflated prices to watch sub-standard football … or years of hand-to-mouth, stark terror, debt piling higher, where one bad result can see them tumble into an abyss they won’t get out of.

Pain, either way. A rebuilding job, or chasing unicorns in a dream … if there’s a happy ending to be had it comes with the first, after a long, hard road. But so many will demand that the club do the second, with all the devastation that comes with it.

Depending on your angle of view, the media is either leading the charge, or forcing the journey, into the land of make-believe.

Hell mend the directors if they follow that path.

But you know what? They’re not going to have a choice. They built this unrealistic sense of expectation, the one the media now stokes daily, and no matter how they might want to backtrack on it, they can’t.

A seven year itch will be too difficult to be bear. The Sevco fans are scratching already.

I once finished an article on this by saying the wolves were at the door of Ibrox. They no longer are. They’re in the living room now, where the party streamers are still hanging up, and they’re eating the buffet.

It’s a matter of time before they finish that and start in on the family members.

The most ungrateful fans on Earth, and a media that doesn’t do real life, are howling … and we’re not even a calender month into the new board’s tenure.

By the time the more sensible “investors” realise this, it’ll be too late.

But of course, it already is.

The lunatics took over this asylum a long, long time ago.

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The Lake Of Slabbers

apa-pe-laptopWell that time has come around again, friends, the time when I lick my lips in anticipation as I think of the carnage we’ve witnessed over the years and wonder at the bloodbath that is about to unfold. This is what it’s all about. “Bring it on,” I want to shout.

I’ve got it bad. This country is, again, the Zombie Nation.

I just can’t get enough. The draw is huge. It’s addictive. I am not a fan. I am a devotee.

Over the years, what we’ve witnessed has been bloody, it has been brutal, it has occasionally been insane, but it has never been less than compelling.

Few can deny, far less resist, the deadly attraction of it.

The media hype is extensive, especially in the lead up. Every development is scrutinised in the aftermath. Like any great drama, heroes rise … and fall. And talk about audience participation … nothing else gets me out of my seat, or biting my nails, or has me putting my hands across my eyes, too scared to watch. Like I said, I’ve got it bad.

The Walking Dead really is a fantastic television show ….

The way they schedule it bugs me. Between seasons it’s as brutal as waiting for the football to start up again. The week between episodes is excruciating, and that’s to say nothing for this crazy mid-season break they do now, splitting a series in two parts.

Now that the season is airing I am recording them, without watching, so I can watch a batch of them in one sitting. It’s not perfect, but it does cut out that dreadful wait between weeks somewhat.

It’s like any time you binge on something though … as Bon Jovi says, “Too much of a good thing is like getting high and coming down …”

Too much of a bad thing has the same effect, and there’s a zombie apocalypse I am not looking forward to as much.

Some people say they’ve been waiting for this one for years, but they’ve got their shows mixed up I think. Frankly, I’ve already had enough of it, but I do recognise it for what it is; something none of us is yet to experience.

Let’s be clear; regardless of those people talking about the “return” of the Celtic – Rangers tie (they call it something else, but it’s a phrase I absolutely refuse to use in any context, even to mock it) what the League Cup semi-final draw has thrown up is actually no such thing.

This is not some kind of perverse reunion. It is more akin to a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. It’s an alien event.

The entity some call Rangers no longer exists and it’s why I steadfastly refer to them on this blog as Sevco. A lot of their fans don’t accept this, and the media certainly does not.

Now, I understand, to an extent, where the supporters are coming from. The survival, or not, of a corporate shell does not compromise their identity as fans. If the football club they are watching is followed by the same people, with the same cultural baggage, playing out of the same stadium, with the same colours then why should they not regard it as the same?

And continuation of history? What is that anyway, except notations in a book? If history is about memories, about things passed down from father to son, then how the Hell can it die?

Is history valid because of something written in books? How much of the history we think we know – because of books – is real, and how much is biased and based on that old concept that it’s “written by the winners”?

Let’s take a contemporary example of how “history” isn’t what it seems.

The media would have you believe Jim Murphy was one of the stars who “won” the recent referendum. They’d have you believe that he showed enormous courage out on the streets.

But we know his tour wasn’t about “the union” but a self-serving PR fest.

We know that the early part of his “100 Days On An Irn-Bru Crate” were marked by low turnout and general indifference.

We know he stoked anger to try and draw a crowd, and did enough that someone threw an egg … and we know that chased him off the streets for days and that he only returned when he was hidden behind a Praetorian Guard of activists and minders.

What price history then? What’s it actually worth?

I’ve long argued that it does not actually matter whether the history of Rangers continues or not, or whether the fans accept the facts of liquidation or simply choose not to. The consequences for them were the same one way or the other, and if a football club is an ideal then theirs lives as it ever did.

If we disregard what’s in the books, Rangers history only exists in only two places; in the memories of people who want to connect the glories of yesterday to the ignominy of today and in the minds of the merchandising wing of Sports Direct, who want to maintain it so they can milk it for every penny they can squeeze from it and those who want to keep it alive.

Irony. Ain’t it a bitch?

Nevertheless, my own lack of concern does not mean I am going to sit here and deny reality. They died, and last week no less a man than their own intellectual power-house Donald Findlay risked the ire of the fans when he pointed that out and said the club he once knew is gone and this new one ought to get itself a new identity instead of, as I once put it, walking around wearing mother’s clothes and sitting in her chair by the window.

Sevco Rangers are the Norman Bates of football clubs. It is the walking, upright, embodiment of something that died. As long as it wears those colours, plays out of that stadium and tries to appropriate the history then it will have to be considered as a zombie institution.

There is no Rangers, so no Celtic – Rangers game to “return” to.

If we wanted to watch another one of those the word we would use is “resurrect”, which is much more applicable to this situation.

Which brings me to the point of the piece. Who in the Hell would want to resurrect this anyway?

That’s a serious question, by the way. Who in God’s name would want that fixture back?

Oh I know if you listen to the radio phone in’s (which I do occasional for a glimpse into the mouth of madness) and follow their tabloid equivalents you realise that there have to be people out there who haven’t enjoyed their football since this fixture went by the boards … but I suspect, strongly, that they are in the minority.

If I’m being honest, in purely football terms I have nothing against facing the club that plays out of the Bates Motel. I really don’t. Had they accepted the reality of what they were, and reformed with a new identity, as Donald Findlay has suggested, then I would have been as delighted to play them, and beat them, as I would be to play, and beat, anyone else.

In truth, I would still be happy to take them on even with some of their fans clinging to the illusion of life, because with it comes the delusions of grandeur we remember well from the club that died. Bursting that little bubble – shattering it, in fact – would be a sweet thing, and something I am sure I’d enjoy watching, much as I enjoy seeing the zombies in The Walking Dead getting squished.

But you know what? When I ponder what’s about to happen in January, I don’t feel any of the positive emotions that you are supposed to feel over something enjoyable, because already we’re drowning in the acid rain of hype.

The media are already salivating like Pavlov’s dogs, writing irrational nonsense about how this game would fill the Maracanã ten times over. Really?

Are we in the realms of reality here, far less seriousness?

A game between a Celtic team still trying to come to grips with a new coach and playing system, against a second tier NewCo with a third rate manager …. This is a match that will draw a global TV audience and fill one of the great arenas of football?

Yet even that stuff I can handle, much as I would handle it if Celtic had gotten to the Champions League and drawn one of the English clubs, and we had to read all the usual crap about The Battle of the Britain.

No, when it comes down to it it’s not the Survival Myth, as perpetuated by the fans, that really bothers me here.

It is the press and their reaction to all this stuff.

On one hand, it’s natural enough, I suppose. The Scottish sports media has always gotten a rise out of being able to tell their European counterparts that they were frequent attenders at what they deemed one of the biggest games in world football.

It was – and it remains – their only claim to fame.

Instead of accepting that it’s over, instead of accepting that they are now part of the general herd not representing the media of a major league, they cling to their own ideas of superiority and being special.

Their hype is poisonous though. Because of that, I am not keen on playing Sevco. I am not looking forward to that game, and I wish to God we did not have to go through it.

The way this match is covered reflects badly on things that I love; on Celtic, on Glasgow, on Scotland and on football itself. Wrapped up in all the baggage the press and others are already piling on top of it, it is an ugly spectacle.

I thoroughly resent the suggestion, proposed by some, that this is something I ought to have missed.

This is a tie whose history and hype has been built on lies, and I am afraid I cannot put it more bluntly than that.

The fixture has been described in many circles as a clash between the Catholic and Protestant halves of Glasgow, but this is, and it has always been, utter cobblers. I started resenting it years ago. It makes us look backward and somewhat insane.

Celtic has always drawn its support from across the community and many different cultures, and if Ibrox was once a place where you could hear “Up to your knees in fenian blood” that was because a number of its adherents still clung to centuries old cultural “norms” which are ridiculous when one looks at the backgrounds of some of the heroes of the club in the last 20 years.

The truth is, many of the fans, on both sides, realise this and have no further use for religion.

I’ll give you an example. A 2003 survey suggested that only 60% of Rangers fans would have self-defined as Protestant, and of that number I’d suggest less than half defined their lives and beliefs and outlook that way.

Scotland is no longer a divided country nor Glasgow a divided city in the way some have suggested, not any longer, and perhaps not for a long time.

What’s escaped these people’s attention is that in this country, in this city, people work together, live together, sleep together and even vote together now without their football allegiances getting in the way.

It is nonsense to suggest that rivers of hate course through these lands. There are haters, yes, but this gives them a greater profile than they deserve. This tie, and the way it is covered, panders to those people.

It’s not limited to football either.

Two national news broadcasters have suggested any difficult Jim Murphy experiences in being elected Labour leader and then First Minister might not be his Blairite background and personal political ideals but the fact that he is a Roman Catholic.

Seriously. Sky News actually wrote that, in an editorial, on the day he declared his bid for the leadership.

For God’s sake. There are a thousand reasons why this guy would be the worst possible choice for Labour, and Scotland, and there are about two millions reasons not to give him, or any party he leads, the time of day far less a vote … but that is not one of them.

We have given the haters in our society far too much airtime as it is, and I loathe the media coverage this clash is getting because they are portraying it in such a way that it’s already become a vast advertising board for the prejudices of a very few people and their warped ideas.

I understand how this has happened too, and it’s why I dreaded the two teams coming out of the hat.

It’s why I’d be glad if this game never happened again.

The truth is, the hype surrounding it has nowhere else to go but the gutter.

One of the teams that made up this rivalry no longer exists, in any shape or form, even if you are one of those who accept the Survival Myth.

Rangers were annihilated by Craig Whyte. There are some who look at the shambling ruin dressed in the tattered remnants of a blue jersey, reeking of the grave, and have somehow convinced themselves that “Rangers won” because a version of them has “survived.”

What has emerged from the maggot squirming pit is a pale, dismal shadow of the club we grew up to think of as our main rival. Even if it were not being picked apart by the buzzards that recognise it for a walking corpse, it would be a basket case organisation permanently flirting with disaster because those running it refuse to engage with financial reality.

The hacks say crap like “Scotland needs a strong Rangers.” The rational appears to revolve around their ability to provide “competition.”

All the NewCo will provide is “comedy.” They are a lumbering wreck, run by spivs and incompetents, with a team on the park that is a mixture of SPL rejects, old guard past the sell-by date and a few youth players who may or may not make it, but certainly won’t hang around at Ibrox long enough for the majority of their fans to find out.

There is no spectacle here, just a circus freak show. The days when the clubs were filled with top class footballers is gone, and for Sevco anyway that isn’t coming back, so there’s not much chance of us seeing a match up with two sides playing sexy football.

The media can try and turn this into a proper fight if they like, but the Ibrox club is not in the heavyweight division any longer and should be dispatched easily.

They can fantasise about Ashley’s billions or Dave King’s stolen millions all they want … but that won’t hand Ally the transfer war chest he needs to give him the spending ratio of 10-1 he’s comfortable with, and transform them into the contenders they dream about being.

With the “competition” factor removed, what exactly do the media have to hype this game but hate?

I understand it, but I do not like it.

I think the hate is as overblown as everything else, but it has the horrendous effect of giving a minority in this country a megaphone to express their distorted views.

The media’s greatest crime is not in how they are going to use the language of war to describe a football match though. Their real plumbing of the depths will come later, if the game explodes or off-field issues give them something to write headlines about.

Then we’ll see them refer to the “shame” of it. Of how the country doesn’t need the very thing they’ve told us it has to have. They will refer to the “ugly side” of our national sport, and all of this with a mock piety that will be as infuriating as it is dishonest. For the next two months I want to forget all about it. I suspect they won’t let me.

No matter what these people say, Scottish football does not need this appalling game. The hype surrounding it devalues our sport, our country, my city and even my own club, Celtic, who’s CEO has talked about how much money we have lost without Bates Motel FC in our league and appears to be looking forward to having them back.

I want nothing to do with this phony rivalry. The majority of my club’s fans want nothing to do with it. I suspect a number of Sevco’s supporters are sick and tired of it too.

Rivalry does not have to be about hate. There was a chance, when Sevco Rangers was born, for all this to be brought to a halt, and for the new club to emerge as a new entity, stripped of all the nonsense. The hacks would never have let it happen.

Their pushing of the Survival Myth, like a drug, is all about giving them headlines and generating hate. Not satisfied with the Survival Myth, they are whipping up the Victim Myth again, and this is the most dangerous of all, and an open invitation to lunatics to act according to type.

The media would rather grow that hate then help to kill it. That tells us everything about who they are.

In the Book of the Dead, of the ancient Egyptians, they were the first civilisation to envision the destination of the damned as being an enormous Lake of Fire. Theirs may have been the genesis of the one referred to in The Book of Revelations, the one into which Satan is cast

Our media damned itself long ago, reduced to irrelevance by the Bampots and outclassed by the citizen journalists who are now more trusted than the hacks.

Their talking down of Scottish football has reached its nadir in the last few days, as they grab with both hands this toxic notion that the whole game here has been on hold for two and a half years, this horrible conceit that it revolves around a rivalry built on the unhealthy foundation of a mutual loathing.

Nothing – not beating Rangers, not beating Sevco – has ever, or will ever, give me quite so much satisfaction as watching these people drown in their own dribblings.

Their own Hell is to wallow in that which they have created; the Lake of Slabbers.

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Spoils of War

post-467-1203285054Early on the morning of 31 January 1968, the NVA and the Viet Cong launched an assault on the South Vietnamese city of Hue, as part of the Tet Offensive, which had gotten underway on the previous day.

The objective was the capture of an important road, Highway 1, a key ARVN airfield, the operational command of the 1st Division of the ARVN, a US Military Assistance Command base and a Naval Command base on the Perfume River.

The city was only 50 miles from the DMZ, and it ought to have been a fortress. It wasn’t. What followed was one of the fiercest engagements of the Vietnam War.

When it was over, the combined forces of the US Marines, the Army and the ARVN had routed the enemy and secured control again.

That didn’t matter much to the people of Hue. Their city was almost completely destroyed in the battle. 5000 of them were dead.

In Washington, Saigon and Hanoi the leaders weren’t particularly concerned with minor details like that. The citizens were cannon fodder. Their deaths were collateral damage.

The politicians were interested in victory, and in the real estate for its strategic and tactical advantages. They were the spoils of war.

I was thinking about the Battle of Hue during the week, when I was listening to, and reading, the hacks joyously relating the “three way fight for Rangers.”

Ha! How wonderful irony is.

Like the people of Hue, the Peepil of Sevconia are of little relevance to those “fighting” on either side here.

King has played this game so often – and so badly – the Sevco directors ought to have his head mounted on a plaque for the boardroom. One hack today salivated over the unseemly squabble by saying King was “always likely” to be outclassed by Ashley, and yes, I agree.

He was. But more embarrassingly for him, and for his allies in the media, he had already been outclassed by Whyte, by Green, by Stockbridge, by Ahmad, and finally by Easdale, Nash and Wallace.

The guy is a Loser with a capital L, who in all this time has never won a single concession, for all his PR bluster. His plan for boycotting fans to put their money in an account was a ludicrous notion and is now a busted flush.

Furthermore, how can he not have twigged to the Business 101 proposition that unless you buy shares in a company you have no influence over how its run?

As for Brian Kennedy, that one is simply hilarious. Where the Hell did he come from all of a sudden? He’s another who’s been over this particular assault course before, like a fat man trying to break his personal best. I laugh every time he shows up on the starting block.

I think he, and King, suffer from the same delusions, and just like reading their names in the paper.

Then there’s Ally, standing on the side-lines like a kid who came to the Prom without a date. What did I tell you about him last time? He’s switched sides, again, hoping that this time there’s some money available. He too is labouring under an old delusion.

He’s going to be disappointed in more ways than one.

Mike Ashley, on the other hand, you have to respect. This is a guy with a storming, iron-clad business record who goes about things the right way. No courting mates in the media for him. No bluster about doing this or doing that. No ego on display at all. He operates quietly, for his own reasons, following his own agenda, and he does not let anything stand in his way.

He has handled this whole thing with class and professionalism. I kinda like the guy, especially as I’m not blinkered in the way so many of the press are by what he might do for Sevco.

A lot of nonsense has been talked about why Mike Ashley might want a say in the business at Ibrox. Some of those who’ve been trotting this out are the media hacks we’ve come to view with justifiable contempt. Some others should know better.

Actually, you don’t have to be a genius to work out what it is that Mike Ashley wants.

You don’t have to be a genius to understand that he’s motivated purely by money.

Let’s take the two key presuppositions about why Ashley might want Sevco.

First is the “Rangers brand.” Well, he’s already proved that he doesn’t need to own the club to get his mitts on that stuff. He already owns the retail outlet which stocks it all and has an iron clad deal in place to sell the jerseys.

Whilst we don’t know the exact terms on the loan he just gave the club, we know he wanted certain intellectual property rights when he made the same offer some weeks ago.

Two men were foremost in blocking that move. One was Graham Wallace. The other was Phil Nash.

Nash is gone already. Wallace is a certainty to follow him.

If Ashley gets the IP rights then he owns the “Rangers brand” without having to own the club, or invest significantly in it. He will control everything from Rangers mugs to Rangers bath products (stop laughing), rubber ducks and all. Anything which is manufactured, anywhere in the world, carrying one of their two crests will need his stamp of approval or be subject to big legal problems.

Second is this continued guff about Champions League football.

The perceived “wisdom” goes something like this; Newcastle United are perennial EPL strugglers who will never play on the Champions League stage. Ergo, Ashley needs to get an interest in a club which does play on that stage, to maximise the potential of his brand.

Oh yeah? Since when?

Since when was it cheaper to actually buy a football club, spend oodles of money on them and propel them into that tournament, to boost the exposure of your brand, than, say, to simply become a commercial partner of the competition?

Why not just become an official sponsor? Get ad space at games or adverts on TV before the matches?

These things cost more than … buying a club?

Why do Amstel or Sony or any of the other sponsors bother spending all that money on getting their products and brands advertised?

Hell, just buy a team. It’s cheaper, right? It has to be!

Forget that you’d only get that exposure when your own team is playing, and in none of the other games.

Forget that they need to get through qualifiers and actually, you know, participate in the group stages.

Forget that to make them competitive means spending even more money, or you risk seeing your brand associated with embarrassing failure.

Forget all that. We’re following Daily Record logic here.

And why on Earth does he need the “exposure” of the Champions League in the first place?

The English Premiership is an international global super-brand, generating $2.2 billion in television sales every single year. It is broadcast in 212 countries, to over 600 million homes and has a potential audience estimated at 4.7 billion people.

Even more hilarious are those who see some financial upside for him in controlling a team playing on that stage.

Celtic, at a push, can make £20 million from Champions League money, and Sevco Rangers could, conceivably, make something similar if they were willing to spend what it took to get there … but that, in all likelihood, would be expensive and mortally risky.

The average EPL club payment, for television money alone, is £55 million.

Tell me again why Ashley sees Sevco in the Champions League as important?

The truth is much simpler than any of these things. Ashley sees Sevco Rangers as an easy mark. As a quick, sure-fire way of making some money.

All the work has been done for Ashley in advance of this.

Sevco Rangers fans have always insisted their club did not die. The SFA’s refusals to comment on this matter and decisions by organisations such as the Advertising Standards Agency and others, which appear, on the surface, to confirm that liquidation did not destroy them, add to this overall view.

I have long argued that of all the negative outcomes to emerge from the Rangers – Sevco shambles that this is the most dangerous one for their supporters to have embraced.

This creates a clear separation between the company and the football club.

Sevco fans have held on tight to Rangers “identity”, but what does that represent?

If it’s about the badge, then Ashley and his company can hold onto that whatever happens to this incarnation of the club, and sell it to anyone who resurrects them in event of a meltdown.

As the club has no retail outlets of its own, and as Ashley runs the biggest online retail outlet for sports goods, what choice would they have in event of even a liquidation if he made the only offer to take that off their hands?

In short; this notion that “the club” survives liquidation is good for Ashley, because even in the worst case scenario he still has a claim to part of any NewCo that emerges from the ashes, as long as it, too, wants to maintain the Survival Myth.

With his 10% control, the IP rights, the shirt distribution agreement and perhaps, in time, even a hold over the property, the final argument, that for Ashley to get his money’s worth “Rangers needs to be successful” would be laid to its own inevitable rest.

That is the stupidest assertion of all.

As long as there are enough fans going to games to keep the lights on, he can continue to extract money from those who buy shirts and other merchandise, and he can license the “Rangers brand” to everyone else who’s got an interested in fleecing the Peepil with everything from Sevco bed covers to beach balls.

There’s plenty of money to be made out of the “Rangers brand” without his having to fund a winning team on the park.

This whole “identity” thing is, and has always been, big money in and of itself.

Newcastle has never challenged for a major honour since he took over. He sees the club as little more than ad board for Sports Direct and a £250 million asset on his balance sheet.

They regularly play to full houses, as he must suspect Sevco will.

Whether they are winning things or not is unimportant to his goals, and where the chance of winning something has involved the spending of one more penny than he needs to, he’s not done it.

He could cut Sevco  to the bone and force them to exist on subsistence level funding, as long as people were still able to buy tickets. He could hold the death of their club over them like a killing weight if they didn’t want to play ball, and he could mean it.

If we accept that he doesn’t “need” the global exposure for his brand and his only interest is in securing certain assets, then why would he care whether they are winning things or not?

“Ah,” some will say, “but if he wants to control Rangers he has no choice …” This presupposes that in order for him to get maximum exposure they have to be playing in Europe, and competing.

Apart from being a pitiful variation of the above, there’s no evidence that he wants control anyway, and there are many reasons why he wouldn’t.

He will not have the headache of having to face the fans, because he won’t be on the board and he won’t be the owner. He won’t have to deal with the football authorities, or worry about the prospect of the two sides coming face to face in Europe somewhere down the line.

His role, on the surface, will be that of the generous benefactor who helps them keep the lights on. And if he decides, one day, that he’s not getting a sufficient return then he’s got options in administration and liquidation both.

All of this has cost him little more than £1 million in shares, and another £2 million loans so far.

It’s chump change. He’s already taken at least that out on merchandising alone.

In the longer term, there are two ways for Sevco Rangers to exist.

The first is to increase revenue. Even with Ashley’s much vaunted international business acumen, it is hard to see how that can be done with a second tier Scottish club, permanently at war with itself and with the world, being undermined by outside influences and eaten from those within.

This is a club with few friends outside its walls, insular, arrogant and backward. The notion of investing in an “institution” who’s greatest claim to fame in our multicultural world is “Armed Forces Day” will be an easy one for the money men to resist.

Sevco Rangers, even with full houses every week and playing in the SPL, even a Sevco Rangers which is regularly competing in Europe, will struggle not to post huge losses. Why would a rich businessman want such a thing on his books?

The second way for a club like this to exist is to cut costs. Radically.

It can be done, but you have to stick to it, rigorously, and you can’t have a manager in post who thinks you need a 10 – 1 spending ratio to succeed.

It’s tempting to bet on McCoist being the next casualty of the bloodletting that has only just gotten started at Ibrox. When I said earlier that he might be in for a big surprise I meant it. When Ashley’s point-man is appointed to the board and he calls Ally in to see him I suspect it won’t be to ask him for his list of multi-million pound transfer targets …

The first of those two options – increasing revenues to the point where a billionaire actually thinks he’s getting a good return – is impossible. The second is all there is. The third option, which Murray tried and which Sevco fans still expect someone to match, of spending someone else’s money, without end, is certainly not going to happen on Iron Mike Ashley’s watch.

The idea that this “could be good for Rangers”, being pumped out by a panting, desperate media which still clings to those “grand old days of yore” is a fantasy, and one that continues to hold them back from the embrace of a reality which is surely on its way.

In one sense, though, this is the best thing that can happen to their club.

A long period of austerity is now an absolute certainty. Big changes – bad ones – are on their way for all involved.

We now know that they were 48 hours from an administration event which would have lit up the sky like a nuclear detonation. They’ve avoided it for now, but Ashley did not become a billionaire indulging fantasies of supremacy or delusions of grandeur.

His loans and his plans to underwrite shares, or whatever it is that he comes up with, will raise money that will not be allowed to swirl down the drain.

His desire to change the faces around the boardroom table are about making sure that the necessary cuts are made, in all departments, no matter how much it hurts, and no matter how its powerless supporters squeal like pigs.

The battle for control at Ibrox is over. Sevco Rangers is now in the hands of a man who will brook no compromise. Who will not be intimidated by daft protests which get in the papers but have no material impact on the outcome.

This is a man who will not bother about what’s written in the press – unless it’s untrue, and then watch him sue faster than Martin O’Neill – and who won’t deign to inform the media or the Sevco fans of what his plans are, now or in the future.

This guy will run that dysfunctional nightmare of a club ruthlessly, like a business, to make him a profit and nothing more … without fear, favour or sentimentality. There will be no talk of “Rangersitus” here.

The blood sport we’ve been watching for the last few years is finished. The hopes of the Sevco support are about to be sacrificed on the altar of what’s in the best interests of a billionaire businessman and his sports retail company. It is the ending they deserve, for their blinkered attitudes and their inability to read the writing on the wall.

Ashley has won. To the victor, the spoils of war.

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All In The Q&A

Photo - cameras at a press conferenceWe are a few minutes into Sidney Lumet’s criminally under-rated masterwork Q&A when a telephone rings in a guy’s apartment. He rolls over in bed and picks it up. He is assistant district attorney Francis Reilly, still just a kid, and his boss, a ball-busting sleaze named Kevin Quinn, has called him up because a legendary police officer named Brennan has shot and killed a low-life outside a dingy bar.

It’s the kid’s first case, and that’s why he’s been chosen. Quinn assumes that he’s a career boy, a box checker who’ll follow the rules and not rock the boat.

Quinn, for reasons of his own, wants this matter dealt with quickly and without fuss. He gives the kid the low-down on what he knows of the case, and then sends him on his way.

Just as the kid gets to the door, Quinn calls him back for a second.

He tells the kid to make damned sure he gets it all down on paper.

“For all intents and purposes,” he says, “the Q&A defines what really happened. If it’s not in the Q&A it didn’t happen.”

It’s a moment which sets up a wonderful movie, and one I came back to last night when I was pondering the day’s events.

There is something almost mystical about getting stuff “on the record.” As Scottish football fans we are well used to seeing how the media version of events has the ability to become the accepted history, no matter how incompetent the writer or distorted the facts.

When Rangers existed, when they were still a superpower here, it was almost comical reading the media’s craven reporting of everything that snaked its way out of the Ibrox press room. Rangers thought of themselves as the biggest thing in town, and the media bought into that and acted accordingly. Back then, the club at Ibrox was Box Office stuff. Now they’re Cardboard Box Office, and the assorted oddities who’ve come and gone or inhabit the boardroom now no longer have the same pull.

Nowadays, the spotlight shines elsewhere.

Over the last couple of weeks, since the Legia game in Warsaw, something unusual has been going on in the Scottish media. Certain writers have taken it upon themselves to launch into unprompted defences of Peter Lawwell and the Celtic strategy, in a way that is oddly reminiscent of the way in which they once defended the man who lorded it from Ibrox, David Murray.

I find this unusual because on the back of an horrendous result, the appointment of an unknown manager and the spending of zero money despite a transfer cash surplus in the tens of millions they should have been writing searching articles asking hard questions.

I am moved to wonder what motivated them to write fawning pieces of sycophancy instead.

Tell you what, I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Later on today, it’s said that Lawwell himself will sit down with the media and let them question him, so he can get his side of the story out.

Lawwell is a smart man, and he gets his due credit for being willing to do this, but it’s not because I expect anything particularly illuminating to come out of it. No, it’s a piece of PR spinning, and I can guess pretty much everything he’ll say, from “we are working hard to bring in players but there are no guarantees” to “we are constrained from operating in Scotland.”

It will be the same old excuses, the same old mantra, the same old tired nonsense, with the occasional vague promise of “jam tomorrow” thrown in.

No, where he gets credit is in being able to read the tea leaves. He knows that getting the board’s side of this on the record is important, especially with Europa League ticket packages to sell. He knows that if he’s going to pull something out of this firestorm of criticism that he has to get in front of it, in the way Malky MacKay knew he couldn’t ride out his own self-made disaster by hiding away from the world.

In short, he had no choice but to step forward and take some flak. He doubtless believes that a “warts and all” session in front of the hacks will work as a piece of damage limitation, and under normal circumstances he might even be right.

These aren’t normal circumstances. Because some us won’t be listening to the answers he gives half as carefully as we’ll be listening to the questions he’s asked.

I’m concerned about that, because I’m way too familiar with how the media operates to expect that this will be a forensic examination. I fear that it won’t be anything of the sort. It will be softball stuff, easy to deflect. When they do ask difficult questions there will be little cross examination, little scrutiny, as to whether the answers he gives stack up.

Our hacks have never been terribly efficient. They’ve never been all that good at sifting through what they are told, and separating out the spin from the substance.

There are some questions which are crying out to be asked here: whether Neil Lennon’s leaving was related to the club’s downsizing strategy? What he thinks of Johan Mjallby’s comments in one newspaper yesterday that this is exactly why the backroom team chose to go? Does he accept that the strategy of selling players after only a few years at the club defeats any manager with a notion of growing, and building, a team? Does he realise that this will leave us in the same position every summer, scrambling to replace those who’ve gone? Does he value the continuity and the growth of the football team as having a higher priority than the balance sheet? Does he believe that good players will ever want to stay at a club which appears to lack the ambition to build a strong squad? Does he accept that our wage cap keeps us shopping in the bargain basement, and is the reason we have a 40 strong squad which is nowhere near to being good enough?

There are many more questions that can be asked here, areas which don’t even touch on the business or football, like whether the club has any interest in reaching a new understanding with The Green Brigade; whether we are progressing the causes espoused by the fans, such as our demand for answers on the SFA’s granting a European license to Rangers before their liquidation and our pursuit of justice on EBT’s. None of those questions will be asked either.

The truth is, and he knows this because we all know it, the Scottish sporting press is safe ground for someone in his position. They are too dependent on hand-outs from the clubs to rock the boat, and Celtic is the biggest boat there is, with more scraps to throw at them than any other side. Lawwell himself is a Great White Shark, a cagey proposition to try and catch in a net, and if you manage to do it what then?

I suspect that this is the reason we’ve seen certain editorials in the press defending a strategy which any journalist in his right mind would be taking to bits in a forensic way.

Graham Speirs, who’s lead off hitter inspired a whole article on this site, didn’t even come close to making a convincing argument on behalf of the way we’re run, referring to “six years of success” which yielded a paltry three domestic trophies, half the available league titles and five colossal failures in Europe offset by one good year. It read like a Celtic press release rather than good journalism.

I think in some ways it probably was. Speirs was one of a number of journalists Peter Lawwell deliberately started courting back in 2008, inviting a selection of hand-picked hacks to come up to Celtic Park for a bite to eat and a wee off the record chat. It was at this meeting where Lawwell told Speirs that the club was facing “five difficult years.” Is it a coincidence that Speirs chose to praise the decisions that had been within that timeframe? Maybe it is, and maybe it’s not.

We know this meeting took place, and we know that conversation was had, because Speirs broke ranks and wrote about it. Oh he didn’t go into detail, and so he wasn’t ejected from the Circle of Trust, but in a column later on that year he wrote about the lunch in a piece that was laying out what the future at Celtic Park would look likely look like. The absence of Rangers aside, it’s pretty close to where we are today.

Who else was there? Speirs didn’t say, and on the surface of it there’s nothing unusual about that kind of gathering. It happens all the time in politics and in showbiz and it is a matter of routine in those professions, and I am sure sport is the same.

Being courted like that must be nice for the media. It makes them feel special, but it also compromises their objectivity.

Hugh McDonald’s article of the other day was even worse, if that’s possible, leading off with a headline that was inviting ridicule before I even read a word of the article itself. “Money Can’t Buy Them Players …” was the title of this arrant nonsense, making Celtic the only football club in the world for whom a cash surplus has become a negative.

In another article which read like something that could have been written in The Celtic View, another hack talked about how Celtic could afford a £10 million striker, but that we could not afford the £20 million he would cost in wages over four years … an unintentionally hilarious piece of sums-on-the-back-of-a-hankie which he appears not to have realised amounted to a salary of £100,000 a week, a sum nobody has even remotely suggested is realistic or desirable, and which no player in the £10 million bracket would ever come close to getting paid.

This article was nothing more than an excuse for why Celtic no longer even pursues blue chip players. (And I mean that in the comparative sense, not in the literal “let’s sign Messi” one).

The question I’m posing is; why are some in the media willing to make this excuse for us? Which leads to the next question; how can we trust these people to ask the right questions, that will get us the answers we deserve and clarify the thinking of those who run Celtic?

The obvious answer is that we can’t. Truth to power does not come easily to our hacks, and Lawwell has the kind of influence not even Murray himself could have wielded. Hugh Keevins has already been ejected from Celtic Park in the last couple of years, and whilst I supported it and think it was long overdue, and in fact think other journalists with clear anti-Celtic biases should have joined him on the outside looking in, there was a very clear message being sent out with the ban.

Toe the line or face the consequences. And this is a guy who’s authority reaches beyond Celtic Park. He’s on the SFA’s main board and is one of the leading players on the governing body of the SPFL. This is a guy who can close more doors than just the one to the Parkhead boardroom in their faces.

No-one in the press will go out of his way to push too hard, and as nice as it sounds to imagine a Celtic CEO having them this nervous it’s dangerous because it keeps the truth from us as much as Murray’s own influence with the press kept the truth from Rangers fans.

No, today’s question and answer session will be mildly amusing but not overly interesting. Nothing new will be said. No new course will be charted. Those expecting fireworks, revelations, tough questions or detailed answers will be disappointed.

In Lumet’s brilliant film, the young Assistant DA, Francis Reilly, played by the always excellent Timothy Hutton, finds out what really lies behind Quinn’s desire to have the Q&A reflect only one side of the story. His crusade for the truth has devastating consequences, and uncovers a dark underbelly of buried secrets, compromises of the blackest kind and a corruption that runs deep.

When Peter Lawwell is finished talking today many people are going to be eminently satisfied with just what’s “on the record.”

It’s worth remembering though that the Q&A doesn’t represent exact truth, only a sanitized version of it, the one that’s deemed acceptable for us to have. I’ve seen too many of these elsewhere to take it at face value.

Getting to the real nuts and bolts of this is going to be a much tougher task.

Once again, I think getting the real answers (or at least asking the real questions) is going to come down to the fans.

This is a job I don’t trust the hacks to do at all.

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Arguments From Ignorance?

 

article-2615509-1D6F646000000578-844_634x497This website has its second birthday on 3 October, and I’m very much looking forward to celebrating that with a couple of friends. In the time since we started, we’ve published nearly 150 articles, on various subjects dear to the hearts of football fans, but there are a couple of recurring themes, and it would be crazy if there weren’t.

The shambles at Ibrox continues to fascinate. The strategy at Celtic Park continues to divide opinion. The future of Ally McCoist is as up in the air as it ever was and the kind of SFA reform that would drive real change is as distant as it was then.

Through all of it, the media has been useless, and it continues to be useless, and it should no longer surprise us when they write ill-informed garbage. Yet, they still have that capacity. They can still leave me scratching my head in wonderment, and contempt.

Yesterday’s papers contained at least two (I stopped reading after the second one) pieces where facts were twisted or misrepresented, lies were told and reality was denied.

First, Keith Jackson wrote a piece on why Celtic was correct to pursue a Champions League place against Legia Warsaw, even if it went against our former statements on “sporting integrity.” The article has so much wrong with it that it’s difficult to know where to start in pulling it to bits, but taking it on a purely emotional level, I found myself shaking my head and thinking “this guy just doesn’t get it at all, does he?”

He should get it. They should all get it. Yet Jackson’s line of logic appears in any number of media outlets as well as on assorted Sevco blogs. It’s almost as if they’re all singing from one song sheet, because it is hard for me to believe that so many people, all across the country, have completely misunderstood these matters. Once more, the press is indulging in its favourite game.

Jackson appears either not to know, or to be content to ignore, the fact that Celtic played no part in this at all, and nor should we. This was a matter between UEFA and Legia, and we did the right thing and left it to them. There was no lobbying from Parkhead, no campaign to get us into the draw.

There was also no provision in the rules for us to refuse the tie, or to agree to a one-off match. These fantasies were floated by a desperate club who’d manufactured their own disastrous exit from the tournament, an understandable enough reaction in itself. What isn’t so easy to understand is why our media ran with them as though they were serious propositions.

This notion of “doing the honourable thing” is a piece of sheer nonsense. Even if the “honourable thing” had been to leave the competition and allow Legia their place, it would not have been in keeping with the regulations … and that’s what counts here.

Jackson and others spit out the words “sporting integrity” like it’s a curse. They’ve never liked the phrase and long ago suspended critical thinking on what the point of it was supposed to be. Their view on it has long been that Celtic invented the phrase as a hammer to hit Rangers with. It’s not true, and it’s never been true. Our position on “sporting integrity” has not changed one iota from the first time the phrase was used, and our understanding of what the phrase means was our guiding light in the Legia situation as it was in the EBT case and other affairs.

Football is supposed to be a level playing field. It is supposed to be a sport decided on merit, and this, say Celtic’s critics, is why our failure to “do the right thing” goes against the sporting integrity principle. But Celtic’s historical argument is more exact than that, and essentially iron clad.

You can only assure that every side is treated the same way by having regulations in place covering as many aspects of the game as possible. When you find gaps in those rules, which allow one side to secure an unfair advantage over others, you plug those gaps. At all other times, for the good of the sport, those rules must be adhered to exactly as they are written, and applied without fear or favour, neither bent not broken for anybody.

In the article, Jackson petulantly accuses Celtic of blocking a league extension in 2008 to prevent Rangers winning the league and the UEFA Cup. This is absolute garbage. The league season had already been extended once. Celtic’s objection was based on the governing bodies attempting a second extension to it, and one which would have severely impacted on the Scottish Cup as well as the league. Our objections were based very specifically on the rulebook, and when this was pointed out to the SPL the idea was dropped.

All Celtic did was insist that the rules be followed. Nothing more and nothing less. The phrase “sporting integrity” came out of that time, with Celtic’s demand that it not be compromised to assist one team ahead of all others. Rigorous application of the rules as they existed were all that Celtic asked for, and no more and no less.

When Rangers died and the league authorities tried to shoe-horn the NewCo into the SPL, Celtic came out against this, again using “sporting integrity” as our catch-all. Once more, the primary concern for our club was that the rules be followed exactly as written. Rangers had died. The SPL and the SFA had no provision for a transfer of shares or membership to a new organisation. Celtic demanded that Sevco Rangers be treated like any other NewCo.

This, once again then, was principally about the application of the rules. Those who have spent time trying to knock us for it would do well to consider that the alternative – which was effectively that our league bodies wanted to state that the club out of Ibrox was “too big to fail” – would have destroyed all respect and faith supporters had in that what they were watching was clean. How could we ever believe that a club for which rules had been bent and broken, for which the whole of our national sport had been brought into disrepute, would not get other advantages?

We knew this was more than possible. What if, stripped of their top players as the Ibrox side was, they were facing relegation at the end of the next campaign? (A virtual certainty at that time). Would rules have been changed, again, to keep them in the league? You bet they would. Celtic were determined not to allow it. We drew a line in the sand, and we were not alone.

One man, Turnbull Hutton, spoke for us all when he stopped on the steps of Hampden to call the governing bodies “corrupt” for daring to force the issue on the clubs.

The issue of sporting integrity rose again when Lord Nimmo Smith delivered his scandalous and baseless EBT verdict. Celtic clearly thought the SFA’s lax regulations had allowed Rangers to get away with murder, and they demanded more robust rules be put in place for the future. We’re still waiting for that to come to fruition, but once again, Celtic had mentioned “sporting integrity” in the context of the rule book.

It is very clear what Celtic think the phrase means.

Celtic believe sporting integrity comes from the rigorous application of the rules, and we have not shifted our position on it one bit. There is no hypocrisy here. There is only consistency.

If the rules are not followed exactly, if clubs can bend them and break them, ignore or conveniently forget them whenever they like, and the authorities allow this, then we don’t have a professional sport at all, do we? Where is the meritocracy? How can we be sure we’re not watching a rigged game?

It’s the very reason guys like our Auldheid of CQN and the Scottish Football Monitor continue to chase the issue of the SFA’s decision to grant Rangers of old a European license at a time when they clearly had debts liable to HMRC, which the club knew full well were in breach of the rules. It’s why the issue of EBT’s refuses to die, despite a decision having been reached nearly two years ago.

UEFA takes rule-breaking seriously enough to act. Here, in Scotland, depending on who’s breaking the rules, we have a much more lax attitude, and it is wrong.

What Jackson and others are doing is promoting a general contempt for the rules. Their assertion that the verdict was “harsh” on Legia is nonsensical. The verdict was the only one there was any provision for. This was not, as the press likes to make out, “fielding an ineligible player”, which in itself could have seen the match result voided, something they conveniently forget. This was fielding a banned player, for which there is only one punishment, written down in black and white.

Is the punishment, as set down, too harsh? I don’t think it is. How do you differentiate between a clerical error and a deliberate decision to chance your arm? You can’t. Those who say that because the player only came on in the last three minutes of the match it shouldn’t matter are missing the point. Had this been allowed he’d have been declared eligible for the next two games as well, a situation that would have disadvantaged whoever Legia got in the draw. That’s something the media chooses not to focus on, if it’s dawned on them at all.

It would have over-turned UEFA’s regulations on Champions League registration too; namely that a ban has only been served when a player is registered in a squad. This rule exists for very valid, very specific reasons and no-one at all would deny that they are solid and just and that erasing them would have opened all kinds of loopholes.

The idea that clubs should be allowed to ignore regulations and settle matters between themselves would have created a fundamental and deep rooted problem with all UEFA’s rules, something that’s escaped the attention of our Scottish press entirely, although a rhesus monkey who’d spent long enough studying the game would surely have been able to work that out.

Jackson and those who have somehow sought to compare Celtic’s call for “sporting integrity” with our perceived silence on these issues are revealing their own stupidity, making arguments from ignorance.

Why don’t these people understand objective reality? Why do they ignore past precedent? Why do they pretend the rules are something elastic, something that can be bent? Where did it come from, this peculiarly Scottish contempt for what’s written down?

Perhaps from reading their own publications, or those of their rivals.

Last week I wrote a piece called Bitter Tears, about Neil McCann’s comments in the wake of Celtic’s win at Perth last Wednesday night. He was not alone in attacking the Celtic winger Derk Boerrigter for what he perceived to be a dive. Some of the other media outlets ran similar stuff. What made McCann different was the extent of his over-reaction, an almost farcical explosion of anger and outrage, which gave lie to his status as a “neutral.” Indeed, to have listened to the panellists after the game one might have thought it was Celtic who’d only had one shot on goal, who’d had roughly 45% of possession in the match.

Celtic won the game by a comfortable margin. They were the better team on the night, as our own possession and eight shots on target testifies to.

In the article, I said we should ban from Celtic Park those journalists who allow their inherent bias against the club to come to the fore, or who write lies or mistruths about us.

Imagine my surprise when one such report was in yesterday’s Sun newspaper, concerning the Derk Boerrigter affair and trying to make some facetious and irrelevant comparison between it and the Legia Warsaw situation.

The article was written by former referee Kenny Clark, who will need no introduction to many supporters, and although it masqueraded as a piece of “journalism” it was so shoddy, blatantly biased and anti-Celtic that it should have made the sports department at even that scandalised newspaper blanche.

The piece accused Celtic of hypocrisy in wanting to see the rules applied to Legia but not to their own player. The piece stated that Celtic had “not accepted” the SFA’s disciplinary panel decision to bring the winger in for a hearing.

He then went on to seemingly accuse Deila of lying to the press when he promised that he will not abide cheating from his players. He actually wrote the following, in black and white, stating as a fact that which was patently, obviously, not:

“Clearly Boerrigter is in the wrong yet Celtic are now insisting they won’t accept the offer of a two match ban. It is staggering. Delia has talked a good game but his player is bang to rights in this instance.”

I read this in some astonishment. I was aware that the SFA had called the player to account for the incident, but I was not aware of any word from Celtic regarding it, either officially or under the radar.

But, Clark’s piece left no room at all for dubiety. The club was “insisting” it would not accept the SFA’s view of the incident. To me, that seemed stonewall, but I kept on wondering when the club had made such a statement.

Of course, the club had done no such thing. There had been nothing at all out of Parkhead on the matter. Our spokespeople hadn’t uttered a word on it. Ronny Deila had said nothing since his statement shortly after Wednesday’s game. The player had given no indication as to his stance either. Not until today, when the club and the player sent word to the SFA and the media that they were, in fact, satisfied with the SFA case and were accepting the ban.

The basis for Kenny Clark’s whole article had been demolished. Indeed, it had no basis in fact to begin with. In order to justify his column and its attack on Celtic, he had invented our “position”, and to me that is unconscionable.

This is the kind of gutter hack-attack we should be acting against.

Celtic has emerged from the last few weeks with our reputation being hammered at from all sides, but in actual terms it is more than still intact. Our position on issues of “sporting integrity” and of respect for the rules has been hugely enhanced by these two matters.

Whatever arguments from ignorance the media makes, that remains a fact.

Nevertheless, the people who consistently misrepresent facts and who are not averse to simply making stuff up have spent the last few weeks trying to lecture us on doing what is right.

The irony of it all is certainly not lost on me.

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Bitter Tears

NeilMcCann_1774832wIt was Michael Hutchence who sang “Bitter tears taste so sweet …”

I thought of that line last night watching Neil McCann fragment in the Sky Sports studios, following Celtic’s 3-0 win in Perth.

He lost the plot completely, and it really was something to see.

Yet, it made me wonder; this guy can’t stand us, and he doesn’t hide it.

Why do we still allow him inside Celtic Park?

Last night he was at McDiarmid Park, but he’s been at our home ground and done this on many occasions past and he will doubtless be with the Sky team when they turn up on many occasions to come. After last night’s display, I don’t think he should be allowed in the front door.

I realise the irony here, that I, who penned 4000 words on the failure of Celtic’s strategy and called for the departure of Peter Lawwell only the other day, should be calling for someone to be expelled from our ground, but I think you all know the difference.

This is a guy who gets into the ground for free, and in fact is well paid for sitting there, and for no reason at all, except that he doesn’t like us much, decides, with every chance he gets, to take a piss on the fireside rug. That’s what he did last night, in calling Derk Boerrigter a cheat.

I am all for free speech, and in my view McCann should be allowed to exercise that free speech in any way he likes. He’s been on the telly, he’s had newspaper columns and he’s had slots on the radio too. I salute him in all of this. It takes skill, of some sort, for a semi-literate halfwit to carve himself a media career on this scale. I say bravo.

Where I have an issue with it is where he, or indeed anyone, spews blatantly anti-Celtic nonsense and expects to be allowed to continue doing it from our front room.

It happens too often. There was a time, before social media made their lives difficult, when the media in this country could tell barefaced lies about Celtic, and those lies would gain their own currency because there was no-one to refute them.

Everything has changed in that regard.

Thinking on McCann, and engaging in a discussion about him on Facebook, I was then reminded of Hugh Keevins comments at the weekend, about his heading to Celtic Park for the unfurling of the league flag on Saturday coming, and I must say, I felt a little stab of anger there too.

Keevins was banned last season, and not before time, for something he wrote in his miserable column in the Record, and to the best of my knowledge he has never apologised for what he said or the manner in which he chose to say it. If he turns up at the weekend he should be told to do his reporting from the car-park.

Over the last few years he has made many offensive remarks about our club on the radio and in print. His patronising, smug attitude is all the worse as he is, easily, one of the most ignorant and inept football “experts” in this nation of 5 million people.

His anti-Celtic spiels are so expected as to have long since become tiresome. When asked, last year, to pick a story that stood out to him from his decades long role with our press he picked one about being banned from the Celtic Club as his career highlight.

And why was Keevins chucked out of the Celtic Club? He was chucked out for writing diabolical slurs against our manager, Kenny Dalglish, and about the Celtic supporters from Bairds Bar, after Kenny had decided to hold a pre-match press conference there. Why did he decide that had to be done? He did it because his comments at the previous sit-down with the media had been twisted, and spun, distorted so much that all actual meaning was lost, and he thought these people needed to be dragged out of their wee cocoon and into the light.

They didn’t like it one little bit. Keevins ranted, on the following day, that his life had been put in danger and that Dalglish lacked class. He then tried to turn up for the next press conference, this one held in the Celtic Club in London Road, and a big bruiser named Finbar O’Brannigan told him he was not welcome. Keevins is the only person who thinks being made persona non grata is an honour.

Now, more even than then, these people are operating on the public stage, and some, like McCann, have a tendency to forget that, and carry on as before. Well, they can say whatever they like on that stage, but they do it in an era where we all have right of reply, and where their words can be scrutinised and dissected like never before.

We don’t let them away with anything anymore.

The question is, why do Celtic? Why do they let these people insult us, and then offer them a platform on which to stand? Constructive criticism is fine, but what Neil McCann did last night bordered on character assassination.

His demand that the video review panel scrutinise the penalty kicks made him sound as if he wanted the match result over-turned, UEFA style. His statement about wanting to see our Dutch winger hauled in front of a disciplinary panel for diving is shocking, and he ought to be carpeted for it himself.

McCann was a winger. Do you think if we scrutinised his career we wouldn’t find a few examples of going down softly? He is Mr Integrity all of a sudden, but this is the guy who trousered an EBT and then squirmed when asked about it. “I only signed one contract at Rangers,” he said, or at least only one that went to the SFA.

Tonight he did even more squirming, when forced to watch the Celtic goals. He spat the dummy right out of the pram and launched an astonishing attack on our team.

Someone said to me earlier that neither he nor Tanner hides their bias well. I’ve actually got to give them more credit than they deserve on this one, because in my view they didn’t try to hide it at all. They wore it front and centre, with no shame whatsoever.

I watched the game on Sky, so I saw this for myself, but I’m told that Radio Scotland was just as bad, and that’s far worse, because whereas Sky is something we pay for, by choice, the BBC is a national broadcasting company which we pay for by law, and as such it is supposed to be impartial. If I wanted to listen to anti-Celtic nonsense I would download a Sevco fan podcast.

For years BBC Sports Scotland attacked us with aplomb. When Rangers was fined by UEFA it was the national broadcaster who led the “campaign” to have the governing body investigate Celtic fans too, the support which had won a UEFA Fair Play Award only the year before. Theirs was the station that once employed Jim Traynor, one of our most vocal enemies, and where Gordon Smith defended the singing of anti-Catholic songs. Theirs was the station that campaigned most vocally for an extension to season 2007-08 in order to benefit Rangers, and blamed Manchester on “Chelsea fans.”

Through all of it, Celtic allowed their people into our ground on a regular basis, and let them continue to attack us from inside the walls, even when some of it went way beyond criticism and plumbed the depths. Their treatment of Neill Lennon in later years was a case in point. Every journalist who penned the words, or echoed the sentiment, “he brings it on himself” should have been banished from our stadium forevermore. None were.

There are some things you just shouldn’t allow.

The media here in Scotland remains a small-minded disgrace, made up of people for whom a better career choice would have been becoming stenographers or PR men. They only get away with this appalling standard because our top clubs continue to indulge them as if they were still important.

Those who can’t be objective, who let their dislike for us spill into the job, who renounce even the pretence of objectivity and put their bias out front and centre are not journalists and they should not be made welcome in the press box as if they were. Their companies should be told those individuals are having their credentials revoked until they can get a grip.

Faced with being locked outside, their usefulness to their employers gone, I suspect you’d see a sea-change in their attitudes pretty damned quick.

It wouldn’t be before time.

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The Devil We Knew

KeevinsFrame1The new football season starts in a few weeks times, and this is going to be an historic one for a number of reasons. There’s no Edinburgh derby, and in fact no team from the capital in the top flight. The Glasgow derby will, again, be between Celtic and Thistle, but at last we’re going to have a clash of the neighbours in Dundee.

When one door opens, another closes, my friends.

Change is everything in Scottish football. There hasn’t been a dull summer in the last few years, not since a club calling itself Rangers was flailing around in a bear trap of their own making. A lot of things are different than they were five years ago.

One of these things is the media, although the media hasn’t changed as much as other organisations. Yet, they’ve changed enough that it’s worth noting, and thinking about a little bit. A lot of the veteran hacks have gone, an inevitable consequence of the creeping influence of the blogs and their own increasing irrelevance. Some of them realised there was one last big pay-day in their collapsing profession, and took the money and ran.

They leave behind an industry that’s been gutted, that’s been hollowed out, one that I would say had been lobotomised, although that’s frankly ridiculous when you consider the names of some of those who have gone. Television, radio, the papers … they have lost a number of well known, established names and whilst I won’t be glad to see the back of any of them they were, quite literally, the devil we knew.

They were incompetent, inarticulate, lazy jokers, easily humiliated if you could get a chance to quiz them on how little they actually knew … but this familiarity was comforting in some ways because you knew who you could ignore without worrying that you were depriving yourself of information or knowledge. The Sunday papers will never be the same again. I don’t care, as I don’t buy them, but some still do.

Those who have stepped into their shoes are not so well known, but some of their own articles and opinion pieces in recent weeks have made it clear that they’ve taken their cue from those who came before them. That worries me in some ways, because some of these guys are young enough that we’re going to be reading their pieces for years and they’ve already started to push dangerous myths. Many of them aren’t well known, so the reaction of readers can’t be presumed in the way it would be if the same nonsense was being written by a Keevins or Waddell.

That’s bad, because some of what they are pushing – like the Sevco Victim Myth – is positively insane stuff. If these people are going to become editors or senior reporters their version of history could very well wind up gaining some kind of surface acceptance.

I already have grave doubts that things will get better with the departures of the old heads, those who made a mockery of their professions and who latterly became cheerleaders instead of being honest reporters. There are already signs that a grave irresponsibility infects the ranks of these up and coming hacks, and a number of them are better at chasing glory and headlines instead of facts.

At a first glance, the idea of a media where guys like Matthew Lindsay are the senior hacks doesn’t seem bad when you compare that with one run by Traynor, Keevins and King, but is it really? These people, without the experience of those who’ve gone, are probably still making their way, and they have to cultivate contacts and make friends if they are to keep their jobs. The quality of those contacts will determine the quality of their “news” … and I worry about that most of all. Are any of these people possessed of the backbone to question what they hear, or is the regurgitation of press releases from clubs and PR firms going to remain the norm?

If it is, many of our tabloids, and even our broadsheets, are dead as yesterday’s fish, because those bad habits will infect the next generation of writers too, and then the press becomes nothing but a windsock.

It seems clear to me that our scrutiny of the media has to increase, that we have to avoid the complacency that comes with thinking we’ve got this thing won. We should not assume that new faces on the deck of these ships means a change of course. I very much doubt that it does, especially as the course they are on right now is more headed for the bottom of the ocean than some distant port. These ships are sinking, and if they’re to stay solvent they will, more and more, have to come to represent the views of their “core readership.”

Who do you imagine that is? They already know, which is why the Sevco Victim Myth is currently being pushed like crack cocaine on a support that is inhaling it a drug.

I think a Scottish media environment without people like Keevins can only be an improvement, but that’s not exactly difficult to imagine. After all, the last generation of hacks before them was comprised of folk like Gerry McNee and the repellent David Leggat, and I can’t be alone in having thought that things would get markedly better when those people were gone, but atrocious, and embarrassing, idiots like Jackson, Keevins and Darryl King stepped into their roles.

Over the next few months, it’s going to become ever more important to challenge every media lie or mistruth before it grows legs. The spiralling crisis at Sevco Rangers makes it vital that we, who care about Scottish football, ready ourselves in case that club goes nuclear, and ends up creating another summer of confusion and chaos.

It was only because we were on top of the media last time that we were able to rally ourselves, and then our clubs, to resist the firestorm to have Sevco playing in the top tier which was being whipped up in the press. If Sevco collapses the same newspapers will be re-fighting that battle all over again, with different names on the articles and different people at the helm, but with the same fervour and, if we let them, a very potent weapon.

The Victim Myth is a rewrite of history that seeks to influence the future.

The media is laying down a marker and saying that what happened last time shouldn’t happen again, that if Sevco crashes against the rocks that, this time, we have to act in a “civilised manner” and be more “understanding” of their plight.

This is why the Victim Myth has made me angry … you can see exactly what it aims to achieve. It’s trying to put us on the wrong side of a debate, and not one over what’s already happened but one that’s concerned with what might happen next, and the trouble with the departure of so many old heads in the press is that people might just view their successors in a different, perhaps even a favourable, light.

We must scrutinise the media more, not less, in the season to come. Every half-truth and lie should be ruthlessly exposed as one before it grows roots.

Let’s continue as we’ve started, giving these people not an ounce of credibility unless they prove that they are worthy of it.

Nailing this Victim Myth, and calling it the lie that it is, would be a damned good start.

I’m not holding my breath though. Are you?

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Singing The Blues

19884888Derek Johnstone is a funny guy sometimes.

As far as I am concerned, he should be on the telly, with his own show, like Rory Bremner.

I find it particularly hilarious when he’s pretending to be a journalist or when he’s pretending to be impartial or especially pretending to be a football expert.

He is none of these things of course, and nor is his impersonation of them up to much, but it’s funny watching him try.

He tries to do funny too, on occasion, but when he’s doing that he sounds likes the worst end-of-pier hack you can imagine.

If you’ve ever listened to Radio Clyde when he’s on you’ll know what I mean. That his fellow panellists appear to find him hilarious is a sure sign of their own intellectual prowess. I can actually feel myself lose IQ points listening to that show.

Johnstone’s recent Evening Times column is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen from him in ages though. His demands for apologies, for contrition (from everyone; the press, the clubs, the bloggers, the tax office, the bank, the BBC, everyone, indeed, but those at Rangers who dropped their club into the abyss and almost took Scottish football with them) and his exhortation that the enemies of the club will never be forgotten or forgiven was the kind of petulant rant Jim Traynor himself might have balked at publishing under his own name.

Equally hilarious, of course, was Keith Jackson, raining down opprobrium on Craig Whyte, calling him every name under the sun. Remember the first thing he called Whytey? A billionaire with “wealth off the radar” wasn’t it? For this they give out journalism awards. Those ceremonial evenings must end with the self-congratulation of a group of down and outs who’ve won prizes for the nicest boxes under a bridge. And they sneer at the bloggers …

I understand why Sevco Rangers fans are singing the blues. They’ve seen their club die. They’ve seen its resurrected corpse appropriated by men you wouldn’t buy a musical doorbell from. They’ve got a manager who’s frankly useless but is too expensive to sack, heading into the most important season in their short history, one with epochal consequences for failure and they are dependent on the only over-thirties strike-force in history that’s got to have improved with age. Their current custodians are people they pray don’t have the courage of their “convictions”, their “white knight” has his own history on the wrong side of the law and their fans are divided, their spokesman either cardboard cut-outs or worse, self-promoters who’ve backed every spiv who’s got his hands on the front door keys. Yes, I understand how hard all that must be.

Their world has been torn asunder. Their notion of superiority has been ripped apart. Their bully boy tactics didn’t frighten the bank or the tax authorities. They didn’t dissuade Whyte from burning it all down and Charles Green left with his pockets bulging and his big Yorkshire hands still able to grab more. The chairmen who voted No to the NewCo don’t preside over shattered clubs in a shattered league but one that will be in rude health if Sevco make it over the line to join them at the top table.

I understand why Sevco fans feel frustration and fear. They planned to grow the best crop of youngsters in the country, arriving in the top league with a settled side, a club that was healed and with money in the bank. Instead they’re a basket case, financially shot and depending on an ever revolving door of share issues to “grow the business”, structuring their plans around the very same “depend on European income” strategy that killed the OldCo stone dead and kidding themselves on that there are two more years in McCulloch, that three years of playing against part time players has made Ian Black a top midfielder and that Kenny Miller will one day score goals for them in Champions League. When he’s forty maybe.

They have good reason to be angry, and to be afraid. Let’s face it, when you look at their leaders you can see they were never the sharpest tools in the box either. All Whytey had to do was learn the words of The Sash My Father Wore and the whole thing was his for a pound. All Green had to do was claim to have Rangersitus and make himself a Naked Video parody for a Christmas message and he could empty their wallets to his hearts content.

The fans, at least, can be excused their wailing and their gnashing of teeth.

What excuse does the media have for writing such utter cobblers? What the Hell are they doing, feeding these people and their paranoia? Enemies lists, for God’s sake? They might as well be painting targets on people’s backs. The bombers and the bullet senders must be beavering away in their skivvies as I write this, dreaming of revenge.

We have a media in this country that elevates irresponsibility to an art form. For all the bloggers are accused of spreading hate, our readerships are small fry compared to the media which frequently stirs the soup and appeals to the lowest common denominator. In the last few days I have read Rangers sites which have asked their own club’s fans to move on, but the writers of these pieces don’t get themselves on the news, although their message is sensible, and measured, and most definitely for the good of their club and the game as a whole.

Instead we see assorted half-wits and nut-jobs pushing the stab-in-the-back myth on a support who are looking for a distraction after another year of self-inflicted wounds, appalling stories, setbacks and evidence of incompetence and greed.

The media has no interest in the voices of moderation. That’s not newsworthy. They are like schoolyard monitors who, instead of looking out for all the kids, pay attention only to those with the shrillest screams. They, themselves, are the biggest pushers of the fear drug and the hate drug, the biggest peddlers of the Armageddon myth and the “enemies of Rangers” lie.

They do it because it sells. They operate on division. They exist on it. They are the ones who, for far too long, pushed the Old Firm brand because it was their bread and butter, even more than it was for the clubs. It was a phrase almost universally detested by the Celtic fans, and I suspect that Rangers fans too wanted nothing to do with it, but our journalists depended on it because by associating themselves with a rivalry famous throughout the game it made them more credible when they mixed with real writers, those who actually work for a living as opposed to regurgitating press statements and writing spin on behalf of their pals.

When Rangers fans blame sections of the media for what happened to them they are on to something, but it’s not those who tried to expose the truth, like Mark Daley and Alex Thomson, who they should be singling out for the abuse. They should be focussed on the hack-pack who were either too lazy or too conflicted to chase facts, who ignored evidence, who were too busy turning PR copy into articles and who, in the first place and without a single bit of research to back up their claims, lauded Whyte, Green, Stockbridge, Murray, Ahmed, Easdale, Wallace and others, every single one of whom was exposed, early, on the blogs, as being full of it.

Rangers fans can never, ever say they weren’t warned or kept informed, because they were. They just didn’t like the people who were telling them all this … but we gave them what the media never did, and can never be relied on to do. We gave them the truth.

I am sorry they didn’t like what they heard. Sometimes, when someone tells you the facts, you don’t like it, and that is all we did, and we didn’t do it to destabilise them, because their club was in the hands of people so without a clue, so without a plan, so without a care as to what happened to Rangers, that the very best thing we could have done, if we wanted to cause the maximum trouble, the maximum damage, was do nothing at all. To keep silent. To let things run their course.

If you think they are crying the blues now, imagine how much worse the psychological damage to them would have been had we not laid the groundwork for them accepting the bad news when it came. They looked for agendas, and they still do, but I cannot understand how they can see twisted motives in our efforts to warn them about the kind of people they had in charge, at a time when they might still have done something about it.

To those Sevco fans who occasionally post on this blog, who accuse me of peddling hate, who have said I am a bigot because I persist in using the Sevco name instead of merely calling their club Rangers, which in all fairness I cannot do because the club they want me to refer to is dead, I would ask that they point out one instance of “peddling hate” on this blog.

I freely admit to detesting a section of their support, the section that will not engage with the rest of the world, the section that wallows in hate, that preaches supremacy, that glorifies war, the section that promotes a “culture” it barely understands and which sees “enemies” everywhere, except inside the club’s own walls …

But I would stipulate that any rational person would despise these people, and that following Celtic is not a pre-requisite for that.

Indeed, I know full well that my feelings are echoed in the stands at Ibrox, by people who feel every bit as much loathing for those folk as I do myself. I understand their reluctance to speak up, but want them to know that they have friends and supporters at other clubs who will be there if they ever make their voices heard and claim their club from the degenerate elements who play such a role in keeping it a backward looking mess.

I do not hate Rangers, and I never have. Indeed, a healthy Sevco Rangers would be a positive force in the Scottish game, if it were rid of its sectarian baggage and its ideologues, if it embraced multiculturalism and internationalism instead of retreating behind the Union Jack and if it put aside this nonsensical and divisive embrace of militarism and war.

Once upon a time Rangers was a working class club, with its roots in its community, instead of one that swore allegiance to a hereditary monarchy, embraced the mentality of an age-old empire and seemed more interested in hating enemies than it is with making friends.

Whilst they were on top, Rangers preyed on the weakness of other Scottish sides, taking their players for nominal fees and even sending one club, Airdrie, to the grave over an unpaid debt with a sneer and barely a moment for pause. They bent the rules and corrupted the institutions that govern the game. They were not averse to pulling players out of Scotland squads when it suited them, or to nicking a national coach. They were prone to wailing every time they were taken to task for something and they, long before Neil Lennon moaned about referees, were pointing out officials with Irish surnames and stoking conspiracy theories.

They spent money they didn’t have on players they couldn’t afford. They hid those contracts from the authorities and when they were caught red handed they escaped all punishment for that, even as the governing body was expelling teams from the Scottish Cup for failing to sign one piece of paper, and imposing draconian fines which could have closed those clubs down.

They had a media which made excuses for them in the face of sectarian songs, which blamed others for riots and outbreaks of disorder and which was willing to argue the finer points of whether The Billy Boys was really a sectarian song.

Rangers as “victims” is a notion that’s a little hard to stomach. When they were on top they lorded it over the game with a breath-taking arrogance, and even in death they learned no lessons and found no humility … and they wonder why the Sevco NewCo is not greeted with open arms and respect everywhere it goes, and in everything it does.

The media is helping to push the line that we owe that club an apology.

No, no and thrice no. They owe Scottish football an apology, but most of us long since stopped waiting for it. We’d settle, instead, for a period of self-imposed silence … but we’re not going to get that either, are we?

They’re singing the blues again.

I wish they’d change this tune, and I wish the media would stop teaching the next generation the words.

Their irresponsibility is mind-numbing, and even when it comes from Derek Johnstone it’s more dangerous than it is funny.

These people are a disgrace to a once proud profession.

In pushing the “victim” myth they are rewriting history from the gutter.

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