Sleeping With The Television On

xpzivcIt’s been two months at least since I last posted something on this site. During that time, people wondered if the site itself was now defunct. It isn’t. It wasn’t. I was just taking some time out to do other stuff, and giving you all a break!

One of the great wise-ass witticisms about commentary is that you should break the ice with the audience by starting with a joke.

Sevco fans have always provided good humour for us, so they were an obvious starting point. In the last few days I read a story which simply broke me up with laughter, and I thought, as this is my official return to the site, that I would share the more amusing aspects of it with you.

The story made the front page of The Sun two days ago, for ludicrous reasons. They completely missed what I regard as the point, and chose, instead, to focus on the fluff.

The Sun article relates to something on Googlebox, and a “new family” that has joined. They are called the Manuel’s. They are from Croydon, although they originally hail from Glasgow. During their debut show, they kind of went out of their way to fly their colours; they are Sevconian’s, of course.

When the show was repeated (and why wouldn’t it be?) everything in it was just the same, but Channel 4 chose to pixelate the image of a mug that had appeared on their coffee table; it was one for the Bridgeton Loyal. And that decision has sparked social media outrage from the Peepul who see in it the work of the Unseen Fenian Hand.

Channel 4 said it is procedure to edit out anything that might in some way compromise commercial neutrality. The Sevconian’s aren’t buying that explanation at all. They are raging (as usual) and bombarding the producers with hate.

There is literally nothing about this that isn’t hilarious; from the idea that extras from The Hills Have Eyes now have their own TV show, to the way the usual suspects amongst their demented support have leaped on this issue to add Googlebox to the Follow Follow banned list … it all beautifully hits the spot.

I feel there’s enough raw material in this tale to keep this site in stories for a year.

Way back when I was a media student, one of the things I often slated was the rash of “reality TV shows” which had started to pop up all over the place. I was of the view that there’s nothing “real” about the bulk of reality TV, but I’ve changed my tune slightly based on the success of certain shows; Gold Rush, Deadliest Catch and a few outstanding others, which is to say nothing for the docu-dramas and true crime specials of which two in particular – Making A Murderer and The Jinx – were riveting and brilliant.

As a consequence I’m no longer as ready to simply dismiss anything in the genre as I once would have. For all that, I’d never have known that The Manuel’s of Croydon existed without The Sun’s expose, but I’m very glad now that I do.

Don’t get me wrong; I will never watch their Googlebox show but it gladdens my heart that they are out there all the same, and I hope, sincerely, that others in their social circle take the plunge. The whole thing tickles my funny bone.

Sevco fans. Reality TV. Sevco fans and any kind of reality at all. The world being able to take a peek inside their daily lives. At their beliefs and their prejudices.

Wow. Just wow.

It has a special kind of magnificence attached to it, don’t you think?

A public examination of the kind of people who, in the States, live in trailer parks proudly flying the Confederate Flag and blaming the Unseen Hand of Washington for the fact their lives aren’t better. Imagine them trying to explain the Survival Myth to a wider audience. Imagine seeing their pride and swaggering arrogance on the “Glorious Twelfth.”

This is what reality TV was made for.

This is where we’ve been heading all this time.

Towards giving every hick in Hick Town his own platform and there’s something especially juicy about showing up The Peepul to the world. This is what you’d gladly pay the license fee for. It’s just too good to be true, as if you fell asleep watching the box and dreamed about it.

Undoubtedly, there is a market for Hillbilly TV.

There has to be, based on the number of people who’ve sent their complaints to Channel 4 and Googlebox over this.

That a national newspaper deemed their pitiful wailing worthy of a front page story is truly a remarkable thing in itself; talk about a slow news day. You have to be thankful you live in a world where this is the most controversial thing happening, right?

And see, this is part of what I’m talking about; imagine if we were somehow able to get that perma-raging to the widest possible audience? Imagine every Billy Boy singing, sash wearing, Nazi salute making Sevconian had his own late night special?

I mean, I’m convinced that “Rangers fans on independence” – that hilarious video, as close to a spoof as I’ve ever seen but was actually real, and which ends with a Scottish guy in an England top advocating moving to Wales (as England is too full of immigrants) if Scotland gets indpendence because we’ll “end up like Ireland” – won at least 100,000 votes to the Yes cause …

If you can imagine dozens of such people … all with their own show …

Man oh man. I would pay to watch all of it.

The one pity is that the kind of companies that would do well out of advertising on such shows are the ones that, traditionally, never bothered with that kind of approach to driving sales; Carlsberg Special Brew, Buckfast and the like.

As Irvine Welsh said in one of his books, they find their way to their customers eventually.

Those adverts would have been fun to watch though, don’t you think?

The serious side to all this, of course, is the gushing of vitriol over it, but even that makes me howl hysterically when I consider it.

I mean this is Channel 4, the TV network that pioneered shows like The Word, that televised Jackass in the UK, the station where I once watched someone drink a pint glass full of sick. This is the channel that would show anything.

I get the giggles thinking of them pixelating out a logo.

It also makes me laugh to think that Sevco fans, in their own wee delirium, were sitting at home watching this crap and instinctively blamed Celtic fans when they saw it had been done. Because in their world thousands of us were watching it too, and although perfectly happy with the rest of 4’s often mind-bending output, this is what sent us over the edge and caused us to complain.

I love it. I just love the way their minds work.

Channel 4’s official explanation – that they do this regularly, with commercially sensitive content (the mug is on sale on the Bridgeton Loyal site; over the last few days they’ve virtually sold out of them, so Channel 4’s contention that it could have constituted free advertising is in no way ridiculous) – was deemed an “excuse.”

No, this was “getting it up the Rangers”, this was a slur against their club, this was a pre-mediated act of provocation, or the result of thousands of Celtic fans moaning.

So add Channel 4 to the conspiracy. The one that already involved the BBC, STV, the whole of the print press, the Vatican, the EU, Labour, the SNP, the Tories, Glasgow City Council, the NHS Trust, the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator and a hundred other organisations. A grouping so vast and disparate they’d need to hold their meetings at Wembley.

Such wee sensitive souls are they (paranoid lunatics in other words) that they think the whole world really is out to get them. So self important are they that they believe the rest of the world cares at all.

And so twisted are they, they believe we all see things through similar eyes.

As I said, there’s literally nothing about this whole episode I don’t find fascinating and blackly funny.

I love the idea of Hillbilly Television, brought to you by The Peepul.

I love that enough of them were tuning into it to cause such a stink.

I love that they thought we were all doing the same.

I find it absolutely hilarious that they believed Channel 4 pixelated an image of a mug because people might have found it offensive when it was the first UK network to show the unedited version of Scum, and which produced six separate documentaries on Banned Television in the UK.

More than all of that, I find it increasingly delightful that their fans get so up in arms over the tiniest wee thing these days.

These people can be driven to madness by just about anything.

At times I’ve described them as dangerous, but really only to themselves.

These are the kind of people who would plug bare wires into a wall socket with wet hands because no-one had ever told them not to do it; the kind of people for whom those “Do Not Eat” warnings they put on the gel packs that come with new speakers were made.

They are The Peepul.

They would make such great television.

I cannot wait for the next instalment; Songs Of Praise, By Jamie Bryson, maybe …

(If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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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.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Complete Incomprehension

article-0-0C3CF89B000005DC-856_634x375Yesterday, when I posted in disbelief and mounting anger about the SPFL’s decision to corrupt sporting integrity for a grubby handful of TV cash, I had no idea that the story would dominate the rest of my day, but it did.

First came the outpouring of venom, and bile, from the Illiterati on Twitter, as SevcoLand went into meltdown over what they saw as a piece motivated by hate.

I’ll deal with that first before I move on to the more substantial issues.

For openers, you really have to have hate on the brain to have read any malice into my article, except at that directed at the so-called governing bodies. Sevco fans erupted anyway, with the usual gush of child abuse comments and supremacist remarks.

I argued the toss with them for a wee while before my common sense kicked in, and I blocked a bunch of the more disgusting ones.

To them I’d say this; if you think being blocked represents some kind of victory you are entitled to that view, but your only mistake is thinking I care what you think. I have no wish to discuss anything with you any more than I want to chat away to those who think point scoring on something as appalling as paedophilia is anything less than repulsive.

Those people are gutter rats, the dregs of humanity, and aren’t worth the shit on my shoes far less the fraction of a brain cell it takes to demolish any flimsy argument they stand up. I have a very clear idea of what my own club is, its history and its culture. I also have a very clear idea what their version of their club is, and its own history and ideology.

I know which side I’m on, and I like to think if I hadn’t been brought up a Celtic fan that my politics and my outlook and my social leanings would have made me one.

Yet I also suspect that all of those things come from being a Celtic fan … and I have never been less than proud of that.

If they are proud of their own institution that’s their business.

If they want to believe it lives on, blindly supporting the resurrected version of it, without realising it’s some kind of Frankenstein’s Monster, all the better to fill the pockets of select English based businessmen, well they are entitled to that too, and I say “good luck to you” much as I would not discourage anyone who still wanted to believe in Santa Claus or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I just wouldn’t want them working in a nuclear power plant.

I have been called a bigot more than once since I started this site.

It’s not true, and I defy anyone to suggest that it is.

Indeed, I’ve threatened legal action against various people who have put that word in writing beside my name. I won’t stand for it, and won’t allow anyone to level that charge at me. It doesn’t stand up to even the slightest examination.

For the record; I do not hate the club that calls itself Rangers.

I do not hate their fans.

I believe some of them are dumb to an almost subhuman degree and that others merely use the club itself to project onto the world their own warped view of it. I do marvel at the club when it panders to those halfwits, as doing so is social, political and economic suicide, limiting their appeal now and forever, but you could say that about any number of other institutions.

I don’t hold that against everyone else associated with them.

In an earlier article, I scoffed at those who would attempt to divide this country into “us and the enemy” because as someone who’s lived beside “the enemy” my whole life, as someone who has loved “the enemy”, worked with “the enemy”, fought alongside them and campaigned for a better Scotland and a better world with some of them, I do not recognise, or accept, the narrow caricature of the “Celtic and Rangers hatred” that some people think drives our lives.

On top of all that, this is a city I love with all my heart, and it’s why I write about it, blog about it and now publish a magazine about it. Everyone says there’s no place like home, but there are few cities in the world – but Glasgow is one of them – where just being from there grounds you and influences you for the rest of your time on this planet.

I resent the Hell out of those who would promote this place as some kind of bastion of hate.

It is not true, it has never been true, it will never be true and I want nothing to do with the lie, or those who have perpetuated it and gotten fat off of it for too damned long.

I write two blogs on football. This is the “big picture” one, the one that I try to make about serious issues.

The other is less high-minded, where I go to vent or to celebrate.

My own club is featured on there, but Sevco are our rivals and so I poke them with a stick where and when I can.

Occasionally I delve into the bigger picture … but mostly I save that for here.

Yesterday’s article was not about Sevco inasmuch as it was about the incompetence and lack of regard the governing bodies have for every fan in Scottish football. Indeed, the sentiments I expressed in the piece were later echoed by the boards at Hibs and Hearts and by Stuart McCall himself, and the media was, for once, almost united in condemnation.

So you tell me; who was on the wrong side of the argument here?

Two groups of people. The Sevco hate brigade and the SPFL.

The hate brigade were doing what they do. Hating. Give them their due, because they do it very well. They’ve practiced it and they have it down to a fine art. They are unimportant to the wider debate because it’s over their heads, outside their narrow ability to comprehend and compute.

The SPFL, well, they are my bigger concern, as the piece made clear.

For the whole day yesterday I got emails from fans of clubs out with Glasgow who were shocked and appalled by the SPFL’s decision, some wondering what my own club’s take on it might be.

I told them that it really isn’t Celtic’s business, but that in SFA terms I hoped we were taking a lead to make real changes.

In truth, my club, acting alone, can’t transform anything. To accomplish any goal that’s worth a damn will take a national campaign, where fans from other teams will need to put aside their differences and work as a team.

Sevco Rangers fans will have to play a part in it too. I know it’s inconvenient for those who want to accuse me of bigotry and hate, but I’ve long argued that and I’ve long said that no other group of supporters has been as badly served by the incompetence of the governing bodies.

Any campaign for meaningful change would help, not hurt, them.

I do believe their club has been pandered to, since time immemorial.

The evidence for it is overwhelming.

Paradoxically, it has done them more harm than good over the long haul. The failure to do “fit and proper person” examinations on their board members, the failure to hold Ashley to account, the way Green was allowed to basically lie his way through 18 months … all of it was tolerated and accepted by the governing bodies, who are mute at the moment as a convicted fraudster takes his place at the club.

If this is love, it is a curious type.

If it was done for their gain, what a mess it’s made instead.

On top of that, unlike a lot of people I don’t believe they “won” anything from the events of the past four years.

Even if you accept their viewpoint that the club lives on, I don’t think you can call it a victory when they’ve lost uncounted millions in revenue, seen an expensive first team of players all walk away for free, had their banking facilities withdrawn, cost them a fortune in sponsorship and watched the infrastructure of club ground down to nothing.

This is to say nothing of the monumental reputational damage it has all inflicted on them.

To cap it all, they wound up in the lowest tier and suffered the ignominy and shame of staggering ineptitude on and off the park, from Ally to Ashley.

That is the damndest victory I ever heard of.

And they had it coming.

They don’t like that either, but it remains true nonetheless.

For the better part of my life they were financially doped to the eyeballs.

They didn’t generate the income that paid for their success; they borrowed it. And then they didn’t want to pay it back, so they bent rules and laws and in the end they folded the hand and the taxpayer picked up the tab.

Shame on them for it.

If the history continues in their eyes, so be it. Their recent past has been the history of disgrace, and it goes on to this day, with Murray and King sitting in a directors box they ought not to be allowed near, and not only because they fail the most fundamental tests.

Two guys who wrought havoc on something they claimed to love, destabilised it to the point of crisis, very deliberately, whilst blaming the previous board for that, and who then used the conditions they had manufactured personally to gain control …

I think to call them parasites would be doing them more justice than they deserve.

If Sevco fans want to support that with their hard earned cash, so be it.

For all that, my gripe is with the governing bodies who allow all this to go on and who, yesterday, shamed themselves and heaped embarrassment on the sport with a scandalous decision which brought the integrity of our game into question.

Then they compounded that grievous mistake – which nearly everyone in Scottish football agrees is a shocker – with a self-justifying statement which is so crass, ill-judged and ridiculous that the only rational response to it is contempt.

Nearly every major piece this website has written in the two and some years since I started it has been, in some way, connected with the way our game’s governors have either failed in their most basic duties or made a mockery of their own rules.

So many of those cases have involved Rangers and Sevco.

The crisis that erupted at the first, swallowed them whole, and gave birth to the second, were not simply manufactured by Craig Thomas Whyte; they existed in embryonic form before he arrived at the club.

Their roots are to be found in what Auldheid and others have painstakingly charted … a decade or more of outright mendacity and concealment of contracts and financial projections, which the SFA was in part aware of and which at least one of its chief officers had extensive knowledge of, if not outright involvement in.

It involved, amongst other things, hidden player contracts and deliberately misleading information over the status of their tax affairs.

For example, we know of at least one season where they were granted a license to play European football when they were materially in breach of the requirements for one.

The documentation proving it is there in black and white, no matter how much people inside and outside the governing bodies, the major clubs and the media might want to ignore it.

The failures of governance that are involved here are colossal.

It is not for nothing that many of us have taken to calling it The Greatest Scandal in the History of Sport.

Yesterday the SPFL wrote another sordid chapter in that history.

Neil Doncaster will have a starring role in the numerous books and essays and studies of this which we’ll certainly see in years to come, and future generations will marvel that he wasn’t sacked in 2012 when he self-detonated the commercial side of the league’s businesses.

That he has remained in post to this day, with all the attendant disgrace he has layered on since, will stagger them.

So much of this happened at one club, and appears to be for the benefit of that club.

I am asked, often, if Doncaster has been “got to” or “bought.”

I tell them the answer is no.

As much as some might shake their heads at my saying this, I believe that if Celtic had been as badly run as Rangers and landed in the same position he and Regan would have been just as willing to bend every rule and co-opt the rest of the clubs, using much the same tactics as they did in 2012, to achieve the ends they wanted.

They would have risked everything, and burned this game to the bedrock if the fans of other clubs had allowed them to get away with it.

The issue here is the duopoly, and the lack of any imagination that our national sport can be something more.

The “two club” scenario in which these people fanatically believe – which is that our game, essentially, only has “relevance” because of the Glasgow sides – is what has corrupted every bit of our sport and got us here.

We Celtic fans, for our own reasons, have long loathed and despised the “Old Firm” tag, which we think insults us in seeking to tie us not to another club but to a pact of mutual hatred.

It markets nothing but bitterness, and tries to tap into something ugly.

We want no part of it and it’s been a long time since we did.

Our national sport could have weaned itself off this evil, corrupting drug … but our leaders and our media wouldn’t let it.

They pushed the Two Club Myth.

To keep it going they invented and nurtured the Survival Myth.

To feed and grow that they’ve invented the Victim Myth, which promotes nothing but anger and resentment and which Sevco fans are mugs to believe in.

Yesterday, even the press were amazed at the ignorance and lack of logic the SPFL showed, and the gaping holes in the decision making process their choices revealed.

The statement the SPFL released late last night, full of self justification and arrogance, but without an iota of insight into the minds of the fans (not that they gave a damn anyway) was greeted with a disbelief and contempt I haven’t heard in the voices of commentators and analysts since Comical Ali stood on the streets of Baghdad and told the world that Iraqi forces were fighting hard against the American invaders as US tanks rolled by in the background.

That’s where we are right now, with these people trying to defend the indefensible, insulting the people who matter most, pissing on us all and not even having the decency to call it rain.

A section of the Sevco support, forever wrapped in its own wee bubble of self importance, saw our condemnation of that scandal as an attack on them. Those who didn’t throw disgusting insults instead chucked back the softball of “obsessed.”

They miss the point, as the clinically selfish always do.

They are at the centre of the story, but they are not the story. I have only the most peripheral interest in their club in all this. My gripe is with the football authorities. They allow this nonsense. They make these decisions. They break their own rules.

Some think that’s none of our business, but they are the same people who come out with crap like “it’s all about the Rangers” and talk through the sides of their mouths about how “necessary” they are to the game whilst wishing every other club had died to prove the point.

Their club is a side-show here. Beyond wanting to see this game made better, I don’t give a damn what happens to them.

My own club is in a position where I’m comfortable that we can handle their pale shadow if it ever lumbers towards our door.

The rest of Scottish football has bigger things on its mind.

Doncaster packing up his pencils should be first on everyone’s list this morning.

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Can You Hear The Peepil Sing?

rangers-bannersAs some of you might be aware, when I’m not writing about football I like to blog on politics, and at the weekend there, I released a magazine on the subject for my site Comments Isn’t Free.

When the Charlie Hebdo attacks rocked the world last month, I wrote a big piece on free speech, defending the rights of people to say, sing or write anything they like, without limits and without restrictions at all.

To me, that’s an article of faith, something I believe in religiously. Free speech is the most important of our freedoms, because without it, the rest wouldn’t matter a damn as the government could do what it liked with them and we’d be unable even to protest.

Lately, this is a subject that gets me into trouble, because one of the things I’m doing online right now is aggressively promoting the election of as many SNP candidates to Westminster as possible, and I’m often asked how I square with that with my vociferous opposition to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, to which I devoted fully one third of my free speech piece.

It’s quite simple, really. I’m not a single issue voter; I consider more than just one plank of the party platform before I put a cross on a ballot paper, and right now we’re faced with a ghastly choice of horrors.

Only one party which stands a chance of holding the balance of power down there wants the things I do.

That answer doesn’t go down well with some people, people who’re happy to bang the free speech drum as long as they like what the other person is saying. I find it a bit rich when they try to denigrate my view by hiding behind that, and it’s caused more than a few arguments.

Why am I telling you this? It’s simple, really.

I can’t get to the point of this article without covering the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act first, because it’s the elephant in the room.

For the record, it’s a disgusting piece of legislative over-reach that should never have been put on the books. Unlike some people, I do not regard it as an anti-Irish or anti-Catholic law – indeed, a large number of Sevco fans have been charged under it, along with supporters of Hibs and Hearts – but on almost every occasion that it’s been used against Celtic fans those prosecutions clearly fall under the rubric of attacking political expression.

That makes it even more scandalous and indefensible.

Let me elaborate on that for a moment, and why it’s important.

For one thing, this law accomplished precisely nothing that other, existing laws, couldn’t have done fairly easily and comfortably. When Sevco fans, who sing stuff like The Famine Song and The Billy Boys are prosecuted under this law, they might just as easily have been charged under a ream of legislation that was already in place. Those legislations were specifically created to tackle hate speech, and those songs certainly qualify.

Celtic fans singing about Ireland would not have been prosecutable under those laws, which is part of the reason many of our supporters believe the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was created in the first place. As I said, I think they are wrong … but it is a dangerous law nonetheless and one with which needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

With that said, I can tell you that even writing about this makes me highly uncomfortable, because I’m forced to defend things I abhor.

There seems to be a lot of anger amongst Celtic fans tonight about the SPFL’s decision to take no action in relation to the League Cup semi final. I understand that anger, and I agree that the decision reeks of cowardice.

But you know what? It’s for the best, and I’m coming down on the SPFL’s side. I hate that too.

This nonsense about removing politics from football has had its day, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s UEFA or FIFA trotting out that hypocritical line or if it’s the SPFL and the Scottish Government.

Equally, I find the notion that people should have some right not to be offended to be ridiculous. The world doesn’t work like that. If you start introducing it in football stadiums, how long before no songs are being sung at all?

How long before the scoring of a goal becomes problematic? Players aren’t allowed to properly celebrate them anymore, so that’s not as farfetched as perhaps it at first sounds.

The SPFL could have taken action today, and many people are going to say they should have.

For months now we’ve heard about how “Scotland needs the Celtic – Rangers game”, and without going into all the various arguments surrounding Sevco, to all intents and purposes the world thought that’s exactly what it was watching.

And you know what? The deplorable behaviour of the Sevco support was a shocking, embarrassing, throwback to a dark era which makes Scotland look like a laughing stock and makes the media hype look demented, because it was.

This game is everything our society can do without, and that does make the SPFL’s decision today seem absolutely ridiculous.

Furthermore, as I’ve said, I disagree with the Offence Behaviour at Football Act on the basic principle that it criminalises free speech.

But right now, like it or not, it’s the law of the land, and the SPFL are today saying that they’re perfectly alright with the law being broken.

Amongst the songs sung by the Sevco fans were a number that appeared on the Police Scotland press release of “unacceptable” ones … and whilst I have some sympathy with the argument that the police couldn’t very well have arrested 10,000 people, the SPFL were, and are, in a position where they can take action against clubs who’s fans engage in mass criminality.

They haven’t, and so yes, that decision is cowardly.

Here’s the problem though.

Had the SPFL decided to take action today Celtic fans, who didn’t break the law, would have ended up in the dock with the Sevco supporters who did. If there’s one thing Scottish society understands it’s this “moral equivalence” crap that says both sides are as bad as each other. Try as they might, a lot of people can’t shake it. They see no difference between anti-Catholic singing and songs about the Irish war of independence.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a monkeys about opinions based on such ignorance, but this is Scottish football, where the governing bodies only go after Rangers and Sevco if they’ve got no other choice or if they can find a way to drag Celtic into it to.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We know full well that’s what would have happened.

There are people reading this who probably think both clubs should be hammered. I have no doubt about that at all, and as difficult as it is for some people to wrap their heads around the idea that sectarianism at football games should be tackled by the courts is supported by, according to recent opinion polls, nearly 90% of the population in Scotland.

Many people do believe we’re as bad as each other, and trying to argue the toss with them does no good whatsoever. Those people, like many of us, would rather the so-called “Old Firm game” was never played again.

We have more in common with those folk than they would like to admit.

They can’t wrap their heads around how Celtic fans feel mostly the same way.

So today, fellow Troops in Hoops, be careful what you wish for. The SPFL has decided there’s no case to answer, and as grisly a picture as that paints of Scotland – a country where genuine bigotry and sectarianism is the accepted norm – I can’t even pretend to come down on the other side of the case, because first I support unrestricted free speech and second because I know that even if we’re operating according to the “letter of the law”, whether I like it or not, that law is written in such a way that we would certainly have ended up in the dock too, although our fans did nothing wrong.

The vagueness of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is one of the many, many things wrong with it. It’s too open to interpretation.

I honestly, genuinely, hate writing about this subject because I know full well I’m going to upset nearly everyone, but as a writer that’s part of the job description and I can’t lambast the media for not speaking out when I’m self-censoring.

I find much of the media reaction to this decision to be scandalous and inconsistent. A very few of our journalists – like Ewan Murray – get pass marks because although I disagree with them in principle, they, at least, were demanding action from the day of the game itself and thus have earned the right to call this decision a joke.

Others are just leaping onto a passing bandwagon, after years of silence on the issue.

Anything to have a whack at an easy target.

I despise the sectarian filth that inhabits parts of this country. They embarrass us, they paint a picture of our society which is badly skewed and their hate is as catching as a deadly virus. I wish to God they could be educated out of their arsehole views … but whilst they hold those views I’ve got no choice but to defend their right to express them.

I don’t like the way a small section of the Celtic support can’t get a grip of itself either, in particular those who thought it was alright to disrupt the last Remembrance Day silence with a “protest.” The right to unrestricted free speech carries responsibilities too, and they gave no consideration to the club or to their fellow fans, which is just disgraceful.

I also wish to God so-called neutrals would get over their irrational tendency to lump both clubs together in the same cesspit. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy, and it makes enemies out of people with whom many of them actually have common cause.

Political expression is what it says on the tin, and whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

If you ban The Roll of Honour you’re going to wake up one day and find yourselves unable to sing Flower of Scotland. If you’ve not wised up to that yet, this is the time to start.

Today’s decision was a fudge. We all know it. But it was a necessary one because once this can of worms is open there’s no closing it. When we start punishing clubs for the songs fans sing we are well and truly on the slippery slope … and it only goes one way.

I’m glad this article is finished. Defending the rights of trash who sing The Billy Boys is exhausting and makes me want to take a shower. Defending the SPFL for lacking the balls to actually separate songs of hate from songs commemorating a revolutionary struggle is infuriating and makes me want to hit something hard.

Today’s decision is the right one, for the wrong reasons. It casts a dark shadow on the game here, but that was the inevitable consequence of all the hype that surrounded this fixture, and which a lot of us felt deeply uneasy about beforehand, knowing this was coming.

Thank God for Raith Rovers knocking Sevco out of the cup.

Thank God for the incompetence of Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowell and the Sevco board.

I am no hurry – Scotland is in no hurry – to go through this shaming experience again.

This is a horrible place to live at times, because a small minority insist on keeping it that way.

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A Danger To Themselves

JS54701849The behaviour of Sevco’s fans has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny recently, with what happened last Friday getting coverage in the national press and beyond.

For a long time, I have been speculating on the reasons why football clubs throughout the land are able to attract interest and investment from good, well intentioned business men, whereas over at Ibrox they have continued to draw the attention of the spivs and the fraudsters.

If there’s one thing the supporters at Ibrox are good at it is pointing the finger of blame at the various people they claim are responsible for the downfall of their club. They have blamed the governing bodies, the media, other clubs, political officials with sinister ties to Celtic Park and even the departments of national governments when it’s suited the narrative. At times, they’ve blamed a dark conspiracy of all these combined.

And to think there was a time when they called paranoia “the Irish disease.”

Celtic fans jokingly call this conspiracy “the Unseen Fenian Hand.”

All this finger pointing stops Sevco fans from doing the one thing that might actually help them here; looking in the mirror, and accepting their own part in all this.

Sevco fans have done more to damage the health of their club than any spiv or chancer ever has. I’ve long believed this, and I wrote about it in an article for On Fields of Green called The Ungrateful Dead.

This week’s news of threats made against the Easdale’s has only increased my belief that there is a section of their support which lacks any self awareness at all and which would hound its club to the graveyard and blame the rest of the world.

Not all of it is their fault. Part of the problem is the media’s love affair with the “Rangers men”, people like Paul Murray and Dave King, people who have done as much to ruin the club as anyone out there, with campaigns of destabilisation going back to the moment Whyte sent them tumbling into administration and their inevitable death.

The media played a role in whipping up feeling against Bill Miller, the American businessman who considered buying the club from the administrators. The supporters, led by the hope that the “real Rangers men” would come swooping in and restore them to glory with more borrowed money, flocked to their cause, and sent Miller a very clear message, in banners and songs.

He voluntarily pulled out when he was allowed a peek at the books, but you can’t help but wonder if he also took the behaviour of the supporters into consideration, and decided that fans who would deliver such a message to a guy who had pledged to help – before his feet were even over the threshold – were simply not worth the effort and money.

The same supporters foam at the mouth at the very mention of Lloyds, accusing them of forcing Murray’s sale to Craig Whyte, but they’ve conveniently forgotten the appalling role they played in that affair too, with their relentless campaign against the bank and Donald Muir, their point-man on the board.

I cannot think of a single thing, bar the European knockouts of August 2011, that did more damaging to Rangers than the way those supporters put pressure on the very people who were giving them an overdraft and letting them keep on the lights.

Some have suggested that Lloyds wanted out of football, but they still have a number of clubs on their books as clients, suggesting that, in fact, the truth is much simpler; Lloyds wanted out of Rangers. The fans played their part in that, however much they might search for bank executives with Irish sounding surnames.

Sevco are three years down the line, and in spite of changing owners not one bank has given them a credit line. Coincidence? I think not, and nor is this simply a consequence of the club being a reckless spender. Banks have no problem with reckless spending, as long as they can claim security for their loans. This is about the fans.

Take a look at how they are dealing with the idea of securitised loans right now.

All the fans groups who have led the line in telling Ashley what a bad man he is for wanting security over Ibrox can’t be totally unaware that, for years, the Lloyds Group held a similar claim over their ground, can they?

Are they that stupid? I think not. In a prior article I talked about doublethink, the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time, and this is a sterling example of it.

The media isn’t that stupid either, although none of them would have gone into the Quiz Kids. It makes it all the more ridiculous that they are feeding into the fans nonsensical demands with appeals to sentiment, like the sickening article that appeared in The Record this week suggesting that granting any security over the stadium is an insult to the dead of the Ibrox disaster.

The real insult to the dead is to cheapen their memory, using them as a political football like this. There are legitimate grounds for attacking Ashley and real grievances to be held against him. This isn’t one of them. It is deplorable conduct, both from the press and the Sevco fan rep who wrote something similar in an article last week.

This lunacy is placing the very existence of the club in jeopardy. If the current narrative is allowed to persist, and the club’s supporters adopt this insane position as a non-negotiable basis for dealing with financiers they will never get a major bank to give them credit again.

No bank wants to do business with a client who’s more trouble than they are worth. Giving this club a credit line in the first place would be like giving a habitual cocaine user a hit of crack. The demand for more money would grow until the account managers started to get twitchy. The minute they insisted that the club start making cuts, the wailing from the stands would begin in earnest.

And for that they wouldn’t even be able to get proper security for their money?

Yeah, I can see them queuing up around the block for a deal like that.

The media, which tells the most reckless element of this support everything they want to hear, and which leaps onto the bandwagon of every “Rangers minded” pressure group that comes along, have been accused of destabilising the club, and this is true too, but the same Sevco fans who make this complaint are the folks who are most vocal in their support for the aims of the very people who the media speaks for.

I have never understood their failure to grasp that contradiction. If you are considered a “Rangers man” with the best interests of the club at heart, you have a friend in The Daily Record.

You can use that paper to attack the board, weaken the share price, heap pressure on investors and call for boycotts … and the fans will slam that paper for all of it whilst being in favour of each and every one of those objectives. The press which hates Green is hated by fans who also hate Green, with each side trying to forget that it was we, the Celtic bloggers, who were onto him all along.

The media should have natural allies amongst that support … and the fans despise them.

Everyone does though, so perhaps we can forgive them for that ….

This week’s threats of violence take things to a whole new level. Here, again, the media has to take a share of the blame, having played a starring role in stoking the anger of the fans. Some commentators and writers have skated right to the edge of justifying violent action – and they’ve been joined in this by some of the “Rangers men” themselves, by the way – using the kind of inflammatory language they know full well encourages the nutters.

The nutters are now tuned in, and behaving true to type. The scenes from last week’s game are still fresh in the mind. The sectarian singing from that match still rings in the ears. Now, added to that, are these threats made against a member of the board.

For years, the directors of Rangers did nothing to curb the worst excesses of the supporters. They tolerated, and pandered to, the sectarian karaoke. They encouraged “Britishness Days” and they pushed this crazy fixation with the military and war, and the Sevco boards which followed them encouraged all the same behaviours, without a thought as to how the outside world saw it.

Their club was never particularly outward looking or inclusive, being essentially parochial and fixated on the past, but respective boards have achieved what I would have thought impossible and actually narrowed their appeal further.

Sevco is now nothing more than a West of Scotland football club, with outposts in the North of Ireland and scattered associations in North America. There is nothing at all to credit it to those outside of its own self-styled community.

They are not, and have never been, a global brand, but they might still have been able to get a bank to give them a credit line and to find city investment based just on that “community support”, but on top of this any future owner would have to consider the most ungrateful football fans in the world, and all the baggage that goes with him … including the threat of violence.

Mike Ashley is paying the bills right now and keeping on the lights. No-one pays him the slightest respect for that. These ingrates complain about the cost to the club, as if this man was supposed to give his money away. They want to believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, and those most likely to sell them that are the “Rangers men” they crave.

Those “Rangers men” know better than anyone how short the half-life of gratitude is amongst the supporters.

When the miracles they expect aren’t delivered on cue, their anger erupts.

Who, in their right mind, would want to take on the job of rebuilding this shambles, knowing the consequence? Who would want to work on their behalf, knowing they’ll be hated for doing so?

At a time when this club needs all the help it can get, its fans are targeting the people who have kept them going through three long years.

Those people probably didn’t expect thanks … but they couldn’t have expected this.

These supporters are a danger to themselves, and to their club.

When the end comes this time, I trust some of them will have the decency to look in the mirror before pointing the finger of blame.

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A Little Less Conversation?

article_505169818456c593_1383388811_9j-4aaqskIt was Elvis Presley who first sang “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

At the Sons of Struth next karaoke get-together I would imagine a lot of people will be looking at the floor when someone gets up and starts belting that one out.

Yesterday, as Ally McCoist and his expensive squad were hiding from Cowdenbeath, using the excuse of an international break (in which a whole three members of said squad were called up to their national teams) a bunch of Sevco fans were making good use of their football free day to protest against the creeping ownership of their club by Mike Ashley.

The Brains Trust must have spent days locked in conference until they came up with the idea.

Their plan was simplicity in itself.

Across the country, shifty eyed fat men were assembling at various Sports Division discount stores, armed with bad breath and unwashed oaksters. Their diabolical scheme, hatched during all-night expletive filled Skype conference calls, was launched with perfect synchronicity, to achieve maximum impact. (I made that part up, as you’ll see.)

At random times during the day, in random cities, in random stores, these men walked in and began to pick up merchandise.

When they’d made it look as if they were simply Sevco fans out for a day’s shopping, and not undercover agents involved in a coup to root out the corruption at the heart of something they love, they took their merchandise up to the tills and they then watched, with glittering eyes and pounding hearts, as the totals were rolled up.

Then each of these men put a pudgy hand into unwashed jeans and pulled out a sweaty one pound coin, and like Craig Whyte grinning over his succulent lamb at David Murray, offered it for the merchandise.

And then … err … and then that was it. They left the shop like kids playing Chap Door Run Away, some gleefully recording the moment for posterity on their mobile phones.

Somewhere, a chubby billionaire is parked with his ample bum on an ivory lavvy, so as not to get his expensive boxer shorts dirty.

Do I sound like I’m mocking this nefarious scheme? Well, of course I am.

It’s like something out of The Pink Panther, the kind of thing you could only imagine emerging as part of this often barmy series of events. It is right up there with the mis-spelled email address that sent their supporters to a website advertising clowns. If you tried to make it up people would say it was too far-fetched.

This is how they’re going to crush the Ashley takeover plan. Harassing minimum wage shop workers (who used to be employees of their own club, by the way) with juvenile pranks and publicity stunts.

I understand the need to try and keep forward momentum. It’s important to any campaign, because the foot soldiers get itchy feet and start to drift it they don’t constantly have something to do. You lose focus, and when there’s a big ticking clock in the background it’s even harder to spend whole days sitting around doing nothing.

I get it, I really do.

Here’s what no-one told these people. The guy they are going up against is a serious operator. He has actual wealth off the radar. He can afford to take a hit that would give most businessmen a nosebleed and a heart attack. If you want respect from this guy the way to do it is with a show of force, something that makes him sit up and take notice.

You know what? You don’t have the organisation or the power to make that show of force. You’re just going to have to accept that your club’s destiny is in his hands. It’s the price you pay for not taking action, and paying attention, sooner. It’s a done deal.

But you know what? Mobilising correctly would have given the man pause. It would have made him stop for maybe a minute or two and consider whether the next step was worth his while. He’s got business interests all over the world and he doesn’t need Sevco Rangers to make it all work. In fact, if he wants to sell a lot of jerseys in Scotland an association with a club that, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, is almost universally reviled by everyone else is probably not a good idea. When their own supporters are gunning for you it’s a hellishly stupid idea.

So, some kind of organised effort would, at the very least, have given the man some food for thought. “Do I really need this in my life?”

Instead, what happened yesterday was akin to a wasp trying to force a bull to get out of a field by stinging it on the arse.

It was not a demonstration of force, but a colossal show of weakness. It was a big advertising board held up to Mike Ashley reading “If you make us angry we will … put itching powder in your jock strap.”

For Gods sakes guys, get real would you? Get serious. This is a world class player you’re going up against and this is infantile stuff which can only have the effect of making him believe he’s got no real opposition at all. You’ve tipped your hand. You’ve showed him how weak the cards are. You’ve already lost the first battle in the war, and weakness was the one thing you couldn’t afford to show this guy.

That’s this man’s license to walk all over you, right there.

A little more conversation and a less action was required here, don’t you think?

I’m amused to see, today, that your Facebook page is essentially saying to your critics “If you have a better idea let’s hear it.”

You realise you just advertised your own complete lack of a clue as to where you take this campaign next, right?

Honestly, if I ever want someone to screw up a piss up in a brewery … I know who I’ll call.

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