LAST Friday, the Chairmen of the senior clubs in Scotland’s lower tier leagues did what most media commentators and pundits told us would be akin to turkeys voting for Christmas – they demanded that the club formerly known as Glasgow Rangers – “Sevco 5088” being its current legal nomicker – be made to start in the fourth (and lowest) of the four Scottish senior leagues – the Scottish 3rd Division.
The message was overwhelming. Of the 30 members of the Scottish Football League (the “SFL” – comprised of the ‘diddy’ teams that don’t participate in the Scottish Premier League or “SPL”), 25 voted for the proposed new member to start in the lowest league.
To get to that stage, they had to agree to let them in to the SFL in the first place. In the minds of some, after all, this was a new entity without annual accounts, and (as it transpired overnight before the meeting) without the kind of information that generally backs such a submission. The former “Glasgow Rangers” having been Liquidated, and with ‘Sevco’ having until that point no league to play in, there was actually a chance that ‘The Rangers’ (as the new entity will supposedly be called) would tour the globe looking for exhibition matches while it waited for its next permanent port of call. But most agreed that while arguably an option (they didn’t meet the standard pre-requisite criteria for league entry and jumped ahead of other candidates), it would have been excessively harsh to boot them out of the game altogether – to fire them into orbit, as it were. As the BBC’s Richard Gordon put it, despite them having broken almost every rule in the book en route to their demise, “at some stage you have to stop kicking the corpse”.
Having let them back in, the options were then simple. Let them back into the second tier – SFL 1, or let them back into the fourth tier – SFL 3.
The first option represented the expedient ‘guddle’ – the option closest to the status quo, and the one that best preserved the interests of the richest clubs in Scottish football. The second option, while harmful to the Scottish game’s short-term finances, represented the opportunity to emerge from the whole sorry saga with some semblance of sporting integrity, and the opportunity to restructure the game for the long-term good. Short-term self interest versus long-term enlightened altruism, you might say.
Of course, the weight of institutional, media and political pressure had naturally been brought to bear ahead of the decisive meetings. At every stage, people were reminded that things must stay the same, or as close to the same was was possible. It was for our own good. The game would be denuded of the money it needs to sustain its ongoing existence, both in terms of gate receipts, and of media revenue. Despatch Rangers into the wilderness of SFL 3 (or worse) and Scottish football, not to mention Scottish society as a whole, will experience… well, take your pick – established media figures with prominence in Scotland rivalling that of Lineker, Hansen, Winter, Bernstein… almost all of them developed a habit of using words like “armageddon”.
And it’s here that the most interesting aspect of this whole story came into play. The country – the hitherto disenfranchised Diddies whose opinions had always been taken largely for granted – listened to what the ‘establishment’ figures told them, but for the first time (certainly in my living memory) they collectively reared up and said “hold on – we have resouces, and we have skills, and we have knowledge… and we believe you’re wrong. In fact, we suspect you’re wilfully misleading us.”
How about that eh? Long live Scotland’s rebellious heritage. Who’d have thought it was alive and well?
And further than that, the newly enlightened Diddies, realising they were in the almost unanimous company of fellow enlightened Diddies (in pubs, in stands, in smoking corners, and of course, online) got organised. They made sure that those with the power to represent their clubs knew their views, in many cases threatening to withdraw their patronage if their views weren’t taken into consideration.
(Of course, the Chairmen of many of these clubs (noted in Sunday’s excellent Guardian Sport Blog on the subject) were to a man well versed in running clubs on a shoestring, and of having to adapt to reduced annual income in order to survive. Alongside immediate fan pressure, threats of apocalypse from those representing the greedier clubs in the top tier would have been ‘slung a deafie’, as we say up north.)
It hasn’t all been bad in media terms either. A few notable exceptions emerged from the established media scrum over the months when the story unfolded, and it’s these people who the majority of Scottish football fans now trust when looking for news – people like Channel 4’s Alex Thompson, and the BBC’s Spence, Cowan, and Cosgrove, amongst others. However, the established ‘sacred cows’ of their profession – perhaps most notably Jim Traynor of the Daily Record – have emerged with their reputations in tatters. To see them now make repeated attempts both to reinvent themselves and to discredit the new media figures who supplanted them, well… someone with a little script writing nous really ought to buy the film rights. It wouldn’t take much tweaking to make the genuinely unbelievable seem plausible.
As Liverpool fans, of course, all this strikes a chord. We, the Diddies, were fed a constant diet of Bluetooth Headset stadia designs and be-suited bluster, and when we mobilised in favour of what was best for our club’s long-term future, many media figures (not to mention our erstwhile manager, now at the helm of England) told us we should simply sit down and shut up.
The Scottish tale has many a twist still to take, it seems, as the politics and double dealing continues unabated, not to mention the outstanding investigations and potential sanctions yet to be directed at the Rangers ‘cadaver’ – the entity still in liquidation. Dual player contracts, EBT beneficiaries… the Diddy masses have a postgraduate diploma yet to come to follow up their crash course Honours in football governance and tax law.
It all underlines the importance of blogs and podcasts like those offered on this very site. Most are now acknowledging the importance of the Rangers Tax Case blog, but beyond that, go to any Scottish football fans’ forum of any guise (and that includes the Glasgow Rangers fans – I by no means exclude them from the ‘enlightened Diddies’ tag – they’ve been more informed than most establishment figures would have hoped they might be in recent months) and you’ll see similar evidence of maven-driven research, collation and disemmination, and where needed, of concerted action to get their voice heard.
It’s reignited my belief that something fundamental has changed and a balance has been tipped to some extent. ‘Customers’ are, by the nature of modern social media, in many cases better informed than those in the traditional media, not to mention those who historically have been at the helm of the game. Only a few weeks ago, when Kenny Dalglish was sacked, I had my doubts. I said as much in an article at that time .
“[During the anti-H&G movement] fans experienced a greater sense of entitlement, and belief in their own empowerment to influence things. The reality, however, is now beginning to dawn on a few people. We believe we have empowerment and influence, but the cold hard irony is that we’ve been emasculated. We have the illusion of empowerment and enfranchisement. We are no longer acknowledged as needed for our spiritual sustenance – we exist to be cheerleaders, and consumers, and contributors to ‘fun’ online polls. We exist to be herded from website to website, and TV channel to TV channel, with our collective numbers helping determine just how much revenue the Limited Companies can extract from sponsors. Sponsors who, of course, have now assumed the enfranchisement the fans may have formerly enjoyed.”
It’s a view I still subscribe to if I’m honest, but with one new-found and important caveat. When things hit rock bottom, fans (particularly those involved in modern social media) can, possibly for the first time ever, be the key people in the decisions made. The Manchester United fans would maybe testify, however, that until things hit rock bottom, and while there’s still some remote chance that their club will compete for trophies, their worries won’t be taken into account, and the worriers – those who truly care for their clubs and the communities they represent – will be managed out of the equation as ‘noise’.
Regardless – to my point. Sites like this, and the multitude of forums we waste our daily lives on these days, have an important role to play in the way our game unfolds in the future.
For evidence, pull your chair up and pay closer attention to what’s going on North of the border. Who knows – it may stand you in good stead in the years to come.
Another sterling piece of work, Hendo.
Admittedly, I only have the ‘usual’ passing familiarity with the Celtic-Rangers ‘thing’ due to their affiliation with Liverpool / Liverpool fans and my maternal grandmother being an Northern Irish Catholic, but I’m pleased to see Rangers being given a kicking ‘for the good of the game’… and for once, it really is for the good of the game.
It is sad for the Rangers fans (I know the odd one) but then it must be sad for the fans of the other teams that aren’t the Old Firm (as was) knowing that you’ve got next to bugger all chance of winning anything while those two monopolise the Scottish game; in Rangers’ case, unfairly, unethically and immorally, given the debts they ran up.
Again, we can only hope that FFP kicks in down in the EPL and UCL to give Liverpool (amongst others) a more level playing field in the future.
Would it also be churlish to dream of Manchester United going the same way as Rangers? If this case is a wake-up call to those who are bothered to listen, United going tits-up would be a wake up call for profiteering wankerbanker types everywhere.
I wonder what it would take to really stuff United’s finances up? If they went out of the UCL at the group phase and didn’t qualify for next season? Hey, that about did for LFC not so long ago…
someone with a little script writing nous really ought to buy the film rights. It wouldn’t take much tweaking to make the genuinely unbelievable seem plausible.
Get on it Mr Atkinson
You would not believe how refreshing it is to hear a fair and balanced presentation of what just occurred in Scottish football. You may not have great writers in the mainstream English Press but they are much less in hoc to one team only, thna is the case in Scotland (though they do conspire to spin falsehoods about the voodoo economics underpinning the EPL).
In the Scottish mainstream written press, there is not one journalist who has emerged with credit from these events. None of them understood it readily and none of them could communicate simple facts with any accuracy to the fans. They span blatant lies and contradicted themselves several times within one simple declarative sentence. They sought to confuse and frighten. They preached leave it to your betters. They exposed their perception of fans as mere turnstile fodder.
Judging by the quality of the article above, I would say that the author has a more natural grasp of the facts, as an outsider, than any Scottish journalist or their cheerleaders in the English Media, TalkSport and 5Live.
Well done, Sir!
Although I have no natural allegiance to any English club, I will be looking a little more fondly on Liverpool’s progress under Brendan as a result of your efforts.
Enjoyed that Roy. Here’s hoping that the diddies are able to use their current position of strength to make changes to the benefit of the Scottish game.
Can I point out that Rangers have never been called Glasgow Rangers in their history. I accept a very small point amongst the chaos, shambles and possible criminality that has gone on but one that I would like put right.
“You would not believe how refreshing it is to hear a fair and balanced presentation of what just occurred in Scottish football.”
Where did you read one? I’d love to see that type of report but I’ve ended up here.
All sounds nice and noble but isn’t the reality that Scottish Football will be like the Irish or Welsh leagues? No Rangers in the SPL is a disaster.
I wonder how we’d feel if we were voted out of the leagues had H&G put us in a similar position to Rangers. (Not an unlikely scrnaroo).
A lot of traditionalist fans moan about the sky generation and money in the game etc but the premier league as a spectacle is a far better product than it was before. Man Utd going the way of Rangers would be a disaster and I say that as a proper Liverpool fan.
Wonderfully written article Roy (I liked the ‘Rangers Tax Case’ blog too). And some very encouraging signs there for Scottish football.
As many have already commented, but it bears constant repetition, you’ve demonstrated a firmer grasp of the issue in a single article than the entire Scottish mainstream press has managed to do in years of churning out their disgraceful propaganda. That in itself is another major story which is yet to be written but before then there is still much more to come out about the Rangers scandal as well as systemic corruption in the SFA which enabled it to proceed unchecked.
That’s a very concise, well informed and well written article Mr. Henderson.
While not being critical in any way I’d have liked you to have provided a paragraph or two on some background in reference to the ex-RFC debacle, what caused it and just why over 90% of their own fans and Scottish Football fans in general want to see them suitably punished.
We are talking here about the “establishment” club. The club who were aligned directly with those in power within the game in Scotland. It was not uncommon for persons to be holding senior positions within RFC and the SFA simultaneously. The same club who’s supporters are steeped in bigotry and triumphalism. The club who’s supporters have rioted and caused mayhem throughout Europe, the most recent example being in Manchester, an evening I’m sure no-one who was witness to it will forget in a hurry. The same club which has been sanctioned and severely warned by UEFA for repeated chanting of bigoted songs, one in particular referring to “being up to our knees in fenian blood”
The same club who only semi-apologised in the last two weeks and at the end of a barrel of a figurative gun! Their fans still do not get it and still plead at every turn that their ex club has been punished enough, when the stark reality is that their “punishments” to date have fallen exclusively within the laws of the game for any club which goes into liquidation.
To date they have not been “punished” in any way, outside of their liquidation event….that should be made patently clear to anyone with a passing interest in this matter.
They are under investigation from the footballing authorities for alleged use of double contracts and EBT’s. The former being a very large “no-no” and which has already been admitted by at least one ex-player who did so in a national newspaper. They are also under investigation by HMRC for non payment of taxes and PAYE, the “big tax case” and “wee tax case” respectively. Not to mention the current investigation by Strathclyde Police into alleged wrongdoings in the boardroom.
Then we could take a long hard look at the actions of the CEO’s of both the SFA and SPL, Messrs Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster who at every turn have used threats, scaremongering and extremely dubious means to try to coerce Scottish clubs to accept ex-RFC back into the SPL, then when that was obviously not going to happen, to then parachute them into SFL1. As you alluded to in your article, that is when the online populous of Scottish Footballing fans made their collective voices known to their respective club chairmen. The message was very clear. Sporting Integrity over any financial concerns and no compromises!
This is a story which could and should be written about in forensic detail in the next few years but while you have doffed your cap to the sterling actions and writings of the Rangers Tax case blog, much kudos should also be given to Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, an independent Irish journalist who was one of (if not the) first to actually break the stories of alleged financial jiggery pokery within the corridors of “The Big Hoose”!
Keep your eyes and ears glued, this story still has very long legs on it!
I’m a born and raised Celtic fan who works in the media. It’s refreshing to here not only English fans take note of the problem in Scotland, but to gather an unbiased and educated view of the situation.
Blogs such as this are a breath of fresh air. I’m sick of the media hacks in Scotland and it’s great to hear an unbiased view of the situation from the outside.
Rangerstaxcase has been fantastic in the whole affair as has Alex Thompson at C4. and STVgrant on twitter.
The hacks in the Scottish Media (Traynor and Keevins especially) are a total joke. They are idiots who believe the internet is a passing fad. Morons who don’t view the internet as a valid source of information. Keevins claimed background info on Craig Whyte couldn’t be found due to him “buying his google history”. Pretty much any search online found hordes of black marks on the man in question.
It’s time for a new breed of sports journo in Scotland. Time to rid ourselves of the hacks at the Daily Record who sit clearly in the pockets of David Murray and other Rangers money men.
Best of luck to Liverpool in the upcoming season on behalf of the entire Celtic Family. YNWA
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