[And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the (Gaderene) swine, that we may enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea. Mark 5.12 17-19]
My primary memory of the holiday break is undoubtedly that of the premature and sad death of Phil O’Donnell. I am sure that there are few who would not whisper a heartfelt ‘Rest in Peace’ for Phil and all those who passed on at this time of the year. A silent prayer may seem so little but who knows its power in helping the families to fill the gap in their lives with the smiles and celebration of their memories of those who have died.
Of course we all continue with our own more petty priorities of the festive season and now as the unreality, overindulgence, and insincere bonhomie of probably the most hypocritical unchristian time is filed into another pigeon hole of the past, we make (and break) our resolutions and wake up to a New Year only to find that the media in particular (but not exclusively) have decided to assail, assault, and insult the intelligence of readers, football supporters, and the wider public with even more unreality, overindulgence, insincerity and most of all rank hypocrisy.
The Scottish tabloids sustained by their slavering pursuit of circulation and coinage over news and honesty, long ago lost any claim to a serious and progressive contribution to Scottish life. But now we see that same blackhole suck in the last vestiges of the historic reputation of the ‘quality media’, for so long a proud torch-carrier and litmus test for the world of newsprint. Their Gaderene descent into the soulless world of the ‘Broadloid’ or ‘Tabsheet’, is complete and those who now inhabit those barren fields and are burdened, charged (so they should be) and privileged with the responsibility of keeping the public informed have finally shed the armour that integrity and objectivity bestows and decided that success will come from pandering to the many with money to waste, while ignoring the fewer with a hunger for the truth.
“Print and be damned” was once the mantra of the campaigning curmudgeonly editor. Now it is the weak willed homage to the cash register and a pat on the head from their masters. So ‘Print’ they have done, and ‘Damned’ they should be!
What am I on about? Well let’s have a quick review of the good things in Scottish football. ( I am an eternal optimist)
A reasonably objective review of the panorama from top to bottom, ignoring Celtic to reinforce my impartiality, reveals many positives. From the almost miraculous rescue of the game from the hands of Mammon inspired greed, through the widespread springing up of talent in youth and first teams across the country, the continued evolution of quality coaching and entertainment in an environment that thrives despite the flashed suspender belt of Sky’s leathery flesh across the Tweed, all the way to the torch of national belief being relit.
New managers and coaches WILL emerge. The culture WILL be conducive to new ideas and methods. What we are capable of achieving as well as the ambition to get there should be in the headlines of the reporting showing just how it’s possible to create entertainment and artistry on a severely limited budget. The survival of community clubs like Albion Rovers, Dumbarton, Stirling Albion, Stenhousemuir, Arbroath and a host of others should be an inspiration as they exist on a diet that could only be described as ‘subsistence’ were it to be even one week’s wages of a journeyman English Championship player.
The warnings of the past have been learned by many and are a salutary lesson to those who think that good times bestrew the yellow brick road to the future. These clubs, these players, these amateurs survived through a true love of the game and their communities. That affection for the sport and identification with the supporting community, no matter how large or small, are the essential foundations beneath the many-mansioned house that almost collapsed following the madness of the mid-eighties onwards. And yet the possibilities for Scottish football and the lessons it can teach us are ignored.
But in the sties where the scavengers of the media strain to get their big noses in the ever diminishing sustenance of the trough, vision, identity and reality have now been overtaken by the jingle jangle in the purses of Sky and Setanta. The sunlit grasslands ahead are but a mirage and false reflection of latent NFL franchises. The media specifically ignore what is actually happening and don’t broadcast the sobering truth as it has willingly transformed its role into cap-doffing headline makers for the shallow but powerful figures who care only about their own place in the hierarchy of Scotland’s nouveau riche!
Memories shorter than Dory in ‘Finding Nemo, visions more blinkered than Steptoe’s Hercules, egos more fragile than Jeffrey Archer’s cupboard skeletons, ambition limited to the wage-packet after-tax line and a funny handshake from the editor, have again snared the media in the same shallows, the same reef, and the same rocks where they have foundered and sunk so many times in the past, lured by the siren of self-interest that promises ‘spend spend spend’!
Instead of news of Scotland, Scottish Football, the teams, the managers, the players, the supporters, what do we get? Trash speculative nonsense emanating from a punctured balloon of hot air! The orgy of salivating headlines surrounding Alan Hutton and the £8/9/10/13 million transfer, which has not actually occurred and knowledge of which has been denied by Senor Ramos at Spurs (supported by Walter Smith today – 7th January 2008 – in his comments on having received NO offers for ANY of the club’s players during this transfer window), has only been surpassed by the patently ridiculous reaction to the ‘bus on the moon’ fairy tale of a £700 million (upped to a planned £750 million regeneration of Govan on the STV – Scotland Today TV news) investment by a company whose current debt stands at £670 million.
Where is this world of fantasy? Where is this place that the laws of arithmetic, mathematics, logic, and double ledger book-keeping and accounting standards no longer apply? Are Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and Captain Hook now in charge of the financial affairs of Scottish Football’s grandest knight? Or is this just smokescreen, earmuffs and a loud ‘la la la’ to drown out the ever louder tick-tock-tick as the myth-eating crocodile homes in on the backside of Govan’s new production of Billy Liar?
Rumour mills and wishful thinking are brilliant for outlandish speculation, drunken pub discussions, Saturday morning satirical radio programmes, gullible sociopaths, and particularly for A1, diamond encrusted web-sites. They are not the basis for an honourable contract between the media and the country at large who are now cynical to the extent of mockery not only in (dis)respect of the ‘messengers’, but also in their view of the manipulative puppeteers who feed the wordsmiths with this garbage.
Most of us remember all too well the mid 90’s when Kevin Kelly et al, pulled the press strings and wasted newsprint and Amazon forests with the ‘lies’ regarding the new Celtic Stadium in Cambuslang. (Mind you, the Amazon rainforest was probably a more likely location for the stadium).
But The Celtic Supporters still had the genes of overcoming adversity and created the mood and motivation for a recovery of Lazarus proportions. Fergus then stoked the fires and drove the train out of the tunnel and into the future. Together they saved Celtic the football club and Celtic the going concern, but most of all they saved Celtic the past, present and future; I doubt that the same could happen down Ibrox way; after all an organisation that is blinded by a mote of hatred is unlikely to see past its imagined enemies and bogey men.
Our directors (and I use the term loosely) paid with their jobs and reputations; Celtic through Fergus McCann were saved from disaster, the ‘rebels’ were shown to be right, and the media (who had even more info than Fergus McCann and the furious support) were shown to be negligent and intentionally or otherwise misrepresentative of the real position. By the way Celtic owed £9 million at the time! Do you remember Motherwell almost going under, Dundee almost sinking, Livingston with their advantages almost hitting a wall? Do you remember the first year and a half of Romanov’s tenure at Hearts when the media (Chick Young in particular take a bow here) – designated him a breath of fresh air? I’m sure most do, but somehow I doubt if any of the media do – consciously anyway!
Meanwhile David Murray’s holding company (which hides Rangers accounts behind the cistern in its dark dank privy) is £670 millions in debt. This was reported in the financial press only a few days ago. The last Rangers’ share issue was substantially subscribed to by this same holding company; hence the debt was merely transferred from one organisation to a shareholding by another company in the same structure. The debt or liability therefore remains as previously – circa £55 million. Additionally at the time of the share issue, the total Rangers debt was close to £80 million and therefore the club still carries debt (owed to HBOS) of over £20 million.
Please also remember that HBOS was concerned enough over ‘who was responsible for the state of the finances’ to both move the administration of Rangers accounts out of Scotland and to force David Murray out of his semi-retirement to retake the reins in Edmiston Drive. As Martin Bain also informed the world in August, Rangers overspent on player acquisition to the tune of some £4 million.
Coming second to Celtic in the SPL this season (and losing the guarantee of CL money) would be disastrous (winning it would merely delay the inevitable) for David Murray and his plan to offload the club. So where on earth, even without the putative credit squeeze, will £700 million come from for a club that sells 40,000 season books at best, and unless they offload players, are going to invest zilch in new personnel? And where in the solar system will £700 million come from to invest in shopping malls when we already have Silverburn, Braehead, the City Centre, all within spitting distance of Govan. (Now that would be a good Commonwealth Sport!) My God even the ridiculously priced Wembley with all its egotistic investment by Sassenach desire to be bigger better and more profligate than anyone else didn’t cost much more than that!
Or how much of this is merely a megalomaniacal jealous response to the regeneration of the East End which WILL go ahead on the back of the Commonwealth games; and is it just unacceptable to Mr Murray that Celtic and its stadium will glean substantial beneficial fall-out in the form of investment, transport, visibility, marketing and potential additional support? How influential in his thinking is the need to be saying something, doing something, or even pretending something just to keep his support mute and obedient? But how long can it possibly last and is the game of strip poker about to leave him as the new but nude emperor wearing nothing but an embarrassing smile?
Rangers financial position is now a sea-change worse than Celtic’s was in those dark days pre-Fergus. It is light years worse than Motherwell’s, Dundee’s, andLivingston’s. The financial morass IS WORSE THAN HEARTS and inherits the same universe as that so boldly and naively explored by Leeds United and while the HBOS’s axe may not as yet be scything through the air, the flint is undoubtedly sparking on the blade and there will be no further money from that source. The debt will continue to increase unless new opportunities are invested in and major growth is generated, but despite regular statements to the contrary, additional investors are nowhere to be seen and, until a clear and solid plan for removing debt reduction is produced, potential investors are likely to await the desperation of the bankrupt when David Murray finally has to admit to a ‘sell and lease-back plan’ for the ground.
(It is at that stage that certain alliteratively initialled websites will go into Chernobyl like meltdown disappearing through the ether of the internet only to emerge in their true home – Hell – which is after all the first four letters of their favourite song!)
This is virtually inevitable – the ‘sell and lease back plan’ not the march of the descent of the damned to their spiritual marching ground, although….
Murray has already sold off his retail chain to JJB, and the only significant asset left is Ibrox Park. The vultures are hovering!
So any investment can only come from his holding company (and in fact from his own 64 percent share in it).But go back to that financial state – £670 million in the red. – is that also owed to HBOS? His whole business empire may dissolve into an insubstantial pile of discarded orange peel.
There is an opportunity and a duty for the media is to address this financial spaghetti with a well honed and forensic audit and in doing so to perform a substantial service for Scottish Football, for Rangers Football Club, for the Rangers support and do for media integrity what a heart transplant did for Louis Washkansky.
Of course just like the £700m project itself and the mere divertissement of re-naming the ground (what a clever ploy to raise that one), no investigation will ever take place! The press is a cross-bred poodle and by the time it rediscovers its ancestral pack-hunting instincts it will be too late. The quarry upon which it could have gorged itself will have gone, Rangers football club will be a busted flush and those of us looking for substance in the back-pages of our newspapers will once again be confined to the once-a-week ‘Wee Stinker’ or buying into the news sources from south of the Tweed.
Rangers Football club is obviously the traditional rival to my own club, but this rivalry will evaporate unless a serious financially astute supporters group (no one else will care) – this financial acumen may suggest a need for a crash course within the Catholic education system – makes it clear that they realise that the only thing at the end of the rainbow (or is it moonbeam) is a pot of fool’s gold. They will have to feel the burn of the acid tears of the genuinely wounded. They will have to submit to the pain of the open heart surgery needed for survival. They will be needed to mobilise a movement that will see their share holdings increased and grouped and brought under the control of a wealthy and empathetic benefactor a la Fergus McCann. But most of all they will need to be strong enough to accept and promote that where there club is now is not a good place to be, and prove that the hands on the lifeboat are Simply NOT The Best!
I think it may be time for the RST, the Blue Order and the massed ranks of the support to utilise their long cherished and practiced marching talents and head for the car-parks around their ground.
If you’ve reached this far, you may wonder why I care?
Well, I don’t. Not about Rangers Football Club. The seeds of disaster for Scottish football were sown in the days of Graeme Souness and were lovingly nourished and embraced by Walter Smith and Dick Advocaat, all backed by David Murray. Notwithstanding the core evil that lives and still pulsates at the heart of their organisation, I could never empathise with egos so selfish that no price was too large for their own self aggrandisement and so ignorant that their closed minds could not
envisage the spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction.
They can fragment into a thousand shattered nightmares for all I care.
I do however care about Scottish Football, and I do care about the vision that world has of the priorities of Scottish society and its people. These views are formed by what they read, what they see, and what they hear. Our media has a duty to tell it as it is, warts, blemishes and beauty spots! It still has a chance to do that, to serve the game and its supporters. It even has the chance to really aid and abet the club of their choice. All they have to do is expose the conjuring and deception of the failed practitioner of the black arts! If it doesn’t and continues to merely operate to a self-preserving agenda then it has no right to be regarded as part of Scottish society as it sinks into the stinking swamp of irrelevance. Most of it has done so already. I have a lifeline to throw it and a boot to keep on its head.
Somehow I think it is the boot we will be wielding as even for that portion that maintains a vestige of professional standards, the fate of the Gadarene Swine is waiting….just around the bend…..just over the next precipice….sinking slowly but inexorably into the cesspit of their own incompetent lies!!