Apologies in advance but this article will work in reverse of the title. The reasons for doing so will become eminently clear in due course.
Firstly the ugly.
My appearance on Rangers chat radio last Friday prompted a discussion about the campaign of hatred being waged upon not only our club, but organisations related thereto; as well as the club themselves the Rangers Charity Foundation and the Founders Trail have been victims of late. It seems ironic to be discussing the Advertising Standards Authority, the Rangers Charity Foundation and the Gibson Street Gala in the same breath, but there is a common denominator – all have been subject in one way or another to the poisonous and vindictive campaign against Rangers or anything remotely Rangers related.
But there is a far more serious element to this. The charities which benefit from the efforts of the Rangers Charity Foundation and The Founders Trail are likely to suffer more than anyone else as a consequence of this campaign of hatred. It takes a particular kind of hatred and bigotry to motivate an individual to besmirch people involved in raising money for charity, charities which provide for the less fortunate, the sick and the vulnerable in our society merely because they are doing it under an umbrella which has links to, or is directly associated to, Rangers Football Club.
Many of you will be aware of the issues surrounding the Founders Trail and the Gibson Street Gala, for those who are not, the events are summarised here.
Following this issue being raised on Rangers chat radio I contacted the parties involved and also reviewed the material published by both parties, as above. It’s perhaps worthy of note, that despite not making reference to it anywhere in their statement, the Gibson Street Gala statement is actually made in response to the Founders Trail narrative which appeared on Rangers internet forums.
I have spoken to Eric Kay, the secretary of the Gibson Street Gala, who very kindly took the time to speak with me, despite being on holiday at the time. We had a fairly long and informative chat and were quite frank with one another. (I had previously spoken with Iain McColl from the Founders Trail.) It’s quite clear that the Gibson Street Gala were caught in the crossfire of a particular brand of hatred which gave rise to this article. Mr Kay stressed the complaints in respect of the Founders Trail Stall were not just taken at face value by the Gibson Street Gala but were subject to an assessment process. It was following this process that decision was made not to allow the Founders Trail to participate at this years event. Its perhaps this part which is the most concerning.
Iain McColl in his narrative told Mr Kay that he felt by their actions they were “bending to bigots”. I disagree – I think it was actually much worse than that – I think by their actions the Gibson Street Gala have,unwittingly, empowered the bigots, and allow me to elaborate why.
The worst of the complaints centred around a suggestion that the Founders Trail was aligned to a bigoted organisation. It has never been made clear exactly what this refers to. But as alluded to in the Gibson Street Gala’s own statement “Last year, The Founders Trail stall was well run and no one involved with the Gala had any issue with it.”
The statement also goes onto say “After last year’s event there was some negative feedback about the presence of The Founders Trail and the associated football colours on display, so the decision was made not to have any team representation on the day this year.”
The Founders Trail do not have football colours on display, they have merchandise pertaining to the Founders Trail Tour, that tour has particular significance for the area in view of that fact that one of the individuals it focusses on was actually a Gibson Street Resident at one time. Persons with no particular interest or affiliation to Rangers have participated in that tour, their motivation for doings so, being a historic interest in Glasgow.
One can sympathise with a small scale gala being caught in the crossfire of Old Firm hatred and the consequential hassle it involves for them, but there is no escaping from the fact, that from the perspective of those who peddle hatred as their currency – they have won. Their complaints, however spurious, however unjustified, however untruthful have had a cause and effect.
There is a considerable irony in all of this. The Gibson Street Gala arrived at their decision because they felt the hassle of being the battleground for football rivalry was more than it was worth. Their decision however to refuse the Founders Trail a stall only served to heighten the intensity of that battle as many angry Rangers fans responded to that decision. (I would add that the tone and language of some of those responses did neither our club nor the Founders Trail any favours).
However perhaps the greatest disappointment in all of this is that those involved at the Gibson Street Gala who value a sense of community so much, appear to have been unwilling or unprepared to defend or champion the values upon which solid communities are built – justice, fairness and a determination to see truth prevail.
Despite the setbacks suffered at Gibson Street, the Founders Trail Stall was warmly welcomed by the West End Festival where to say it was very well received, would be an understatement.. The Rangers support, as always, responded in a way which humbled the stall holders. Considerable monies were raised and as a consequence some worthwhile charities will benefit greatly.
This series of events of course presents another problem for the Rangers support – how to respond. Should we, as we have done previously, network within the Rangers community and organise a boycott which extends to sponsors, making it clear to the latter the reasons for such a boycott ? My answer would be an emphatic no. Whilst that may work for commercial enterprises such as newspapers, we are talking here about a small scale local gala which provides activities for children. By boycotting such a worthwhile venture we only stoop to the level of those whose hatred and spurious complaints have given rise to this situation. Lets not empower them further.
Perhaps the answer actually lies out with the Rangers support and with others. In fact I would respectfully suggest the Advertising Standards Authority have set the benchmark. On receipt of those 78 spurious complaints regarding Rangers they examined them thoroughly and rigorously and then rejected them completely as being without merit.
Others would do well to emulate their process.