Know thy enemy

The sirens started to sound at the first of several references to Rangers supporters as “the Ibrox klan”. The author makes no attempt to disguise his hatred for Rangers, stating at one stage “please let this football club die”. And yet he yearns to be taken seriously as a journalist, repeatedly complaining that no-one from the mainstream media ever calls him. As the tale unravels, Mac Giolla Bhain starts to disappear up his own rear, declaring: “I am aware of my own contribution and I rather like the guy I see in the shaving mirror every morning.” These are two classic mistakes: believing you are the story, and wanting a story to be true. When it’s not.

Scotsman Book Review – Best Scottish Sports Reads 2012.

Like many others, I have no intention of entering the online battles which seems to afflict us at times as a support, however our status as despairing and passive observers should not prevent us from challenging some of the collateral damage which occurs from time to time during such exchanges. With considerable reticence, no small measure of reluctance and a considerable tinge of disappointment, I find I have to avert my focus from our club’s real enemies, to a thought process which requires challenging.

Today’s RSL article “For the avoidance of doubt” has been the subject of considerable discussion and conjecture, in fact not only the article itself but also the comments section. Yet it’s a train of thought from the original article itself which I would respectfully suggest should give all of us considerable cause for concern.

Bill McMurdo writes:

I personally have no issue with Phil Mac Giolla Bhain. He is what he is. If it wasn’t him, it would be somebody else. He has his job to do attacking Rangers and we have our job to do defending the club. The best way to deal with Phil is to ignore him. Even where he gets facts right, it is his “add-on” that is designed to poison. Even where he gets facts right, it is his “add-on” that is designed to poison. This is demonstrably seen in the King/Ashley meeting.

Funnily enough Bill we know what he is – he, by his own admission hates our club and wants it to die, and the opening quotation in this chapter, written by someone outside the Rangers community, demonstrates this. What I didn’t realise is however that “He has a job to do attacking Rangers and we have our job to do defending the club.” He has a job to do? One could be forgiven for thinking we were describing something here akin to gainful employment. Furthermore I don’t think it’s the job of Rangers supporters to be constantly defending the club from unwarranted, unjustified attacks from those who hate her. Hating our club and wanting it to die is not an “add on”.

What should concerns us most about the above paragraph however is that it gives an almost sense of normality, perhaps even legitimacy, to Mac Giolla Bhain’s constant attacks upon our club. There is not only a playing down of Mac Giolla Bhain’s history and conduct over the years, but an almost frightening rationalising of it as normal behaviour which is part of a wider bonafide job remit.

Nothing could be further from the truth and we should never, ever lose sight of that. For our club’s sake.

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A Covenant – the clear case for transparency

“Myself and 26,000 other shareholders need to remain vigilant to ensure he [Whyte] remains committed to the club and honours what he said he would honour,” Johnston said. “He can’t just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.

(Alistair Johnston – May 2011)

I utilised Johnson’s call for vigilance as the basis of an article for the inaugural launch of WATP magazine. Whilst thankfully WATP magazine has gone from strength to strength, Rangers fans ability to exercise vigilance with regard to our club has sadly not enjoyed similar growth. Today we as fans are left to speculate about the details of a commercial deal with Sports Direct, as successful legal action by the aforesaid Sports Direct, makes the exercise of vigilance virtually impossible.

The Sports Direct Deal is in fact only a symptom of a far greater problem – that the exercise of true vigilance is absolutely impossible for fans if they are disconnected or disempowered from the processes, limited or restricted in the information they can access, or even when they can access the necessary information – they are effectively gagged from speaking out. Perhaps before allocating the Rangers support such an important and weighty responsibility, Mr Johnston may wish to consider how effectively he used his time at the club to ensure the Rangers support had the necessary tools to carry out the task he had bestowed upon them.

This article is not about the current board, nor the previous one, nor the next one for that matter, whosoever that may be, but what it is most certainly is about however is putting in place for time immemorial both a structure and culture at our club which ensures that at any time our fans are capable of undertaking and exercising effective vigilance with regard to how our club is being run.

This means total and complete transparency regarding every aspect of our club, it means sharing information in a readily accessible and understandable format for the fans, and perhaps the biggest challenge of all – ensuring any prospective business associates understand that this will be our club’s default position at all times. Without exception.

We don’t want to hear about “practical difficulties”, “insurmountable odds” or “considerable difficulties” – the Rangers support have been subjected to this and more throughout the years and have still emerged triumphant. Give us results not excuses – it’s not only what we expect but what we deserve. Suffice to say if the succession of directors who have sat in the Rangers boardroom over the years had fulfilled their duty in such an exemplary fashion as the Rangers support – then we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation.

We need to create a Covenant between club and support, carried on through generations of boardrooms, passed from father to son, a Covenant which enables every Rangers supporter to forensically examine every aspect of our club.

On the 9th February 1941, Winston Churchill addressed President Roosevelt, utilising celebrated lines from Longfellow to maximum effect:

What is the answer that I shall give, in your name, to this great man, the thrice-chosen head of a nation of a hundred and thirty millions? Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt: Put your confidence in us. Give us your faith and your blessing, and, under Providence, all will be well.

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.

Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.

To the Rangers Board I say this – give us our Covenant and we will finish the job.

You know we will not falter.

Reflections

It was a familiar routine. With wife, and soulmate of lifetime retired to her bed, George knew the protocol. However this evening would provide a slight deviation from the norm.

He broke the virginity of the Macallan 43 malt, with a respectful nod to acknowledge the craft and expertise of the “alchemist”. A handful of ice cubes into the crystal glass laid the foundations of a simple, yet unbeatable combination.

He shuffled, assisted by his Prestige walking stick, over to the bottom drawer of the cabinet in “Georges Room” and from there he withdrew a simple cardboard box, designed to protect against the ravages of time. From within said box he then removed an old scrapbook carefully and expensively encased and preserved within a Melinex protective cover. Some things are valuable, but memories nonetheless are priceless.

Opening the first page the image of Harold Davis stares back at him. It is of course deliberate, and one hopes future generations of George’s family will realise the significance of Harold’s place in that scrapbook. A man who overcame the odds to achieve greatness, those odds skewed against him due to service to his country, yet who still managed to encompass everything pulling on a light blue jersey encompasses. Sometimes the word “Legend”, quite simply, isn’t enough.

The following pages are testament to our greatness, stilled images of history which have resulted in anything but stilled celebration. The Caldow penalty against England, Brand , McMillan and Wilson, the strike of the Super Dane (Pre-Laudrup!) which lifted the Scottish Cup in 66, and the wonder of “Slim Jim”, a 16 year old ending a 4 year famine in the League Cup Final, Barcelona , Wee bud sitting on the ball, the dunes of Gullane when “character” and “determination” were our watchword, the magic show which was Davie Cooper, the Souness revolution, the Prince of Denmark (“Brian, why are you so good? [copyright Jim White]) 9 in a row, the pages are endless, and apologies to those which have been skipped over such as the spirit of the Rangers team which came back from 2 down at Hampden to scupper Wuilie Pettigrew’s dream.

The latter part of the scrapbook is not quite so reminiscent or enjoyable however. Images of Craig Whyte, his catastrophic reign, and our subsequent treatment at the hands of others adorn the pages. One wonders why this period of our history should be kept rather than ignored.

Because adversity and willingness to overcome insurmountable odds reveals the true character of the Rangers support. “No Surrender” is much more than just a match day historical soundbite – rather it is given both legitimacy and credibility by our willingness to refuse to succumb in the face of adversity.

The pictures in the latter of part of the scrapbook show Sandy Jardine rallying the troops on the march to Hampden, newspapers cutting displaying our ability to sell out stadiums even in the lowest of divisions, our capability to cause the cancellations of matches in our desire to “follow follow”.

Broadcasters such as Adrian Durham don’t talk about regimes – instead they gaze in wonder at a support who refuse to give up on the club they love. Just to clarify, because it really, really is important, that’s people like you and me they are talking about.

When we were down we found few (if any allies) but our unconditional love for a club called Rangers caused us to rally round her. We defied the odds, we defied the sceptics, we defied those who hate us and conspire against us, but most importantly we achieved this alone without the help of others. Other than truth and justice courtesy of the courts this has very much been a lone sojourn for the Rangers support.

We really need to move on in order to effectively tackle the real enemies of our club. We need to overcome the angst of “boycotter” versus “non boycotter” and recognise ourselves as one support with different viewpoints who all had the best interests of the club at heart. Because believe you me neither the boycotter nor the non-boycotter would wish to see our club dead. But our enemies would.

As George turns the final pages of his scrapbook and sips the last of his Macallan, the closing page shows a newspaper cutting from yesteryear, where the great William Struth castigates the Ibrox kit man, after the latter suggested, if necessary, we could borrow from our opponents that day – Clyde – should the need arise. There then followed a stern lecture on how Rangers should and never will rely upon others for their survival.

If we are to be self-sufficient and reliant on no-one to ensure our survival, then at the very least we need to be united in purpose. If you don’t believe me, at the very least trust our guiding forefather.

Enforced silence speaks volumes

“Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.” (William Pollard)

For those not familiar with the writings of William Pollard, despite his use of words such as “organized, processed and format”, he was in fact a Quaker clergyman from the 1800’s rather than some modern day technological soothsayer. But that in itself serves to underline how valuable a commodity information has been throughout the ages.

Furthermore his reference to “the right people” has particular significance for this article. Regular readers of this blog will be more than familiar than my much repeated mantra of “more information for the Rangers support”. The fact that it was the subject of my inaugural article for WATP magazine, should leave no-one in any doubt at how highly I value its importance. The propaganda war for control of our club has seen our support subjected to the release of information, much of which has proven to be a burden rather than a benefit in the battle for hearts and minds. To an extent as a support, we are still suffering from the hangover of information overload, much of which was neither organised, processed or presented in the right format.

Often it is against this backdrop, we as a support have been asked to make decisions which affect, not only the direction of our club, but without being too melodramatic, on occasion, the very survival of our club. (The spontaneous and mass purchase of Season Ticket’s after being consigned to Division 3 springs to mind for the latter)

Last week Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct managed, via the courts, to place further restrictions on our capability as a support to make informed choices. The value to our club of the Rangers Retail deal with Sports Direct will remain anything but clear and transparent. I’m well aware that attempts have been made to put this deal into some kind of perspective with the figure of Rangers making 75p for every £10 of merchandise being sold being widely circulated. But for those of us who don’t have a retail background, this figure has an element of jargon about it. Even if this figure is 100% accurate then what we need to know is how it compares to other club’s income from merchandise. That is not meant to be a criticism of those who have probably poured over accounts to arrive at that conclusion, just an admission that for some of us, that figure means relatively little other than being a series of numbers in the absence of comparative figures.

The problem for Sports Direct is that in denying the Rangers support information which I would argue we are entitled to, they have not only treated their targeted client base with contempt, but as a consequence left us with little option to search amongst the “circumstantial evidence” in order to evaluate the benefit to our club of this deal. That circumstantial evidence does not make a particularly good case for its defence.

We know it was negotiated at a time when the deals being brokered at our club were later criticised as “ill-defined, short term focused decisions with little advance recognition of medium or longer term requirements”

We also know that Craig Mather’s described it as follows “It’s the worst, most one-sided commercial contract I’ve ever seen.”
Pollard’s opening quote made reference to the “right people”. Unfortunately for Sports Direct, in this situation we can alter that to the “only people”. Despite my extremely limited knowledge of retail, I think it’s a pretty safe to suggest that the vast majority of people buying Rangers merchandise will be Rangers fans. If there is a considerable element of doubt that buying such merchandise will be of little benefit to the club then we will make informed choices about how best to spend our cash for the benefit of our club.

I suspect Sports Direct victory in the courts last week will prove to be one of their most hollow victories ever.

It is a mistake for Rangers fans to factionalise events this week. This is not about board’s or individuals, irrespective of allegiances or suspicions. This is about a deal where the best interests of the club are not being served and that, above all, should be the starting point in any subsequent debate.

As a support we have made errors in the past, often due to the lack of available information, it is not only imperative, it is critical, that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Poor Journalism or Institutional Hatred?

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It’s an interesting tweet from Jane Lewis. At its heart of course is an inference that we Rangers supporters will view any action, from a completely distorted viewpoint, which suggests a hatred of our club. Not so much “Reds” but certainly a McCarthyesque like “Rangers haters under the bed”.

Jane Lewis works for a publicly funded media organisation which falsified the editing on an interview with the then Rangers manager, Ally McCoist, to present a completely different response to that which he offered, regarding a question about sectarianism.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18169502

Jane Lewis works for an organisation which sought to compare Rangers use of EBT’s with the Marseille match fixing scandals of 1994.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-18169502

The latter link as you can see is still live, despite the result of 2 Tax Tribunals.

Jane Lewis works for an organisation which continually breached its guidelines on accuracy with regard to its description of Rangers, despite numerous complaints being escalated through various tiers of management at Pacific Quay.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-22951447

Perhaps Jane even remembers her BBC colleague Nicky Campbell suggesting the attack on the then Celtic manager Neil Lennon, may have been perpetrated by “A Rangers fan disguised as a Hearts supporter”

Or does she think that the BBC Scotland footage depicting Ally McCoist falling to his death before a cup tie was really a “creative attempt to set up the clash between Motherwell and Rangers.”

The fact that some of the criticism came from out with the Rangers community, should have served as a suitable signpost.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/bbc-crossed-the-line-with-spoof-of-ally-1350077

BBC Scotland presenters don’t like to be exposed for “sticking the boot into Rangers” as this recent interview with Tom English, Jim Spence and John Brown illustrates.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/scotland/32806513

The comments by Jim Spence at 05:13 into the discussion are particularly interesting, where he suggests that “you usually find when you ask a question John, people mounted campaigns to have you sacked” It’s the kind of revisionism which has been allowed to go unchallenged for far too long.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/bbc-presenter-exonerated-over-rangers-comments.23841729

Allow me to re-phrase that for you Jim. Its not unusual to find, when you try to be a smart arse, and usurp not only the previous rulings of the BBC Trust regarding guidelines on accuracy, but also the rulings of the football authorities such as UEFA, FIFA, ECA, and the SFA, then you may find yourself, quite rightly, the subject of complaints.

Unfavourable documentaries, unsavoury “creative” tone setting, untruthful and misleading editing of interviews. Refusal to adhere to the organisations guidelines on accuracy, refusal to accept the ruling and authority of football’s governing bodies, both at home and abroad.

Is it really just poor journalism by this organisation or is it symptomatic of an institutional hatred towards our club ?