Something less than Semper Vigilo

Rangers fans could be forgiven their wry smiles on hearing the motto of the Scottish Police Service, Semper Vigilo – Always Vigilant. One could point to the massive banners depicting them as “H** Scum”, somehow smuggled past the “vigilant” officers or perhaps the inflatable effigies which were then hung from the rafters of celtic Park, an action which again managed to escape the gaze of Scotland’s finest. Meanwhile Northern Irish Rangers supporters, carrying the flag of their country, find them being seized by Police Officers as they attempt to enter Ibrox, on the pretext of them being “sectarian”. The fact that the latter has happened on more than one occasion, accompanied by a subsequent apology from Police Scotland, suggests someone, somewhere is not paying attention.

The job of the Police is difficult and challenging, particularly at football matches, exacerbated by a recent increase in whataboutery and individuals being faux offended, much of which is played out across social media platforms.

Warwick University, WBS Research Projects offers the following explanation on Public Confidence:

“For any police force to be effective in safeguarding the public, retaining public confidence is critical. This is because the public are a key source of information, and their trust and cooperation are often key to law enforcement.”

But that trust has to be earned and two significant incidents which pertain to public safety, and which rise above the simply annoying or exasperating examples cited in the opening paragraph, have significantly eroded the confidence and trust of Rangers supporters with regard to Police Scotland.

The aftermath of the 2016 William Hill Scottish Cup Final still rankles with many Rangers supporters. As someone who was there, and who witnessed first hand the events which unfolded, I sill find it particularly difficult, that 30 seconds after the final whistle standing in the traditional Rangers end at Hampden, I was faced with a Hibs fan standing not 50 yards from me in the six yard box challenging and goading myself and other Rangers supporters to fight. This individual’s course of conduct had nothing to do with joy, celebration nor overexuberance and any attempts to explain it or rationalise it as such are quite simply erroneous.

But its events off the pitch which served to undermine confidence in the Police. As Rangers supporters raised questions about the preparation, speed and deployment strategy of the Police, they found themselves in the eye of a storm as accusations were levelled that Rangers fans had used their own children as barricades to hinder and impede officers reacting to the ongoing situation at Hampden. The author of the story, Jane Hamilton from the Scottish Daily Record, appeared to receive corroborative assistance from Callum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation, who tweeted that this version of events was consistent with reports he had received from officers on duty that day.

The Independent Press Standard Organisation (IPSO) ruling following a complaint regarding the story can be read in full here:

https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=03188-16

Both Jane Hamilton and Callum Steele remain in post.

The SFA ordered an independent Commission into the disorder which was chaired by Sheriff Principal Edward F Bowen CBE QC. Regretfully, I am unable to guide you to an unabridged version of his findings, as the SFA, for reasons best known to themselves, have decided to no longer promulgate his report.

https://www.scottishfa.co.uk/resources/documents/documents/scottishcupfinal2016report/scottish cup final 2016 commission of enquiry – report of sp bowen.pdf

Since publication, Rangers have contested the findings of the report and official statements from the club reflected that.

“We can state however that we will be seeking an urgent meeting with the author of the report, Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen, the Scottish FA’s Chief Executive Stewart Regan and his Compliance Officer, Tony McGlennan.

It is imperative that we gain insight into the underlying basis for the findings in the report given that we consider it contains a number of factual inaccuracies and contradictions.

It is right that the club gives the author and requisitioner of the report the opportunity to comment on our concerns prior to making a conclusive statement.”

Such concerns were not without foundation.

Although not widely reported by the press, who focussed on the report’s main findings namely:

·         Police and steward numbers were appropriate

·         Neither club to blame for crowd trouble

·         Call for debate on criminalising pitch invasions

·         Physical interaction between players and fans to be discouraged

·         Retractable tunnel could improve player safety

·         Pitch invasion sparked by Hibs fans’ high excitement

·         Overwhelming majority of Rangers fans behaved properly

there was also remarks in the report regarding intelligence prior to the match itself.

In the absence of the complete report I will refer to this exert from the Edinburgh Evening News dated 5th August, 2016.

https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/sport/football/hibs/report-concludes-hampden-pitch-invasion-down-to-high-excitement-1-4195707

In particular, I would draw your attention to this paragraph:

“Mr Bowen said he was satisfied both clubs and the Scottish Football Association took reasonable precautions to minimise the possibility of a pitch invasion. He concluded there was no evidence to suggest the pitch invasion was planned, that the Hibs support had not been infiltrated by individuals holding some form of malicious intent, and that while some supporters were affected by alcohol, both male and female, that hadn’t played a significant part in what happened.”

On the Monday following the Cup Final, BBC Radio Scotland hastily scheduled a phone in hosted by Kaye Adams, to discuss the events and the aftermath. It consisted of both Hibs and Rangers fans phoning in to offer their own versions on events. I mention this programme because some of the Hibs supporters phoning in made reference to the fact it was all over social media, that in the event of a Hibs victory there would be a pitch invasion.

Given the vast galaxy which is social media it is not unreasonable to accept that those responsible for either Policing pre-match intelligence may have missed this, but for the subsequent investigation and report into the aftermath to either miss or totally discount testimony which has been aired by the country’s national publicly funded broadcaster?

Rangers supporters are more than familiar with the failings and selective nature of “low-level intelligence gathering”

Fast forwarding to last week and the reputation and confidence in Police Scotland suffered further erosion following the Rangers vs Osijek tie at Ibrox, which was marred by violent disorder prior to the match. Concerningly for Police Scotland, criticism of policing arrangements came not only from Rangers supporters but also from Paul Goodwin, former head of Supporters Direct and co-founder of the Scottish Football Supporters Association, who accused the Police of being blindsided and failing to take into account the violent reputation of Croatian fans.

http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16398308.police-scotland-deemed-Rangers-match-which-saw-two-stabbed-to-be-low-risk/

Whilst I appreciate I do not have access to the resources, expertise and research facilities of  analysts at Police Scotland, my somewhat crude google searches tend to suggest Mr Goodwin may have a point.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6dKP4tpzNU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR7WATnpigY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r9DAclKcGY

It is perhaps worthy of note that the violence involving Osijek fans in Switzerland was only last year, which makes Chief Inspector Bowater’s assertion that there was “no intelligence” to suggest extra policing was required, particularly difficult to fathom.

Warwick University Research Projects, previously mentioned, goes further in its examination of Public Confidence in the Police, citing the various array of measurements used by the Police to gauge and determine such confidence, including customer satisfaction surveys.

Of course in order to ensure favourable feedback, Police Scotland could tailor their customer satisfaction phone calls to 3pm every other Saturday when Rangers supporters are likely to be elsewhere, or alternatively, they could afford Rangers supporters the same level of commitment, transparency, protection and treatment which everyone in Scotland is entitled to expect from them.

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RSC’s – Our Lifeblood ?

A quick trawl through online dictionaries provides a variety of similar and succinct definitions for “Lifeblood”.

“a vital or life-giving force or component”

“the indispensable factor or influence that gives something its strength and vitality”

“the thing that is most important to the continuing success and existence of something else”

RSC’s are not comprised of people who view themselves as “uber fans”, who consider themselves better or more deserving than others, they are just a group of bears who, most probably for geographical reasons, have aligned themselves together with the common purpose of following and supporting the club we love.

They have evolved significantly since the days of their forerunner – the brake club, a name given honouring the mode of transport. A brake was large horse drawn carriage which could transport 20-30 people and brake clubs often had their own distinct banner in much the same way our modern RSC’s have their distinct logos. What a sight to behold that must have been!

With the development of both motorised transport and the railways the days of the brake as a form of transport were numbered, but not so the recognised value of Rangers fans uniting together with the common purpose of following and supporting the club they loved.

The modern-day RSC is a vital component part of the Rangers community with many more far reaching benefits than just transport. It serves to bring together like minded Rangers supporters who otherwise would have been strangers. I have in my phone 23 names which would not had been there had I not joined my local RSC. These are guys I speak with, rip the piss out of (always reciprocated) and socialise with on an almost daily basis. Our local RSC is effectively networking, bringing together people with a shared mission and vision. Collectively it serves to ignite the flames of passion for our football club. It is vital, it is strength giving and it is indispensable.

Networking with other RSC’s is a further benefit, and on several occasions now we have enjoyed the hospitality of our friends in the Toryglen True Blues. Their passion and desire for our club is epitomised on the Rangers website “Buses leave 20 Social Club, Rutherglen for every Rangers game in Scotland and to every away European game that is reachable by bus” One can almost feel the “come hell or high water” oozing out of that!

For a club which draws its support from all over Scotland and beyond the local RSC serves as the focal point for the Rangers diaspora, and one only has to look at the incredible work and achievements of the Plymouth True Blues, @ThePTBs1988 for those on twitter, as a shining example.

Of course, irrespective of the many collateral benefits of an RSC, transport to and from games remain their primary function. The local Rangers Supporter Bus provides not only an essential service, but also by their character and nature, an indispensable service. They bridge the gap in the lack of provision afforded by public transport. With their localised pick ups and unique dropping off points they can make the difference between success and failure in our desire to follow Rangers, particularly for those who find themselves less able these days. In short, they offer affordability and accessibility. It is probably no co-incidence that the largest RSC in the world is in the far-flung regions of Lewis & Harris.

As an RSC member I consider myself no better nor deserving than the bear who jumps in his or her car and makes the solitary journey to watch our beloved team. Having done that for many a year myself, I have the utmost respect for them. But having joined my local RSC, the energy, vitality and sense of belonging it provides is a drug of addiction I couldn’t be without.

Our RSC’s are our lifeblood in so many ways – let’s make sure we sustain them.

From the lips of Jimmy Millar

When a chap loses his heart to an ideal, there’s no going back. It grows and grows within him, growing stronger as the years slip past.
That is why, when people ask: “Would you rather play centre than in the half-back line?” my answer comes off my lips as though from a tape recorder:
“I don’t care where I play so long as I wear the Rangers colours.”

(Jimmy Millar)

Due to the way it has been mis-handled, there will be something of a media frenzy about what was said in the Ibrox dressing room last Sunday. Already this incident has divided opinion amongst our support, with some backing the players for speaking their minds whilst others insist the manager should be afforded some modicum of respect, regardless of who that is.

I doubt many of us would argue that Lee Wallace has given his heart to an ideal. While some badge kissers could not engineer their Ibrox exits quickly enough, Lee Wallace stayed for the fight to restore the club in its time of dire need. In terms of his flourishing international career it could be argued he paid a heavy price for doing so. Therefore, on the back of one of the most gutless, insipid, soulless and embarrassing performances from charlatans wearing the famous blue jersey, one can at the very least, understand the passion which proved to be the catalyst to whatever transpired within the dressing room.

As is often the case in life, it was actually what was not said which was important.

Graeme Murty’s post-match interview where he admitted he had not discussed the performance with the players for fear it may cause conflict or finger-pointing should merit an internal Rangers investigation more than anything else which transpired on Sunday.  Can any of you imagine Jock Wallace avoiding what needed to be said after such a humiliating capitulation for fear of upsetting some inflated or precious egos within the Ibrox dressing room ?

If a 4 nil thrashing to Celtic in a Scottish Cup Semi Final was not sufficient cause for Murty to light the blue touch paper in the Rangers dressing room – you have to ask yourself – just what the hell would be ?

The Heart & Hand Podcast summed the situation up perfectly via their twitter account.

Screenshot(23)

Our current board have made a spectacular series of gaffes with regard to managerial recruitment, that situation could become a whole lot worse if they fail to act before Sunday. The Post Mortems on managerial decisions and the merits or madness of promoting the Youth Coach can wait for another day, for once, the board need to step out of character, show some leadership and for God’s sake listen to the real voice of the Club – the fans.

For whom the bell tolls

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

(George Santayana)

 

Allow me to summarise briefly. The Panel of Takeovers and Mergers ruled that the current custodians of our club did not act properly in their acquisition of same, determining they had acted as a concert party and consequently, having control of 30% of the business were thus compelled to make an offer to investors for the remaining shares.

This was denied by Dave King who took the decision to the Court of Session where his legal argument was rejected by Lord Bannatyne. The Advocate for the takeover Panel highlighted during the hearing an e-mail from George Letham to Dave King which cautioned King about the consequences of exceeding the 30% benchmark. These warnings clearly went unheeded.

Subsequently King was ordered to make an £11 million offer to the Club’s remaining shareholders despite the fact  King’s lawyer argued that his client could not afford to make such an offer.

If alarm bells are not sounding amongst our support – they certainly should be.

When Laura Fawkes, a Director of Club 1872, challenged Dave King at the 2017 AGM with regard to the recruitment of a replacement manager, the timescales as well as apparent failure to put in place previous assurances given with regard to succession planning, Dave King responded as follows:

“As far as the manager, I don’t accept the comment you’ve made. It’s difficult to put a time limit on it. The issue with Pedro was not one of succession planning, there’s maybe a perception that Pedro was doomed to failure. It wasn’t my view, I don’t think it was the board’s view, we continued to back Pedro. Ultimately results speak for themselves and having taken action we were extremely aware that this is going to be a 3 year appointment. We have got to be a careful we don’t let adverse results distract us from the process and I’m personally happy that we have taken the correct amount of time.”

After 68 days we had still failed to appoint a new manager and eventually installed the youth coach Graham Murty, as temporary manager. That remains the status quo at the time of writing.

Our club is one home defeat away from our worst ever series of home performances on record. In terms of assessment of our club’s progress, rebuilding and vision to reclaim the top spot in domestic football, it serves as more of an indictment than a positive indicator of continuous and steady improvement.

I would hope by now the alarm bells are loud enough to suggest a major headache is imminent.

Any honeymoon period which the current board deserved is now at an end. It is fine being beholden to them for rescuing us but they need to be judged by the job they are doing now and if that is deemed unsatisfactory or below standard then criticism should be forthcoming.

Not silence.

 

 

The Emperor Needs New Clothes

During the last 25 years or so , as either a member of various Rangers forums, a shareholder at AGM, supporters groups organisations or latterly as a director of Club 1872,, I have witnessed Rangers supporters attempt to hold various power brokers on a succession of Rangers boards, to account.

Whether it was Murray, Whyte, Green or the current incumbents, there was always a common denominator – such an interrogative process always took roughly the same format – a series of well designed and researched questions to which the interviewee would respond with a series of answers. In terms of establishing the truth it is a pretty flawed format, particularly without access to some of the processes or information which would allow us to determine the veracity and integrity of the answers provided. As passionate and concerned football fans trying to gain insight into how their club is being run this flawed process adopted by Rangers fans is probably no different from that adopted by concerned fans of other clubs the length and breadth of the country.

There is one critical difference however which is a game changer – Rangers fans are not just concerned and passionate supporters – they are the second largest shareholder in the club via the Community Interest Company, Club 1872. This is both a relatively new and unique situation and one which all parties involved need to take time to re-assess and consider. Fans have bought into the concept in order to both protect the club and have a real say in its direction – that is not achieved by the flawed and ineffective question and answer processes aforementioned. Nor is it achieved by Club 1872 directors taking members concerns to Stewart Robertson on a regular basis. Perhaps when those concerns become tabled motions requiring a boardroom vote then we will be heading on the right direction.

Last week, along with other Club 1872 members I was asked to cast votes in respect of the forthcoming AGM. Such a request came at the conclusion of one of the most shambolic managerial appointments in the history of our club and one which had both sporting and financial ramifications. One or more of the names in front of me vying for re-election to the board, was responsible for this shambles, but exactly who I did not know. As those responsible had neither the honour to tender their resignations for such a serious error of judgement, nor were the rest of the board committed enough to previous pledges and assurances regarding transparency, I was as a consequence completely deprived of the necessary information required to allow me to make an informed choice to both protect and safeguard my club.

Furthermore, such a catalogue of failings as described aforesaid meant that I could be actually endorsing and enabling the directors responsible for this recruiting disaster aforementioned, ironically at a time when the club are going through the recruiting process once again. Faced with such a dilemma and set of circumstances, I came to realise I was unable to satisfy the obligation to protect and safeguard the club. In essence, in its current format, Club 1872 is just not working. That is not a criticism of either the concept nor the current directors, but it is, most certainly, a criticism of the current Rangers board.

They have failed to acknowledge Club 1872 as either an equal or significant partner in matters concerning the club

Their method of engagement with this new power base has not evolved, relying on draconian question and answers sessions as a means of “positive engagement”

The tragedy is that in such a comprehensive failing the Rangers board have collectively negated Club 1872’s mission statement of protecting and safeguarding the club. You cant safeguard a club with question and answers sessions – some of us have learnt the lessons the hard way.

The whole relationship between the club and Club 1872 needs to be re-established, re-assessed, and within the club itself, there needs to be a considerable degree of realisation that there is a new power broker at the table. How the club accommodates this newly established seat of power will be both interesting and challenging. Club 1872 based on its % shareholding merits a seat on the board of the club, whether that will be truly effective in allowing it to fulfil its remit of safeguarding and protecting the club remains to be seen. This will be a considerable pioneering undertaking for all involved, but it as an essential journey which both the club and Club 1872 must embark upon in order that the latter can serve its purpose and obligation of protecting the former. The current status quo offers a situation which is neither effective or tenable.

Whatever is decided upon one thing is abundantly clear – we as fans, with a considerable balance of power at our backs, will no longer be satisfied with token and ineffectual question and answer sessions. This new balance of power needs to be accommodated within the club structure in such a way that it can fulfil its remit of truly protecting and safeguarding the club.

In essence we no longer deserve better, we now have the power to insist upon it.

12 Angry Men

If the Rangers support were a jury, I think it would safe to say we had reached a majority rather than a unanimous decision on Pedro. An early exit to European minnows from Luxembourg on the back of an embarrassing defeat to our greatest rivals at home, whilst losing our long-established home record to the sheep would suggest that a fairly compelling prima facie case had been established by that majority.

Furthermore, an inauspicious start to the season makes it all the more difficult to introduce a reasonable element of doubt into the minds of those who are currently sitting in the majority camp and whose minds are clearly made up so to speak.

Should we pause for a moment and recall Advocaat’s multi-million £ squad, albeit not with home advantage, losing 6-2 at Parkhead? Should we consider that even some great Rangers managers, with far more settled squads suffered worse starts in their first 3 games of the domestic league? Should we ponder the fact that abysmal refereeing had a major say in 2 of our last 3 league games?

Perhaps we could reflect on the fact we are into a rebuilding programme which is clearly not yet complete, before we decide to sack the architect.

The first few years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure at Manchester United were characterised by something of a roller coaster ride which saw them take a few backward steps before their record winning period of success. Having been appointed in 1986, it was season 92/93 before the Reds won their first championship under the tenure of Sir Alex. While such a comparison certainly qualifies as an “apples and oranges” evaluation, the virtues of patience and a realistic assessment of the challenges faced should not be excluded either.

As always, the OF games will have a considerable bearing on the manager’s future. We have to hope Kranjcar’s recent interview where he suggested we could lose all 4 OF games and still challenge for the title is a form of delusion exclusive to Niko, and not the rest of the dressing room or the management.

There is a popular saying that the “league table never lies”. Would it be prudent to wait until the end of the season and put this theory to the test rather than jump on the managerial merry go round prematurely?

Consistent inconsistency

Apologies if this journey appears a tad confusing, I can assure you none of it is my doing. It starts with Rangers player Andy Halliday receiving a red card against Morton for a goal celebration which officials deemed had the potential to incite a riot. Further along the road we have a security guard gesturing a 5 – 1 sign whilst posing for a photograph with Hibs manager Neil’s Lennon. A gesture the Edinburgh club described as “insulting” and which merited a complaint. Our journey ends at Ibrox with Neil Lennon aforesaid, gesticulating a GIRUY to the Rangers support during a match Police Scotland had expressed concern about. Despite all of the foregoing this incident was deemed neither insulting nor likely to incite a riot, apparently it could be categorised as “banter”

I have read and listened to several comments from bears in response to the Club1872 statement regarding Lennon’s conduct. “Ill-advised” “Misjudged” as well as the suggestion it has deflected from other matters e.g. the very one-sided refereeing display. If any of you think Beaton’s performance would have been subjected to forensic examination by the Scottish media you are clearly more optimistic than me.

For example. Keith Jackson’s Monday column appeared to have been prepared based on the ongoing boycott of the Daily Record and the introduction of a camera to the Rangers press conference, both subjects which have attracted his ire. There is almost a suggestion of Rangers fans having temerity and audacity to choose to boycott a newspaper which has been shown to print lies about them. His own newspaper’s lies in respect of Rangers supporters is something Jackson’s fails to mention in his column. Furthermore, as he sets out to compare our club to the North Korean regime, hinting that the presence of a camera to record proceedings is some kind of “sinister sub text” he neglects to mention its primary purpose is so that our manager can analyse his performance at press conferences. Those of us who had undergone even the briefest of media training will know such practice is commonplace.

The only sinister element at play here appears to be the very selective presentation of facts in a manner befitting a totalitarian despot regime.

There has also been the suggestion the club itself should have taken the lead on the response and highlighted the refereeing. I refrain from using the term “bad” or “abysmal” refereeing as it would suggest it was consistently bad across the board – it was anything but. But as someone who has been particularly critical of “dignified silence” from Rangers’ boards I find myself in a strange place. However, the issue of the refereeing performance is a matter for the club to pursue and they appear to be doing so courtesy of the appeal of Jack’s red card. Would it be appropriate to comment prior to the conclusion of the judicial proceedings which will determine the outcome of that appeal?

“Unlawful Tom” appeared to be concentrating on the “indignant” nature of Rangers fans regarding Beaton’s performance rather than offer any analysis of it. (As a side note, a few have contacted me regarding the initial response from the BBC regarding complaints. My suggestion would be to escalate if you are not satisfied with the response – if they refuse to do so I’d suggest addressing your concerns via Ofcom)

When Butcher/Woods/Roberts and McAvennie were deemed to have fallen foul of the law Sheriff Archibald McKay was unequivocal in his summation at the end of the trial.

“A large percentage of supporters are readily converted by breaches of the peace into two rival mobs. That they were not so transformed is no credit to you. You must have been aware of your wider responsibilities and you failed to discharge them”

There is a clear message within that summation of both the standards of behaviour and responsibility of those on the park. If you think Neil Lennon satisfied either on Saturday then your opinion is different to mine. A person does not require to be offended to recognise irresponsible, reckless and provocative behaviour.

Of course the easy option for Club1872 would have been to remain silent, to say nothing, to ignore all the foregoing.  And in doing so they would have fulfilled the brief provided recently by others :-

“Know your place H** scum”