When actions speak louder than words

“We acknowledge that a tiny minority of Rangers fans also encroached on the pitch but only after having been faced with prolonged and severe provocation and in order to protect our players and officials who were being visibly attacked in front of them. Any club’s supporters would have done the same. This distressing and deeply disturbing episode would never have happened had Hibs fans behaved properly but as they swarmed across the pitch it became immediately obvious that the security procedures were inadequate and had failed.”

This powerful and assertive paragraph from the Rangers club statement following the Scottish Cup Final now, alas, seems a world away. It appears Rangers have forgotten the mitigating circumstances they themselves cited, as several weeks on the same supporters the club defended in statement have now been subjected to an entirely different treatment courtesy of our club.

The letter below was sent out to one of our fans arrested in connection with the aftermath of the Scottish cup Final. As you can see it is in 2 parts – a kind of double whammy. The first part imposes an indefinite ban from attending both home and away matches as a consequence of being arrested at the Cup Final and thus bringing the name of the club into disrepute.

The 2nd part is dependent on the recipient of the letter being a season ticket holder (which he was) and thus his season ticket has now been forfeited, without compensation, for the alleged criminal conduct which gave rise to the arrest in Part 1.

There is nothing anywhere in the letter which offers any kind of caveat in relation to the pending court case, no suggestion that such action will be reviewed or reversed in the event of him being found not guilty or not proven at any future trial. Whatever happened to the “prolonged and severe provocation and in order to protect our players and officials who were being visibly attacked in front of them.”?

No-one is asking the club to defend the indefensible but is it really too much to allow due legal process to take its natural course? Could the club not have included the caveat in those letters that such decisions taken by the club would be subject to review in the light of the subsequent court hearings? Have the club considered how prejudicial to forthcoming legal proceedings such action may prove to be?

The particular irony in all of this is that the information which allowed Rangers to identify those charged with offences at Hampden most probably came from a football intelligence unit of Police Scotland. The same Police Scotland, some of whose members created a fictional, false and erroneous account of Rangers fans making barricades to prevent Police responding to the Hampden pitch invasion.

Actions speak louder than words, and the actions from our club in relation to the fans they once sought to defend by word, offer little to support the initial response to that post cup final statement – that as club, from the boardroom to the stands we are all in this fight together.

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Try these shoes for size Mr Waddell

“It means anyone who wasn’t there has no idea of the scale. Phone and periscope clips are there for all to see but they’re a microcosm, and judgment without the big picture is flawed.”

(Gordon Waddell, 29.05.2016)

http://www.<No links to this website>/sport/hibs-rangers-scottish-cup-final-8075282#62SdIAxCXqbdJiUL.97

Mr Waddell is of the opinion that the subsequent Rangers statements following the Cup Final have damaged our credibility even more than Hibs Chairman Rod Petrie’s car crash interview post-match. Perhaps Mr Waddell would do well to heed his own advice and look at not only the bigger picture but also the environment in which it was issued.

The Rangers statement was issued of course after the Petrie interview which itself drew so much condemnation from the press as it sought to down play, even question some of the events which had unfolded. It also followed the Off the Ball programme where Stuart Cosgrove had provided a masterclass in not downplaying but actually subduing all debate and discussion regarding the post-match shame.

It followed the First Minister’s tweet congratulating Hibs but offering neither mention nor condemnation of the ugly scenes of the aftermath. And of course it also followed the initial assessment by Tom English, who of course falls into Mr Waddell’s aforementioned category of “anyone who wasn’t there”.

The backdrop to the Rangers statement was a silence from our politicians, not only a downplaying but a forced closure on discussion on it from our national broadcaster and in addition  a skewed focus of events from journalists who were not even present.

It is interesting that subsequent to the Rangers statement the First Minister has seen fit to comment and condemn the events post the Cup Final, Stuart Cosgrove has issued a public apology on air for his conduct and Tom English has altered his initial view of events having actually studied the evidence in more depth.

Let’s for a moment imagine a different scenario on Saturday 21st May, 2016. That a group of Rangers supporters had stormed the Hampden press box and goaded, incited, attacked, spat on and verbally abused journalists who were only doing their job. And a Rangers director subsequently dismissed such behaviour as merely “over exuberance”. That Rangers then sought to minimise all discussion or debate on the subject.

Can you imagine what the subsequent NUJ statement would have consisted of in both tone and content ?

Sometimes Mr Waddell you have to walk about in other people’s shoes to truly understand where they are coming from, in order to genuinely see that bigger picture.

7 Days Which ShookOur World Part 2

 

The first inkling we had that the events just witnessed were not going to be reviewed in an even mannered fashion came courtesy of Cosgrove as we listened to BBC Scotland’s Off the Ball on the bus home. We looked at each other in astonishment as we heard him try every trick in the book to deflect, minimalize, downplay and even airbrush what had just transpired before our eyes. He used whataboutery and faux outrage towards his fellow presenters and issued repeated warnings to both listeners and fellow presenters about expressing “moral over reaction”. The subsequent Rangers board statement quite rightly highlighted him to the usual anger of the press corps. I wonder how many of them have actually listened to Cosgrove’s performance. It was not just sub-standard journalism it was a clear and deliberate attempt to downplay the whole incident. Anyone with any doubt should listen to how he deals with Chick Young’s update on events. What is particularly interesting is that the army of journalists still ripping into the Rangers board statement have been unilaterally silent on the conduct of Cosgrove which gave rise to the content and character of that statement.

It astonishes me that Graham Spiers is still considered one of our county’s opinion leaders. After a catalogue of lies about our club and support does anyone honestly think Rangers, their support or wider Scottish society will get a balanced view from such a man ? It’s only a matter of weeks since Rangers, a board member and the Billy Boys song were the catalyst to  his exit from the Herald and in particular his egotistical blog on the subject a few days later. Graham Spiers has a very high opinion of his own self-importance which displays a childish form of petulance when that ego is wounded.

All of us can remember the day Chris Graham humiliated Speirs on national television causing the latter to respond with a comment which was to be confirmed, from numerous twitter screenshots, to be a blatant lie. Perhaps what many of us won’t remember was his column subject matter the following day – for those who don’t it was an article on the “immorality of EBT’s”. I can still picture him to this day, Chris Graham’s face in his head battering away at his keyboard in the wee sma hours  in some kind of vengeance therapy. Hell hath no fury like Graham Spiers scorned. It takes a special kind of shamelessness to openly boast about giving evidence to the Scottish Government’s justice committee regarding OBFA and then when it becomes clear what has been produced has been a dog’s breakfast to then deny any responsibility for it. He could even use this example to good effect and examine his own role in the loathing of the Rangers support he wrote about this week – but the smart money says he won’t.

I’ve watched a succession of Rangers bloggers such as Frankie from Gersnet and John DC Gow from the Rangers Standard systematically dismantle and dissect Speirs’ argument. Perhaps this tweet more than any other sums the poverty of his argument as well as his hypocrisy.

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Perhaps however the most sinister aspect was the clumsy attempt to shift the blame for Police failings onto the Rangers support courtesy of the Jane Hamilton article which appeared in the Daily Record. Unofficial stories, from unidentified sources drip fed into the public consciousness via the media in order to shift blame onto football supporters – where have we seen that before ?

Let me start first with the sideshow to this story which was Ms Hamilton’s “perjorative” twitter history. As many have pointed out attacking the messenger is counter-productive, no doubt about that, unfortunately a blatant lie being reported without verifiable sources by a reporter with a questionable twitter history led to a perfect storm. But abuse of reporters, or anyone for that matter will always prove to be as aforesaid ie counter-productive. The sight of Scottish Police Federation Rep Calum Steele frantically tweeting to all and sundry Ms Hamilton’s departure from twitter was a sight to behold and still available on his twitter timeline.

OF course by this point Mr Steele had a vested interest.  His declaration on his twitter profile that he was only “tweeting in a personal capacity” was completely usurped by the following tweet :

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It was no surprise that an official statement from Police Scotland later that day sought to distance itself from both the Daily Record article and the comments of Mr Steele on twitter.  Let’s hope that Police Scotland explain to Mr Steele the difference between tweeting in a personal capacity and providing confirmation of anonymous Police story pertaining to operational Police matters and the reasonable perception of the latter given the office he holds.

Which perhaps allows us to return to Ms Hamilton’s article without the red herrings which accompany it. It’s not Ms Hamilton’s fault that she was approached by Police officers who wished to present an explanation as to the lack of Police resources at full time. But one would have thought given not only the time scales involved but the actual comments the officers made regarding the late manner of their arrival that further investigation was warranted to confirm the allegations made. It still beggars belief that at no time did she confirm the veracity of the officer’s allegations in an official capacity with Police Scotland. After all this was not just a side dish to the main course – it sought to change the whole nature of events last Saturday afternoon and divert the finger of blame which was already pointing at Police Scotland onto the Rangers support.

The full circumstances surrounding this story require to be examined impartially and whilst I am aware a number of Rangers supporters have raised complaints with the Daily Record editor, I think all concerned would be better served by an objective investigation by IPSO into the circumstances.

As the journalistic community in Scotland continue to huff and puff over the contents and nature of the Rangers board statement it is perhaps worthy of concluding with an objective voice, that of Roger Mtchell, former SPL chief.

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7 Days Which Shook Our World Part 1

“Whoever conceals hatred with lying lips, and spreads slander, is a fool”

(Proverbs 10:18)

 

What a week this has been of self-discovery, where in the period of just 7 days I was able to diagnose what my doctor had been missing for years – that I am suffering from a mild form of paranoia. That’s how long it took an army of opinion leaders, journalists and headline writers, a representative of the Scottish Police Federation and 2 or 3 bobbies as yet (and conveniently, ho hum, never to be) identified, to turn the most shameful scenes witnessed in Scottish football these last 30 years or so, into a story about Rangers fans and their singing. My mild a paranoia stems from the fact I had expected them to achieve this in just 5.

Many have had their say since last Saturday, including many who were not even there, so if you don’t mind I’d like to offer a short reprise on what transpired. I was standing just to the right and behind the goals in what was the traditional “Rangers end” and for those who saw them there, I was just a few feet to the left of Jorg Albertz and Nacho Novo. Within 60 seconds of the final whistle there was a young Hibs fan no older than 25 standing in the 6 yard box inviting me and other Rangers fans to enter the field of play and fight. There was a complete absence of thought or mannerism commensurate with someone who wanted to celebrate (exuberantly or otherwise) his sole intent clearly a penchant for violence.  He was quickly joined by others who had run past and well beyond the majority of Hibs supporters celebrating in their own half of the pitch and they in turn attempted to incite and goad the Rangers support into violence.

At this point it was also clear something was happening with our players, though from my very low vantage point it was impossible for me to determine exactly what that was. When I saw the match officials forming a protective cordon around Andy Halliday I feared the worst. I was absolutely perplexed by the total absence of Police numbers and their total inability to prevent what was unfolding before my eyes. I was unsure how our support would respond to this and noticed a small number to the left of me had already decided for themselves and were entering the field.

It was at this point that the Billy Boys received its first airing of the day. I have written often enough about this song in the past, my last offering being only a few weeks ago for WATP Magazine, so those who regularly read this blog will be more than familiar with my thoughts on the matter. Furthermore I’m not going to suggest that this song acted as a kind of anti-inflammatory for some in what was a highly volatile situation because I really don’t know. What I do know however is that those who have chosen to twist and distort Stewart Robertson’s comments on this song have no idea how close we were to an unprecedented full scale battle last Saturday, capable of turning all the “moral over reaction” in the world into something akin to a war zone report. Be under no illusion it really was touch and go for a few minutes.

After what seemed like an eternity the mounted Police arrived like a regiment of 7th Cavalry and managed to restore some semblance of order. I headed up the stairs to a pre-arranged rendezvous point with other members of our bus and after a couple of minutes with the detail complete we made our way out of Hampden stopping briefly for a call of nature before exiting the stadium for the long bus trip home.

On leaving the ground we saw the arrival of the convoy of Police vans. Bemused by their late arrival I checked my watch and noted it was a full 15 minutes after the final whistle. The only “barricades” they encountered took the form of a cacophony of sarcastic cheers and angry Rangers fans wishing to make official complaints at the abject Police failings. With a gruff “You’ll need to do in writing” they were off – resulting in a delay time of something approaching 2.8 seconds.

To quote the unofficial, unsubstantiated, (with the exception of Scottish Police Federation representative Calum Steele) as yet unidentified Police source “they were pointing at their watches and shouting you’re too late”

No bloody wonder.

 

 

 

 

Another 48 hours

It’s been over 48 hours since the Scottish Cup Final and its aftermath which shamed Scotland. A catalogue of failings by the authorities involved who now are, surprise surprise, charged with the responsibility of investigating themselves in order to establish what went wrong. Clearly we have learned very little from the lessons of Hillsborough and the need for independent investigation.

Of course we have had a powerful statement from Rangers on the matter calling for a full and independent enquiry. That statement was not only powerful, apparently it was “verbose, clunking and pitiful” to paraphrase the egotistical idiot which is Graham Spiers. Funnily enough the PFA Scotland, which also called for a full and independent enquiry did not draw the same criticism from the mercurial idiot. Perhaps he had at long last returned to his village.

Of course the latter’s statement did not criticise elements of the media which seem to have got so many journalists upset. BBC Scotland issued their own statement saying the Rangers criticism of their staff was “unwarranted”. One of those staff members – Stuart Cosgrove – was involved in a fairly acrimonious dust up on air with his co-presenter, Tam Cowan.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07c68nv#play

Let’s stop a minute here. Stuart Cosgrove wanted to play down, minimalise, avoid speaking about a set of circumstances which shamed us as a football nation, endangered and terrified spectators, saw players and staff verbally and physically abused, saw match officials forced to act as a cordon to protect the safety of players, criminal damage inflicted upon the national stadium – all before a watching world. Are we really better served by such an attitude of “Sweep sweep – nothing to see here move along?” As Roger Mitchell the former SPL chief commented to me on Twitter “And this is the bbc. The organ of record? Changed days”

Only in Scotland could a statement about civil disorder cause more discussion than the civil disorder itself – especially when the authors of that statement are Rangers.

Beyond the arguments of who did what to whom is a far more serious issue to be debated and that is the abject failure of crowd control on Saturday. It is absolutely tragic that over 48 hours after the event, a multitude of camera footage, photo stills, mobile phone footage as well as numerous eye witness accounts, many neutral and objective, we are still no further on than playing a blame game. Do people honestly believe that Rangers are making it up about staff being assaulted, spat upon and verbally abused? Are those journalists who witnessed this and have attested to same also lying?

The focus should be on why the Police were so ill prepared for what transpired, how effective are stewards when faced with a non-compliant crowd and most importantly how do we prevent a recurrence?

If Scotland thought Saturday afternoon was an embarrassment – I hate to think how the post-match post mortem looks to anyone looking in.

 

Enough is enough

I suppose having written about the dehumanisation of our support for the last 20 years yesterday’s events at Hampden should have come as no surprise to me. But they did, and then some.  As our bus made its way back home from Hampden we listened to Stuart Cosgrove on the radio. It was something of a masterclass in defending the indefensible. I would urge every Rangers fan to listen to it on the BBC website – it will give you valuable insight into exactly what we are up against as a club and support.

Despite co-presenter Tam Cowan’s obvious disgust at what had just been witnessed at Hampden Cosgrove attempted to minimise every aspect of what had transpired, repeatedly telling both fellow presenters and listeners not to become “morally over reactive”. When Chic Young gave a live update confirming the disgraceful scenes Cosgrove went into whataboutery mode asking Young if he had invaded Wembley in 1977. It was pointed out to Cosgrove that those doing so back in 77 didn’t assault players or engage in violence. But to no avail.

We have now had “over exuberance” “celebrations” and this preposterous nonsense from Gerry Hassan:

“Seriously: can you tell if these are assaults? Or aggressive, stupid, OTT behaviour? Not good either way but diff.”

The aforementioned from Hassan was in response to ITN Reporter Peter Adam Smith on Twitter providing both eye witness testimony and mobile phone footage of the assaults on Rangers players.

Such scenes and testimony of course do not fit with a poisonous narrative which has been festering for far too many years now in Scotland – neither Rangers nor their supporters are allowed to be victims. While the world was rightly engaged in an outpouring of sympathy for the Hillsborough victims following the verdict of unlawful killing, Rangers staff were cleaning off graffiti from the stadium surrounds as the deaths of our 66 absent friends was mocked.

The invasion at the end of the match by Hibs fans caught no one by surprise – except for Police Scotland – its utterly farcical that this organisation claims to pride itself on “intelligence led Policing” Let’s be honest, having won the cup for the first time in 114 years who would deny the long suffering Hibs fans an element of over exuberance and a little dance on the hallowed turf? But over exuberance is not running the length of the pitch to the opposition fans end and challenging them to fight, as I witnessed. Nor is it assaulting players and staff from the opposition team.

Photographs, videos, neutral credible eye witness accounts and yet still it appears to take a standard of evidence over and above beyond reasonable doubt to convince some of what transpired yesterday. Can you imagine what the narrative would be today had such a record of events not been so readily available?

It would be a serious oversight to look at yesterday’s events in isolation as they were only a manifestation of the much wider problem of bigotry and hatred towards our club. How many of those committing criminal acts against Rangers players and staff were spurred on by a hatred of the “Klan”, “the underclass” or the “Huns” – terms used by journalists or presenters apparently with impunity. It was not only those on the pitch yesterday who should hang their heads in shame.

Having been the whipping boys for so long in Scottish football it seems we have now progressed to becoming the punchbag. What will be the next stage? Perhaps the columnists who continually urge Rangers fans to forgive, forget and move on would do well to address their remarks to others.

The powerful statement yesterday by the club shows that the narrative has to change.

Quite simply – Enough is enough

Wings Over Liverpool

For many of us the refusal of Wings Over Scotland, aka Rev. Stuart Campbell, to accept the truth or facts is nothing new. However his continued apportioning of blame for the Hillsborough disaster on Liverpool fans themselves – despite the ruling of the Hillsborough inquest jury only last week – marks a new low, even by his normally low standards.

It has taken 27 years of courageous fighting by the families of those who lost loved ones to establish those truths and facts. And it was a brutal fight where for most of it they were very much the underdog. They had to scale a mountain where every step of their climb was hindered by a Police Force lying as a collective, a press fabricating stories and politicians briefing against their loved ones.

But they never lost sight of their objective, never gave up in their quest for the truth, though tragically, some who started the journey never saw its completion.

It is almost impossible to imagine what those families and countless other families in Liverpool went through that fateful day of 15th April, 1989. But let me try as best as I can.

The 2nd January 1971 started off like any normal Saturday in our household. My parents, despite their judgement being hindered following the traditional Hogmanay celebrations, were sober enough of mind to steadfastly refuse my requests to accompany my elder brother and his best mate Chubb, to the Old Firm game. “Too Young” was the often repeated mantra. I suspect I was not the only 9 year old in Glasgow that day who concluded that “life was just not fair”.

Instead I was to be placated with a trip to the Hillhead Cinema (The Salon) to watch the blockbuster disaster movie Airport. In these days of live satellite broadcasts, mobile phones and social media it must be hard to imagine how slow and archaic communication was back in 1971.  As the audience sat glued to the disaster plot unfolding on the screens they were totally oblivious to the disaster unfolding right on our doorstep. But a quiet whisper in the cinema quickly became a nervous chatter as rumours spread something had gone wrong at Ibrox and total strangers enquired of one another in the quest for more information. I will never forget the look of abject horror and desperation on my mother’s face.

We, like many others, left the cinema before the end of the film and I watched my father search frantically for a phone box. We stood huddled as a family unit in a small phone box, as my father, his hands visibly shaking, tried to get the coins into the phone. We were lucky, our loved ones returned home that day. For 66 families there was to be no such relief. One of them was the McGhee family who lived in the next street to us – their son David, aged 14 years, perished along with 65 others.

It left our whole community in mourning, God only knows how the people of Markinch in Fife, got through it.

For 25 minutes or so my parent’s lives were tuned inside out with uncertainty, panic and worry. And what they experienced that day was nothing to what those Liverpool families have had to undergo. Imagine having to endure 27 years to get that most precious of all things – the truth – and to have to battle every step of the way to get it.

The whole football community owes these Liverpool families a huge debt of thanks. The truth which they have uncovered speaks volumes about how football fans are viewed and treated by many. It was eloquently espoused by Rangers blogger JohnMc in his must read article for Gersnet:

http://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/news-category/current-affairs/622-will-scottish-society-learn-from-the-hillsborough-disaster

Thankfully MSM, courtesy of Gordon Waddell at the Daily Record, have also picked up the mantle:

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/sport/football/football-news/gordon-waddell-legacy-hillsborough-should-7868069#4tCVtxORTmMdrQ6M.97

Generations of football fans can testify to the almost sub-human levels of treatment. Rangers fans alighting from a train at Dundee in the 80’s will recall being “ordered” onto a bus by Police and being ferried directly to Tannadice. Refusal was not an option. And for those of us who made that journey, the enclosure at Tannadice provided ample of evidence of ticket sales revenue taking greater priority than crowd safety.

As John Mc so succinctly put it:

“After all, we were only football fans.”

Hillsborough and the courageous fight of the families for truth and justice has left a legacy which the normally tribal football community must unite as one to ensure is carried on. Football fans, whatever colours they wear, should not only expect but demand the same level of treatment as spectators at other sporting events.

If God is apportioning wings, then Liverpool seems an appropriate place to start.