Graham Spiers’ open-minded – and thankfully NOT gushing – piece on Mark Warburton (well done Graham!) contained the following sentences.
“Ironically, Ronny Deila across Glasgow offers Warburton a pathway of hope.
Deila was equally a risk at Celtic, and has come good. But for many months – and well into the winter of last season – it looked like he would flounder”.
Whether it was intended or not, Mr Spiers betrayed one of the few fundamental truths about the Scottish game: that our sports journalists and football administrators continue to see the domestic game through the prism of the Rangers* v Celtic rivalry.
[Some might say that it is also a somewhat distorted prism through which Rangers should always finish first…but that’s a matter for another day!]
Even the death of one of the protagonists amid debt and rule-breaking which embarrassed the entire sport couldn’t destroy this fixation with the ‘Old Firm’.
The prospect of there not being a ‘Rangers’ was so bone-chillingly awful to our administrators in 2012 that they granted Charles Green FC a creatively-engineered entry into the game in SFL3.
But not before they had first attempted to laugh in the faces of almost every football fan in the country by gerrymandering it into the top two divisions.
And then they had to prostrate themselves before the TV broadcasters to whom they had repeatedly sold a game based around the ‘Old Firm’.
It really is a wonder of the age that the Scottish authorities contrived to pay a broadcaster a subsidy to televise games of that noted minority sport ‘football’ (even if they were games involving lower-league Sevco)…
But that’s exactly what they did it! For there absolutely had to be continuing coverage of a ‘Rangers’. Whatever it took.
However, simply having a ‘Rangers’ entity was never going to be enough. It was important for the fans and media to ‘believe’ that it was the ‘same Rangers’.
The SFA was – and remains – in no position to say it is the ‘same club’ without potentially upsetting UEFA (see Article 12 of FFP), despite providing a fig leaf of pretence in the form of a transferred SFA membership.
Neil Doncaster might have belatedly said it’s the ‘same’ club, but assertion doesn’t trump facts.
Any rational, legal or football rules-based assessment will tell you that Sevco couldn’t possibly be the same club as Rangers.
But of course, the authorities are not going to say that. If you believe the value of your product as a contest and TV spectacle depends upon a Rangers* v Celtic story, you aren’t going to pull the rug from under it.
There hasn’t yet been any Sevco v Celtic rivalry. But if there ever is, the authorities wish it to appear ‘authentic’…
[They also probably don’t want to be on the receiving end of Sevconian disgruntlement, but that’s a different story…]
On a day-to-day basis, the ever-helpful mainstream media is filling the gap, with
- endless references to the ‘Old Firm’;
- blithe repetition of the torrent of ‘aiming to catch Celtic‘ rhetoric from the Ibrox regime du jour;
- pundits and ex-players telling us that Scottish Football and Celtic ‘need a strong Rangers*‘ to thrive; and
- repeated comparison between what Sevco is doing and developments at Celtic Park.
The pantomime which was the build-up to last season’s Celtic v Sevco League Cup semi-final brought out the very worst in them all.
This culminated in the shark-jumping spectacle of media commentators sneering and accusing Celtic fans of being unable to move on after publishing an advert explaining why they would never accept the handed-down narrative that liquidation only happens to holding or operating companies.
In themselves, Mr Spiers comments today were no biggie.
They were a passing reference, but nonetheless a revealing one.
Events in Sevcona continue to be seen through the prism of the ‘Old Firm’ (despite it being a concept that is both dead and repugnant to Celtic and many of its fans).
Perhaps the media could start using a bit of imagination, covering our game on its own terms and not as if the ‘Old Firm’ still existed?
The liquidation of Rangers could have been as liberating a moment for the Scottish sports media, as it was for Scottish football.
The financial arms race spearheaded by Rangers was over, and clubs got on with their business.
Yes, Celtic have been racking up the titles (woohoo!), but there have been great stories elsewhere with a resurgent Aberdeen winning silverware and St Mirren, St Johnstone and Inverness also winning cups.
Raith winning the Challenge Cup was also a great story (not just because of who they beat, either…), and Hearts have effected a hugely impressive turn-around having stared liquidation in the face.
I could go on…
And of course there are off-pitch stories to be investigated around the way Rangers’ demise and rule-breaking was handled by our authorities, as well as wider issues such as the overall standard of leadership provided by the SFA and SPFL.
Oh yes. And the abysmal refereeing we see week after week…
The Clumpany wouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume that any MSM journalists are reading this.
But just in case they are, and are thinking
“you, Comrade Clumpany are the worst of the lot, with your fixation on Sevco. Who are you to call out anyone else? Get over it Sir! Move on! Focus on some other issues!”
Well, firstly, thank you for calling me ‘Sir’…
Secondly, The Clumpany is just some random ethereal entity on the Internet, so why do you care what I think?
And finally, I will do you a deal.
- tell the truth about what happened in 2012 rather than propagate the use of a ridiculous web of fictional concepts and twisted language;
- actually do some digging into the many questionable things that have happened in the running of our game over the past few years (you know what they are);
- systematically take the SFA and SPFL to task over their hapless leadership; and
- stop behaving like an overly-eager intern at a Sevco PR agency
….and I will clear off.
I dare say quite a few others will also ‘get off your backs’ and hold you in higher regard.
We will concentrate on the football, (but check in on you from time to time…) knowing that a vibrant and fearless media is
- holding those in power to account;
- breaking stories of public interest no matter what the inconvenience; and
- helping to ensure that our game is played on a level playing field.
Hell, I might even start buying the newspapers.
Are you up for it?
But while you think about it, I will most certainly