Michael Gannon of the Daily Record has made an intriguing contribution to the debate about ‘offensive singing’ which was reignited by the Woeful Warblings of Warbo’s Witless Wonders during the recent Sevco-Hibs game.
You can get an idea about the tone of the piece from its opening paragraphs, but do take the time to read it all.
“THE unacceptable face of Scottish football is back in the limelight and our man believes it’s up to the majority of decent fans to help put a stop to it for good.
GET it up ye, ya wee Fenian so’n’so. Get in tae these Orange b******s.
It sounds like something coming from the stands of Ibrox or Parkhead. Or some packed away end around the country when either of the Old Firm come calling.
But it’s not. It’s a five-a-side pitch on a Monday night. And it’s 10 guys who are all mates.
That’s the thing about this sectarian singing debate that has flared up again this week.
With some folk it’s a black and white issue but for most it’s part of the colourful backdrop of bonkers West of Scotland culture.
Very few actual real people get upset by this stuff.
It’s lifelong pals who have been inseparable since they were kids yet come from different sides of the divide.
They go to the games, belt out war songs for 90 minutes and meet up with buddies from the other side later in the pub.”
My problem with the piece is that it (unwittingly) exemplifies so much of what is wrong with
- the media’s attitude towards certain types of discrimination in Scotland; and
- its approach to a range of issues surrounding Ibrox-based football clubs.
Namely: the rush to ‘play down the problem’.
I am not suggesting for a moment that Mr Gannon is pushing any sort of agenda or dismissing the problems of racism and sectarianism as non-existent. He is completely clear that these things are real and unacceptable in our game and society.
However, by talking about essentially harmless ‘banter’ at a 5-a-side game, and “the colourful backdrop of bonkers West of Scotland culture”, Mr Gannon unwittingly helps to trivialise the very dark matter of thousands of folk singing about Fenian Bastards and blood. And he arguably distracts from the shame it brought to our sport when broadcast on national television.
You wonder if he would make the same remarks if the offensive terms under discussion were about Jewish or Black people.
The assertion that “Very few actual real people get upset by this stuff” is so risible that I actually guffawed when I read it. If one person is affected by being subjected to discrimination and abuse then that should be enough to warrant condemnation and efforts to stamp out the terrible behaviour. It is for very good reason that we have anti-discrimination laws and initiatives in place to protect people. And not just vaguely-defined groups of people. But individual human beings who have a right to go about their lives without their religion, nationality, ethnicity and gender etc making them liable to consequence-free abuse.
It was also amusing to read the suggestion that it is a minority of fans who engage in offensive singing, as if that makes it ‘less’of a problem. As far as I am concerned, taking a ‘relative’ view is utterly pointless when dealing with issues of discrimination.
Discrimination is a problem. Full stop. And it is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Vigorously, and without fear or favour.
The issues raised by the singing at Ibrox, and their resonance across wider society (including 5-a-side games with your friends) are not ‘knockabout stuff’. They are deadly serious. And the observation that “Like it or not, football has a sinister underbelly” with fans of other clubs having their own offensive songbook sounds like a cop-out. These things are all wrong and should be addressed when they occur. Even if it causes the authorities a headache.
Graham Spiers called it correctly in his Herald piece yesterday. He said that despite the welcome efforts of successive regimes, the current Ibrox outfit had a problem with its fans’ songbook and should do something about it. Spiers, like me is not saying that every Sevco fan sings the songs and/or believes in the sentiments expressed. But he also isn’t playing down the problem in any way. Because this is not an issue to be played down.
In reviewing some of the discussion about the Ibrox singing across mainstream and social media, The Clumpany couldn’t help but be reminded of the reaction to the Court of Session ruling on the Rangers Big Tax Case. The moment one of the Ibrox clubs came into the firing line over misdeeds, the excuses and deflection started to flow:
‘Actually EBTs and side letters weren’t really cheating. They gave no on-pitch advantage’.
‘Let’s all move on’.
‘Rangers*-haters are gleefully using as a stick with which to beat the club’.
I am certainly not suggesting that Mr Gannon is being an apologist for Sevco in today’s piece. However, I do find it curious how few commentators are willing to simply come out and criticise any Ibrox regime or consider the possibility that wrongdoing may have occurred and should be addressed by the footballing authorities.
Perhaps that will all change in 2016? Hmmm…
On which note, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year! 2015 has been quite a ride and I dare say 2016 will be very short on dull moments!