Media, Scottish Football

The ‘Hate’ Game

Good Afternoon.

Keith Jackson was involved in a quite interesting exchange on Twitter last night. Here is a sample:

I have no doubt that the noise around Celtic and Ibrox-based outfits ‘sells’, otherwise even the Scottish media wouldn’t bang on about it all the time. However I would tend to agree with Comrade McClane that the single biggest factor in the atrocious TV deals obtained by Scottish football is the ‘underperformance’ of our esteemed administrators.

And I would certainly challenge our MSM to think ‘out of the box’ and try and systematically champion the rest of the game and all its history, rivalries and characters. This is something which I politely suggest they have shamefully failed to do since Rangers shuffled off this mortal coil. 

Imagination and broad horizons are often strangers to the coverage of football in Scotland. You are more likely to read about Joey Barton’s latest side-splitting-but-contrived tweet than an in-depth profile of Aberdeen’s squad and tactics, even though they are (once again) the team most likely to be fighting it out with Celtic at the top of the league this season. 

And you are much more likely to read about ‘Waggy’ or ‘Tavs’ saying that they fancy Sevco to do well this season rather than a stimulating piece about how Dundee Utd are regrouping in the Championship and the tasty prospect of them battling Hibs and others for promotion. Etc etc etc.

The Scottish sports media has long been locked into a laughable narrative that the ‘Old Firm’ circus IS Scottish football. I’ve always found it to be pretty insulting to the intelligence, as well as 40 other teams, and have little hope that it will change. Not when – to repeat Keith’s words – “It sells”.

But please spare me the nonsense that our game ‘needs’ this rivalry, and please don’t assert that the presence of a Rangers-flavoured entity in the top flight equals a competitive league!

Because once you scratch beyond the surface of this ‘argument’ it falls apart faster than you can say “Motherwell-born billionaire”.

As we all know, following the self-inflicted death of Rangers in 2012, the supposed continuation of the ‘Old Firm’ has become one of the most gratuitous falsehoods ever peddled in the UK. The media and football administrators may wish to perpetuate the lie and destroy their credibility in the process: but it is still a lie. 

The “rivalry” of which Keith speaks is a sham. A made-up concept to sell newspapers and attract TV and radio audiences. And we are under no obligation to swallow it! What’s more, let us not forget what happened the last time this supposedly attractive and competitive ‘Old Firm’ spectacle existed. One of the sides built up a mountain of still-unpaid debt, neglected its obligations to society by not paying taxes and trampled all over the rule book.

Why would ANYONE who believes in the concept of ‘sport’ want to go back to such apparent attractive and ‘competitive’ days? It was a grotesque parody of sport which we are better off without. 

I might be more relaxed about the media fixation with the Celtic v Ibrox Entity ‘rivalry’ if I had any confidence that our press pack could be relied upon to pick up and call out any problems or wrongdoing without fear of favour. But given the type of coverage we saw during the Murray and Whyte years at Rangers, and have subsequently seen in relation to Sevco, I have absolutely zero hope of it happening. You only have to look at the example of the Offshore Game Report. The fact that the Record, STV and others have made no mention of  despite all the issues it raises is highly instructive. The silence ought to embarrass them immensely, but I fear it doesn’t.

Out of all of Keith’s observations, the one that most irked me was this:

We see a lot of talk about ‘hate’ on Scottish  football-related social media. It is usually (but not always) deployed as a pretty puerile jibe to deflect from the discussion of a difficult issue.

Hate may colour the views of some, but they are most definitely in the minority. For most of us, our concern is not practicing ‘hate’ but to have

  • the wrongs of the past properly dealt with and not via the deeply-flawed LNS Commission, whose fine has still not been paid;
  • proper accountable governance in our game, which operates effectively to deliver a level playing field; and
  • a sports media which doesn’t perpetually peddle pish and lie about liquidation , but which routinely asks challenging questions of those in authority.

To blithely throw around the suggestion that ‘hate’ may be colouring people’s views is laughable. 

Folk might just have a point with the criticism they offer and the exasperation they show to parts of the MSM. They might actually want the very best for the game – just like Keith suggests he does – and think that the media as a whole has been doing it a gross disservice for many years.

And they might just have a vision of a healthy national sport which goes beyond evoking the ghoulish spectacle of the ‘Old Firm’ and pretending that we can party like it is the ‘glorious’ EBT years all over again.

It might not be convenient, but it’s the hate-free truth.


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