Channel 4 news correspondent reveals physical threats over reporting of Rangers FC financial crisis
Channel 4 News chief correspondent, Alex Thomson, has revealed he has been physically threatened by a Scottish journalist in a hostile media atmosphere in Glasgow during his current investigation into the tangled financial affairs of Rangers FC.
Thomson, who has covered 20 wars across the globe in his 22 years with Channel 4 News, claims that asking questions about Rangers FC “clearly angers some in the Glasgow media in a way I’ve never seen in 25 years of global reporting."
The broadcaster, who has been reporting on screen in the past two weeks on the Rangers FC crisis, has also written a number of controversial blogs on the Channel 4 News website (www.channel4.com/news) which has sparked off a deluge of comments online.
In one blog, he asked why nobody saw that the club’s former owner Sir David Murray’s was crumbling, and nobody at the club, the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League questioned whether current owner Craig Whyte really was the man to buy Rangers FC.
“Because – like the bankers – everyone was having too much fun living the dream? Partly yes, but partly a crucial check and balance to all the Ibrox hype had all but gone,” claimed Thomson.
“For years too much football ‘journalism’ in Glasgow had been too lazy, sycophantic and incapable of asking awkward questions.”
In another blog, Thomson, an Oxford university graduate who began his broadcasting career with the BBC in Northern Ireland, explained: “I’d expected the paranoia, insults, spin etc – hey – this is ‘fitba’ after all and I welcome it good, bad and ugly, from fans within and without Glasgow. Indeed I’ve gone out and asked for it.
“What I didn’t expect were the insults (and in at least one case a direct physical threat) not from fans but from Scottish journalists.
“Sarajevo, Mogadishu, Kabul, Islamabad, Tripoli, Baghdad…I could bore you with more – in none of these places have I ever got this interesting reaction from local journalists.
“Only in Glasgow. So something’s up. Something’s different.
“Something about asking questions about RFC clearly angers some in the Glasgow media in a way I’ve never seen in 25 years of global reporting.
“Equally, a number of fine Glasgow journalists have been incredibly helpful, encouraging and agree there has been something deeply wrong for far too long in the culture of reporting RFC.
“They know who they are, male and female, working in papers, radio and broadcasting and every single one has encouraged me to dig around in an area many cannot, will not or are prevented from, exploring.
“I refer of course to ‘succulent lamb’. Graham Spiers, seasoned football writer in Glasgow was there the day it happened.
“He and other reporters dined with Sir David Murray – then Rangers FC owner, in the Channel Islands. Murray – as ever – was talking big on the Rangers dream-theme, laying out plans for the club that seemed to go well beyond the mere limit of the sky.
“There duly appeared copy praising the ‘succulent lamb’ that was eaten – the ‘fine red’ that was drunk.
“The food and drink were taken – so was this man’s dream of Rangers – all without much question in some quarters.
“I make and imply no criticism at all of the reporters present – what intrigues as an outsider is how many people years later around Glasgow happily talk about ‘succulent lamb’ journalism.
Thomson goes on to quote Spiers, who recently left The Times as its Scottish football correspondent, at length from an interview for Channel 4 which can be viewed on its website.
Reported Thomson: “Let Graham explain – he was actually there, after all:
‘Succulent lamb journalism means a culture – and I hold my hand up here too – a culture of sycophantic, unquestioning, puff journalism that went on around Rangers generally and Sir David Murray particularly.”
Thomson continued: “Of course you’ll see it to some degree across sport, across football. But it was, many Glasgow journalists say, more damaging here.”
“’Look’, added Spiers, ‘you are making a pact with the devil if you like. You get thrown the best scraps. You get something for the back page or whatever. But there’s a tacit deal. You don’t dig too deep. You don’t cause any trouble’.”
“So Big Dave’s dream was shouted across Glasgow. Fans loved it. It shifted papers. Everyone (in blue) wanted in, needed to believe.
“So it went on – year after year. On one side the directors at Scotland’s football ‘governing’ bodies didn’t ask much. On the other, large sections of Glasgow football journalism declined to delve.
“How else to explain Ibrox’s boom to spectacular bust?
“How else to deal with the fact that when Craig Whyte took over it was stories of a ‘billionaire’ with ‘off the scale riches’ that were pumped out?
“Ten minutes on Google or in Companies House could’ve ended that. But no. It was dreamland the fans wanted, dreamland much of the media bought into and a club already financially crippled was about to be further injured.
“Legions of fans sold out again, as it would turn out.
“Succulent lamb culture has permeated to a degree that, as one prominent Glasgow tabloid journalist put it: ‘The press -a really critical check and balance in the normal way of things, had been more or less destroyed in Glasgow’.
“So are things any better today? Is succulent lamb off the menu – replaced with humble pie?
“I leave it to others to judge if that succulent lamb cozy Glasgow football culture has really gone away.
“How come nobody saw Sir David Murray’s Rangers empire was crumbling?
“How come nobody at the club, the SFA, the SPLquestioned whether Craig Whyte really was the man to buy RFC?
“For years too much football ‘journalism’ in Glasgow had been too lazy, sycophantic and incapable of asking awkward questions.
“Some notable exceptions of course – but the dismal rule stand out thereby. And it’s not clear things are getting all that much better even when faced with the massive corporate car-crash which is Rangers today.
“The culture of taking wild stories at face value and pumping them out appears alive and well in Glasgow – the record will show the MSM [mainstream media] in that city have been left standing time and time again by bloggers getting the facts in their spare time often many miles from Glasgow.
“Media studies PhD anyone? Tis fertile ground,” he concluded.