Praise for some journalists in wake of Rangers FC scandal

Scottish writer and commentator Gerry Hassan has praised a number of journalists and broadcasting pundits for their part in the “Scottish spring” of football.

In his weekly column in The Scotsman, Hassan reflected on how in a momentous period in Scottish history, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Labour Party and Rangers FC …”have hit crisis, lost their way and suffered ignominy and humiliation.”

And he points out: “What has been called by some ‘the Scottish spring’ of football has consequences well beyond the boundaries of the game.

“Just to recap for non-football fans, it was only due to the unprecedented gathering of fan power that the football authorities were prevented from keeping a Rangers who went into liquidation in the top flight Scottish Premier League (SPL); they then stopped Rangers being ‘parachuting’ into Division One rather than Division Three.

“This is a historic moment. For time immemorial our society has been run by an intricate network of elites, professional groups and vested interests. The Scottish Parliament and the arrival of the SNP Government haven’t done anything major to jeopardise this.

“Fascinatingly, football is the first arena in our public life where the fresh, cleansing air of democracy has shown itself. Over the summer, football fans across Scotland have come together, agitated and organised and overturned the time honoured stitch-up which would have kept a newco Rangers in the SPL.

“They did this through a variety of forums from supporters’ trusts and associations to the internet and social media - creating an informal, powerful fans movement.”

Hassan names “a few courageous journalists who decided to spend time investigating the affairs of Rangers and questioning the football authorities.

“Alex Thomson of Channel Four News, the BBC’s Jim Spence and Stuart Cosgrove in particular are worthy of note. In the longer run in leading up to the events of this summer, the Orwell Prize winning RangersTaxCase website and Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, earned numerous plaudits.

“However, these people were the exceptions. What was the norm was collusion with the way football and Rangers were being misrun.

“This has become known as ‘succulent lamb journalism’ after the habit of numerous scribes who feasted at the table of the big football clubs and David Murray’s Rangers in particular, refusing to risk their access and rights by asking difficult questions.

“A whole generation of football journalists grew up with this attitude while the events of the last few months have illustrated the scale of their self-deception. Step forward Jim Traynor, Chick Young and Hugh Keevins.

“Time and again they have declared Scottish football needs ‘a successful Rangers’ and that any move to put them into Division Three would signal ‘the death of Scottish football’.

“The hugely respected Archie Macpherson has played into this, going on about the ‘bile’ shown to Rangers as an institution, omitting to acknowledge that they have practised industrial scale cheating for over a decade.

“This sort of attitude, of colluding with power, of silences and omissions in relation to abuse and illegality, is one we have seen across wider society, whether the corruption of one party Labour local government, or the corporate doublethink of banking and related services.

“We have now seen something stupendous and yet already the football authorities are attempting to engage in restoration of the old order. They are looking at league reconstruction this year to aid getting Rangers back into the SPL as early as possible.

“More damning is that they are actively trying to conserve the old failed ways. Football has become infected by the short-term, massive debt and an addiction to Sky TV money which is related to the unsustainable bubble of the economy.

“Scottish clubs for the last decade have spent more than they could, binged on expensive second-rate imports, and ignored community and youth development. And yet this is the model the authorities and most of the teams are desperate to keep on the road.”

“What links the world of football and the economy is the failed business models of the last few decades, the MBA culture that Neil Doncaster, head of the SPL and Stewart Regan, head of the SFA have articulated in the corridors of power of Scottish football. A culture and mindset that our political classes of every hue have unconditionally bought into.

“Little wonder that Henry McLeish, former First Minister, talks the insipid language of football as ‘a brand’, ‘reputation’ and ‘a product’. It has to be all of those things, but it would be great if we could raise our aspirations, utilise the newfound fan power and be more daring.

“Whatever difficult and painful roads Scottish football faces and it is going to have quite a few, things will never completely be the same again, and no matter how hard the football authorities and some of the myopic football old guard try to turn back time.

“Democracy has finally broken out in a part of Scotland; it is messy, uncontrollable and uncontainable. It will ultimately prove to be intoxicating, and we need to celebrate this opening, and spread and encourage this force far and wide across our society.

“It has been a long time coming, but finally the dam of institutional control and contempt has broken; it shouldn’t be too surprising that it happened on the football field.”

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