Banning a major broadcaster from your press conferences seems extreme, but it’s important to remember the context. The club receives most of its broadcast revenues from Sky Sports and ESPN’s joint deal to show live SPL games, so Rangers Football Club is hardly biting the hand that feeds it.
Rangers aren’t the first to experience difficulties with BBC either, as Sir Alex Ferguson’s experiences with ‘Auntie’ are testament to.
So who’ll come out worse from this particular stand-off? It’s a tough call, but my immediate reaction suggests the BBC needs Rangers more than Rangers needs the BBC. You can’t ban Sky from your corridors and expect them to show live games worth millions of pounds. But you can ban the BBC and barely feel the financial effects.
But is that the point?
Perhaps the upcoming documentary will provide us with the answers. BBC1 Scotland’s Rangers – The Inside Story will surely provide us with the missing link. With potential tax bills hanging over the club and with assets having been frozen as part of a series of courtroom battles, you have to worry for the state of the organisation, and perhaps the BBC has done a good job of scratching under the surface. I know plenty of BBC Scotland journalists, and have never questioned their integrity or thoroughness – so I am looking forward to seeing what they have to say.
In which case, banning the broadcaster pre-emptively and blaming its poor journalism is not a bad way to colour viewers’ opinions in advance. Is this the ultimate in pre-emptive PR strikes? It seems to be much more deeply rooted, but nevertheless my concern for Rangers is that this action has only pointed more viewers towards Thursday’s documentary, rather than downplay its importance.
It’s hardly a cut-and-dry case.
Either way, what Sir Alex has shown is that football goes on, with or without the BBC. But banning its journalists can only fan the flames of controversy over what is already a fiery PR mess for Rangers Football Club.