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Paranoia and bigotry – it was just a matter of time

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An interesting week in Scottish football has come and gone. The Scottish Premier League season kicked-off ( with healthy crowds, no sign of footballing Armageddon.) The League Cup has begun, the SPL secured a TV deal, Celtic came back from behind to win in the first-leg of their champions league qualifier and Sevco Scotland – now dubbed “The Rangers” – kicked off their anticipated Ramsdens Cup adventure with a laboured extra-time win over Brechin City. This was the reality of it all finally arriving on our doorstep and I for one enjoyed it. Months of mythology, half-truth and propagandism was now being replaced by cold-harsh reality. Football it seems……will go on.

The complete and total cataclysm that was to befall Scottish football…..simply did not materialise. Notice the theme that has emerged throughout the last few months i.e. The mainstream media run a strongly worded interview with an ex-Rangers figurehead where the figurehead spouts intimidating and one-sided propaganda, the media then publish and discuss “guesses” about Armageddon and the end of Scottish football, as if these are the only outcomes and then reality occurs and nothing of the sort even happens. There was even a senior sports editor – and well-known writer at a struggling down-market gutter tabloid – who claimed as recently as 3 weeks ago that “The Rangers” would STILL be starting this season in the First Division. This was obviously little more than wishful thinking aloud from the writer in question ( I have avoided the term “journalist” as it is the opinion of many that the writer shares more attributes in common with a George Lucas creation than a journalist. ) or some form of last ditch PR assault on behalf of a former friend at the old Rangers. Either way, it didn’t happen. “The Rangers” are a third division club.

The whelping of “The Rangers” into existence was supposed to be a glorious event to behold. The lowly Brechin City could not be expected to put up much resistance against the third division newcomers who are apparently known to their fans as “the same Rangers we always wiz” so Brechin would SURELY be on the end of a 6-0 thrashing powered by dignity and embittered payback. But like everything else in this saga it simply did not happen as predicted. It was very much less a glorious and heavenly birth and more of a whaling and bloody Cesarian. Brechin took “The Rangers” into extra time where a grubby Lee McCulloch header saved the new club’s blushes. Despite the surreality of what we were seeing, and my goodness it was surreal, there was a definite party atmosphere in the run up to the game. Taxi firms, burger vans, newsagents, local pubs and other small businesses witnessed an increase in profits and were treated to a pay-day which they had never known before. This was “The Rangers” and their followers who once followed the original archetype of this new entity giving back to the Scottish football community and the Scottish business/taxpayer community. A few choice songs and a semi-literate scribble of poor taste on a soiled bed-sheet did little to take away from the sense that “The Rangers” and their fans penance had begun.

With the game over and the hedge looking ball-beaten and dishevelled it was time for the post-match interviews. Charles Green took centre stage and then began to produce one of the most virulently botched and embarrassing interviews I have ever seen. Teary eyed, emotional and with anger hijacking his every vocality he proceeded to slabber on about how “The Rangers” have found themselves in this position due to the bigotry of others. When asked to expand on this he gave no coherent explanation and didn’t even attempt the old classic “desperate back-track”. He left this out there hovering. Now in most situations this would have been shrugged off like a pesky bumble-bee but in this particular time in Scottish football we have to tread very very carefully. Ally McCoist’s pre-match crying aloud, about not accepting the stripping of titles should the old-Rangers be found guilty of incorrectly registering players, set the tone of the week. Throughout this whole sorry saga the consistent bug-bear of the non-Rangers fans in Scotland is the bullying, threatening, remorseless, supremacist and intimidating language from some Rangers fans groups and even ex-Rangers players and staff. Well even as Sevco…sorry….”The Rangers” it seems that ,like Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “plus ca change, plus cest la meme chose” which means….”The more it changes the more it stays the same.”

Immediately after Green’s comments the football forums and twitter began to erupt with demented sentences like “too right! You tell them Charlie!” and “it’s about time someone defended our club!”. A well-known Rangers forum had a thread that might just have been some form of mass ironic joke that I didn’t get but it looked upon initial reading that the red,white and blue faithful had decided that it was now all the fault of Peter Lawwell, the vatican and Harper McLeod and some strange catholic conspiracy to bring down Ra Berrz. Thats right folks. Apparently it is all one huge ploy to destroy Rangers so that Celtic or “The athletic wing of the Vatican” as one demented poster on twitter calls them, can dominate Scottish football forever. You would expect that Sir David Murray, Walter Smith, Dick Advocaat, Craig Whyte or even Martin Bain would be the source of ex-Rangers fans anger instead they have focused their energy and time on some strange elaborate conspiracy theory that Dan Brown would be proud of. I am not a Catholic but I don’t have to follow a religion to be aware that paranoia regarding one particular religious group and the general spreading of mythology are very dangerous ideologies to tolerate. Look at the “Gordon Riots” in 1780 where the demented aristocrat Lord George Gordon whipped up a mob in a frenzy of anti-Catholic hatred that led to nights of rioting, burning of churches and attacks on innocent catholic families. To read a surprisingly accurate fictionalisation of the “Gordon Riots” I would recommend Charles Dickens novel “Barnaby Rudge”.

This is a dangerous time for Scottish football anyway without demagogues like Charles Green and John Brown whipping people up into a frenzy. Now Harper Macleod , who are a fresh target for the conspiratorial ire which is coming from the often-confused and perpetually frustrated Rangers fans who occupy the internet, are overseeing the investigation into Rangers alleged side-letters and alledged miss-use of EBT’s. Harper Macleod once represented Celtic for a while and some Celticy people with Irishy names happen to work there so you can imagine how angry the lunatic fringe over at Ibrox are right now. In fact, not just the internet loonies and follow followers have bought into this nonsense. Three Rangers supporters groups have issued a joint statement slating the appointment of Harper Macleod because they represented Celtic and have some vague and meaningless links to Celtic-minded people. To accuse one of the sponsors of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games to be working for the interests of one of their former clients instead of conducting themselves in a professional manner just stinks of deluded desperation. We have safely navigated our way over some difficult terrain in the run-up to this season but this atmosphere of conspiracy, bigotry and paranoia is one that must be emphatically smacked down.

It was sad to see some of my colleagues in the conventional media running with this as a serious story, even the tone of some of the reporting had a “no wonder they are suspicious” feel to it rather than a “they are just desperate for this to somehow be Celtic’s fault.”. Let me make this clear on behalf of every non-Rangers fan in Scotland – it wasn’t Celtic or Peter Lawwell who allegedly issued side-letters and dual contracts to Rangers players on EBT’s, it wasn’t Celtic or Peter Lawwell who ran up a unservicable and ridiculous £80 million overdraft with the bank, it wasn’t Celtic or Peter Lawwell who sold Rangers for a pound to a venture capitalist specialising in profiting from liquidation, it wasn’t Celtic or Peter Lawwell who ran up £50 million of business debts and failed to pay £10 million of taxes in the last year……no, I am sorry…..this was ALL RANGERS FAULT. It was the school of great whites who swam their way into Rangers boardroom who created this mess. Rangers fans groups should be thanking those investigating the actions of the former administrators who helped kill their club but they seem incapable of this. To put it all down to a Celtic-Catholic conspiracy is disrespectful to the fans of every other SPL and SFL club who made their feelings known regarding Rangers starting their second-life in the Third Division. These fans have no interest in “attacking the protestant institution” and all the guff that is coming out on the net. This was simple. Rangers did wrong, received some light punishment and then were left to suffer the consequences of their own actions. So let’s just stop all this silly bigoted conspiracy stuff right now please.

While we are on that subject, the fans of the other 40-odd clubs in Scotland would like me to clear something up for ex-Rangers fans who seem to be locked in some strange time-paradox where they keep repeating the same incorrect account of history on the radio and internet. Let me clear something up for them. Ex-Rangers have not been “punished enough” in fact, old-Rangers have barely been punished at all. The only punishments that the old Rangers received was a fine for Craig Whyte and a one year transfer ban. That is it. Two punishments. TWO. The rest is not even punishments. The 10 point deduction is a statute of the SPL and is merely a consequence of entering administration. Rangers were not “relegated” to the third division in fact, Rangers were liquidated and ceased to exist so as a new club the new Rangers had no league to play in and had to APPLY to join the SPL, the first, second and the third division. They were refused new member status by every league except the third division. Again, this was not a punishment and was simply a consequence of their liquidation. The European ban…..again, not a punishment, it is that new Rangers do not meet the requirements to qualify for Europe. So in a nutshell, you have had two punishments and everything else has simply been the outcome of your own clubs actions.

What is important is that the fans of all clubs in Scotland stick together and keep supporting Scottish football from the SPL right down to the third division. We must turn up for cup games, european games, we must continually promote and support our game and we have to push for change. But, in the meantime, we must protect our football from paranoid and bigoted conspiracy theories that cause nothing but harm to everyone involved. We now have a chance to create a new order of the ages in Scottish football. A quote from George Canning sums it up “The order of the new world has been called into existence to redress the balance of the old.”. Let us unite and move forward together. Maybe then, we can become the greatest wee footballing country in the world after all.

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