Hypocritical finger pointing at Bloggers a step too far by some Journalists


Since the announcement of the Big Tax Case verdict, it seems to be open season on those bloggers who investigated, researched and commented on Rangers, the tax case, the potential liability and possible outcomes.

While it is understandable for Rangers fans to point the finger and pull these bloggers up for digging a grave for Rangers before they were dead and buried, it is somewhat hypocritical for some mainstream football journalists to attack the same bloggers who did a job that these professional journalists should have been doing.

There is a notion that only these so-called internet bampots peddled phrases like financial doping , title stripping and cheating – yet there were some on the television, on radio and in print who used the same phrases, when discussing the Rangers tax case and the SPL investigation.

Now I will be the first to admit that we have had several contributors who have used the phrases like financial doping, cheating and title stripping, when discussing Rangers, the use of EBTs, dual contracts and tax liability. Personally, I have used them also on a number of occasions, but they were not in relation to passing judgement on a case that was still to be heard or ruled on, merely referencing to what could happen if Rangers were found guilty. A stance that many bloggers and journalists took – including Rangers bloggers.

Going down the route of looking into what would happen if Rangers were found guilty of rule breaches by the SPL investigation or even looking at if they lost their appeal in the Big Tax Case, are perfectly acceptable and in no way did they scare off potential investors or force the club into administration and subsequent liquidation. You can look at the financial management or should we state mismanagement under Sir David Murray, who racked up huge debts at Ibrox before saddling the club and their fans with the shady character, Craig Whyte. Whyte then led the club into administration, not because of the Big Tax Case but because of his failure to pay PAYE and National Insurance, coupled with the small tax debt that he agreed to accept liability on.

No blogger forced Murray or Whyte to go down the routes that they took, however you cannot deny that there were many bloggers of differing allegiances – but mainly Celtic – that reveled in Rangers’ demise, the financial fall out and what they saw as the inevitable Big Tax Case going against them.

With hindsight, we all know that to be wrong but as they say hindsight is a wonderous thing. If we knew which way the Big Tax Case would fall then Sir David Murray would never have offered HMRC £11 million to settle the liability, we would not have seen Murray then try to pass it onto Whyte – despite what Ally McCoist and Sir David Murray stated in the aftermath of the verdict – Murray would never have tried to settle if he was confident of winning the case.

The celebrating of the Big Tax Case was premature to say the least, and we can argue till we are all blue or green in the face if the Rangers side playing in the Third Division is the same side that won the 1972 European Cup Winners Cup, that won nine league titles in a row and the same side that reached the 2008 UEFA Cup Final in Manchester. That is what rivalry is all about reveling in the other side’s misery. Rangers fans had their laugh during the nine-in-a-row years and Celtic fans are reveling in their rivals having to start again from Division Three and the financial fall out from Murray spending a ‘tenner for every fiver’ Celtic spent.

While the bloggers are being hung out to dry by everyone and their mothers, questions must be asked of the mainstream media’s inability and unwillingness to investigate Rangers, Sir David Murray, Craig Whyte and the tax case from day one. Where were these journalists who are now pointing the finger at the blogging fraternity.

Rather than going to town on what is arguably the biggest story in Scottish football history, like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward did over Watergate, we saw them act more like Bert & Ernie from Sesame Street. Relying on soundbytes and press releases for their exclusives to keep themselves in with the club, the owners and as many had done previously in bed with Sir David Murray – all in the quest to sell as many copies of their newspapers as possible and to meet the demands of their editors in regards to writing a set number of articles per day or week.

While these journalists were suckling on the teets of Craig Whyte, Sir David Murray and Rangers Football CLub, a small band of dedicated [and obsessed]internet bampots tackled the subject head on. They obtained information, talked to sources, did further research and then wrote up articles based on the information they secured as well as writing opinion pieces based on said information. These were exclusives of every sense of the word – not the stories hand fed to journalists by the club, by Murray nor by Whyte. This type of news reporting was dubbed churnalism.

Now whether it was right or wrong, the information was obtained about the tax case and it could have only came from a number of parties – HMRC, Rangers, Murray International Holdings or the lawyers relevant to the case. Rangers and Charles Green blame HMRC for the leak and the fans have called on the Westminster government to investigate and ask questions of HMRC.

I actually hope that the petition on the HM government website reaches the 100,000 signatures it needs to be discussed in parliament, so that we can get to the bottom of it all and hopefully put it all to bed once and for all, so that we can get back to what happens on the pitch.

While these bloggers, in particular Rangers Tax Case, are being vilified, how many journalists in general have obtained documents or talked to sources that have divulged information that should never have been divulged in the first place. Yet this is perfectly acceptable – albeit outwith the recent phone hacking scandal and the Leveson inquiry.

How many times have Sports journalists published articles that have been rubbished, disproven, deemed false or labelled mere speculation?

How many times have they used the term ‘unnamed source’ to protect someone giving them insider information or creating a source to justify an article that is purely based on their opinion solely.

We all know the mainstream journalists are far from innocent, but for some to lay the blame squarely at the feet of bloggers and ignoring their own part or lack thereof, is hypocritical to say the least.

Now I am generalising bloggers and mainstream journalists, I do have to point out that there have been good and bad work from both parties. Some peddle articles from a specific angle or an agenda them may or may not perceive to have.

Scotzine and in particular myself, have been labelled as having an anti-Rangers agenda because we have a few Celtic supporting contributors. But equally we have a number of Rangers supporting contributors and these Old Firm writers are outnumbered by those who support other clubs from Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hibernian and Ayr United to name but a few. Sadly this easy excuse of labelling us of having an agenda, blinded many if not all Rangers fans to the truth over Craig Whyte and how bad finances were at Ibrox.

When we published an article on Whyte’s shady past we were dubbed everything under the sun because of it, we were even on the receiving end of a letter threatening to take legal action from Whyte’s lawyers Collyer Bristow. The information we obtained was easily available to anyone looking be it Rangers fans, bloggers, business journalists and sports journalists alike. Companies House records, statements from individuals who had dealings with Whyte in the past and newspaper reports [which were later deleted under threat of same legal action from Collyer Bristow].

This Whyte article was one of the first, but not the last, but we were one of the first to stick our head out of the parapet and venture into No Man’s Land. However, I will gladly admit that we were surpassed and then some by the reporting of other bloggers, legal professionals and latterly mainstream journalists bringing up the rear.

After we removed the article, under protest and from threats via our hosting company also, we reworked the article and had a litigation expert look at it along with the evidence we had gathered. After it was duly passed we republished the article – albeit updated to reflect further information that came out – a full five months before Mark Daly’s BBC documentary into Whyte.

Look at the article yourself and then point out where we were wrong or what forced Collyer Bristow into sending a letter threatening legal action.

We were labelled by Rangers fans, some bloggers and even a few journalists as anti-Rangers, biased and much more. All because of our reporting on the past of Craig Whyte as he was first announced as a potential owner and subsequently took over at Ibrox.

Not one of these critics and abusers actually tackled the facts at hand, just resorting to abusive comments. In fact, we had one specific Rangers group – the Vanguard Bears – backing Whyte to the very end. Right up until he stood outside the main doors at Ibrox and announced the club going into administration. They published several Q&A sessions with Whyte and they also published articles denouncing Whyte’s critics whatever their allegiances or whatever their profession.

Again hindsight is a wonderous thing, look how that panned out and yet there were no apologies or comments stating that our articles and other bloggers/journalist articles were subsequently proved right.

Yet the big tax case verdict as seen these same individuals and others demand apologies from certain bloggers and journalists for discussing what would happen or what could happen if the BTC was found in favour of HMRC. They are even wanting the RTC blogger hauled in front of the courts for publishing confidential information and punished.

No one could predict the BTC verdict, although some did try, and the critics of these ‘messengers’ are now jumping up demanding blood, the heads of those publishing information and discrediting those who published the facts of the case rather than believing the rhetoric of those who were party to the whole saga and were knee deep in it.

Why is it that citizen journalists to a certain extent are lauded for their reporting of events – from the Hudson River plane crash to the Arab rising from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya, Bahrain and Syria to name but a few. Yet when it comes to the West of Scotland, football and the Old Firm – these citizen journalists aka bloggers are labelled internet bampots and discredited by the professionals who were beaten to the story by bloggers, by these amateurs.

Sports journalists, especially football journalism has always been cliché – an adult version of those groups we all know and remember in high school and always see in American high school movies.

The Jocks aka former football players now turned pundits and columnists. With many getting their jobs based on who they are and who they know, rather than what they have achieved in the classroom – like some journalists use to beat bloggers over the head with. Of course these Jocks have the benefit of playing the game – but how many footballers actually know the ins and outs of the game? How many know the rules down to a tee?

The Cheerleaders. Those journalists that do cartwheels, backflips and bend over to get their foot in the door. You can tell who they are from the brown tips on the end of their noses.

The History Club aka some Print Journalists. Those stuck in the past rejecting any form of evolution and whose articles are out of date as soon as the paper hits the pavement or news shelves. Those who still claim that journalism or real journalism is only found between the folds of the newspapers – the same newspapers whose readerships are drastically falling because of their failure to evolve.

The Audio/Visual club. Those journalists who ‘fiddle around’ with cameras and radio. Somewhat geeky, shunned by some Print journalists for not being ‘proper journalists’. The AV club journos are one of the major reasons why newspaper sales are declining as they can publish news, features and events almost immediately or after some editing. A vastly quicker turn around than newspapers.

And finally we have the Internet Bampots. They cannot really be defined as they are a mixture of many cliché groups. You have the Jock bampots who played the game at various levels and started their own blogs to voice their opinions. You have the cheerleader bampots who peddle their articles and are highly biased in favour and against the club they support to worm their way into the affections of those at the club they support for one reason or another. You then have the AV club bampots who produce podcasts on a weekly basis, with many of them beating the professionals at their own game and obviously there are those bampots who write articles without reporting the facts, just reporting what they think is the truth – these could be classed as the Emo bampots – as they don’t care what others think of them.

So while it is all far too easy for the big boys to blame the wee yins over their reporting of the big tax case, maybe just maybe the big boys should take a good long look at themselves for the lack of work they did on the subjects prior to the bloggers taking the lead. One last final question must be asked of the mainstream media – why was the Big Tax Case reporting left to Sports journalists 99% of the time, journalists who had no clue of what was going on and were only fed information from certain sources coming from one agenda or another. Why were business and tax journalists not brought in to provide the facts, to look at the documents and the evidence? This is another major failing in the part of the mainstream media.

But let’s ignore all that and just blame the bloggers and internet bampots for the Big Tax Case verdict being reported wrongly, for Sir David Murray selling Rangers to Craig Whyte, for Craig Whyte turning into the man who led Rangers by the lead to administration/liquidation and for Rangers entering the Third Division rather than entering the SPL.

Evolution comes to us all just ask those who criticised and denounced Galileo Galilei for claiming that the earth was round. I wonder when the dinosaurs of Scottish football journalism realise that they are heading to oblivion and being superseded by those internet bampots who they denounce, abuse and discredit.


About Author


Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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