When Sir David Murray made his statement in January 2009 that if Kris Boyd hadn’t been sold then things “could have been bad”, Rangers appeared to be heading for dire desperate straits, with the very real prospect of the grim reaper making an appearance at the marble staircase. Particularly so, when it emerged later that their chairman; the highly esteemed captain of industry that he is; had been employing a negotiating strategy seemingly devised by the Marx Brothers, revealing his hand before the Boyd deal had been formally completed, at a stroke destroying the club’s chances of commanding any sort of significant transfer fees from the hovering English Premiership and Championship vultures, no matter how much cheerleading and hype their media poodles could drum up for their prize assets. There would no Hutton or Cuellar-shaped deliverance; therefore something more extreme would have to be contemplated.
As Celtic opened a seven point lead at the top of the SPL table, the response of the ever publicity hungry Rangers Supporters Trust was to launch a childish, foot stamping “We Deserve Better” campaign, which predictably had nothing constructive to offer and appeared to amount to nothing more than a plea for someone to swoop in on a white charger and extract the club from the financial morass it found itself mired in. On TV and radio, many pundits and “experts” were on the verge of openly weeping, whilst for others total denial was the order of the day, as Craig Paterson spoke of the expected fire sale being a positive turn of events “if Walter [Nosurname] is handed the money to find decent replacements” and Mark Hateley cringingly wrote of “Walter [Nosurname]’s masterstroke” in trying to sell key players halfway through the season.
In contrast, glee and optimism abounded among the Celtic support. All that was required would be a reasonable investment in the playing squad to close out the title race and our perennial foe would be vanquished; perhaps permanently. Of course as we know, due to a complacent board demonstrating a stunning lack of vision and leadership, a manager working his notice, and a stagnant and equally complacent playing squad bolstered only by the instantly anonymous Willo Flood, Celtic themselves practically provided the life raft for the floundering HMS Glasgow Rangers last season. A record of 22 dropped points between January and May 2009 meant that “We Deserve Better” faded away as quickly as it had materialised and rollout of ‘plan of last resort’ was mothballed, temporarily at least.
However in hindsight, writing this as I do in March 2010, watching Celtic limp towards the SPL finishing line, beset on all sides by an openly hostile media; even more openly biased referees; and a Scottish footballing establishment populated almost exclusively by individuals with formal links to Rangers, the thought enters my head that if, as Murray said, things really did get “bad”; it may not have been a harbinger of doom for Rangers as everyone had assumed, but rather for their hated rivals Celtic; as this would leave no other option than to release the hounds from hell in the form of Operation: It Doesn’t Matter How Blatant It Has to Get (OIDMHBIHTG). Craig Levein’s comments in the wake of the Mike McCurry show in May 2008 would prove a microcosm of the challenge Celtic were to be presented with in 2009/10 season.
It was following a poor 1-1 home draw with Hibs in October 2009 that Walter Smith; not for the first or last time; lost his cool completely in a press conference and let the cat out of the bag – the bank was effectively running Rangers. At that point, the Establishment club had already benefited from some customary “honest mistakes” against Hearts, Aberdeen and Celtic, with Celtic on the other hand being denied a match-winning penalty in the final minutes of a game with Dundee United by Celtic-minded referee Steve Conroy (considering a referee to be Celtic-minded not considered to be a symptom of paranoia in Scotland). Despite this, Celtic’s win at Hamilton Accies the day after that now infamous press conference, put us a point clear at the top of the SPL table. This simply would not do; the gloves would have to come off and immediately Celtic would be feeling the full force of OIDMHBIHTG.
OIDMHBIHTG called for a two-pronged attack. Firstly, escalating the cheating, primarily the refereeing decisions, but also the selective use, or more accurately; lack of use; of the completely arbitrary video review panel. Secondly there is the clean-up exercise. A compliant media which diverts attention away from topics and incidents that the Establishment bosses deem undesirable, whilst casting their light in a direction more amenable to the agenda at hand. All of this is fairly straightforward to orchestrate when you have the right people in the right posts –
SFA Chief Executive – Gordon Smith who in his autobiography spoke of trying “extra hard” against “the enemy” (i.e. Catholic schools) in his youth and who also complained of a UEFA “agenda” against Rangers in relation to sectarian and racist chanting, rather than actually countenance confronting the offenders. It was so bad even fellow apologist Jim Traynor had to ask him what part of “F*** the Pope” is not sectarian.
SFA President – George Peat the ex-Airdrie chairman, who in 2008 admitted to meeting with Rangers officials with the intention of changing the date of that season’s Scottish Cup final to give Rangers an advantage in their SPL campaign, without consulting the members clubs or the other finalists, Queen of the South. Peat was filled with indignation when his plans were not ratified and shared this quite openly with official media partner of the ‘RFC Geezanuther Extension’ campaign, the Daily Record.
SFA Head of Communications – Darryl Broadfoot, former chief football writer at the Herald and Rangers season ticket holder.
SPL Head of Communications – Greg Mailer, another Rangers supporter who was set to join the club in a PR role before the Lloyds Group froze all hiring.
SFA Head of Referee Development – Hugh Dallas, the former referee whose propensity for “honest mistakes” to Celtic’s detriment is legendary and something of a running joke in Scottish football circles. Famously awarded Italy a farcical penalty kick against Turkey in Euro 2000 as the sight of a royal blue jersey collapsing under imaginary sniper fire in the penalty area led to the inevitable outcome. Of course, this and every other mistake Dallas made, of which there were many (Dallas’s role in the “Andy Davis” debacle is conveniently forgotten), only led to him being showered with yet more praise by the Scottish media. And they made this guy Head of Scottish referees to carry on the good work.
Scottish Professional Footballers Association Chief Executive – Fraser Wishart, ex-Rangers player who can usually be relied upon to publicly defend Rangers players in times of need, but is much more reticent when the limelight is shone on their Celtic counterparts. Within hours of the latest revelations on Alan McGregor’s private life, judge, jury and executioner Wishart was condemning Celtic supporters on Radio Clyde for the attack “just for the jersey he wears”. He has been noticeably silent over the years about the racist abuse hurled at Aidan McGeady from Rangers fans.
Of course, mentioning facts such as these in relation to the aforementioned individuals, without even actually levelling any accusations of bias, is enough to bring forth a paranoiac reaction of utter derision along with the predictable parrott cry of “paranoia”. In the wonderful Orwellian world that is Scottish football, making simple statements of fact that don’t suit the party line, are enough to instigate frenzied, hysterical accusations of paranoia and malicious intent, far outweighing anything that has emanated from Celtic fans over the years.
These furious knee-jerk reactions are a clear indication that the claims of the “paranoid” indeed have much foundation. Outside the petty insular world of Scottish football, branding opponents “paranoid” or similar is a political tool universally acknowledge as a tactic deployed by those in positions of power who seek to avoid unpalatable debates for the fear of having their duplicity exposed. Whether it be US Administrations, UK Governments or the Soviet Politburo, any opponent branded “radical”, “dissident” or “extremist” may as well be arguing that the earth is flat for all the weight that his argument can carry in the face of so-called sober, informed political commentators. Constrained in this way, the Celtic paranoiac can provide massive quantities of empirical evidence to support his argument, yet the Establishment can rest in the knowledge that as far as everyone else is concerned – the “sober informed commentators” – he is simply howling at the moon.
There is a further irony here in that the same people who will proudly proclaim they are ‘Scotland’s Premier Sporting Institution’ (David Edgar, RST) and the ‘Second Greatest Scottish Institution behind the Church of Scotland’ (Sir David Murray) will lead their media poodle choir in sneering at those who refer to ‘the Establishment’, as if it is the height of irrational paranoia to even suggest such a dynamic exists in Scotland, or that its influence should spread to such a useful arena as Scotland’s first choice opium of the masses; football.
Although this season has taken things to a new low we got a preview of what was in store for us last season, as normal levels of Establishment favouritism plumbed new depths in the closely fought title run-in. To give two examples – the media (for we have no way of knowing the criteria by which these cases are selected, surely this is no coincidence) managed to get a player (Scott McDonald) hauled up before a disciplinary review panel for a tackle that the referee saw, dealt with and in which the opponent on the receiving end (Lee Wilkie) saw no malice, publicly stating as such. In contrast, demonstrating a partisan spirit, which would have put the ‘Free Deirdrie Rashid’ campaign to shame, the media lobbied shamelessly (Darrell King in the Evening Times described the original decision as “ridiculous”) to have a player’s red card rescinded for the minor offence of kicking someone in the head (in the case of Madjid Bougherra).
Of course in each instance the media were successful in their objective. The first case illustrates aptly the cunning nature of the media’s modus operandi, for although the player (Scott McDonald) ultimately received no suspension, it made Glenn Loovens his Celtic team-mate’s position untenable in his own disciplinary case. It was inconceivable that two Celtic players could have the charges against them dismissed no matter how flimsy the prosecution case. So the media got their pound of flesh from Celtic in the end. No doubt this assertion will be dismissed as paranoia by the sober reflections of neutrals, while they nod in agreement at talk of Celtic’s Machiavellian attempts to influence referees this season.
Interestingly in a fantastic coincidence, which just happened to be to the detriment of Celtic, in 228 SPL fixtures consisting of 20,520 minutes of play, plus injury time in season 2008/09; the McDonald and Loovens incidents were the only ones worthy of retrospective action. I find myself wondering if I’ve been transported by aliens to a parallel universe and returned to a world where Scottish football has been replaced by a version where the game is played by a new breed of timorous shrinking violet, excepting the ones who kick goalkeepers in the head of course.
But of course there was a third player to receive a retrospective suspension on the basis of video replay evidence last season, and that was in the case of the brazen cheating of Kyle Lafferty, a story which requires no further elaboration for those with the most passing interest in Scottish football. An outright defence of the player was a step too far even for the Scottish media, but it wasn’t too long before the player was the subject of sympathetic “I’ve learned from this and am a nice guy really” type articles in newspapers and news websites, coupled with simpering praise for the manager with nosurname’s tough line in dealing with the player, by doing, well…, not very much. Smith was reported to have fined the player but no figure was ever revealed and in any event, such action would serve merely to save the club some money on wages at a convenient time given their highly indebted position. This allowed Rangers to emerge from the whole debacle with their 130 years of unsurpassed dignity still intact, in the eyes of the media and their own deluded supporters anyway, with little distinction existing between the former and latter.
Now it isn’t difficult for a paranoiac to imagine how the situation may have panned out differently if the same actions were carried out by Aiden McGeady or Artur Boruc. McGeady was subjected to derision and ridicule from all quarters in the media this season for having the temerity to fall whilst evading a tackle with the potential to cause serious injury. The player and the manager received no media plaudits for seeing the error of his ways or for a dignified handling of the situation. By way of another contrast, when Kevin Thomson made a pathetic attempt to win a penalty by diving into Georgios Samaras in March 2008, Fraser Wishart leapt to his defence -“What I would say is that in many instances players lift themselves off the ground when they think the tackle is coming, then the tackle doesn’t come”. In the face of universal criticism from the Scottish media, no comment from Wishart along similar lines in support of McGeady was forthcoming. Similarly Wishart made no comment when newspapers were carrying headlines of “CON MAN” and “CHEAT” directed at Shunsuke Nakamura in relation to a free-kick awarded against St Mirren in February 2008. All this fury was levelled at Aiden and Naka from the same media who reckon it’s “ridiculous” to red card a player for kicking an opponent in the head. Only in Scotland.
At this point, I think it is reasonable to draw attention to plethora of blatantly incorrect decisions to Celtic’s disadvantage and to Rangers’ benefit. Note – not “debatable”,”questionable” or “dodgy”, but blatantly incorrect of the sort where any reasonable person is left wondering, “what the hell is the referee playing at?”. Celtic supporters will be all too familiar with them, neutrals less so, as the majority have a mysterious habit of disappearing down an Orwellian black hole when it comes to Scottish media reportage.
23 Aug Hearts v Rangers
*Lee McCulloch strikes Hearts goalkeeper Barogh with a flying kick to the abdomen = No action taken.
*Rangers are awarded a match winning penalty (and 2 points) for a foul committed several yards outside the penalty area.
12 Sep Celtic v Dundee Utd
*Referee Steve Conroy refuses to give a penalty to Celtic in the last minute with the score at 1-1 after Darren Dods dives full length in the penalty area and “saves” a Hinkel cross with his arm. Levein later jokes he was disappointed Dods didn’t catch the ball. Celtic denied the high probability of all 3 points (-2 points).
26 Sep Rangers v Aberdeen
*Lee McCulloch is booked for taking Michael Paton out of the play with a stiff-arm elbow to the face. The BBC quaintly describes this as the Rangers player “catching” Paton in the face. They have a way with words. The referee having seen the incident inexplicably (unless you are willing to be paranoid and contemplate the unthinkable) limits the punishment to a yellow card.
4 Oct Rangers v Celtic
*Maloney clearly fouled in the box by Weir = no penalty.
*Maloney clearly fouled in the box by Weir again = no penalty, and a yellow card!
*Weir stamps on McDonald’s shin = no yellow card, no referral to video review panel. These are reserved for Celtic players (see messrs Loovens G and McDonald S).
*Lafferty welcomes Zhi to Scotland by demonstrating his martial arts skills with a flying kick to the groin = no yellow card, no referral to video review panel (see Loovens G, McDonald S).
Celtic fans everywhere are relieved to be the fortunate beneficiaries of such “Old Firm” bias.
8 Nov Falkirk v Celtic
*Celtic “winning” goal in injury time wrongy disallowed for offside. Celtic denied 2 points.
12 Dec Motherwell v Celtic
*Two clear penalties to Celtic denied
*With Celtic leading 3-2 ref Charlie Richmond manages to find 5 minutes of injury time but mysteriously cuts this short and blows the full-time whistle with Fortune bearing down one-on-one with the Motherwell goalkeeper.
3 Jan Celtic v Rangers
*Fortune goal wrongly disallowed. Celtic denied two points.
*Lafferty commits violent late foul on Hinkel. Yellow card given not a red. No hint in the media of this being looked at by the video review panel (see Loovens G, McDonald S)
16 Jan Celtic v Falkirk
*Artur Boruc bizarrely penalised for handing outside the box when kicking downfield from hand. Free-kick awarded to Falkirk in a dangerous position late in the game with the score 1-1. Replays show he was at least 5 yards INSIDE the box when ball released from hand. This kind of award is virtually unheard of in professional football, far less against a team which is perceived to be getting all the decisions going as part of some mythical “Old Firm bias”.
*Penalty not given for foul on behind on Fortune. Eddie May admits in post-match interview that it was a penalty. Celtic denied the high probability of a winner from the spot.
30 Jan Hamilton v Celtic
*Rasmussen booked for leaving the field of play after scoring. Technically a correct decision but a rule that is not applied to any other SPL team, most notably in instances involving MacLean of Aberdeen and Lafferty of Rangers.
10 Feb Motherwell v Rangers
*A Ross Forbes “goal” which would have put Motherwell 2-0 ahead and in a strong position to win the game is disallowed for “offside” despite being several yards onside. The game ends 1-1 and Rangers gain a point which they would have been unlikely to have secured without the help of the officials’ appalling mistake.
10 Feb Celtic v Hearts
*Robbie Keane wrongly flagged for offside FIVE times
13 Feb Aberdeen v Celtic
*Diamond kicks Fortune in the ribs = free-kick to Aberdeen
*O’Dea booked for kicking the ball away then later sent off
*McGeady booked for kicking the ball away
*McLean leaves the field of play after scoring whilst on a yellow card = no 2nd yellow
*McLean kicks the ball away in the closing minutes whilst on a yellow = no 2nd yellow card.
14 Feb Rangers v Hibernian
*Kris Boyd elbows Zemmama in the face and is laughably given a yellow card for “obstruction”. The BBC does its bit to put a gloss on things by describing the act as a “naughty elbow in the midfielder’s face”. Tut tut Mr Boyd, this really won’t do. By coincidence the farcical designation of the offence as obstruction, not the violent conduct it patently was, allows Rangers’ top goalscorer to avoid suspension for the forthcoming fixture against Celtic. Celtic fans everywhere are rapturous at once again benefiting from bias to the “Old Firm”.
17 Feb Rangers v St Mirren
*Lafferty kicks the ball away and receives a lecture from the referee and no yellow card. Presumably the referee is clarifying the 3 strikes and he might think about booking you if you don’t play for Celtic rule.
28 Feb Rangers v Celtic
*Madjid Bougherra booked in the fourth minute for stamping on Robbie Keane. Bougherra goes on to commit a further EIGHT fouls without further sanction.
*Scott Brown sent off for a “headbutt” after being grabbed around the neck and throat by Kyle Lafferty. Media reaction is almost universal that the referee was mistaken and that Lafferty should have been booked also. However the ire and sense of outrage which was provoked by last season’s Bougherra/Langfield case is noticeably absent in any comment. Certainly no-one in the Scottish media felt it was “ridiculous”. One person who did was former English Premiership referee with suspiciously Irish-sounding name, Dermot Gallagher, who said on Sky Sports that it was never a sending off in a million years. Welcome to the paranoid ward Dermot.
6 Mar Rangers v St Mirren
*Davie Weir hauls Michael Higdon back just outside the penalty area when the St Mirren striker had a clear goalscoring opportunity. Charlie Richmond awards a foul but fails to even caution the Rangers defender, prompting Gus McPherson (an ex-Rangers player) to fume “We see a different set of rules getting applied, none more so than when we come here”. Prepare another bed for the paranoia ward nurse! George Peat, who had needed little invitation to get stuck into Celtic for raising the issue of refereeing, has no comment to make. In contrast, the dignified manager with nosurname, launched into an extraordinary paranoiac rant “Everybody wants people to get ordered off and everybody wants penalties against us and everybody wants everything against us at the present moment”, seemingly without pausing to consider that if “Everybody” really feels this way, then maybe everbody has a point. Predictably the Scottish newspapers gloss over the Rangers manager’s embarrassing outburst, spinning into some sort of injustice against the hard-done-by Establishment club.
7 Mar Falkirk v Celtic
*Robbie Keane flagged for offside when TV pictures prove he was at least FIVE YARDS onside. Any complaints are dismissed as paranoia on the basis that Celtic won the game anyway.
14 Mar Rangers v Dundee United
*Two weeks after his Bougherra-Brown show, Dougie McDonald awards Rangers two penalties incorrectly.
Now I’m sure anyone of sound-mind could go away and find an equal number of instances where Celtic have been wrongly awarded a throw-in, corner or indirect free-kick on the halfway line to prove another unthinking stock answer of the neutral/apologist, “these things even themselves out over a season”. Such is the beauty of good propaganda and the “paranoia” parrott cry, which underpins it all.
What is significant though, is that Rangers never suffer from such slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune when it comes to referees. Sure, Scott McDonald scored a goal against them in April 2008 which was a nanometre offside and therefore should have been disallowed, and God knows did we not hear enough about it for the next 18 months? However the ridiculous, blatant, obvious decisions that Craig Levein referred to soon after that injustice, never go against them.
In November 2008, Derek Johnstone joined Walter Smith in the gutter with a piece entitled “Murphy’s Bitter” in the Evening Times in support of the dignified manager with no surname’s rant against Tom Murphy, which mysteriously name-checked the official – “Mr Murphy was quick to raise his flag here and he was quick to raise his flag at Celtic Park last season” – following a correct offside decision against Kris Boyd at Motherwell. In Scotland you see, nods, winks and hints peppered with sectarian overtones are OK if they are made by the right people and cast in the right direction; otherwise paranoia, or worse, is the instant diagnosis. Earlier in the season when a DaMarcus Beasley goal was mistakenly chalked off after a borderline offside call against Aberdeen, Smith was also casting aspersions at officials “It’s an incredible decision for a linesman who is in line with the play… We got a bad one at Tannadice earlier this season, which has been forgotten about, maybe because we don’t make that much of a fuss about it – same situation here”. OK, so you’re not making a fuss about it by ranting about it now and linking it to all sorts of decisions in the past which displeased you? Such is the prerogative of the manager of the Establishment team who was a servile media at his disposal to mould every utterance into a thing of statesmanlike dignity.
So, what to do about a string of “bad” decisions perceived to be largely favouring one team, and a manager who has been severely critical of officials on several occasions, introducing an ominous sectarian dimension to his grievances? Did the Scottish football authorities follow the 2010 model of conducting an intensely derisive media campaign to discredit every complainant as paranoid, vigorously defending the honour of referees at every opportunity, insisting they only ever make “honest mistakes” and demand action be taken against the manager in question for breaching SFA rules on criticism of referees? Of course not, this is Scotland. What they did was convene a summit at Hampden Park to discuss concerns over the standard of refereeing! You couldn’t make it up. Paranoiacs may also recall that this summit in August 2008 was in part a hangover from a lingering and rather virulent strain of Rangers paranoia from the previous season – the ‘Everybody’s-against-us-and-willnae-gee-us-another-extention’ strain.
Back in the present day, it is also true to say the current Celtic team has a number of deficiencies. However the shortcomings of the Celtic team and ostensible refereeing bias are not mutually exclusive concerns. When supporters of St Mirren, Kilmarnock and Falkirk get on their moral high-horse built on sand and manure, to preach about “Old Firm” bias, the response that they are mince anyway is not one that is considered acceptable, so why should Celtic be obliged to accept such half-baked logic?
It’s no coincidence that Conroy and Murphy (spot the connection) are the only two officials which the Scottish media have countenanced criticism of, and were prepared to put on the defensive. After Conroy displeased the Establishment club by sending off Pedro Mendes for a harmless flying kick to the abdomen followed by a careless two-footed lunge on a Kilmarnock player back in September, the Scottish media took a sudden unaccustomed interest in the following week’s Motherwell-Hibs game which Conroy just happened to be officiating. Of course the same media showed not an iota of concern for the much more compelling case of Kilmarnock’s Manuel Pascali who also ordered off after a second yellow card for an innocuous pull an opponent’s jersey on the halfway line. In any case, headlines of “I Back Whistler Conroy – Hughes” started appearing in the redtops as hacks suddenly developed an unprecedented preoccupation with the Hibs manager’s opinion of Steve Conroy. The top story on STV’s Friday evening sports bulletin concerned the Hibs managers’ support for the “under-fire” referee as John Hughes was reported to have “no concerns over Conroy handling the match”. This followed the type of interview with Raman Barwaj usually reserved for the eve of a Cup Final.
Why Steve Conroy was “under-fire” and why Hughes should have any “concerns” were clearly understood by everyone. It’s been a long time since a Motherwell-Hibs match was the top Scottish sports story and it’ll be a long, long time until that is the case again. Of course it is no coincidence Steve Conroy did not come “under fire” after the ridiculous decision not to award a penalty to Celtic against Dundee United on September 12th. The message to Conroy is clear – “We’re watching you. If you’re going to make a mistake, you damn well better make sure that mistake benefits the Establishment team or there will be repercussions.”
Another charge which was levelled at Conroy was that his performance was “card-happy”. Sensationalist radio hack Ewen Cameron got stuck into Conroy on his radio phone-in show, expressing his contempt and disbelief at the “fussiness” of the referee in dishing out an “unprecedented” eleven yellow cards in the game (6 to Kilmarnock and 5 to Rangers, with a player from each side sent off, although no-one in the impartial media showed one iota of concern for the much more compelling case of Manuel Pascali – yeah you forgot Kilmarnock got a player sent off didn’t you?). This was an interesting new tactic from the media in discrediting a persona non-grata official. Although many in the press described the Mendes sending off as “harsh”, such an assertion really was stretching the realms of credibility, therefore the overly fussy referee dishing out yellow cards like sweeties was the angle of attack. Now it goes without saying that the issuing of eleven yellow cards in one game was as much a precedent as the mythical Rangers ‘Quadruple’ of 2008 was.
To illustrate, back in October 2007, Rangers defeated Celtic 3-0 at Ibrox in a game where eleven yellow cards were issued, NINE of which were given to Celtic players by a certain official by the name of Mike McCurry. Cameron, nor anyone else in our scrupulous Scottish media expressed any sort of concern on this matter, other than the odd assertion that Celtic players lost their discipline in the game. Paranoiacs may recall that in a match where the “fussy”, referee, dished out eleven yellow cards, Daniel Cousin of Rangers managed to avoid even being booked for knocking Stephen McManus unconscious with a headbutt to the temple, with the ball so remote from the play it was practically in Siberia.
By the way, Ewen Cameron makes a big show of claiming to be a Hearts fan and constantly showers himself with praise for being “outspoken” and “calling it as he sees it”. I guess the royal blue glasses weren’t too good for his vision back in October 2007, but a new prescription pair got things back into focus by the time Rangers visited Kilmarnock in September last year. Of course Cameron is doing nothing more than toeing the poodle party line.
The Real Radio presenter also demonstrated a curious lack of concern at the treatment meted out to his own team, Hearts [stifled laughter], at the hands of the referee in the 2-1 defeat to Rangers back in August. Instead he used his precious air-time to bemoan the Kevin Thomson sending off as harsh, confirm that a penalty awarded for a foul yards outside the box against the team he purports to support was indeed the correct decision, and to wax lyrical and at length about the “fantastic” Rangers supporters who were “a joy to speak to” and how fortunate he was to have had the “absolute privilege” to share a recent train journey with. Listening patrons of the Glasgow Underground immediately began to check their radios for a technical fault.
Of course, Cameron is a typical case, Scottish football journalists consisting of a strange cohort of Celtic, Hearts, St Mirren, Dundee United, Motherwell, St Johnstone, Aberdeen, Clyde, Airdrie United and Shettleston Juniors supporters with not a Rangers fan in sight. No Scottish football journalist; that group who take great pride in describing themselves in self-aggrandising pieces as “fans with typewriters”, is a supporter of Glasgow Rangers; the most popular and best supported team in the country (in terms of those who identify themselves as fans of that club, if not in other aspects such as behaviour). It is almost inconceivable to the paranoiac that this could genuinely be the case given that it effectively turns the demographic of the wider Scottish football fan completely on its head. However, that is only the view of the paranoiac, and instead we are reassured by those of sound mind that the implausible reality presented to us, is indeed the truth, and that our next dose of soma is now due.
Actually, there is an exception that proves the rule, Graham Spiers is a self-confessed Rangers fan, who is ironically castigated and treated as an anti-Rangers, pro-Celtic leper by fans who share his affiliation, for such heinous acts as refusing to join the rest of his peers in the Scottish media in acting as an apologist for the slur against Jock Stein, the racist Famine Song and the abominable violence in Manchester in 2008. For his trouble he was also branded a “lickspittle” by the Daily Record’s Jim Traynor, an irony comparable with Shane McGowan berating someone for having a glass of wine with lunch.
So I have written at length about the various pillars, which enthusiastically rally, to the cause of Scotland’s Establishment club, but what can be done to improve if not redress the situation? Inspiration may be drawn from one Fergus McCann. McCann’s arrival in 1994 posed a formidable threat to the Rangers-dominated order of Scottish football; therefore the usual tactics were employed. Along with the obligatory paranoia, he was derided as a mean, penny-pinching, out of touch, pedantic, bully. However the reason for this treatment stretched beyond the usual insular Scottish jaundiced agendas and self-serving bias. This guy had them rattled. McCann was a self-made man who had returned to Scotland from a North American litigious culture and had not the slightest reservation about employing legal routes to achieve his and the club’s goals.
And of course he got us our smoking gun moment in court via the Jorge Cadete ‘affair’, an achievement for which alone he deserves a statue erected to him outside Celtic Park. Despite three years of derision and paranoia jibes from the apologist media; in a court of law; it was proven that the SFA had cheated Celtic. This did not actually come from the judgement of the court, as the SFA resorted to the standard tactic of any institution guilty of corruption, blame it all on one “rogue” person of evil spirit acting alone to serve their own agenda, independent of the organisation. This simply doesn’t wash. It is inconceivable that Jim Farry could have lasted three years obstructing and obfuscating, with the full support of the media in such a case where Rangers were the injured party. Farry was able to operate within a culture amenable to progressing an agenda against Celtic and to blame everything on one individual; however culpable he clearly was; is utterly mendacious.
So we have to get them in court for another smoking gun moment. Proving deliberate cheating by a referee would be an extremely difficult undertaking, but not impossible, as demonstrated in German and Italian football in 2005 and 2006 (Italian and German referees being made of lesser moral fibre than our altruistic Scottish referees of course). A more realistic point of attack is the media who prop up the whole rotten institution with their daily lies and agendas. Referees can operate as they do because they know they are immune from criticism in the media when their “honest mistakes” encumber Celtic. In contrast, anything that is even remotely perceived to have disadvantaged Rangers (see Mendes sending off) is pounced upon; the official concerned is the subject of jibes and innuendo, and is the subject of a level of media scrutiny worthy of the Nuremberg Trials. Not difficult then, to see how one or two or ten decision may go against Celtic and go favour of Rangers via “honest mistakes”.
With the current media lobby system of kow-towing to the Establishment club we will never know the true level of corruption within Scottish refereeing ranks. Several Scottish football “experts” have said publicly that if we are going to start questioning the integrity of Scottish referees then we might as well take the ball home and give up. A bizarre logic that in essence says we would rather continue to play the game without knowing whether or not it is a corrupt charade. By the way, Jim Callaghan and Kevin O’Donnell would take issue with the disingenuous use of the word “starting” with regard to the consequences for referees who have their integrity questioned. Needless to say their mistakes did not follow the habitual pattern, leading to a quick exit from involvement at a professional level in Scottish football.
So clearly the notion that we might actually introduce fairness to the game is something that cannot be tolerated by the Scottish media, therefore they cannot be trusted to confirm or refute if bias does exist to Rangers. And it wouldn’t be too hard an undertaking for a journalist to investigate. Circumstantial evidence abounds. For example the playing of ‘Simply the Best’ by a certain minister in his church services, the presence of certain officials on Rangers Supporters Buses or at Orange Walks, the recently retired referee and his guest slot down the Lodge, and of course one in particular on the supporter’s club after dinner speaking circuit, with his legendary boasts never to have refereed a game which Rangers lost. All of this is well known anecdotally to most Scottish football fans but no Scottish football journalist has considered this an appropriate line of enquiry, just as they all to a man and woman, failed to investigate the Jorge Cadete case, a case where the volume of documentary evidence that existed meant that the defence case collapsed completely upon the most cursory of legal preliminaries. Any diligent journalist could have broken the Cadete/Farry story, but I suppose “honest mistakes” are as common among the Scottish media as among referees. Fergus had to get his lawyer involved to get the job done.
The Establishment is always going to prevail under this media model; the only way to change things is to revise the model. Sites like Celtic Underground, Celtic Quick News, Kerrydale Street, ‘Mon the Hoops, E-Tims and a plethora of others, are eroding the Old Media’s influence via the Internet. You just need to ask your average Celtic fan for their views on the Scottish press and media and you don’t have to go too far to find total contempt. The more forums, blogs, podcasts and other fan generated media that becomes available, then the less influence the poodles in the Laptop Loyal will have setting the framework of the debate. Eventually when the printed media dies, or evolves into a more web-based form, it will have to compete with these fan generated sources and somewhere down the line they’ll end up on the edge of the of the debate and the ones who persist in acting as nothing more than mouthpieces for the views and interests of Rangers FC will take over the mantle of the lunatic fringe, because the fans will be setting the parameters themselves. When this day comes, referees will no longer be free to skip around Ibrox dishing out yellow and red cards to Celtic players with impunity for imagined headbutts, scoring a goal in front of the Copland Road Stand or for being ginger and “niggly”.
My message to the Celtic Family is this – don’t buy the Daily Record, don’t buy the Sun, don’t phone Radio Snide, don’t phone Fake Radio, don’t engage with them, don’t give them the oxygen that keeps the beast breathing and fighting; and make no mistake; this beast wants to put a hose in your mouth and turn the ignition on, this beast wants to squeeze every last ounce of breath from you. You wouldn’t buy the Rangers News or subscribe to Rangers TV, so why the hell would you subscribe to them under another guise? Because if you are buying and reading these newspapers and contributing to these radio phone-in shams, that is exactly what you are doing. We have to force them out of business, or at least to a place where the writing is on the wall for them.
Maybe when that day comes, we’ll see the dawn of Operation: We’ve Got No Choice But to Give Them a Level Playing Field.