Essential reading for supporters of all Scottish football Clubs
I was asked to review Tangled Up In Blue possibly because my on line offerings, oft-times with the assistance of crowd think, tend to be as evidenced based fact as possible, with an eye for detail that if missed can produce a narrative that deviates from the story the factual evidence tells.
In that context what is very obvious from reading Tangled Up In Blue is that the author Stephen O Donnell has put a great deal of research into his book that covers the history of Rangers from its foundation in 1872, through its incorporation in 1899, when the club became the limited liability company called The Rangers Football Club Plc , (just as Celtic had two years earlier), to its liquidation in 2012 when it became RFC 2012 plc (in liquidation).
The “new club/company” replacing RFC 2012 Plc (quoting the words of Andre Traverso the then Head of UEFA Club Licensing to explain no sanctions possible against the new club/company now called The Rangers FC Ltd) had to wait three years from its acceptance into Scottish football in August 2012 before it was eligible to apply for a UEFA licence, having fulfilled the requirement under Article 12 of UEFA FFP to have held full membership of the Scottish Football Association for longer than three years, a requirement finally met at the start of the 2016/17 licencing cycle.
Tangled Up in Blue, to be published on 19th August , is not only a reminder of the events surrounding the demise of what was perceived by Scottish society as a great institution, but in devoting the early part of the book to Rangers footballing and managerial past, provides further insight into the mindset of the culture and it’s thinking , that inevitably led to the events of 2012 resulting in an attempt by Scottish Football Authorities to untangle.
An attempt which itself has subsequently entangled Scottish football in an ongoing web of deceit, caused by the 5 Way Agreement between the SFA, the then SPL and SFL, Sevco (who then became “The Rangers Football Club PLC”) and the failed insolvent “The Rangers Football Club Ltd” in late July 2012.
The passage of time since 2012 and what was not fully reported domestically (only the revelations in “Downfall – How Rangers FC Self Destructed” by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a journalist based in Ireland, introduced by Alex Thomson an English journalist, tell the tale) and what has happened in the disentangling years since 2012, allows a fresh perspective.
As we all know, if you stand too close to a painting you will miss the full picture and Tangled Up In Blue , with the perspective time provides, paints a clear picture, one where the curtains have not been drawn back because, frankly, it is not a pretty one. It does not reflect well on Rangers or a Scottish society that perceived Rangers FC Ltd as a great Scottish institution nor does it do the credibility of Scottish football journalism any credit whatsoever.
The role of the Scottish main stream media in keeping the curtain closed comes across in terms of non or restrained reporting of events, not just in our current lifetime, but during a past where a sectarian policy of not signing Catholics was pursued for decades with no comment and where full culpability was never accepted by or imposed on Rangers as a result of deserved critical media comment, when disasters either great in human terms, like the Ibrox staircase 13 disaster in 1971 or serious in PR terms, like the reporting of supporters behaviour in Manchester 2008 before and after the UEFA Cup Final, happened.
When reading Tangled Up In Blue I was reminded of this quote in bold from “Debt of Honour” by Tom Clancy, page 530: “You can’t trust your memory with things that affect live patients. One of the first things they teach you in medical school.’ Cathy shook her head as she finished up. ‘Not in this business. too many opportunities to screw up. “If you don’t write it down, then it never happened.”
This has been the primary device used by the media in Scotland since 2012 where evidence of what really took place behind the scenes has either not been published or paid little heed to by our mainstream media when anything (like the Tax Justice Network report on the SFA handling of Rangers demise) has surfaced. Apart from the informative “Downfall”, were it not for social media and a host of intrepid bloggers, what did happen to “Rangers” in 2012 didn’t happen.
There are various reasons for not writing it down that might require a book on its own. Fear of the impact on a newspaper’s sales, and by extension a journalist’s job, is one. Fear of the consequences of committing the story to print is real, and very understandable – and it wasn’t only journalists who had reason to be fearful. Others who dared pass official SFA judgement on Rangers governance found themselves under threat too when, in answer to the question “who are these people”, their names were “written down”.
When it comes to writing it down or not, and the consequences of doing so, what happened after BBC’s Jim Spence, who lost his job after only verbally mentioning an issue very sensitive to Rangers fans, is interesting.
An idea using terminology from the secret 5 Way Agreement surreptitiously seeped its way into public consciousness, by being written about and took root by being adhered to by the media who, apart from Jim Spence, benefited from the consequence of doing so.
This idea once written allowed the introduction of a previously unheard of concept of the separation of a club from its owner when up until then all football supporters, including those of Rangers, only ever thought of The Rangers Football Club Ltd as Rangers – a football club effectively owned by itself.
This selective reporting/not reporting strongly suggests that apart from the fear aspects previously covered, some/many of the football journalists and media pundits were and continue to be Tangled Up In Blue themselves. This entanglement is one that serves no club in Scottish football well, but particularly the Rangers of today, where their debt driven/UEFA money dependency business model remains unwritten and so un-examined for impact on fellow member clubs.
This review is being published as a Scottish Football Monitor blog to reach a wider Scottish footballing supporter readership because all Scottish football clubs were affected by an entanglement in a web of deceit to some degree or another that continues still. In a world plagued by lies and liars, the truth has to prevail and where better to make that happen than in our own back yard where Scottish football is played?
Perhaps though supporters of one club more than any other who should read the book and benefit from so doing, are unlikely to because, as mentioned earlier, the picture it paints is not a pretty one.
Whilst they might see Tangled Up In Blue as a harsh judgement of a great Scottish Institution, it also provides an opportunity to think again about what they think, and the culture their thinking created that has led to nothing but the kind of woe the philosophy of the Pharisees attracted. And that will persist until there is a change of minds and hearts about who they are, what they aren’t, and what they want to be.
In the spirit of encouraging a metanoia, Tangled Up In Blue might persuade any open minded Rangers supporting reader to consider the words of Rabbie Burns, a wise and respected Scottish Institution, of a way towards inner change. That may prove difficult given their fans’ response at Kilmarnock in the aftermath of their club’s recent announcement of a diversity and inclusion campaign to help tackle discrimination and promote positive fan behaviour. But here it is in hope;
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!
The response by Rangers supporters to Tangled Up In Blue will be an indicator of the distance their diversity and inclusion journey has to travel.
Who knows, SFM might be a station on that journey depending on the nature of responses to this blog.