The concept of a free press in Scottish football reportage is something of a misnomer. From 1988 to 2011, Rangers escaped scrutiny in the Scottish media. It’s interesting to note that Graham Spiers was one of the journalists who was invited to attend the succulent lamb banquet in 1998 at David Murray’s Jersey Estate. As Traynor, Spiers and Forsyth dined from the crumbs off SDM’s table, he set in train two tax avoidance strategies and an excessive loan culture that resulted in the demise of the club. The media should have been keeping an eye on Murray, not jockeying for positions for his latest PR directive.
The print media are in decline. The Herald relies on advertising revenues to balance their books. The news that two directors of Rangers withdrew a £40,000 account from The Herald, as reported on January 11, has caused considerable concern to the beleaguered broadsheet. The Sports Editor was evidently under some pressure to issue an apology in regard to an article by Graham Spiers, even though the veracity of his comments has not been questioned. The current regime at Rangers have done nothing to curb the offensive anthems at Ibrox, but they don’t want this to be in the public domain.
The ‘red tops’ confine themselves to acres of print in regard to the latest player targets for Mark Warburton, but fail to mention that Rangers are running on fumes and that any available funds have been ring-fenced to pay for King’s litigation costs. Not one journalist from this sector has paused to ask why any Rangers chairman is engaging in so much litigation. To do so they would have to confront the fact that this is a premium that Rangers must bear to allow a career criminal like King on the board. His claims of appreciable wealth are built on sand. As we have seen with Allan, Diagouraga and O’Halloran, we clearly cannot compete to land any player that commands a fee of upwards of £200,000. CFC buy players for £millions, blood them in UEFA tournaments where they are watched by English Premiership scouts, and sell them for eight figures. Rangers are signing out of contract players from the lower echelons of English League One. Where is the £30m that they heralded to the fans when King was seizing control. He apparently slipped into Glasgow last night. Are they planning a short trip to the five star Mar Hall to buttonhole him on his broken promises and lies? They would not begin to even consider this. They would prefer to talk about £5.75m of loans that are awaiting the recompense of equity and ignoring the commercial terms of the £5m loan that was raised to pay off Ashley.
Waging war with the Herald and the BBC is a flawed business strategy. Chris McLaughlin’s ban was temporarily revoked to take advantage of £400,000 of BBC broadcasting revenue, then reinstated with indecent haste. As for the Herald, Chris Jack has provided tens of thousands of free publicity for Rangers ST sales and pay at the gate revenue.
One of the best attended games in British football will be the Rangers v Falkirk game on Saturday. Even with Halliday’s ban, I predict that Rangers will prevail and that Waghorn will score from the penalty spot. My predictions for games at Ibrox have been unerringly accurate. We should be promoting this game via the state broadcaster, not banning journalists for accurate reports of arrests at the game when Hibs were the visitors.
The new regime at Ibrox have been given an easy ride by the media. They paid Level 5 handsomely for propagating innumerable puff pieces. Rangers are by far the biggest story in the Scottish press. Would it not be preferable if this was for the right reasons?