Today’s Daily Express trumpets the latest news story about Rangers FC, under the restrained headline – “GERS THREATEN TO SNUB SPL”.
It gains a place in the “succulent lamb” Hall of Fame.
The piece is below and my comments thereafter.
What I would say as a preamble is that there appears to be a concerted, and so far very successful, media campaign coming from Ibrox. Whether the brainchild of Media House’s Jack Irvine or from in-house, it cannot be denied that after a summer of disaster and possible despair, the press coverage in the last couple of weeks has been remarkably positive.
As with the piece by the BBC mentioning the nine players coming to Ibrox on loan from Newcastle (which I wrote about here recently) the facts or likelihood of the events discussed are ignored.
On the other hand, as the Newcastle loan story would have encouraged fans, especially as season tickets were on sale at the time, do the facts actually matter?
As I describe below this latest piece seems to me to be part of the continuing campaign to boost the credentials of Mr Green as a “True Blue” by having him and the fans singing from the same hymn sheet.
If it is a deliberate strategy, then it seems to be working perfectly. If not, then it is still working perfectly!
Have a read at the article, and I will be back at the end…
“RANGERS may look to stay in the Scottish Football League even if they win three successive promotions. There have already been informal talks inside Ibrox about snubbing a return to the SPL as feelings continue to run high over the perceived treatment of the club.
And last night’s SPL announcement on the make-up of the tribunal to investigate alleged employee benefit trust payments between 2000 and 2011 has added fuel to the fire.
Lord Nimmo Smith, Charles Flint QC and Nicholas Stewart QC will look into possible rules breaches and determine any sanctions. While this has been expected, it has not improved the “persecuted, not punished” feeling within the club or the perception that Rangers have been the subject of a witchhunt.
As a result, the prospect of taking some sort of revenge has been mooted.
“People at the club will have long memories,” Express Sport was told. “They will remember exactly how they have been treated and by whom. Staying within the SFL and having nothing more to do with the SPL has been talked about.
“Clearly, there would be huge issues involved in that, but by considering putting their weight behind the SFL, the club feel the SPL could be left isolated in the future. It could be that the SFL turn out to be the more powerful body.”
By staying outside of the SPL, there would be no prospect of European football for Rangers but the fact rebellion is being discussed within the corridors of power at Ibrox demonstrates the depth of feeling within the club.
Why does this qualify as a “succulent lamb” piece?
As I mentioned above, it encourages the siege mentality which the fans and Rangers FC have at present. The article has nothing in it which could be shown to be false, and I have no reason to believe that it is anything other than entirely truthful, as far as the reporter’s comments and the quotes he mentions are concerned.
The prospect of Rangers FC winning promotion in the next three seasons, and then refusing to accept promotion to the SPL as “revenge” for their perceived treatment, is nonsensical. For one thing, as the piece mentions, there would be no Champions League if the team was not in the SPL. There is so much money to be made in the Champions League that the money men behind Rangers FC could not possibly contemplate a deliberate turning of the back on European income.
Equally, if at that stage the planned share issue has taken place and Mr Green and his backers have ridden off into the sunset carrying bags laden with proceeds from the flotation, will the resolve of the fans to have nothing to do with the SPL remain, if the manager or chairman tells them, as would be the case, that European income would allow them to improve the team more quickly?
For all the dislike of the SPL, and I suspect dislike is a moderate descriptor, would the majority of fans of Rangers FC be happy to see them winning the SFL1 every season whilst turning down promotion?
It is very easy to take a principled stand when the read decision, rather than the hypothetical one, is at least three years away!
It may well be that, as the Express tells us, there have been “informal” discussions about this issue. Being seen to have such discussions will not harm the perception of the new owners. And there is the added bonus of there being no need to make any formal declaration or decision now anyway.
The article then says, without explaining why, that the announcement of the Commission added fuel to the fire and has not improved the perception of a witchhunt.
If Rangers FC had objected to any of the members of the Commission, and the SPL had ignored the objection, then I suspect there might be some cause for concern. However I understand that the procedure involves the names of the members being nominated going to the club involved prior to the public announcement.
Equally the suggestion that, with the support of Rangers FC, the SFL might come to overtake the SPL, makes no sense.
The SFA is not going to transfer its primary allegiance to the lower league set-up. That would involve them effectively demoting an entire division. That is not going to happen.
By the time that the Rangers FC gets back (league reconstruction excepted) to the highest level, it could well be that many of the people at the top of the SPL will have moved on to pastures new.
Dundee took no part in the SPL vote, and relegation could mean that three of the members who voted against admission of Rangers could be gone by the time the Ibrox club is back knocking at the SPL door.
No matter how long the memories, I can see no circumstance in which Rangers FC would decline the chance to be promoted to the top level of Scottish professional football.
If they were to do it, it would be either a tremendous exercise in integrity above financial interests, or else one of the most destructive grudges held in sporting history.
But the intent of the piece being given to the Express has, as far as I can see, been fulfilled.
Rangers FC fans today reading the piece as they head off to their next SFL3 match will be nodding their heads in agreement with the sentiment expressed by the unnamed source. They will feel that, after a long period, there is a leader prepared to stand up to the panjandrums of Scottish football.
As the sun shines on them today, they will feel at one with the ownership. The perception of Mr Green as a “True Blue” becomes stronger with every piece like this in the press.
If, in the summer of 2015, the rumours from Ibrox suggest that they will turn down the chance to play in the SPL in 2015-2016, then that WOULD be a story.
Three years in advance? It is not a story, but a piece of PR, no matter how good a PR puff piece it is.
Posted by Barnum and Bailey McConville