On 27th March 2011, events of major importance happened all around the world.
The Syrian government deployed the army to the country’s main port to help bring the national unrest to an end – that hasn’t worked.
The Libyan government under Colonel Gaddafi was claiming that it was in charge of the country despite the efforts of the Libyan rebels to capture Sirte – that definitely didn’t work.
Scotland lost 2-0 to Brazil – ah well.
The UK census took place – you could have counted on that.
David Cameron was complaining about demonstrations in London the previous day – plus ca change.
Rangers FC was on the way to winning another SPL title – plus ca change parte deux.
David Murray was negotiating to sell his team to the Motherwell born billionaire, Craig Whyte – we all know how that turned out, thanks to the next entry.
Yes, it was then that the Rangers Tax Case Blog first saw the light of day.
The anonymous author described the blog as “born out of the wilful ignorance of the Scottish media on this story.”
He referred to the media “reprinting unbelievable PR fiction related to Rangers as news” and of ignoring the tax story.
RTC said that he would be:
- Explaining what Rangers have been accused of doing
- Exploding many of the myths and falsehoods printed in the Scottish media
- Revealing why HMRC feel so confident about this case
- Discussing the implications of HMRC winning the case on Rangers FC
He made it clear that he was a Celtic fan, but would endeavour to be dispassionate and factual.
As he said, “Hopefully, this blog can help shed some light on the most important issue facing Scottish football currently and can help be a clearing-house to dispel the many myths which will likely grow exponentially as the First Tier Tribunal resumes.”
It was not on the agenda that the blog would achieve millions of hits.
It was not planned that there would be literally thousands of comments on each post.
It was not thought possible that the blog would find itself quoted, sometime with attribution and sometimes not, in the very same mainstream media.
It was not anticipated that the Orwell Prize for Blogging would be awarded to RTC within a year.
However, after less than one hundred blog posts over sixteen months, all of these and more can be credited to a website which has done what, in years past, would have been the job of investigative reporters.
Now his work is done, and he plans to move on to pastures new.
We can debate as many have the cause of this change. Economics seems to be the answer, as newspapers cut staff numbers but look for ever increasing production from them.
The time and resources involved in researching a story can, it seems, no longer be justified, especially if, once the facts are discovered, the story can’t be printed, or where the facts do not stand up at all.
I am not in the press, although as an outsider I was privileged to address the Scottish Press Club, but it looks to me that the Rangers Tax Case has been a huge missed opportunity for the press in Scotland.
Based on nothing other than investigative work and reasoned analysis, RTC has achieved all of the things I listed above, and more.
If a brave reporter, and it would have taken bravery, had run with the story over the last sixteen months, where would that paper be now – what awards and accolades would it have won – might it even had boosted circulation?
The view I have heard from a number of people both inside the media and outside is that the apparent “pro-Rangers” bias in the Scottish media was not the result of some conspiracy – instead it was economics.
The readership which supported Rangers was larger than that which supported Celtic. Printing negative stories about Rangers risked more damage to a paper’s circulation than printing negative stories about Celtic.
The reverse was true as well – positive stories about Rangers were better for readership numbers than positive stories about Celtic.
Ironically the result of this calculation has been that, from what I read on the internet, neither group of fans feel that the media does its job or can be trusted, and therefore the effort seems to have been wasted.
Over the course of the story RTC has been consistently, along with a handful of others like Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, ahead of the game. He achieved scoops both by his own work, and also, as the site grew, by the “crowd sourcing” which followed.
RTC became a clearing house for ideas and debate, and analysis of Companies House forms, court documentation, legal actions and the minutiae of tax legislation became matters of daily discussion not just in the blog but elsewhere.
Over and above all of that effort, from many committed commenters, came thorough analysis of the dealings of the SFA and SPL. Bearing in mind that one of the declared reasons for the blog was the fear of a stitch up by the football authorities, the light shone upon them has been instrumental in ensuring that the situation of a football club going bust owing over £100 million was not dealt with in private, behind closed doors, by way of a friendly handshake or two, and via the old boys’ network.
The football authorities are still blinking their way into the sunlight, but they know that what they say and do will be analysed and scrutinised in ways which did not happen before.
Looking back in history, could the Jorge Cadete registration fiasco have happened if (a) the internet had existed as it does today and (b) the RTC inspired analysts were looking at events daily, and indeed hour by hour?
Even more than that achievement, I think RTC deserves to be commended for being responsible for bringing together supporters of all teams and none. Even some brave fans of Rangers ventured onto RTC to make their cases.
For all of the hatred (which is not too strong a word) which emanated from some online supporters of the Ibrox club, RTC was not a partisan site. Ideas and comments were encouraged from all quarters and treated with respect by the vast majority of visitors.
RTC set his house rules early on, and thus managed to avoid having the site descend into “whataboutery”, abuse, name calling, hatred and prejudice, all of which are dangers online.
I know from my own experience here that moderation of comments becomes an onerous task, although never a burden. I am sure RTC would be gratified to wake up in the morning to find a hundred new comments awaiting moderation. He would then wonder how, whilst getting ready for his daily activities, he could squeeze in the moderation over his tea and toast.
To his credit, he never wavered and this too promoted the growth of the site. People knew that, as long as they stayed within house rules, their comments would appear on the site.
Mind you, the filter which trapped the word “hun” was always something I forgot, leading me to wonder why a post had got stuck, till I realised that I had mentioned “hundreds” or “Hungary” or “Delahunt”.
As well as all of the thoughtful and detailed analysis, there has been tremendous humour too. The commenters whose remarks were guaranteed to provoke a smile, and even laughing out loud, are too many to mention.
If a laugh was needed, you could guarantee a few good ones on every page.
So, in the words of the Peoples Front of Judaea, or is it the Judaean Peoples’ Front, what has RTC ever done for us?
He has broken news stories about the biggest football story on Britain for years.
He has broken stories about one of the biggest corporate insolvencies in Scotland.
He has exposed efforts to hoodwink the fans of Rangers by past owners of the company, even though the fans of the team refused to accept the truth.
He has built a community across Scotland which has resulted, I know myself, in the creation of friendships, both virtual and face to face, which would not have come about without the site.
A Scottish wide football community has come together to hold the football authorities to account, and armed with the knowledge coming from the site, the fans of many teams have forced their own Boards to pay attention to their views.
He has encouraged other bloggers, like me, to take up the baton in our particular fields.
He has made “succulent lamb” a by-word for the type of media coverage which has failed.
He has made “99% crap” and “internet bampots” into badges of honour.
He has provoked memories of taking a Mouldmaster on the thigh on a freezing cold day on a red blaes pitch (not a Blue Pitch Holdings reference).
What does the future hold for RTC?
We do not know, as he has maintained his anonymity despite the frantic efforts of some to identify and locate him, or to have his site taken down for all of the “lies” he was telling about Rangers. None of these ploys has worked.
The list of people who have been identified, wrongly, as RTC is long and honourable. Indeed I have even been suggested as being the author of it. However, RTC has the power of brevity which I sorely lack, and he is a Celtic supporter, whilst I follow Albion Rovers. J
Lawyers, professors, accountants, journalists, bloggers and Peter Lawwell himself have all been “accused” of writing it.
Maybe if the fans of Rangers had paid attention to what was being read and discussed on RTC, rather than engaging in campaigns of abuse against the author, or presumed author, then things at Ibrox might have progressed differently, although maybe not.
All it remains for me to say is thank you RTC for a fantastic blog, and the creation of something infinitely bigger and greater than you could possibly have intended when you started.
We now await your book, which will soar to the top of the best seller list, and rightly so.
Maybe once your book succeeds, you will have the money to buy The Rangers FC….
To end, in the words of the dolphins as they left the earth just prior to its demolition to make way for a hyperspace bypass “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish”!
Posted by Paul McConville
(We are all RTC)