Following upon last night’s “call to arms” by an unnamed writer at Rangers (who is suspected to be Jim Traynor, Director of Communications) a further statement came out under his by-line.
I will return to that later however.
Before that I want to comment upon a piece in today’s Daily Record.
Newspapers all across the globe face challenges to their profitability, and even their existence, as a result of new technology, citizen journalism, the increased pace of life, and shortened attention spans.
In Scotland, and probably most acutely in the West of Scotland, there is an additional hazard. Editors need to be aware of upsetting one, or indeed both, of the footballing powers (at least in terms of supporters’ numbers) Celtic or Rangers.
Editors are well aware of what happened to the circulation of the Sun on Merseyside after its coverage of Hillsborough. Whilst thankfully no issue here has had anything like the same importance in terms of press/public relations, there are frequent calls for boycotts.
According to Mr Google, there are, for example, 214,000 search results for “Rangers boycott ‘Daily Record’” and 5.1 million for “Celtic boycott ‘Daily Record’”!
One of the topics of discussion as the Rangers Tax Case continued was why the Scottish media failed to address what seemed to be topics of interest, and as a result the term “succulent lamb” entered common usage.
Clearly an editor, conscious of his bottom line, will want to tread carefully, neither alienating one side nor the other. I do not envy the task. At various gatherings I attended, and as part of conversations with journalist and observers, it was suggested that the commercial bias of the press in the West of Scotland was towards Rangers, simply because the associated fan base was larger than that of Celtic. I do not believe that that was applied as a conscious policy, but rather that it might have influenced decisions about coverage.
All that having been said, it seems, to pick the Record as an example, to have fallen between two stools. Neither Celtic fans nor those of Rangers seem to have much good to say about the paper (or at least the vocal internet fans don’t).
This week saw the pressure heighten even more following the Record’s front page coverage of the Orlit v Rangers dispute. The angry reaction from the Rangers side to the Record having the temerity to re-hash the Rangers press release seems rather odd to me. It fits perfectly what I also posted about yesterday in connection with people reading what they think someone is saying rather than what is actually said.
In fact, on objective reading, I cannot see anything in the Record piece which ought to have been objectionable to Rangers, except for the existence of the article itself.
Maybe coincidentally, or perhaps in an effort to reclaim some of its lost ground, the Record features today articles based on an interview with Sandy Jardine.
Mr Jardine addresses his present health problems, and I am sure everyone reading this wishes him the very best in his recovery.
However, he also is quoted talking about the players who left “Rangers” in the summer. That is what I want to focus on.
Now, Mr Jardine was a distinguished servant of Rangers, Hearts and Scotland during his playing days, and has been involved with Rangers for a long time since then. Nothing I say below is intended to be a slight to him, nor should it be taken that way.
My point is that the Record, possibly in an effort to regain ground with its Rangers supporting readers, has printed comments from Mr Jardine, seemingly without the writer of the piece pointing out or at least questioning what seem to be mistaken assumptions. I reiterate that I am not objecting to the sentiments Mr Jardine expresses, but rather to the unquestioning way in which they are reported.
To the article therefore (with my comments in bold):-
SANDY JARDINE watched elderly people give up their pensions and kids go without pocket money in a desperate effort to keep Rangers float. That’s why it left him sick to the pit of his stomach when he watched the millionaire stars they idolised walk out on the club in their hour of need.
Allan McGregor, Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker, Jamie Ness and Kyle Lafferty were among a group players who opted not to transfer their contracts from oldco Rangers to newco. As a result they could sign for anybody as a free agent while Rangers were denied any possible transfer fee.
For better or worse the players had the choice of accepting employment by the new owner or not. That is their legal right. And as far as denying Rangers a transfer fee, is that not what Mr Green is still pursuing?
Jardine believes their departures were the most saddening aspect of a truly depressing episode.
I wonder how many of his fellow fans would agree.
He said: “I think the players who left in the summer took advantage of the club. I’m quite vociferous in my criticism of them and that was a huge disappointment. Everybody was making sacrifices and I got to see first hand what they were over the past year.
I might be mistaken, but I have a vague memory that, under the control of Duff & Phelps, Rangers and the players agreed for there to be temporary, but sizeable, reductions in wages for the three months or so from administration starting until the end of the season. This was done to enable Rangers to make it to the end of the season. Figures were discussed at the time suggesting that the wage bill was reduced, for those three months, by 75%. The millions of pounds thus saved enabled Rangers to fulfil its fixtures.
Mr Jardine was closely involved with the club at the time. One assumes he spoke to players. Is he unaware that they took wage cuts?
It is also the case that these were wage cuts, not deferrals, so the money not paid, was lost to the players.
“When we set up the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund there were people sending in their pension along with young kids sending in their pocket money.
And despite the sterling efforts of the RFFF in raising several hundred thousand pounds in the period until Mr Green’s takeover, that would have been dwarfed by the money saved by the players taking pay cuts (and pay cuts which they had no obligation to accept!)
Indeed any player who refused to accept a pay cut would have been entitled to walk away as a free agent if the administrators had forced it on them. No one did.
So the fact that pensioners put in their cash and small children gave up pocket money is admirable. However I suspect that very few fans, if any, gave up 75% of their wages for three months when the future of Rangers was in the balance.
“It was hugely saddening to see certain players take advantage of the situation for their own personal gain. I don’t have to name them because they know, and all the fans know as well, who they are. They denied the club of some desperately needed income. The fees from their transfers would have gone a long way to rebuilding the club.
I think the time line has been forgotten somewhere.
From March to May/June the existence of Rangers was in jeopardy. During that time the administrators could have slashed costs by making substantial numbers of employees redundant. They did not.
They could have asked the football authorities for permission to sell players outwith the transfer window. They did not.
Instead they asked the players to accept huge salary cuts. The players accepted, and the team made it to the end of the season.
By that stage, at the end of May, Mr Green’s company, Sevco 5088 Ltd, had been named by D&P as the preferred bidder, and indeed had binding arrangements in place whether or not a CVA was accepted by creditors. So by that point the danger was over.
Therefore the decision of players not to move to the new employer, Sevco Scotland Ltd (Sevco 5088 Ltd somehow having disappeared from proceedings) had no effect on the survival of the team. By the time the players left, the team was saved!
The person who was affected was Mr Green. After all, for £5.5 million he thought he was buying assets now valued at almost £100 million (and which had been valued at in excess of £100 million not long before) AND rights to sell off players which would have brought in £8 million, £10 million, £15 million?
“Given what we went through that was the most disappointing aspect of it all for me.”
I suspect Mr Green was even more disappointed!
Of course, nobody took advantage of a vulnerable club more than Craig Whyte. And Jardine feels the only way to bring proper closure to the whole sorry saga is for the disgraced owner to be put behind bars.
For what, one might ask? For “damaging” a football team?
He said: “Unfortunately these types of cases normally take a couple of years to process. I just hope that for what he did he pays the proper penalty and that goes for anybody else who was involved in any wrongdoing. I would hate to think they got away with that.”
I do not know Mr Jardine’s expertise in these matters. If he is hinting that Mr Whyte engaged in criminal activity, then it normally takes many years for such matters to be investigated, prosecuted, determined, appealed and finalised. A couple of years would be remarkable.
I think it is fair to say that Mr Whyte has paid a penalty already. He is a figure of ridicule and has had his personal life and circumstances splashed across papers, TV and the internet. He is at the sharp end of various civil court actions, and has been the subject of bankruptcy proceedings, although this was resolved by agreement.
If criminal activity has taken place, then it will be dealt with in the normal way.
However I am still unsure of exactly what “crimes” Mr Whyte is alleged to have committed.
And as far as the non-payment of taxes is concerned, I have still never seen anything suggesting that Mr Whyte pocketed the unpaid tax and ran off from Ibrox with it. Instead the millions he withheld from the tax man were used by Rangers before administration, and by Duff & Phelps afterwards, to allow the football team to get to the end of the season.
Put most simply, if Mr Whyte had engaged in a fire sale of players in January 2012, then this would have slashed costs and allowed him to pay the tax bills he had run up at Rangers. Instead he kept all the players, apart from Mr Jelavic, and it was the unpaid tax which funded Rangers, and then the costs of Duff & Phelps, to the Green takeover.
Maybe the reporter on the story could have mentioned that Mr Jardine’s recollection of the time line seemed a wee bit off. Maybe he could have been asked about Mr Whyte’s dealings – as Mr Jardine was employed at Ibrox at the time.
However it looks as if this story is being put out there in an effort to reassure wavering Record readers that the paper is on the Blue side.
As a result we have an article which is unfair to Mr Jardine, to the players involved and indeed to Mr Whyte.
I suspect it won’t make much difference to the Record readership however.
Posted by Paul McConville