A response to Tom English - there is no disgrace at Ibrox!

One of the remarkable aspects of Rangers' financial calamity in 2012 was the open glee from many in Scottish society. Not just from rival fans but otherwise respected and intelligent professionals. With the club now masters of their own destiny and the fans impressive loyalty ensuring survival, that glee has slowly turned to anger.

It’s in this context that the Scotsman article ’Rangers spin can’t take away the disgrace’ by Tom English has to be read. Not because I believed he was one of those who enjoyed Rangers’ problems, but because I didn't. Tom is a fine sportswriter, who although inconsistent on bigotry issues, has still been one of the bravest in pointing out that sectarianism/offensive behaviour is not a Rangers only problem. The fondness for IRA symbolism and sympathy among Celtic fans is there to see if you have the courage to open your eyes and Tom has.

If anything, the partisanship of some bloggers and freelance journalists is all too obvious to him and he doesn’t flinch in pointing it out. Who can forget his take-down of the appalling ‘Rangers Tax-Case’ site in which he described it as ‘poisonous’? Most journalists who previously praised it suddenly stopped mentioning it, but Tom English had more integrity. He didn’t just let it slide.

However on the ‘anniversary’ of Rangers’ administration took a different tone, one that he has been cultivating for a short while and has now crystallised. In his short article, Rangers and the fans were said to still carry a ‘disgrace’ because they ‘brazenly refused to pay a bill to the taxman of upwards of £15 million and there is no amount of Green bluster that will wipe that from the record.’

Although on the face of it this was a report about finance at Ibrox, it clearly wasn’t. It was an emotional and angry piece that didn’t try to specify who was at fault because when we get into specifics none of it makes sense. The article was the equivalent of a 14-year old screaming that they hate everyone while running to their room sulking. They don’t really mean it and it’s more a statement of how they are feeling inside than anything happening in the outside world. Let me explain why.

Tom English is saying that Rangers should continue their ‘humiliation’ and ‘disgrace’ and says it won’t go away. But who should carry this weight? Charles Green and the investors? It surely can’t be them since they had nothing to do with the ‘oldco’ mismanagement. The employees then? Nope, it can’t be them either since they paid their tax (everyone did except Whyte) and suffered from not knowing if they would even have a job to pay the bills. The only other people currently at Ibrox who should share the blame is the fans. But how can it be them? They had no input on the financial calamity and have impressively kept the club alive at great cost.

The only person responsible for ‘brazenly’ refusing to pay tax is Craig Whyte. No-one else knew it was going on and it wasn’t done to help Rangers FC. Don’t forget, it was these actions that nearly destroyed everything at Ibrox and there was no glory in what happened then or where Rangers are now. Tom English must know this yet Craig Whyte doesn’t even get a mention. His frustration is vented outward trying to hit a target, any target. It doesn’t matter who is really to blame as long as the bullseye has Rangers next to it.

But why? Well there is one sentence that lets the cat out the bag. His outrage over a Rangers TV programme called 'the Rising' in which Rangers ‘managed to dress up the humiliation of their recent past and turn it into a positive' is bizarre but telling. Not only was the comment written before he had watched it, but anyone complaining that sports fans and a sports club (remember this is a sport, not a serious life or death issue) are being ‘positive’ and not suffering eternal ‘humiliation’, are carrying views about Rangers that have nothing to do with football or finances.

Like Graham Spiers’ use of the word ‘cheats’ or ‘sins’ when describing Rangers, there are unspoken assumptions about the club that you won’t find elsewhere. Even when Tom was challenged on twitter he resorted to talking about ‘shame’. Terms like shame, disgrace and humiliation are very strange moral concepts totally out of context with what happened or who was to blame.

Financial journalists don’t write in such emotive or self-righteous ways about hundreds of millions of pounds being mismanaged by the government or businesses, corrupt or otherwise. Whole countries can default or need bailouts and no-one would dare think anyone in that country should feel humiliation or carry a disgrace. In football journalism, you won’t hear a sportswriter talking in such way about Leeds, Middlesbrough or Fiorentina and if you did, people would think you strange or had something against them. It’s only Rangers FC that brings forth a language that can demonise ordinary people who are only trying to do their best while working for or supporting their club.

Criticism of Rangers should never be out of bounds for Tom English if he has rational reasons. It’s normal and welcome for a journalist to be strong in his/her opinions, but wanting a football club and support to feel humiliated and disgraced - even to the extreme of pointing out that they shouldn’t be positive about their football team isn’t normal - is it Tom?

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