Jim Spence Rangers Jibes

During the past couple of years there have been many examples of malicious reporting on Rangers troubles. During the course of carrying out research for my chapters in the book ‘Follow We Will – The  Fall and Rise of Rangers’ I had the misfortune of trawling through much of this and one of the names that stood out enough for inclusion was Jim Spence of BBC Scotland. He displayed a staggering ability to ignore documented evidence and a level of hypocrisy which marked him out, even in the world of Scottish sports journalism. Since then, there has been much talk in the media of the need to “move on” but if events of this past week are anything to go by then this bitter individual is struggling more than most to actually do so.

Spence’s latest slur came during a performance on Sportsound on BBC Radio Scotland. During a discussion of the possible boardroom changes at Rangers, he stated the following:

“John McClelland who was the chairman of the old club, some people will tell you the club, well, the club that died, possibly coming back in terms of the new chairman.”

Now there are a few things wrong with this obviously. Firstly there is no “old club”. We’ve been over this before so I won’t bother going through all the times this has been confirmed by High Court judges, by the football authorities and by various bodies asked to rule on it. Most importantly with regard to Spence, the BBC Trust has been through it before when they confirmed that “due accuracy had not been achieved such that the guidelines on accuracy had been breached” in BBC Scotland stating repeatedly across their platforms that Rangers were a “new club”. Spence knows this, so he chose to disregard the finding of the body that regulates the BBC’s output in order to push his own agenda.

Secondly, why would you come out with such a convoluted phrase as the above? The natural thing to have said would have been “John McCLelland, who was previously Rangers chairman” or something to that effect. It’s clear that Spence felt the need to make a point on behalf of the Flat Earth Society on Twitter and those who lurk in the dark corners of the internet with whom Spence regularly interacts. Indeed when the complaints started to flood in from Rangers fans, it was extremely illuminating to see those who quickly jumped to Spence’s defence. Phil MacGiollabhain, Angela Haggerty, CQN, Andy Muirhead - they were all there sticking up for their champion. It seems Spence is one of the few journalists still willing to prostitute what little credibility he has for these people.

MacGiollabhain tells us that his sources (I’m shocked to hear he has some at Pacific Quay….) are saying that BBC Scotland is going to “grow a set” with Rangers over this. We are also told that BBC Scotland are “not happy” with the way that the BBC Trust’s dealt with previous complaints. Furthermore, Jim Spence is “incensed” at the treatment he has received. This is fascinating stuff, but either MacGiollabhain or BBC Scotland appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the BBC Trust and a regional part of the BBC. The BBC Trust exists to ensure that the BBC maintains their standards. BBC Scotland clearly cannot do that and therefore need to be assisted in meeting the conditions of their charter.

Spence is, whether he likes it or not, a BBC journalist. He is no longer writing for a fanzine. He has a duty to the licence fee payers to be objective, accurate and without bias. It is a duty he regularly fails in. He is not doing his job properly. Spence wants Rangers to be a “new club”, “a dead club” because he doesn’t like us. He is willing to ignore the facts of the matter and put his own job on the line to make a point. He has previous for this and it would appear that the adulation of some of the most bitter people on the internet is enough for him to feel vindicated in his approach.

Rangers fans rightly flooded the BBC with complaints. BBC Scotland tried to cover up the issue by omitting his comments from their podcast of the show. However, despite receiving hundreds of complaints about Spence they have predictably refused to deal with the issue – just as they did with the previously upheld complaints. Those who have gone through the process are now at the stage of moving on to the Editorial Complaints Unit of the BBC in London, where they are likely to have much more luck. Once these complaints move out of the control of BBC Scotland they suddenly appear to be dealt with more effectively.

Spence’s response was predictable. He first attempted to play the victim. He retweeted a few of the more choice comments he received on Twitter whilst totally ignoring the issue, which was his own dishonesty and unprofessionalism. He then decided to liken those complaining to Nazis thereby invoking Godwin’s law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

I find Spence’s reaction to this to be typical of those who regularly attempt to denigrate the Rangers support and our club. He says something which is both inaccurate and inflammatory and which he knows to be both inaccurate and inflammatory and then throws his hands in the air in shock when people react badly to it. The inference that anyone who dares to complain about Spence’s unprofessionalism and bias is akin to a Nazi is also interesting. It is entirely in keeping with the type of language used by people like MacGiollabhain about the Rangers support and one wonders who it was that reminded Spence of the quote he used to introduce the topic.

Spence was joined in this line by Graham Spiers who described those taking Spence to task as the “Stasi” - an odd way to describe people simply exercising their right to complain through the BBC Complaints Procedure.  I’m not sure that is the route the Stasi would have taken and Spiers should be more versed in their methods given that he famously suggested to the Scottish Parliament that thoughts should be criminalised.

When pressed on Twitter, Spence stated that he has no such problems with Celtic fans. The heavy inference being that the Rangers support is somehow unique in reacting badly to people telling lies about their club. Here is a novel idea Jim – try criticising Celtic and see what kind of reaction you get. Better still go on the radio and simply tell the truth about Rangers. Talk about all the official bodies who have confirmed that Rangers are the same club they have always been, that our rich history lives on and that it will be added to in years to come. Then let us know what sort of reaction you get from the same people who currently laud you for peddling their demented propaganda.

It is heartening to see that Rangers are taking the issue seriously. Things have improved greatly on this front since Jim Traynor became involved with the club and the BBC Trust, having already ruled on the same issue, are likely to be perplexed about why BBC Scotland continue to ignore their ruling. I would urge those individuals who have complained to take their complaints all the way to the Trust however, and not assume that the club will deal with it alone. The more the behaviour of BBC Scotland is highlighted the more likely it is to be forcibly dealt with from elsewhere in the organisation.

The BBC issue will only be solved from London. BBC Scotland, despite admitting privately that they should be apologising to Rangers, refuse to do so publicly. They are deliberately placing themselves in a state of conflict with our club and then bleating about freedom of the press and persecution when the club and the fans bite back. It is pathetic behaviour from a totally discredited organisation.

One wonders if Spence is really cut out for a position at a supposedly objective and non-biased organisation such as the BBC. He would do well to remember what happened when the same people now backing him made promises about filling SPL grounds. He might find his support evaporates when it comes to stepping up the mark. Spence could simply issue a public apology and undertake to be better at his job, report accurately and try to improve both his own and BBC Scotland’s reputation in the process.

If not then I’m pretty sure he could get a regular spot on the Scottish Football Monitor website. He might even be able to join McConville, MacGiollabhain and Brennan touring Celtic Supporters Clubs. They won’t care that he’s distorting the truth on a regular basis because he’s telling them what they want to hear. If that fails then I hear The Drum are willing to take literally anyone on as a ‘Staff Writer’.