22 January 2013

Progress On The Billy Boys

Vini Holden
By Bill McMurdo | CRO Editor-at-large

Regular readers of CRO will know that I have been blogging on bringing back fans' favourite The Billy Boys in an amended form. Along with other things, this prompted Vini Holden to establish a committee to look into re-introducing this Rangers anthem in an acceptable form. 

Here I interview Vini, who chairs the committee tasked with bringing back TBB:-

1) Tell us a little bit about the TBB Liaison Committee, Vini - what its aims are and why it was formed

This committee was formed at the suggestion of some posters discussing the issue at Rangers Media. The debate resurfaced as a result of the song being sung at Hampden on 29th December. Many of us had concerns that after all these years the song, unedited as has been proven on Youtube, was still being sung on occasion - and it still has the power to damage our club, at a time when the last thing we need is more strife. The committee was formed to make a concerted effort to modernise the song which would allow it to be sung loud and proud, and would negate the possibility of sanctions against the club by "fixing" it once and for all.

The aims, and methods by which we intend to achieve them, are relatively simple "on paper":

  • Liaise with all relevant authorities to identify exactly what lyrics must be changed and confirm an amended version would be legal and acceptable. 
  • Liaise with the club to notify them of our intent, actions, and progress. 
  • Liaise with the fans and prominent supporters groups to make a shortlist of new bullet-proof versions. 
  • Conduct a vote on which of these alternatives to adopt. 
  • Do everything we can to ensure the new lyrics are adhered to - via online publicity, flyering, match-day programme adverts, and any other method available to us.                                                          

2) What kind of people are onboard? 

The committee comprises of six members nominated via a thread on Rangers Media (which was widely publicised on other sites). These six are diverse in geography, opinion, skill-sets, and professions. From Cardiff to Inverness, from traditionalist to modernist, from computer programmer to defence attorney.

3) How do you see the club's role - if any - in bringing back TBB?

Apart from the obvious club-sanctioned and supported anthems, a football club is generally not involved in the creation and spread of supporter songs. It is something that supporters do all over the country - for every club. However this particular song is somewhat of a hot-button issue, given the UEFA ruling and the widespread media coverage related to it. So I believe that our best chance of effecting real change is to have the club on board and supporting our efforts. Having said that, if all the club do is allow us access to flyer the seats on matchday, I will be happy. The worst case-scenario would be to have the club ask us to discontinue our efforts and maintain the "banned" stance to the song. This would almost certainly make our task impossible, however given that our main intention here is to modernise the song to protect the club from harm, I am hopeful that we will gain support from the club - or at least not be hamstrung by it.

4) Who do you need to approach and convince to make bringing back TBB a reality?

The key "players" that we have identified are the procurator fiscal that is responsible for the relevant area of law, and to a lesser extent the Football Co-ordination Unit for Scotland (FoCuS). The club, prominent supporters groups such as The Blue Order, Union Bears, Vanguard Bears, the Fans Working Group, and so on - and UEFA. with the latter being both the most difficult, and the most likely stumbling block. We do not believe that the SFA are a relevant authority on this issue - it has been a long standing observable policy of theirs to not get involved with this kind of issue. If we can make progress in our discussions with the other authorities I have mentioned then there should be no reason for the SFA to get involved.

5) What do you say to those who think you should leave things alone and not bring TBB back?

This is, of course, an emotive topic, and I believe that the people who are saying they don't want the song back are primarily concerned for the club's welfare. However it is for this very reason that we must take action on this issue - as was demonstrated all too well when the media used our singing of this song at Hampden on 29th Dec to castigate our support when reporting on the atrocious behaviour of Celtic fans at Dundee earlier that week. What I would say to these few who would argue against our efforts is consider carefully what might happen if we take no action, and the song continues to be sung on occasion. It is only a matter of time before this hurts the club again; our main aim is to prevent that.

I have long maintained that this group is a minority (around 10% according to various online polls) and do believe that to be the case. However these people are not being ignored - it is our responsibility to represent all factions of the support as best we can - so if we manage to progress to the stage whereby we poll the support, it would only be right to have one of the options of any such poll be "We should not sing this song" - along with the other versions as options.

Some few of the dissenting voices simply say that this is not the issue we should be focusing on at this time, and offer myriad other issues that could/should be resolved. The thing is, this is a supporter issue. Many of the other things that our detractors want to be focused on are not things that the support can really affect - these are issues for the club and its management. This is one of the few issues that we, as a support, could potentially resolve - so while I agree that there are other things that require focus, I disagree that this should stop us from addressing this issue at this time. All the legwork here is being done by supporters and so does not impact at all on the other issues to be resolved.

6) What about the argument that some fans will sing the old forbidden version?

If a significant portion of fans continue to sing the forbidden lyrics then we will have failed in our designated task. We will do everything we can to ensure that this does not happen, we know this is a monumental undertaking, but we are prepared to put in the effort to effect change. We have some planned strategies, some of which I have already mentioned, to try and make sure the new lyrics are adhered to. This is an area where club support would be extremely helpful. It can be done - that much was proven in recent times with other songs such as Four Men Had a Dream.

7) Tell us why you think TBB should be revived in an amended form

The primary reason that I feel so strongly about this is that it is something that has been repeatedly used against us, and will continue to be so unless we make a change. I believe it is our responsibility to protect our great club from harm wherever and whenever we can. In addition, this is, in my opinion, our greatest chant. It is the song that we sing loudest. It is the only song that can drown out our opposing fans even when we are vastly outnumbered at away games domestically and in Europe. No one sings it like we do and it is an absolute travesty that clubs up and down the UK regularly sing their version of this song, yet we cannot. It is for these reasons that I feel so strongly about modernising the song so that it may ring around Ibrox and elsewhere louder than it ever did. After the struggle our club has been through this past year it has never been more important for the 12th man to get behind our team, and this song helps us do that better than any other.

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The committee has recently been renamed The Anti-Sectarian Song Committee, reflecting the determination of those involved to steer the song away from its negative past connotations.

Those who have ideas about changes in lyrics can still put those ideas forward, either by contacting Vini at Rangers Media or myself here by email.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @WilliamMcMurdo and via email: bmcmurdo@thecoplandroad.org