30 August 2012

The New Age of Defiance

by Andy McKellar | CRO contributor | @AMCKEL |

Last week some of you may have read the excellent Bill McMurdo’s “Taking offence on the offensive” article which featured on CRO.

After lots of head-nodding and agreeable grunting, I decided to try my hand at discussing the subject of the Rangers support, our past failings, and why we are now gradually moving in the right direction. So here goes:

On 23rd November 1988 David Edward Murray purchased Rangers Football Club in a £6M deal that would change the landscape of Scottish football forever. The Ayr-born entrepreneur and businessman swept into power on a wave of positivity and determination on his part to make Rangers not only the best team in Scotland but also on the continent. Sir David, as he was eventually to become known, was ambitious and hungry for success, as his growing business empire would suggest, and he was keen to make his mark on the world of football. There is no doubt that he eventually achieved that but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

As well as the considerable financial might that Murray brought into Rangers, his defence of both himself and our Club was staunch and unwavering. Any criticism was simply intolerable and the mainstream media certainly had to be wary of what they were printing. Murray had even been reported as requesting certain journalists be ‘removed from their position’ should their articles continue to attract his disapproval. It wasn’t to last.

Someway down the line as his dreams of European success were waning, our owner and chairman seemed to rather relax whatever perceived grip he had over the Scottish press. The Club that he had held such high hopes for had now become nothing but a burden on his shoulders, and with the recession biting hard into his personal wealth we were cast aside and the ‘For Sale’ signs were erected at Ibrox. Suddenly we were left as sitting ducks, an easy target for the bloodthirsty media in our country who simply couldn’t wait to take aim and get torn into Rangers and its vile, bigoted supporters. Such demonisation sadly still continues today.

Craig Whyte immediately sought to rectify the position of Rangers as a target on the firing range of the Scottish media and the BBC soon became a high-profile enemy. Of course, with perfect hindsight, his motives were perfectly clear and many fans, including myself, were strung along by his defiant defence of himself and the Club. This was not to last for long as he eventually sought refuge in the comfort and luxury of Monaco when the story of financial meltdown began to unravel in front of our very eyes. Utter cowardice.

Once again we were the victims of a negligent and possibly fraudulent leader, but that mattered little to the press who sharpened their claws and began to tear into the tax-dodging, morally corrupt carcass that lay before them. Fortunately HM Revenue & Customs were objective enough to look beyond the cloud of deceit and find the facts that really mattered. They now intend to ‘pursue the individuals responsible’ and I wouldn’t be surprised if criminal charges were raised against either of our former owners. They’ll certainly receive no sympathy from me.

Moving on to just where we find ourselves today, I am happy to report that the apathy which has enveloped our support for years now seems to be gradually diminishing. While we can point our fingers in abhorrence at the so-called stewards who badly let our Club down, we must also accept that, in certain elements, we did ourselves no favours. Perhaps we suffered from the fact that Murray was so vocal during the early years of his tenure and that we were rarely required to actually defend ourselves. Perhaps we were lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that we were almost untouchable during that time. Whatever the reason, I’m glad we are now moving in the right direction.

Charles Green, our new chief executive, is doing a damn good job of leading from the front, his ongoing battles with the football authorities in particular. I hasten to think just where we would be just now if the spineless Martin Bain was still at the helm, particularly this summer when someone most definitely had to fight Rangers’ corner. Indeed it has been Green’s spirit and PR work which has seen the Rangers Family form a more united front than anything I can remember in the past. Fans have queued for hours and turned up in the thousands for fourth-tier matches and that is testament to the new found togetherness that has permeated the blue legions.

Sadly we have been rather amateurish in our behaviour and have fallen behind the times in respect of just what is expected, or perhaps even required, from the modern day football fan. Dr Stuart Waiton, who some of you may remember from a previous article on CRO, describes the “newly constructed model citizen” as being “the thin-skinned, chronically offended victim of ‘abuse’, ‘harrassment’ and, of course, ‘offensive’ words”. In the fan culture of Scottish football I firmly believe his description is completely accurate but up until now it has been other fans screaming out in disgust at our behaviour. We refused to drop to their standards and maintained the dignified silence that has long been a proud characteristic of Rangers Football Club. Unfortunately such a trait has no part in modern day life as a football fan.

Some of you may recall that we unfurled a banner which depicted Celtic fans jumping aboard ‘The Offended Bus’ during a previous meeting at Ibrox. We mocked their sense of injustice and the forever-offended attitudes of ‘Scotland’s oppressed minority’ and laughed at any talk of footballing conspiracies. Now however I am of the opinion that it is a similarly ‘everyone is out to get us’ mentality that we must now adopt, challenging our detractors at every possible turn and defending ourselves as and when required. It has become all too fashionable and easy to have a kick at Rangers in recent years and if we are going to buck the trend then we must find our voices now.

I note with interest that George Galloway has recently faced calls for his resignation after referring to a Rangers fan as a ‘windae-licker’ on the social networking site, Twitter. The phrase, which is often used as a pejorative term for a disabled person has been met with considerable outrage, possibly heightened by the fact that it was said just as the Paralympics were set to begin. Mr Galloway is certainly no friend of ours.

In addition, The Rangers Standard, a fantastic new website with which I’m sure many of you will be familiar, featured an article by Chris Graham entitled “Alex Thomson – Downfall”. In this article Chris discussed the rather discredited Channel 4 reporter, his unhealthy obsession with Rangers, and his curious relationship, if I can call it that, with Phil Mac Giolla Bhain amongst others. He also noted that Alex was a little less enthusiastic about investigating stories such as Harper MacLeod’s conflict of interest and the curious actions of the SFA & SPL. Perhaps this was because he could not simply regurgitate the reporting of other media outlets as he has done with his previous ‘work’.

Above are just a couple of examples of our support moving in the right direction, and our efforts in ensuring media outlets such as STV and the BBC referred to our Club with its proper title, rather than Sevco or New Rangers, deserve recognition. We have the right and the ability to challenge journalists who continue to peddle lies and mistruths about our Club and our support and it has been refreshing to see many fans exercise such an entitlement. Long may it continue.

Not long ago we had thousands of fans descend upon the doorsteps of Hampden for a protest, a number larger than nearly every match that was played in Scotland that day. We had a full house, passionately supporting our Club in an act of utter defiance when we hosted Kilmarnock following our unfortunate slip into administration. Last week we sent 49,118 to a fourth-tier league match. It is clear therefore that, if anything, recent tribulations have only served to galvanise and heighten our passion for supporting Rangers.

As our management and players embark on our new adventure in the SFL, with somewhat mixed fortunes thus far admittedly, hopefully it will signal a new found enthusiasm amongst the Rangers support and allow us to ensure that we never find ourselves in the apathy-riddled state that we have just awoken from.

Mr Struth once famously said, 'No matter the days of anxiety that come out way, we shall emerge stronger because of the trials to be over overcome'. Now is our chance to add credence to that claim.