There’s a rumour going round that tugs at me today with its implications if it happens to be true. I’m not saying that it is, but there’s a lot of talk and I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s more than just a story going around. This one has textures that feel real.
We all know that Sevco is in serious trouble, and that some of their problems revolve around Ibrox and the ongoing issues with maintenance. The club is so scared of this issue that when Dave King did a fan Q&A online earlier this year they first published and then removed all reference to the matter from his answers.
I am not kidding; one day there was a piece on their site where he talked about how the club would be facing ground maintenance issues for years because of lack of funds and historical neglect and the next day it was gone.
This one has legs, and photographs of structural engineering firms attending the ground haven’t done much to calm people’s fears, nor did the moment last season when a piece of the roof came loose and fans had to be moved to keep them safe.
Stories persist of engineering reports not being deemed complete, and Glasgow City Council asking for clarification. There’s clearly something wrong there, and unofficial estimates say it will take millions to fix and necessitate the club moving to Hampden for a year at least.
Even without this “worst case scenario” coming to pass in the immediate future, the problems with Ibrox aren’t getting better with age. The structural issues over there are one of the reasons why it’ll be difficult for them to raise external finance in the short to medium term and one of the key factors in why a future administration event might be an even greater catastrophe than that which drove OldCo Rangers to the wall.
But the immediate future is what will concern Celtic, of course, and that’s where this story has apparently grown legs. Celtic has a duty of care to its supporters; if there’s even the slightest chance that something is wrong with Ibrox they can’t allow us go there.
Our board takes safety seriously, and there’s no way we would ever compromise on that.
Asking for clarification before we accept an away ticket allocation (and yes, I know the actual particulars don’t get worked out until December; that’s one of the reasons this is plausible. It gives Sevco plenty of time to supply Celtic with the paperwork) simply makes good practical sense.
So, in that regard I do believe the story might have something in it.
But there’s another reason, and I’m almost loathe to write it, but as I know it’s already being said out there I don’t think my doing so will do any harm.
You can’t have failed to notice that the relationship between ourselves and Sevco is at rock bottom. In fact, even considering Rangers’ history with our club, I can’t remember a time when relations between the Parkhead and Ibrox hierarchies has ever been this deep in the toilet, not even back when Murray, in a fit of petulance, decided to ban our fans from his ground. In the aftermath of the game at Celtic Park, with our insurance company compiling a report into the wreckage caused by their fans, their PR people issued a foaming at the mouth statement about our club, our fans and even our own board which had to be read to be believed.
Amongst other things, they were actually talking about banning our fans from their ground all over again.
That statement, coming after a 5-1 defeat, plumbed the gutter and appealed to the lowest common denominator, the lunatic fringe of their support, in a way few pronouncements out of there ever have … and that’s saying something as you all know too well.
Celtic’s measured statement in response, through CEO Peter Lawwell, was a masterclass in how to conduct yourself with dignity and professionalism.
These are qualities that those at Ibrox would do well to learn.
Since then, our club has maintained a measured silence as things over there have gotten progressively crazier and weirder by the day. The contrast between the two clubs is so stark right now that it is literally inspiring some on their side to madness.
And this is where Celtic’s board might just feel they can twist the knife a wee bit. As I said above, we take health and safety seriously and the idea that our club would ever allow our fans to go to a ground where there was the slightest danger to them is ridiculous. Add to that the permafrost in relations and the knowledge that they are desperate for money (and according to some sources have yet to pay for the damage to Celtic Park) and you can see where our directors might feel that we don’t owe them any favours, that giving them the benefit of the doubt isn’t in our best interests, and that it might be wise to cover all the bases.
According to the rumours we’ve told them we want an independent surveyors report into the state of their roofs. This would be costly, but not prohibitively so. It would be an inconvenience, but one that should be well within their budget.
If there’s no problem with the roofs then it would represent no more than a pain in the backside and a few quid out of the shrinking kitty. It needn’t be painted as anything more dramatic than that, as our club simply looking after its own.
If something like that is really more than they can afford they have bigger worries than just our refusal to pay for tickets, and if there is something wrong with the roofs then their problems multiply exponentially as a result.
But our club will have done right by our fans first and foremost and that’s going to be the important part to remember if this is true and the media mudslinging starts.
This is a club that’s gone out of its way to offend people, make enemies and tried to drag the rest of the game down to its own abysmal level.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we weren’t the only club who was concerned about the safety of its visiting fans, and nor are we the only club to have recently been subjected to vitriol from inside their boardroom.
Nobody owes these people anything now, no-one is inclined to do them favours especially when looking the other way could get somebody hurt or worse.
Like I’ve said before, it could just be that the roofs need a little fixing up but that nothing really serious is wrong over there; I doubt that. There are problems that go beyond a few cosmetic issues and which cast long term doubt over the ground and its viability, but even on the off-chance that these are minor matters, no-one should expect our club simply to take their word for it. An independent surveyors report is good sense; it will clear this matter up properly, and allows Celtic the peace of mind our fans deserve.
That’s why this feels like more than a rumour.
Sevco better hope we’re all wide of the mark, because if there’s a problem someone’s going to find it.
I only hope that happens before there’s a serious incident over there.