Day Three, and this is my final word on this organisation because nobody knows what the next steps will be behind the scenes from Brendan or our club.
I have a suspicion though, and I want to take a step back from this to let them get on with it.
Since they put up their now notorious tweet, Brendan Rodgers has been called many things in the press and on the forums of Sevconia.
Someone asked me last night how he can have a defamation case when the tweet doesn’t name him; the answer is what’s called “the reasonable person test.” What would a “reasonable person” assume from that communique?
Well there is not a soul who doesn’t know who the tweet refers to, and since every newspaper is saying it, since every blog is saying it, and since Twitter is awash with it, I think we can easily surmise that we’re not all wrong.
They were talking about our manager, and since they have not corrected that assumption his case is pretty straightforward.
Why would an organisation behave so recklessly?
There is an organisation in Scotland which routinely behaves in such a manner, and it’s the one at Ibrox, and we’ve long since accepted that they are horrendously run and prone to self-inflicted disaster.
Show Racism The Red Card Scotland appear equally afflicted, with the same absolute myopia, the same blindness, the same institutional stupidity.
But can their judgement really be so suspect as to court legal action?
The easy answer to that is yes, of course it can.
And I know that because they already did.
Let me tell you what happened in September of last year, alright?
Phil and I have chatted about this at length and I’m grateful that he’s allowing me to tell the full story.
This is an indication of who we’re dealing with here, and why Brendan will be considering all his options.
Bear in mind that the original tweet is still up on their Twitter feed. Not only have they failed to apologise, but even in the face of a social media barrage, complaints to the Charities Regulator and even media condemnation, they haven’t even retracted the allegation.
That’s an organisation that seems almost eager for a fight, and that surprises me as they have shown very little stomach for one when it’s counted before.
In September last year, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain was invited to go and speak with Show Racism The Red Card Scotland, who wanted an experts view on anti-Irish racism here in this country. Phil is most assuredly an expert in that field.
Not only has he written a book on it, but he has been on the receiving end of it for more than ten years.
Phil went in there with nothing but honourable intentions, but in order to give them a full picture he talked about not only his life experiences and those of others, but he clued the staff member with whom he spent the bulk of his time in on the socio-political context of what he was about to tell them.
Amongst other things, he shared with them video footage from Alex Thomson on Channel 4 where he talked about how journalists had been threatened for covering the Ibrox travails. He interviewed Angela Haggerty. He spoke about his own experiences with the local media up here.
Phil said the staff member was gob-smacked and horrified.
But he continued to fill her in, because she needed to know.
He talked her through his own experiences, including detailing to her the events that took place after he published his book Downfall.
Show Racism The Red Card Scotland was well briefed on the Peepul and their proclivities. Phil even suggested that they may want to consider how they’d deal with a backlash regarding his involvement if they decided to make it public.
Later that day, Show Racism The Red Card Scotland did exactly that.
They tweeted pictures of him and thanked him for his time and trouble.
Phil was pleased with this, particularly as he hadn’t always been impressed by their stance on certain issues.
When he spoke to them in 2008 in relation to The Famine Song, they had been unwilling to engage, even when the issue exploded into the spotlight via questions in the Irish, Scottish and Westminster parliaments after serious high-level Irish diplomatic weight was brought to bear.
Phil realised there would be a backlash, but at the time he had more to worry about than a few goons on social media. His mum had just died and he was dealing with a lot of grief and a lot of family issues. It was a tough time for him to say the least.
And into that hellish period – and Show Racism The Red Card Scotland was well aware of what he was going through on a personal level – came the Peepul’s response to his involvement with them, which was to bring their own pressure to bear, in that unique style they have.
Intimidation. Threats. Slander. Smears. Full spectrum hatred.
Phil was called the following morning.
What he’s never said publicly before now was that he took that call standing in a funeral hall, which SRTRC was wholly aware of, as he pointed that fact out to them on the phone. Speaking to the staff member who had met him, he describes her as being “terribly distressed” and under real pressure.
He said she was scared too, which I can verify having spoken to her later that day.
The Peepul had brought out their old playbook and were hammering their way through it.
Describing the organisation as being “in full damage control” she told Phil that they would have to release a statement on him, clarifying things.
He asked, quite reasonably, if he could have a first look at that statement, something that’s an absolute right in these situations.
He could tell the way the wind was blowing, but with his personal circumstances being what they were and having a reasonable expectation to a right of reply – something afforded anyone who’s facing a public beat-down in the media; even the lowest gutter rag calls you first, tells you the story they’re going to run and asks you for a quote – he didn’t push the matter.
Why would he?
An organisation that would issue a highly critical, perhaps even damaging, statement without giving someone a look, whilst that person was occupied with a family bereavement … well who in the Hell would be so lacking in common decency as to do something like that?
A short time later, Phil was emailed their statement.
But there was no hold on it to await his response; they had released it already without giving him a chance to respond.
Knowing full well that he was in a bad place, they poured on the pain.
And in that statement they did exactly what they’ve done to Brendan Rodgers. It was defamatory. It was scandalous. And it occasioned this blog’s first break with them, and an angry exchange of views between myself and their staff, who I could not believe had acted as they did.
And I can tell you right now that Phil came very close to pursuing them through the courts.
But he did not want to act out of a place of personal hurt and anger and damage an organisation, far less a charity, far less one who’s stated objectives he believed in, who had simply stumbled into a minefield and found themselves over-matched.
He told me today he considered it a “yellow card offence.”
Think on that.
A yellow card offence.
Being defamed whilst his mother was lying in a coffin.
Jesus, I give that man credit for his restraint, and that seems too mild a word.
Shortly afterwards, Club 1872 published a piece on their website where they said Show Racism The Red Card Scotland had invited them in for tea and biscuits and actually apologised to them for their association with Phil. Even worse, the staff member Phil had spent time with and spoken to at length on the phone, actually told them she had asked him to apologise publicly for some of the stuff he’s written over the years.
The Club 1872 press release contained this gem;
“We are grateful to SRtRC for their straight forward and honest approach to this unpleasant episode. (They) rightly conceded their association with Phil Mac Giolla Bhain has ‘severely tainted’ the image of the charity.”
What severely tainted their image was that they gave in to such pressure in the first place.
For all that, I find Club 1872’s press release fascinating in a number of ways.
The Peepul were highly offended by the simple act of his meeting with the anti-racism charity, and they were able to secure a full apology in the most grovelling terms.
For slandering Phil the organisation issued none.
For slandering our manager they’ve issued none.
I would stipulate that they clearly felt more inclination to apologise to the Sevconites for perceived slights than they have for making amends for actual ones. Nobody at their organisation was getting sued over Phil’s involvement with them, after all, so exactly what kind of pressure did they buckle under?
Certainly not bad PR because the last three days have been a disaster for them in those terms, and that’s created problems that won’t go away.
Something scared them badly, but it wasn’t the prospect of legal consequences and I can’t help but think that they clearly don’t take those seriously.
And that is reckless. And it is stupid.
But more than anything else, when they are demonstrably wrong, when it’s obvious that they are wrong, they have not had the integrity to make amends.
Club 1872 were granted a privilege Brendan Rodgers and Phil were apparently not entitled to.
The benefit of the doubt.
The benefit of simply decency.
And by this may their organisation now be judged.