Today was a red letter day for all of the Celtic fans who watch the media. Gordon Waddell of The Sunday Mail, a writer who is no friend of our club, wrote a blistering piece which although coached in very careful language is, nevertheless, clear in what it implies.
Waddell clearly thinks the Sky Sports false translation originated at Ibrox.
He does not say so outright, but he’s correctly drawn attention to the stony silence from Sevco and its myriad “deniable” PR arms, like Club 1872, who if it rains two days in a row usually release a press statement blaming the Unseen Fenian Hand.
Someone used their footballer to lie about us … if it wasn’t someone inside their own walls, they would have been screaming blue murder about that.
Waddell’s piece talks about the tight control the Ibrox media operation keeps on anything that happens in the confines of their stadium or their training ground, which is where Sky’s interview was filmed. After I’d finished his piece I went back and read through Celtic’s statement again; it seems clear to me that they, too, have hinted at Ibrox as the source.
In itself, that’s a story, but into the mix comes Graham Spiers, who has stepped up to the plate on behalf of Michael Stewart in a most admirable way. His most recent tweet on the matter says of the suspended BBC journalist that “All he did was speak the truth, albeit passionately.”
It is a ringing endorsement of everything that was said in that now notorious (and still publicly unavailable) segment on last Monday’s BBC show.
Aside from getting the newspaper who blatantly made the “brake tampering” allegation wrong, what exactly did Stewart say which crossed the line between fact and opinion? His assertions that Traynor is dangerous and stirs the soup for his own ends are well established truths.
Take his valedictory piece for The Sunday Mail as an example. It was one of the most intellectually dishonest things I’ve ever read in my life. It was not his resignation; it was his first act on the job with Charles Green at Ibrox. He didn’t declare that at the time though. Instead he accused the governing bodies, the fans of every club and even many in his own profession of acting spitefully towards Rangers. It was a shameful piece for which nobody has ever called him out.
Nobody, that is, except Craig Whyte whose coming book will accuse Traynor of allowing him editorial control over any articles about the club. It is a gross abrogation of journalistic responsibility, and precisely what Stewart called him out over last Monday night.
In my view, Stewarts comments not only on Traynor but on the whole suspect story here, have been fully vindicated. The BBC wants guarantees that his “breach of editorial standards” won’t be repeated; I suspect many of us would prefer that Stewart found another berth than give those “assurances” which amount to nothing but a promise to toe the Ibrox party line in future. It is a flat out disgrace that the BBC is making such a demand.
Someone tried to justify it to me on the grounds that “Traynor was not there to defend himself.”
If that’s the standard then I trust that Peter Lawwell, Neil Lennon, Leigh Griffiths, Ryan Christie and others have had their apologies, although I can’t remember a show opening with Kenny McIntyre reading them out to the audience.
Perhaps they are lost somewhere on the dark web, along with the BBC stories which covered Celtic’s two statements last week. We may never know.
But all of those individuals have reasons to be extremely unhappy with the BBC’s coverage over the last few weeks and months.
All have been openly discussed on the BBC and their motivations and actions explored and in some cases condemned without their being present in the studio. If that’s Stewart’s alleged failure, then he should tell them where they can stick their job.
Waddell today joined Stewart and Leckie in openly taking a shot at Ibrox over all this.
When, in my article on Leckie, I pondered whether other journalists were piqued at seeing their profession used to push such an obvious agenda, I never imagined that the disquiet was as widespread as it seems to be.
We know that many of the hacks won’t rock the boat, but with such high profile writers as Leckie, Spiers and Waddell in open revolt, and that Stewart took his shot and has not retracted a word even under threat of losing his job, we can surmise that there are many more.
Let’s be clear on something else too; Morelos is not responsible for the way in which his name has been used to attack Celtic and smear Scotland and Scottish football.
Whatever issues we have with his deplorable on-field persona, he’s being used as a pawn in a very old and very sinister game, one that those in the shadows at Ibrox are past masters at.
Their problem here – and it’s not going away – is that this time they went much too far in their efforts to create division and up the levels of hate.
The “brakes tampering” story was the moment many in the press corps said “no more of this, it’s gotten perilous now”, but Leckie’s piece preceded that, and it suggests a general unease at the way Morelos on-field exploits were being airbrushed and this narrative about a “campaign” to force him out of Scotland being constructed by some. Responsible journalists know it’s dangerous ground to tread and smears this whole country and they just weren’t willing to play ball.
And they will be caught.
Sky Sports won’t resist once Ofcom starts poking about.
They will tell our club and the regulator exactly who was responsible here and, as Waddell said, the truth will out.
What happens next will be up to Celtic to decide.
Before that happens, I expect some heads to roll in the dirt. Quietly. Without fanfare, perhaps, not that secrecy will avail because that too will make its way to the public sphere eventually.
A lifetime of reading about politics brings home the lesson all too well; these events have pulled back the curtain on the dark arts, and those who dwell therein can’t handle the “disinfectant of sunlight”. When the spin doctor becomes the story, that’s the end of the line.
Sevco’s “useful idiot” may have outlived his.