Years ago, I read an amazing book about the conduct of the British state in Ireland.
More specifically, it was about the propaganda war and how it was waged. The “method” stuck in my mind and never left me. New Labour were the first party to use it in the general sphere of politics. Every government we’ve had in Westminster has used it since.
PR firms have been doing it for years too, and it was readily apparent what trick Sevco was going to use on its own supporters and the mainstream media when Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct publicised their intention to start selling Sevco kit on 1 August.
I read Michael Gannon today in the Sunday Mail laughing all the while.
It was a terrible piece, one which sought to divert attention from what’s going on at Ibrox by creating a phony “strip war” between our club and Sevco. No such war exists. The idea that Sevco has a “premium brand” making their top is an utter irrelevance.
Nobody in the Celtic support cares; we understand that Sevco took a shot on a group of amateurs because the professionals wouldn’t touch them … and we know that because it relates to the grander story here, how Sevco has misled people on this issue.
The bigger story is that Sevco has, once again, lied to its own supporters.
Sevco has, once again, pulled the wool over their eyes.
They have lied to the media too, but the press corps seems to care even less than the fans.
For once they cannot accuse us of making stuff up either … their kit maker has confirmed that Sports Direct are involved in the process and they’ve admitted that this is because of the contractual obligations the club has to Ashley.
Still, the denials continue but they aren’t flat-out denials any longer. They are present in an ever more elaborate form of words. Eventually, I expect even most of that to unravel. Because this is the method I long ago studied and which I can now spot a mile away.
The first part is to lie. Lie about everything at first. Sevco tried that, and right from the start. They claimed that the Sports Direct were no longer binding their hands. The press interpreted that exactly as they were supposed to. Ashley had surrendered.
Anybody following this knew that was junk.
Phil has written a piece on that very subject today; it’s not for nothing that his guy in Shirebrook has referenced what the media and the Sevco support was told back in 2017. The media believed everything they heard then too, and the fans were over the moon.
But what was the truth? King was humiliated and had actually given Ashley an even better deal than the one he had before.
Ashley has never walked away from a battle, and especially not one like this.
Since neither he nor Sevco had informed the Stock Market or the courts that there had been a resolution, you knew something smelled off. But the media were quick to print the lies. They were happy to embrace an obvious fiction.
The second phase is to backtrack … but just a little. Not with an outright rejection of all the other narratives. You repeat a few carefully chosen soundbites. Answer questions that were never even asked. But essentially, you allow a little bit of ambiguity.
How did this go? Castore denied that Ashley was a partner or a shareholder.
Which is a sterling example of answering a question nobody ever asked.
That was Sevco’s initial response.
They issued a statement which said that they and Castore were the only parties to the deal. But – and this is crucial – they made a reference to “other retail partners” in the statement, and that was a tacit admission that when they said Sports Direct were entirely out of the picture that they hadn’t been honest.
The third phase is to admit the truth, but interweave it with spin.
In this case, they got Castore to basically admit that Ashley is involved in their distribution chain, and that this was because the club had a contract with him. But they keep on repeating this line that the club will make the lion’s share of the profits … which is all they think fans want to hear.
This is the model the British state has always used in playing its little games.
A case in point was the Bernie Ecclestone saga, when Tony Blair’s government was accused of taking cash from the Formula One boss at a time when they were talking about banning tobacco advertising in sport … it just so happened that F1 got an exemption.
Over the course of a fortnight, the Blair government allowed the truth to dribble out a little bit at a time. They lied. The obfuscated. They spun madly. They released information in little bite-sized portions, all the better to try and control the story.
At first they denied. Then they admitted the donation, but played down the size. When the press reported that it was £1 million they said that they had sought advice before accepting it, which they hadn’t until after it was paid.
Then they claimed they had told Ecclestone they wanted no more money from him, but in truth they had and that came out too.
Yet Blair got away with it. He went in front of the media and styled himself as “a pretty straight guy” when in fact he and his government were barefaced liars.
This works because the truth comes out only a little a time; once your audience has absorbed, and accepted, one inconvenient fact you release another. You let them absorb that. Then you release another piece. Let that be similarly taken in. Finally, by the time you’ve admitted that your initial stance was an outright falsehood people have largely accepted being lied to … and you find that they will repeat every positive line they’ve been given.
See, this is grounded in basic psychology. People don’t like to feel foolish.
If you’ve told lies and you want people to accept that, you don’t admit it outright, which does make them feel like idiots … you give them enough justification for believing that you played it straight even when you didn’t. You give your lie a context; in this case, “the club still makes more money than it would have had Ashley ran the whole show.” Or “but our agreement is with Castore … we don’t care what their distribution arrangements are.”
It was Castore who blew the whistle here, and admitted that Ashley and Sports Direct will be selling some of their stuff. As Phil pointed out to me the other day, they said a “limited supply” … but the question as to what that means is like “how long is a piece of string?”
If the “limited supply” allows them to sell a million units, for example, then that’s more than they’ll ever need … because Castore couldn’t even supply that number and there aren’t enough Sevco fans out there who would buy them.
Castore admits that Ashley is in the deal because the club has a contractual obligation to him. This is the core of Sevco’s lie; they explicitly denied that this was the case and now the manufacturer has contradicted them. But that’s buried in the interview, lost in the spin.
How much else are we going to discover here? My guess would be “a lot.” Because it’s clear that the club and Castore are still obfuscating. From a flat denial they’ve now admitted he’s involved but in a “limited” way … how long until they admit that he’s got the bulk of the business? How long until they are spinning that as a good thing?
And how long, from there, until they admit that, actually, he has it all?
There’s another issue that arises here, and it’s one the press won’t even consider putting to the club or to Castore directly, and it’s this; if the club didn’t tell Hummel what their arrangement with Ashley was, why does a small brand from Liverpool who are desperate for exposure in the football market think Sevco would tell them?
In other words, having lied to the last kit manufacturer, and in their desperation this time to get any sort of deal at all, why would Sevco level with these guys in a way they haven’t with other firms? Is it possible that they are lying to Castore as well?
The answer to that is, “of course it is possible.”
It’s not even particularly unlikely, given what we know of the history here, and given that Castore do realise that there is an issue, and the truth is we can ask that question a million times but unless the sportswear firm from Merseyside sues them later over it we might not know the answer one way or the other.
What we do know though is that Sevco has been caught lying to its fans again, and that they got caught because Ashley wanted the word out there. Phil believes Ashley is only warming up, that this was little more than a warning shot to remind them that they have certain responsibilities and a cast-iron deal with him. From a place where they had denied he was involved at all, they’ve admitted that he is working with Castore … how long before more facts emerge?
Sevco’s board didn’t just lie to the fans though, they lied to the press as well and so I can understand well why Gannon wrote his ridiculous piece this morning; it’s as I said, people don’t like to be made to feel foolish and when every Celtic site was telling the Sevco fans that Ashely hadn’t gone away people like Gannon were trumpeting Sevco’s great victory.
I don’t feel the least bit of sympathy for any hack who feels he was misled, or who wants to spin things in the hope we don’t notice.
I feel sorry for the handful of readers these jokers have left, and who believe a single word that these rags actually say.
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