This is another foray, for me, into territory I don’t usually go.
I hate the subject with a passion, which is why I’m not really going to write about it but about the media instead.
Everyone knows that the SFA report came out a few weeks ago, and much of what it said. It was published everywhere. It was taken apart on forums and by a handful of blogs which know their stuff.
The stuff in that report is harrowing, awful beyond belief.
There’s no sense in trying to sugar-coat any of the contents.
It’s a grim subject and one that shines a light on dark corners of our society. This thing happened to football, it didn’t come out of football. I have never considered it a football story. Which is why I so rarely write about it on this blog.
What I do write about is the Scottish press and how they treat Celtic, and you cannot not know that we are held to a different standard than the club at Ibrox. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a fact and it has been a fact as long as I have been doing this job and way before.
There are all sorts of reasons for it; demographics, audience share, educational levels, bias … the tabloid media gears its reportage to a certain segment of the populace and we know it isn’t us.
Studies have borne this out.
A couple of authors from our side of the fence have written books about it and broken down the readerships of our mass market rags.
It is perfectly natural for a national title to have a “target audience” and they know theirs well.
This has become clearer than ever in the past couple of weeks, as the newspapers which have spent decades flaying Celtic for the Boys Club scandal, and which have demanded apologies and mea culpas one after the other, have fallen strangely silent on the complete lack of one out of the club across the city.
Is it a coincidence that the club over there has spent the last month or so engaging in little media vendettas?
Of course it isn’t. I’ll be writing about that later.
A conscious effort was made by Ibrox to hammer the media into submission.
Last week, in the run up to the games today, the Ibrox clubbanned The Athletic from its press conference.
They had done nothing wrong.
Their journalists were told that the presser was over-filled, but that explanation is a nonsense when you consider that the thing was done at distance on a social media video platform. The publication’s writers suspect that it has more to do with the question they asked on the lack of an apology from the Ibrox operation in light of what was in the SFA report.
Today, The Sunday Times carries a story with fresh claims against Gordon Neely, the Ibrox coach about whom some of the allegations over there relate, and last week The Sun talked about their former scout Harry Dunn, who is also named in the report.
These stories are about the victims and their demand for face-to-face apologies and compensation for what they went through.
These people, and those like them, deserve more than the statements which most clubs have released in relation to these dreadful events. But statements are a start. They are better than nothing, and nothing is what Ibrox has offered.
Last week, I wrote a piece on how the behaviour of some of the Ibrox fans over this report has removed the last shred of the moral foundation they claimed rested at the heart of their dark obsession with the Boys Club scandal; they have revealed themselves for what we always knew they were; scum appropriating grief and suffering to justify their own hatred.
They have done everything to avoid the “stain” of this on their club except blaming the victims themselves. They have maintained that the mere mention of them in reports is part of some horrible conspiracy.
Very few of them have recognised their own hypocrisy.
Today it’s the media who look hypocritical for the soft-soaping of this issue.
Every outlet should be writing about Ibrox’s silence on this subject, a silence that stinks more with every day that passes and every new revelation that comes to light.
Celtic has been relentlessly hounded over this matter for years now, and nothing we’ve said or done in that time has ever been enough because, ultimately, what some seem to want is a settlement so large it bankrupts us.
I have defended Celtic’s corporate stance on this.
Legally speaking, it was the only thing that the board of a PLC was empowered to do. They can’t just issue a blanket statement accepting all the sins of the Boys Club and taking on legal responsibility for that.
Shareholders would barbecue them over it.
If legal responsibility is established, the club will pay what it has to in order to settle the matter in each individual case where allegations can be proved as having a basis in fact.
That’s how it has to be done, and that’s a process and that process is underway.
Leave it in the hands of the professionals, that’s my view.
Do I think we have some moral responsibility?
Well, those who run the club right now certainly don’t but I think yes, the institution of Celtic itself does because the people involved in this were welcomed inside our walls and felt themselves to be part of this club and nobody ever dissuaded them of that notion. Previous directors have a lot to answer for and I only regret that there are not laws by which they themselves could be prosecuted.
I have fully researched what other clubs have done for the victims within their own walls; if Celtic turned around tomorrow and said it was setting up a compensation scheme identical to the one which Manchester City set up some years back, the media would crucify us for everything from its organisational structure to the damages cap.
In short, there is no “perfect” solution to this even at those clubs which have tried to find one.
I certainly do not believe that there is anything Celtic could do short of shutting down which would come close to appeasing some of the people in our press corps.
What we are doing right now is legally sound, and from a PLC point of view it’s probably the only route that was really open to us short of a full-on admission of total liability, which is ludicrous.
The matter is in the hands of the courts; ultimately that’s where it belongs at the moment.
The club has worked with the SFA on this report, we appointed a child protection officer before any other team in the country, we have tighter restrictions on who works at Celtic than most other organisations could ever conceive of and we’ve apologised repeatedly, time and again, and expressed our sorrow at these events and our sympathy for the victims.
Could we have done more?
Yes, but it’s more than some have done.
There are two reasons the media does not want to go into this with Ibrox.
The first is that it has suited certain parties for a long time to paint this as “a Celtic issue” and not acknowledge that it was bigger than that, and more widespread. The enemies of Celtic have had a merry time with this one down through the years.
It’s the second reason I find most interesting.
The press wants to avoid taking the current Ibrox board to task for this out of a combination of fear and expediency.
Fear because they know if they take this on that there will be retribution, including from the rabid supporters of that club who will forget the whole notion of standing up for the victims, a concern they never really had in the first place.
On top of that though, the press has no intention of getting into an argument with Ibrox about why they won’t issue the apology because they know why and it would call into question too many of the lies this game lives with.
Ibrox believes that by staying silent they can continue to hide behind their own repudiation of the Survival Lie, and the media has invested a lot in that lie and has no wish to play a role in contradicting it.
For all intents and purposes, Sevco are telling the lawyers and the insurers and everyone else that legal responsibility for all of this went to the grave with Rangers; as it just so happens, I think they are on solid legal ground.
But of course, that would be a flat contradiction of the bullshit which fills our papers every single day, this Going For 55 garbage, this wilful, Orwellian, denial of reality and truth which we call the Survival Lie.
Not the Survival “myth” as some have termed it; the Survival Lie.
It’s an outright falsehood, it’s not sustained by facts, it’s a purposeful deception.
So “the club”, this ephemeral creation of theirs, inherits only the trophies and titles but not one part of the rest of the history.
It is a shameful, obvious, contradictory sham.
They bang on about the coming “anniversary celebrations” and their “historical” trophy haul but freely embrace the full reality of the death of Rangers to avoid any responsibility – moral, financial or otherwise – over these horrendous crimes.
It makes Celtic’s “separate entity” defence seem morally robust.
If we had a media at all in this country and not a bunch of bitter, sycophantic cowards they would write about how grotesque this is, and challenge the club to defend itself on it in one way or another.
They might even do some personal reflection and ponder the Survival Lie and all that underpins it and finally allow the truth to re-enter the discourse.
Instead we have silence.
Not just the silence from Ibrox but the silence from the press boxes, with a handful of honourable exceptions of which The Athletic guys and The Times’ Graham Spiers are the brightest lights.
The rest of them are gutless hypocrites.
If silence really does equal culpability, God alone knows what they have on their hands.