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Two Outsiders Broke The Story Of The First Ibrox Downfall And They’ll Probably Have To Do It Again.

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A handful of my mates have, for a long time now, been trying to interest me in the Graham Spiers podcast, but it’s only lately that I started to think properly about taking out a subscription to it.

He’s an interesting guy, one of a handful of proper writers and broadcasters in our media, a guy who would not have been out of place amongst the greats.

That’s high praise, and a lot of folk will wonder if it’s justified, but it clearly is if you’ve followed the man’s work.

Spiers is articulate, passionate, intelligent and courageous in his writing.

He has never hidden that he comes from a Rangers background, but he has never let that influence the way he covers the game, and he has the ban from Ibrox to prove it.

I don’t agree with everything he says; it would be impossible to do so. But I do find myself agreeing with him more often than not.

The podcast which finally made me jump was the one he did with Alex Thomson of Channel 4, the kind of “ten years retrospective” on the EBT issue and on the downfall of Rangers.

I thought that would be an interesting one, and in some ways it was.

To be honest, there wasn’t much in it that we didn’t already know, but a couple of things come through loud and clear just the same.

Spiers opens the piece by referring to the events of 2011-12.

This is his first misstep and although there were only a few and mainly small, this is not an inconsequential matter.

The story tracks back further.

Phil Mac Giolla Bhain had been writing about issues at Ibrox for far longer than that.

He and Paul Brennan were predicting a general collapse of their financial underpinning for three years by the time 2011 came around. I had been writing about it for two years on various sites and forums by the time Whyte rolled into town.

In the interim, Phil had broken the story of the EBT’s in 2010, a full year before Whyte’s takeover, and in fact it was his initial expose which made the Ibrox club almost impossible to sell to someone more credible.

That dark cloud was hovering over them for a full two years before HMRC levelled the place over Whyte’s particular decision making.

There were a handful of times between Phil breaking that story and Whyte taking over when the full implications were being discussed in our press, but for the most part there was no real analysis of it at all.

Part of that was fear, of course.

During the course of the podcast, there was a lot of talk about Jim Traynor.

One of the few times that the possibilities associated with the EBT era were discussed was when Chick Young and Traynor had their remarkable falling out on Radio Scotland when Young had said that Alastair Johnston said that the club could go bust, but was depending on a nod of the head rather than a direct quote.

I thought Traynor sounded like the mindless one in that debate, like someone who simply didn’t want to believe the full implications of that tax bill “crystalizing.”

But inside Ibrox, everyone knew what those implications were which is why Murray couldn’t wait to get away from the place. The roof was coming down, it was a matter of time, and he didn’t want to be in the building when that happened.

The writing was on the wall. The facts were freely available. Phil, who broke the story, was on top of it. Some of the bloggers were. When the Rangers Tax Case blog appeared, with the inside skinny, there was no longer any excuse for the press not doing a proper investigation. This is what the podcast sort of skimmed over.

The question it should have asked is this; why did it take two journalists from outside Scotland, one from England and the other from Ireland, to give this the scrutiny it deserved?

Thomson, at least, does acknowledge it.

He talked about how he got onto the story for the first time and about how the initial reaction – even from Ibrox fans – was great joy that here, finally, the story had the attention that it deserved.

Nobody had the slightest faith in the Scottish press to cover it.

Nobody.

Knowing some of what was going on behind the scenes, I can tell you that even some of our media were relieved that the story was going to be investigated; it saved them from having to contemplate doing it themselves because they simply didn’t want the hassle that went with doing their jobs right.

But of course, the initial joy at Thomson getting involved lasted only as long as it took him to start looking into it properly and writing and telling the truth about what he found.

The Ibrox fans clearly wanted vindication for their view that it was all an Unseen Hand conspiracy; in fact, Thomson came out in favour of title stripping for what he saw as blatant cheating.

He and Spiers disagree on the title stripping.

Curiously, I thought that Spiers came as close to refuting the Survival Lie as anyone in the media has in a long time.

Thomson makes no bones about it; the club at Ibrox is a NewCo. Spiers uses that as a reason not to strip the titles; Thomson still thinks that the titles are illegitimate and have to go.

I was fascinated listening to him talk, with great courage, about how he sees social media stick as part of the job. He is not in the least bit intimidated by it. But then, as he points out, he’s not surrounded by it.

He knows where the line is.

And that’s when they brought up Angela Haggerty, and what she had to put up with. I found it fascinating that Thomson played a role in getting the people who spewed such bile about her prosecuted. I hadn’t known that.

Yet he and his producers were the ones who handed some of the evidence to police. He says that one officer was serious about investigating the matter whilst another didn’t seem interested at all; that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

One thing he omitted; Angela got that stick, in particular, because she had been the editor of Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s book Downfall, which they talked about later and which I’ll get to in a moment.

That was an important point, which they didn’t discuss.

Nor did Spiers discuss how, when she was later targeted and removed from her job at a national title, that it was Spiers himself who stood up for her and walked out of his job over it.

He could very easily have thrown that in there, and I admired the fact that he didn’t on one hand but as it fed into the wider theme of that segment – about how the mainstream press is cowed by the Ibrox fans and how they frequently give in to them – it would have been an interesting discussion.

What Spiers did do was condemn Stewart Robertson for the weakness he showed when the Peepul were demanding that he get his own ban. Spiers suggests that Robertson knew it was just plain wrong to do it, and underserved, but did it anyway … and that, as he points out, was pretty gutless. It speaks volumes about the attitude in Ibrox right now.

Because this is part of the problem. This is why it took an Englishman and an Irishman to do all the legwork on the EBT story in the first place. The Scottish media is too easily cowed, and Ibrox would rather ban journalists than have them do their job.

Which brings me to Downfall, which they discussed briefly. I think there are two things that emerge from the discussion; first is Thomson’s decision to write the foreword for the book.

That showed the tremendous esteem he has for the only other journalist who truly put in a shift at that time. He made it clear that he doesn’t agree with the way Phil refers to the Peepul at times – I think if it was his blood they were up to their knees in he might have a different perspective on it, but the professional respect is obvious.

The second thing is that Thomson reminds Spiers that it’s the only journalistic book to be written on the whole scandal as yet. Which tells you everything you need to know about this. We’re ten years on from the liquidation.

Ten years.

Yet Phil is the only journalist to write a real book on the affair; the hacks are still too afraid to take on the issue even when almost every aspect of it is in the public domain. That is an extraordinary fact to consider.

I enjoyed the podcast, and I have since signed up as a patron and I’ve listened to another couple of them and I’ll be doing a longer piece on the unfolding of the Lennon and Ange stories as they were discussed and debated on the show … I daresay I’ll have a lot to cover from it in the future.

But over the whole thing hovers the spectre of “succulent lamb” journalism, and it is no less prevalent today than it was then, only now the club charges media outlets £25,000 to provide it, an incredible development they didn’t even go into.

And you know what that means, right?

That it’s outsiders like Thomson and Phil who will have to chart the next downfall at Ibrox … because none of our domestic hacks are going to.

You can sign up for the Graham Spiers podcast at this link, and you should.

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5 comments

  • Charlie Green says:

    Spiers is the worst of their kind because he is intelligent and yet continues to push the continuity line. The others have an excuse.

  • Charlie Green says:

    …I would also like to add that Thomson stated, they were the same club when he appeared on Radio Clyde. Possibly because he had to!

  • Edward Mc Graw says:

    Why would Alex Thompson, “ have to” support the continuation lie?.

  • Stephen McAdam says:

    Of course there be no scrutiny and you know why as like our goverment ” protecters” they are mosty of the der hun backgrounds as we all know, so no chance and the hell hole of govan expects to be looked after! Nothing was ever more evident as when they went bust the poisonous hoarders turned their backs! Ha ha in an internet banking age to! That will always show they only used that club to vent their poison as they sure didnt care enough to save it! Tho we all knew this anyway

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