There is a wonderful image about structural collapse happening in increments which has always struck me as kind of beautiful, although the subject itself isn’t. It’s beautiful because of its sheer simplicity. You can explain incremental decline and ultimate collapse to a layperson with the use of a single analogy, and 99% of people get it at once.
The image is of a frog being put into a pot of boiling water and leaping out the second the pads of its feet touch the surface. But if you put the same frog in a pot of cold water and put it on the gas burner, heating it slowly, you’ll end up with soup.
We are built the same way, to adapt as we go. Little things may inconvenience us for a time, but we get past them, put them in the background and carry on. The frog analogy is perfect as a description of climate collapse. The crisis has come upon us slowly, and even as the world starts to unravel, enough of it still remains unscathed that much of the population is convinced that it’ll be that way for a long time to come, or that we’ll find an answer before it gets too severe.
If we lived in one of the parts of the world being routinely buffered by extreme weather, we wouldn’t be so blasé. But if it comes on one season at a time, one summer at a time, one rain soaked winter at a time, it might just be that we get so as not to notice it, until one day we wake up in a different world and realise we fiddled as Rome burned.
If you’re looking for patterns of decline you can see them in so many areas of our national life. And you can see them in institutions too. One of the institutions where this is most obvious is the one at Ibrox, where the frog has been boiling away nicely for ages and everyone is trying to ignore the sickening smell of it in the pot.
Ibrox will post profits this year, for the first time in an age. But it will largely be down to two factors; Champions League qualification and the sale of key players. Look at their squad right now. They can’t rely on either of those things next year. Their one year of “financial stability” is akin to that of a chronic gambler making one big score in a casino.
It will keep the wolf from the door but a while. The next big bust-out is just around the corner.
If the press wanted to, they could find plenty of evidence of the great unravelling at Ibrox. But perhaps they’ve become so inured to it that they just don’t notice it anymore. At Ibrox, crisis is never behind them, just on the other side of the wheel coming around again and after a time I imagine that this would start to feel normal.
But nothing about what’s happening at Ibrox right now is normal.
There are enough signs of crisis that you have to be daft not to see them, and our press simply refuses to join the dots. But all the hallmarks of a serious, serious problem are perfectly evident and on public display. Each little piece of evidence has been drip-fed one at a time into the arena, and as a result of that, most people have failed to make the leap of logic.
But their backroom has been decimated, from their coaching team to the medical staff. Key people have been leaving one a time for the last year. Now the boardroom is changing as key directors, who have put their own money in prior to this, are heading for the departure lounge. Their head of PR left this month, followed by Barry Scott.
King accuses the board as a whole of telling lies. Their supporter’s organisations don’t trust the team at the top, and would happily have Bisgrove and Wilson’s heads on spikes. It’s not that long ago that Ibrox directors were briefing against each other in the media; even Keith Jackson barely remembers it, and he is the one they were talking to.
UEFA is giving them a long hard look over their financial fair play submission.
It is tempting to suggest that some of these things are linked. And in the background, unexplained, and which apparently isn’t of any interest to our hacks at all, is the bizarre American court case which the club launched against a businesswoman for claiming she was acting on its behalf to attract investors interesting in acquiring a large chunk of its shares.
That story flared briefly and has now, apparently, died with the club having issued the writ but not followed up on it, allowing it to expire. It is absolutely clear that there is much more to this story than Ibrox’s directors at letting on.
There are plenty of theories but few hard facts, but what can be said pretty much without contradiction is that Paul Murray was operating on behalf of at least one or the club’s “investors” and that some kind of sale was under discussion.
If Ibrox has voluntarily ended the litigation what does that suggest to you? That matters have been resolved behind the scenes? But why? How? Was there a story which almost came to light here which they didn’t want in the public domain?
All these events seem to have no causal link. Except that they clearly are linked. They are linked through Ibrox. They are linked because every one of these changes represents a departure. Every one of them involves people rushing for the exit door.
Is it a coincidence that so many are leaving at one time?
Or do they know something the rest of football hasn’t caught up with yet?
Rats deserting asinking ship?
Change is clearly coming at Ibrox, and it is not a change that anyone at the club planned for.
Because planning usually involves people coming in, something being built, and this is something coming apart. They might replace all these people who’re leaving but that only crystallises the difference being proactive and being reactive.
We are building. You can see it. Ange has taken stock of what was required and we’re adding to the backroom team as we added to the squad, developing and continuing to grow. We’re about to appoint a new chairman. We have a new CEO who – amazingly – is doing just fine primarily because he understands the role and where it ends.
Even the hiring of Lawwell Jnr might prove to work if it continues good relationships and working habits which have now been established and are obviously working.
What is going on over there? All the signs point to utter chaos behind the scenes.
Take their soon-to-be out of contract players; how long ago now was it that the media was being briefed that these guys were committed and ready to sign new deals? Months ago? What of the bizarre signings they made in the summer? Why the indecent haste to move along players? They are still smarting that they didn’t get Kamara out the door as well.
There is, right now, a live-stream online of a lettuce sitting beside a picture of Liz Truss; this is the Daily Star, wondering whether the vegetable or her premiership will expire first. You could stick a framed picture of Van Bronckhorst next to them both, so nearly universal is the presumption that he’s living on borrowed time just like she is.
Can you imagine the carnage at that club if they have to sack him? Four out of the seven coaching staff are his people, all from Holland, and the club would need to settle their contracts as well. That would put them at square one and any new management team would take one look at that squad of theirs and demand a sweeping remit and money to spend.
But if we win this title and look as if we’re establishing something here that he’s not going to be able to beat, how can they sell season tickets whilst he’s at the helm? They can’t afford to get rid of him, but nor can they afford to cash him out either.
European results were all that was holding his project together.
Even Chris Jack is writing that he’s only got a couple more bad results in him before their board is forced to pull the plug. Almost every major fan media outlet is already calling for his head.
Their board is coming apart. Their operation behind the scenes is cratering. Just the other day their Head Of Partnerships was forced to resign because he posted pictures of himself in the Liverpool end on Wednesday night; he was hired from England. He is a Liverpool fan. As daft as it was to post those pictures, this was not some act of high treason … but he’s paid with his job, in a classic example of the febrile nature of things over there.
You could not get a clearer picture of a club in complete disarray.
No wonder the story the media here wants to write about is the collective failure of Scottish teams in Europe … anything so they don’t have to look at the big one festering in front of their eyes.
Anything so they don’t have to confront it and, God forbid, actually write about it.