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Ibrox Is Obviously Not Being Straight With Its Fans Over The Seriousness Of Their Situation.

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About 30 years ago, when I was a teenager just getting into politics and political activism, I read a stunning book which was to stay with me all the way through campaigning in the years to come. It was called Ireland, The Propaganda War: The Media & The Battle For Hearts And Minds.

At that time, my great aunt was still alive, and living across the water. She was a nun who had written a book and was fearsomely intellectual; she used to tell us stories, when she was over here, about the situation in the Six Counties and how the BBC, in particular, would frequently present a version of events which turned out to be a complete fiction. The book laid out the process by which this took place. Let me lay out a fictional scenario to give you some idea.

A shooting would take place.

At first there would be no confirmation that the military or the security forces were involved; it would be reported initially, perhaps, as a confrontation between two rival “terror groups”. Then once witnesses or evidence was uncovered to confirm security forces involvement there would be a cover story, perhaps that they were fired on first. Then there would be an admission that the facts were unclear. Followed, perhaps days later, by an admission that yes, the injured (or dead) parties had not, in fact, been armed but that a simple mistake had been made … and only then would the full story start to emerge.

At every stage in this process, the media would be used to spread disinformation and lies and the BBC, in particular, would go right along with it.

Right now, there’s a general election campaign underway and I’ve never seen such an utter shambles of one from the government seeking re-election. Sunak has made every mistake that it’s possible to make in the course of this, from presentational errors to failures in message discipline to screw ups involving the vetting of candidates … and of course, scandal has erupted in the midst of it all, and we can see clearly that it’s not going away.

I refer, of course, to the one involving aides to the PM who placed bets on the date of the election. The bookies, and the fraud office, consider this the equivalent of insider trading; it’s illegal. And the disclosure of this, and the handling of it, bear all the hallmarks of a traditional political media response to an evolving outrage.

It began with deflection. Then the half-hearted expressions of anger. And as each new revelation comes we get the usual demands for people not to draw conclusions but to “wait for the investigations to be complete.” When Sunak, who certainly knows there is stuff still to emerge, is asked if there’s more to come, he waffles and dissembles.

It’s as if he hopes that this all going to go away. As bad as it looks, this is not terribly unusual. It is the way political scandals are uncovered. One bit at a time. One layer at a time.

During the early years of the Labour government, the story of the Bernie Ecclestone affair emerged; Formula One was given an exemption to the government’s ban on tobacco advertising in sport. This was controversial enough, but then it emerged that Ecclestone had donated money to the Labour Party before the election. Andrew Rawnsley, in his fabulous book on the first term, 1997-2001, describes the progress of that scandal thus:

“New Labour had been acting true to the dark side of its character; first, the denials and aggressive counterblast of rebuttals, followed by the partial retreat under pressure of revelations, and only when the truth had been tweezered out of them bit by bit, only then the expressions of half regret.”

Almost nobody owns up and goes for full disclosure.

It’s the same in high level public relations. It’s only when the truth can no longer be denied, or the consequences held at bay, that organisations are forced to admit to the full scale of what has taken place. It is almost never voluntary.

This morning, the Rangers Tax Case Twitter feed said what a lot of us have been thinking since this story broke; there’s no way they are telling us everything.

“If we have learned anything following clubs that play out of Ibrox in the last 20+ years it is that the first version of any story they issue is rarely true,” he said. “They instinctively dissemble and spin everything. Whatever is going on is worse than they admitted yesterday.”

The identity of RTC has long been a mystery; there is one half decent theory that I thought might have legs, and for reasons which are obvious I’m not going to feed that theory by naming the person at the heart of it. But it’s long been obvious to me that this is someone who knows media relations and, I suspect, politics as well. And all of us know what life is like at Ibrox, and how they have behaved in the past, both recent and distant.

That he is almost certainly correct on this is just good sense.

But he has a habit of saying openly what many in the media already suspect but so rarely decide to explore. That the Ibrox cover story is obviously just that is clear in the way they seek to blame outside parties for whatever has gone wrong whilst at the same time leaking to people like Chris Jack that a senior member of staff has already been fired over this … which confirms that this has its roots more in their own house than with anything which has happened elsewhere.

As the above stories demonstrate though, they are not alone in this. It’s the political-media playbook going back decades. The only reason they’ve disclosed this at all is that the story was already circulating and the fixture list was about to be published; first, disclosure of some kind was coming whether they liked it or not and they had almost run out of road, since it’s obvious that other clubs will be inconvenienced as a result of this.

But there’s virtually no chance that they’ve disclosed the full facts here, and that’s going to impact not only on the other clubs but their own fans. It might inconvenience the SFA if they have to use Hampden on an extended timeframe.

Remember, this is major construction which has already fallen behind. Even if there’s no RAAC in there, even if there aren’t structural integrity issues, even if there is no asbestos, there is a lot that can go wrong, and a lot which can delay this job even further. What if the construction company is committed elsewhere beyond the deadline? What if the material isn’t up to snuff when it finally does show up? There are so many unknowns here.

So, the club can’t offer guarantees to fans, even if they wanted to, and the smartest thing they’ve done here is that they’ve promised a vague update at some time in the future still unspecified and gone no further than that. But they are certainly not sharing everything they know, they are certainly not being straight about the extent of the issues they face, and I don’t believe they genuinely think that this will be resolved by the end of August either.

At what point will we get something approaching full disclosure?

Well, they’ve bought themselves a few weeks in which we can be sure the media will ask no searching questions and which their fans will grant them because until the materials arrive nothing can really happen … I suspect we’ll be well into July and perhaps even early August before the first confirmation that this isn’t going to be resolved quickly, or cheaply, comes.

We’ll probably get a further series of stories out of the club about how someone else is to blame. There might even be some tub-thumping about compensation. At some stage they are going to have to offer fans their own compensatory packages … it’s a shambles and even if they get it done on time there is no way that this will simply be passed off as unimportant, particularly if they start badly in the league and go out of the Champions League.

The one thing you can be sure of though is that there will be more. At Ibrox there is always more. Successive Ibrox boards have been lying to fans and to the media about matters great and small for years, and it does not seem to matter who inhabits those boardrooms … all of them have a certain amount of contempt for their fan-base and for the press which is supposed to cover football here, and that contempt has been justified again and again and again.

I have very little doubt that it will be this time too.

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  • Roonsa says:

    For Christ’s sake, Sevco. We are all looking for downtime over the Summer months. The curtain call was the Scottish cup final. Why do you insist on entertaining us with your incompetence long after the final final whistle of the season? We do appreciate the effort but it’s not necessary. We just want some respite from the lols. Please.

    Let’s pick this up again in August, eh?

    Cheers lads.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    It’s well named as LIEBROX and ibrokes, and The Pox, and it’s stand, BroomLOAN,

    Glasgow City Council should really change the name of the street that the Victorian Lavvy sits on to…

    DEADMISTON DRIVE !!!! (Well they ‘Rangers’ are long gone now) – 12 years, it dozen seem fair !

  • Sophie Johnstone says:

    The way this is going we could be on course to win our first close season cup

    • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

      Aye but they’ll still win The Transfer Window Trophy Sophie…

      They do every year –

      Lord Lucan-Nicholson will see to that for sure…

      We actually spent a fair wedge last summer but it’s a shame that it was Sonny Lawwell that picked the players and not Brendan…

      They spent a fair old wedge as well it has to be said players picked by Beale I actually fink…

      It’s early doors in the transfer window so I’m not panicking just yet !

  • Graham Laurie says:

    I really hope RAAC IS found in the concrete structuring of the Copland and Broomloan Stands, as it could well be given both were built in the late 1970s and this was a decade where many buildings built around then have been found to have been riddled with it. This would FINISH them as there’s no way they could even afford the cost of the demolition never mind building of replacement Stands. Talk about an act of GOD? Looks like the Almighty wants to see the BIG HOOSE come tumbling down!! lol

    • Thomas Daly says:

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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