Thoughts on Rangers : Good and Bad
by Joe Barrett
I would delight in seeing a resurgent Glasgow Rangers. High and proud and roaring orchestrated defiance at every opponent especially at its historical enemy in Green and White (no pun on club investors intended). Fans should be permitted to shout and scream and roar and bark their absolutes across the park without carping interference from prigs who see themselves as the arbiters of good taste. Soccer is not about any kind of taste whatever your taste, nor should taste be permitted even in argument. No, especially not in argument. De gustibus non disputandum! as ancient Romans understood. Even the French have some words for it; “Chaque on a son goute”.
But what if vocal opposition degenerates into violent insults and threats? Shouldn’t the police pile in and cart thousands of offenders away in tumbrils? Yes, we are talking thousands here. Did you imagine I was even vaguely interested in minorities? I am not the Scottish media. No, here I speak of fans, thousands upon thousands of fans, or to give that collective its Sunday name, Fan-atics.
Let them be! I say. Leave them alone. If you don’t like raw emotional engagement go to Sunday school. Stay away from Ibrox.
The Hun contingent (I use the proper noun with the gravest respect) may cross itself or ostentatiously refrain from doing so. It may publicly idolise its white horsed Dutch pretender to the English throne (who never had a word of English himself they say) and so long as God does not chuck a thunderbolt at the Copeland Road End for blasphemy, what business is it of mine? The fervent followers of the Boys in Blue may Worship H. M. The Queen until proper Englishmen gag, or they may damn to hell all Irishmen who dare to damn the Queen. If they chose to curse all Papists, propose gross physical interference with the virtue of the present Pope it’s a weird concept and a glimpse into a nightmarish psyche, but nothing more; in short, if they violate every decent societal norm exactly as indecent soccer fans tend to do one way or another all over the earth, I do not give a split pea from the ref’s whistle. I could not care less — So long as the tirade of contumely remains PERSONAL!
My only concern is the kind of hatred that is impersonal, that awful spiritual poison of ill-will that descends upon men miasma-like from God knows where and drifts here and there in directions rarely traced by human hand. I hate that sulphurous cloud cloud that lowers over a darn sight more than Ibrox Stadium.
Let me explain.
“Nobody likes us” goes the Rangers poutey-lipped anthem. Incidentally, we should be amazed that this great many-headed monster has feeling that can be hurt in the first place. Who would have dreamed that such a raucous rage-crazed creature could even notice that it wasn’t getting cuddles? Still, they chant “nobody likes us!” and they should know, and that is very sad. But, in fact, it is not true. Lots of people like Rangers. I like Rangers. Judges, it is feared, tend to look kindly upon their peccadilloes (Englishmen involved with Celtic who seek justice in civil law tend to look for ways to be judged in English courts. Probably silly suspicion, vide the famous Scottish jurist, Lord Nimo Smith. He actually showed real grit in sticking to the issue before his panel, correctly I believe). Referees at the favoured degree of competence in the SFA brotherhood like Rangers enormously (or act as though they do). The management, the players, and the fans and their various mums and dads. Rangers, considered as a mighty sporting club, is not unlovable. What it ought to be is eminently admirable. The problem is not what it is meant to be. The problem has arisen because of what it has become. I wish to point out that it has become a sinister thing which although in the form of a soccer club, is actually a social menace disguised as sport and used as one of many instruments whose purpose is to harm an historical and benign institution in order to protect another power hub to maintain its long advantage. I argue that The Rangers is, in any of its manifestations, an icon parading as an entertainment.
What nobody likes is an icon set up to summon sectarian mobs in a myriad levels of society; an icon designed to flag up and promote fear and loathing in order to empower shady political patronage. Nobody likes a Fifth Columnist, or a Judas Goat. Everybody fears a hidden authority who can dump you on the dole queue or keep you unemployed on a whim.
Well, that’s Rangers’ universal image! Rangers, as a huge tranche of the Scottish population perceives it, is an abomination. Can it be true that a venerable sporting association can be so misunderstood; or if the charge is true and it has been possessed by a spirit diametrically opposed to sport as fair play, who can have so misused it and deflected its original purpose? It is almost incomprehensible.
O.K. we must touch upon crowd behaviour or few will take this essay seriously. Some accommodation has to be made for the tender susceptibilities of those critics I have perhaps dismissed too harshly as Prigs. The performance of a Rangers crowd is, admittedly, pretty strong meat. It would frighten the horses, even white horses with nice Protestant policemen perched on top. The phenomenon of ill-mannered football supporters, of course, is not confined to the Rangers club — although few disinterested observers would deny that it is followed by the most pernicious, most successfully organised, and least censured by the Scottish media. They’re naughty chaps (and ladies) all right. But the nub, the crux of my argument lies in that last phrase about media disconcern. Everything hangs on that slim hinge. “…and the club least censured by the Scottish media”. Encouragingly a few of the best reporters are at last making just this point.
It is this last conundrum, this contrivance of an evil thing to evade the strictures and ordinary safe-guards which society historically erects for self preservation that I wish to address. In Scotland it forms the hub of a nexus of injustice and insolence which frustrates and outrages its many victims, upsets fair-minded onlookers, and, indeed, makes of The Rangers brand a byword even abroad. You could say that this faculty of evasion has distanced the entire personnel of Rangers, from fans to boot-boys from the discipline which every organisation of mankind requires if is not to become degraded and corrupt. That discipline is the moral consensus of the people around us. If we come across a person who is oblivious to just criticism we label him not just as an anti-social case but take recourse to pscho-bable and call him or her a sociopath. Does that ribng any bells about the present hubris of the Newco/Sevco board?
To concentrate only on the club for a moment, that lack of discipline and the resultant extreme behaviour has been endured throughout Europe for too long; and that alone should incite suspicion. From Manchester to Barcelona out of control gangs sporting the famous club’s favours have wreaked havoc and the rest of the world via TV screens has looked on in amazement that they are never effectively dealt with. On at least one occasion the club’s officials mounted a plea for leniency on the weirdly specious grounds that the behaviour of its fans was tolerable within their own particular national customs and mores. Does this refer to the licence afforded the Orange Order to route terrifying parades around the Catholic Churches in Scotland’s more deprived districts? (A licence outrageously renewed by the Scottish Labour Party within hours of its councillors winning seats in Glasgow). For the thousands of civilised supporters of the famous old club the embarrassment is quite unbearable.
So, to return to the res; how can such a national scandal continue to shame Scotland; and without any effective intervention from our national newspapers, radio or TV broadcasters, or the law of the land? Every Scottish sports programme actually boasts at least one celebrity broadcaster who unashamedly supports the Rangers’ “cause”, no doubt to milk an easily accessed audience to enhance the station’s rankings. One studio performer in particular finds it difficult to disguise satisfaction at any embarrassment suffered by their arch rivals — Celtic, a team which is associated with Irish immigrant Catholicism. The concept of journalistic even-handedness is practically non-existent in the West of Scotland. A casual caller to any of these “shows”, including BBC Scotland, who has a criticism to make of Rangers can be expected to be howled down and insulted by the programme host.
When Glasgow Rangers F.C. was declared bankrupt, liquidated and no longer eligible for a high ranking status in the major soccer leagues, the hysteria of Scottish journalists exceeded the emotional eruptions usually associated with ill-educated American Bible Belt Ergumens. News headlines screamed Apocalyptic exaggerations until their preferred term, Armageddon, became just another weary cliche. It was only to be expected. In newsrooms and studios, visiting journalists have often complained to me of an oppressive collective mood which discourages all but the most confident writers from “breaking from the herd” to express disquiet at the “in your face” behaviour of the rowdiest Rangers’ fans at practically any venue in the country (or out of it). Who could believe that men and women whose profession is identified with the concept of public watchdog could be so supine in the face of such violations of public order? What is the secret of this weird drugging of the media mind? Again this press involvement, not the soccer club as such is part of my target. It is important that this is kept in mind. I do like the Rangers football club.
This is no diatribe against the soccer team, or my fellow citizens who like soccer.
First let’s add a few inevitable consequences of this climate of media evasion. Since the general media publicity is biased even against a match official reckless enough to give the slightest advantage to Rangers’ opponents, any referee who sticks to the rules of the game without fear or favour cannot expect to get the praise he deserves. On the contrary; he is sticking his neck out, and he knows it. If “the media” up in the press box happens to be a known Rangers’ enthusiast, like, say John Traynor (formerly of the Daily Record and now a direct employee of The Rangers — there’s a perfect example of journalistic integrity and impartiality being utterly violated) how silly would the official have to be who imagined for a second that the match report next day could be anything other than partisan? Successful officials don’t take risks with public opinion manipulators anywhere on the planet. Never in Scotland! Absolutely never if the match involved what was amusingly called The Old Firm. The man in black also needs to pay the mortgage; no, he needs to get home to Airdrie in one piece. But it gets worse; given the astounding length of time this “sporting” bias has existed in the West of Scotland, it is not hard to suspect that eventually the core organisation of officialdom must degrade into a pro-Protestant “ascendency” support system.
Remember the other mantra: “We are the People!” So you get the referees’ supreme chief, Mr Hugh Dallas, and his round robin office e-mails associating a gentle Pontiff with homosexual child predation on the very day of His Holinesses visit to our country. “Scotland’s Top Whistler” as the less than impartial media chose to revere him got the red card in the wake of that foul episode. It made the bad old world cringe with shame. Nobody of the central caucus of influence voiced any real shame or repentance.
At that point at which officials are no longer expected to be fair corruption has become institutionalised. And here the fatuous nature of attempts to apportion behavioural abnormality to “sections” of the support becomes apparent. The question is not how big a minority or small a majority happens to violate the Queen’s peace every weekend but why significant excesses are being so openly permitted in the first place and then covered up or trivialised by the newspapers. I say that it is because the problem is not rooted in the football terraces whether by a majority or a minority. The situation is tainted and anybody associated with a tainted thing is contaminated by that association.
Let them do as they please I argue, but anybody who has witnessed this foul mouthed Leviathan in full frontal blood lust, week after week while hundreds of policemen stand around the terraces, obviously powerless, must suspect that something’s rotten in the State of Scotland. It doesn’t add up. How in heaven’s sake can they get off with it since such behaviour is now specific ally against the law? Ban the bomb marches were permitted because the Government knew a straggling queue of celebrities, wannabes, eccentric notables and commies was an early form of comic relief.
But the sheer dangerous ghastliness of the Ibrox experience makes a sinister mockery of the very occasional arrest of three or four drunken louts that the police were limited to. This is not just treating a leprosy pandemic with a band aid. It is posturing legality and practising collaboration.
Yet, how can this chain of eventualities be sustained? How could club, fan base, sports and media, police, political authorities and so on even permit its survival for a year, or even a week? Manchester has been wrecked before and will be again. European cities shudder at the expectation of a visit from Rangers’ sectarian energised hordes.
Surely some unseen atmosphere exists which alone might explain why such an anti-social beast can find the oxygen to survive? And there is indeed such an atmosphere — toxic to all but this mysterious footballing fabrication. It has been mentioned here already en passant. I suspect few readers even noted the word “sectarian” in the paragraph I refer to. Say Rangers and the S word is its echo. So what we are really engaging in this examination is Religion, or rather the awful, rotting corpse left when the loving soul of true religion is exorcised and replaced with a manipulated, politicised cult based on fear and loathing.
We are actually staring at religious extremism at its worst. If I were to describe it from its formation the following just about accommodates it; for over 400 years the entire population of Britain has been force fed, not the love of God and fellow man as insisted upon by the Bible, but hatred of anybody loyal to the sole spiritual authority of our ancient nation. That single, nationally independent authority is the Catholic Church, mother and mentor of our Scots civilisation. The root cause of all of this Rangers thing is distorted Religion. It is not soccer. The wildest thing about the only possible debate is that we were discouraged from holding a debate. If one raised the obvious, inescapable fact, a shout would go up that to do so was sectarianism. The writer who tried to raise the matter was suspected of degrading the affair by indelicately confusing religion with sport, or of mixing up private beliefs with public politics. Thanks to the tiny handful of journalists I mentioned earlier who recently dared to tackle the matter head on — and I flag up Mr. Graham Spiers for particular praise (manfully open about his Protestantism and cultural background) — this article or any like it would have been dismissed with derision as disgraceful muck-raking.
But that exactly is how the great evasion or distraction was achieved and sustained in the first place. A psychological barrier of pious bullshit stood against any honest exploration of a present and immediate civil danger. We were scared of the mob and the mob was somehow made invisible, intangible. The mob had discovered the perfect hideaway — Religion; and religion had been made taboo. We were not allowed to look at the real Rangers problem, nor to examine publicly the complex ramifications of anonymous “players” who manipulate an infinite web of patronage and power. The connexions are effected mainly through fear-driven social bondings, unspoken or unexamined prejudices, and downright lies. Oh, and secret societies whose hatreds are in the historical record despite themselves.
Rangers football club has become merely an iconor banner for all of this; Only accidentally does is stand for sport (although rarely sportsmanship). And the fall of the Big Hoose has revealed an astounding under-world of graft and dirty dealing right up to the highest level of Scottish financing and banking. Even its present day would-be rescuers are of a stamp that would make a rag trade free-marketeer shudder.
The Murray trodden red carpet that led into the vaults (of other people’s money) which he almost single-handedly emptied was just a small part of the great media smoke and mirrors assisted grab-it-all culture. The sheer ubiquitous spread of corruption hidden behind so called soccer sectarianism may never be fully plumbed. But now we know things stink down there, aye, and we’re all takin’ notes.
True Religion, pure and simple, is the imitation of Christ and his imperatives of mutual love and respect — especially of our enemies. That does not mean we must let them rot in rottenness. Truth makes us all free. Let’s those of us who know this practise it and be brave enough to scorn its antithesis; those once sacred principles now twisted beyond belief until the very bible becomes a sort of Nazi credo. Holy writ is not a licence for madmen with world dominion in their ugly hearts and supermen on their silly egos.
Do I exaggerate in perceiving a soccer club as a banner for politically engineered hatred, or in accusing the spectators of forming a great deflecting shield behind which all sorts of industrial skullduggery disports itself? Then ask this question; Who are Rangers’ stated enemies? You need not look too far or strain too hard to hear the answer. Rangers hate Catholics, and by association they hate Irish people too — with a vengeance. Indeed until recently the club would not employ even an R.C. boot boy. History was made when not too long ago the club actually signed a Catholic player. But why blame the club? Surely the blame lies with its generations of enablers. The flag is not bad but the people who wave the flag. I spoke to a close friend today whose grandfather held a high position in a famous newspaper. He said: “The old man considered all Catholics scum. Not one Catholic ever found a job in his paper!” Not much has changed as I shall demonstrate. This job application in Scotland: “And what school did you attend?” has little to do with educational attainments.
But first, to enlarge upon the political theme I touched upon earlier: for purely political purposes and the making of overnight multi-millionaires the population of Great Britain was powerfully brain-washed at the Reformation. The maintenance of the new ascendancy depended for centuries on demonising the old order. From Oxbridge, and Anglicanism, to Parliament and Calvinism the hate gospel has been thundered out in kirks and religious rallies or whispered in closets until it has become as fixed and certain as a mathematical theorem that Catholics in these lands where all Christians had never been anything other than Catholic were now to be considered aliens, dangerous freedom-eroding Johnny Foreigners and even creatures of the Devil of hell. You tell a lie often enough said Stalin and it becomes truth… but we know it doesn’t. A lie is bad. Repetition increases its baleful poison, never lessens it.
Until TV brought the gentle personalities of the popes of recent years into every home many Protestants thought the Catholic Pontiff had horns on his forehead. Extreme? Read the great John Henry Newman’s “Apologia pro vita sua”. He was a Protestant Oxford Don who became a Catholic cardinal. That was in the 19th century. In the 20th century I could not get a job on a major Glasgow newspaper because I was an RC. My CV was so tasty they had been offering me heavy bucks to join the staff. It was like a Ricky Fulton sketch. I had just agreed an advantageous expenses deal to be concluded “downstairs in the pub!” when I apologised and remarked that my wife was waiting at a nearby cafe and we had evening Mass to attend since it was Sunday. Volte face is an abrupt thing, but you should have witnessed the reaction to this shocking revelation of church-going (to the wrong church). The news editor blanched, then blanched at his blanching. He adopted the look of a policeman who has just been nabbed for peeing up a close. The saddest, sickest part was when to cover his distress the poor guy gasped: “We employ a Catholic here. Jimmy, Jimmy! Come over here!” I have never discovered what that guy was afraid of. Jimmy (I change his name) was the office boy, a smart sixteen-year- old. Instead I went back down south and eventually became an editorial executive on that very paper’s national flagship title. And Jimmy. He did ok but he was never going to become editor.
So don’t blame the Ranger’s fans, don’t even blame the cringe-making Orange Order (what other civilised nation could stomach its existence never mind 200 plus strutting parades around the poor quarters of a mighty city). People like that simply believe what they’ve been told. Don’t blame the Media puppets even if most of them have daddies in the Masons and went to Allan Glens or Glasgow High School themselves. All of these men and women are gulled servants of very powerful people in a long line from the first chancers who manipulated the word of God for political ends, and suppressed ordinary Catholic people with rack and rope. (Read Compton McKenzie’s Catholicism and Scotland). Blame none of the obvious “villains”. Instead seek out and identify, in its ubiquitous and snaking convolutions, a corrupt power system created by rich men in our ancient past who attacked the common man at the Reformation and lived high on the hog by suppressing the truth and persecuting loyal and brave people. It is said that if Protestants were loyal they would still be Catholics. Anyway, their leaders attempt to give the impression they no longer need the stupefied mobs, the Edinburgh mob, the Gordon rioters, the Gangs of New York, or that they no longert need to control the mood of the media. To some extent the poor Protestant activist has been abandoned by those leaders. But don’t be fooled. Power is power even when it devolves further down the food chain. And, whatever you do, don’t be tempted to forget that Scotland is our own beloved land, damaged as it may be, and we should not fall into a temptation to follow other flags, certainly not for revenge which is the most non-Catholic and disloyal of all motives.
Instead lets keep our eyes on the big ball which is our very small world. Let’s ensure that a chiel’s amang us takin’ notes and let’s find the faith to print it. Retain a healthy fear of any cynical network of secret entrepreneurs who would set our morals by their own louche standards. These secretive guys have skimmed our banks while holding up another guy’s dog-eared bible as a diversion. Oh, and if the fan, however vulgar and irreverent from the other side gets hurt and needs help, for God’s sake let’s hurry to his side and ask if you may allowed provide that help. That’s not religion sport, that is humanity. In fact that very help came from the other side of the Divided city when the families and survivors of the dreadful Ibrox disaster needed friends. Real friends!
Joe Barrett ( http://www.schoolman.co.uk/ )
“If you were that loyal you’d still be Catholics”.
posturing legality and practicing collaboration. Nothing could be truer than that.
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