Most of us probably recall where we were on this day in 2001.
Twenty years ago today most of the civilized world gazed in horror at The Twin Towers collapse, an event that signaled the end of one era and the beginning of another. Regardless of your feelings towards the US of A, the scenes of that day shall never be forgotten, it truly was history in the making.
It was also a unifying event, an unlikely result for the attackers.
For those of us who are intertwined with Scottish football, for better or worse, these last few weeks and months have also witnessed an attack, which also signals the end of an era, and has also proven an unlikely unifying event.
The Fourth Estate did not topple though, but instead stood together and hit back hard.
At long last many would say.
For as long as I have followed the famous Glasgow Celtic I’ve been aware of the nature of the clubs coverage, whether television or fish and chips wrappers, latterly the world wide web.
Its biased at its best, and potentially harmful at its worst, and as a result the Fourth Estate lost the majority of its Tim readers. For a nation that has produced many a world class writer, this is particularly galling. The truth regarding the ugly nature of the national sport became a casualty of war, a plaything somewhere between profit and continued employment.
Craig Brown once spoke of the journalists huddling post press conference to align their stories, agree on the message that was to emerge. Once the Celtic bad, Rangers good model was shown as the most profitable, it was always going to take something special to break that trend.
Well, something special has happened. The rags were shut out.
Ok, they had a choice to pay for press privileges, but it wasnt much of a choice at all. Twenty five grand isnt a massive amount, although at their lowest sales ever most could have managed the sum, but yet few forked up.
The correct decision, for once.
Football and sports media for years worked hand in hand, had established a long standing relationship that could benefit each of the parties with certain unwritten rules, and up north one club in particular needed those unwritten rules to always stay in place.
Over the years many an editor will have quashed a bad Rangers story having taken the long term view there prolonged custom may well be the life vest that helps keep the publication afloat, so real criticisms were very much off the table as a rule, with a couple of exceptions.
From bigging up players to boost selling fee, to downplaying illegal songs that even resulted in stadium closures, the rags were a willing partner even going so far as to have their scribblings preordained as we saw with Craigy White dictating the terms used from the Ibrox boardroom.
Entry to players, staff, amenities is a way of life for the hacks.
Was a way of life for the hacks.
Having been spurned by their partner in crime, they were left with a choice, accept or hit back.
Acceptance might not have been possible,,its easy enough to whip up something from the snippets that emerge, in some ways what we ourselves are doing. But we are free, not supposed to have inside access and exclusives enough to charge for. Left on the outside, the rag is essentially ‘reduced’ to not much more than a blog. Should the last remaining large demographic either realize this or have it pointed out they wouldnt cough up to aid the clubs coffers when asked, it could bring the publication below the commercially viable threshold.
Without access, they were dicing with death.
Backed into a corner, doing nothing taken off the table, its little surprise some editors and journalists have opted for the only real choice, hit back.
They surely have the ammunition, as just shown by the Hands and Hearts scandal. There’s every buried story just waiting to see daylight if its still relevant, as if one hour following their support about wouldnt provide enough horrific videos.
The Press have the means, more than enough goods, it comes down only to the will.
I question how much will actually exists across the collective publications for this battle. It could get ugly, it could see boycotts then sales collapse, not to mention addresses etc leaked online for the lunatic fringe. The other side dont play by their rules, and have mob power as their primary weapon as opposed to the pen.
For some reason, they would see the creators of succulent lamb journalism put out of business and replaced by their own channels, I assume because the lamb will be twice as succulent when cooked and served up by ‘one of our own’.
Yet the rags did hit back, have taken out one official media partner, and this weekend shall probably begin the taking out of another.
Their end goal must surely be things returning to normal again.
Getting rid of the actual fans with typewriters in the room frees up seats yes but also hurts the club coffers, they cant collect from a group they have been publicly forced to ban or disassociate themselves from. They aim to empty the room, assuming the club shall move to fill the seats again believing that more coverage is better.
Never assume I learnt a long time ago.
That club has had some takers for the world’s most expensive press pass, and the more exclusive that seat at the table becomes, the better that outlet can position itself.
As I type, Sly Sports have an exclusive with their manager discussing life in general along with recently besting ourselves, they are very happy with their partner club and if anything would jump at the chance to become their only media partner. Might just pay handsomely for it.
The Rangers have disregarded the old status quo, things arent returning to normal, not under these owner operators.
The message is clear,, we dont need you, but you need us so pay up. For a club who have more skeletons than a museum in the closet, their arrogance is breathtaking.
That hubris could come back to bite them, hard as a matter of fact. The media have done a fantastic job of keeping a lid of Scotlands Shame, its permanent embarrassment and occasional disgrace of a club and its follow followers. Undoubtedly this establishment holds that nation back, constantly harking back to a bygone age and its religious overtones. That club has enjoyed the three monkeys treatment for a long time, perhaps long enough to actually believe its unnecessary. Its been not only necessary, its been vital.
As much as Glasgow Celtic held the fate of the Old Firm in its hands around 2012, so did the hacks. We read the RIP articles with astonishment back then, and read the subsequent company not club articles with equal astonishment.
They know exactly what events occured, but being an interconnected cog in the wheel, couldnt bring itself to halt the wheel. Now they’ve been replaced by another cog, they do have some options.
For starters there’s always the truth, every ugly episode could be properly covered and reported instead of spun.
Standing up for itself and finding a spine might help bring back some of those lost thousands, primarily Celtic fans who do genuine journalism but have trouble finding it among the broadsheets. While the old favourite was always a Celtic bad, Rangers good back page, maybe flipping that on its head with a Celtic on the rise, Rangers on the way down reality dose would help arrest those sliding numbers. If forced into some version of FFP I actually believe the Ibrox mob would have to fight hard for second place, which could help revitalize Hearts, Hibs, and even Aberdeen. Scottish football could undergo a renaissance of sorts without a skewed setup, any such renaissance could transform newspaper sales.
The lost walked for a reason, but are there to win back, and outweigh the current target group by some considerable size.
The simple humble truth about the national sport and its member clubs could entice many back, hell I would love to read some quality articles on the state of play, everyone would.
Secondly, a lot of the sports woes can be laid at the feet of the rags, who became the industry’s laughing stock via their succulent lamb journalism. They are enablers on a grand scale, part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Traynors sneering final piece at the Record was just about the lowest of the low, and who can forget how twenty years ago they waited for some drink fueled supporter to imitate the planes about to hit the Towers infront of an upset Reyna, that snap soon to be blasted around the world, our sacred green and white Hoops very defiled.
It would be just and fitting should the fourth estate take real and meaningful steps to help steer the game towards something better, if they actually helped tackle the Frankenstein problem they have helped create. Steps that include pushing for proper referees, and/or making sure clubs dont fly financially close to the wind. Two steps that would essentially incapacitate our rivals.
Lastly, at a time when there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of that club, and a lot of cash due to be leaving the club via the Dave King loan, the Mash Castore ruling, perhaps this time the scribes understand they hold the power of life and death in their hands, and unlike the last time they arent compromised. There’s been court rulings that a football club cannot exist in two capacities, club and company, in other countries that is, a fact that should have been sung from the heavens but was conveniently ignored.
When it comes to another liquidation for the light blues, the scribblers actually do have the power to make it the last. Ever.
Start pointing out that fact to the Ibrox boardroom, its what I would do.
Lay down that marker, its a strong card for the back pocket, and you will all play it should the time come. While they might hold your job in their hands, you also hold theirs at times.
Who knows how the future will record this spat, but it does hold the potential to become a game-changer. Who would have thought that the press pack, so often another brick in the wall, so often spineless where strength was needed, could actually become the key to a huge positive change for the national sport.
Perhaps the most famous Bonnie once sang “We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks”.
For both sides involved, never a truer word was spoken.