Examining the Role of a Compliant Media in the Demise of Rangers F.C. (1872)
(with thanks to Shaun Gibson for his input)
“Walter Smith will be handed a massive January cheque book if Scots billionaire Craig Whyte succeeds in his £30million bid to buy Rangers” – Welcome to the past. The blissful, happy past. This is a quote from the Daily Record on the 18th November, 2010. Craig Whyte, at this stage described as a “Scots Whizzkid” in the same article, was “on the brink of buying the club he loves”.
On the same day, the Scottish Sun published their own “Hail to the Chief” style article, as the paper declared “Rangers Sold By Christmas”. The article states: “A self made millionaire who lives in a castle is set to ride to the rescue of Rangers — after weeks of secret talks with Sir David Murray about taking over the club. Lifelong Gers fan Craig Whyte — who made a fortune nursing struggling firms back to health — is poised to sign a £32million deal for the debt-ridden Ibrox side.”
Incredibly, an insider even declared “David Murray has always said he would only sell Rangers to someone he could trust and who could take the club forward. Craig Whyte is that man. He is a Rangers fan with the club’s best interests at heart and the financial muscle to make this deal happen. The deal is in the early negotiation stages at the moment but I understand that David Murray has met Craig Whyte and been very impressed by his vision of the way ahead.”
Now, as the mainstream media fawned over this potential saviour of Rangers Football Club, the cracks in their story were already clear to see. In fact, these would be shown to be more like chasms and canyons in time.
Still on the 18th November 2010, “VideoCelts” released an article which stated (only hours after the newspaper reports were released): ” Behind the blazing headlines of the self made business success story from Motherwell a “Google” search of his actual business interests throws up a predictable can of worms. Whyte’s credentials appear every bit as dubious as those of Ellis or Duffy…”
Only the next day, on the 19th November 2010, on the BBC’s “606” football discussion forum, one Celtic fan posed a simple question. “Craig Whyte – Billionaire!! Really?? So why does this guy NOT show up on the list of Scotland’s richest people? Or on the list of Britain’s richest people? The person who’s number 100 has an estimated wealth of about 40 mil! He’s not even listed in the top 100, why is that?”
That’s probably because he simply isn’t, and never has been, a “billionaire”.
You would imagine the claims regarding Mr Whyte’s wealth would have been thoroughly checked before any newspaper printed them? Right? Of course not.
Whilst the papers happily told of Whyte’s success regarding shares as a teenager (making £20,000 before he left school), they failed to mention that the first company he set up, “Whyte Hire” went bankrupt in the early nineties, with debts in the region of £300,000.
Only weeks later, on the 1st December 2010, the Daily Record proclaimed: “Craig Whyte is on his way to Scotland for D-Day talks with Sir David Murray on his plans to buy out Rangers. Record Sport has learned that the final round of discussions – which will make or break Whyte’s £32.5million bid – will take place within the next week.”
On the same day, “VideoCelts” once again hinted at the true state of affairs, stating: “The fact that Motherwell born billionaire Whyte has never appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List was probably the first sign that all wasn’t well with the deal. Billionaire’s don’t normally require consortiums to purchase £30m businesses…”
Joe McHugh, the owner and runner of “VideoCelts” then goes on to say “Between moving to Monaco in 1996 and buying Castle Grant in Grantown-on-Spey in 2008 next to nothing is known about Whyte.”
Nowadays, it is widely known that Whyte fled to Monaco for an extended period of time, and was banned from being the director of a U.K. company for seven years. Whilst this was yet to come out in early December 2010, it is clear that Scottish “mainstream” media outlets chose to ignore this fact. Let’s be honest, if Celtic fans sitting at laptops and desktop computers can find out this stuff, surely newspapers, with all of their staff and resources could do the same. Perhaps they already knew this, and simply chose to ignore it?
Ok, so fast forward a few months, till the end of March, 2011. Perhaps the mainstream media would have caught up by this stage in the game?
Nope, apparently not, as on the 31st March, 2011, the Scottish Sun had the headline “Buy Buy Rangers”, with the following picture underneath it. Now, ironic and laughable as that headline may seem to us all now, this is genuinely what was being reported less than a year before the administration of the Ibrox Club.
The story itself told how “Tycoon Craig Whyte is at last set to buy Rangers tomorrow in a cut-price £28million swoop”, before going onto state “Rangers are today expected to announce yearly figures showing they’ve slashed the club debt by £7 million to £20 million.”
Only days earlier, a blog appeared which would soon become synonymous with the demise of Rangers Football Club, the now famous “Rangers Tax Case”. It received more than ten thousand hits in the first few days of it’s existence, as it detailed the amounts Rangers F.C. had been placing into offshore accounts known as “Employee Benefit Trusts” (EBT’S).
On the 30th March 2011, the day before the Scottish Sun published the article above, Rangers Tax Case (RTC) said “Rangers fans should be wary of those purporting to represent their interests. While Celtic fans might enjoy a temporary giggle over the current situation, only journalists with decades worth of friendships to protect and those who have driven the club to the precipice can benefit from keeping this story quiet.”
Whilst RTC, the blog which would go on to win the “Orwell Prize” published an article entitled “Whispering the L-Word” (referring to the potential threat of liquidation) on the 22nd April 2011, the Daily Record was continuing in it’s apparent blindness to the reality of the situation. On the 5th May 2011, the paper published a story claiming the “Rangers takeover to go through within hours as Craig Whyte seals deal”. This in itself is not untrue, as the takeover did occur at this time. However, the first line of the article describes the deal as “Craig Whyte’s £50 million buy out”.
It also sites a “A lengthy period of due diligence and negotiation followed which culminated in an offer being made and accepted”, before stating “His interest in Rangers combines his passion for the club and its success on the domestic and European stages with a commitment to turn the business into a sound and profitable commercial enterprise.”
Funny that, as only weeks later Craig Whyte was interviewed by Scotland on Sunday, saying (with reference to RTC): “I’m aware of a website that has dedicated itself to talking about our tax case”, said Whyte of a site that claims to be in the know about Rangers’ financial affairs and regularly predicts a new kind of Armageddon for the club. “I’ve looked at it. What they’re saying is 99 per cent crap.”
In my mind, if RTC was talking “99 per cent crap”, I don’t know if numbers could go high enough to truly quantify the amount of “crap” that has been printed in the Scottish Press over the last couple of years.
As the financial net began to tighten around Rangers Football Club, there was soon to be a shift in attitudes in the media, from positive and complimentary to scathing and vindictive. However, before all of that, the sale of Nikica Jelavic came with the opportunity for a transfer rumour, as Rangers targetted Francisco Sandaza. In fact, the Daily Mail had the transfer down as a done deal on the 7th January 2012, stating ” Sportsmail understands the Ibrox club have met the Spanish striker’s wage demands and, as things stand, he will join Rangers in the summer. However, there is still a chance the player could arrive at Ibrox this month after manager Ally McCoist revealed on Friday that he does not have to sell before buying.”
Only a month later, in mid February, Rangers Football Club filed for administration. In a little over nine months, the man who could do no wrong in the eyes of the mainstream media had led Rangers Football Club into the control of administrators. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Whyte is not exclusively to blame for the woes of the old club, as Sir David Murray must shoulder vast amounts of this, but Mr Whyte has certainly not helped matters.
On the 14th of February, the Daily Record published an article entitled “Rangers In Crisis: Fury As Supremo Whyte Faces The Fans Outside Ibrox”. It began “A small but dedicated and extremely vocal band of supporters erupted in a cacophony of boos as their new hate figure appeared before them. The group of around 100 gave vent to their anger as a nervous Whyte, the colour drained from his face, hesitantly announced plans to move their beloved club towards administration. Guarded by police and reading from a piece of paper, he attempted to make his faltering voice heard over the crescendo of catcalls.”
The article then proceeded to say “Having rattled off the statement, Whyte turned and scuttled back inside the stadium with the verbal backlash ringing in his ears.” Less than a year beforehand, the same newspaper hailed the new Rangers owner, his “£50 million buy out” and his aim to invest his own money so the club could buy new players.
The article then stated the views of several Rangers supporters, one of which read “David Miller, 40, of Craigton, Glasgow, said: “It’s a sad day for Rangers. I thought Craig Whyte was the man to take us forward. He made so many promises and yet we find ourselves in this position now.””
My issue is this. It has been increasingly well known from day one of this affair that Craig Whyte simply did not have the money many claimed he had, and that he could not invest in Rangers Football Club as they claimed he would.
Authors, bloggers, and people simply airing views and opinions on internet forums have spoken extensively regarding matters that were ignored by sections of the mainstream media for very lengthy periods of time. If average Rangers supporters like Mr Miller, quoted above, had seen these facts written in their daily newspapers then it is unlikely Craig Whyte would have ever gained control of Rangers.
Whether or not the club would be any better off than it is now is very debatable, but sections of the media knowingly chose to both ignore the truth, and not to report it. Many of the Rangers supporters have been stunned by the events of the last six months and, when you consider the media many of them digest, can you really blame them for thinking “Celtic supporters on the internet are just talking nonsense”?
The “we are the people”, “Rangers cannot die” mentality has been engrained in them for years if not decades by sections of the Scottish press, and this propaganda meant they were shocked when the reality of the situation finally hit many of them. In fact, the reality has still to really hit some Rangers supporters, as journalists and newspapers far and wide tell them how “the club lives on in the fans” and “it is still the same club” when this is simply not the case.
Rangers Football Club (1872) will die, officially, when liquidators BDO move in at some point in the next few months. This is now an undeniable certainty. With this, the history of “Rangers” ceases to grow and “Rangers”, at least as we have known them, will cease to exist.
Along with the notable shift in the tone of many newspapers reporting with regards to Craig Whyte, there has also been an interesting shift in style of the images used to accompany the articles. Initially, when Whyte could do no wrong, and was hailed as a “billionaire”, images such as the one below were used, depicting a happy, relaxed, energetic looking Mr Whyte.
However, as the grim situation facing Rangers (and Whyte’s role in it) became increasingly apparent, the images of Craig Whyte seen in the media changed clearly, as the pictures of the fresh faced young businessman from Motherwell became pictures of a stressed, concerned man constantly being followed by the media (see below).
For the record, I am not trying to defend what Craig Whyte, Sir David Murray, or anyone else involved in the demise of Rangers has done. I am merely trying to highlight the ways in which certain sections of the media, particularly the tabloid press, have contributed to the circumstances surrounding the so called “end-game”.
For years, they have knowingly lied to both the Rangers supporters and the public as a whole, underplaying things and over-exaggerating things when it suited them, and when it suited those in control of the Ibrox club. The truth was out on the freely accessible internet long, long before it ever hit a newspaper which you are required to pay for the privilege of reading. The work of those behind the “Rangers Tax Case” blog, Phil MacGiollaBhain, Paul Brennan of CQN, and countless others has been critical in bringing this story to light, and in bringing those who have committed wrongdoing to justice.
This has been, and will continue to be, the biggest sporting story Scotland has seen for decades. I, for one, will confess to feeling a little bored of it at times. After all, this story has been dragging on for what seems like forever. However, this doesn’t mean the story itself is not important. In fact, it is incredibly important.
First, the mainstream media told us Rangers would never go into administration…and then they did.
Second, the mainstream media told us Rangers were “too big to go under” and would not liquidate…and they will.
Now, as the mainstream media try to tell us that “Scottish Football needs Rangers to survive”, they expect us to believe them?
Long live internet bampottery. Long live Scottish Football.