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Article submitted by Andy Steele: Succulent Lambs to the Slaughter You'll have had yer tax case, then. What a lot of e-ink has been spilled on what turns out to be, ultimately, a non-story. What a lot of damage has been done to individuals and clubs. How much energy has been expended in frothy-mouthed diatribes, how many hours have been spent broadcasting cast iron certainties which turned out to be chimeras. In as much as it boils down to a lot of people talking a lot of mince, the Rangers vs HMRC tax case should have come as no surprise to anyone with a passing knowledge of Scottish football. There's only two aspects which are still worth going over in this sorry saga, how it has affected Rangers fans and the legal ramifications for some people involved. The latter will hopefully come to court in due course and so I shouldn't comment, even if I knew anything, which I don't. The effect on the fans is worthy of a look, though, but it doesn't look good. If fan groups were a growth economic activity then Rangers would be the market standard. If nothing else the whole HMRC period has seen the rise of yet more fan groups, none of whom can get their act together and none of whom are capable of releasing even the most simple statement without seasoning it with leaden, lumpen accusations or self-interested political gestures.* Despite the club not only arriving at death's door but staying there for an unconscionable length of time, some fans - most fans, I think, although obviously I don't know them all - are still more concerned with their own infantile identity issues than they are concerned with a strong Rangers. Inevitably, you end up with division: the result is the weakening of the only strong aspect Rangers had left, the fanbase. Some fans buy into the red and black protest shirts, others foretell dire consequences should they see one at a game. Some fans allow the ad hoc board groupings more time, others nurse their wrath. The fanbase is a shambles, appropriate enough I suppose for a club like Rangers. Any other club, having been exonerated in the courts, would be driven on for a generation to achieve as never before in order to extract revenge in the best way possible, but thumping perceived enemies on the pitch, over and over again. Rangers fans want to head back to the courts, despite the ample evidence that this should always be a last resort and avoided if at all possible, especially if any victories would do little or nothing beyond salving injured pride. The number of wrong steps the fans have made is becoming as embarrassing as performances on the pitch. A combination of owners and boards who don't actually care about Rangers and fans who care about baggage as much as Rangers creates the perfect storm for other people to kick the daylights out of it. When media onlookers write 'My own view on EBTs hasn't changed. I viewed EBTs, when used as a vehicle for disguised remuneration, as a form of cheating' they are merely indulging in the age old practice of the religious, judging the morality of others by their own standards.* God, probably, know that there was enough bullshit around in the days of sporting integrity; if we are to have a sporting morality imposed on us, Taliban style, by newspaper folk (of all people!) it's time to quit. Perhaps, like Kabul, we'll see televisions showing Rangers games of the past hung from lamp-posts, or Bluenoses whipped through the streets for denying the Word of Daly.* In truth, though, the media coverage aspect of the story should be nothing more than a demonstration of the fairly turgid prose of sub-fundamentalist journalists, but our own failings have allowed them a credibility and visibility which, on their own merits, they do not deserve. I've stood with the Rangers support for three decades now, and don't see it changing any. On some issues it is unbeatable, but when it matters, really matters, it fails. Instead of chasing after third rate writers or trying to take on the entrepreneur culture of the UK in courts (good luck with that), it should be resolving divisions within itself, and moving forward with purpose. Since there's no sign of that happening, yesterday's tax decision can only be the hollowest of victories. http://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/257-succulent-lambs-to-the-slaughter
Article submitted by Andy Steele: SDS Survey: No Issues? No Chance! News that a survey by fans' body Supporters' Direct Scotland has found that while the vast majority of fans felt the game in Scotland had no issues with racism or homophobia, it had a big, big problem with sectarianism. This highlights not just the issue of social attitudes and football, but, sadly, the problem people have with perceiving themselves as part of the problem. One can assume fairly safely that for such a result to be obtained a good proportion of respondents were either non-Old Firm fans, or if Old Firm fans, Celtic supporters. I would be willing to place a hefty wager that the only fans who feel strongly that there is little sectarianism in Scotland would be those supporters the others consider to be the problem: Rangers fans. One must always, in such debates, pander to the thin skinned and establish that yes, one does think there is an issue and yes, Rangers fans most of all need to deal with it. A major issue, though? I don't see it in my day-to-day life, though I may of course simply be lucky or blinkered. Having established that denial is not on the agenda, though, I'd like to examine the other two aspects mentioned, homophobia and racism. If Scottish football has no issue with racism it is because the game is played, watched, commentated on and written about in what is a virtual monoculture. The BBC can count Kheredine Iddeshane, who to guess from his name may be of middle east extraction, and STV Rhaman Bardwan, but that's about it. The sight of players from non-European backgrounds has diminished of late, while managers and chairmen are exclusively white. No racism? Well, maybe if we understand that creating an almost exclusively European ethnic identity for the game will go a long way to excluding those from without such a background, it may expain why there's 'no racism': there's no cultural mix in which it might appear. Perhaps, if we actively created an environment which encouraged diversity, and focused on policing the resultant mix effectively, we may find we're not quite so tolerant as we might like to think. Or we may not - who knows? Casual racism has certainly been part of my west of Scotland experience: I am inclined to believe that 'no issue' is a complacent and boastful conclusion not based on evidence. But since many have called long and loud for such an approach to sectarianism, it seems only logical to apply it to these other areas as well. And what about homophobia? 'Get fucking up, ya poofy cunt' is, for the student of English, a fascinating sentence, but it's hardly indicative of a tolerant atmosphere. You'll hear it, and variants thereon, at every ground every week when an opposition player is apparently injured, though: 'no issue'? When 'Off the Ball' described a poor flag as 'poofy' I actually, for the first time in my life, got off my arse and complained. I got a reply: it was drivel. Credit where it's due, though, the programme presumably realised they were out of order and have since addressed the issue interestingly and humourously. What the incident that riled me shows, though, is that many of us are actively discriminatory without even realising it: Stuart Cosgrove was no more actively trying to put down homosexuality than I am actively trying to create a Protestant theocracy when I sing 'No Surrender' at Ibrox. The effect, nevertheless, can be non-inclusive. My singing of that song is based on the fact that it creates a great atmosphere first and last, and not in any way because I care about or know about Irish or religious history. Others, though, hear my singing and feel excluded or offended by it. What to me is a noise is to others an insult - if Tom English, easily the best analyst of the game at the moment, is freaked out by it I have to think twice. That's not to say I will agree with him, but it gives pause for thought. Plainly all these issues are hyper-sensitive with absolutes thin on the ground, but there's simply no way we have absolutely 'no issue' with racism or homophobia. I suppose the point I'm trying to make is that in our game, all three of these issues exist to varying degrees, but only one is taken seriously and, conveniently, it's the one that can be blamed on someone else. Sectarianism deserves to be taken seriously, but so too do other forms of bigotry: not least sexism, which in Scotland remains rampant. I find women as sexually stimulating as the next man, assuming he's straight, but that's no reason to objectify them or base a professional appraisal on their chests or backsides: that's still the default position of far too many men. We've plenty issues which could do with being addressed both in the game and in the country, but the first step we take will have to be from our own front doors. Blaming everything on Rangers and Rangers fans while insisting the rest of the land is a paradise of tolerance and diversity is doing no-one any favours: a more honest appraisal of our own prejudices would reveal some or all of these issues, far from being non-existent, might be visible in the mirror tomorrow morning as you shave. http://www.gersnet.co.uk/index.php/latest-news/252-sds-survey-no-issues-no-chance