Governance of Scottish football “not good enough” says C4 chief news reporter

Award winning C4 News war correspondent Alex Thomson has recently been following the story of the Rangers Tax Case and allegations of financial mismanagement under previous regimes at the club. During his investigations Thomson has uncovered a culture of corruption and uncritical subservience to rangers in the Scottish sports media, ruffling feathers enough for one Scottish journo to physically threaten him unless he ‘desists’ from his enquiries into the cosy relationship between press and club. Thomson has followed the money and it leads to all the corridors of power in Scottish football, which is thoroughly compromised should Rangers be judged to have been operating their financial matters outside of the law. Alex Thomson took to the airwaves this week with Radio Clyde’s Super Scoreboard to explain his investigation and to raise matters pertaining to the ethics of sports journalists in Scotland. We will spare you the pathetic bleatings and excuses of Hugh Keevins (clearly humbled by the mere presence of a ‘real journalist’) and the rest of the in-house chimps that call themselves broadcasters and journalists on Clyde. You can listen to the broadcast (about 20 mins) on the audio link here.

This is what Alex Thomson had to say on a number of issues relating to rangers and Scottish football in general…

Award winning war correspondent ‘follow-follows’ the rangers story

“I was up here for a completely different story and I was about to head back down south and the producer said, ‘Why don’t you take a look at Rangers?’ So I took a look at rangers, like a lot of journalists with not a lot of time … and, like a lot of journalists, just as that piece went out on television, I felt that I knew a little bit more about it… and really we’ve stayed with it since, it’s quite an extraordinary story…

“I don’t think we’ve ever done a story before that’s left me so divided in terms of being in a city… (laughs)

“If you look at Rangers, then Rangers fans, broadly speaking, are going to look at you as Satan and, therefore, Celtic fans are going to think you are Jesus Christ. Of course, I can assure all your listeners that I am neither.” (laughs)

Football, Capitalism and Corruption

“This is not a story about football… This is a story about corporate governance… In the world where we are living at the moment, which has just gone through an enormous banking crisis; we’ve got a Chancellor of the Exchequer who, along with the Prime Minister, is saying that they are very worried about offshore tax havens, for example…

“The way that companies are governed in our society is rightly of enormous concern. There’s a sense that the wheels have come off, that capitalism has been a little bit out of control. We saw that very much with RBS and all the things that went on there and we are absolutely seeing that with rangers.

“The reason that it happens to be rangers involves an extraordinary adventure involving the Fraud Squad and a certain transfer involving Jean Alain Boumsong. We all know, I think, that that’s how rangers came to be on the map.

“It could have been any other football club. The HMRC, I know, see this as a test case. They’ve said that in private, no matter what they are saying in public. They see this as a precedent, an awful lot hangs by it.  And, it’s absolutely a test of good governance in football and what rightly matters for the fans, in exactly the same way as the unfolding of the banking system was….

Sold down the river…

“I’ve got very good sources on both sides of that divide; rangers fans and others who see quite clearly that the club that they have loved and followed loyally and with their heart and soul – and few people do that more than Rangers and Celtic fans – who absolutely feel, quite rightly, that they’ve been appallingly sold down the river.

“They’ve been sold down the river by a number of factors:

  • They’ve been sold down the river by the people who ran their own football club
  • They’ve been sold down the river by the quotes, “governing bodies” unquote, in terms of the SFA and the SPL who have absolutely failed the game…
  • And I think they’ve been sold down the river by the state of football journalism in Glasgow.”

“Our house is not in order…”

“Of course there is first class journalism (in Scotland in relation to the Rangers story) but the problem is that the journalism has been so sycophantic towards the ‘Big Two’, certainly towards Rangers, that you even have your own word for it. I didn’t know what ‘succulent lamb culture’ was until I came on this story three weeks ago. You ask anybody in Scottish football and they all smile knowingly; the fans smile knowingly, because everybody knows there’s a truth in that.

“I put Graeme Spiers on camera… I asked a journalist to dump on his own patch by asking him, what is this ‘succulent lamb’ thing? Graeme was the one who decided to do it. I had not one, but three other Glasgow based journalists who all agreed to do the same thing. We had four journalists prepared to go on camera, so this isn’t me Alex Thomson who’s saying this. This is journalists saying that we have got to sort our house out; our house is not in order…

Physical threats – a symptom of the cancer in Scottish journalism?

“I’m certainly not going to name him, but I can announce a little bit of news that I have discussed the matter with Strathclyde Police and I fully expect that there will be a prosecution here and I also fully expect that in the course of that, obviously, the name will come out.

“The other thing that I would like to get cleared up, and it can be cleared up tonight, which I can produce here… (rustles paper for radio) This is a Twitter message that I received from this journalist, who is an NUJ member, who says,

“It was me who threatened Timmy Thomson. He’d better desist or he will get a good Scots Presbyterian slap.”

“In the space of less than 140 characters he’s managed to admit that he’s previously threatened me, he’s called me ‘Timmy Thomson’, which – apologies to Celtic fans – is defamatory, and he then goes on to issue another threat. My point is that it doesn’t matter who this is and it doesn’t matter that it’s Alex Thomson. I’m not the story here and don’t want to be, for obvious reasons. What matters is, when this happened, instead of this being roundly and completely condemned by journalists, particularly journalists on a show like this; last week, not one but at least two journalists, came on this show and, broadly speaking, instead of condemning what happened, simply went out of their way to excuse it, implying that I had made up the story. That is potentially extremely defamatory and there are certain commercial implications for this radio station if you do that kind of thing…

“But again, that isn’t the story. This is the 21st Century; that something like this can be tolerated within Glasgow journalism, let alone not condemned? I think that’s absolutely appalling and I think everybody in this room would agree to that now? Furthermore, the guys that you had on last week aren’t prepared to come on tonight and confront me about it…

“What matters is that football journalism in Glasgow is extremely defensive of anybody coming in from outside and asking questions which they haven’t. That’s what this is all about.”

The SFA, Stewart Regan and Campbell Ogilvie

“Campbell Ogilvie’s probity or honesty is not in question here, what is in question is the way that public or semi-public bodies govern themselves. Campbell Ogilvie is quite simply “hugely conflicted” – quote unquote, that is Stewart Regan, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association saying that… In this day and age, when you are hugely conflicted by virtue of where he was at Rangers at the time and where he is now, you stand aside to avoid any possibility of conflict. That is what you do. Stewart Regan doesn’t get that, the Scottish Football Association doesn’t get that, and Campbell Ogilvie certainly doesn’t get that. Not good enough.”