12 Oct 2012

Threats and silence: the intimidation by Rangers fans

As I’ve said before my interest in Rangers stems purely from the standpoint of it being a spectacular example of a corporate omnishambles: British mismanagement so profound and bewildering it veers between performance art and social car-crash. With the loyal Rangers fans left mugged in the middle.

It’s still happening. Past mismanagement matched by the odious behaviour of a no-doubt small minority of Rangers fans apparently hellbent on proving the new Rangers will be like the old.

An element of the Rangers customer base remains out of order and neither Rangers, nor Scotland’s football authorities, nor the police appear willing or able to do much about it.

I’m talking intimidation.

Of the legal profession. Of football’s governing bodies. Of football club executives. Of publishing. Of bookshops. Of newspapers. Of TV stations.

Tellingly, in Glasgow this will come as news to nobody. Which should tell anybody half awake how sick things are in this singular aspect of that great city.

Outside Scotland people may legitimately wonder how or why this is tolerated? Or simply gawp in astonishment that such things go on almost daily this year.

And it is arguably getting worse.

Consider the following brief summary of just some of what’s happened in Glasgow since Rangers’ downfall began, not a year ago.


In April a 3 man Scottish FA Tribunal dared punish Rangers for bringing the game into disrepute (so seriously it was deemed just short of match-fixing).

Gary Allan QC, Raith Rovers director Eric Drysdale, and former commentator, Alastair Murning had their identities disclosed as well as private details with threats so serious the police advised all three on security measures.

Their identities became public after the Rangers manager no less, Ally McCoist said: “Who are these people? I want to know who these people are.”

The Scottish FA was left, not for the first time, wringing its corporate hands, saying: “We are deeply concerned that the safety and security of judicial panel members has been compromised by a wholly irresponsible betrayal of confidential information.”

And: ” all three panel members have reported intrusion into their personal and work lives, including abusive and threatening communication”.

Yet the manager of Rangers itself, a man steeped in the ways of Glasgow football, was instrumental in this chain of events, knowingly, or not.

Hardly an episode of corporate social responsibility.

It has continued. In the past few weeks Scottish Law Lord and former Supreme Court Judge Lord Nimmo-Smith actually had to put out a statement pleading for his independence to be recognised as he embarks on yet another investigation of the fallen club.

Again – the sheer weirdness of this to outsiders, passes almost without comment in Glasgow.


Like anybody prepared to challenge or ask questions or charged with passing judgement on Rangers, both Scottish Football Association and Scottish Premier League directors have had a torrid time of it.

In the case of SFA boss Stewart Regan, there were death threats.

The SFA have said publicly this year that private details of SFA directors have been published online.

The SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan has said:

” At times, that does make you wonder whether it is going to impact on your family and your personal life.
But it’s never once made me think about walking from the job.”

Incredibly, to those outside the Clyde Cauldron, the SFA boss said he’d had to speak to Counter-Terrorism officers over the nature of the threats and the security response.

Yes – Counter-Terrorism police officers.

This revolting behaviour from a minority continues to spike in activity when those running the game are forced to take action to try and clear up the Ibrox mess.

Nobody, but nobody, should have to put up with this in the course of doing their job. But in Glasgow football it is dangerously close to being accepted as part of the job.


There has been just one book published on the Rangers. As you’d expect it’s gone through several print runs in the few weeks it has been out. But for daring to print a factual account of the Ibrox meltdown, the publisher, Bob Smith of Frontline Noir speaks of having to deal with a catalogue of abuse.

It had a potentially serious affect on customers and shops buying the book ‘Downfall’ he says:

“There was definitely pressure applied and there were certainly some wobbles along the way from shops and customers. But we got through and in the end people were supportive.”

Material was published online to identify where at least one person lived who worked on the production of ‘Downfall’.

The abuse I received for simply writing the forward to this factual account of the Ibrox debacle was routine for me – for publishers unused to it, the experience was frightening.


Those outside Scotland will find this hard to credit, but several shops including major chains like Waterstones and WHS were unable to display the book openly in some shops because of reported threats and actual abuse of staff.

For selling a work of non-fiction and journalistic enterprise!

In at least one store copies were ripped up. In another Glasgow shop an angry individual wearing a Union Jack repeatedly entered the bookshop to scream at staff to send the offending tome back to the publishers.


As I write a colleague at STV in Glasgow has received threats for successfully doing his job. This person wishes to keep a low profile on police advice and is constrained to say nothing at all about it.

NUJ officials say currently around 25 journalists have been threatened recently for attempting to tell the truth about Rangers.

Understandably most feel they cannot discuss it openly. As one told me in a Glasgow hotel this summer: “I’m not paid enough and I don’t feel I have bosses who’d back me up if it came to it.”

Silence…hoping it will all go away…totally understandable when you live in Glasgow. But it isn’t going away, is it?


Enter Raith Rovers and their redoubtable chairman Turnbull Hutton. For Turnbull it was who was somewhat thrown into the limelight this summer as a champion of sporting integrity. As the SPL set about making itself a laughing stock in its tangled efforts to defy fairness, reason and morality to try and keep Rangers up in the Premier League, it was club chairmen like Mr Hutton who said no, Rangers must be treated like any other club.

But why, exactly? Yesterday Turnbull Hutton told me: “We had to circle our wagons at Raith given what had been done to us by Rangers fans.”

And he listed the endless abusive phone calls – some from Belfast – to Raith staff, theats, heavy-breathing, silent calls and so forth.

The day Fife police passed on credible information from the Strathclyde force that two men has been paid to burn down Raith’s stadium is a day Mr Turnbull and Raith Rovers will remember.

And all of it because that Raith man Eric Drysdale had dared sit on that SFA Tribunal and pass judgement and sanction upon Rangers’ gross mismanagement.

After all that Raith and Turnbull Hutton would lead the charge to stop Rangers remaining anywhere near the SPL, whatever it took.

The would-be intimidators didn’t tame Turnbull, their cowardice only making the club bide its time and help Rangers down into the fourth tier of Scottish football.


It seems an entire newspaper can be got at, when it’s Glasgow and it’s Rangers.

Recent weeks saw one of the more bizarre editorial u-turns of recent newspaper history in the UK when a Scottish Sun double-page splash promoting the author of ‘Downfall’ prior to serialising the book – suddenly became a non-serialisation.

In a somewhat embarrassed editorial The Sun admitted to receiving a large number of complaints about promoting the book, from Rangers fans.

The paper denied it was bowing to threats. Yet the publisher of the book says the threat of a Hillsborough-style boycott was real and instrumental.

It’s widely known the threats were real, nasty and yet again Strathclyde police were involved.

Many – including the book’s publisher – express real sympathy with The Scottish Sun’s dilemma. It editor and staff are known to have been shocked at the level and fury of complaints.

The difficulty here is that, whatever the paper’s reasons, in the end the mob got their way. The serialisation of a fast-selling factual book on Rangers never happened.

They couldn’t get Turnbull Hutton, Lord Nimmo-Smith, Eric Drysdale, STV and many, many more – but many believe they did get the Scottish Sun.

That should give us all pause for thought. Is this the reason why not a single Scottish newspaper has reviewed a book selling way beyond its publisher’s estimates?

What kind of power does the Ibrox mob have still, in today’s Scotland?

So against all this catalogue of attempted (and mostly failed) intimidation, the new Rangers owner Charles Green must surely take a stand and trying to kick this poison out of Ibrox and some of its support for good?

Already in his short ownership Mr Green’s referred to the football authorities as ‘the enemy’ at fans’ meeting on many occasions and he faced formal disciplinary action for saying other clubs were motivated by ‘bigotry’ towards Rangers.

Mr Green must lead from the top because if he fails to do so what chance has anyone got to stop the moronic element at the bottom of the Rangers food chain from lashing out with threats against anyone who dares speak truth unto Ibrox?

Tweets by @alextomo