Four forgers, two lunatics and a deviant
Bastille Day is celebrated in France on the 14th of July each year and commemorates the storming of the great fortress-prison by a mob of Parisians. The Bastille was seen by many as a symbol of Royal power and oppression and its capture is seen as the beginning of the French revolution which then exploded with bloody ferocity. History recounts that there were just seven prisoners in the Bastille when it was captured by the mob; ‘Four forgers, two lunatics and a deviant.’ When it fell, King Louis asked his advisers, ‘Is it a revolt?’ he was answered with the prophetic words, ‘No Sire, it’s not a revolt, it’s a revolution.’
Last night at Ibrox we saw signs that the revolt against the Board running the club was turning into something of a revolution. There is much anger among the supporters and the ‘storming’ of the foyer by a group of noisy fans was taking things to a new level. There were echoes of 1994 as chants of ‘Sack the Board’ echoed along Edmiston Drive. However there were several key differences between the unfolding events at Ibrox and the campaign led by the Celts for Change Group in 1994. Celtic, in 1994 had reached a low point and was close to administration when fan power aided a group of Celtic minded businessmen to gain control of the club and avert disaster. Fergus McCann famously said…
“It would’ve cost less, and left the previous owners with nothing, to go into liquidation. But it would also be humiliating for Celtic. So we paid all the bills. Celtic means the same to me as it does to other fans. I identify with the club and wish to be proud of it.”
For many at Ibrox the feeling that they were somehow special in Scottish football and society was shattered when the club sank into administration and liquidation after years of living beyond their means. Make no mistake about it the Liquidation of Rangers FC was an event which staggered and stunned their followers. Feelings of entitlement and superiority, fostered for more than a century, made the fall even harder. Historical mismanagement and greed took its toll and the glory years were tarnished by revelations that dozens of players had side contracts and were paid money via a tax avoiding EBT scheme. It is a matter of record that the football authorities in Scotland behaved very poorly during this crisis and did all they could to allow the new club into the top division of Scottish football until a revolt by clubs and fans all over Scotland forced them to admit the new club to the fourth tier of Scottish football. The real story of those years involving back room deals and secret agreements has yet to be written but the whole episode still leaves many with a bitter taste. One wonders if they would have tried as hard to accommodate Celtic had the worst happened in 1994. Thankfully the ordinary supporters and Fergus McCann’s consortium saved the club before that theory was tested and the vultures could move in.
Now we see many fans of the new club in Govan demanding the board go to allow ‘real Rangers men’ to take control. The idea of mortgaging the stadium or training ground to Mike Ashley for £10m was a step too far it seems. However the men they wish to see take control are far from paradigms of virtue. Dave King is a convicted tax evader whom a judge in South Africa called a ‘glib and shameless liar.’ He pleaded guilty to 41 counts of contravening tax law and had a further 281 charges dropped in a deal which saw him pay a huge amount in fines. Paul Murray is a former Director of the old Rangers FC and was there throughout its collapse into liquidation. The SFA rules on ‘fit and proper’ people to hold positions suggest Murray would be rejected. Rule 10.2j of the SFA statutes states that individuals can’t serve as a club director if they have been: ‘a director of a club in membership of any national association within the five-year period preceding such club having undergone an insolvency event’. The battle for control of the Rangers will not be given up easily by Mike Ashley as this hard-nosed capitalist knows a money making opportunity when he sees one.
The revolution among fans at Celtic Park in the early 1990s went a long way to saving the club and putting it on a firm foundation for the future. In the 20 years since then, they have won 21 major honours and are in good shape for the challenges ahead. Events at Ibrox are far from settled and the fans fed the ‘We are the People’ tripe for decades are looking for a hero to restore the club to its former glories. They must however be careful what they wish for, as revolutions often have unforseen consequences.