Succulent Lambs to the Slaughter

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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.


Please feel free to comment on the forum thread for this article by Andy Steele here -