By a Newsnet reporter
This weekend an article appeared in the Sunday Mail under the title ‘Alex Salmond should leave football to those involved in the game’.
The article was authored by someone called Hugh Keevins, a football journalist who also doubles up as a pundit on a Radio Clyde football phone in programme.
The article attempted to use recent comments by the First Minister who, on the situation regarding Rangers going into administration, said that Celtic needed Rangers to survive in order to prosper.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mr Salmond said: “Obviously HMRC have got to pursue in the public interest, taxation.
“Equally, they’ve got to have cognisance of the fact that we’re talking about a huge institution, part of the fabric of the Scottish nation as well as Scottish football, and everybody realises that.
“The most diehard Celtic supporter understands that Celtic can’t prosper unless Rangers are there.
“The rest of the clubs understand that as well. Therefore you have to have cognisance of these things when you’re pursuing public policy.”
Notwithstanding the response from Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, who took issue with Mr Salmond’s comments, the overwhelming view expressed by those commenting on the situation at Ibrox is that Scottish football and indeed old firm rivals Celtic would be diminished without Glasgow Rangers.
However, following the First Minister’s comments Mr Keevins has suggested that Alex Salmond has no right speaking out on the situation. In his article he writes:
“First Minister Alex Salmond has got his tartan trews in a twist while making clumsy tackles all over the place regarding Rangers’ insolvency event.
First he had to apologise to Celtic for saying they needed Rangers to survive. Then he said Rangers were “part of the fabric of society” in Scotland. Which makes Celtic what, precisely?
Alex should concentrate on his referendum and realise that administration is a conspiracy theory in this country.”
As far as I am aware the First Minister hasn’t issued any apology to Celtic – he has though clarified his statement and insisted that he was not suggesting Celtic’s financial situation was anything other than sound.
Mr Salmond is one of many politicians who have commented on the growing crisis at Ibrox. Scottish Labour have themselves described the situation as a threat to one of “Scottish football’s oldest institutions”.
Other politicians who have spoken out include former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish, Labour MP Margaret Curran and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr McLeish also insisted that it was in Celtic’s best interests to see Rangers survive.
Margaret Curran, who is the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland also wrote to the UK Treasury asking for reassurance that they were taking a “reasonable approach” to Rangers’ tax situation.
Ms Curran said that a resolution must be reached that allows Rangers to “thrive” and said that “people who have an interest in Scottish football” have a right to be angry.
“I want to make sure that the UK Government are making sure that they operate in the best interests of Scotland and the Scottish community and not necessarily making some of the mistakes they seem to have made in the past”, she said and added
“People like ourselves have to keep in mind the future of Scottish football, we want it to be vibrant we want it to be lively and we want it to be competitive.”
So, according to a Labour MP, it is in the best interests of “Scotland and the Scottish community” for Rangers to be treated reasonably by HMRC.
According to Scottish Labour, Rangers are an “institution” and the game would be less lively, vibrant and competitive without them.
However Mr Keevins seems either unaware of this cross party concern for one of Scotland’s oldest and largest clubs or he is indeed aware but has decided to ignore it and single out the SNP leader for attack.
It’s shoddy and cheap journalism that attempts to make political capital out of the Rangers situation. It completely ignores the collateral damage in the form of job losses that may well result from the mismanagement of Rangers by those in charge of the club – perhaps past AND present.
Given the implications for jobs and monies owed to other Scottish football clubs, some who are themselves struggling in these times of austerity, Scotland’s First Minister had an obligation to speak out.
By singling out Mr Salmond when it is clear that the sentiments expressed by the First Minister were shared, at least in part or in some cases in full, by his political opponents suggests someone has an agenda here.
The title of Keevins’ piece implies that only those involved in football should be allowed to pontificate on this very serious issue.
This, no doubt includes Mr Keevins himself who recently expressed his own views on whether Celtic, and indeed Scottish football, needed Rangers in order to prosper.