Friday, February 16, 2007

Vlad's Back Part Two

The key phrase from the interview with Vladimir Romanov (carried in Russian football magazine Futbol) was:

"Celtic and Rangers? Even Kaunas are a match for them on the pitch. The thing is they've turned football into a type of show business with their underhand games. They buy off players and referees."

At this point what might have been another Vlad rant turned into something much bigger.

Speaking to every football fans favourite morning show, Radio Four’s Today Programme, Celtic chairman Brian Quinn said:

"I think it is absurd. Absolutely ridiculous. If he is saying this, I will take legal advice."

Rangers chief executive Martin Bain added:

"If the comments are confirmed, it is a matter we would refer to the club's lawyers and the SFA."

Despite this, many supporters – even from other teams – were siding with Romanov: claims of Old Firm favouritism are always music to the ears of the faithful at the "wee" clubs.

And of course, as Quinn conceded later in the day, the Daily Record carried only a translation of an interview that had been conducted in Russian: Romanov may have been caught out by a translator that saw a larger fee for a more sensational story.

On Real Radio a Russian language expert confirmed much of the Record’s translation of the offending paragraph, continuing: "he then says that there literally is bribery going on in the Scottish game."

Then Romanov’s spokesman, Charlie Mann, seemed to almost inadvertently confirm that Romanov had made the claims:

"We know that does not happen - he doesn't. He is saying it because he is not from these shores and thinks that's the way it happens. It's a cultural thing and we have to get that across to him."

Mann then want on to specifically deny that his boss had made the "buy-off" statement. Which seemed contradictory but, good spin doctor that he is, was probably a frustrated Mann just muddying the waters.

Because, after all, walk into any pub in Edinburgh, Aberdeen or Dundee and you’ll hear tales of insidious favouritism for the Old Firm but far fewer specific claims of backhanders.

At this stage Jim Jefferies got in on the act and raised a good point: it is not only the integrity of Rangers, Celtic and Scottish referees that Romanov appeared to criticise – Steven Pressley and others were also mentioned.

Which, at the very least, would suggest that the confidentiality agreements that Pressley and Paul Hartley reportedly signed in no way stop Romanov from speaking about them.

Still, however, we had little more than hot air to add to the original interview: "he meant this," "he meant that," "translators get things wrong."

Yes, it was a bad day for paid up members of the Russian to English Translator’s Union, but we’d still not heard from the man himself...