Thursday, May 15, 2008

A blue do


As I write Newsnight Scotland is about to begin, promising discussions about the violence in Manchester last night and the disastrous state of Scottish newspapers.

They could combine the two and mention Gerry Duffy, Nick Sharpe, Kenny Angoye, Brian Lewis and Robert McAulay. They were the "journalists" who combined their rich talents to write the main story in today's Scottish Sun.

The Greater Manchester Police were to blame for the violence. The soaraway Sun had witnesses to prove it. Willie Smith of Govan told how "they just started charging us." Matthew Skeoch felt "their behaviour was absolutely shocking. It was a disgrace."

Rangers fans UEFA Cup final violence ManchesterI'm told the Record's coverage was similar. The feeling continued into a press conference this morning. The police, the council and the big screen engineers were variously told to take the blame by members of the Scottish media.

And then came the bombshell. The police released TV footage that clearly showed this was more than a few fans pissed off that the TV wasn't working. This was a return to the days of hooliganism most recently displayed by English fans.

It was clearly a minority. But it was also clearly instigated by Rangers fans, or at least the sort of fan that wears a strip and wants to fight the police, and continued for a good few hours.

So where were the journalists? They clearly weren't on the scene. They weren't listening to Radio Five which had eyewitness accounts through the night that were saying something completely different to the quotes The Sun pulled in. This included a Scottish Manchester United fan who claimed his brother was left requiring 30 stitches because, in the absence of anyone else, United fans were the "fenian bastards" closest to hand.

Some journalist caught on. Graham Spiers wrote about it in today's Times. But The Sun, the Record and others missed it.

Maybe they didn't want to annoy Rangers fans. Perhaps, but the condemnation coming from the Rangers supporters officials would suggest that there is no stomach for the actions of the minority.

In today's Sun there is talk of "loutish attacks," "a knife thug" and a "brute." This could have described the stabbing of a Zenit fan. It didn't though. Rangers in Manchester was rather a tribute to the brilliance of each and every fan.

OK, so the journalists aren't very good and don't get paid much so they maybe didn't fancy actually going out in Manchester and finding the true story. But they did know about the trouble that followed the big screen breaking down.

So the paper that carries daily attacks on individuals who deserve "asbos" thinks it's OK to descend into mob rule if a TV breaks. Brilliant. Let's get a mob and bottle the editor of the Scottish Sun when his paper gets something so hideously wrong again.

Were they not prepared for trouble? The number of people. The amount of drink. I'm not saying the press should want trouble but surely it's part of their job to predict that something might kick off.

Or is Graham Spiers right? Are the Scottish press cowed by a football club that cares more about its image than about actually tackling the problems within their support? Are newspaper men taking the bait of the PR people in Rangers employ?

Last night a majority of Rangers fans enjoyed their team getting surprisingly close to a European trophy. But a minority embarrassed the club. Rangers have to admit that, however much Martin Bain tries to duck the issue, and the Scottish press have to hold them to account.

We have to isolate and stifle the hooligans as we have to stifle and isolate the bigots. If Rangers won't or can't do that then the press must. If last nights violence embarrassed Scotland then this morning's papers humiliated the Scottish press.

As an addendum and just to prove that these idiots are truly indiscriminate this You Tube video (28 seconds in) shows one Rangers fan attacking another. Who can say why? Another ludicrous image from a bad night.