An insolvent subculture

These days it is all about the brand.

When Craig Whyte owned Rangers he brought on board a chap called Ali Russell.

In an interview with the Scottish hacks at the time the London based chap spoke long and eloquently about “sweating the brand”.

It is a feature of modern life is how marketing jargon has so permeated modern speech as to go almost unnoticed.

One thing is certain is that Charles Green was quite clear that he was buying a brand.

Moreover one that could motivate approximately 150,000 souls to go to Manchester in 2008.

It was the commercial success in the 1990s of one of the clubs in that great City that generated of lot of business interest in British football.

There was one point in the last decade of the 20th century when it seemed that every in village on the planet there was some kid wearing a Man United top.

The Old Trafford brand made money and others wanted to emulate them.

Ironically it was the rude financial health of Manchester United that made them vulnerable to the Leveraged Buy Out of the Glazers.

Suddenly the Mad Men weren’t on the terraces, but in the board room cutting deals.

Rangers were undoubtedly a recognisable brand and one that the Square Mile types would be interested in.

However that was before Craig Whyte and Charles Green.

Now the Ibrox brand is in the gutter.

The association with financial failure and revolting customers is a hard sell.

The latter was on show at the Glasgow Cup final at Celtic Park this week.

The chaps in the Press box had to be moved for their own safety from the visiting fans.

However the copy the next day was about ‘old firm trouble’ at Celtic park.

It is undeniable that the traditional klan anthems were clearly audible during the game.

Plus ça change

However, the subculture that propelled all of those people to go to Manchester for the UEFA Cup Final in 2008 is itself in bad shape.

As I have written here before The People have had their day.

The historical moment that created the culture that nurtured and authorised the home crowd at Ibrox to sing their anthems is now fading into the distance.

When the ban on Catholics was instigated at Rangers Britannia ruled the waves, and huge swathes of the planet were formally run from London.

Then the opposition to the third Home Rule Bill in the North East of Ireland created armed loyalism.

By the end of the Great war the cultural components were in place that made sense of the world to the chaps in the Govan stand.

In the industrial powerhouse of Clydeside the needs of capitalism were sketched out in the city’s fitba ethnography.

A labour aristocracy was imported from the Lagan and an unskilled labouring class from rural Ireland.

Rangers became a symbol for the class alliance in the imperial project.

Today it is an anachronism.

I find those images of Royal Marines abseiling down from a badly maintained roof to the wild applause of the paying punters hugely ironic.

This is a military that lost the last two major conflicts it took part in and had casualties in both Afghanistan and Iraq because of a lack of adequate equipment.

The football club that played at Ibrox until 2012 evaded tax during the decade that Britain fought those conflicts.

The Discounted Options Scheme that paid Craig Moore, Ronald de Boer and Tore Andre Flo was tax evasion and Rangers did not contest the issue.

They simply settled the bill with Hector.

HMRC’s positions is that the Employee Benefits Trust scheme used extensively by Rangers during the second decade of Sir David Murray’s reign as Ibrox boss was also tax evasion.

That is currently in dispute, but in the First Tier Tribunal the Murray Group, who were legally representing the Rangers case capitulated on five cases of EBTs.

So that is eight counts of tax evasion already admitted.

If, dear reader, you were relying on the Scottish mainstream media you could be forgiven for believing that Rangers (1872-2012) had been cleared of tax evasion completely.

Within the West of Scotland bubble the mainstream media still genuflects to the Ibrox brand.

That is largely due to fears about circulation and concerns for the safety of journalists in Glasgow.

In London, once the centre of the empire that the Bears worship, they see things rather differently.

The word “Rangers” is increasingly becoming synonymous with financial collapse.

Ibrox watchers will look back and see that the ill-judged move by institutional investors in later 2012 to buy into the IPO of Rangers International Football Club as the last hurrah of the Rangers brand.

Malcolm Murray and Charles Green were able to get smart people in the Square Mile to believe in the commercial power of The People.

Now, having bought in at the IPO price of 70p they have lost millions.

As regular readers will already know two chaps in one City based organisation have paid for that bad call with their jobs.

I understand that one of these fellows had a season ticket to Ibrox.

It was business and he took it personal.

The problem with Follow Following is now becoming apparent…

There needs to be someone or something to follow.

A striking feature in the death of Rangers was the passivity of the fans.

With Craig Whyte deposed by Hector the rabble that littered Edmiston Drive simply wanted a rich person to buy the club pay all the debts and then bank roll a team of superstars.

Of course the Murray years had been all about debt.

Sir David Murray’s tenure at the top of the Marble Staircase was funded by Other People’s Money.

That said I had expected a rallying to the cause in 2012.

However, the army of fans that wrecked Manchester in 2008 were largely posted missing when their club was in mortal danger four years later.

Leaderless they became incapacitated to the point of immobility.

They exhibited all the strategic thinking of a lynch mob, inchoate and intimidating, but certainly not insightful.

Now something stirs in Planet Fitba the Bearmacht are finally marching.

Well kinda…

However they still need a leader, someone to tell them where to go, what to do and, crucially, what to think.

This is the deference drug.

The British Empire was a narco state that dealt in passivity and blind loyalty.

Actually such malleability is one of the attractive parts of the Ibrox band to the commercially minded folks.

However, like the changing demographics in the North of Ireland there just aren’t enough of The People to make this worth the hassle.

There was no ‘Gers For Change’ in 2011 and I observed that at the time.

Sir David Murray’s influence over the mainstream media made sure that the good news narrative continued long after it was decent to do so.

It is undeniable that The People were poorly served by the Fitba Fourth Estate and the reportage is still off the pace.

The ‘rebels’ are merely follow followers of another brogue wearing alpha male and the gushing coverage offered to Dave King isn’t helping them make sense of the situation.

Currently the people in charge of RIFC do not have any good choices and the klan’s penchant for threat and smear is now being turned in on itself.

What we are witnessing is the public humiliation of a subculture that is thirled to a world view that is fatally out of date in modern Scotland.

Britannia now longer rules the waves and the Irish community in Scotland are increasingly confident and proud.

In the North east of my island the Fleg folk are in anguish that they can no longer look down on their nationalist neighbours.

In the ancestral homeland of the ‘Ulster Scots’ more and more people are of the view that the United Kingdom is damaged goods.

Like the institutional investors at Ibrox, they want out.

Of course The people see it differently.

This eloquent defence of the United Kingdom from last year went viral.

However, there is a serious point to be made as Scotland is in a historic defining year.

There are people in Scotland who have been socialised into a subculture that worships Britishness with the ethnic fervour of a Bosnian Serb.

One of the first newspaper articles I ever had published looked at the Ibrox subculture and I argued that it could prove a “Trojan Horse” for any future generation of Scots who wanted to break free from London rule.

That was in the run up to the British General Election of 1987.

I believe that thesis to be even more apposite today.

It is worth noting that The People cling to the decomposing corpse of Rangers because there isn’t much less left in terms of cultural products to sustain their world view.

Certainly Britain no longer strides the world stage as a major player.

In the North of Ireland The People even had to invent a language to pretend they had an ethnicity of their own.


The anguish we are witnessing around Ibrox these days is a genuine bereavement.

Mr Sandy Easdale, speaking openly and honestly to the BBC, probably had it nailed when he said he didn’t think the club could not survive a second administration.

Obviously he shares the view of the paying customers at Ibrox that liquidation was no biggy.

However, if the Ibrox brand was to endure another insolvency event then what emerged from that would not be a vehicle for a supremacist belief system.

It would have to be a Ground Zero club living within its means.

Son of Sevco would be a sad little waif.

Subsequently the Herrenvolk hubris of The People would be laughably out of place to an extent that even The People would realise it.

The match day experience at Ibrox would then lose much of its utility function for the klan.

We all know that the club that currently plays there is a financial basket case.

However, the subculture that made the brand powerful is also bleeding out, their inheritance from history spent.

Financially broke and culturally insolvent.

When Stewart Regan spoke of a “slow lingering death”  in 2012 he probably didn’t mean this.

Now it is the klan that are sweating as the brand that gives them their sense of self-worth dies before their eyes.

Discover Phil’s dramatic play Rebellion