Time To End Talk Of Boycotts
- 18 March 2013
There's a wonderful saying about opinions that I won't repeat in full for fear of upsetting our more, ahem...sheltered readers. Needless to say, it involves comparing opinions with a certain body part, the clinching line being that everyone has one. That's something I've always been at pains to promote. People should have their own opinions and they should debate them freely. That was before social media, aided by the growth of the internet, arrived on our doorstep. Now an ‘I'm right and you're wrong and that's it’ mentality prevails. We have become increasingly polarised and debate often degenerates into personal abuse.
Within the Rangers support this current trend manifests itself most openly in the debate about boycotts, and it is one that has reared its head again following quotes from Andy Kerr of the RSA who said fans could choose to stay at home if league reconstruction is voted through next month. I agree with Andy Kerr in this case, but others go a step further. The message from them is clear: if you don't support a boycott, you're not a real fan.
Well, I disagree with them.
First let me say I fully supported the boycott of Tannadice. Dundee United and their support were one of the worst in trying to kick us while we were down and I think it is right the Rangers support highlighted this by not attending their ground (which is, quite frankly, a health and safety hazard). Secondly, I believe the plans for reconstruction are abysmal while the desire to rush them through in time for next season simply reeks of a carve-up. However, I'm not convinced boycotting the likes of Elgin or East Stirling will be either desirable or effective as we try and drag ourselves to our feet. Yet for expressing such a view, I'm apparently part of the problem. In fact I'm in the ‘never-miss-a-game brigade’.
If this season has taught us anything it is that Rangers are undisputedly Scotland's biggest football club and, with such a massive travelling support at our disposal, a boycott can be a powerful weapon. But for this weapon to retain its power, it must be used sparingly. For a start, a blanket boycott of all away games simply will not work because too many fans will ignore it. Asking people to stay away from one game is easy, but to keep that up for years on end? Sorry, but it's simply unrealistic. Instead we would end up with a half-filled stands and more division in a support that struggles so badly to put on a unified front. This isn't conducive to helping the club.
I'm also not quite sure why SFL clubs should suffer because they want a different league set-up from us. If a Third Division club believes it is the best route for them to take then why shouldn't they vote for it? Are we expecting clubs to ignore their own situation just because we think it is wrong? Bear in mind we are partly responsible for the creation of the SPL, possibly the most destructive body in the history of Scottish football, but we were doing it because we thought it would maximise our opportunities. While a threat of a boycott from other clubs wouldn't affect Rangers in the slightest, I'm sure we'd all have been wondering what the fuss was about if a support from a lower division decided it wasn't going to turn up at Ibrox for a cup tie because we were part of the cabal who formed the SPL. It would be grossly hypocritical of us to start moaning about clubs looking out for themselves when we've been guilty of exactly the same thing many times in the past.
There is also the simple fact that football in the lower leagues will continue without our away support regardless. None of these teams will have budgeted for a game against Rangers and even without our large support there will still be a financial boost from playing us, perhaps not as large as if we were there but for clubs operating on shoe-string budgets it would still be tangible. I'm also not convinced our non attendance at SPL grounds would have the effect many think it would. Clubs would adapt, even if they did need to cut costs. That, however, is an argument for another day.
If my reasons so far haven't quite gotten the message across, consider this - large travelling supports are a very part of the Rangers fabric. Much like red and black socks and toasting the Monarch from the Loving Cup, our away support has become embedded in the very culture of the club. It has helped us spread our story beyond the boundaries of Glasgow. It is part of the reason we have supporters clubs in small towns in the Highlands. We would be robbing fans in these towns of the opportunity to see their heroes on their doorstep. The Rangers support embraced making the long journey to support our team like no other in Scotland, perhaps the UK. There are records of Rangers fans flocking in their thousands to away games even when journeys to the likes of Aberdeen were edging towards ten hours rather than four. Through these journeys, many fabulous Rangers Supporters Clubs have been born. How many would survive with no away games? Is that a price worth paying to make a point?
One reason for playing the boycott card is the threat of starving clubs of money, but where does this end? If we draw these teams in the cup at Ibrox, do we boycott our own ground? Of course we don't and the mere suggestion is ludicrous. The Dundee United boycott had nothing to do with money, despite what sections of the press wanted people to think. It was about making a point and, despite a minuscule number showing up, it held up well. Dundee United have shown an open hatred of our club and have used our situation to deliberately kick us while we’re down. SPL clubs wanted us out of their league. If SFL clubs vote for reconstruction it's because they want us in theirs, not to keep us down but to help themselves. I may find it questionable, but I don't believe it is worth boycotting over. This has nothing to do with hatred but self-preservation (something our own club has been guilty of). It's frustrating that the ‘blue pound’ is used to prop some clubs up, but that is the price we pay for being the biggest club in the country.
I realise that I can offer no alternatives to a boycott in terms of opposing league reconstruction, which is a disgrace. But a boycott will simply not change anything; it won't even start until after the vote. It reeks of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. And where do we stop? Will we simply shout ‘boycott’ at every perceived injustice? Perhaps next time we are denied a penalty or have a goal chopped off for a non-existent foul? One argument I've heard is that ‘if someone openly hates you, you wouldn't go to their house.’ Well, Rangers have been hated for years, but we still went in our thousands and rightly so.
The 12-12-18 proposal put forward is a disgrace. It does nothing to solve the deeper problems in Scottish football and is merely window dressing. The one suggestion that does show someone thinking outside the box (Rangers and Celtic 'colt' teams) has been derided, with the man responsible told he is pro-Rangers (despite his plan involving Celtic). The attempts to get reconstruction in place for next season would mean ten sets of supporters in SFL3 have been conned. There are penalties for false advertising and that may be something supporters could look into. If the changes are brought in next term, we have been falsely sold the carrot of promotion. Forget Rangers for a second and consider Peterhead, for example. They have spent money chasing promotion and now they are being told they could have kept their cash and played 11 guys from the stand as it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to what league they are playing in next year. It makes a mockery of ‘sporting integrity’. But it's time we stopped looked for conspiracies everywhere. The proposal was an SPL one for a start and it's arrogant to assume there are SFL chairman rubbing their hands and cackling about ‘getting one over those orange b%$!&*!s; I'm simply not buying that.
This is just my opinion on why a boycott is not the answer. I wouldn't question any individual's right to decide it isn't worth travelling because of league reconstruction, but spare those who do decide to go the potentially divisive indignation. I have a feeling the majority will continue to follow their club with pride, and that is well within their rights.
Douglas Dickie has worked with a regional newspaper for eight years. He is a season ticket holder at Ibrox and travels to away games on the Toryglen True Blues supporters’ bus