No News Is Bad News

It seems, in these unprecedented times, that there is literally no escaping the trauma of the current phase in Rangers’ history. Even an innocent activity like popping into WH Smith to buy my weekly copy of the NME brought yet another reminder of our current predicament.

Whilst picking up my weekly dose of what’s hot and what’s not in Music Land, I stopped to browse the football mags and I noticed the latest edition of Celtic View. It stands alone now, with no Blue competitor alongside it.

Rangers Monthly ceased publication at the beginning of the administration process, and there is still no word as to whether a club trap-doored into Division 3 has a requirement for a publication of any kind. But this wasn't the publication I was mourning that day; it was its elder brother: Rangers News.

Rangers News ceased publishing the previous season. The reason cited for its demise was that there had been a huge change in the market and there was no need for a weekly publication. This is true; the onset of the internet and 24 hour news channels has changed the landscape for good. Yet Celtic View seems to have survived the demise of the print media market, while Rangers News didn't. The question we need to ask is why?

My memories of Rangers News growing up was that it was another way to support the club, and most Rangers supporters I knew indulged in it to some extent. Even if it meant not actually reading it cover-to-cover, they bought it to show support for the club.

But all that changed, and now it is another thing that has been permanently lost. I think exploring the demise of Rangers News can reveal, not only a change in the way we consume information, but yet more evidence of a disconnection between the club and its supporters in the last 20 years.

To back up my point you only have to look at the differences between Celtic View and Rangers News. Whatever you want to say about Celtic View, you can’t deny that it has connected with the supporters of Celtic better than Rangers News did with us. Celtic View is unshakable in its defence of Celtic. It promotes everything about the club in a positive manner, and it embraces the clubs history, culture and its place in Scottish society.

It is also far from afraid at having a pop at us, whether it is barbed or outright. The edition I stumbled across is a prime example. The magazine’s features were a celebration of 50 years in Europe (we’re out of Europe for at least three years), a celebration of 125 years of Celtic (including graphics featuring an unbroken timeline) and a feature on clubs Celtic have played that “no longer exist”. Nice!

Celtic View has also, for some time, refused to use the term “Old Firm”, preferring to call games against Rangers as Glasgow Derbies. Why? Well “Old Firm” suggests some kind of relationship – and they don’t want that.

During last seasons “heated” Old Firm games Celitc View did not let its readership down on any front. It was openly critical of Rangers in the aftermath of these games and even dared to have a front page of Scott Brown doing the “Broonie” in front of El Hadji Diouf under the headline “Welcome to Scotland”.

When you compare this to what Rangers News was providing for a number of years, it’s not even a competition. It was a rarity for it to explore the history of the club in any great meaning or depth, and a non-starter for it even hint about things like Protestantism, Unionism or Monarchism – these topics we’re strictly off limits.

When issues surrounding supporter behaviour arose Rangers News adopted the age old habit of the club and decided silence is golden. Rather than defend its supporters – or criticise when needs be – it chose to remain neutral and inform us how Mikel Arteta was settling into life in Glasgow. Not that these are not important stories, you understand, but I always felt there was a moral obligation to deal with the more pressing issues as and when they arose. Avoiding them on the pages of its official publication reflected poorly on the club. They had a PR tool that most would kill for, and failed to maximise its potential.

If Rangers News was to be taken as a barometer of the club, then it appeared to be slightly embarrassed by its culture, heritage and past. As a result of that stance, the fans stopped buying what had practically become a glossy catalogue of what the retail department had on offer - buy a brick, buy a season ticket, home shirts are now half-price – and it slumped into a slow death.

Now I’m definitely not having a pop at the Rangers media staff here. Lindsay Herron and his team are a dedicated bunch, and all of them are committed to representing the club in a positive manner. My point is that they have been hindered somewhat by the clubs’ hierarchy and its wish to avoid “controversy”.

Yet, when you look at the issues and topics covered on The Rangers Standard – some of which have been by some serious academics and behemoths from the world of journalism – it becomes apparent that topics like Protestantism, Unionism, Monarchism and Rangers’ place in modern Scottish society can be discussed and debated in an adult manner. If the club was savvy enough it could have made Rangers News a far richer read than it was, and a positive symbol and PR tool of the club.

Because of the failings of the club to realise the magazine’s true potential, it’s now a thing of the past, which genuinely saddens me. My own history with it is a long one. From about the age of eleven I had it ordered weekly at my newsagent – that and Roy of the Rovers. As I grew older the latter became a thing of the past, the former, however, remained as a weekly necessity.

I was then fortunate enough to join its ranks for two years as a columnist, and it saddens me that I won’t be able to show my kids a living, breathing publication when I boast to them that their dad “wrote for The Rangers”. Instead I’ll have to go to the loft and pull out my vast collection – including each one I featured in – to show them their old man’s proud achievement.

For some it wasn’t that big a deal when Rangers News died, but I would argue that the apathy for a publication that was 40 years old shows how tarnished the relationship between the club and supporters had become. Rangers News, like that other grand institution of Rangers past, The Rangers Pools, had become almost insignificant in the latter Murray years as the club limped towards its current predicament – a lingering reminder of how great the club once was. 

But the current owners have a clean slate and have the chance to right some of the wrongs of the Murray years. They could do worse than to try and tap into what once made Rangers News an institution in its own right.

Colin Armstrong is a former columnist of the Rangers News and matchday programme. He contributed to the book Ten Days that Shook Rangers and has written extensively on the subject of Rangers in other publications including When Saturday Comes.

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