Rangers’ media policy might not have started the persistently negative press coverage of Ibrox and its fans, but, whether you endorse the move or not, it’s certainly intensified it.
Gers fans have gotten used to constant negativity surrounding their club in the press, the behaviour of a minority attached to the majority whilst a feeling persists that other clubs and fan groups aren’t held to the same – in the context of Scottish society – impossible standards.
Beyond that, there’s the good old dehumanisation of those who support Rangers, the attempts at justifying sectarian language towards Gers fans or even this desperate, consistent and lazy attachment of the club to stories concerning drug deaths, violence and anything else which will rake in an easy click.
Of course, to play down any unacceptable incidents from within the support is not the intention of this article, but there’s a certain vulture-like ferocity that the press are now employing when it comes to any incident that can be attached to Rangers.
Every story is blown out of proportion, everything is connected to a deep-rooted sectarianism problem we’re all responsible for, Rangers must respond immediately. Yada, yada, yada.
All whilst social commentators and high-up journalists are telling us that these guys must have access to Ibrox for the purity and balance of their journalism. Ha.
With a brass neck, what this coverage fails to realise is the role that the mainstream press have played in the complete dissolution of trust between the club, its fans and themselves.
It’s almost like Rangers’ stance – one which many supporters have called on for decades – is now justification for the erosion of the very values many journalists claim they’re trying to uphold by fighting this battle.
As a result of the pay-to-enter press policy, those digital tabloids who rely on Rangers fan traffic and exclusive scoops to prop up their existence claim to be hurting, but the reality is that it’s in their coverage where the issues began and continue to lie.
But what the policy has done – apparently – has now given them carte blanche to attack the club, its media partners and its fans without ever having to truly analyse their own role in this breakdown in communications.
This attitude was again exemplified by the reaction to Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon being denied access to Ibrox; two characters who’ve spent years goading the club expecting a favour.
I’m not allowed to work on the Celtic game tonight from a studio at Ibrox along with Neil Lennon as Stewart Robertson the Rangers CEO says we are a security risk. Good to see Rangers ground breaking diversity and inclusion campaign ‘Everyone Anyone’ is working well…
— Chris Sutton (@chris_sutton73) September 16, 2021
Apparently a defeat for the Everyone, Anyone campaign. Who knew?
But – and this is where it gets depressing – it looks like there are going to be no winners in this stubborn battle of attrition as we’re polarised further into either camp Rangers, or camp anti-Rangers.
Fans are turning off, the audience is diminishing, people are abandoning aggregators like Google and News Now as well as digital tabloid media.
I know because I work in the industry every single day.
And can you blame supporters?
This constant, draining negativity is turning fans – and in turn the audience of these outlets – away not from Rangers, but from the media.
No one wants to be aggressively labelled because of the football club they support, no one wants to be deliberately riled up when they’re looking into information on their club, no one wants to be blamed for the actions of people they don’t even know.
Rangers supporters are stubbornly loyal and much of the backlash outlets and commentators receive from them – which is often accused of being misplaced – is because their support and love of the club is so often misrepresented.
If one thing the constant berating of Rangers in the press has taught us, it’s that no matter what anyone says, does or attaches to the club, the fans will not turn their back on Ibrox.
But because traditional outlets in Scotland cannot take responsibility for their role in the breakdown of the relationship with the club, the trends suggest they already are from the media.
Here’s how Rangers fans reacted to that Chris Sutton/Neil Lennon story – and it’s entirely predictable.