Perhaps you don’t know Alex Thomson. The chief correspondent at Channel 4 news is an award-winning journalist with 22 years of experience. He has covered 20 wars and worked in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. His latest investigation has taken him to Glasgow to look into the problems at Rangers following their administration.
Thomson has no allegiances in Scottish football — as he put it himself: “If I were [investigating Celtic], rest assured RFC Bears — they’d get just the same treatment.” However, as an impartial journalist providing a balanced report on the financial meltdown at Ibrox, Thomson has become fair game for some Rangers fans for doing his job.
The reaction among some supporters seems to be Thomson has a right cheek for daring to tell the world about the mess Rangers have gotten themselves into. By doing so he must surely be a Celtic sympathiser — hell, it could even be a papist conspiracy! For example his Twitter updates from the 3-2 derby victory for Rangers at Ibrox on Sunday drew responses such as “How did you like the 1st half you Celtic sympathizing oxygen thief!?”, “…we are the people and we don’t do walking away, the likes of you are not welcome here”, “just been reading your tweets from the game today, & you talk the biggest lot of shit I’ve ever heard” and “[Alex Thomson] makes pro IRA documentaries for a living. Don’t be surprised by his tweets”.
This reaction is from the minority of fans, with Thomson himself praising the Rangers supporters he has met in person and applauding the “friendly and welcoming” fans in the “carnival atmosphere” of Ibrox on derby day. That some believe a clearly neutral journalist is acting out of a hitherto unrevealed allegiance to Celtic shows the level of paranoia among some football fans.
Such paranoia is almost understandable in the terraces of Ibrox and Celtic Park, where an inherited distrust of the media coupled with a few pints and the presence of a silver-tongued fabulist could almost have you believing the Pope was on the Celtic board, or there is a secret tunnel beneath Ibrox connecting it to the nearest Orange Lodge. Unfortunately opposition to Thomson’s probing has also allegedly come from his peers.
“What I didn’t expect were the insults (and in at least one case a direct physical threat) not from fans but from Scottish journalists,” wrote Thomson in his ongoing blog from Glasgow.
“Sarajevo, Mogadishu, Kabul, Islamabad, Tripoli, Baghdad…I could bore you with more — in none of these places have I ever got this interesting reaction from local journalists.
“Only in Glasgow.”
The anger of some towards Thomson is understandable, as proud supporters don’t want to see their club’s dirty laundry aired in the press, even if it’s a self-made mess. It’s frightening though that fellow hacks are threatening Thomson for what he might expose. At best it could be revealing the comfortable relationship some of the Scottish media enjoyed with Rangers, the so-called ‘succulent lamb’ journalism in which the press reported favourably and plentifully on Rangers after dining out on David Murray’s penny. At worst? One can only speculate, but when a journalist so fearful of what Thomson might expose is allegedly resorting to physical threats, it’s not likely his or her offences are going to be a few typos in their copy.
As Thomson praised the majority of the Rangers fans, so too does he stress that not all the Scottish media have opposed his investigation.
“Equally, a number of fine Glasgow journalists have been incredibly helpful, encouraging and agree there has been something deeply wrong for far too long in the culture of reporting RFC,” he said.
“They know who they are, male and female, working in papers, radio and broadcasting and every single one has encouraged me to dig around in an area many cannot, will not or are prevented from, exploring.”
Unfortunately Thomson is being vilified for reporting the truth, and it’s a truth some Rangers fans don’t want to hear. Well, don’t shoot the messenger. If other sections of the press hadn’t cosied up to David Murray and bought into his vision without question, perhaps Rangers fans’ eyes would have been open long ago to the unsustainable business model on their doorstep. Those responsible for the mismanagement of Rangers should be the target of the Rangers fans’ ire, not Thomson. The revelations make for uncomfortable listening but for those trying to discredit Thomson ask yourself — what would a respected, award-winning journalist with no previous significant expertise or interest in Scottish football have to gain by lying, and making himself public enemy number one in Govan in the process? Unless the conspiracy theorists are right and he actually is in the employ of the Vatican, his eyes are too close together, he eats eggs Benedict for breakfast every day and has a tattoo of the starry plough on his forearm…
The ivory tower is starting to crumble and with it the possibility of some championship flags falling from the turrets as well, with Rangers at risk of losing titles if the investigation into alleged EBT payments goes against them. The future doesn’t look bright either with Thomson promising “further revelations this week”. As long as he remains the messenger though, he’ll remain in the firing line.
• You can follow Alex Thomson’s updates on the Rangers saga on his blog, http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/