On Saturday a fairly unremarkable game of football took place in Scotland’s second tier. Livingston were at home to new club The Rangers for the first time and, for the record, the away side won by the only goal of the game.
But the real story came off the park. The Livingston match programme editor made several references to the liquidation of the former Rangers. It also described the club that his team were to play as a new club. Both of these are simple statements of fact.
In Scottish football however there seems to be an unwritten rule: if the truth hurts then hide the truth.
The Livingston chairman Gordon McDougall later made this statement: “I can only offer my sincere apologies to any fans who have been offended by what was written as there was no intention to offend anyone.”
But, significantly, there is no admission in Mr McDougall’s statement of any error of fact. Rather he appears to be apologising for reminding the fans of the club that now plays at Ibrox of the truth surrounding the formation of their club.
So what did the match programme actually say?
It recorded the fact that the former Rangers (in liquidation) was placed into administration back in February 2012. It stated that Duff and Phelps were unable to find a buyer. It said that the former club was liquidated in June 2012. It told of Charles Greens purchase of the assets of the former club and formation of the new club. And finally it stated that the new club was admitted to the bottom tier of the Scottish leagues.
All of these facts can be verified by official court documents. All have been reported widely in the media. The full story has been in the public domain for a number of years. So what’s the problem?
The programme also included small pen pictures of the visitors’ players, as most programmes I’ve ever seen tend to do. There made reference to the careers of several players at the now defunct club, which also appears to have angered some. But again the process of players transferring from the old club to the new, or deciding to exercise their right to leave as several did, is simple fact and was widely reported in the press and on television.
You would have thought that the fans of a new, cash strapped, lower league club would have more to worry about than being reminded of events from just a couple of years ago. Indeed with repeated court cases and ongoing boardroom strife, the new club is hardly any more stable than the one that was liquidated.
Now, in legal parlance I’m told the defence to any action taken would be “veritas”, Latin for truth. Simply put, you cannot have a legal action against you for stating facts, however unpleasant they might be to others.
But the Livingston programme editor – an unpaid volunteer who did the job out of love for his club – has now resigned, and the club is looking for a replacement. So, should you fancy a job writing a programme for the West Lothian club then give them a call.
But be clear that the job apparently involves saying only nice things about any opposing clubs. Any unpalatable truths must be hidden in case any offence might be taken.
I wonder what they might say when Hearts visit? No mention of relegation, as that would be nasty. “A club given the opportunity to regroup in the Championship” perhaps? And what about Hibs? Let’s airbrush that play off defeat right away. “A less than satisfactory end to last season but new challenges ahead”? You get the idea.
Or is this sort of sensitivity only required in relation to football clubs that play at Ibrox?
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