Nobody likes a lecture: Rangers fans' groups and the struggle for 'Unity'.

Last updated : 18 January 2009 By Mdc
Honours Double Politics: Monday at 9am. Still brings me out in a cold sweat, but oh how I wish it was all so easy as back in those days. Rangers were pretty good back then, incidentally. This was in 1997. On the road to Nine In a Row: and all that.

John Major was Prime Minister, Hong Kong was (still) British and - you aren't going to believe this - the United Kingdom won the Eurovision Song Contest. (With an American singer.) But we were in the black, the light blues were unquestionably dominant and, to be honest, most of us were still in thrall to David Murray.

Elsewhere on this and other Rangers sites a number of good articles have forensically dissected and discussed the latest homily to the dissidents, delivered with the gusto we are accustomed to from Murray, but with none of the substance or ambition - far less leadership and direction - we used to take for granted, and so often lapped up with glee. The fact that the Chairman entirely sidestepped the thrust of the points raised and preferred to denounce, once more, the fans whose loyalty and support have been so poorly rewarded is disappointing, but not surprising. This sermon, as with so many others in recent times, springs from a perceived slight on his own character and failings, and is driven by ego.

The central point to be made about the RST campaign, begun this week with the areas of concern noted in the 'We Deserve Better' release, is that much of it will be met with broad agreement among Rangers fans of all kinds - from handwringers to more traditional members of the Ibrox Kirk. And yet, you can bet your last pound, euro or currency of choice that personalities, rivalries and petty squabbling will become the order of the day; as people, institutions and websites seek to re-position themselves in a comfortable fashion: agreeing in principle but unwilling or unable to fully support the people behind the arguments.

Perhaps the most interesting reaction, and one should choose words carefully in this instance, emanates from the Rangers Supporters Assembly. Their muddled statement declares support for the sentiment behind 'We deserve better' but then collapses in a bizarre mixture of attempting to pull rank - how dare the RST release such a statement without consultation - and a continuation of the notion that what we really need, right now, is to all get behind the Club, by working with the Club, and includes a frankly baffling (and irrelevant) section about fans criticising other fans and the Club, with the implication that their value as fans could be questioned. It, and the radio appearances of its Vice-President, come a little too close to the philosophy of 'Unity = do not dissent', otherwise formulated over the years as 'let's all get behind the Club' or some other such banality.

Let no one be in any doubt about the impact of all this: those who do not and cannot find favour with the majority of concerns highlighted by the RST are staring into Nietzsche's abyss. Losing oneself in introspection - and being focused on internal divisions, ego trips and power struggles within the support - simply will not wash and must not be allowed to become once more the norm. The credibility gap awaits those who persist with such outdated attitudes. And some will find themselves left behind in all of this: total unity seems destined to be a purely theoretical concept.

By agreeing on some points, it is thus necessary from there, and incumbent upon those who seek to represent or to persuade, to advance in a positive, forward direction: there are no reverse or side gears in this process; no hiding behind personal disagreements; no reluctance to engage based on personality or grievance, however passionately-held. It is time for all Rangers supporters to consider how we advance as a club: how we take the slogan of 'We Deserve Better' and make it the guiding principle for sustained and serious co-operation, and a way of initiating some genuine discussion and search for ideas within the support.

And that support is still a broad church of notions. Only by talking to one another, by arguing and taking on board the points of view of others one may instinctively feel misguided or worse, can this whole process work. Many within the support are traditional, old-fashioned or loyal to individuals and what they see as the representation of the Club, and they see any critique of the Club, and its failings, as a more general attack on the Club and all it represents. Those such as Ross Blyth, so needlessly and cruelly thrown to the Radio lions this week, are good Rangers fans; decent people; men with Rangers at their heart: they must be sought out, consulted, brought on board in search of common purpose and shared ideals - to take the small matters on which there is agreement and make it a duty to impress the case for more. To be sure, there will be some who will never come around to the more volatile and aggressive attitudes of those who actively seek change but that does not excuse the willingness to throw by the wayside people whose passion for the Club is no less intense than our own.

There will be problems, and much in the way of painful inter-fighting may lie ahead, but this week must stand as a watershed. All elements of the support have to find common ground and deal with their own difficulties, whether of internal divides or common perceptions. We must do our best, on websites, in forums, in pubs, clubs, supporters buses and workplaces, to begin to get across a message which emphasises a love and concern for the Club, but with practical reasons and suggestions for the future: and all with the underlying message that this is not mindless vandalism - the aim is not to insult, denigrate or destroy, but to build and improve, and that can only happen by co-operation and building relationships.

From an online perspective, sitting agreeing amongst ourselves, or simply selecting the next target to leave without a name, may be satisfying, but it is ultimately worthless: we cannot continue to congregate in closed forums, while all the time the arguments about the future of the Club are being waged by people who are not even supporters of our great Club - by partial journalists and bitter, twisted people who seem more interested in our situation than their own. This cannot continue. Those with strong opinions and talent must be encouraged to take the arguments to a greater audience - through articles on the front page (and thus cast into the News Now reality of 2009) and contributions to other, neutral websites, where one will often find great hostility from those not naturally predisposed to our Club.

The struggle to get across a positive message in the media may be immensely difficult once the initial interest cools. Many professional journalists have clearly relished the chance to paint those who dare to offer opinions as some form of socially disadvantaged group, lurking in dark rooms in bedsits, and seek to tarnish the RST and others with a broad brush-stroke. Those same supposed professionals don't mind taking stories from online message-boards, and many are quick to contact fans' representatives or fanzine owners when it suits them, but not all of them are so willing to miss the point: even the most unlikely sources (Davie Provan anyone?) offer some proof that not all members of the Fourth Estate are beyond redemption.

The RST, for its part, may suffer from the close links with the 'internet bile' of Follow Follow, with the knock-on effect that those who find fault with the most important Rangers fans' website, some but by no means all from the exalted position of never having read any of it, may be slow to recognise the worth of any RST-FF suggestions. If this fails, and we continue to drift, perhaps towards seven, eight, nine in a row, with Sir David still wanting to sell, but all the same still in charge, then we will have wasted time, energy and the single greatest untapped asset of The Rangers: the fans, and all of those, from different starting points and differing perspectives, who can help to make the positive influence and culture of Rangers, and our support, something to behold.

We all do deserve better, but it won't be handed to us on a plate.