I love football. It is my favourite sport. I’ve played it all my life and still turn out for charity games and a weekly 7 a side game. I am very deceiving on the park because I’m actually slower than I look. My generous waistline and massive bum doesn’t help when up against younger and fitter players but that failing body is the responsibility of my feet. They constantly take me into local fish and chip shops and the cream cake stands in Greggs the bakers. Naughty feet.
My team is the Famous Glasgow Celtic. My late dad used to take me to see them every week from around 6 years of age. But a couple of weeks ago another Scottish football team also won my support and respect. That team is newly promoted Livingston. They are now in Scotland’s top Premier League. In fact they have lost only one game in eight, against my team on the first day of the season. A week past Sunday they beat Steven Gerard’s Rangers team and that endeared me to them. However what they did on 27th September was even more impressive. The courageous Livi, also known as The Lions, banned the Scottish Sun (SS) newspaper and Sun Group papers from their stadium http://livingstonfc.co.uk/club-statement-the-scottish-sun/ . Brilliant. Well done Livi.
The Scottish Sun pretends to be a newspaper but is in reality a lying rag which daily prints half-truths, distortions and downright lies. It is a powerful rag owned by Rupert Murdoch’s multi-billion pound corporation News Group Newspapers (NGN). It is a massive media empire which has accurately been called a ‘criminal enterprise’ https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2011/nov/10/murdoch-memory-mafia That empire includes The Scottish Sun, English Sun, The London Times, The Sunday Times and TalkSport Radio alongside a publishing company and other interests. It can destroy lives at the flick of a prejudiced and vindictive switch which is why many politicians and others are afraid to call it out for what it is. I’m not. I’ve fought them all of my adult life on picket lines, in debates chambers and inside rigged courtrooms. I have stared the beast down and know it is thoroughly rotten to the core and steeped in criminality, hypocrisy and corruption.
They used to publish a rag called The News of the World (NotW) but that was closed down in utter disgrace and shame in July 2011 on the back of the most disgusting revelations about the organised criminal activities conducted by that paper in pursuit of stories in the previous decade. These despicable and criminal activities included the hacking of murdered school girl Milly Dowler’s mobile phone in 2002. Hacking of the distraught mother Sara Payne, whose eight year old girl was tragically murdered in July 2000. Hacking of mobile phones belonging to relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hacking of mobile phones belonging to relatives of victims of the 7/7 London bombing in 2005 and coordinated and consistent illegal hacking of mobile phones of several hundred celebrities, politicians, sports stars and members of the Royal Family https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_International_phone_hacking_scandal .
This massive company had top police officers in its pocket and direct access to whoever was residing in Number 10 Downing Street. It operated above the law with impunity for years. Investigation after investigation resulted in cover up after cover up. To hide their criminality NGN paid out hundreds of millions in invasion of privacy claims before being exposed and they have had to pay hundreds of millions more in settling such claims after closure of the NotW title. It is an episode which led to the Leveson Enquiry (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122144906/http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/ ) into the culture, practices and ethics of the press and that shone a light on the dark and murky practices involving the British Elite and the Fleet Street Press, especially NGN.
This scandal involved Prime Ministers, Police Commissioners, Government Ministers and corrupt public officials in police offices, prisons, the civil service and the judiciary. Yet incredibly none of the Murdoch family has ever faced prosecution for the thousands of crimes committed over at least a 10 year period perpetrated by the NGN Corporation. That’s what you call influence.
I have been a victim of NGN Corporation lies and criminality and I will write more about that on another day. However Livingston Football Club was the victim of classic NGN style journalism. An untrue story was printed despite explanation and cooperation from Livingston officials. The SS wasn’t interested in the truth just a salacious story. They couldn’t give a damn about the good reputation of Livingston or the excellent community and youth work they carry out. Instead of ignoring the tripe printed by the SS, which other clubs often do, Livingston chose to stand up and refuse to be bullied. They have banned the rag from their stadium and I applaud them for doing so. I only wish my own club, Glasgow Celtic, would follow suit. The SS constantly prints rubbish about Celtic and tries to promote strife and division with misleading ‘insider’ quotes more at home in fairy tales but that is not the only reason Celtic should ban the SS.
On 15th April 1989 a terrible tragedy took place at an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool FC and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, the home of Sheffield Wednesday. Criminal mismanagement of the stadium gates and the supporters by the police resulted in a horrific human crush which left 766 fans injured and 96 dead. Yet within only 4 days of that disaster, and while some fans were still fighting for their lives on life support machines, The Sun on 19th April printed a front page exclusive under the heading ‘The Truth’ which accused fans of causing the disaster and acting like animals by stealing from dead fans, urinating on them and assaulting police officers who were performing mouth to mouth resuscitations. The editor was a sad excuse for a human being called Kelvin MacKenzie. The owner, then and now, was Rupert Murdoch. The story was a tissue of lies apparently fed to the paper from police officers anxious to shift blame from them onto the fans. Not only did the story insult the memories of the 96 deceased and all their remaining family and friends it also delayed a proper enquiry from taking place as it created the illusion that the fans were responsible.
Since that day many in Liverpool and across Merseyside have refused to buy the Sun newspaper. Subsequent public enquiries, denied for years by Murdoch’s favourite Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, have completely exonerated the fans and exposed the criminal culpability of the senior police officers on the day. Sadly none of them have yet been criminally prosecuted.
Celtic fans have cause to show solidarity with Liverpool fans. In August 1977 I was an irate and disappointed 13 year old as I sat in a caravan on Millport in the Isle of Cumbrae and read the Evening Times story that Kenny Dalglish had signed that day, 10th August, for Liverpool. The fact it was a club record £440,000 fee cut no ice with me. He was our golden Bhoy. Our star player. However like many Celtic fans at the time the signing of King Kenny meant we now had a soft spot for Liverpool. Dalglish went on to be a legend as both a player and a manager. He was managing Liverpool on the day of the Hillsborough disaster. In solidarity with the Liverpool fans we should have joined their boycott of the Sun in 1989.
Roll on 28 years and in February last year Liverpool FC took the decision to ban The Sun from its ground and press conferences in response to its disgraceful coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/liverpool-ban-the-sun-hillsborough-disaster-reporters-attending-matches-anfield-a7573621.html . Many believed it was a woefully delayed decision but better late than never.
Within two months of that decision the other giant club on Merseyside, Everton, also took the decision to ban the Sun from its ground and press conferences. This was in response to a low-life, ignorant and racist column by a Sun columnist who compared one of their mixed race players to an ape and implied that Liverpool the city was effectively a den for drug dealers and assorted criminals https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/everton-ban-sun-goodison-park-10230725
Guess who wrote the deeply offensive column? None other than the deeply offensive Kelvin MacKenzie. Apparently the Sun are sorry about the lies and slanders they carried on their front page in 1989 and accept they were wrong. In fact they are so sorry they continued to employ MacKenzie long afterwards and right up until last year he was still being paid to spew his racist, sexist and bigoted bile by the Sun. In the aftermath of the offensive Ross Barkley article and the decision of Everton football club to ban the Sun MacKenzie was suspended from the paper. I would have preferred he was suspended from the Mersey Bridge and pelted with rotten fruit, eggs and urine for several days.
As a socialist and trade unionist I have despised the Sun since at least 1984 when an editorial referring to striking miners as ‘scum of the earth’ and a front page depicting National Union of Miners leader Arthur Scargill as Adolf Hitler https://flashbak.com/the-sun-at-40-when-arthur-scargill-was-mein-fuhrer-16468/ were only prevented from being printed by fellow trade union printers who could not stomach such biased reporting. They were subsequently sacked within 24 months when Murdoch moved his whole operation to a new Wapping factory and dismissed all 5,000 printers and skilled production staff in January 1986 sparking a bitter 12 months long industrial dispute which the print unions lost.
The Sun and the NGN Group of newspapers has long been a sexist, racist, bigoted and anti-trade union company which any socialist or trade unionist wouldn’t touch with a barge-pole. Maximum respect to former TalkSport host Colin Murray who built up a huge audience during his time with the talk radio station and was offered a contract to 2019 when NGN took over the station in 2016 but quit in protest at the link with the Sun https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/13/colin-murray-quits-talksport-sun-owner-news-corp If only others had the same courage and conviction as Colin Murray and refused to have anything to do with NGN papers or media outlets.
Some will suggest all the papers are as bad as each other and there is some mileage in that argument. It is a shameful fact that 80% of the newspapers sold in the UK are owned by only 5 billionaires famed for avoiding paying taxes and living abroad but pontificating everyday on how others should live their lives. Think about that statistic for a moment. 5 billionaires own and control 80% of all papers sold in Britain https://educateinspirechange.org/alternative-news/great-britain-owned-run-5-billionaires/
A free and open press you say? Chance would be a fine thing. The press across the UK is neither free nor open in any meaningful democratic sense. They are owned by the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful. They are under-regulated and allowed to flaunt tax laws and human rights at will. They portray the poor and dispossessed as scroungers and a danger to society when in fact it is these 5 stinking rich tax dodgers that are the real scroungers and danger to society.
All of the newspapers are tools of the rich and powerful to spout their pish and promote their austerity, low tax, privatisation and nuclear weapons narratives. Their influence in society is dropping almost as fast as their sales figures but still they retain far too much power with far too little accountability. NGN is the worst of a bad bunch, the most hypocritical and untrustworthy of them all which is why the banning of the SS by Livingston and the English Sun by Liverpool and Everton is so welcome.
Groups like ‘Total Eclipse of the S#n’ and ‘Shun the S#n’ are now working hard with some success to encourage stores to stop stocking the paper https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/kw9k5z/total-eclipse-of-the-sun-the-evolution-of-the-liverpool-newspaper-boycott . I applaud their actions and wish them all the best. Here in Scotland I hope other clubs follow the excellent lead of Livingston and I would encourage every person with an ounce of decency to also Shun the SS. #JFT96