Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O’Donnell (Book Review)

Essential reading for supporters of all Scottish football Clubs

I was asked to review Tangled Up In Blue possibly because my on line offerings, oft-times with the assistance of crowd think, tend to be as evidenced based fact as possible, with an eye for detail that if missed can produce a narrative that deviates from the story the factual evidence tells.

Book coverIn that context what is very obvious from reading Tangled Up In Blue is that the author Stephen O Donnell has put a great deal of research into his book that covers the history of Rangers from its foundation in 1872, through its incorporation in 1899, when the club became the limited liability company called The Rangers Football Club Plc , (just as Celtic had two years earlier), to its liquidation in 2012 when it became RFC 2012 plc (in liquidation).

The “new club/company” replacing RFC 2012 Plc (quoting the words of Andre Traverso the then Head of UEFA Club Licensing to explain no sanctions possible against the new club/company now called The Rangers FC Ltd) had to wait three years from its acceptance into Scottish football in August 2012 before it was eligible to apply for a UEFA licence, having fulfilled the requirement under Article 12 of UEFA FFP to have held full membership of the Scottish Football Association for longer than three years, a requirement finally met at the start of the 2016/17 licencing cycle.

Tangled Up in Blue, to be published on 19th August , is not only a reminder of the events surrounding the demise of what was perceived by Scottish society as a great institution, but in devoting the early part of the book to Rangers footballing and managerial past, provides further insight into the mindset of the culture and it’s thinking , that inevitably led to the events of 2012 resulting in an attempt by Scottish Football Authorities to untangle.

An attempt which itself has subsequently entangled Scottish football in an ongoing web of deceit, caused by the 5 Way Agreement between the SFA, the then SPL and SFL, Sevco (who then became “The Rangers Football Club PLC”) and the failed insolvent “The Rangers Football Club Ltd” in late July 2012.

The passage of time since 2012 and what was not fully reported domestically (only the revelations in “Downfall – How Rangers FC Self Destructed” by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a journalist based in Ireland, introduced by Alex Thomson an English journalist, tell the tale) and what has happened in the disentangling years since 2012, allows a fresh perspective.

As we all know, if you stand too close to a painting you will miss the full picture and Tangled Up In Blue , with the perspective time provides, paints a clear picture, one where the curtains have not been drawn back because, frankly, it is not a pretty one. It does not reflect well on Rangers or a Scottish society that perceived Rangers FC Ltd as a great Scottish institution nor does it do the credibility of Scottish football journalism any credit whatsoever.

The role of the Scottish main stream media in keeping the curtain closed comes across in terms of non or restrained reporting of events, not just in our current lifetime, but during a past where a sectarian policy of not signing Catholics was pursued for decades with no comment and where full culpability was never accepted by or imposed on Rangers as a result of deserved critical media comment, when disasters either great in human terms, like the Ibrox staircase 13 disaster in 1971 or serious in PR terms, like the reporting of supporters behaviour in Manchester 2008 before and after the UEFA Cup Final, happened.

When reading Tangled Up In Blue I was reminded of this quote in bold from “Debt of Honour” by Tom Clancy, page 530: “You can’t trust your memory with things that affect live patients. One of the first things they teach you in medical school.’ Cathy shook her head as she finished up. ‘Not in this business. too many opportunities to screw up. “If you don’t write it down, then it never happened.

This has been the primary device used by the media in Scotland since 2012 where evidence of what really took place behind the scenes has either not been published or paid little heed to by our mainstream media when anything (like the Tax Justice Network report on the SFA handling of Rangers demise) has surfaced. Apart from the informative “Downfall”, were it not for social media and a host of intrepid bloggers, what did happen to “Rangers” in 2012 didn’t happen.

There are various reasons for not writing it down that might require a book on its own. Fear of the impact on a newspaper’s sales, and by extension a journalist’s job, is one. Fear of the consequences of committing the story to print is real, and very understandable – and it wasn’t only journalists who had reason to be fearful. Others who dared pass official SFA judgement on Rangers governance found themselves under threat too when, in answer to the question “who are these people”, their names were “written down”.

When it comes to writing it down or not, and the consequences of doing so, what happened after BBC’s Jim Spence, who lost his job after only verbally mentioning an issue very sensitive to Rangers fans, is interesting.

An idea using terminology from the secret 5 Way Agreement surreptitiously seeped its way into public consciousness, by being written about and took root by being adhered to by the media who, apart from Jim Spence, benefited from the consequence of doing so.
This idea once written allowed the introduction of a previously unheard of concept of the separation of a club from its owner when up until then all football supporters, including those of Rangers, only ever thought of The Rangers Football Club Ltd as Rangers – a football club effectively owned by itself.

This selective reporting/not reporting strongly suggests that apart from the fear aspects previously covered, some/many of the football journalists and media pundits were and continue to be Tangled Up In Blue themselves. This entanglement is one that serves no club in Scottish football well, but particularly the Rangers of today, where their debt driven/UEFA money dependency business model remains unwritten and so un-examined for impact on fellow member clubs.

This review is being published as a Scottish Football Monitor blog to reach a wider Scottish footballing supporter readership because all Scottish football clubs were affected by an entanglement in a web of deceit to some degree or another that continues still. In a world plagued by lies and liars, the truth has to prevail and where better to make that happen than in our own back yard where Scottish football is played?

Perhaps though supporters of one club more than any other who should read the book and benefit from so doing, are unlikely to because, as mentioned earlier, the picture it paints is not a pretty one.

Whilst they might see Tangled Up In Blue as a harsh judgement of a great Scottish Institution, it also provides an opportunity to think again about what they think, and the culture their thinking created that has led to nothing but the kind of woe the philosophy of the Pharisees attracted.  And that will persist until there is a change of minds and hearts about who they are, what they aren’t, and what they want to be.

In the spirit of encouraging a metanoia, Tangled Up In Blue might persuade any open minded Rangers supporting reader to consider the words of Rabbie Burns, a wise and respected Scottish Institution, of a way towards inner change. That may prove difficult given their fans’ response at Kilmarnock in the aftermath of their club’s recent announcement of a diversity and inclusion campaign to help tackle discrimination and promote positive fan behaviour. But here it is in hope;

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

The response by Rangers supporters to Tangled Up In Blue will be an indicator of the distance their diversity and inclusion journey has to travel.

Who knows, SFM might be a station on that journey depending on the nature of responses to this blog.

Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O Donnell 
from 19th August 2019.

387 thoughts on “Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O’Donnell (Book Review)”

  1. Spot on Lugosi.  The spooky thing though is that the Tories have a 10 point minimum lead in the polls.

    So what about fitba? Well I think there is a direct link, the glib Mr King is populism personified, he is part of a trend of unashamed self servers who have noted that what is considered to be decent behaviour can be wiped away by installing hate figures both individual and communities, blaming someone else for "being left behind', transposing normal competition with a "war footing" and promising unicorns but not for traitors. Not to mention flouting regulation and indeed the law.  It works, in the short term at least.



  2. Can i just say.
    Congratulations on your 2019 Summer Appeal.
    Rod Petrie.
    We weren’t shown up by UEFA gers rap.
    He claims the action from Europe’s governing body has
    INSPIRED our football authorities to be tougher in tackling the scourge of our game.
    The uefa rap was for one clubs racist behaviour, but Petrie want’s to lump every club with it.
    Petrie added Why would the SFA be embarrassed?
    Jesus! You should be embarrassed as UEFA have shown you how you should have got off your lazy backside and taken action years ago.
    But no embarrassment for the SFA. No not at all this happened in a competition run by UEFA. I expect this kind of racist behaviour never happened in a competition run by the SFA?
    Petrie . Equaliy we look to the SPFL to take a similar approach.
    Does he want the SPFL to close parts of stadiums were racist singing has been heard? he does not make that clear.But he does pass the blame.
    Petrie… We welcomed the statement that came out of rangers….REALLY?
    We would have welcomed a statement from the SFA at the time, not a bleeding blame piece from the SFA in a paper weeks later.
    But Petrie added he is not going to run away from it….Fecking hell you just blamed everyone but yourself.

    Ps. sorry for some of the bad language


    theredpill 8th September 2019 at 09:53




    Thanks for the link trp. I was unaware that the SFA went in to bat for Ajax over the sectarian banner charge nor that it is the tune itself that Uefa insist is sectarian and not just the lyrics of the Billy Boys. So forty thousand fans humming the tune would still be enough to close the stadium.Wonder how they would treat the Dundee choir should they qualify to play in their tournaments.The article does highlight the difference in approach to sectarianism from Uefa and the Scottish football authorities.One is actively trying to eradicate and educate while the other appears to be shrugging it's shoulders. 

  4. Petrie

    I thought an SFA President was akin to a non-exec Chairman.

    No operational authority, but there to provide wise counsel?


    Maxwell [aka The Scarlet Pimpernel]

    Guess he's still locked in the bunker then, developing rickets?


    UK politics and Scottish professional football.

    Another similarity might be illusion.

    One creates the illusion of democracy.

    The other creates an illusion of fair, sporting competition.

  5. Petrie making belated noises about stamping out sectarianism in Scottish football.


    Doncaster publicly backing a "Respect Our Players" campaign.


    Undoubtedly, two very worthwhile initiatives…


    but, promoted by easily the two most – allegedly – corrupt and mistrusted individuals in Scottish football.



    You have to laugh… angel



  6. “Holyrood’s Justice committee stepped up the pressure on the SPFL by calling on the information to be published and urging “transparency”.

    From the Herald today. I suppose in the wake of the trouble around recent marches our Government probably thought something should be done. It will be interesting to see if the SPFL allow the government to publish. 

  7. Lugosi

    It had crossed my mind that we're approaching a very unpleasant event horizon in UK politics and that this is what occupies minds right now.

    Media now normalising routine law-breaking by government. Scary stuff.

    On the positive side, Stephen O'Donnell's book is now the best selling football history on Amazon. Congrats to him for that sad

  8. Lifted from the BBC Comments section;


    "17. Posted by Everybody Loves Chelmsfordon  

    I think the manager has to be sacked after this appalling display. I mean – how can you expect to hang on to your job after only scoring 4 past Scotland? "


  9. Usual hand-wringing crisis talk this morning. Charlie Adam and Kristoffer Boyd saying kids are priced out of football because of expensive access to facilities – which is why nobody plays in the streets anymore.
    Nothing like joined up thinking eh?

  10. It's evident that activity on here has reached a new low! Is this because:

    1. Folk see no hope of changing/improving the governance of Scottish football and of ever getting a recognition that a certain cheating club, who won many Scottish football honours whilst cheating, died and a new club was created?

    2. A sense that Res 12 has been kicked so far into the long grass that it is lost?

    3. There is no expectation that the new club (see above) is in any way heading for administration/liquidation? Certainly in the past there has been nothing like an impending financial disaster to get the SFM keyboards rattling.

    Or a mixture of all three of the above?

  11. Big Pink10th September 2019 at 09:21

    Usual hand-wringing crisis talk this morning. Charlie Adam and Kristoffer Boyd saying kids are priced out of football because of expensive access to facilities – which is why nobody plays in the streets anymore.
    Nothing like joined up thinking eh?

    saw someone on twitter posting an ad from Kris Boyd football camp. One week £75. Obvs a different Kris Boyd 

  12. Bordersdon
    Battle fatigue does kick in from time to time, but as others have said, there are other things going on right now?
    Oh, and Res12 is most definitely not dead?

  13. JC and I attended the latest appeal hearing in the cases of David Whitehouse and Paul Clark's action against the Lord Advocate at the Court of Session earlier today.

    Unfortunately today's proceedings had little to do with events following the administration and liquidation of RFC, but were focused on legal arguments about whether the Lord Advocate and his staff in the Crown Office (Advocate Deputes, Procurator Fiscals and Procurator Fiscal deputes) should have immunity against civil claims for damages.

    The appeal was heard by the Inner House of the Court of Session with five judges on the bench, viz. Lord Carloway – The Lord President, Lady Dorrian – The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Menzies, Lady Paton and Lord Brodie, so was close to the most senior bench available to the court.

    Roddy Dunlop QC for Whitehouse and Douglas Fairlie QC for Clark argued that the case law needed updating to reflect the current situation.The current case law, which provides the Lord Advocate with virtually absolute immunity, was set in 1961 in the case of Hester v MacDonald.  It was argued that only the USA and Scotland continued to offer such immunity, while England, Ireland, Australia, Canada and South Africa did not. There were references to cases in each of those jurisdictions which highlighted why the prosecutors should not be given blanket immunity.

    There was half an hour at the end of the day when Gerry Moynihan QC, acting for the Lord Advocate started his submission on why immunity should continue.  He made one very odd statement, saying that the immunity policy came into being in order to ensure that 999 prosecution staff acting in good faith should not be subject to claims because of 1 prosecutor who acted in bad faith.

    It seemed a weak argument given that the 999 would not be subject to a claim if they indeed acted in good faith.

    The hearing continues at 10:30 tomorrow (immediately following the announcement of the CoS decision on the merits of the appeal against proroguing of parliament). 

    I sensed from the interventions of Lady Dorrian, in particular, that overruling/updating the case law from Hester will be a difficult challenge, and that the case could end up in the Supreme Court.

    Dunlop and Fairlie were keen that the case should go to proof (trial) so that the facts of the case can be heard in order to show malice and lack of probable cause by the Crown Office, as the alternative was that such immunity if confirmed would necessarily mean that there would be no remedy for a wrong.

  14. bordersdon 10th September 2019 at 11:04

    It's evident that activity on here has reached a new low! Is this because:

    1. Folk see no hope of changing/improving the governance of Scottish football and of ever getting a recognition that a certain cheating club, who won many Scottish football honours whilst cheating, died and a new club was created?

    I think it is clear the authorities and the media will never allow such recognition to take place. I doubt very much whether the Judiciary would either. 'Rangers' is the establishment club, i.e 'their club'. 

    1. A sense that Res 12 has been kicked so far into the long grass that it is lost?

    Auldheid will maybe update, but it is far from dead. Celtic must still formally answer via their AGM, and moves are definitely afoot to make them do just that at this year's AGM. The SFA also have to close the case out too, although they know they can say 'move on' as the media line up to accuse Celtic fans of paranoia. 

    1. There is no expectation that the new club (see above) is in any way heading for administration/liquidation? Certainly in the past there has been nothing like an impending financial disaster to get the SFM keyboards rattling.

    They always seem to get money from somewhere. 

    Or a mixture of all three of the above?

  15. EJ

    One thing we have learned from all of this is that the wheels of justice are spectacularly slow to spin.

    I sense that the Crown will be keen for the case NOT to go to proof – and would rather not be potentially embarrassed by an airing of how the police and prosecution service may be flawed.


    Auldheid has his mind on his annual migration at the minute, but we can safely say that one of two things – or both – will emerge;

    Some satisfaction via the Celtic AGM or;

    A fuller disclosure of how the Res12 process has been handled – and indeed the definition of what "being handled" actually means to CFC.

    Most definitely there will be developments. Whether or not they will be satisfying is not certain, but there will be stuff 🙂

    Paddy Malarkey

    I am surprised that the ongoing International Week Cup taking place in the tabloids has not featured more heavily here – but I think battle-weariness may be the real reason for that.
    Just when you think the media have gone full Tonto, the Lone Ranger (no pun intended) takes another pill enlightened

  16. Big Pink 11th September 2019 at 00:19

    Have you been drinking that new Zen lager , and were on your second pint when you got to me ?sad

  17. A reason for the lack of activity on the site comments, IMHO, is that there is a lack of content.

    The last published article was the 7th of August. More articles means more hits and more engagement and more importantly, a higher profile. The website design is poor to say the least. Even the comments section is badly formatted. Comments are not nested for instance.

    The twitter site is very political (which I enjoy) but the Facebook site appears to have died.

    I am pretty sure that there are a rake of budding authors out there who would be glad to have an article published. At the very least, two per week is needed!

    It does not cost £1,500 to run a wordpress.com website per year. It costs £20 per month for a business plan which gives access to good templates and a vast range of plugins. It doesn't take a whole lot of time to design a visually appealing website with engaging content. 

    We all know the importance of the message regarding sporting integrity. But without other content to engage Scottish football fans, this message will never get across. 

    Where are the League tables? Where are the links to match reports, fan websites, relevant news stories, the SFA financials, the SPFL website? Just for a start. I could go on. And on.

    If you build it, they will come. As Confucius said.

  18. Finnmccool
    Lots of points there, but I will attempt to address the main ones;
    The frequency with which new blogs appear has long been considered adequate since in the main, the subject of blogs rarely takes over what is in effect chat room type situation. We have had a consensus on formats too, like whether to change to a forum, nested comments etc. That’s not to say that won’t change of course.
    I’m not sure it is relevant to activity, but in terms of the cost of running the blog, we originally wanted a self-hosted solution for security. Historically we needed a robust solution which protected us from the several attacks which took place, and of course we required moderators round the clock. In the absence of volunteers to do so, these guys have to be paid, since Tris and I can’t do it ourselves.
    Of course if the numbers were reduced on a long term basis we’d have to look at that requirement again.
    The site design looks ok to me (certainly cost enough to purchase the template and implement), but if you are seriously offering to redesign it, please PM me?
    What you say about links to different content we probably should think about – and we will.

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