Dundee United supporters made their voices heard in the Tannadice boardroom. Picture: SNS
It has been loud, unanimous, unchanging and delivered by all the traditional platforms and any available new ones. Supporters have used letters, emails, phone calls, messageboards, Twitter, newspaper hotlines and radio phone-ins. The vast, vast majority of them have repeated a mantra: "no to newco". Stephen Thompson, the Dundee United chairman, has said he has had it shouted at him in the street.
If there is a silent minority – or even majority – less aggravated by the idea of a Rangers newco entering the SPL at a vote on July 4 then it has been exactly that: silent. Little has been heard from those Rangers supporters aggrieved at their club's treatment and insistent that the newco should be given a clean slate and voted in. Any conflicting message has been submerged under the demands for a 'no' vote.
There have been uprisings by supporters before in Scottish football but none like this, when fans of so many clubs have piped up with the same message and broadly drawn the response they want from their clubs' chairmen and chief executives. One by one, clubs have either declared that they will vote no, or issued some sort of statement about listening to their fans. If they listen to them and act on what they are being told, there is only one way they are going to vote. Hearts and Dundee United have already appeased their fans by declaring they will vote no. Similar suggestions last night emerged from St Johnstone. Aberdeen have fudged the issue but will eventually do the same. It is inconceivable that Celtic can vote yes now.
No individual can ever claim to speak for all fans, even at a single club, but Supporters Direct has more authority than any other umbrella group when it comes to reflecting the views of those who fill the stands. It has helped establish 35 supporters' trusts in Scotland, five of which own or operate their club. Motherwell and St Mirren have fan ownership models, although the buy-out of the latter has been put on hold until there is clarity over the newco issue. The offer by the 10000Hours Group to buy St Mirren was subject to "certain conditions relating to commercial revenues," said a statement by the consortium.
Paul Goodwin was appointed the head of Supporters Direct Scotland yesterday. Goodwin, who led the purchase of Stirling Albion by its supporters' trust in 2010, embraced the national uprising on the newco vote not because of the specifics of the issue, but because it represented a powerful demonstration of fan power.
"There are not many good things that have come out of this whole Rangers situation," said Goodwin. "But at long last the fans have actually had a chance to get their views heard. We have heard some horror stories in the last three or four months, particularly concerning Rangers fans' season-ticket money being used to buy the club. It's difficult to comprehend. But I think this is an exciting time for supporters. They have maybe never had the opportunity to have a voice and taking that and working with it is the way forward. I wish we had had this opportunity a year ago. But sometimes it takes a big cataclysmic thing to happen before, maybe, you get the outcome we now have. No other business would treat customers the way they have been treated in the past by some clubs. So it is a moment in time, one where we have to grasp the thistle."
There has always been the impression that clubs pay lip service to their supporters. It has been a hard slog for fans to crowbar in to the boardroom. Supporters Direct's hope is that the uprising against a newco reflects a growing recognition of the extent of the power wielded by fans. "The word 'astonishment' is one I heard from a club chairman," said Goodwin. "Probably one of the big changes has been the way the media has changed. Voices are being heard now. It started with fanzines and the birth of the supporters trust movement. All these things combined with Twitter, Facebook and messageboards can't be ignored. Quite quickly you can have a straw poll and learn that 97% of fans want a bigger league, or whatever. It's difficult to ignore that power.
"It really has been an eye-opener, even in the past fortnight, to see that there is this groundswell. There have been lots of advocates saying supporters should have a greater say and now it's about taking that and running with it. Sometimes it will be a bumpy journey but we're quite used to that.
"I think it's all about integrity [on the newco issue]. All the fans feel there has to be sporting integrity and I'd like to think the authorities think that, too.
"I worked down south for 16 years and I get embarrassed when friends there talk about watching a game in the SPL and playing 'spot the crowd'. It's fantastic having all the television money coming into the game, but from the fans' and the authorities' point of view it's all about taking the game forward."