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From the Herald to the third division . . . where did it go wrong for Traynor?

JIM Traynor's byline used to grace the sports section of The Herald and it is often said that he did much of his best work here.

James Traynor takes in Saturday's match against Stirling Albion.  Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
James Traynor takes in Saturday's match against Stirling Albion. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

Doubtless some readers may wonder whatever happened to him, and might even worry about whether he has been able to carve out a living since leaving these pages many years ago. Those who lost track of his movements may have picked up on the hubbub created by the confirmation of his latest career move at the weekend, having ditched the Daily Record and BBC Scotland to become director of communications at Rangers.

This was never likely to pass off without an avalanche of reaction encompassing intrigue, criticism, abuse and humour. The latter produced some fine, savage wit as supporters of just about every team other than Rangers alluded to his back catalogue of Ibrox coverage. On messageboards and Twitter they went to town. "It's nice when a man starts to get paid for his hobby." "He completed the longest job application in history." "He's being paid in lamb." "Why are the papers only now reporting that Jim Traynor has taken charge of PR for Rangers . . . this story must be 20 years old at least?"

This sort of stuff comes with the territory. Traynor has been accused of surviving on a diet of "succulent lamb" – ie being fed stories from Sir David Murray in return for compliant coverage – since before some of the current Rangers team were born. It's never bothered him before and the current flurry of jokes won't cause him any sleepless nights now.

The weekend reaction was predictable. What's far more interesting about this appointment by Rangers is the role he's going to have there and why the club felt he was the best man to do it. Those Rangers supporters who believe he has been appointed to "sort out the press" or "tell the club where its enemies are in the media" are in for a disappointment. Rangers have a chief executive, a manager and a director – Charles Green, Ally McCoist and Walter Smith – who all can be experienced and forceful voices for the club without having to hire Traynor as another.

In fact, there is every reason to suspect that they have appointed him not because they want their equivalent of The Thick Of It's Malcolm Tucker – a volcanic PR pitbull with reporters' numbers on speed dial to deliver expletive-laden condemnation – but because they want fewer dealings with external journalists altogether.

Rangers' share issue is now live for fans to invest, and the prospectus makes it clear that Green and his fellow directors envisage the club making far more money than before from internally-generated media content.

Imagine how Green's eyes lit up when he first realised the size of the audience at Rangers' disposal. Their website averages 437,000 unique users per month, the highest in Scottish football and fifth highest in British football. As the prospectus says: "The directors believe that the combination of the club's brand and modern media create significant financial opportunities for the company which have been underutilised in the past. At the heart of this strategy is media – particularly video – and the development of services and partnerships that recognise and leverage the consumption of Rangers matches and player videos on the internet."

Clearly, what Green and his board are driving at here is exclusivity over as much Rangers "content" as they can, as well as generating more of it and making it attractive and interesting to ensure that their supporters will be prepared to pay for access. Traynor's description of bloggers (and some journalists) as "despicable, pathetic little creatures" didn't exactly sound like a man harbouring much respect for new media but it came in a valedictory newspaper column which was widely-discussed (and criticised for its tone) last week.

Traynor is undoubtedly a big "name" which Rangers can commercially exploit. By promoting "Traynor interviews Green" or "Traynor interviews McCoist" and putting it behind a paywall on the club's website or on pay-per-view Rangers TV, the club would generate its own content and raise new revenue. And that's Green's language.

Only time will tell how well this goes for Rangers. Perhaps Green and Traynor will prove to be incompatible, conflicting personalities pulling in different directions to Rangers' detriment. Maybe the latter will have far less control within Ibrox than he had at his two media outlets and will find that hard to accept. Those who leave journalism for public relations or club media jobs say it can take up to 18 months to adapt to the different discipline. Maybe he'll just find it boring.

All of that's only a concern for Rangers. For the rest of us – and doubtless for Traynor, too – there promises to be fun in this, and certainly more merciless humour flying around from all sides. The first sighting of the Airdrie fan (inverted commas optional) in a Rangers club tie is going to be a particularly rich source of comic material. In the meantime just one question springs to mind: from the august pages of The Herald to working in the third division . . . where did it all go wrong?

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