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The PR machines in Scottish sport are well oiled and increasingly aggressive . . .

This week's story about the parting of the ways of Rangers with their public relations advisers caught the eye, not because of the decision itself but because of an accompanying comment that was portrayed as having been related to it.

 Rangers supporters reacted strongly in opposition to the club's former PR adviser.Picture: Bill Murray/SNS Group
Rangers supporters reacted strongly in opposition to the club's former PR adviser.Picture: Bill Murray/SNS Group

"Only two weeks ago, a joint statement by the various official Ibrox fans' groups included the phrase, 'before this board once again unleash their PR bulldog, Jack Irvine, whose only function appears to be to attack Rangers fans . . . '," reported The Herald.

What struck me was that, rightly or wrongly in this case, there had been, at long last, a true realisation of, and reaction to, the role of spin doctors in Scottish sport.

For the record, let me say that I encountered Jack Irvine professionally a few years ago - I think he was representing Phil Anderton when the internecine troubles at the Scottish Rugby Union flared up in 2004/05 - and can remember having no cause for complaint about his approach.

The real alarm bells began ringing around that time, however, when one Alistair Campbell was appointed to help Clive Woodward on that year's British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

To describe as a disaster the campaign led by a man who had cut a rather smug figure in his role as a media pundit during the previous Lions tour, would be a gross understatement. However, we got a first sample of why Campbell was there the night after the Lions were thrashed in the opening Test in Christchurch, when he employed methods to distract attention from the result by placing maximum attention on what remains, to this day, no more than an allegation of a spear tackle on Brian O'Driscoll.

For me that marked the start of a trend in an approach to public relations in sport which is increasingly aggressive and nowhere more so than in Scotland.

Journalists have been dealing with this ever since. Some have resisted manfully, while others take a more passive approach and kow-tow in the often forlorn hope of receiving favours further down the line from those often referred to as media prevention officers.

The worst example of their tactics emerged a few years back when a colleague found a briefing sheet that had been given to a member of a communications team and left carelessly on a table. It outlined how the organisation in question was taking a scattergun approach to attacking a particular journalist by targeting his sports editor, his editor and his chief executive.

Many former journalists having been recruited to these roles, these well-oiled (in every sense) PR machines know the media is packed with opinionated folk. That means that, were a communications team to knock on enough doors, they may well find someone in a senior post who has an axe to grind with any writer and is keen to wield it. Apply enough of that sort of pressure and even those with the strongest wills are likely to crack and make a mistake that can be seized upon.

While that should be exposed, the attitude within the media tends to be that there is no point in journalists complaining about their lot because the wider public will have little sympathy.

That, in turn, is hardly surprising given the image of the profession that has been generated by the likes of the News International scandal.

However, rather than focus on journalists themselves, this can also be viewed as an attack on free speech, not least because it is now the case that even the expression of an unfavourable opinion will draw relentless attacks from some of these well-oiled PR machines.

It has been reported that, in the United States, the ratio of PR professionals to journalists has gone from around 1.2/1 in 1980 to 4/1 in 2014. Given the vast amount of information consequently being churned out from the skewed perspective of those whose job is to see only one side of things, that makes the role of journalists all the more important.

In the interests of balance it is, then, worth noting that the best sporting example of that in recent times has also come from News International and the support given to David Walsh, even after he was sued successfully by Lance Armstrong.

What was striking about the Rangers situation, though, is that what seems to have happened, on the basis of the details cited previously, is that there has been a strong reaction from supporters who feel they have been directly subjected to what journalists have had to deal with for years.

In Scottish sport that could probably only have happened with issues affecting Celtic or Rangers because they are the only organisations backed by large numbers of people willing to complain loudly about the way things are being run.

There is a huge lesson to be learned here by those who care about other sports but do not have the courage to express their views in sufficient numbers and with sufficient strength of feeling.

As for committed journalists, we can only continue to keep both eyes open and try to report the bad with the good, without fear or favour, regardless of the efforts of the spin kings and queens.

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