Having seen European football played on what could easily be mistaken for a swimming pool, I would be surprised if Uefa postponed Wednesday’s game Quarabag-Celtic game. Champions League and Europa League football takes place on pitches which are unplayable every season.
The combination of clubs travelling thousands of miles, crammed fixture schedules, competitors from hundreds of towns, many of which are not in natural grass growing regions, forces match supervisors to turn a blind eye. If the pitch in Baku is truly in a bad shape, the best Celtic can achieve is to have the game moved to an alternative venue., but even that would take an unlikely alignment of stars.
To some or other extent, everyone wants to control what the media reports about them. This is not in itself bad, but there are limits to the extent a football club, or any other group, should take this desire to control. Often for the reason that it will simply not work.
If some numpty reports that Ronny Deila said something off about Neil Lennon, and Ronny said no such thing, the numpty in question would find (found) himself banned from Celtic Park for using falsehoods to cause the club trouble. His newspaper would have to suck it up, as they were in the wrong.
When it comes to journalists reporting an unwelcome fact the rules are completely different. BBC’s Chris McLaughlin, who was banned from Ibrox days after reporting police arrested fans at the Hibs – Newco game for sectarian offenses has been publicly backed by the BBC.
The Corporation eventually backed Jim Spence after he was subject to significant intimidation for using the phrase “some people will tell you, the club that died” in connection to Rangers, but from the outside they appeared to be on the back foot early on.
In his excellent interview with Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, published today, Spence talks about this, saying “It has been and still is a blatant attempt to coerce and ultimately take journalists livelihoods away from them”.
Banning journos work in some circumstances: when they are factually wrong and doing you harm, but if they are factually correct, you’re handing the perceived enemy the initiative, and the high moral ground. A comment about a small number of arrests for sectarian offenses, which few people read, has now been magnified beyond comprehension. It’s a complete PR disaster of their own making, Newco should buy-in some expertise in this area.
Incredibly, when Craig Whyte made himself busy banning journos who reported what he was up to, those who should have been most alarmed were so lustfully delighted at the bans and invitations to demonstrate, they didn’t stop to consider Whyte was diverting their attention.