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Controversy In Scotland As Two Journalists Sacked After Complaints From Rangers

Controversy In Scotland As Two Journalists Sacked After Complaints From Rangers
By Conor Neville
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Two journalists at the Herald newspaper group in Scotland are out of a job following complaints from Rangers.

Award winning journalist Graham Spiers, a boyhood Rangers supporter who has become unpopular with a large section of the clubs fanbase for his writing on the issue of sectarian chanting, is no longer an employee of the Herald Group following the dispute.

In an article published on 28 December, Spiers wrote about the issue of sectarian chants at Ibrox in which he praised the Rangers board for making serious strides on the matter.

However, he admitted doubts about their real level of commitment on the basis of a conversation with an unnamed member of the Rangers board.

The unnamed director told him that the Billy Boys was 'a great song'.

Rangers complained to the Herald about the column. According to Spiers, the pressure on the paper from the club became 'very severe'.

On Wednesday last, Magnus Llewellin, the editor in chief of the Herald & Times Group issued an apology for the article. Today, he said that this apology was printed on the basis of 'clear legal advice'.

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Here is the apology.

In a recent column for heraldscotland, Graham Spiers said an un-named Rangers director had praised the song The Billy Boys.

He also questioned the willingness of Rangers directors to tackle offensive behaviour, and The Herald and Graham Spiers accept this was inaccurate.

We acknowledge every member of the Rangers board is fully committed to fighting bigotry and offensive chanting, wherever it occurs in Scottish football, and that the club is actively tackling the issue.

We apologise for any embarrassment that may have been caused to the members of the Rangers board.

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Spiers had asked the paper to withhold an apology until his 'own position was clearer.'

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In response to the paper's apology, he published a rather daring statement in which he referred to the pressures placed on the paper.

I feel I need to explain the context of The Herald clarification/apology published today regarding my column about Rangers FC and the fight against bigoted chanting.

Rangers took exception to a column I wrote in which I questioned “the mettle” of the current club board in tackling offensive chanting.

This opinion was based on the fact that, at a meeting I attended at Ibrox Stadium on August 31st 2015, a Rangers director told me that he thought The Billy Boys was “a great song”.

I subsequently expressed my dismay at the director’s comment in an email exchange with Rangers. There was, and is, no question of me calling any Rangers director a bigot.

Rangers duly complained to The Herald about my column. As the weeks passed a dispute arose, and the pressure brought upon the newspaper became severe.

The Herald told me repeatedly that they now had to find a way to a public resolution with Rangers. Having searched many avenues to reach an agreement with the club, the newspaper ultimately denied my request to withhold any clarification/apology until my own position was clearer.

The Herald has never told me that they disbelieved my version of events.  I also retain the highest regard for Magnus Llewellin, the paper’s editor who has tried to resolve this problem.

My opinion – as expressed in my column – was based on a truthful account of my meeting with a Rangers director.

Spiers told the Guardian today that in releasing his own statement on the paper's decision to apologise, he was aware he was 'putting a pile of Semtex under a bridge between me and the Herald.'

Angela Haggerty, a columnist with the Sunday Herald, published a tweet in support of Spiers and critical of segments of the Rangers support.

Haggerty edited a book about Rangers' financial collapse which was published in 2012. She told Alex Thompson of Channel 4 News that she was subject to concerted and orchestrated abuse by some Rangers fans in the aftermath of publication.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZBT8CjbjhY

Today, it was disclosed that both Spiers and Haggerty were sacked by Herald Group. Haggerty tweeted the news to her followers shortly before midday.

Magnus Llewellin released a statement on the matter on HeraldScotland today. He was keen to stress that the fact that an advertiser sits on the Rangers board was not a factor in their decision.

He says that 'appropriate action had to be taken' after Wednesday's apology was 'undermined'.

A Graham Spiers column published on heraldscotland in December made a claim about an un-named member of the six-strong board of Rangers.

This presented a legal issue which had to be addressed and which was discussed at length, by all parties involved.

The issue was whether we could defend in court a contentious statement and the advice given was that we could not. Finally, on clear legal advice, we were left with no option other than to apologise and seek to draw a line under the matter.

After the apology was published we had to abide by it and the spirit in which it was published. Unfortunately that apology was then undermined and we had to take appropriate action.

Our titles have a long history of supporting quality journalism and defending free speech and robust comment. This made all the more difficult the action we had to take.

While one of our advertisers is on the board at Rangers that was never an issue and we shall continue to report and comment on the pressing issues of the day without fear or favour.

Read more: John Delaney Has Invoked The Easter Rising As We Look Ahead To Euro 2016

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