by Colin Campbell Wednesday, May 6
I HAD what now seems with hindsight the doubtful privilege of attending the last major sporting event in Britain – and probably the last major sporting event for a very long time.
That was on March 12, when a friend and I were among 50,000 people who descended on Ibrox Park for a European match between Rangers and the German club, Bayer Leverkusen.
Having a drink in a Govan pub before the match, we were in the company of some of the 3,000 German fans who travelled to Glasgow for the match. As it turned out, they were from the German region with the highest rate of coronavirus infections in their country.
There was no “social distancing” from the visitors back then. They mingled with the rest of the customers, amply displaying the famous German ability to sink foaming tankards of beer in copious quantities.
Neither I nor my friend would consider ourselves to be reckless or stupid, or driven by the kind of fanaticism which would impel some supporters to crawl over broken glass to get to a match.
On March 12 we were aware to some extent that there was a level of slow rising concern in the background about the coronavirus. But as an avid reader of the papers, I saw this reflected in scattered reports here and there, and it certainly wasn’t regular front page news.
If it had been we wouldn’t have gone within a mile of Ibrox Park that night.
So when I now see an avalanche of criticism on social media and among some newspaper pundits directed at both the UK and Scottish Governments from wiseacres denouncing their “pathetically slow response” or even “killer negligence” over the virus I think back to March 12, a day etched in my mind and view these people as revisionists of recent history.
These characters – usually to score political points – imply or even claim directly that they were fully aware of the virus threat in February, or even January, and are scandalised by the “failure” of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon to act accordingly.
The reality is that the most striking aspect of the coronavirus was how concern about it escalated like the launch of Saturn space rocket. Almost in the blink of an eye it soared from low-level to stratospheric. And I’d say March 12, the day that Boris Johnson made his first announcement on the subject, could be cited as pretty close to being launchpad day.
Within hours Mrs Sturgeon announced that there would be no more crowds in stadiums as the season was terminated. Other measures were announced from Holyrood and Westminister, and before long we were in “lockdown”.
And while this was going on the main source of comment among the public was the bewildering speed with which normal life was changing. Even then concern over the dangers of the virus came secondary to wonderment at the social upheaval all around.
It’s true that both Johnson and Sturgeon would have been privy to information that the rest of us didn’t have access to. But we don’t know what that was. And although in normal times I’m no great fan of Nicola Sturgeon I’ve not a shred of doubt that if she’d received health advice that warned about the very serious risks of large crowds of people gathering together she’d have locked down Ibrox on March 12 faster than Willie Henderson sprinting up the wing.
The blame game will no doubt continue indefinitely, with both the UK and Scottish Governments the targets for an outpouring of bile.
Reasoned argument presenting new information is worth paying attention to and may well have credibility.
But the self-styled social media experts, and newspaper pundits, who now claim they knew all about the risks oh-so long ago, before any “pathetic politician” grasped its seriousness, are trying to deceive people, and are probably deceiving themselves as well.