WHAT a time to be a journalist. No matter how savage the cutbacks or how destabilising the digital landscape, this has been a week rich in eventful stories. Both the front and back pages of the beleaguered Scottish press were groaning with stories to pursue and new angles to imagine.

The collapse of Derek Mackay’s political career, exposed for sending countless pestering texts to a 16-year-old boy on the day that the Scottish Budget was due to be unveiled, jolted the Holyrood press pack out of its everyday postures. The story was broken by The Sun’s Graham Mann and Chris Musson, and unless something seismic and sensational happens they may as well hand them the Scoop of the Year Award now.

As political journalists salivated over the fallout, two distinct camps began to emerge – those that wanted the dagger to be stuck in, twisted and gouged to make deeper wounds, while others were preparing personality profiles on Kate Forbes, the young MSP who deputised for Mackay and so became the first woman to deliver a Scottish Budget. It had all the drama of modern-day continuity – the king is dead, long live the new princess.

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READ MORE: Labour attack Nicola Sturgeon for not sacking Derek Mackay

If you thought the front of the papers carried intrigue and unprecedented political idiocy, then the back pages have determinedly upstaged them.

The saga of the Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos is already the length of a good book and now well on its way to resembling a Netflix adaptation: controversy, criminality, heightened passions, the hint of illicit sex, a pregnant femme fatale and compelling skulduggery involving an agent, a global television company and the endless rivalry of two brands perpetually at war. It makes the story of the Gucci family look like an old episode of Take The High Road.

Although the story has origins stretching back to the mass migration of Irish immigrants fleeing the potato blight in the 1880s, the latest episode began more recently on December 29, 2019, when Santa had barely finished his shift. Rangers had won away at Celtic Park, in what many saw as a transitional moment in this season’s Premiership title race, Morelos was sent off for diving and as he left the pitch made a throat-slitting gesture at enraged Celtic fans. Rangers claim their player as the victim of racial abuse and Celtic fans retaliated by asking for proof, in what was a massively televised and mediated game. Police Scotland confirmed on December 31 that they were investigating complaints of racism towards a Rangers player. That in itself was enough for the counter-claims to fester into the New Year, but it didn’t end there. This is Scottish football, so speculation and conspiracy theories were heaped on top of each other, and the story veered towards magical realism, where truth, invention and fantasy began to merge.

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The next major twist in the story came when an unidentified man was spotted underneath a Lamborghini in a luxury housing complex by the Clyde. Morelos was convinced the mystery man was tampering with his motor and gave chase. When the story hit the papers it unlocked a torrent of unwise speculation, especially online, where the opinion of football fans runs unchecked by either the law or logic. One of the most common presumptuous was that the mystery man was a Celtic fan tampering with the brakes on Morelos’s car in order to do him damage and so undermine the Rangers title challenge.

It was the Sunday Mail which blew this speculation apart by reporting that the mystery man was known to at least one central character in the drama, Morelos’s pregnant girlfriend, who it appears hired a private investigator to place a tracking device on the players’ car following suspicions that he was having an affair.

Although embarrassing for the couple, and hilarious to those of us who see Scottish football as a glorified form of Grand Guignol, the revelation triggered resentment among Celtic fans who having been accused of racism, were now on trial in the court of online gossip for plotting to injure or maim a rival player.

For reasons now mired in hearsay, Rangers consented to give Sky TV a set-piece interview with Morelos, which turned into an almighty farce. Morelos has limited English and so the interview was conducted in Spanish and then translated into subtitles. Among the many mistakes or inaccuracies in the translation was a section in which it seemed that Morelos was re-igniting the accusations of racism against Celtic fans. The trouble is he didn’t. But someone somewhere made up a translation which bore no resemblance to Morelos’s actual words. Speculation raced ahead of itself. Was it Sky stoking up a story, or Morelos’s agent heightening his visibility in the transfer market, or someone in the PR operations at Rangers?

In much the same way that political observers like to imagine that the dark arts of modern statecraft are the work of Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings, so the football fraternity love to believe that any deviousness is the work of the Ibrox club’s PR guru Jim Traynor, a former Daily Record football writer. Stubborn of girth and calculating of mind, Traynor is a neo-Dickensian character who relishes scheming and laps up the discord that circles around him.

So, just as the Derek Mackay controversy was breaking at Holyrood, two near-simultaneous arguments erupted around what is now lamely known as “translategate”. The first was an incendiary show on Radio Scotland in which the former footballer Michael Stewart excoriated Traynor for what he argued was his malign presence within the game. Meanwhile, unconvinced by a standard apology from Sky TV, Celtic registered a formal complaint to the regulator Ofcom. Among Celtic’s fiercely argued claims was a tantalising paragraph. “The effect and, we believe, purpose of this misrepresentation was to broadcast offensive and incendiary allegations against Celtic Football Club and its supporters, by attempting to attribute these – quite unfairly – to Mr Morelos. It is difficult to think of a more irresponsible piece of ‘sporting journalism’.”

The unthinkable had happened. Scotland’s two biggest football clubs were at parallel war with two different broadcasters. BBC Scotland’s long-standing dispute with Rangers (the 100 Years War seemed a breeze by comparison) is euphemistically known as “the ongoing situation”, and dates back to a report by Chris McLaughlin in 2015. At the heart of the dispute is two irresolvable principles. The BBC cannot delegate editorial policy to a third party and so cannot allow Rangers to chose who it sends to report from Ibrox. The club in turn argue their right to decide who they extend press and media facilities to. Rangers are adamant that the BBC are not banned and are welcome to send another reporter. Watching all this with their usual trepidation is the SPFL, incapable of demanding a resolution. Every time a whisper of smoke appears to signal peace, the ground shifts and the dispute is never quite resolved. Many believe that the current stalemate suits Rangers. There is nothing that hardcore football fans love more than a perceived enemy.

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READ MORE: BBC sorry for Michael Stewart's rant about Rangers' Jim Traynor

Celtic’s letter to Ofcom will not be easily resolved either. Sky will be expected to provide Ofcom with a detailed summary of how the interview with Morelos was sourced, who was the providing producer, who translated the interview and who verified the translation to ensure accuracy. None of that will remain private as Ofcom will be mindful of overseeing Sky’s licence to broadcast and the obligations it carries for fairness to the player as a contributor and to Celtic and their supporters as named parties to racism.

READ MORE: Read: The full Alfredo Morelos interview with Sky Sports

I cannot predict the outcome nor even the next twist in this fascinating tale, but what is certain is that Ofcom’s report will be pored over by the judges and jury that lurk out there in the feral world of football websites, and they will call judgment as they see it.

This one will not go away.