Jock Brown has revealed that he was given “special dispensation” over traffic regulations when driving his car because of “death threats” received during his 510-day tenure as Celtic general manager, which ended 22 years ago.
Speaking on the BBC Sportsound podcast, the former football commentator attributed much of the resentment towards him from the Celtic support to a concerted press campaign to present him erroneously as a Rangers supporter.
Brown, who was appointed by Celtic owner Fergus McCann in the summer of 1997, became a scapegoat for Wim Jansen’s decision to resign as manager in the immediate aftermath of his leading the club to their first title in a decade - and so halting Rangers’ bid for 10-in-a-row. The 74-year-old was subject of a level of opprobrium rarely witnessed in the Scottish game. It reached such disturbing levels that he required police protection at Prestwick Airport in 1998.
“No-one has a clue what I put up with, because I don’t tell anybody,” Brown said. “That [day at Prestwick Airport] was nothing compared to what I had to put up with. [I had] death threats, you don’t talk about them, but you get them. I had situations where I had special branch involvement.
“I had certain dispensations about how I could deal with my car on the road. In fact, I was under massive pressure to have a driver - as Fergus [McCann] had all that time. I was very firmly requested to take a driver, which I refused. So I then got a very special dispensation about driving where I could break traffic regulations in certain circumstances. And I had a number to call if I had a problem. And I didn’t even talk about the death threats.”
Brown was sacked by McCann in October 1997. However, he expressed little bitterness over a role in which he was ultimately successful and which was of a magnitude that, even as someone who “lived within spitting distance of Celtic Park all my life” - in hailing from Hamilton - took him entirely by surprise.
“I hadn’t a clue, not a single clue, about the size of the club,” he said. “From July 1996 to July 1997 in the national press there were 5,000 stories about Princess Diana, there were 8,500 about Celtic. It is a massive factor in Scottish society and that creates a massive responsibility on the organisation to cater for that because it is such an important institution in the country. Both clubs [Celtic and Rangers] are, and [it] has to be handled properly.”