Monday, April 19, 2021

A Level Playing Field?

I must admit I am surprised that nothing has been done about the TRFC party guys. It is especially puzzling that other clubs who have had games cancelled and players suspended as a consequence of breaches haven’t pointed out the apparent lack of consistency.

In August of last year, following a non-socially-distanced night out after an Aberdeen v Rangers game, eight Aberdeen players were banned for three games by an SFA-convened independent panel.

Jonny Hayes, Mikey Devlin, Scott McKenna, Matty Kennedy, Sam Cosgrove, Dylan McGeouch, Craig Bryson and Bruce Anderson were accused of breaking public health guidelines when they visited an Aberdeen pub on August 1.

Celtic defender Boli Bolingoli, who had made a midweek three-day trip to Spain for some R&R faced the same charges

The panel held hearings before ruling that the players had broken the rules and delivered a three match suspension to each of the eight Aberdeen players, suspended in lieu of similar breaches until February 28, 2021.

In Bolingoli’s case, a five game ban was delivered with only two of those suspended until February.

Bolingoli was of course disciplined by Celtic before being sent out on loan, his Celtic career seemingly finished as a consequence, whilst the Aberdeen players were also disciplined by their club.

Both Aberdeen and Celtic were also subjected to damaging match cancellations as a consequence of both incidents.

On February 14, Police were called to an unlawful house party and handed out fixed penalty notices for breach of Covid regulations to Rangers players Bongani Zungu, Nathan Patterson, Calvin Bassey, Dapo Mebude, and Brian Kinnear. Rangers say they have disciplined the players, but the SFA have yet to say anything, fourteen days after the incident.

No match bans, no game cancellations.

The lack of comment in the media is not surprising since everyone in the MSM lives in terror of TRFC reprisal and behaves accordingly.

In fact, a quick Google search on the matter yields nothing after 17th February, suggesting that an Ibrox D-Notice has been issued and obediently complied with by the MSM. Of course one must always guard against cognitive bias in these matters. None of us are completely free of it, and are afflicted to some extent, but by any subjective measure that I can see, the MSM opprobrium directed (quite correctly) at Bolingoli and the Dons’ players, and the storm of publicity surrounding those earlier incidents is absent in the case of the TRFC five.

Even the Scottish Government’s response appears to have treated the TRFC breach with the equivalent of a raised eyebrow, in comparison to the angrily pointed finger at Aberdeen and Celtic (and subsequently with Celtic after the Dubai farce).

Consider today the yellow card. The next time it will be the red card because you will leave us with absolutely no choice

Nicola Sturgeon (after the Aberdeen/Boligoli incidents)

I say this as someone who has never agreed with those who alleged that Alex Salmond tried to help The Old Club with the tax bodies, believing the government’s actions at the time to have been nothing more than what would be expected of them – to express a wish that a resolution could be found – but not putting pressure on HMRC as was alleged.

However, as any schoolteacher will tell you, if you threaten discipline against a recalcitrant pupil, you bloody well MUST carry the threat out – or face the immediate and irretrievable loss of credibility. I’m sure Nicola Sturgeon is as well aware as anyone that a second yellow card is in fact a red.

So yes, the MSM silence is not surprising, and government indecision is not altogether a new thing, but the lack of reaction from other clubs – even the fans of other clubs – is very puzzling.

That is maybe the only thing that makes me doubt (slightly) that there is some serious and deliberate “inconsistency” afoot.

It is this type of beahaviour by the authorities and the media that led us to the brink of Armageddon in 2012.

If it can’t be changed, then those of us who have been constantly warning that a repeat is inevitable, will be saying “told you so” in the not too distant future.

If a level playing field is too much to ask for, then the implications for the sport, and society are many and serious.

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Big Pink
Big Pink is John Cole; a former schoolteacher based in the West of Scotland, He is also a print and broadcast journalist who is engaged in the running of SFM . Former gigs include Newstalk 106, the Celtic View, and Channel67. A Celtic fan, he is also the voice of our podcast initiative.

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228 COMMENTS


  1. Not sure where Phil’s correspondence with UEFA can go.

    As I understand it, UEFA are content with the Italian football authorities method of maintaining ‘continuity’ when an existing football club goes under.

    The Italian FA’s articles allow them to take ownership of a defunct club’s ‘sporting title’ – name, historical titles and achievements – and (subject to the payment of outstanding football debts) pass the name and history on to another club in the same area.

    Think, for example, of the owners of St Mirren buying Rangers’ assets back in 2012. Under the Italian system, St Mirren could effectively have become Rangers FC.

    If UEFA can tolerate this nonsense from the Italians, what would it find objectionable within the 5WA?

    Whilst I find the Italian methodology distasteful, it is at least written in to the constitution that transfer of ‘sporting title’ is permitted under its footballing laws. Of course, no such law exists within the Scottish football statutes – hence the necessity to create the 5WA.

    The question, in my opinion, is not whether UEFA should approve or recognise the 5WA. The real question is whether the parties to the agreement had the power to make such an agreement in the first place.

    If the intended outcome the 5 way agreement is (as I believe it to be) substantially ultra vires then every commercial benefit that flowed from it, is/was gained from a potentially fraudulent document that purports to endow continuity to a now defunct football club.

    The boards of the SFA, SFL and SPL(as was) have/had substantial power to manage their respective organisations – but, those powers are/were not unlimited. The powers of any board are legally bound/limited by their articles of association.

    Did the signatories to the 5WA sign up to agree elements that the board could not deliver without their members specific approval at AGM/egm?

    If so, did they know they had put their names to something that they knew could be challenged and might ultimately have no legal effect?

    What were the financial consequences of the 5WA?

    Did any of the parties financially benefit from the purported outcome?

    Therein lies the real story. imo


  2. Paddy Malarkey 11th March 2021 At 19:29
    ‘.Maybe somebody erudite could raise their concerns here –..[link to integrity.uefa..’]
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    Not at all particularly erudite, PM, I nevertheless on Christmas Day 2019 emailed Mr Ceferin , President of UEFA, (I posted that email on the sfmscot blog at the time]

    The subject matter was not as directly related to the ‘5-Way Agreement’ as was PMcG’s query to UEFA, and because I had no direct email address for Ceferin on UEFA’s website, I had emailed him at the law firm of which he is a founder/partner in the expectation, not just hope, that he would receive it either directly or by it being routinely forwarded to him by whoever checked his private legal business emails when he was not personally present in Slovenia.

    I received no reply to that email.

    Having read what PMcG received from ‘UEFA Media & Public Relations’ I was prompted to send the following email this evening:

    “The Manager,
    Čeferin, Pogačnik, Novak, Koščak and partners

    Dear Sirs,

    On 25 December 2019 I sent an email to your firm for the attention of Mr Aleksander Ceferin.

    I have not yet received any reply.

    Can you confirm that the email was received by Mr Ceferin, please?

    A copy is appended for your convenience, lest perchance you have misplaced the original

    Yours faithfully,

    John Clark,
    Edinburgh,
    Scotland.

    copy of previous email

    john clark
    To:info@ceferin.si Wed, 25 Dec 2019 at 17:24

    For the attention of Mr Aleksander Ceferin

    Dear Mr Ceferin,

    Can you, as a lawyer and President of UEFA, explain to me in simple lay terms why the club co-efficient of ‘The Rangers Football Club’ which did not exist before 2012 (appears be based on performance in the last 10 years?

    What magic has been worked?

    What lies may have been told to UEFA about the true origins of the club that claims to be the Rangers Football Club that was founded in 1872?

    I am not a lawyer, but I know with absolute legal certainty, that the ‘Rangers of 1872’ went spectacularly bust and died as a football club in 2012, when it was put into Liquidation by its creditors, and lost its entitlement to participate in Scottish professional football!

    I know also with absolute legal certainty that , renamed RFC 2012 plc, it remains in legal existence in Liquidation, until the Liquidators finish their business, when it will be dissolved as a legal entity.

    One need not be a particularly clever metaphysician to be able to reason that an entity cannot be both dead and alive at the same time!

    Rangers Football Club of 1872 played its last football in season 2011/12.

    The Rangers Football Club that was created de novo in 2012 has participated in Scottish football only from 2012/13. Seven seasons in total.

    There is absolutely no way that an honest Sports Governance body can legitimately treat a seven year old member club as having been in existence for ten years.

    If the ‘The Rangers Football Club’ founded in 2012 want to tell lies about their origins, and if the Scottish Football Association (SFA) wants to buy into those lies, it is surely the responsibility of UEFA, and your particular responsibility as UEFA President [committed in your ‘manifesto’ to good governance etc etc] to scotch those lies and deny the false claims made.

    Will you live up to your manifesto, act in accordance with Truth, and tell the SFA that ‘The Rangers FC ‘founded in 2012 are not and cannot possibly be Rangers Football Club of 1872?

    They are therefore not entitled to have a Europa Cup competition ‘club coefficient’ based on a number of years which includes a number of years when they simply did not exist?

    I hope you will live up to your manifesto promises: or at least give a damned good reason why you will not!

    It is Christmas day as I write. On the assumption that you are more honest than the SFA, let me wish you a happy Christmas and my best wishes for the new Year,

    Yours sincerely,

    (and with apologies for sending this to your email address at your law firm: but the UEFA web-site appears to be shy about making things easy for complainants)

    JC ”

    I know of course that Ceferin might argue that as President of UEFA he received no direct communication from me about anything untoward regarding RFC of 1872.
    That would make him a lying sod, of course.
    But European Football as a ‘business’ is scarcely a clean potato. And it took a very irritated USA to kick the cohones of FIFA.

    (Or, maybe, and fairmindedly, there are 2 Ceferins! one of whom, as President of UEFA hears nothing , sees nothing of concern in what others have to say in relation to a football club in Scotland :while ,simultaneously, the other as a private lawyer in Slovenia gets emails ‘alleging’ hanky-panky by the SFA in relation to a football club(s)!
    It’s a mad, mad world out there, with layers and layers of deceit and scarce an honest broker.


  3. John Clark 11th March 2021 At 23:49

    I wouldn’t hold out much hope for integrity in an organisation which employs Hugh Dallas in a senior position.


  4. Albertz, I apologise for the unnecessary dig at you when I posted the BBC link to the Police Scotland/Whitehouse/Clark report. at the time I thought I was being funny, but it was unnecessary and just me trying to be smart. In retrospect, I regret it…..and I hadn’t been drinking!! Just bad late night judgement.

    JC, like UTH I don’t hold out much hope for a (positive) response from UEFA, but I intend today to use PM’s link to ask the integrity unit if they feel they should at review the 5-way agreement. Like you, I’m not erudite – I don’t even know what Dite is…..”Erra macaroon bars, erra chewing gum, erra dite”!!!


  5. Does anyone have a link to what the justice minister said about the upcoming Celtic-TRFC game on last night’s The Nine, either video footage or press reports of what he said. I’m sure I saw some last night, but now can only see reports of what he said on Radio Scotland this morning?


  6. I find the TRFC/RIFC statement to be a bit mealy-mouthed , as if constructed by lawyers . No direct apology to the known victim , and only saying “we said we told the Police” but no confirmation that they did . Better than nothing , I suppose , and definitely worth the wait .


  7. Nawlite 12th March 2021 At 13:22
    ‘..JC, like UTH I don’t hold out much hope for a (positive) response from UEFA, but I intend today to use PM’s link to ask the integrity unit if they feel they should at review the 5-way agreement.’
    “”””””””””””””++++
    I’ve just this minute sent am email to UEFA Media and Public Relations ( media@uefa.ch ], copying my original 2019 email to Ceferin, and my reminder to him of yesterday, to let them see that while I myself not specifically mention the 5-Way Agreement I mentioned other matters that would have let him know that there were questions to be asked about how the SFA dealt with the consequences of the Liquidation of RFC of 1872 and the creation of a new club in 2012.
    If Ceferin received my first email, he clearly didn’t mention it to his media guys. Now that they have seen it ( if the poor chap/lass who first logs today’s email] passes it on , I wonder whether they will have the cohones to mention it to him ? Or if they will even acknowledge receipt?
    It would be great if Phil could get some other European journalists , or even a journalist of the ICIJ, interested in a wee UEFA/SFA question?


  8. I’m not quite sure I’m following what that link regarding Article 12 and the 5WA is trying to get at? I thought UEFA leave that level of governance up to the nations body. Article 12 is only with regards what is seen as the definition of the license applicant. As the member share was moved from oldco to newco then of course this is a transfer of membership and therefore Rangers were unable to compete in Europe for 3 seasons (which we were).

    Article 12 is nothing to do with not being allowed to shed debt and pheonix, it’s a way of ensuring it is not financially viable for the big guns to do it every season without consequence. Like others have pointed out, the continuation is widely accepted by UEFA.

    I imagine if they were to look at T5WA they would be quite satisfied that we were 1) made to pay back all football related debts (that’s the biggy for UEFA and I’d be surprised if this was not enforced by them regardless of their response to Phil!), 2) we were punished (embargo) and 3) all governing bodies in Scotland agreed. Pretty sure it would be an open shut case for them (not that I see them having one slightest bit of interest because a journalist asks and a number of fans send emails.)

    That said it often humours me that UEFA and FIFA are seen in some circles to be the moral hero’s of social justice riding over the horizon to deal with a ten year old bit of paper produced in a backwater country.


  9. Darkbeforedawn 12th March 2021 At 16:02
    I think that’s what most people want , that UEFA look at the 5WA and declare it kosher . Who knows what it may contain – franchising , guarantees against relegation , agreements to bypass UEFA rules to expedite said agreement ? Being commercially sensitive , it’s not going to be made public in its entirety, but if the honest brokers at Nyon say that they’ve scrutinised it and it’s compliant , then I’d imagine that’s that .


  10. DBD, for me Phil’s blog is a little sidetracked by the Res12 issue (that’s what takes up most of the questions) and I agree with your view on that, I think, though I’m sure Phil has a different view. The big issue I see with the 5-way that Phil points out is that it appears to force the authorities to deal with Rangers/TRFC in a different way from all other member clubs when it comes to their role as regulators.

    If that clause is real and the secret 5-way agreement means the authorities can’t treat them as they would in the normal course of business, yet the authorities’ desire to keep the existence/content of the 5-way agreement a secret means they can’t deal with them by publicly going to CAS either, then how can that be fair on the other member clubs.

    In the interests of transparency, which UEFA must surely support, and fairness to all its member clubs, UEFA must review the content of the agreement imo and that is what I have just sent to the Integrity Unit per PM’s link……..in longer, more boring form than that, as usual, of course!!

    One other thing, that supposed clause talks about it applying in matters pertaining to the agreement and no one really knows just what that might cover, so I definitely believe it needs reviewed by some independent, hopefully supervisory body to see just how acceptable it is.


  11. Darkbeforedawn 12th March 2021 At 16:02
    ‘.. As the member share was moved from oldco to newco’

    ++++++++++++++++++
    No. Rangers Football Club plc was the shareholder in the SPL.
    It had to return its share when it went into liquidation.
    No longer being a member of a recognised league, it therefore ceased to be eligible for membership of the SFA.
    SevcoScotland/TRFC in order to become a recognise professional football club had first to become a member of a league.
    It was eventually accepted into the then SFL.
    Only then did it become eligible for membership of the SFA.
    There was no simple transfer either of existing league membership (CG did not become the owner of RFC plc , because that no longer existed as a football club in membership of a league , or of eligibility for membership of the SFA]
    The 5-Way agreement was a liars’ charter to get round the truth by creating nonsensical fictions .
    It was a way of allowing a club with huge ‘social taxes’ debts to shed those debts to its great financial advantage without the consequences that follow ‘liquidation’.
    It was a monstrously deceitful piece of work, far removed from any notion of Financial probity, let alone Financial Fair Play.

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