Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Home Blog Page 2

Resolution 12 & The Broken Bond

1006

Celtic Shareholders who put forward a resolution to the Celtic AGM in 2013 are preparing for the 2019 AGM tomorrow and some of their conclusions are reproduced below. Celtic are planning to vote the current resolution of 2019 down after several years of kicking the can down the road after an agreement to adjourn the 2013 motion was agreed at that AGM.

Given the weight of evidence, and the prevarication that has gone on for this extended period of time, you don’t have to be a student of politics to infer that Celtic are failing their own shareholders over this.

There appears to have been, at best, a failure of SFA governance over this issue. At worst? Well that doesn’t really bear thinking about. That Celtic (and other clubs too) have been in possession of the evidence outlined below but have failed to act on it is a damning indictment of the quality of people running our clubs. Peter Lawwell’s words from 2008 about the integrity of competition seem hollow coming from the same lips as the man who has failed to pursue any kind of sporting integrity over upholding the rules of the game.

Of course we are talking about a fundamental difference in how people see the game. There are those of us who (some say naively) consider that upholding the aspects of fair play and competition are paramount, and those who see the commercial aspects of the game as the foremost consideration. A pragmatist might find a way to accommodate both, but there are apparently no pragmatists in boardrooms all over Scotland – just financial accountants.

It would be unfair to categorise the latter constituency as suffering from some kind of character defect of course. Doesn’t make you a bad person because short term financial gain is your thing.

But it puts you at odds with the paying punters – or at least some of them. As a Celtic fan myself, I’m not so sure that I can take any real joy from my own club’s success if I have come to the conclusion that they themselves are happy with a rigged competition. I am not so sure I can credibly throw stones at anyone who is caught cheating when I see that serious evidence of malpractice is being ignored and hidden under the rug by my own club.

I am sure there are those who feel the same as I do. Are there enough of us? Probably not, but the effect of it all from a personal perspective, is that it disconnects me from the process where common goals and objectives are shared between fans, players and clubs. That’s what clubs are for after all isn’t it?

In short, if the game is rigged, there is no common objective.

And consequently, many of us, deprived of that shared mission, that bond broken, will be forced to re-evaluate their relationship with their clubs.

We all have our own thoughts, but the urge to walk away forever is strong with me.

Celtic’s Questions to Answer

325

There are a number of quite separate elements in the allegations of corruption which have been made against our Football Governance bodies and some of our clubs.

There is the allegation that RFC of 1872 lied to the Licensing Committee of the SFA about their tax indebtedness as at 31 March 2011;

there is the allegation that the Licensing Committee either colluded in that lie or, through carelessness and incompetence, simply accepted what RFC of 1872 told them , and passed that on to UEFA without any check as to its truthfulness and accuracy. The result of that was that RFC of 1872 was awarded a UEFA Competitions Licence to which, under the strict rules, they were not entitled.

The SFA has thus far refused to open up an independent investigation into all that was involved in the application made for that licence.

That refusal raised and continues to raise suspicions that the SFA has something to hide. [RFC of 1872 is in Liquidation, and TRFC are quite a different legal entity so are not involved and can legitimately say ‘nothing to do with us, Squire!’.. except, of course that some of the personnel involved in TRFC were also involved with RFC of 1872…at the material time.

As a football matter, until there is a full, independent investigation into the Licence matter, then the SFA is under a cloud of suspicion, and so are the then members of the Licensing Committee.

And as a football matter, the resistance by Celtic FC to the request that they insist on a full independent investigation being carried out within the football context is indicative of an unwillingness , rather than an inability, to do so. And that puts Celtic FC under suspicion of underhand complicity in a dirty football cheating arrangement.

And since no other club has raised any hue and cry about dirty work at the footballing crossroads [and the late Turnbull Hutton must have been sickened at their supine rolling-over], they all are under suspicion of consenting to dirty deeds destructive of the very essence of what their businesses are predicated upon being done in their name.

Taking the matter out of the football context and into the world of corporate business, there is the allegation that the Sports Governance body may knowingly and with deliberation colluded in fraud to obtain money by falsely representing to UEFA on behalf of a member club (RFC of 1872) that that club was entitled to a Licence to participate in a competition the mere participation in which would guarantee a financial gain for that club of £xM, with the possibility of £x+M more if the club achieved any kind of sporting success in the competition.

The consequence of any such alleged false representation was that the properly entitled club was denied such a Licence, and therefore was, in effect, cheated out of at least £xM.

Since that properly entitled club is a PLC, the Board of that club are required, required, by law to protect the interests of its shareholders.

It is not for the Board of Celtic plc to decide that the loss, in circumstances where there are prima facie grounds for suspecting that there may have been fraud and deceit [or even incompetence] involving some millions of pounds, should not be investigated.

It is not for the Celtic Board to try to kick a shareholders’ requisitioned resolution at an AGM into touch indefinitely without explanation, debate, and a vote.

It is failure by the Celtic Board to give adequate and justified and sufficient reasons as to why they have not insisted on such investigation that arouses suspicion in the mind of shareholders ,to whom they are accountable, that they too have something to hide.

This whole UEFA licence matter cannot be dismissed and corrected and put right until full investigation of the allegations is made, resulting in a proper assessment as to the truth or otherwise of the allegations.

The other allegation of corruption , namely that a huge lie was manufactured to try to have a brand new club regarded as being one and the same as the RFC of 1872 , and as being entitled to the sporting achievements of that failed club which currently exists as a liquidated football club, can be fixed almost overnight!

All the SFA has to do is renounce that part of a very dubious, highly secretive (and possibly illegal in itself) binding agreement under which it exceeded its legitimate Governance powers by awarding sporting honours and entitlements to a club that had not existed long enough to earn any one of them on the sports field.!

In doing so the SFA Board made a farcical mockery of the very idea of sporting competition and of their role as guardians of the Sport.

Let the SFA state publicly and with suitable apology that they gravely erred in so doing, and that the record books of the SFA (and the SPFL in consequence) will show that the Liquidated RFC ceased to be able to add to their impressive list of such honours and titles on the day they died as a football club.

Doing that will not, of course, save anyone from possible criminal investigation in relation to the Res 12 matter if that matter has to be referred to Police Scotland, but it would enable some kind of return to sane and proper and honest sports governance.

I will add one other remark. I have been posting for seven years or thereabouts about the cheating RFC of SDM and CW, and of the (what I believe to have been ) underlying dishonesty of the RIFC IPO prospectus and the blindness of the SMSM.

I would be some kind of hypocritical liar if I were to attempt to excuse or turn a blind eye to the possibility that the Celtic Board have questions to answer.

I think they do have questions to answer, but have shown a marked reluctance to do so.

And, as both a shareholder and supporter, I object to that.

In Whose Interests

1004

Any organisation’s plan for a top-down review of development would ordinarily be welcome news. Self evaluation, or even better independent evaluation is an ongoing process amongst professionals, individually and collectively alike. In the case of the SFA however a healthy scepticism is required. We are after all dealing with people who are the poster boys for self-interest and short-termism.

The SFA had previously commissioned a thorough review of the game (decades ago) by Rinus Michels, the inventor of “Total Football” and his report was largely ignored, partly because it implied criticism of the then current regime, and partly because it would cost money. A “Total Shambles”.

Henry McLeish also famously recommended (again after being commissioned to do so by the SFA) a more balanced approach to governance between the SFA and SPFL. This would have required a blazer or two having less say in the running of the game – and was therefore ignored.

Mark Wotte, the prominent Dutch coach hired as performance director at Hampden also suggested during his tenure that, in order to improve technique, more ball time should be provided for players in games.

He recommended seven a side competitions as the norm for u-15s (less players – more participation).

To accommodate this, club infrastructures would have required expensive upgrading, and coaches in clubs, not responsive to new ideas lobbied hard for the status quo.

The upshot is that we carried on with the same eleven-a-side games where many players hardly got a kick.
And in this classic Einsteinean definition of insanity, no overall improvements were to be found in the national team’s fortunes.

No wonder Wotte fled the scene in 2014 after three years.

Of course the details are debatable and subjective, but experience tells us;
Anything that
a) costs money or
b) upsets old boys’ networks
has a tendency to be hidden out of sight.

The recent “announcement” is merely a reaction to a couple of poor results, caused in part by inaction in the wake of previous reports’ recommendations.

An increasing number of observers of our game refer to an inferior mindset amongst players in Scotland, that we accept losing as the norm.

Hardly surprising that such a mindset is prevalent amongst professionals.
They must despair at the chronic self-interest, ineptitude and fecklessness of the “leaders” of our sport – an organisation that appointed Gordon Smith as CE (think about that for a minute) based on who his pals were, where McGregor and Petrie can become senior officers – “because it’s his turn!” – despite being unqualified squares in a round ball game, and where fairy-tales take precedence over reality.

As long as the blazers have a seat on the SFA bus, nothing will change.

Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O’Donnell (Book Review)

387

Essential reading for supporters of all Scottish football Clubs

I was asked to review Tangled Up In Blue possibly because my on line offerings, oft-times with the assistance of crowd think, tend to be as evidenced based fact as possible, with an eye for detail that if missed can produce a narrative that deviates from the story the factual evidence tells.

Book coverIn that context what is very obvious from reading Tangled Up In Blue is that the author Stephen O Donnell has put a great deal of research into his book that covers the history of Rangers from its foundation in 1872, through its incorporation in 1899, when the club became the limited liability company called The Rangers Football Club Plc , (just as Celtic had two years earlier), to its liquidation in 2012 when it became RFC 2012 plc (in liquidation).

The “new club/company” replacing RFC 2012 Plc (quoting the words of Andre Traverso the then Head of UEFA Club Licensing to explain no sanctions possible against the new club/company now called The Rangers FC Ltd) had to wait three years from its acceptance into Scottish football in August 2012 before it was eligible to apply for a UEFA licence, having fulfilled the requirement under Article 12 of UEFA FFP to have held full membership of the Scottish Football Association for longer than three years, a requirement finally met at the start of the 2016/17 licencing cycle.

Tangled Up in Blue, to be published on 19th August , is not only a reminder of the events surrounding the demise of what was perceived by Scottish society as a great institution, but in devoting the early part of the book to Rangers footballing and managerial past, provides further insight into the mindset of the culture and it’s thinking , that inevitably led to the events of 2012 resulting in an attempt by Scottish Football Authorities to untangle.

An attempt which itself has subsequently entangled Scottish football in an ongoing web of deceit, caused by the 5 Way Agreement between the SFA, the then SPL and SFL, Sevco (who then became “The Rangers Football Club PLC”) and the failed insolvent “The Rangers Football Club Ltd” in late July 2012.

The passage of time since 2012 and what was not fully reported domestically (only the revelations in “Downfall – How Rangers FC Self Destructed” by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a journalist based in Ireland, introduced by Alex Thomson an English journalist, tell the tale) and what has happened in the disentangling years since 2012, allows a fresh perspective.

As we all know, if you stand too close to a painting you will miss the full picture and Tangled Up In Blue , with the perspective time provides, paints a clear picture, one where the curtains have not been drawn back because, frankly, it is not a pretty one. It does not reflect well on Rangers or a Scottish society that perceived Rangers FC Ltd as a great Scottish institution nor does it do the credibility of Scottish football journalism any credit whatsoever.

The role of the Scottish main stream media in keeping the curtain closed comes across in terms of non or restrained reporting of events, not just in our current lifetime, but during a past where a sectarian policy of not signing Catholics was pursued for decades with no comment and where full culpability was never accepted by or imposed on Rangers as a result of deserved critical media comment, when disasters either great in human terms, like the Ibrox staircase 13 disaster in 1971 or serious in PR terms, like the reporting of supporters behaviour in Manchester 2008 before and after the UEFA Cup Final, happened.

When reading Tangled Up In Blue I was reminded of this quote in bold from “Debt of Honour” by Tom Clancy, page 530: “You can’t trust your memory with things that affect live patients. One of the first things they teach you in medical school.’ Cathy shook her head as she finished up. ‘Not in this business. too many opportunities to screw up. “If you don’t write it down, then it never happened.

This has been the primary device used by the media in Scotland since 2012 where evidence of what really took place behind the scenes has either not been published or paid little heed to by our mainstream media when anything (like the Tax Justice Network report on the SFA handling of Rangers demise) has surfaced. Apart from the informative “Downfall”, were it not for social media and a host of intrepid bloggers, what did happen to “Rangers” in 2012 didn’t happen.

There are various reasons for not writing it down that might require a book on its own. Fear of the impact on a newspaper’s sales, and by extension a journalist’s job, is one. Fear of the consequences of committing the story to print is real, and very understandable – and it wasn’t only journalists who had reason to be fearful. Others who dared pass official SFA judgement on Rangers governance found themselves under threat too when, in answer to the question “who are these people”, their names were “written down”.

When it comes to writing it down or not, and the consequences of doing so, what happened after BBC’s Jim Spence, who lost his job after only verbally mentioning an issue very sensitive to Rangers fans, is interesting.

An idea using terminology from the secret 5 Way Agreement surreptitiously seeped its way into public consciousness, by being written about and took root by being adhered to by the media who, apart from Jim Spence, benefited from the consequence of doing so.
This idea once written allowed the introduction of a previously unheard of concept of the separation of a club from its owner when up until then all football supporters, including those of Rangers, only ever thought of The Rangers Football Club Ltd as Rangers – a football club effectively owned by itself.

This selective reporting/not reporting strongly suggests that apart from the fear aspects previously covered, some/many of the football journalists and media pundits were and continue to be Tangled Up In Blue themselves. This entanglement is one that serves no club in Scottish football well, but particularly the Rangers of today, where their debt driven/UEFA money dependency business model remains unwritten and so un-examined for impact on fellow member clubs.

This review is being published as a Scottish Football Monitor blog to reach a wider Scottish footballing supporter readership because all Scottish football clubs were affected by an entanglement in a web of deceit to some degree or another that continues still. In a world plagued by lies and liars, the truth has to prevail and where better to make that happen than in our own back yard where Scottish football is played?

Perhaps though supporters of one club more than any other who should read the book and benefit from so doing, are unlikely to because, as mentioned earlier, the picture it paints is not a pretty one.

Whilst they might see Tangled Up In Blue as a harsh judgement of a great Scottish Institution, it also provides an opportunity to think again about what they think, and the culture their thinking created that has led to nothing but the kind of woe the philosophy of the Pharisees attracted.  And that will persist until there is a change of minds and hearts about who they are, what they aren’t, and what they want to be.

In the spirit of encouraging a metanoia, Tangled Up In Blue might persuade any open minded Rangers supporting reader to consider the words of Rabbie Burns, a wise and respected Scottish Institution, of a way towards inner change. That may prove difficult given their fans’ response at Kilmarnock in the aftermath of their club’s recent announcement of a diversity and inclusion campaign to help tackle discrimination and promote positive fan behaviour. But here it is in hope;

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

The response by Rangers supporters to Tangled Up In Blue will be an indicator of the distance their diversity and inclusion journey has to travel.

Who knows, SFM might be a station on that journey depending on the nature of responses to this blog.

Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O Donnell 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tangled-Up-Blue-Rise-Rangers/dp/1785315099 
from 19th August 2019.

Bad Money?

738

It’s now seven years since the festering sore on the skin of Scottish Football became fully septic, causing the liquidation of Rangers Football Club. Many of us at that time felt that the environment which had enabled the systematic, industrial scale cheating by that club, having now been exposed as unfit to fulfil its purpose, would be dismantled and replaced by something more accountable, more transparent, more honest.

Many more of us thought that other clubs who were the victims of the cheating that had gone on would be seeking a clear-out and a rewrite of the rule book, if for no other purpose than to ensure that a repeat was not possible.

We were all mistaken.

Let’s be honest about this. Football, whether it is played in Scotland or Argentina, at the Maracana Stadium or at Fleshers Haugh, is a rules-based endeavour. The rules of the game – both on the field and in its administration – are there to ensure as level a playing field as possible, to ensure that the constraints put on one club are the same for the rest.

Referees are in place to ensure the rules are complied with on the pitch, albeit with varying degrees of success. No matter what you might think of the guys in black, their craft is carried out in full public gaze, and consequently they are accountable to public opinion.

Off the field though, things are rather more opaque. Without the revelations of Charlotte Fakes for instance, we would never have known that a club had applied for a licence with false information, to a committee partly comprised of two folk who were employees of that club, and by extension part of the deception. Nor would we have known that the Chief Executive of the SFA had written to the club in question looking for approval on how the controversy surrounding the issue of the licence could be managed in the media.

The detail of the crimes of the people in charge of our game are the domain of those who have relentlessly pursued the truth of these matters. The devil is always in the detail, and the real devil is concealed in the fact that many of us are forced to switch off when confronted by the daunting prospect of having to follow that multi-threaded narrative.

In that regard, we owe much to the likes of Auldheid and EasyJambo (and many others) who unravel those threads for us and present the facts in a way most of us can follow. By doing so, they have allowed us to keep our eye on the ball.

Despairingly though, the upshot is that no matter what the facts tell us, Scottish football, at boardroom level, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, has no interest in seeking justice, or more importantly, clearing house.

The sins of the past will be the sins of the future, because the authorities have learned no lessons in the wake of Rangers’ liquidation, and in fact have now enshrined Doublespeak as the official language of the game.
No sporting advantage is a curious phrase used to describe sporting advantage
Imperfectly registered in lieu of not registered
Same for Different

I could go on, but the sins of one club, whilst fundamentally undermining the integrity of the sport in this country, are not the real problem. The authorities who set out to distort, bend, break, and tear up the rule-book are.

So too are the clubs who have refused to back their fans’ demand for proper oversight of the game, who have stood back and said nothing (except: “nothing to do with us guv!”) whilst their Patsies at Hampden do their dirty work, refusing to engage with or explain themselves to fans. These are the real culprits, they who have betrayed the trust of their own supporters. And if we are looking for a reason, look no further than their bank balances.

The recent scandal where the SPFL shared the outcome of its Unacceptable Behaviour report with the Scottish Government on the basis that it would not be made public shines a harsh spotlight on this.

The football authorities currently receive public funds from government, but in a “have your cake and eat it” scenario, they are accountable to no-one but themselves – and that’s how they want to keep it.

Publication of the SPFL report would put them at risk of having the accountability that they fear thrust on them. No-one in football wants the sectarian blight on our game to be cast under the glare of public focus. Especially if it becomes apparent that the game itself is the medium in which sectarianism thrives best.

And they know that it does exactly that. The trouble is that the societal divisions caused by sectarianism is a money maker. The old adage sectarianism sells has never been truer. The divide and rule model of empire applied to football. It is good box office.

But making football accountable could force measures to be put in place to cut out sectarian behaviour – and the clubs do not want that. It’s not the fear of being held responsible for their own fans’ behaviour under Strict Liability that worries the CFOs of our clubs – it’s the fear of losing the hatred which sees the money – bad money if you will – roll in.

Why did the cover up take place? Because losing Rangers was just not acceptable to football. Removing one of the vital protagonists in a money making cartel that thrives on hatred was a greater fear than any altruistic notion of sporting integrity (also now Doublespeak for “lack of integrity”).

Who could have foreseen that amidst the chaos surrounding Rangers demise, that they were only a symptom of the greed and couldn’t care less attitude of the money-men in football, and that our eyes would eventually be opened to the possibility that the football industry in Scotland is itself the enemy of public harmony?

Ironic perhaps, that the beautiful game, born out of the sense of community felt by the founding fathers of all our clubs, would emerge as a major malign influence in those communities.

There is no doubt that football is not prepared to cede any of its sovereignty to its customer base. They will go on – as long as we continue to bankroll them – in exactly the same way, like their bedfellows in the media a self-regulating industry with little or no regard for the public.

I am a supporter of Strict Liability, and we have already had discussions on the pros and cons of such an intervention. It is also clear that there is no SFM consensus on that. I want to leave that aside for the moment, because we do have a consensus surrounding our desire to see greater accountability in the game, and it is clear that fans’ voices, however temperately and eloquently articulated, are falling on deaf ears at Hampden.

The women’s game at the World Cup has recently provided us a window into the past, of the origins of the sport in Scotland. That which is a celebration of each others endeavour, skill, excellence and culture. The spirit of our game nowadays is a million miles away from that, because the market has taken over. 

Taming the wild excesses of the market is the responsibility of government. It’s about time the Scottish Government did just that. It is certainly clear that the SFA or the SPFL have zero interest in reining themselves in.

We have suggestions if anyone is listening.

Accountability via Transparency.

1204

Where transparency exists accountability inevitably follows.​

This is an extract from a post on SFM from 2015. The subject was Transparency and Slow Glass

The message then was that football governance has to catch up in realising that football has to become more transparent in its dealing with supporters and so more accountable to them.
That transparency is already here via social media because of the ability to share, but the light of truth is constrained by Slow Glass.
Slow Glass from a short story by Bob Shaw slows down the light passing through it.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_of_Other_Days
In the story and others, you have Slow Glass of different thickness in terms of the time it takes for the light to emerge.
You have Glass a day thick/long to Glass ten years thick/long and more.

Resolution 12, if measured from the Celtic AGM in 2013 when it was tabled and adjourned, has taken 6 years for the light of truth to emerge, although it could have happened sooner had main stream media removed the dust of PR that slows the light, but light is inexorable and it is emerging at an archive of events since 2011 that can be read at

https://www.res12.uk/ 

It is in two parts.

Part One
relates to events in 2011/12 including a very interesting link between UEFA Licence 2011 and the commissioning of Lord Nimmo Smith to investigate use of EBTs with side letters by Rangers FC where non-disclosure benefited Rangers FC in 2011 AND 2012.


Part Two
concentrates SFA activity (or lack of it) from 2014 to date as result of the adjournment of Resolution 12 in November 2013 that provided shareholders with the authority to seek answers.
The archive has been constructed in chronological sequence to help readers understand better the detail and separate what took place in 2011/12 which is in the past, from the SFA handling of shareholders legitimate enquiries from 2014/15 to date, which remains current and is a mirror of SFA performance in respect of the national football team.
Many narratives will emerge as a result of the transparency, some Celtic related, but a system of governance, that is accountable in some way to supporters as stakeholders in the game, can only benefit the supporters of all clubs and they are encouraged to read through the archive.

As Phil Mac Giolla Bhain has written here in respect of Celtic and the SFA

Resolution 12 information on new website

accountability has to be the outcome of transparency to wipe the face and soul of Scottish football clean.

How that is achieved will be up to Scottish football supporters everywhere to take forward via their Associations and Trusts, in collaboration with the clubs they support, but it does seem to me, and I know others with more legal experience, that the SFA would find it difficult to resist a challenge to their refusal to engage with people (in this case minority shareholders of member clubs) who are affected by decisions that they make.

One, er, Two Rules to Rule Them All

370
Why the SPFL Decision to Deduct Points from Clyde FC For An administrative Error is Raising Eyebrows In Social Media and Encouraging Dancing Around The Lord Nimmo Smith Elephant in the Main Stream.

It was reported in the news that Clyde have been deducted points for fielding an ineligible player in two matches, news that has raised supporter eyebrows when a comparison is made with SFA and the then SPL treatment of ten years of imperfect players registration by the then Rangers FC and caused a bit of dancing in main stream media around the LNS Elephant.

When the existence of side letters that formed part of a players remuneration contract was revealed in March 2012, it prompted an investigation by the SPL into the eligibility to play football of players who had been provided side letters by Rangers FC that indemnified them from any loss should the ebt schemes , through which their main remuneration flowed, be deemed unlawful by HMRC.

The issue for the SPL then was were those players properly registered under SPL rules?

The common belief held until then being that incorrect registration made a player ineligible to play and any game an incorrectly registered player played in was void:

  1. Presumably on the basis the errant club had gained an on field advantage from incorrect registration and/or
  2. to act as a deterrent to clubs to deliberately conceal full registration details from the football authorities.

The result of games in which such a player played was treated as a 0-3 defeat and the 4 points gained deducted and 3 points each granted to their opponents.

To get answers the SPL, after seeking evidence of side letters accompanying any type of EBT from Rangers FC, established the Lord Nimmo Smith (LNS) Commission to identify if a breach of registration rules had occurred and what were the consequences in sanction terms.

It is interesting therefore to compare the following from the LNS Commission in respect of sanctions against Rangers FC for a breach covering ten years of incorrect registration with the sanctions against both Clyde FC over 2 games and Hearts over one game, based on what Lord Nimmo Smith said in his findings at 107 and 108 of his Decision.
Findings that 7 years later have caused social media eyebrows to raise to Roger Moore levels because of apparent contradictions arising from the justifications given for a financial sanction only in the LNS Decision.

LNS Decision basis 107 /108

[107]
We nevertheless take a serious view of a breach of rules intended to promote sporting
integrity. Greater financial transparency serves to prevent financial irregularities. There is insufficient evidence before us to enable us to draw any conclusion as to exactly how the senior management of Oldco came to the conclusion that the EBT arrangements did not require to be disclosed to the SPL or the SFA. In our view, the apparent assumption both that the side-letter arrangements were entirely discretionary, and that they did not form part of any player’s contractual entitlement, was seriously misconceived. Over the years, the EBT payments disclosed in Oldco’s accounts were very substantial; at their height, during the year to 30 June2006, they amounted to more than £9 million, against £16.7 million being that year’s figure for wages and salaries. There is no evidence that the Board of Directors of Oldco took any steps to obtain proper external legal or accountancy advice to the Board as to the risks inherent in agreeing to pay players through the EBT arrangements without disclosure to the football authorities. The directors of Oldco must bear a heavy responsibility for this. While there is no question of dishonesty, individual or corporate, we nevertheless take the view that the nondisclosure must be regarded as deliberate, in the sense that a decision was taken that the sideletters need not be or should not be disclosed.

No steps were taken to check, even on a hypothetical basis, the validity of that assumption with the SPL or the SFA. The evidence of Mr Odam (cited at paragraph [43] above) clearly indicates a view amongst the management of Oldco that it might have been detrimental to the desired tax treatment of the payments being made by Oldco to have disclosed the existence of the side-letters to the football authorities.

[108] Given the seriousness, extent and duration of the non-disclosure, we have concluded that nothing less than a substantial financial penalty on Oldco will suffice. Although we are well aware that, as Oldco is in liquidation with an apparently massive deficiency for creditors (even leaving aside a possible reversal of the Tax Tribunal decision on appeal), in practice any fine is likely to be substantially irrecoverable and to the extent that it is recovered the cost will be borne by the creditors of Oldco, we nevertheless think it essential to mark the seriousness of the contraventions with a large financial penalty. Since Issues 1 to 3 relate to a single course of conduct, a single overall fine is appropriate. Taking into account these considerations, we have decided to impose a fine of £250,000 on Oldco.

Compare this with the Clyde FC case where ineligibility was admitted from the outset so there was no question of dishonesty yet they received a sporting sanction in form of a points deduction, whilst Rangers avoided such a fate on account of the Bryson interpretation that meant that a player whilst not fully and correctly registered was nevertheless eligible to play until the errors were discovered.

What Clyde FC said in their defence of their error was

“We are deeply disappointed with the outcome of yesterday’s hearing as, despite the fact that we admitted the breach of the SPFL rules, we feel that we put forward a robust and cogent case as part of our defence. The case concerned a player, Declan Fitzpatrick, who has been registered with Clyde since September 2018 and was recently on loan at Clydebank.
“The breach occurred as a result of a genuine oversight and a gap in the administrative procedures. This error was not the fault of any individual.
“We feel that the sanction imposed was unprecedentedly harsh.

The result of Clyde honestly admitting to an administrative error was a twin football and sporting sanction of £1500 and 4 points deduction for being honest.

Hearts had a similar administrative error defence when they said:

“ Due to an administrative error on the club’s part at the end of the January transfer window, Andrew Irving entered the field of play in the 65th minute as an unregistered player. Andrew was given an extension contract in January, 2018 and his extension paperwork was all properly completed and in order. However, it was not loaded onto the online SFA registration system at the time. His official registration, therefore, ran out on 9th June, 2018. Unfortunately, this was not picked up in advance of last night’s game.”

Hearts, as a result of their honesty, were deducted two points and fined £10k.

Yet in the case of Rangers FC, LNS judged the decision to withhold side letters was deliberate and because, as a result of non-disclosures of evidence to the contrary, he was able to decide there was no question of dishonesty.

The size of the penalty £250k recognised the longevity of what he was able to treat as an administrative error, but because LNS treated it as such and because the SFA advised that a flawed registration, apparently even if deliberate dishonesty was the reason for that flaw, was accepted by a blindsided SFA, then a player was eligible to play and so no points deduction sanction was applied.

The question of the validity of a deliberate and dishonest registration was never address by LNS although he did say in para 88 of his decision:

“There may be extreme cases in which there is such a fundamental defect that the registration of a player must be treated as having been invalid from the outset. But in the kind of situation that we are dealing with here we are satisfied that the registration of the Specified Players with the SPL was valid from the outset, and accordingly that they were eligible to play in official matches.”

What exactly constitutes an extreme case?

Had LNS seen the HMRC letter of 23 February 2011 or the HMRC letter of 20th May 2011 (that incidentally should have been in the SFA’s hands immediately on receipt under UEFA FFP rules before UEFA were notified of clubs granted a UEFA licence in 2011) would he have been duty bound to consider if a fundamental defect had taken place?

In those letters HMRC justified their pursuit of the wee tax case liability of £2.8M under their Extended Limit rules on basis that when they sought evidence of side letters for DOS ebts in April 2005, Rangers had responded dishonestly and that on sight of that response Rangers QC Andrew Thornhill advised them in early March 2011 not to appeal.

Does that evidence, which was not disclosed by Rangers Administrators Duff and Phelps to then SPL lawyers in April 2012, not point to such a fundamental defect in registration that a player’s registration should be regarded as being invalid from the outset?

However regardless of the rights or wrongs in the construction of the LNS Commission and subsequent Decision based on that construction, the salient point is that Clyde FC and Hearts were deducted 4 points and 2 points respectively, after both admitted to an honest mistake in their registration process and both received twin financial and sporting sanctions. Why Hearts were not deducted the 3 points gained as a consequence of beating Cove Rangers is unclear, although a 3 point reversal would have made qualification out of the group impossible.

Hearts were able to overcome the effect of the two-point deduction and still qualify for League Cup final stages so are unlikely to want to revisit the SPFL decision of points deducted.

However a £10k fine for an honest mistake in one game might be worth appealing on the basis that if a £250k fine for every match Rangers fielded incorrectly registered players was apt in the circumstances that LNS was led to believe existed that on a pro rate back of a fag packet basis this amounts to £695 per game over 10 seasons of 36 games a season, a £10k fine is excessive but would Anne Budge budge?

Anyhoo lets compare the three cases to highlight why eyebrows were raised.

Clyde FC

  • honest mistake admitted – financial sanction and points deduction

Hearts FC

  • honest mistake admitted – financial sanction and points deduction

Rangers FC 

  • Deliberate decision taken not to fully register a player’s details with SFA.
  • Evidence of dishonest motivation to not fully registering a player registration concealed by Rangers
  • financial penalty but no points deduction.

It was always going to be the case that what took place in 2012 under the cloak of the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission would unravel in time as it set a precedent that flew in the face of sporting integrity principles and a common held belief that incorrect registrations attracted a sporting sanction, a belief rekindled by the recent decision to deduct points from Clyde FC.

Perhaps there is a rules based difference that justifies the LNS Decision that can be used by the SFA to explain to the common man why no sporting sanction was applied, but what the common man will ask is it more or less likely that in light of the LNS Decision clubs will be honest with the SFA in future if a player falls foul of the registration process or will appeal on the basis that LNS set a precedent against which all clubs should be judged and then sanctioned.

In a nutshell if an honest mistake is admitted how can a points deduction be justified unless the SFA can show the mistake was a deliberate one carried out by a club to give them a sporting advantage.

The LNS Commission was always a can of worms waiting to be opened which is probably why the SFA rejected the SPFL’s request of September 2017 to revisit the SFA handing of Rangers use of ebts and side letters. Have the SFA introduced a moral hazard in the form of the LNS Decision that will continue to undermine the integrity of Scottish football as long as they allow it to?

Oh what a tangled web we weave eh?

Does Money Indeed Ruin Football?

395

For those following the games, rooting for their favourite teams and feverishly discussing their matches between two glasses of ale, football is a mix of entertainment and something to be excited about. These fans are, in turn, a massive customer base for those behind football as a business: their dedication and following is the driving force behind broadcast rights, merchandise, and ticket sales, all of which turn a wonderful sport into a cash cow for those pulling the strings. As long as the game is fair, both in the field and behind the scenes, it’s a win-win for all parties: the players get their salaries, the fans get their quality football, and the business entities behind them, ranging from football betting operators to the teams’ owners, advertisers, sponsors, and such, all get their money. Like in every business, though, there are parties in football that don’t exactly operate according to the rules. Of business, that is.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that football goes beyond being simply a game. As MEP Stelios Kouloglou pointed out in an op-ed published on Euractive this April, football can often flow into different areas like politics and racial bias, pointing out that the emergence of Pelé, one of the best football players ever, was instrumental to significantly reducing racism in Brazil. Yet the democratic nature of football is degraded today thanks to all the money flowing into it. And the best example of this, Kouloglou writes, is the UEFA Champions League.

As he points out, the only clubs that can reach the Champions League semi-finals are from the “big 5” countries – Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Great Britain. And this happens not because there aren’t any talented teams in other countries but because of all the money flowing into the clubs nowadays. After all, not all clubs can afford to pay almost £200 million for a single player, no matter how talented and marketable the player might be. These big clubs with big money behind them syphon all the most talented players from all over the world, offering amazing transfer fees and strengthening their ranks – investing in their future success with the goal of keeping their fans’ attention pointed on them, and making even more money in the process.

And where there’s money, there must be scandals related to money. Corruption and tax avoidance run rampant across football, from the top of organizations like FIFA and UEFA down to local clubs and players, working with financial advisors like Kingsbridge that allegedly help them invest in ways that will grant them tax relief, schemes that “don’t work”, according to HM Revenue and Customs.

A few years ago, an unpopular opinion emerged in the press stating that the influx of big money into football will ruin it forever by attracting the “wrong kind of owners” that see clubs as their “cash cow”, among others. MP Damian Collins went as far as saying that “Running a big football club now is like running a Hollywood studio – it’s a content business. The money goes to the stars”. And this is one of the biggest issues today’s football faces that can ruin it forever.

We’re Gonny Need Another Baw.

1434

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when we played football in the streets with lamp posts for goals. The “baw” in my day was a plastic “Hampden Frido” (with wee studs that left yer forehead looking like a golf ball when heading it – see picture) and a “Wembley Mettoy”.

Dear Mr Bankier

630

Readers may be aware that the group Fans Without Scarves have written to Celtic urging them to seek a review of Scottish football (See here)
On the back of that laudible effort, I have been persuaded to publish a letter I sent to that same board over a week ago (on 8 November)
At the time of publication, I have received no acknowledgment.  Some organisations are like that, of course. (I put it down to the inferior quality of the social upbringing of their boards rather than concern for their postage bill)