.. and why sites like SFM matter.
When SFM blasted off in 2012, we had a fair idea that Scottish Football had not only veered violently off the rails,but that it had done so deliberately.
Our intention was to try to help – in some small way – to steer it towards a straighter track, and to see it restored as a sporting institution and spectacle worthy of sporting principles. To see integrity restored to our national sport, to see honesty, fairness and adherence to both the laws of the game and land.
Of course we didn’t know what route our own journey would take, even although we were clear about the destination. What we did know about the journey was that no matter the route, the first leg started outside our own front door.
Who knew we would be taken on a magical mystery tour, blindfolded, spun around a few times, but still find ourselves at that front door. Via the road less traveled, the high road, low road and an endless series of shortcuts and wrong turns we hadn’t moved an inch.
On every stage of the “journey” the SFA, the SPL, and their quasi-legal tribunals & inquiries ducked and dived, twisted and bent the truth, and aided and abetted the greatest scam in the history of UK sport.
Newly coined idioms emerged; “Imperfect registrations”, “boiler-room subsidiary”, “emerged from liquidation”, “ethereal entity”, – and the real doozy; “other clubs could also have broken the tax laws had they wished” – all in an effort to;
1. pretend that what happened had not happened, that cheating was fair, that the rights of one football club were not enshrined in law but decreed by the heavens;
2. hope against hope that the rest of us had gone stark raving bonkers and would accept the “Santa is alive” fallacy as truth.
The facts were;
- That Rangers, having been subjected to the ignominy of administration, had now entered liquidation, leaving behind a mountain of debts, the vast majority of which were underwritten by us, by the taxpaying public.
- That almost £100m of funds was denied to the exchequer as the first ever nationalised football club, bought and paid for by the people of the UK, slid into oblivion, a trail of devastation in its wake.
- That in the course of that calamitous conduct of business, the SFA and the SPL were given false and incomplete information about the nature of players’ contracts. This in order to cover up a tax scheme that was (according to the man who devised it) operated incorrectly and thus unawfully.
Every football club in Scotland and their fans were cheated by a club which quite simply refused to play by the rules – even as the noose around its neck was being pulled ever tighter due to HMRC and Lloyd’s Banking Group taking steps to erect buffers ahead of the onrushing gravy train.
The result was that 140 years of history came to an end; an insatiable hunger for success ironically bringing about the ultimate and irreversible failure of a Scottish institution.
Not for them though, the recognition that they had transgressed. “It wasn’t Rangers – it was Craig White” was the cry.
I’m sure Hearts supporters in 1965 might have said the same about Willie Wallace after he missed a sitter in the final league match against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle. Had he scored, Hearts would have won the league, so Hearts should, by the RFC logic, claim that title anyway. Likewise Celtic fans could have pointed a finger at Georgios Samaras when his penalty miss at Ibrox lost them the league.
More facts: every football club in the world is the sum of its parts, onfield and off. We take the good that people do for our clubs and celebrate them. We have no right to cherry pick and ignore the consequences when people screw up.
Footballers – and administrators – are often gifted individuals given to moments of blinding inspiration which benefits their clubs. They are also often prone to reckless behaviours, the consequences of which we all have to bear. Murray’s knack of talking money out of trees and his reckless and irresponsible practices gave Rangers huge success, but that behaviour also – perhaps inevitably – led to the appointment with the buffers mentioned above.
The good and the bad. Both sides of the same coin, inseparable, inevitable, and there is no choice but to accept the whole package, not just the good bits.
In the circumstances, the hostility towards the old club was understandable. It was always a given that Celtic fans were unlikely to cut them slack as they headed towards an ignominious end.
However, had there been contrition, an acknowledgement of wrongs and some humility in response to talk of consequences, fans of other clubs outside of the Old Firm bubble may have extended some sympathy. But there was none of this. Instead, denial, arrogance, blaming others (“kicking us when we are down”, “who are these people?”) and a pugilistic reaction to the very idea of punishment. The outcome was an absence of sympathy for the plight of RFC.
Let’s revisit this; on an industrial scale, Rangers misrepresented (accidentally if you believe that the board of a PLC was comprised exclusively of halfwits and individuals unable to bite their own fingers) crucial information regarding compliance with registration rules, They subsequently withheld evidence from multiple enquiries into their conduct over these registration rules.
As far back as 1996, Rangers PAYE affairs were being investigated by HMRC and incurring penalties (not a very well publicised event).
Then, for more than a decade, principally through the 2000s they failed to comply with taxation statutes and with crucially important (not merely bureaucratic) SFA rules designed to preserve the intergity of football as a sport. They cheated the revenue out of millions and the fans of every club in Scotland out of their aspirations for their own clubs.
Rangers however were still box-office, and there were 50,000 fans providing a market for the product the now extinct club had provided through the decades. Surely someone would step in and take up the Rangers cause? Surely those people would eschew the catastrophic errors of judgement that had resulted in the economic and existential demise of the original club? Surely they would also acknowledge those mistakes in an effort to convince the clubs and fans they had wronged that this was an organisation that recognised the interdependence of sporting activity?
But no. Sadly, no.
Even then though, that matters little.
Why? Because the sins of the old Rangers cannot be visited on the new. The behavior of the new club is a matter for a different argument, but it isn’t relevant in a legal or regulatory sense to the old club. Legally or morally there is nothing you can do to them to ensure that a repeat of the same spivish behaviour does not occur.
So why the fuss? Why the six years of relentless campaigning by SFM and dozens of other football sites?
Because it does matter that the authorities themselves – including all the other clubs – and the MSM have gone out of their way to cover it all up.
No-one at the SFA will talk to fans who have provided them with evidence of wrongdoing in the matter of the 2011 Euro licence. No one will address the witholding of evidence from the LNS enquiry, nor the false premise upon which it arrived at some of its conclusions, nor the mysteriously shifting goalposts of the period investigated by the LNS enquiry, nor the acid-flashback consciousness of the newly arrived at – and totally irregular and unlawful – “imperfect registration” status.
What still requires to be done is to root out those who have enabled the big lie. We need to hold accountable those who have sought to bury evidence, to dispense with logic and to treat fans with contempt and ridicule when legitimate concerns are raised.
We need to replace those people with people of integrity, folk who love the game as much as we do, people who will not yield to intimidation or the dog-whistle.
There are foot thick rule-books in place in football, and the authorities have plummeted into the Asimovian depths of a regulatory Fantastic Voyage to circumvent those. The SFA Chief Executive even told our own John Clark that he would “do nothing” had he been presented with evidence of wrong doing (and he had been presented with such evidence).
Yet one simple rule would have saw the whole sorry escapade brought to a halt – the universal rule that requires people to show due respect and good faith to others.
As I said, we started this journey at our own front door. The authorities and their enablers in the media have been taking us on the Uber route for six years. But we still know the destination, and we will get there. The SFA, the SPFL and the MSM have been relentless in their dedication to half-truths and misdirection.
But the fans are even more relentless in their pursuit of truth and their determination to see our game returned to its status a a sport. That is why outlets like SFM are important. Not because we are any better than others, but because we give a voice to the people in the game who matter most – to the paying public of Scotland who turn up in numbers relatively greater than any other country in Europe. They need that voice. We are not going anywhere.