Hiss was a brilliant legal mind, worked at the State Department and was one of the men who conceived of the United Nations.
Nixon, who at the time was a US Congressman, was involved in the House on Un-American Activities Committee, looking for Communists in US public life.
Nixon believed Hiss was one of them, but he could find no evidence to prove it. Yet, he was able to link Hiss to a proven Communist, Whittaker Chambers. Hiss denied knowing Chambers, whilst under oath, and Nixon pounced. Hiss was convicted of perjury.
In the movie, Nixon is unashamed of his disreputable actions. He tells his colleagues his thinking, in a monologue which will come to have a deeper resonance as the movie goes on. “We convinced the public that Hiss was a liar,” he says, “and then people bought he was a Communist.” As the room waits to absorb this, he adds, “It’s the lie that gets you.”
This statement hangs over the movie, and of Nixon’s career, like the smoke from a funeral pyre. It was “the lie” that ended his Presidency and destroyed his reputation. Nixon was not personally involved in ordering the Watergate break in, but he was involved in the multi-layered, systematic cover-up of that incident, and he forced many of his staff to lie on his behalf, hiding behind them as they resigned, one after the other for their own involvement, until John Dean, the White House Counsel, finally broke ranks and testified to Congress as to what had gone on.
The Presidency of Richard Nixon was not the first, nor indeed the last, institution brought down not by the act, but by “the lie”. Falling into “the lie” is easy because at first it seems to offer a simple way out. And doubtless, “the lie” has saved many a career, and propped up many a corrupt structure, by slapping a coat of whitewash on an otherwise stained façade.
When “the lie” starts to unravel, though … well, you have problems. Because to maintain “the lie” you are forced to keep lying, to lay mistruths and inventions on top of the distortions already on the record.
The higher you pile the lies, the greater the consequences when it all comes crashing down. Had Nixon insisted on full disclosure at the start of the Watergate scandal, some of his chief lieutenants would have gone and his administration would have been damaged … but he would have stumbled on to the end of his Presidency.
By clinging to the strategy of “the lie” he obliterated everything. In the end, not only did he have to resign himself, but 43 others, many of them government officials, members of his administration, some close friends going back decades, were tried, convicted and imprisoned for their own part in the affair. That’s the staggering toll “the lie” can take. That’s the damage “the lie” can do.
To those outside, looking in, especially in England, Scottish football looks like a suicidal basket case, at least if you are following the media’s version of events. Last year, listening to shows like TalkSport was like having a window into a parallel universe. You looked outside and you knew it was not reality, but those on the other side of the glass had no other frame of reference, and to them the picture as we saw it was badly out of whack.
The media version of events, prevalent in England and elsewhere, is that the majority of Scottish football, in a surge of machismo vindictiveness unrivalled in sports history, saw an opportunity last year to annihilate the most successful club in the country when it fell into trouble. They grabbed it, acted ruthlessly, against their own interests, and inflicted draconian punishment and unparalleled damage on that club and relegated them from the top flight.
South of the border, and elsewhere, people can’t quite believe this. It sounds so farfetched that they are literally, and honestly, bewildered and shocked. From their side of the glass, it’s the game up here that is sick, that is broken, that is skewed.
Of course, none of this stands up to even the most cursory scrutiny. The truth is starkly different, as we know well, but people who have been sold “the lie” are hard to convince. The problem, for them, and the saving grace for us, is that this lie has been unravelling now for months, and when the whole thing comes crashing down, and careers are destroyed, and perhaps people are sent to prison, the picture is going to look very different.
When it collapses, we will be too busy dealing with the appalling aftermath and its consequences to stock up on ice cream and jelly. I say this knowing that even as I type this, people elsewhere are probably scrambling to prevent that collapse, and doubtless the mountain gets ever higher.
This one is going to fall. There’s no way of stopping it. Lies are contradicting lies now. There are too many loose threads, too many ways it could all come down.
At its most basic, “the lie” springs from a single issue. The issue itself could not be more simply resolved, or less complicated. Were this accepted, and acknowledged, at the beginning, it would have been seismic, but a 6.5 on the Richter Scale, particularly as most people were ready to accept it as reality. Rangers Football Club, the one that played out of Ibrox, the one that had over 100 years of history, and was the most successful not only in this country but in the global game itself, collapsed into administration, then liquidation, and was consigned to those same history books.
A new club was born, and it won the Third Division title last season. This is the truth, as unpalatable as it is for some people to take.
There were obstacles to the acceptance of this truth. There were procedural issues that arose from it. There were complicated politics, and the fear that those followers of the club who were part of the lunatic fringe might not react well.
But the up side was that it would have wiped the slate clean, protected the integrity of our sport and followed company law and compliance with UEFA and FIFA statutes, which make no distinction between club and company.
And so was born “the lie”, the one that says Rangers 2012 is not a different entity at all, but the same club. The mental and procedural gymnastics of this are enough to make you dizzy. Now we’re told that football clubs cannot die, that only their holding companies do.
Tell that to Gretna fans, who have mourned theirs and now follow a NewCo, in full acceptance of that fact. Tell it to the supporters of Derry City, who’s owners have accepted death, broken with the past and are building a club from the ashes. Clubs across the world have fallen into financial black holes and been swallowed by them. It’s a fact.
Are we to believe that, actually, they live on, in some form or another? Where do they play their football?
In “accepting this”, they’ve given birth to the notion, and established a precedent, that football clubs in Scotland can spend their way to the edge of oblivion and protect themselves from financial ruin by simply constructing a wee shell around themselves, and bail out when things get rocky. If you’re willing to drop some divisions, and claw your way up again, anything goes. That banks, sponsors, investors and fans will desert in droves if this becomes commonplace, and not only from the clubs, but the game itself, appears not to have bothered people.
Here are just a few of the contradictions inherent in “the lie.”
The club calling itself Rangers started in the Third Division, where all new clubs applying to start in Scottish Football would be forced to. It’s been called “a relegation” but it involved the issuing of an SFA share. We’re told this proves nothing, but for a while Scottish football’s fixtures had a strange anomaly in them, the phantom, non-existent “Club 12”, which proves there was a vacancy in one of our leagues. There was no open process to fill that spot either, as should have been the case.
And bizarrely, the “continued history” of Rangers didn’t come complete.
You see, seeding in the Scottish Cup has nothing to do with league position, as many would have you believe. It’s concerned, instead, with where the club’s finished in the league the year before.
If Rangers are the same club, they ought to have gone straight to the fourth round. History will record them playing in the first. Charles Green ought to be asking for a refund, because if he did buy the history, someone, somewhere, kept a bit of it for himself.
Maybe it’s what Craig Whyte really got for his quid.
As convoluted, and complex, as it is to continue supporting “the lie”, even at this early stage, rather than admit this and confront the truth, it was allowed to take root. And in order to support it, to turn this piece of fiction into “reality”, the authorities had to pile more on top. So was born the now notorious, and deadly, Five Way Agreement.
The Five Way Agreement was, and is, the smoking gun, the proof that “the lie” is sustained by further lies and distortions of reality. It is the most devastating document in the history of our game, the equivalent of Nixon’s secret tape recordings. It puts, in writing, the requirements laid down for accepting NewCo Rangers as a member club of the SFA, and places obligations not only the owners of that club but the governing bodies themselves.
A version of that document has been published online, for everyone to read. There can be little doubt that the provisions contained in it are virtually identical to those in the one which was signed by all parties, and accepted as legal and binding.
That document will not stand up against the coming avalanche. There are enough facts already in the public domain to annihilate it, but so far the mainstream press has been content to ignore them, as it has ignored much of what has happened during the spiralling crisis at Ibrox. Even an hour spent on weblogs such as The Scottish Football Monitor provides you with enough information to see that document for the sham it is, and condemn those who put their names to it.
Apply even the most basic logic to the facts out there, and you conclude that when this one blows up into the public domain it will leave few survivors.
To understand what’s happened here, one has to travel back in time to last year, when the Scottish game was being blackmailed by its own leaders, with talk of “financial Armageddon” and “civil unrest.” You have to consider events in the context of those times.
As I’ve written elsewhere, those were days of infamy which future football historians will record with dismay and not a little horror. They were the days when those entrusted with protecting our sport’s integrity were willing to dispense with it entirely; when commercial directors went to the press and said the product they were supposed to be selling was essentially valueless; when one club’s brave and outspoken director said their behind the scenes dealings were “corrupt”, and the disgust was such that the supporters of just about every club in the land rose in outrage against it.
In the midst of those scandalous events was the issue of what to do with the club which had brought this calamity on our game. Our governing bodies were determined to find a solution which had some version of that club playing football again.
Their member clubs were determined that should be in the game’s bottom tier, but even that presented difficulties.
The non-football debts had been shed, to the disrepute of everyone involved. Yet to maintain the illusion of continuity, the football debts had to be paid. The club also had to be bound by disciplinary cases which had come before, and those still on-going. They have been the subject of previous articles, and will be the subject of more in times to come. The point is, those processes had to be maintained, because “the lie” depended on them.
So the Five Way Agreement was created as a binding framework for that, at a time when the clock was ticking and the football season was almost upon us.
The hour had grown so late that it was possible that the first games might not go ahead. The pressure was on. Rangers’ lawyers were battling hard to have the football disciplinary proceedings set aside – their argument was a bizarre mix of admitting the club was dead and continuing to insist that it was still alive, only one example of the torturous contortions some were, and still are, going through to make this vision of 1984esque reality work – and the SFA was trying to make sure they weren’t.
It was brinksmanship, and it was not the only issue on the table. The details as to who owned the New Rangers were murky too, and the SFA was staking its credibility on making sure there were no links in there to Craig Whyte.
Brinksmanship is dangerous to all involved. It’s not a new concept. The principle of jousting is based on it. International relations have hinged on it, most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Kennedy’s naval blockade was approached by Soviet ships. In that instance, the men in the Kremlin backed down, leading the US Secretary of State to say “We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other guy just blinked.”
Yet for every instance where two cars are racing towards each other and one guy turns the steering wheel at the last minute there’s what Springsteen called a “wreck on the highway.” Scottish football was heading for one Hell of a crash.
Then someone blinked. To this day, no-one has admitted that, but it’s a fact nonetheless. For the past year, the accepted wisdom has been that it was Rangers. They accepted a transfer embargo. The cases against them over EBT’s and other things carried on. They agreed to settle all of their footballing debts in full, and they provided the SFA with everything they asked for in regards to the people who owned the club, including where the money came from.
Yet what’s happened since? The club navigated its way around the transfer ban, exploiting a loophole big enough to get a tank through, and rebuilt their squad during the summer, in a very public manner, with not a raised voice against them.
Then the SFA’s own registrations officer went before Lord Nimmo Smith and basically provided Rangers with a Get Out Of Jail Free card which made a mockery of the regulations. Rangers were allowed to “negotiate” with other clubs over their football debts, and got some very good deals, and, of course, the details they provided to the SFA on ownership were never scrutinised.
Were Rangers the ones who blinked? Or was it the SFA? Who was strong armed here? The people who had brought our game to the brink, or the governing bodies who had spent months telling the whole world that the game needed this club, and that they were “too big to fail”? Is the narrative, the accepted wisdom, correct? Or did something else happen?
The Five Way Agreement was signed by representatives from the SPL, the SFL, the SFA, the NewCo and the OldCo, through the club’s administrators, Duff & Phelps. At its heart, and most central to it, is the assertion that the involvement of Craig Whyte ended the second Charles Green and his people walked up the Ibrox marble staircase.
The company which signed this document on behalf of the NewCo is Sevco Scotland Limited. This is not the company the administrators announced to the SFA, the SPL and the rest of the world as the one which had been explicitly created to facilitate the takeover. Did anyone ask what happened to Sevco 5088, or what the legal status of that company was? Or did the SFA just swallow what they were told by Duff & Phelps and others, acting for OldCo or NewCo, or both?
We have been told, from the first, that the SFA accepted what they were told about the ownership of Rangers, that they were satisfied they’d been provided with enough information to rule out the involvement of Whyte and others who might be deemed unfit to hold positions of responsibility at Scotland’s newest football club.
This is where it gets really messy. From “the lie” of Rangers continuation came the confused scramble to get the club playing football, where rules were bent and broken and precedents ignored, and from that the Five Way Agreement emerged. With little time left to get a deal in place, the next layer was added, that of the “temporary license”, a piece of fabrication so stark it will stun people looking at this in years to come.
The issue of a temporary license is not covered in any rule book, anywhere in the game. It was conceived, by the governing bodies, specifically to fit this case. It is a piece of pure invention, and the moment when a lot of people looked out of our window into the parallel universe and, not content with the view from this side, actually climbed out and into it.
What were the sticking points regarding the failure to grant a full license? We still don’t know, and we don’t know if they were ever met.
It’s to be presumed that had those conditions not been met the club would have been ejected from the Scottish game, yet that would have created one god-awful mess, as they’d already have played at least one match. From the moment a club calling itself Rangers took to the field for that fixture, the onus was taken away from them to prove they’d complied with the rules and placed on the SFA to prove they hadn’t.
That’s the reality here. The SFA gave away their own – their only – leverage. To retake the initiative, they’d have had to bring our national sport to a virtual standstill.
Men like Charles Green, who contemptuously said of the club he had just bought that he “could grow potatoes on the pitch” if it took his fancy, men who cared nothing for the plight of our game, would not have balked at throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and risking a full-scale legal challenge to the SFA, if they’d taken such a decision after the club had already played.
The granting of the full license duly followed. We don’t know who compromised, or by how much, in order to facilitate that, but we can guess as to the former and speculate as to the latter. In the end it doesn’t matter much.
On top of “the lie”, this false foundation, a whole other floor had been constructed, and so on it went, this show that never ends.
This façade was never going to last. The SFA, in its rush to get a club called Rangers back out on the pitch, had allowed another bunch of dodgy geezers to take control. The argument that all of this was done for Rangers benefit looks ludicrous when one considers the carnage which has followed. It also dropped a fresh load of napalm on an already traumatised support. They were slow to wake up to it, but few now doubt that their club fell into ruinous hands for the second time in two years, and that the governing bodies were either blissfully unaware of that, in abrogation of their duty to protect the game and its members, or they just didn’t give a damn.
As that fact began to come into focus, and allegations surfaced about the continued involvement of Craig Whyte, another layer was put down, as the SFA stood back as the club investigated itself over these allegations.
This is another first for football in this country.
That enquiry, not unsurprisingly, cleared Rangers of having misled the SFA and the governing body accepted this without the need for their own investigation. Another brick in the wall, another dark day for the game, but one I can understand, because “the lie” had now grown to such monstrous proportions that its unravelling would be a truly apocalyptic event. If the SFA had investigated and found evidence of links to Whyte, what then?
Well, it would have led all the way back to the Five Way Agreement. It would have put the SFA on the spot as to whether they asked for, or were given, the appropriate amount of information about the owners of the club. Because how could this happen, if these people were really on the ball and doing their jobs, instead of giving in to pressure?
And so the SFA released a statement stating their satisfaction with the internal inquiry, and on the show was supposed to go. The lid was placed back on the pressure cooker.
Now, further doubts have surfaced. Police Scotland are studying the report, and a series of documents handed over to them, including some by Companies House. At the same time, the club itself is headed into a stormy festive season AGM, with some of the shareholders determined to rip away the curtain and find out who really does own the shares.
There is no prospect of this ending well. Smoke pours from the top of this volcano, and the tremors are being felt far and wide. This thing will erupt, and the devastation will be widespread.
The SFA will face pressures on multiple fronts, and on a number of issues, any one of which would, in any other footballing nation, end up with someone changing the curtains in the Chief Executive’s office and in that of the President, who was re-elected unopposed this year, even as “the lie” and its consequences continued to grow, like an experiment that escaped the lab.
In granting the license to Sevco Scotland, instead of Sevco 5088, did the SFA knowingly, or unknowingly, help to perpetrate a fraud? In granting Rangers NewCo a license, did they ask for, or receive, shareholder information? Was that information falsified or incomplete? Did they investigate further? Or did they accept it, in light of that ticking clock? Did they examine the backgrounds of the shareholders they were told about? What exactly were they given in relation to the Pinsent Masons Report, and do they still stand by their assertion that there was nothing of concern in it, or in relation to it?
Were they satisfied with its scope?
The Five Way Agreement is the foundation stone for the last year of chaos at Ibrox. It is the first layer built on top of “the lie”, the one based on the notion that Rangers Football Club exists as a direct continuation of the one which existed pre-liquidation of what David Murray sold to Craig Whyte for the princely sum of £1.
The credibility of the SFA hinges on the strength of that agreement. They have bet the house on it, on the notion that Rangers is governed correctly, and owned by people who do not bring disrepute and scandal to our game. If one stone is removed from this wall, the wall itself comes tumbling down, and reveals the gaping hole at the foundation; the notion that the club they granted a license to can continue to claim to be Rangers.
If that wall collapses, the only recourse for the SFA is to suspend membership for the NewCo, and instigate a full inquiry into whether it should ever have been granted in the first place. Yet we have been told, over and over again, that the game in this country needs this club too much for that to ever happen. So where does that leave us?
It leaves us with anarchy. It leaves us with a game in which one club, and the people who own it, can break every rule, contravene every law, ignore every regulation.
It has brought us to the point where there is a criminal investigation on-going into the legal status of the club itself, where the incumbents of its current board include a convicted criminal, where it’s “saviours” include a man who pled guilty to offences which could have earned him 80 years in jail, where the man who drove it to the wall is claiming he was criminally deprived of the assets and where one of the men strongly suspected of being a principle recipient of these assets is on the Interpol Most Wanted List.
There has never been a scandal like this anywhere, in the history of sport.
Nixon would have been shamed by these people, and yet this is the reality Scottish football lives with. It’s no wonder some are content to believe in the parallel universe lying on the other side of the window.
The cracks in that window are spreading though. It’s going to shatter.
God help the game in this country when it does.
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