And You Dare To Call Us Sectarian?

133605071-c2bc15dd-b8a9-4c80-ab0d-7e6454f88526-1“No, no, no, it’s not ok, it’s not going to be ok, and I’ll tell you why.

Because you’re fair game, so I hope your knickers are clean because every seat-sniffing little shi@bag that’s ever filed a by-line is gonna be questioning you!

Because now it’s in the f@@@@@@ public interest, isn’t it? And they are gonna hit you with any sh@t they can find and you’re gonna be spread out in front of them like a trollop in the stocks!” – Malcolm Tucker.

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We’ve all heard that expression, right? I am amazed at the number of times you catch folk out doing just that.

Supporters do it all the time. This week is the first time – and it ought to be the last time – that a football club does it. Sevco’s statement on the behaviour of our fans was disgraceful, but it was also kind of amazing, in that way watching a posing twat walking into a lamp post is. Being lectured on sectarianism by their board of directors … it is jaw-dropping.

You could write an entire dissertation on the shameful baggage that clubs at Ibrox have carried everywhere with them, from a sectarian signing policy to UEFA fines for the song-book. But you don’t have to go as far back as that, all the way to the OldCo to find scandal and hate wafting down the Marble Staircase at you. You don’t even have to dig as far as the on-pitch outrage at Linfield just over a week ago, although that’s an excellent case in point.

No, you only have to look at the day itself to realise that Sevco’s sanity smashing statement about what their fans had to “endure” stank like a week old corpse. It takes formidable brazenness to point that self-righteous fury at another club’s fans when your own behaved, on the same day, like the lowest order degenerate scum.

I’ve written about the behaviour of a small number of Celtic fans over on The CelticBlog, so as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to accuse me of whatabouttery here can bin it. This isn’t about that. Did some of our fans let us down? Damned right. This is about not wanting – not being willing – to be lectured by anyone who’s double standard is quite so pronounced.

These people aren’t even hiding their own hatred; they wear it front and centre.

Some of them have said the effigies were a reference to suicide, timed to offend their fans and one of their former players, on a day which sought to raise awareness of the issue. I’ll tell you right now that I had no idea Saturday was Suicide Awareness Day and the vast majority of our supporters would have been equally clueless about it.

But of course, they will believe what they want to, that our fans learned this and timed their actions accordingly.

Well it was also the anniversary of Jock Stein’s death. I don’t know whether their fans knew that or not, but there were at least two banners on full display referencing a certain scandal. Did their fans time that well, or was it a coincidence?

I’m happy to accept the coincidence explanation, and not because I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt or because I think the milk of human kindness runs through their veins, but simply because some of these gutter rats fly those banners everywhere they go and have been smearing the great man’s name for years.

So they don’t get to talk about hate, or targeting individuals who were at their club.

They don’t get to make that accusation whilst there are scum amongst their number flying those flags.

We’re not standing for it, not putting up with that.

And I’ll go on, because the National Famine Memorial Day – commemorating the victims of the Great Hunger – was the day after the game, and our club wore a logo on their shirts in recognition of that fact. Did their fans know that? I neither know nor care, but they spent much of the game singing the sectarian, illegal, bigoted dirge entreating us to “go home.”

Coincidence? Who cares?

They’ve been doing it so long no-one even notices anymore.

On top of that we were “treated” to various renditions of The Billy Boys, with its expressions of joy about being up to their knees in our blood. That song is also illegal, and for a while it wasn’t being heard in the Ibrox stands. Now it’s back, as ubiquitous as it ever was, part of that “unique Ibrox atmosphere” Warburton and others go on about so much.

The sight of those effigies at Celtic Park made my skin crawl, but no more than those Sevco fans themselves once brought to Ibrox, one called Green and the other Whyte.

They can spare me the sermon on how vicious the image of the hanging dolls was, because as horrendous as they were their own had names, and wore suits, and did not represent an impersonal generic “they” but were specific, targeted, like one I saw once of “Neil Lennon” and those you see on the top of the Loyalist bonfires every year in July, like the one in the picture at the top of this article, the hanging effigy of Gerry Adams.

And what’s that he’s wearing?

Oh yes, it’s a Celtic top.

“But that didn’t hang from the stands at Ibrox ..” is doubtless the refrain I’ll hear on that, but it doesn’t take much imagination to draw the line from the people who hung that ugly thing and those the club’s players and officials – including some of the hypocrites who okayed that statement – were photographed posing with in Linfield the weekend before last.

Club 1872 can bite me as well; their own foaming at the mouth statement contained an oblique reference to our fans’ support for the people of Palestine, and what do you know? They’ve got a new logo, the six pointed star, so similar to the one on the flag of Israel.

I shake my head at the lamentable nature of that, and marvel at the mind who came up with it.

They will appropriate anything to score cheap points, but this one’s espcially delicious considering their history of Nazi salutes and the undercurrent of far-right, fascist sympathy that runs through their support like a virus. And let them wail about how it’s a Red Hand Salute instead, as if commemorating the killing of Catholics is somehow a better proposition than celebrating the murder of Jews.

Because as they and their media acolytes like to remind us, it’s the visual image that reeks; it’s not what people intend something to be it’s what other people think it is.

See? I too can utilise that particular weapon.

I’ll tell you what; their club and its shareholders group can give us the big talk when they get their own house in order.

They can point their fat ignorant fingers at Celtic Park when they’ve pointed them into their own stands first and said, with loud voices for everyone to hear, “You lot … clear out.”

But that will never happen, because as Rangers was built on the back of barely legal bank largesse, the NewCo, from the moment of its inception, from the moment Charles Green stood on a pitch in front of the media and said that Rangers had been targeted by bigotry and hate – birthing the Victim Lie in all its unholy splendour – was built on bile and hatred, all the better to spoon money out of gullible fools simultaneously preaching their supremacy whilst lamenting the reach and the influence of their myriad, fictious enemies.

Talk about an exercise in doublethink.

This lot are so far outside the margins of reasonable behaviour now that it makes your head throb trying to imagine what they are thinking inside that crumbling ruin of theirs, but see, that crumbling ruin is the point, that wreckage of a football club is the real issue, because if their supporters weren’t all focussed on this kind of nonsense they might instead be focussed on that, because there are real issues there and real problems looming.

But this board knows its audience.

They know its fans.

They know they can get away with anything, anything at all, if they blame every failure on somebody else.

They can blame us for what they like, as they tried with Motherwell fans, as they attempted to do with Hibs supporters. Aberdeen fans will be next, you wait and see, after they leave Pittodrie with a hiding and the gap is even wider than now.

They could go round the block for the whole of this season, hitting every club one at a time or all in one shot, throwing blame hither thither and yon. The media can get behind it, or ignore the double standard, as they like. But sooner or later a reckoning will come, with their own supporters if not with the governing bodies or the legal system.

Until then, this whole country – and their club too – would benefit from a long, enforced period of dignified silence over there. I don’t expect it, because dignity is another word they simply don’t understand any longer … if they ever did.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Crumbling State Of Sevco Threatens Our National Game

26783406.jpg.galleryOne of the ways in which I like to relax is to immerse myself in computer games. I don’t play the sort most people would associate with de-stressing though. I enjoy war games, the more complex the better. For that, nothing beats the Total War series.

The most misunderstood of these games is Empire, which is a sprawling epic set in or around the Napoleonic Wars. What made that era perfect for a wargame was that it was, historically, locked in almost constant conflict. Diplomacy in that age mostly involved getting out of the way of the guns, and the reasons why countries went to war were myriad.

It was a dangerous time right across the world.

Hindsight means we can look back at that era and spot all the places along the path to the wars which redrew the map. Yet even then it must have been obvious which countries were to be watched, which were to be viewed as potential threats. Empire lets you do that too. A country with a weak government, a history of treachery, and expansionist ideology and which is short on key resources is one you have to be wary of. If you’re one its neighbours and you’re not locked in a formal military or diplomatic alliance then start arming up.

We have one of those in the vicinity; not a rogue nation, but a rogue football club and the things that happen there have a tendency to cast a dark shadow far beyond the environs of Ibrox. This organisation still has the ability to self-detonate, and because our governing bodies haven’t taken the precautions that would limit the damage to the club itself any scenario in which they explode could still take much of the national sport with it.

Sevco really does resemble a rogue state, you know.

They have a weak government, run by a guy so thin skinned he makes Donald Trump look like a model of composure. Their history of backstabbing, concealment, dodgy deeds and bending rules goes back beyond the current incarnation and deep into that of the club who’s identity they’ve assumed. Their ideology is, in many ways, aggressively expansionist. They believe they are the biggest club in the land and they seek to be taken seriously as a continental player too. In spite of that their economic situation is not only dire, it’s desperate.

It is run by unscrupulous leaders who pander to the worst elements of the populace. It also operates largely unscrutinised by the media, and if it was a country it would be one of those Security Council members who can do as they please without incurring sanctions. When Rangers collapsed in 2012 people talked about how they’d been punished; in point of fact, they never actually were. What happened to them was simply the inevitable consequences of administration, and then liquidation. They were never actually held accountable for the various corrupt practices that got them there, and it’s that that still rankles many today.

Officialdom is either terrified of the Ibrox operation or broadly in sympathy with it. That’s one of the things that worries us the most. There are lots of rumours swirling around about the club and it’s future. Some are more than just speculation, some are grounded in hard fact and they are of grave concern to an awful lot of people. But the chances of anything ever being done to get to the bottom of them are virtually zero. A media blackout of anything negative is guaranteed over there; that’s what gave men like Murray, Whyte, Green and King license to do whatever they pleased.

So let’s analyse the situation over there, not as Celtic supporters looking to get a good laugh – although we can do that too – but as dispassionate outsiders.

First, is the club is in financial danger?

For me, yes, I absolutely do believe that it is.

Do we believe the governing bodies and the media are aware of that?

I don’t see how they cannot be. The facts are freely available. The club makes losses year on year and they’ve recently embarked upon a quite crazy transfer spree which although it hasn’t involved spending big on fees has increased the wage bill massively. This kind of spending is wholly unsustainable for a club which, even at the height of its power, never made the kind of money Celtic consistently has. When your running costs are nearly £20 million before you pay a footballer or coach and that’s barely met by what’s coming in via season tickets you simply can’t afford to go out and sign nine players and give others huge wage increases.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

They will burn through the season ticket cash insanely quickly, and then the real fun starts when they’ve got to find more.

As I pointed out over on The CelticBlog last week, we’re fortunate that the SPFL elections have given us – albeit narrowly – a board where the majority is in favour of sporting integrity. It’s this organisation that will be responsible for deciding where any Rangers III ended up. Stewart Robertson shamefully finding his way onto the SFA Professional Game board confronts us with another scenario entirely; it’s entirely possible that the SFA would bend over backwards for the NewCo even to the extent where they tried to force the league body’s hand.

Do I think that could happen?

Sadly, I have to conclude that yes, it could happen and probably would happen. When all you have to go on are the lessons of the past, well we can look back four years and see what they did last time. One would imagine they’d view this situation as even more desperate and fraught with dangers than that one was. Because there are issues here above and beyond any that a club at Ibrox has faced before.

There is a very real threat to even the existence of a club calling itself Rangers.

We’re in truly uncharted territory here.

Just the other day I was listening to an ancient Radio Scotland debate, the one where Chick Young and the idiotic Jim Traynor went toe-to-toe over whether or not Alastair Johnson had nodded his head to confirm that Rangers could go bust if the Big Tax Case went against them. It’s beyond dispute that Johnson and the board were fully aware of the likelihood of that and he didn’t need to inform anyone of that fact. But it caused quite the flare up between the two hacks, because back then none of them could grasp the size of the thing in their hands. They still can’t, which is why so many still cling to the Survival Lie like a comfort blanket.

The Tax Case was the sort of crisis that could have closed their doors, and everyone knew it. I once thought that the collapse of David Murray’s companies could have done the same.

Craig Whyte ran up £20 million worth of bad debts, with a huge sum owed to HMRC. They refused the CVA because of non-payment of PAYE; don’t let anyone kid you that the Big Tax Case is what shut Rangers down. It wasn’t part of the equation. HMRC folded that bill into the final sums which were handed to the liquidators, but with the case still pending at the time it was a phantom issue.

Rangers was closed because of those Craig Whyte debts, but even with the Big Tax Case folded in as long as the assets were available in a liquidation sale there was always going to be a club at the end of it, whatever it called itself, just so long as the debts weren’t part of the package.

Those assets were always tremendously undervalued, or at least that was the perception most people had about them. But what if we were wrong? What if the asset valuation was actually right on? There were no debts, sure, but perhaps those assets came with their own, hidden, liabilities? Recent evidence suggests that they did.

Imagine that Sevco, in its present incarnation, was presented with a bill they simply didn’t have the money to pay? They’d go into administration, right? Easy. Whoever the creditors were they’d get pennies in the pound and the debts would vanish. Correct, but what if that bill couldn’t simply be set aside? What if even a third version of Rangers was impossible without it being paid?

There are some bills which wouldn’t be so easy to dodge, such as one for essential stadium repairs. If such a bill ran into eight digits it would be one that administration, even liquidation, would not be able to erase. That’s as bad as it gets.

If Sevco were unable to get Ibrox up to speed, and were rendered incapable of using the ground, where exactly would that leave them? Season tickets would be rendered worthless overnight. Even if they moved to Hampden on a temporary basis – and the SFA would bend over backwards to let them do that – the impact on their supporters would be considerable.

The impact on their finances would be absolutely catastrophic.

The club has just been granted a new safety certificate for the ground. Even the release of that information is suspect, the manner of it and the tone. Yet this news would appear – on the surface of it – to close the story down completely, but like much else it’s nowhere near as simple as that. Glasgow City Council, unprompted, appeared to confirm that there were problems with the matter. They said there was a delay in giving it to them, and that this was the result of a clerical error. That news has been greeted with frank disbelief in many quarters, especially amongst those of us who know there are issues over there which are in dire need of fixing.

I said in a recent article over on The CelticBlog that if a certificate were granted and something went wrong that a lot of people – the club included – would be in the most serious trouble imaginable. There are some suggestions that the certificate has been granted without a proper investigation taking place; a lot of people do not think it remotely likely that the council would take such a glib attitude towards safety at a public venue; that ignores past precedent, financial concerns and that famous old ugly issue of politics.

Do I believe that a safety certificate might have been granted on a nod and a wink? I am not saying that’s what’s been done, but I sadly can’t conclude that it’s impossible or even unlikely, although I wish to God that it was.

For one thing, Sevco’s board would launch their own legal action against the council, for plunging them into financial chaos. That’s why even shutting the ground whilst a full health and safety investigation takes place hasn’t even been considered. That, in itself, would create enormous problems for the club with a new season about to start. A long term closure, enforced by the HSE, would spark a court battle that could expose the council to serious financial risks. For that reason alone it’s not as simple as it probably should be.

But there’s a much more serious issue at stake.

If Ibrox is closed on the evidence of the council, for a series of expensive repairs, Sevco would collapse like a house of cards. In those circumstances it is highly unlikely that the ground would ever be opened again. The effects of that would be enormous, for the local area, for Scottish football, for the council itself. Its officials would be blamed for closing the doors on the club, however unfair that assertion might be, and with elections coming next year that would hammer the final nail into the coffins of the Labour administration.

The dominos do not stop falling in a scenario like that.

But nor do they stop falling in a scenario where someone is hurt, or God forbid killed, in an incident where a structural flaw results in an accident. Then both club and council would be exposed to searing criminal and civil consequences who’s certain, and inevitable, ending would be to wipe Sevco away. That couldn’t fail to have the direst effects on the whole of Scottish football, our own club included, whether we like it or not.

When Rangers was on the edge last time, it was the so-called leaders of our game who talked it into the shredder.

They crushed its commercial viability, collapsing the value of every sponsorship deal we were likely to get and they would have cast sporting integrity itself aside if they thought they could have gotten away with it. God alone knows what they would do faced with a scenario where the Ibrox club looked like it could vanish forever.

When people ask me why I constantly write about Sevco, why I focus such attention on them, why I waste my time on it, the answer is patently obvious. It’s because of stuff like this. The potential for that club going nuclear remains. That creates dangers for every other club in Scotland. The SFA knows there are financial difficulties over there, but they’ve not insured the sport against that, perhaps because they are unable to believe it could all happen again.

It could. It might. The risks are real.

The one thing at Ibrox you can be absolutely assured of is you can’t predict what will happen there. Trouble can come right out of a clear blue sky. The next twelve months could be as momentous as anything we’ve seen in the last four years.

Be ready for anything.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A Toxic Association: How A Soldiers Charity Has Been Dragged Into The Ibrox Civil War

Brits_At_Ibrox_September2013Tomorrow, the Chilcot Report will be published and the clamour will start in Westminster about what it actually says and means.

I suspect it’ll say little and mean less than what we already know about the Iraq War, that it was an un-necessary disaster with consequences that continue to reverberate around the world.

Iraq had a profound, life changing, effect on me.

I was involved in the public campaign to stop that war. Our failure to do it destroyed my faith in the political process and plunged me into a deep personal state of anger and frustration that lasted for years. The demons were exorcised only after I’d written a book and took some time to process my thoughts on it all. I don’t kid myself that I’m over it. I’ll never get over it, but I don’t regard myself as someone who bore the full brunt of it either.

There are millions of people who did.

Some are alive. Most are dead.

Some of those who died wore military uniforms emblazoned with the Union Flag. Those who mourn them say they died for us; actually, they died for US and British politicians and oil interests. Their courage is no less because of it, but Chilcot is important because his report will acknowledge that fact and I expect we’ll see something incredible, a Labour Party leader who’ll stand up in Parliament and apologise for that decision and condemn his predecessor, the man who took it before most of us were even aware.

That apology is overdue.

To the people of Iraq first, and those in the wider Middle East which our actions plunged into turmoil which continues today. It’s also due to the families and friends of the servicemen and women who that government sent over there to fight, some to die, on a false prospectus.

It amazes me that those people would ever trust our political leaders again, and that isn’t good for any of us because we have a volunteer army in this country and it relies on that trust if it’s to keep recruiting.

Let’s face it, we’ll run out of soldiers long before we run out of wars for the politicians to send them to.

The reason I mention this is that tonight a story’s broken about a Sevco fan group allegedly using a website to sell merchandise bearing the Help for Heroes logo, without that organisation’s permission.

Congratulations to James Doleman on breaking that.

The website has been told to desist from doing this – probably under a legal threat – but that they did it in the first place is telling for a number of reasons, and that story segues into a much bigger one that’s bubbling away under the surface, which is that of the Sevco fan groups themselves and their expanding civil war which is going to make Labour’s look tame.

There are major problems at Ibrox, most of which the press won’t bother to fill you in on. They’ve been there for the past couple of years but King has been able to slap a sticking plaster on the bigger ones up until now, knowing even so that this isn’t going to hold forever. Blood still oozes out of a dozen open wounds and the time for changing the dressing on those he’s patched up is long since overdue.

Infections are spreading, and one of them is going to kill the patient stone dead.

This time there’ll be no SFA inspired recovery.

Their need for funds has ignited the war inside the fan organisations, and the realisation is dawning on a lot of folk that those groups are now in the hands of people who’ve got no interest in the wider support or the stated objectives those organisations were set up with. Of particular interest is the fate of Rangers First, a fan group which was established to purchase shares in the club and give the fans a real say in how it was run.

That organisation has effectively been subsumed by a larger umbrella group called Club 1872. Those who support that change like to remind people that the decision was taken by a vote of the members, most of whom had as much knowledge of the inner workings of that organisation as the average voter had of the European Union.

We know what happened when that subject was put to a referendum recently.

Things are murky at best.

Rangers First was set up in the aftermath of a liquidation; the members who formed it offered real leadership to a traumatised and shell-shocked support who needed it more than they ever had.

The plan – and it’s a noble and just one – was to seek influence with the board without getting too close to it. They were there to hold people to account, to do what people like Paul Murray and Dave King had failed to when they were directors at Rangers.

Fans raised money, as much as any fan collective in the country.

It’s to their immense credit that they put it in a bank account and established a commitment to using it only for the purchasing of parcels of shares as they became available. No-one could have begrudged them that. It looked like being the perfect working model for other fan organisations who wanted a say in the running of the clubs they loved.

That all looks set to end in tears amidst bitterness, acrimony and toxic mistrust and that’s not for nothing because £500,000 of their cash is already gone, and I’d guess it will never see the light of day again.

It was “loaned” to the club itself, to a board led by the self-same directors Murray and King who so failed in their own due diligence, on an unsecured basis with no repayment schedule to speak of.

It’s a gross insult to everyone who put their money in.

Three members of the Rangers First board have already resigned over this decision. Some inside the organisation talk about a culture of secrets and of boardroom influence in its running. One of the directors cited the involvement in Rangers First of James Blair, who is actually on the board of the club itself, as clear a conflict of interests as you could wish to see.

Opposition to this loan was widespread, and concerns over the nature of it were raised in public before the vote was taken and continue to be raised today. According to one source, at a recent symposium of supporters groups from clubs all across the country, the Rangers First team stunned the room by asking a representative from another Supporters Trust who’d given their own club a loan, whether they’d have agreed to a proposal that came without security or any timeframe attached.

They were told that would have been simply unthinkable.

That club’s fans got the same security as a bank would have asked for, and they’ll see each and every penny of their cash back.

This is just an abysmal turn of events, and even the hardest heart has to break for the guys who sunk their cash into this scheme because they were sceptical of the direction of their club, intent on holding its board to account, only for that money to be appropriated by the directors to plug holes in their own financial plan. You feel sick for those guys; they are ordinary supporters just like us and no matter how much we might laugh at times, these guys are victims here of an unscrupulous bunch who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Divide and conquer appears to be the tactic of the day, and you have to bear in mind that this is a battle being waged in part by the club against their own fans. So they favour some reps but not others. They invite some for tea and biscuits whilst the rest wait outside the door. Some are given reason to believe there’ll be seats around the boardroom table eventually, and in the meantime there are soft ones in or near the director’s box. Other fans are marginalised, shunted into the cold.

Those who speak out or question this … well there are forums that just love to flame grill these people, even going through their personal lives for information to hurt them.

It is low order stuff, for high stakes.

Rangers First could have raised £1 million by the end of this year and there are people out there making a nice living on the margins of this and they’ve got a vested interest in keeping the faith with King and his boardroom.

After all, with the club at war with its merchandising partner and the intellectual property up for grabs you could be talking about a multi-million pound operation run by a few “fans” if King grants them the franchise, as many believe is on the cards.

This is quite literally a fight for the integrity of the fan groups, but it’s also about big money and the politics of the club itself and we ought not to forget, or ignore, that. It has implications for Scottish football too; who knows who might emerge as leading the “official” fan organisation? Who knows what paranoid theories, ideas or ideology might be governing the second biggest support in the country?

That affects everyone who follows football here, not just the supporters of that club, many of whom would love dearly to drag it back from the knuckleheads and corrupt individuals who have their claws in it right now.

Will these groups be separate entities whose job is to provide the scrutiny the media won’t, or will they be populated by subservient creatures of the board, indirect fund raising conduits doing the job King promised to do himself?

When you look at it like that, it’s little wonder that a lot of people within these organisations are asking tough questions.

It’s a monumentally important issue.

Which is why the fight over it is has gotten so dirty.

Frankly, nothing is beyond King and his cohort.

Why should we be surprised that they’re openly trying to divide their own fans?

They’ve played the sectarian card in an effort to divide the whole of Scottish football. They’ve got their hooks deep into the media, spinning outright lies about “over-investment”, blowing the Victim Myth to spectacular levels. They sabotaged the club’s stock exchange listing and were thrown off the exchange, just so they could conduct their “business” in total secret, away from prying eyes, as some of us explicitly said they’d do when they were flatly denying that. Even some of the money they’ve “raised” is of questionable origin; this site is not the only one to look into the £5 million “loan” they got from the Far East, which some, myself included, believe could have come from King himself, laundered through a company in which he has a level of control.

This, of course, would be a criminal act; money laundering, in effect.

Yet it’s also a crime to use market sensitive information to destabilise a company’s share price so that you and others can pick up a controlling interest on the cheap; stories to that effect are doing the rounds too, and this goes back to when King and his people took over.

Tonight, Help For Heroes has told a website that raises money for Club 1872 to remove listings which include merchandise bearing their logo. I have no idea who told them about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the information came from within one of the fan groups who make up the structure of that umbrella organisation.

That drags Help For Heroes into the ongoing saga of this club and links their cause to Sevco’s chronic need for cash, in an unsavoury episode that shows some of the people involved with the club at their very lowest and running worst.

And this is the inevitable PR catastrophe that was always coming here, an outcome every bit as predictable as it is disastrous for a public body and registered charity that allowed itself to become far too close to this football club, its fans and the people who run it for its own good.

They were warned, and some within its ranks have harboured grave concerns about it for a while.

Those chickens have come home to roost.

In Aesop’s famous fable The Farmer and the Stork, the titular characters encounter one another when the stork is caught in a snare the farmer has laid out in his field. It wasn’t for the stork; indeed, it was set up to catch cranes and geese who were stealing crops. The farmer kills the stork anyway, over its protests, being caught, as it was, “in the company of thieves.”

The military association with this club has always been a bad reflection on the troops. There were obvious dangers in becoming too closely associated with it, and if the footage of serving soldiers singing sectarian songs didn’t do it, and the sight of others holding up flags emblazoned with loyalist paramilitary paraphernalia wasn’t enough then this scandal tonight should be the moment where a lot of the brass take a deep breath and extricate the armed services from what goes on at that ground; everything from the sale of scarves with the RAF logo beside the old Rangers badge to the annual lunacy of Armed Forces Day and all the negative publicity that ensues.

Why it was allowed to go this far I have no idea, and what makes tonight especially repulsive is not just the suspicion that some of the money raised from the sale of these shirts will find its way into the Ibrox coffers but the simple and breath-taking presumption of putting that logo on them in the first place, without asking permission.

That permission was just assumed; people within Sevco simply make no distinction any longer between Help For Heroes, the Armed Forces and the club. One is seen as serving the interests of the other as if James Blair was sitting on those boards as well. That level of cynical appropriation of something much bigger and more substantial than a football club is hard to comprehend soberly.

Chilcot’s report and the reaction to it will go some way towards restoring the trust members of the armed services have in government again; it’s to be hoped so anyway. We owe those people more than to send them to fight and perhaps die on the basis of lies.

That’s a disgusting and shameful moment in the history of this country.

The military needs to be seen to be above politics, and outside of its scope.

Yet tonight, on the eve of that report, some of its patrons are involved in yet another political scandal, a low-grade grubby one, over money and who controls a football team, and some will say they only have themselves to blame for it because they’ve failed to draw a line between the two before now.

At a time when the armed forces are gearing up for a busy time ahead they can’t afford to be perceived here, in Scotland, as the plaything of a football club that stands for such a narrow range of interests and ideas, some of which are anathema to a very many of us.

This is an unfolding story.

I don’t believe it’ll be the last article I post on it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Long Dark Night Of Dodgy Dave King

Dave-King-XXX-high-resThis has been a long few days of late nights and all-day back and forth on social media. The EU referendum produced a shock result, but it was nothing on the chaos and the mayhem that’s followed since it was announced in the early hours of Friday.

A Prime Minister has gone. Labour’s leader hangs on by a thread; at the time of writing this over a dozen members of his shadow cabinet had resigned in an attempt to provoke a coup. EU leaders are terrified of their own people demanding similar plebiscites. Scottish independence seems like it’s a matter of time away. The pound has plummeted in value. A recession looms. Indeed, our economy has been degraded by a number of ratings agencies.

Not even half a week has elapsed, and the stage is piled with corpses.

In the midst of it all stand the men who organised this “victory” – for such is the way they refer to it. Yet amidst their finest moment few can muster a smile. Only Nigel Farage – who conceded, unconceded, reconceded and then unconceded again – seems pleased with it.

One could be forgiven for forming the distinct impression that this is neither what these people expected nor even wanted; when Johnson and Gove – arguably the greatest “winners” in all this – appeared before the media on the day after the vote they were not just subdued, they looked positively shell-shocked.

They and their cronies are already back-tracking on everything.

Except for the consequences.

They, and the rest of us, are stuck with those.

In the immediate aftermath, David Cameron resigned. In doing so, he threw the enormous economic, social and constitutional mess into their laps and they did not look like men who welcomed that responsibility.

They are not the first men to secure a triumph and then find the cost of it was too great to bear; I have, on occasion, mentioned Pyrrhus of Epirus on this site. He won a great success against the Romans but realised that it had cost him the better part of his army, and history is full of examples like it. The phenomenon even has a name; it’s called a Pyric victory, after the Greek general himself, and I thought of it watching Gove and Johnson on Friday.

I also thought of Dave King and Sevco.

In the aftermath of the Celtic v Sevco cup semi-final, I wrote an article on this site called The Storm Before The Calm. In it, I suggested that what our club had needed most was a day of reckoning, because it would inevitably lead to better times. I suggested that for the more cerebral Sevconites it was a battle they didn’t really want to win, because they knew what the consequences of it would be; confronted with that day of reckoning, Celtic would move forward and rediscover our purpose. In the weeks that followed we did exactly that.

In the aftermath of the Rodgers appointment and their defeat in the cup final I wrote an article for the CelticBlog where I asked who really won that semi-final. A lot of Sevco fans told me they did, but those who realised I was asking a deeper question decided to abuse me instead. That reaction was sparked by their very rational fears and the realisation that it was a legitimate enquiry. Their penalty kicks victory gave them one day in the sun, but that’s all they got. Celtic was reinvigorated and transformed. They stumble on in worse shape than before.

The Good Ship Sevco continues to drift towards the rocks of financial crisis. At the helm is a man who, like Johnson and Gove, has been cornered by his own lies, and now faces the prospect of making good on promises he had no business making and no idea how to keep. He will now have to live with the consequences of the reality which has caught up to him and exposed him as a fraud. Dave King should have stayed on the side-lines. Instead he secured a victory in a war he should never have fought and now wishes he’d never won.

Making big promises is easy to do. I was in politics long enough to know that. I saw many people who couldn’t help themselves, knowing it would get them a bump in popularity. Many had the luxury of knowing they could do so with impunity because they would never be near a position where they might have to keep them. Others seemed, to me, to be reckless almost beyond belief. Their pledges might well have to be kept, and some of these people had not the first clue how to take word and make it form. They were gambling that either they’d not win or that the people who cast the votes would quickly forget all that was sworn to them.

It was Rod Stewart’s narrator who lamented “I was only joking my dear” in the famous song, but at least he had the decency to admit what he’d done and besides, he had the wine to blame it on. When you make a promise you can’t keep it’s bad enough. To make those you had no intention of even trying to keep is far, far worse.

From the minute Dave King took over at Sevco this site and others were telling the fans not to believe a word that came out of his mouth. People always focus on the judge who called him a “glib and shameless liar” but I’ve long believed it’s other parts of that withering verdict which should have been focussing fans minds instead;

“As his evidence progressed it became clear that he has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie, or at least misrepresent the facts, if he thinks it will be to his advantage … There can be little doubt that on most occasions Mr King lied, as he knew the correct facts and obviously decided to misrepresent these facts … he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is support by documents and other objective evidence.”

So what’s a Dave King promise worth? Ask Mark Warburton. He came to Ibrox believing in big transfer war chests and the notion that he was joining a massive club. Within a year he’s been dissuaded enough of the idea of this as a project with a future to have already considered his position. He vanished entirely for nearly two months in the aftermath of the cup final in which, like in the semi, he named only five subs in an effort to focus the attention of the media and the fans on the threadbare nature of his squad.

That squad has barely moved forward. Oh a handful of players have been signed, but an equal number have left, and although more signings are supposed to be on the way we would do well to look at those the club has already brought in to gauge their likely worthiness. As before, I am grateful to the blogger Johnjames for his research on this; it was eye-opening and any Sevco fan not paying attention needs to wise up fast.

Josh Windass and Matt Crooks are being signed from Accrington Stanley for a combined total of £60,000. That’s £60,000 more than they’ve ever been sold for in their careers thus far. Windass, who the media hilariously claimed had been “attracting Arsenal” was playing for the mighty Harrogate Railway FC until Accrington took him on a free in 2013. Crooks has been on loan at Halifax, Hartlepool and the footballing dynasty at Radcliffe Borough.

Last year, Clint Hill, who’s 38, didn’t make the QPR squad in 24 of their games. He was on the bench, and never got on the park, in another 9. You might be forgiven for wondering if he’s injury prone, but in fact he’s fitter than some at Ibrox.

The same can’t be said of Jordan Rossiter, the Liverpool youth player, who’s made only five first team appearances for the club in two years. Last season he was a reserve player who injury derailed for 17 out of 22 Under 21 games. He is said to have serious underlying fitness issues, which would be tragic for a player so young and disastrous for the club which has signed him.

Matt Gilks, a 34 year old goalkeeper, has arrived from Burnley. He featured once last season, in the League Cup. He replaced the younger, better, Cammy Bell who has left for Dundee Utd.

They’ve signed Joey Barton, at 34, a guy who’s a walking liability with a Twitter feed that’s a recipe for disaster and a list of criminal offences matched, at Ibrox, only by Dave King himself. This guy is a time bomb waiting to blow. The irony is that he’s not a bad player, although nowhere near as good as he seems to believe himself.

And what of Niko Kranjcar, the Croatian “genius” who somehow didn’t manage to get into their European Championship squad, despite being the best footballer never to play in Scotland since Mario Jardel? Well, it’s not for nothing that Johnjames has called him the “9 minute Galactico” as that’s precisely how much game time he got last season at Dynamo Kiev. He went to the US after their season was done, and played 7 games.

This is the “standard” they are going for. Don’t let anyone kid you that this is a squad that can challenge Hearts and Aberdeen, far less Celtic. The total outlay is that £60,000 for the Accrington Stanley players, and they had to be forced to meet that commitment.

The website transfermarkt.com – not a definitive source because they traditionally underestimate what clubs are willing to pay for players, but one that has been praised by the Centre for Economic Performance – rates the Celtic squad’s total value to be £39.9 million. The second most valuable squad in the league is rated as that of Aberdeen, at £6.73 million, followed by Hearts £6.19 million, St Johnstone £5.66 million and Ross County £4.67 million.

Sevco’s squad is rated as worth a little more than that, at £4.9 million. For all the talk about them being the “second biggest club in the country” their team is rated as worth less than the Dundee Utd side that was relegated last year, which was valued at £5.08 million.

This is most definitely not what was promised to their fans when King took over.

The £30 million war-chests have never come to pass. The over-investment has never been forthcoming. This club might be charging big money for season tickets, yet its playing staff was recruited right out of the cheap seats. Yet in spite of this, the club remains a loss making company with no clear path towards raising the sort of funds that will enable them to be more.

Sevco is a financial basket case. Before Rangers was liquidated they had sold off or shut down every major revenue creation stream. The merchandising deal that they are so concerned with was the spiritual successor to Rangers one with JJB that was ridiculous in itself. That club tried making its own shirts. They tried entering into a TV partnership with STV, which followed on from their disastrous decision to do the famous NTL deal. None of this worked, but flogged valuable commercial assets for a pittance.

Now even the infrastructure which enabled them is gone. In his Q&A series with the fans, he’s admitted that the task of rebuilding that will cost a fortune and take years. He has neither the time nor the money to pull that off. The rewards for playing in the SPFL top flight aren’t lucrative enough to justify all the excitement over reaching it.

Only playing in Europe could bail them out of this, and anyone who thinks that squad would get past even meagre opposition needs a reality check. King says he’d spend to ensure it, but that puts us back on the carnival ride of lies again.

How many times has this site written about King’s financial predicament? Even if he had the money some have suggested, the South African government would make it difficult verging on impossible to remove it from the country by legal means. If he wants to play Russian roulette with their regulators he can do so, of course, but history suggests he’ll get caught.

All football is run on money these days. When you have costs which top £1 million a month before you even pay a football player you need to be bringing in a steady stream of it just to keep up. King could have made this work, but it would have involved being honest with people and that’s simply not within his DNA.

Like Gove and Johnson, King has played a good game of bluff and bullshit up until now, but as they both found out last Friday morning there comes a time when your distorted version of reality comes into contact with people holding notebooks who remember the promises. More important even than them, so do those you made those promises to and who gave you their trust on the back of them. For the Brexiters the full weight of their unwanted and unforeseen victory is now pressing down on them. For King, a season looms under circumstances he would never have wanted. He needed to raise expectations to sell tickets and with the media machine pumping out the propaganda those expectations are now sky high and wildly unrealistic.

King knows that; more to the point, so does his manager.

The new season looms in front of these people like a dark road with no clear destination at the end of it.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, King is the only person in the history of Scottish football in charge of a major club to talk out of both sides of his mouth and to tell the truth out of neither.

Sooner or later, that catches up to you, and sometimes when you least expect it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A “What If …?” Scenario That Should Scare The SFA

1280px-HK010I’m going to tell you a story here, and please bear with me.

Before I do I want to thank two people; one directly, and one anonymously.

The direct thanks I send to the writer of the John James blog, whose recent works have been great reference points in helping me get to the bottom of a murky story I heard earlier this year and which another source all but confirmed over the weekend.

That source is the one I’d like to thank anonymously. He knows who he is and why it’s important that I don’t use his name.

What I am about to write for the next few paragraphs is all fact.

I’ll tell you when I start speculating, because it’s important to separate the two things.

On a day when The Guardian is publishing unsubstantiated crap in an effort to attack the Resolution 12 team, and maintaing that Scottish football governance issues are of concern only to Celtic and our fans I am not about to claim, for one second, that what you are about to read is all referenced and properly sourced and 100% accurate.

I’m not even going to tell you the specifics of what I’ve heard; I’ll give you the background and a hypothetical scenario based on some of it, and what I don’t write you can check out for yourself. Some of it is already online.

You can then decide what you think.

Nothing I’ve seen is actual evidence; I want to reiterate that now, although I’m equally certain neither John James nor my other sources are going on rumour alone. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t write an article based on such rumours, but it is not how real or not these stories are that bothers me and made me decide it was a worthwhile piece.

I’m writing it because this isn’t impossible. It isn’t even implausible.

It’s all very … doable.

And that’s what worries me.

This story starts in South Africa in 2013, when the tax authorities there brought an end to their campaign of chasing the assets of, and threatening to jail, one David Cunningham King, now the chairman of Sevco, otherwise referred to on the various Celtic blogs as the “glib and shameless liar.”

One of the key provisos of the deal was that he “repatriate his overseas assets.”

In other words, they wanted his cash reserves and his future earnings right where they could see them, where they could keep a close watch on what he was up to.

One of those overseas assets was a company called NOVA.

He sold that company to another, MicroMega. The South African government got the proceeds of the sale.

NOVA had been a pretty important part of the King portfolio. It had subsidiary branches in China, Brazil and Peru.

But it was a strange deal, one that bore scrutiny. It was so strange that the South African government had to independently investigate it to make sure the shareholders at MicroMega got themselves enough bang for their bucks. Because, you see, MicroMega is partially owned, and chaired, by none other than David Cunningham King himself.

This isn’t uncommon in the business world, and here it was a perfectly logical step.

King still does a lot of business abroad and NOVA still has offices in various nations; what’s changed is simply that the company now has its headquarters in South Africa. Although MicroMega also has subsidiaries in various nations around the world, they are registered at home, whereas the registered offices for NOVA had been in Hong Kong.

At various times in the last two or three years I’ve looked into King for this and for the CelticBlog.

It wasn’t hard to discover that his reported wealth these days is mostly on paper, tied up in the share value of companies he is sitting on the boards of and has shares in.

It’s an established fact that all of his disposable assets were seized by the government; the cars, the houses, the wine cellars. His liquid assets were either turned into cash to pay the fines or likewise seized. The settlement didn’t wipe him out, and in comparison to the likes of us he’s still a wealthy man, but it didn’t leave him much to “invest” in Sevco either.

But he still works hard and he has a lot of shares, and based on the values of those he still appears to be quite well off.

But this has always been a fundamentally misleading indicator of actual wealth, because if, say, Mark Zuckerberg were to announce, tomorrow, that he was putting up the entirety of his Facebook shareholding as a public offering, the value of those shares would go through the floor as people wondered why he was bailing out.

King’s done that before, of course, which is what got him into trouble with SARS in the first place, and although it is possible for him to liquidate shareholdings in little chunks, this potentially has a negative impact on the value of the rest of his shares.

In June of last year, King sold 15 million shares in MicroMega for a value of £8.5 million.

I’ll get back to that number shortly.

South Africa is a country that takes a dim view of the things Dave King did in his tax avoiding years.

Other countries have a similarly dark attitude towards tax evasion, but South Africa take it more seriously than most, in particular because much of the cash they lose out on ends up overseas. Their government likes to keep their national wealth in-country, as it were, which is one of the reasons King was told to “repatriate” his assets back to where the tax man could get at them.

South Africa also has rather robust exchange control regulations, which heavily penalise high worth individuals who want to move cash out of the country. They’d prefer that cash was invested, and taxed, right there at home, for obvious reasons.

There’s a financial cost to transferring money out of South Africa.

There are also regulations in place which require disclosure on where the money is going and what it’s ultimately for.

These rules would be even more rigorously enforced with a man like Dave King.

Without prior approval from their government and Treasury, no resident can transfer cash out of the country in any significant sums. There’s simply no getting around that fact.

This site has long argued that the combination of Dave King’s tax settlement, the government’s insistence on the repatriation of assets and the harsh exchange controls which the South African government has in place, make it virtually impossible for him to “invest” in the club to the extent he and others seemed to suggest he would.

In short, even if he had that kind of wealth he’d never be allowed to spend it catering to the egos of Scotland’s most ungrateful and impatient football fans.

This site and others are on the record as having said that King has spent precisely nothing on NewCo Rangers up until now, save for the purchasing of some shares and giving a loan of £1.5 million in the name of New Oasis Asset Limited, which is referenced as a “King family trust” and, for all we know, doesn’t even have his name on it.

Any further “investments” should be very easy to demonstrate because something like that would leave a very long paper trail.

Or so I long suspected.

At the same time, this site and others have long argued that the present directors, none of whom are high worth individuals – save for Douglas Park, who has always shown great reluctance to pour it into the black hole of a football club – will be able, or are willing, to keep on funding the club from their own “soft loans.”

The only person in the history of Sevco who had the financial wherewithal to do that into perpetuity is the one King has worked so assiduously to push away; Mike Ashley, who’s Sports Direct billions could have kept the lights on indefinitely.

That means that without “outside investment” sooner or later it’s going to fall on King to keep his promises, or not.

King can buy shares in, and invest in, any company he likes, just so long as he does it through a South African registered “vehicle”, and the tax man knows how it’s been done. There are “foreign portfolio investment allowances” which have to be run through registered bodies, and individual allowances, which can be up to £400,000.

It is possible to get certain funds abroad for such purposes.

Buying shares in foreign registered companies comes under the exchange control laws and his initial share purchase, plus the £1.5 million in loans, probably doesn’t push him over the threshold depending on what’s in the “family trust.”

In the main, however, the more money he has to “invest” the more likely it is that the South African government will draw a big line and subject him to those more rigorous investigations and rules. South Africa’s government is not of a mind to let any high worth individual – far less one they had to chase for years – take significant sums out of their country.

And this is where our friend Keith Jackson comes in.

On 7 December 2015, Jackson wrote one of his best articles of last year, if not the very best. In it, he questioned King’s “investment” in the club and wondered where the £5 million which they had recently announced would pay off Sports Direct was going to come from. It was one of the first articles to actually ask hard questions about the Sevco board and their long term plans.

And a certain man in South Africa was spooked by that, because he has always been able to rely on a subservient media in order to get the things he wants. He had made promises and Jackson was asking he keep them, but the Record writer was also casting doubt over the veracity of a lot of King’s claims and that bothered him most of all.

Was Jackson reading up on South African exchange control laws?

No, he was simply wondering why, when it only takes 11 hours to fly here from Johannesburg, that King hadn’t already simply delivered the money and given it to the Newcastle owner.

For all it was a ridiculous notion, there was a core of truth in what Jackson actually said … and he was right to be asking the question. He should have asked more questions though, such as where King had allegedly found the two “investors” who were said to be putting up the bulk of the cash. Jackson had doubts about those guys, and those doubts were not without foundation.

Whether Jackson pushed King and his people into speeding things up or whether his intervention was shrugged off inside Ibrox and utterly ignored is something we’ll never know, but that money duly found its way to Ibrox shortly thereafter and the debt to Ashley was cleared. The Sevco board agreed another £1.5 million in loans, and they were able to get through the season.

Just a month after he had written that piece, with the money now in place and with Ashley paid off, Jackson was singing a very different song. Yet oddly he wasn’t giving the credit where it was supposed to be due.

In fact, he was telling everyone that King had actually invested “north of £7 million” in the club himself.

Myself and others mercilessly and brutally mocked him for that assertion.

Where did he get that number from?

Was it “direct knowledge”?

Was it a wee emailed memo, perchance?

Something thrown to him by a PR firm?

If it was then it was the daftest ever released in the history of public relations in Scotland, because it has been focussing minds ever since. As John James has already pointed out, the total “take” Sevco had brought in since King became chairman was not far from that sum and we know much of that had come from other members of the board.

But there was still that rather large chunk of money that came from elsewhere, from “Hong Kong-based fans” Barry Scott and Andy Ross.

Sadly, for Sevco, it quickly became apparent that Ross had some “background”.

In December 2014, he had been charged by the Securities Commission over there, and found guilty of numerous failures in relation to his handling of an audit involving a company that was being investigated for fraud. The charge was “improper personal conduct” and he was fined and banned from serving on an SEC-regulated company for a term of three years.

It’s not clear if he knows, or has done business with, George Latham, the other Hong Kong based Sevco investor, who is rumoured to be deeply unhappy with things at the club. Perhaps he’s aware of stuff that the average punter isn’t. I have heard that he was explicit in demanding that King finally show the others the colour of his money.

And this is where we head into speculative territory.

According to the people I’ve spoken to, and as  John James has suggested quite openly, neither Ross nor Scott has that kind of money. With Ross unable to sit on a board of directors, and with his net worth unknown, we can’t really say whether that’s true or not, but it can’t be easy to just find £2.5 million that’s going spare, even if, as some have suggested, there’s a Wonga rate of interest on it.

If these guys don’t have that kind of money, if John James and others are right, then they’re not the source of the £5 million which is attributed to them in the Sevco accounts and which so famously bought Ashley off and ended his hold over the club.

We know the money is real, but if it didn’t come from them then where did it come from?

Let’s start there. Let’s speculate a little.

Did that money originate elsewhere?

Say, in South Africa?

Was it funnelled through Hong Kong and into the accounts at Ibrox, with those two “investors” playing patsy, and either taking their cut of the interest or being looked after some other way?

In short, did that money come from Dave King himself?

First, with King’s financial situation being what it is, where would he get the cash?

Well, I suppose, if we’re speculating, that it’s possible the genesis of these funds was the £8.5 million in shares which he sold in MicroMega in June last year. This, after all, was the very company he used for the incestuous deal that let NOVA become a South African company, although it was based in Hong Kong. In fact, isn’t it also possible that the £5 million actually went through NOVA itself?

As I said, I’m not saying this is true.

This is all speculative, a “what if?” scenario.

But the way the game is run here in Scotland, it’s not impossible.

It’s not even improbable.

Because this isn’t even about King, not really. This is a scenario that could as easily have involved Craig Whyte or Charles Green or the Easdales or whoever else has sat on the Ibrox board over the last few years. The loopholes that allowed those guys to get their feet under the table are still wide open, and God alone knows what might happen in the future if they stay like that.

As to King himself, well what he does with his own money is his lookout. He’s already proven to be a little slippery, but also a little stupid. In the documented instance which he’s famous for he did, after all, get caught.

I expect someone who screws up that badly would be odds-on to do so again.

It’s not as if there aren’t people looking.

As simple as it would be for someone like him to move money around like that and find ways of doing it, he has to know he wouldn’t be operating in the dark. He’d be doing it surrounded by eager eyes.

I’m 100% certain that SARS keeps a close one on him and they aren’t the only ones. He has seriously pissed off an actual billionaire, a guy who knows his background and will be very aware of South African exchange controls and the corporate structures at NOVA and MicroMega, and will be understandably curious about what the source of the £5 million which paid him off is.

Is that a guy you’d want digging into you?

We already know King provokes him to a foolish, even dangerous, degree but could he really have been that stupid?

Ego does things to people. It doesn’t keep them smart.

But like I said, that’s his business.

If he’s done something daft then it’s on his head, and there’ll be no dodging the bullet this time.

The issue here, as ever, is football governance or what passes for it in Scotland, because I cannot imagine another association where a scenario like the one I just proposed is even remotely possible, in light of all the outside agencies supposed to be watching.

What troubles me is this; what does it mean to Scottish football?

Because we’d be talking about money laundering here, and that’s the best case scenario. That’s the long and short of it, and that goes well beyond the usual nonsense we often hear about. This would be the illegal transfer of funds from one country to another, evading financial controls and other laws, and probably screwing with the tax man into the bargain. Again.

It all comes down to how this kind of thing could easily happen with the people we have running the Scottish game. As John James has pointed out, if someone wanted to do this kind of thing he only has to look at the way the media ignores any issue it doesn’t want to deal with and the way in which the SFA turns a blind eye to all manner of things, no matter how dark.

None of this should be possible with the proper controls, but it is.

Good governance doesn’t even have to be that complicated, not in this case.

I cannot overstate enough times that Dave King is an open book. His history is not a secret and neither is the fact he needs to comply with South African laws involving investment and the transfer of funds. That’s a fact and whether he simply found two Hong Kong based mugs or whether he used them as conduits for a scam is beside the point.

To get where he is right now, he had to pass a “fit and proper person” exam.

We all know that. Ashley took the SFA to court to find out how they arrived at the decision, and he demanded they make their report on it public. He hinted at some deadly information in there. I think I know what that information is. It’s not what they asked King or what answers he gave. It’s what they didn’t bother to ask him at all. It’s the answers they didn’t even look for.

When he sat in front of the SFA for his fit and proper person examination, how much did they really want to know?

Did they quiz him on South African financial regulations?

How much clarity did they seek about how he was going to meet all of his stated commitments about investing tens of millions of “his children’s inheritance”?

We know it’s impossible.

But this guy was presenting himself as the saviour of the club, in the same manner Whyte did, with glib assurances painting over blatant bullshit. Remove Dave King and his grandiose and utterly ridiculous promises and isn’t Sevco a club in serious danger of collapse as a going concern already?

It’s his alleged wealth that underpins the “business plan”, the one on which the club getting a UEFA Level License to compete in the top flight next season legally depends … this is right there, in black and white, in the SFA and UEFA rule books.

Wasn’t it important to know where the cash was coming from?

Surely they didn’t just accept all that nonsense about how easy it would be to find “outside investment”?

Who better than Stewart Regan knows how hard that is?

This is a Scottish club that emerged from a liquidation, which is still haunted by a tax scam and wIth no record of posting profits. As Phil is fond of saying, “this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.”

Sevco’s short term business plan is wholly dependent on Dave King’s promised pot of gold, and as we’ve seen even if that exists he’s not going to be able to use it for that purpose, not legally, not by any means that would be palatable to his government or in line with the deal he’s made with them. So where’s the money actually coming from?

Some folk in a position to know assertain that everything about the Hong Kong deal is fishy. That nothing about it really fits. Where the Hell did King find these guys? Why didn’t they “invest” before? Their £5 million could have bought the assets of the club in 2012, so why now? Why have they only now popped up out of the woodwork?

They were initially touted as being “Rangers men.” But they were previously “investors” in Workington Reds, where they were similarly packaged as “fans” investing their cash in an act of love.

It’s not hard to come up with tenuous links between Ross and King, if we wanted to take speculation to absurd heights. Ross works for Baker Tily. They are one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, so it may just be a coincidence that they’ve worked with NOVA. That they’ve got offices in both Hong Kong and Johannesberg. That there are other subtle connections.

But they were also linked with Sevco itself.

In August 2015 they were being touted as the club’s official auditors, and in an odd turn of events Phil reported that a “senior client” of the company had strongly objected to that. He sent them a bunch of questions on the matter, alleging that they’d turned down the opportunity and that Campbell Dallas LLB had been approached instead. As it turned out, they were duly appointed a day or two later.

Although The Offshore Game and the Tax Justice Network guys have had all the ink recently, they’re not the only NGO to have looked into the dark corners of football. In 2009, The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental agency, wrote a report called Money Laundering Through The Football Sector. It is a damning, shocking, and incredibly prescient piece of work.

Since then, of course, Scotland has seen a parade of less than savoury characters troop across the landscape singing The Billy Boys. As one guy on TSFM said recently (and thanks to him, REIVER, for posting a link to the FATF report, “organised crime has its grubby hands in sport all around the world why would Scotland be left out?”

Who says we’ve been left out?

Does any of this even remotely compute at the SFA? Do they give a damn? Can something as potentially damaging as this really happen right under their noses? Of course it could. Because it’s happened already.

I mean, don’t these people have a fiduciary responsibility to scrutinise the means by which a football club comes into millions of pounds?

My God, doesn’t that open the doors wide to corruption on a grand scale?

How do we know clubs aren’t being financed by the proceeds of crime right now?

That there isn’t at least one Scottish club paying its bills with drug money or loan sharking debts or worse? The Ashley loans were at least open and transparent, his company at least reputable if not entirely wholesome.

King couldn’t wait to get Sevco off the stock exchange. We’ve all wondered why. Is it because, as he puts it, that it’s expensive and wasteful of time and effort? Did he really ditch is so he wouldn’t have to fill in a few forms? It’s a lot of inconvienance, including not being able to start a share issue, just to save on the admin costs.

Or was there another reason? A darker one?

One more to do with transparency and openness?

These are just some of the reasons why a scenario like the one I’ve outlined is more than just a flight of fancy and the stuff of the internet Bampot. We have rules here so lax you could get around them in a hundred ways, and it wouldn’t take an international super villain out of a Bond movie to come up with a dozen strategies for pulling it off.

Doesn’t our football association need full transparency about these sort of things?

Isn’t it way past time for fit and proper person criteria to do what it says on the tin?

Isn’t it time for financial fair play to be introduced so stuff like this is impossible and not just unbelievable?

Because the only reason I’m not wholly convinced of this is that it just sounds so absolutely out there and unreal because of all the implications of it.

And that begs one last question; at what point does a failure in governance become complicity?

When does looking the other way graduate to something more serious?

Is wilfully ignoring a possible criminal act not, itself, a criminal offence?

The SFA is a public body. It has responsibilities beyond covering its own backside and that of a certain football chairman.

If the SFA has helped Dave King commit a crime here – either by accident or design – then not only should heads roll but people should be indicted alongside him as co-conspirators or accessories after the fact.

I can’t put it more bluntly.

This policy of “look the other way” when it comes to Ibrox has been disastrous for the club and for Scottish football but we’re on a whole new playing field if a scenario like the one I just proposed ever comes to pass and the authorities find out about it.

People will say this is a crazy suggestion, and at any other association it would be.

As those who’ve been following the Resolution 12 situation though, we know what these folk are capable of.

The SFA knew what Whyte was planning months before he pulled the plug, allowing Rangers to trade whilst insolvent and continuing to run up debts it had no intention of paying.

They allowed the assets of the liquidation to be bought by a company which wasn’t named on the original sales documents, and they gave that company a license.

They allowed Green to sell shares when it was apparent to many they might not be his to sell and they stood back whilst his board of directors investigated itself over links to Craig Whyte, links which had a direct bearing on that share issue.

I have long contended that this might have made them party to a fraud.

Does it still sound unlikely to you?

Americans have a law that I sometimes think would work very well over here; they call it RICO. The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation Act, which seeks to destroy entire groups involved in what the FBI refers to as a “continuing criminal conspiracy.”

Regan, Doncaster and others have gone out of their way to help first Rangers and then the NewCo avoid the scrutiny every other club would get, and through all of it their only defence is to accuse those of us who question it of bias and being motivated by hate.

What’s the line from The Godfather?

“It’s business, not personal.”

This wouldn’t be a shock if it turned out to be true, and people at Hampden who should have known better either averted their eyes or simply pretended it wasn’t happening at all. For people who understand the words “continuing criminal conspiracy” better than most, having assisted Craig Whyte in one, this wouldn’t be personal.

It would just be business as usual.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Resolution 12 Campaign Leaves Sevco Facing A European Ban

1939633_w2This is an article that was almost written last week, but then the need for it was removed at a stroke by a late Hibs goal at Hampden.

Amidst the mayhem that followed that goal, this story was put on the back burner. Events have moved forward this weekend.

For the last couple of years, a group of dedicated Celtic supporters has been working away, diligently, on the matter we call Resolution 12. Much is at stake; the credibility of the game here in Scotland, SFA reform and exposing the truth about some of what was going on during that period.

Yet Celtic fans, and those of other clubs, still appear largely ignorant of the real scale of what’s up for grabs here.

Celtic supporters have long wondered whether or not getting to the roots of this will do much more than embarrass Stewart Regan and his cohort at Hampden.

This was never about embarrassing people.

One of the consequences of it will be removing them from office entirely.

If it’s found that the SFA helped Rangers to deliberately conceal tax payables owed during the UEFA licensing process then that’s the ball game for everyone involved in that matter. They are gone.

But there’s always been another side to this, and some of the Resolution 12 guys have been wholly aware of it for a while, and their legal reps and those at the SFA most certainly are.

Celtic is well aware of it too, and it’s one of the reasons for their reticence in making a public statement. I am glad to be able to make that clear, and it’s something that only came to my own attention in the last weeks.

Let me make something else clear; Celtic has no interest in this beyond establishing the facts. Our club doesn’t want blood here. It’s not the reason the club or fans are pursuing this matter and you know this because at no time have the guys behind Resolution 12 presented demands for that in a public forum, as a stated objective of the campaign.

But it’s always been accepted that if their case is proved that there will be consequences for people.

So what are these consequences and what do they mean for us?

Well I can tell you now that one of them will be Sevco facing a lengthy European football ban.

Yesterday, the Offshore Game published an addendum to their stunning report into these issues, a document which clarified certain issues. But it also mentioned the UEFA disciplinary committee and its remit to punish clubs after the fact.

I’d heard that might be a possibility in this case a week or two ago. I had been planning to write a piece on the day after the cup final, if Sevco had won, but of course that game went far better than many of us had expected.

But the issue is now starting to come to light anyway. People are beginning to open their eyes to the true consequences should Celtic fans and the club manage to compel a UEFA inquiry into these matters.

This explains a few things about the last week, and in particular the reason Sevco is going on the offensive over the level of “hate” they have to endure. For these things are all connected, all entwined, and people at Ibrox are laying the groundwork for a fresh PR campaign in the event their club is hauled before the beaks.

It will be the most important PR offensive in their history.

Over the last couple of years I’ve written extensively on what we refer to as The Victim Myth, but never more so than over the last few days.

That myth has been allowed to grow to monstrous proportions and at the centre of it is the notion that all of Scotland is determined to hurt their club and that we all played a role in the destruction of the OldCo and would happily send the NewCo the same way.

In the last week I’ve written numerous pieces in response to these fantastic and paranoid claims, but as I wrote every word I knew there was more to them than simple self pity.

When you consider that at the same time as this wailing is going on in the background, that board members have been telling the press that the game has to “move on” you see more to their bitching than might at first be plain.

Go ever further, consider that King himself actually openly criticised the Resolution 12 guys earlier this month, accusing them of having an agenda. Why would he say that, if these issues were not able to impact Sevco?

It’s here that you start to see the outlines of what’s really going on behind the scenes.

People at Sevco are worried about this campaign.

Aside from the Victim Myth, the other toxic issue at the centre of Scottish football is that other great lie on which so much of our game is built; the Survival Myth.

Anyone familiar with these issues knows this one is a real article of faith for many of them. In fact, some of them have accused those of us who scotch it of using “dehumanising language” to refer to them.

I call them Sevconians. They object to that word. Others call them zombies. They object to that even more strongly. One demented article from yesterday appeared to compare the atmosphere in Scottish football to that in Nazi Germany with the Sevconians in the role of the Jews.

It’s an offensive idea, and not just because of how over the top and crass it is. After all, there’s only one club in this country who’s fans stand accused of having used the hated salute of Hitler’s despotic regime; I’ll give you a clue. It isn’t Dundee.

These sort of articles are intended to wed the Victim and Survival Myths, and fuse them into one, and they are a recent addition to the Sevco PR arsenal.

Believe me when I tell you that’s not a coincidence.

Until this week, when the Victim Myth was hyper-charged, I had believed the Survival Myth to be far and away the more damaging and corrupting of the two. In some ways it still is, but it’s not as dangerous to wider society as this notion that their support are social pariahs, “denied their human rights” as that hysterical piece yesterday alleged.

The Survival Myth is hateful not only because it denies reality but it places our game in mortal peril. If this is idea is followed to its natural conclusion clubs which overspend will know they can dump debts, reform and carry on as before.

It will allow guys like Whyte to come and go as they please, looting clubs like a business at the centre of a Mafia style “planned bankruptcy” before walking away knowing the football authorities will barely blink an eye.

It would be open season for con artists, charlatans, even organised crime groups, to come in and use Scottish football for all manner of schemes and scams, and we can’t survive the damage that would do.

Yet at the heart of the Survival Myth and its inherent contradictions, I always believed there were dangers for the club itself.

When Mike Ashley’s loans were all that was keeping their lights on and he seemed as if he might get the whole thing in his grip I wrote that the Survival Myth and this daft idea the holding company and the club were two separate things had created a deadly possibility; that the holding company might well end up in the hands of someone who made a similar distinction. With no ownership over its own stadium, image rights, intellectual property or merchandising the club would be no more than animals in a circus, there to provide the entertainment to a dwindling band of followers, with the company cutting accordingly.

I still think it’s the most stupid – and potentially deadly – separation of a football club and the people who run it that I’ve ever heard of.

How close did Sevco come to ending up just like that? At one point Ashley had an iron grip on nearly the lot of it but ironically the club itself was too unsure about its own hold over the stadium to grant it to him as loan security.

What underpins the Survival Myth is the Five Way Agreement and it’s here the current problems for Sevco exist and present the gravest danger should Celtic fans succeed and UEFA open an investigation into the granting of the European license for 2011-12.

Because that document, whilst giving Sevco a “no title stripping” guarantee, also forced them to accept certain things. The key one was that it should assume responsibility for any “football penalties” the SFA chose to levy.

In the end a dirty, grubby deal was done and those penalties amounted to nothing … but it’s in there, in black and white, and nothing anyone does can change it now.

One of the funniest things in all of football is listening to a Sevco fan or journalist try to square the circle of liquidation and death and the “continuation of history.”

The current club is always trying to distance itself from the old one did, but they want all the good bits for themselves.

The SFA tried to ride the middle of the road on the issue too and it still sits uneasily on the perch where they placed it.

The Resolution 12 guys can blow that all to Hell.

If UEFA opens an investigation into these events – as looks increasingly likely – they will ask for all the information that’s in the public domain and a lot more besides. If they conclude that people with-held information from them there will be sanctions.

Some of those sanctions will fall on the SFA, as the licensing body. Associations have been heavily fined by UEFA for their failures to get to the bottom of licensing disclosures.

But UEFA will also punish the club, and that’s where life becomes interesting.

Because they’ll ask the SFA whether it stands by the claim that Sevco and Rangers are one in the same. What the SFA says in response will dictate whether the Survival Myth is reversed or whether its tenants are upheld.

UEFA do not make the club – company distinction, and they never have, but in handing down a punishment they will be guided by SFA conventions. One of the big issues the SFA will face is the legally binding “Five Way Agreement” wherein whatever they argue, they and the club will still be bound by its numerous clauses, one of which is that Sevco will accept any “football punishment” levied on Rangers.

And then there’s the Survival Myth itself. The SFA cannot escape a choice on that and if they uphold the Survival Myth UEFA will drop the hammer on Ibrox and there’s simply no way anyone can mount an argument against it.

The NewCo will be banned from European competition from anywhere between one and three years. There will be little prospect of an appeal, because the only defence Sevco and the SFA will have is the one they have been busily destroying for the past few years, that these actions were carried out by another club.

Just making that argument will burn the Survival Myth to the ground once and for all and fully vindicate all we’ve said these past few years, which is why the SFA and Sevco are going to have no choice but to stick to their guns on this, to pretend the Ibrox club is still Rangers and take whatever’s coming their way. For either organisation to reverse course on this issue now would be devastating for them.

Had Sevco won the Scottish Cup this would have been looming in front of them all summer long. As it is, the issue remains but it’s no longer one that will disrupt anyone’s passport application process.

Yet I fully expect that before next season starts Europe’s governing body will be well on the way to a decision in this matter and that decision may well have horrendous consequences for the Dodgy Dave King business plan, which is heavily reliant on European footballing income for the club’s very survival.

This coming season will be Year 5 away from that stage. It is not inconceivable that Sevco might spend its first decade without ever playing a game on the continental stage, still paying the price for what its predecessor club did.

I personally don’t think that’s fair.

From the beginning I’ve argued that footballing sanctions shouldn’t be applied to Sevco, that it’s a perversion of natural justice to punish one for the sins of the other just because they play out of the same stadium and wear the same jersey … but through all that time I’ve been told that I’m wrong, that I’m motivated by hate, that the clubs are one and the same. The press and the SFA have backed that line to the hilt.

In the bed they’ve made, now let them lie.

A reckoning is coming, as many of us suspected it would.

The Resolution 12 guys didn’t know this when they opened the can of worms.

It wasn’t even on their radar, far less an objective of the campaign.

But Celtic grasped it quickly and part of their low-key public response was based on that. The SFA and Sevco understood it just as fast, which is why the stonewall strategy came first and now the elevation of the Victim Myth goes into high gear, and with it one last plea for people to “forget the past” and move on.

In this case, the past is like a murder victim, lying in a shallow unmarked grave. Sooner or later someone was always going to stumble over it, and then an investigation would start. Whatever evidence there is out there will find its way to the right place and when people in positions of authority start to piece it together we’re going to see a show.

Then punishment will follow, like night follows day.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Sevco Statements & Charlie Cheswick’s Cigarettes

7110692_origImagine a world where the loudest guy in the room always got his way. Imagine a world where logic, rationality, civilised debate and basic human decency played second place, always, to those who could make the biggest nuisance of themselves.

Do you know what a world like that would look like? I think it would look a little bit like Scotland and a lot like Scottish football. I blame many people for that, but I blame the media most of all.

I can already hear Jackson and Keevins and English and others decry that statement, saying that it’s not fair. I care about their poor hurt feelings like I care how a rabid dog feels in the moment it’s being put down. If it stings a little, too damned bad.

Last night, as everyone who follows Scottish football will be aware, Sevco’s official press office released one of the most astonishing and irrational statements ever put out by a major organisation in this country. Vindictive, spiteful, illogical, hateful, bitter, almost rabid itself, this dragged the club into the dark ages, pandering to their worst elements.

Imagine Celtic behaved like this? Imagine our board has released such an inflammatory communique?

Do you remember when we actually made the first efforts at tackling sectarianism? Before Rangers did the same? Our board was criticised just for the name, with one hack suggesting Bhoys Against Bigotry was a bad choice because of the “provocative H.”

Celtic would have been crucified for something as deranged as this.

A major Scottish organisation, one which calls itself an institution, excused the deplorable behaviour of its own followers. It suggested that the rest of Scotland’s football followers are as mad and demented as they are. It elevated paranoia to staggering heights.

It made a mockery of the very idea that those running things there care a jot for the greater good of the sport. If one positive came out of it, and I am clutching at straws here because a statement like that has profound consequences for society, it’s that Stewart Robertson will never be elected to the SFA board whilst others at Ibrox are literally foaming at the mouth.

They will say that proves no-one likes them, but in fact it’ll be for the same reason no-one wants to sit beside the guy on the bus who stinks of old booze and mutters profanities to himself under his breath. Getting too close to madness makes you feel unclean, as if it’s catching, as if it’s infective and you’ll come away from the experience with the bug.

Such was the content of their statement even I expected the Scottish media to hammer them for it today. I should have known better.

I guess my old man’s cynicism was justified. He told me the second the statement was read to him that the media would either ignore it or endorse whole chunks of it. They did both, deciding not to confront the parts that just contained lies whilst making headlines out of the parts that were simply unhinged. It didn’t matter that it specifically targeted some of them, named individuals right out of Jim Traynor’s Wee Black Book Of Guys Who Stole My Parking Place. After all, this was like a crazy woman throwing her shit. It just went everywhere.

The media never rallies around its own and most of them don’t deserve it anyway, as prone as some are to throwing their own colleagues under the bus when it suits.

I know Stuart Cosgrove won’t tolerate this guff and won’t bend. The others? Gutless to a man, with Tom English already furiously backtracking on his balanced comments of earlier when he spread the blame beyond just Hibs fans.

Jackson and the brand of decorative bog roll for which he works went even further, and put outright lies on the front page, lies which were proven to be that within minutes of the first tweet when Kenny Miller’s own wife publicly scotched them.

The claim that not a single Sevco player made it up the tunnel unhurt was a base lie disproved simply by watching the footage. He claimed he got it from a “dressing room source.”

Either his dressing room source is a liar (and the media is not supposed to protect sources who do that, are they?) or Jackson himself is making it up as he goes along; either way, that the story was ever run without the most basic fact checking tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about him and the rag he’s employed by.

It is unconscionable that a national newspaper behaves like this, giving credence and credibility not only to lies but to dangerous lies.

Our media is filled to the rafters with people who commit fraud every time they collect their wages under the auspices of journalism. I object to that, as someone who wants to live in an informed country where facts are important.

But last night, more than I ever have before, I got honestly angry at their conduct, because it went beyond bending facts till the elastic snapped, or pandering in exchange for an easy life. They gave license to lunatics. They endorsed lies that could get someone killed. We’re all supposed to be angry about that. Because that’s important.

That’s too much. This is where we ought to draw the line.

In not offering blanket criticism to that statement last night the media is helping to fuel the Victim Myth which, this weekend, has scaled dangerous heights. Sevco’s statement excused and justified the violent behaviour of its own supporters and no right thinking person in Scotland should be anything but appalled and sickened by that and in doing this they’ve given not simply a nod and wink to the nutcase element of their own support – which needs no encouragement – but they’ve raised a flag for going on the offensive.

Mark my words, this will end up with people hurt, perhaps even dead.

I am going to blame the Sevco board and Keith Jackson and Tom English and others if that happens, every bit as much as I’m going to blame the psychopath holding the knife or the blade or the bludgeon.

The people who gave the go-ahead for that statement, the institutionally hysterical idiot who wrote it and the hacks whose newspapers covered it without wholeheartedly condemning it will have blood on their hands; it’s as simple as that.

About the club itself I’ve said about as much as I intend to say, except that when someone on CQN last night suggested that the article bore all the hallmarks of Chris Graham I wrote, without thinking on it, that it bore all the hallmarks of Charlie Cheswick.

It was only when I took some time to think about it properly that I realised just how apt the analogy actually is.

I had already written, yesterday, that whereas they used to sing “no-one likes us we don’t care” they now wail and whine and wallow in self pity over the same.

But dig a little deeper and you find the reason why.

They were taken apart at times on Saturday.

They are grossly unprepared for life in the SPL, and they actually realise this.

Celtic’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers only makes that more acute. In fact, if you’re looking for a real trigger for the way their fans behaved as the Hibs supporters entered the field, you’re probably going to have to go back a day.

It was the Rodgers appointment that tipped them over the edge. The idea that Celtic was mired in crisis was their fondest wish. The way that was erased in a single announcement clearly drove them past the point of rationality.

But it’s more than that.

Their anger and their outpouring of victimhood is actually self-loathing because what gets to them most isn’t that no-one likes them, it’s that no-one fears them anymore. No-one would pay them any mind but for their constant displays of irrational behaviour.

Celtic has had bad days. When Rangers was winning nine in a row we didn’t have the proverbial pot to pee in or a window to throw it out. Under the Kelly’s and the White’s we were skint and the suffering seemed it would never end. Parkhead had a funereal atmosphere for some games. At others, do you remember what our response to adveristy was?

We sang “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

Our fans weren’t sitting in grubby backstreet boozers poring over “enemies lists” and fantasising about a great dark conspiracy that was holding us back from being all we could be. All that kept us from that was a weak, incompetent board without a business plan. Fergus sorted the place out in under five years, and the good times were rolling again.

Celtic fans, for all we were accused of paranoia, never embraced it the way these people have. We never wore the coat and knitted the sweater to go with it. These people are in a class of their own, and the Victim Myth hangs over Scottish football like a noxious fume.

And they call Celtic fans “obsessed” for pointing this out, and their lack of self awareness has blossomed to the point where they actually believe this, where they do believe that scrutiny is a form of jealousy.

I’ve repeatedly said this, but it bears saying once more; people are always mesmerised by the freak show, by the sight of a drunk guy who’s shit his pants and doesn’t even know it. People slow down to look at car wrecks. The two headed cat is too fascinating to look away from, no matter how it makes your skin crawl and your mind throb.

Charlie Cheswick, from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, played in the movie by the late, great, Sydney Lassick, has a complete emotional breakdown at a group discussion when he brings up the rationing of his cigarettes, which the institution has imposed because he and the other inmates were losing them all to Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy.

He asks for his back, and he starts out pretty calm, even keeping it civil, but before long his request has become a demand, his demand has become a tirade and his tirade has become a full-on screaming fit at the peak of which he’s shrieking over and over again “I want something done! I want something done! I want something done!”

At the heart of his frustration and his madness is his sub-zero self-image and his complete lack of emotional growth or self-restraint flows from that. In that moment, what tips him over the edge is the knowledge that he’s powerless, unable to get what he wants. His screaming tantrum is that of a five year old child who can’t bend the will of a parent, and so erupts in frustration.

A better-rounded individual would have kept calm, confronting the Big Nurse with the reality of her own psychological tic, which is the need, always, to seem in control but he can’t grasp that concept and even if he could he’s not hard-wired to keep cool and thus retain the high ground.

At Sevco all they had to do was act with some dignity and class.

They had the moral high ground, or a big part of it anyway and had they condemned the behaviour of their own fans, had they behaved semi-rationally, had they treated the rest of the game with respect instead of taking a great big piss on all of it last night, they might even have kept some of it.

Instead they started shrieking, and they did it because they feel powerless and alone and stripped of the pomp and swagger they once had. Their own insanity is based on arrogance and this notion that they are superior. The overwhelming tone of that lunatic screed was entitlement. A sense that the world owed them more than they’d got.

They’ve still not even bothered to offer their congratulations to Hibs.

I ask again; imagine that Celtic had acted this way? You suspect the press coverage would have been very, very different.

What a disreputable shower they are.

And that’s what people will remember.

What they don’t seem to realise is that this diminishes them every bit as much as the skelping the Hibs players gave them during the 90 minutes of football. It reduces them further in the eyes of every normal person, and whilst the media might have collectively shit its pants over this the people running the other clubs have had an almighty wake up call, especially with elections coming.

They now know that the team playing out of Ibrox is run by crazy people, by a board that in the cold half-light of the dawning season has the look of twitching, bug-eyed, shaven headed ghouls in a 16th century tavern, men who’ve been out robbing graves all night.

No-one wants to sit next to men who look like that.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Storm Before The Calm

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Death_of_Caesar_-_Walters_37884On 15 March 44BC a group of Roman senators, believing they were striking a blow for freedom, ambushed and murdered one of the most important men in history, Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator, general, politician and statesman.

They had expected the acclaim of the masses. They had killed a tyrant after all.

Instead of celebrations, they were greeted with sullen silence. Caesar’s closest friend, Marc Anthony, capitalised on that. He negotiated a sham peace, and then at the funeral gave an oration that sparked a riot. The assassins fled, for their own safety.

Within two years, everyone involved in the plot to kill Caesar was dead.

The seeds of their stunning downfall had been sown in the act itself. They never stood a chance.

First, the plan had left Anthony alive when the smart thing to do would have been to kill him, and second, and more important, they had reckoned without Caesar, who had chosen his successor with the greatest care.

It was his nephew Octavian, then just 18.

Octavian had all the political skills of Caesar. Although not as fine a general, he was more ruthless than his uncle. Whereas Caesar had spared the lives of many of his political rivals, Octavian executed everyone who wasn’t firmly fixed in his own camp.

Gaius Octavian became Augustus. He transitioned the Roman Republic out of existence, and became the first Emperor, in the ultimate irony as it was the Republic that Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins had killed Caesar to maintain.

Caesar’s assassins would never have killed him had they an inkling of the skills young Octavian possessed, and they would certainly have balked at the act had they known that for years it was the dictator himself who was the key restraining influence on Marc Anthony, who would have had many of them executed far in advance of that deadly day.

The fate of those men is history’s great cautionary tale, but it’s not the only one.

It’s dangerous to carry out an assassination if you’re unsure of what might follow it, and you should never assume you know what that will be.

I think often of the Rangers fans who danced and celebrated Inverness’ stunning victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in August 2000, which led to the sacking of John Barnes.

Had they known what would follow that night I doubt they’d have partied so long or so hard.

Likewise, I know of no Celtic fan who was happy on the day that McCoist fell, or on the day Sevco decided Stuart McCall would not lead them into a full season. We never wanted those men gone; we liked them just fine right where they were.

I know that some of the Sevco fans who danced in the stands at Hampden on Sunday last week did so with a heavy heart; they never wanted to see Ronny Deila fall. Celtic winning the double would have appeased enough supporters, maybe, that the board would have risked keeping him in place for another year. That would have suited Sevco just fine.

As it is, Deila is packing his bags.

Without knowing who’s coming in, it’s hard to say what Celtic will look like this time next year, but one thing is for sure; we’ll be better off for it.

As if watching Deila fall wasn’t bad enough for them, their victory may just have shaken up more than just the dugout.

If it has, then it’s truly been a  Pyrrhic win because the last thing their fans wanted to see was a fundamental shift in the approach at Celtic Park.

Yet to outsiders it still looks like Celtic is in meltdown. The fans are staying away. The board is unpopular and teetering on the brink of crisis. Many of the players are a waste of a jersey. The manager is shockingly inept, with woeful tactics.

And yet … it’s impossible not to see this as the storm before the calm.

And at the end of the storm is a golden sky.

Because Celtic is changing.

This is what change looks like.

It’s painful and it’s dramatic and it’s often scary when you’re in the midst of it.

Even as our slumbering club comes fully awake for the first time maybe in years the club across the city is celebrating victory before the war’s even won … and you know something? I think they’re going to get the biggest shock since Cassius and Brutus stood watching Marc Anthony give the most inflammatory funeral speech of all time.

For one thing, they’re not as good as that media would have you believe. The league table never lies, they say; well try this for size. After the same number of games as Celtic this season they’re not much better off, points wise, than we are. The difference is that we’ve not been playing second tier, even amatuer, teams all season.

The media which lauds them, and the fans who follow them blindly, are labouring under an enormous – and dangerous – misconception, that just because Celtic is stagnant and vulnerable looking that we are somehow as weak as they are.

It’s not true.

Our club is immeasurably stronger than theirs is.

They are mistaking weak leadership for a flaw in the system itself. No such flaw exists. Leadership aside, Celtic is a machine. It’s been running on 20% power, and some have taken that to be the maximum it’s capable of.

This is foolish in the extreme.

The resources at our disposal absolutely dwarf what they can bring to bear.

Our financial position is rock solid. With the right man in the manager’s office and the right strategy behind him we are capable of burying any threat they, or anyone else, is likely to pose.

This is all about the fundamentals, and when you break down the facts and the figures we are in front of them by every accepted standard. We appear less than we are at the moment; a consequence of that appalling management.

Get that part of it right … and this isn’t even a contest.

Let’s take but one example; the stadium.

Our stadium has a higher capacity than Ibrox, and this haunted David Murray all the way through his last years at Rangers. Those 10,000 extra seats represent more than just bragging rights. As Fergus understood full well when he laid the plans for Celtic Park, they confer a huge financial advantage upon us if we can fill them.

With a plan in place to restore us to our rightful status, and the supporters on board with that and returning in numbers, those seats allow us to open up a gap King and his cronies simply cannot bridge, no matter what they do.

Their club is still six years from a favourable merchandising deal.

They are at least ten away from being able to navigate beyond the earliest rounds in Europe, should they ever manage to get there. Without real European income, their chances of catching a Celtic side that has that advantage are somewhere between slim and none. To open up that gap, we have to do our own part but even that isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.

I would suggest that a better manager than Deila would, with the players to hand, have gotten us past Maribor and Malmo and possibly even Legia Warsaw. Those who say our chances of qualifying are getting worse by the year are looking at the world through blue tinted glasses. We had the measure of these clubs. Our squad is better than theirs. Managerial failings are what made the difference.

Even without Champions League qualification next season, however, there should be no question of us failing to reach the Europa League groups at the very least and this, in itself, will put us on another financial plane entirely unless Warburton – completely untested at that level and with a second tier squad of players – was able to achieve the same; unlikely if we’re being generous.

It’s been five years since Rangers was washed away in the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s disastrous reign, but what Whyte did was simply acknowledge the truth that still dare not speak its name; Rangers was a financial basket case.

What we think of as that club’s strength and power was built on sand.

Stripped of the bank funding that allowed their glory years, they fell into complete ruin and then oblivion.

Whatever the club playing out of Ibrox might call itself, no matter what history it might shamelessly and fraudulently claim, the similarity ends with blue jerseys and the logo on them.

I cannot accentuate this point enough, and yet I’ve had to over and over again.

The Rangers we knew never really existed; it was smoke and mirrors, a shadow on the wall. They were never a financial superpower, merely a club whose owner was hyped up and feted by a bank that was out of control in an era when reckless spending seemed almost virtuous. Without the criminal indulgence of Masterton and Cummings there’d have been no nine in a row, no Gazza, no Laudrup.

On its own, Rangers could never have bought these players, and these before EBT’s gave them another advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have had and which is denied to them today.

When Murray and his flexible friend were no longer on hand, that club was only heading one way;

“Express elevator to Hell … going down.”

Without a sugar daddy in charge, this was inevitable and if Sevco is ever to scale those heights it’s going to take another one to get them there.

And those are in short supply.

In the meantime, as King goes cap in hand to his fellow directors and Paul Murray pulls up the sofa cushions looking for loose change, over at Celtic Park, a long dormant engine is growling back into life. The gears may need a little grease and some of the spark plugs might need replacing, but this machine is essentially sound and when it gets rolling it will be a ten ton tank next to their refurbished Vauxhall Velox. Oh they can pretty up theirs as they like, but when the time comes we’re going to drive our war machine right over it.

But first, a period of turmoil when to the outside world it will look like we’re mired in crisis.

To Brutus and Cassius, Marc Anthony’s political manoeuvring must have looked a little like that, like the scrambling of a desperate man, determined to hang on to what little he had left in the world.

They were wrong, as so many of those looking at Celtic are wrong.

They ought not to feel bad when the reversal of all they thought they knew finally comes about. The historical tendency of those who win a major victory is to believe it’s the same as winning the war.

One of the most potent examples was on 7 December, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, achieving as they saw it the conditions that would allow them dominion over the Pacific.

One senior admiral knew it was not so, and although there’s no evidence he used the words which are often ascribed to him, Yamamoto’s foreboding proved warranted. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Sevco fans, take note.

Celtic is awake. You’re the ones who did it.

Enjoy your moment.

For you, this is the calm before the storm.

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Crimes, Capers & Panama Papers

dermot-desmond-moriarty-tribunals-752x501I get a lot of stuff in my inbox, as you can well imagine.

Some of it is ridiculous. Some of it is so bad it’s almost sublime.

One such email came through just yesterday and in it the writer regaled me with his warped view that I am a hypocrite for “ignoring the biggest story in Scottish football today”. He even shared with me some details, in case it had passed me by.

This was, of course, a reference to The Panama Papers, one of the biggest data leaks in history, revealing the details of the super-wealthy and their offshore tax avoidance schemes. This scandal has already brought down the governments of Brazil and Iceland. This time last week it had David Cameron teetering on the brink.

Amidst those papers was a certain name.

It was Dermot Desmond, of course, and my correspondent thought that this was somehow a stain on the image of Celtic and Scottish football, not to mention a heinous crime against society for which restitution had to be made.

These people are barmy. We all know that. Moments like this help to remind us that they’re also stupid, and it’s important that we remember that going forward. These goofy fools have spent years looking for the “smoking gun” that will prove to the world that Celtic is as corrupt as their club used to be and which their NewCo still is.

They’ve looked into land deals which go nowhere and bank loans which show nothing and relationships which don’t prove anything other than that Celtic has enormous clout and the respect of many people in many different fields, including politics, big business, banking and other areas where Sevco’s gore flaked fingers can’t reach.

I try to imagine the joy some of them must have felt on hearing the news that our majority shareholder was “caught up” in this. This would, if proved, be the catalyst for our total disaster. It was all too easy, in their fevered, febrile, minds to imagine Desmond being hounded by the tax authorities until his business empire collapsed, and the crippling debts drowned Celtic in a sea of red ink.

Everything would follow on from there; a global call-out for buyers to save us. None would come. A hastily put together attempt at a “pennies in the pound” CVA. Which would be refused. The SFA being faced with a world without Celtic. They would want to find us a safe berth. (Why do I doubt that?) But Sevco, newly powerful, would use every bit of its influence to relegate us to the bottom division. Our club would be judged dead until someone bought the bits. Somehow those bits wouldn’t include the history. (Yes, it would be interesting to watch them have to try and square that circle). We would end up scrambling our way up from the dust, weak, humiliated, to know how they felt.

You can see how this would unfold in their heads, and we know it would go just so because they’ve spent so long during the pursuit of the “state aid” case sharing their fantasies with those of us who needed a good laugh. Always it went something like that, the uncovering of some fact, some evidence, some shattering secret and then the domino effect that brought it all down.

Amazing, isn’t it?

The people who couldn’t find out Craig Whyte was a dodgy geezer, even after we’d shown them the paper trail and it had been on the BBC … suddenly they are super-sleuths, digging into public records and finding out secrets.

Except, as with the state aid “investigation” and the one involving the Co-Operative Bank, there really isn’t a hell of a lot to see here.

For one thing, there’s no suggestion – none whatsoever – that Dermot Desmond has violated any laws. It’s not even clear that what he did involved money. Oh I have no doubt whatsoever that Dermot Desmond is fully acquainted with tax avoidance mechanisms galore, but this particularly case doesn’t seem to involve cash, which one wouldn’t expect from a scandal with a guy who’s wealth is in the actual (as opposed to imaginary) billions.

In fact, all the Papers seem to “accuse” him of is being represented by a law firm, and having his name in some of their leaked documents. Not exactly the crime of the century, or indeed a crime at all if we’re being straight to the point.

Desmond and his business history has long been the focus of the Peepul and their Goon Squad.

They reference many issues in his past, appearances in front of tribunals and Law Lords almost beyond count. But every businessman of his means has those trials to endure. Not once have they demonstrated any skulduggery, although they allege plenty of it. They are lucky he doesn’t bother with internet tittle-tattle, or one suspects they’d be on the fat end of a very big libel lawsuit.

But still, these off-base nutjobs continue to look for some evidence that will cast doubt on him, and therefore cast some sort of cloud over Celtic. They never stop looking but never seem to find anything, and I know it frustrates them immensely.

Their latest accusation is that our club’s good work in Haiti is somehow linked to the Clinton Foundation … that’s right, to the charitable organisation run by the ex-President of the United States and his wife, the former US Senator and current Secretary of State and the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party in November.

And what’s wrong with that?

Well, according to these geniuses that Foundation is mired in scandal.

What kind of scandal?

Who the Hell knows what goes on in their tiny minds, but it’s apparently not a big enough scandal for the US press and the Republican Party, who, you’d think, have got to be looking for this kind of stuff. Maybe the Sevco Brains Trust really has gone where they won’t, but knowing a little about this subject it’s hard for me to believe. The Clinton’s have only been at the sharp end of US politics for thirty years, and in that time people have been looking. Some of them haven’t stopped. If Karl Rove didn’t find the killer fact, Chris Graham ain’t gonna.

Not that any of it matters, because it’s all smoke to distract from the real crooks and we didn’t need a leak like The Panama Papers to know who they are.

There’s David Murray for one, a peer of the realm, whose companies were wound up earlier this month owing £200 million and upwards. The glib press release that went out in accordance with this said the bank was the “sole creditor” which is all nice and neat except the bank was, until recently, owned by the tax payer.

And this is why none of my correspondent’s ridiculous email stands up even to the most minor scrutiny and why it doesn’t amount to a scandal no matter how much he wishes it did.

For starters, Dermot Desmond is domiciled in Ireland.

His tax affairs are a matter between him and the Irish government, as Dave King’s were between him and the government of South Africa, and whilst Desmond might make the most of the legal framework which exists to stop any rich individual paying their share there’s nothing to suggest he’s considered a crook by the tax authorities at home.

The same cannot be said for the current Sevco chairman.

So there is no criminality involved in what Desmond has done, and where the tax payer gets a raw deal is something for the Irish government to sort out. It doesn’t make him an improper person to sit on the board of Celtic, and it doesn’t cost UK taxpayers a dime.

King has criminal convictions.

Murray quite literally built his club with money that belonged in your pockets and mine.

Even a complete fool sees the differences between these people.

And in case it needs further spelling out, here’s where the argument really falls on its fat, lazy arse.

Celtic was neither built with, nor depends on, the largesse of Desmond or anyone else. So even if there was a smoking gun out there … it wouldn’t impact on our club one bit.

Desmond is our majority shareholder. That’s all. He’s not a sugar daddy. We are a self-sufficient club. We don’t need him to pay our bills as they come due. Not a penny of the cash Desmond makes from his other businesses flows into Celtic Park.

Our club’s money is clean. Our foundations are not built on debt dumping or screwing over the taxman and, by default, the taxpayer.

I don’t like Dermot Desmond. I don’t like his attitude, the way he influences policy at Celtic Park and I don’t particularly like the people he’s helped pick to run the club. I think he, and some of them, are a stain on our reputation. I wish he’d pack his pencils and beat it, selling his shares to someone who gives a damn and doesn’t see them as a vanity purchase.

I don’t want his money and I never have.

What’s more, I don’t like any of these rich, greedy bastards who don’t want to pay their share when all around us cuts are being made to important public services both here and abroad. The Daily Record published an article today on how the taxman is chasing former players at Celtic and Rangers, as well as at least one who’s odds-on to play in Sunday’s game with Sevco.

What does Jackson expect us to say about that? If these people tried to dodge tax then they deserve everything they get regardless of the shirt they wear or wore. All these people ought to be brought to book, no matter who, no matter where.

But that wasn’t my correspondents point.

His point was that Desmond’s name was in those papers and that was as good as Celtic’s name being in there.

He wasn’t interested in taxpayers in Ireland or here.

He wasn’t concerned with debtors or creditors or the little guy being stiffed by the one who could afford the high priced lawyers.

What individuals do is up to them, and Hell mend them when Hector comes calling.

But Celtic has nothing whatsoever to do with any of it.

This was about one-upsmanship and our football club, and HMRC can chase whomever they want but the football club itself has kept clean, and it’s played by the rules, and it has met its responsibilities both to the football governing bodies and to wider society. It has accepted lean years and bad results because the alternative was to in some way cheat, whether that was financial doping or the bending of rules.

Our club wasn’t built on credit, or defrauding the taxman, it wasn’t sunk by debts. Nor was it like their NewCo, born in disgrace, from the shattered remains of a fraud, founded by men of highly questionable character, and which is now run by a crook.

I told my correspondent all of this, of course.

You know what he said?

He said tax fraud wasn’t a real scandal and then went on to reference … Hell, you all know what he went on to reference.

There’s something wrong with these people, don’t you think?

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Keith Jackson & A Corpse By The Road

c84ac210c673e30ec0698dad83800a2fFor those of you out there who enjoy nothing more than settling down with a loved one for a Saturday night movie, there are certain genres best avoided and within those genres a number of movies which stand out as to be definitely left alone.

One of them is an American “made for TV” film called The Day After. It’s an internationally acclaimed piece of cinema, despite its birth-place on the small screen. That’s because of the subject matter, which no Hollywood studio would touch or ever has.

The movie’s about the consequences of a full-on nuclear strike against the US.

You can imagine this film, without having seen it.

The reality of watching it is much worse (and the British version, Threads, is even worse than that … a searing, harrowing, horrendous, nightmare inducing experience like nothing you’ll ever watch); it’s a film for making you genuinely despair about where we might be headed as a species.

At the end of the movie, Jason Robards is travelling to Kansas City, where he’s from, to see his home one last time before he dies. He hitches a ride with a National Guard unit and in the back of the truck he embarks on a tour of Hell itself.

Yet he barely sees the corpses by the road.

By that point, no-one really does anymore.

Scottish football was supposed to look a little bit like that today.

At the weekend, when Aberdeen came back from a goal down with ten men to win three points at Ross County it was another one of those moments when you marvelled at how good the Scottish game might become again.

But Aberdeen was supposed to be like Hearts, Motherwell, St Johnstone, Kilmarnock and Inverness by this time; a hollowed out shell.

Nothing but a corpse by the road.

How different the picture is to the “Armageddon” they presupposed.

Today Keith Jackson has written a piece about how Scottish football is, as he puts it, emerging from a “long winter.”

I don’t know that he’s thinking about the nuclear sort, but I suspect he is. Because one of the foremost traits our media and the governing bodies have is that when it comes to Armageddon none has ever admitted just how wrong they got it.

Over the last four years, most of our senior clubs have wiped out their debts.

Another thing that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Those debts were supposed to have wiped out them.

The trophies have been spread around.

I don’t like it much, and would rather we’d won the lot of them, but it’s given other teams a taste of glory that has spurred them on.

Attendances are up almost across the boards; the one notable exception is at Celtic Park, where there are reasons a lot of fans are staying away that have nothing to do with “no Rangers in the league” … I would bet that only a mere handful of fans gave up their tickets with that specific scenario in mind.

Our issues go deeper than that.

The game itself is alive, vibrant, healthy … but that’s not how Jackson and others see it.

Apparently we’re only now emerging from a dark period during which “the national sport has been effectively neutered and robbed of its own self-esteem.”

What arrogant, sanctimonious, Sevconian bollocks.

We all know what would have destroyed Scottish Football’s self-esteem.

It was the course of action Jackson and others were urging on the game in 2012; that we allow a brand new club built from the ashes of scandal and disgrace to assume a place in the top flight of our sport – automatically – simply because it bore the name “Rangers.”

Jackson hasn’t noticed that the game has rolled on quite nicely without the Ibrox club, because in his own mind (you can hear it, rattling, in there like a pea in a tin cup) he actually does see the wreckage, the shattered wasteland, the corpses piled up like firewood, the rubble of what was once our national game, twisted and broken.

He sees these things because he has tunnel vision and because he just can’t focus beyond the boundaries of Ibrox, where there really has been Armageddon, and where that wreckage can be seen clearly.

No other club has failed to adapt to the new shape of football like Sevco, still clinging to a corpse, still struggling to accept the new reality, which is that not only did no-one mourn them, but no-one missed them either.

There, there really has been a “neutering” and a “loss of self-esteem”; the end of financial doping on the scale Rangers once pioneered.

The humiliations which have pounded Sevco relentlessly in the past four years were all made within its own walls, and the next crisis to engulf them will, likewise, come from there. These are the profound consequences of their having built a club with a superiority complex that bore no relationship to its place in the real world.

The dark winter there isn’t even close to being over yet.

Jackson has talked, today, about how that club is now entering a “period of normality” again.

I agree with him.

With convicted criminals on the board, looming court cases, allegations of tapping, unsettling players at other clubs, soft loans to keep on the lights, sources of short term funding with decidedly dodgy backgrounds, non-payment of bills, a swelling egotism and the typical fawning of the media, things there are about as “normal” as they can be.

Other clubs might regard all this as decidedly abnormal, but this is Sevco, and of course Sevco is different, operating in a different reality and playing by very different rules.

The more things change around here, the more they stay the same. The media obsession with this club continues unabated and the re-writing of history goes hand in hand with reframing the present into whatever shapes suits the Ibrox club the best.

Today’s article suggests that Celtic have missed a club calling itself Rangers in their league, but then ponders why we would loan a player to Hibs who might stand in the way of them getting there, as though this is really a mystery and not the confirmation of everything Celtic supporters and our board have been telling these people for years now.

We do not want a team from Ibrox playing in the top flight.

We’re not remotely interested in the media-hyped, hate-fuelled “rivalry” that is so necessary to the survival of the Sevco operation.

We hated that warped creation even when it was partly grounded in history, that of Rangers; we have zero intention of getting behind a Frankenstein’s Monster version of it founded on all the old hatreds the game here is better leaving behind, but turbo charged by the twin engines of the Survival and Victim Myth’s that are so prevalent in the excretal articles Jackson and others have produced and are still producing to this day.

This disconnect from reality is more greatly expressed in Jackson’s closing paragraphs, where he says Sevco will complete two signings this week (on no greater information than Mark Warburton suggested it at the weekend), that of Michael O’Halloran (who St Johnstone are saying won’t be allowed to leave for the current, derisory, offer) and a Brentford midfielder who’s own club is less than pleased at how Sevco have gone about their business.

But of course, the Ibrox club will “get their men” without “being held to ransom”, as if it was the two other clubs who were somehow at fault for not wanting to part with their own players for insulting sums.

This is the type of language that flows out of Ibrox; this is the type of language the media uses to frame the terms of the debate.

Jackson says these signings will “cost the guts of £1m in transfer fees”; the biggest piece of artificial inflating since Jordan went in for her last boob job. It will, he goes on to say, “provide solid proof Dave King and his board are not just cleansing their club but also have the wherewithal to properly fund Mark Warburton’s rebuild.”

I don’t know which part of that I found most hilarious, or a bigger insult to our collective intelligence; the notion that a convicted crook who’s keeping on the lights by the non-payment of bills and taking soft loans from other dodgy geezers is “cleansing” the place or that it proves King has “the wherewithal” to fund a series of major transfers.

Neither of those things is remotely true.

I often marvel at the ability our media has to distort reality and see only the parts of history that suit them whilst ignoring the rest.

Today, Scottish football is in the best health it’s been in for a long time.

Four years of work at the clubs has produced real reasons to be optimistic.

Jackson is right about that.

But he conflates these things with “the rise” of Sevco in sheer ignorance of the fact that our top flight is thriving without them in it, that it will continue to thrive if they fail to get promotion … and that all of this flies in the face of what we were told to expect.

When it comes right down to it, Jackson and others still see the destruction as if it actually happened.

That’s what they wanted and it’s what they expected.

What the rest of us see are cool blue waters reaching out from white sandy beaches.

If there’s a corpse by the road, somewhere up there beyond the dunes, it’s that of Rangers itself.

Across from us, down here on the sands, though, are two guys walking on either side of a dead body, supporting it in a despereate effort to pretend it’s still a living person, waving the arms, nodding the head, trying to make the bizarre and illogical seem … normal.

This isn’t The Day After.

It’s Weekend At Bernie’s.

And the joke is on Jackson and those who refuse to see that simple truth.

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The Internet Bampots: Right From The Start

craig-whyte-rangers-court_3345309Last night, as I was reading over the incredible catalogue of crimes with which former Rangers and Sevco directors are being charged, something dawned on me.

None of this would ever have come to pass – not Whyte, not Green, perhaps not even King – but for the contempt in which many in the media and in the game’s governing bodies once held (and some still hold) the Internet Bampots.

Yet today, I feel more than a small degree of satisfaction; indeed, I feel fully vindicated in almost everything I’ve spent the last few years writing.

In some ways that’s enough.

It’s time we got some acknowledgement though.

I understand that there are legal minefields here in which I don’t want to tread. That’s the reason Part 3 of my overview of how Rangers and the SFA almost destroyed Scottish football has been delayed so long. It’s not that I lost the thread of it or couldn’t be bothered writing it; much of it is already done. The rest … well, the events Part 3 charts are in the court system at the moment and I’m being careful not to write a word that second guesses those proceedings.

I’m going to be careful here too.

But there are things that I can say with absolute certainty.

Not one single person connected to Scottish football is now in even the slightest doubt that Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the cohort that trooped through Ibrox in the years from 2011 – 2015 did enormous harm to the institutions of Rangers and Sevco.

Not one single person does not believe that some sections of an almost overwhelmingly subservient, cheerleading, wholly ineffectual media was not at least partially responsible for the chaos that has followed, by lending credibility to men who otherwise would have had none.

And not one single person with the remotest interest in the sport here is in the slightest doubt that had the SFA and the SPFL taken their own regulatory roles more seriously that none of these guys would have been within miles of a major Scottish football club.

As a lawyer might say, “these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.”

The only people who can emerge from this with their heads held high are the fans, and in particular the online community who went where the press and the authorities didn’t want to go and who dug into Whyte and then Charles Green.

I’m going to do a few pieces on the coming case, obviously, but for the moment I just want to look at the basic charge sheet, the top sheet, not the more detailed indictment.

In broad terms there are three principle sections to it; 2010 until February 2012, February 2012 until the assets of the liquidated and defunct Rangers were purchased by Green and what followed on afterwards.

From the first, the Internet Bampots were onto Whyte.

Some in the media would rather ignore that.

The governing bodies have turned doing that into an art form.

Some in the media, at least, started nicking our stories and actually pushing them, although claiming exclusives they weren’t entitled to. The governing bodies waited until Whyte had already put on his show, dragged Scottish football through the mud and put a boot print on the national shirt before they did something about it, expressing their surprise the whole while.

According to the indictment, Craig Whyte is being charged with wilfully putting the club into administration, in order to leave behind creditors and emerge debt free.

It would take a neck of solid brass to pretend that comes as a shock to anybody, because he was quite upfront about it right from the beginning, and as the Bampots know well he even told the governing bodies about his plans.

If what he’s done is a criminal offence – and a court will decide that in good time – then it’s not hard to make a case that, based on information in the public domain, Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan should think themselves awful damned lucky they aren’t there in the dock with him, indicted alongside the rest, as co-conspirators.

Above and beyond what he told them himself, Whyte had a string of failed and liquidated businesses behind him, and we pointed this out, with many tweeting Regan at the SFA directly with their findings.

Beyond that, there was actual, verifiable, credible information in the public domain a full four months before the club entered administration, and it was put there by Mark Daly of the BBC, laying out Whyte’s previous MO in some detail.

At the time, not one other media outlet was demanding a fuller exploration of those accusations; indeed, many of his contemporaries in the print media sneered at him, and some of them continue to do so to this day.

But he had the full throated support of, and respect from, the Bampots.

I’ll tell you what I think of Mark Daly;

Scottish football is enormously indebted to him and the team who worked with him on those documentaries, because without them I am convinced – 100% – that Craig Whyte would still be at the helm of a football club calling itself Rangers, whether visibly or working behind the scenes. Oh the hacks might have dug around and found some of it, but Graham Speirs has already told us they knew things they never published because they didn’t want to be seen to have been the people who brought the regime down.

Sure as Hell, nobody in any position of authority wanted to hear us.

We know that because at Hampden they weren’t even really listening to him.

In fact, evidence suggest that not only did our governing bodies know this was going on but they wholeheartedly backed it, as Neil Doncaster himself said on 18 May 2012, when he dismissed the difference between a CVA and a liquidation as an “irrelevance” and said the “attitudes of creditors” should not matter to football governing bodies when dealing with financially stricken clubs.

He went on to say that whilst he didn’t think it was “right” for clubs to dump their debts and emerge unscathed on the other side that “it happens” and he had no problem with it. He had his facts badly wrong when trying to name clubs who had done it – the two examples he gave of clubs which had gone the NewCo route were Leeds and Palace, none of whom actually did – but few can be in any doubt that he wasn’t concerned in the slightest by the sheer immorality of it, or the dangers it posed to Scottish football in the long term.

He ought to have been sacked there and then.

His continued employment is a source of enormous frustration and offence to many people and I long since concluded that he can only be there because he still retains the confidence of our clubs, which means that on some level many of them do support this utter nonsense and don’t want to see him replaced by someone with a different view.

Indeed, this time last year I published a piece called A Moment Of Clarity, after he’d started 2015 with a scandalous interview which turned football reality in Scotland on its head.

I thought, then, that his comments were so absolutely ridiculous that he couldn’t possibly survive them … but a year on down the line, there he is, still in his office.

His presence there is about to heap scandal on disgrace.

He and Regan better understand this; they are our great piece of “unfinished business” and their part in this isn’t going to be simply ignored or airbrushed out of all memory. This is what these two will be remembered for, long after they’ve left office.

We are going to keep on highlighting these issues until they’re both gone, and then far beyond, because their conduct can’t be allowed to escape scrutiny and the verdict of history, otherwise their behaviour becomes a reflection on the wider game here.

They would have flushed sporting integrity down the pan in 2012.

Only the intervention of the fans stopped that.

If Craig Whyte eventually gets up, in open court, and talks about how Doncaster and Regan knew exactly what he was up to the whole time then that’s catastrophic. That’s a FIFA style scandal on our own doorstep, and the world will know it.

The reputational damage to our sport that the allegation itself will do … even if it’s never examined in greater detail … enormous.

The directors of the other clubs have to know some of what we do; are they waiting for legal proceedings before acting to safeguard the game?

Shouldn’t the chairmen themselves be asking for an independent inquiry, not into Whyte and Green but what the governing body CEO’s really knew about events at Ibrox?

I can’t put it more bluntly than to say that these two men and their continuing presence at Hampden represents an existential risk to the reputation of our sport … and the more you dig into the charge sheet the more serious it starts to look for them.

And once again, the Internet Bampots were signposting the way.

There isn’t one Celtic site whose writers and contributors were not asking questions, from the off, about the manner in which Charles Green emerged, as if from nowhere, to bid for the assets of OldCo Rangers. The antennae were twitching from the moment his name was first mentioned and it didn’t take long before numerous links between Whyte and Green were established.

Those links are unmistakably real; there’s not the slightest debate about them and no rational person with a scintilla of knowledge about these matters actually believes these two men didn’t know each other beforehand.

It might not have been Paul McConville who first starting asking questions about Sevco 5088 and its relationship to a company called Sevco Scotland Ltd, but he certainly wrote a series of outstanding, and deadly, pieces on that subject.

Not one newspaper article ever ran asked the questions those articles demanded.

The SFA never once issued a statement on them.

Those question have been ongoing since mid-2012 and were ignored by governing bodies and media outlets alike, although then and now they were enormously significant. I myself posed some of those questions when Green announced the share issue, and Whyte emerged to allege that he’d had some role in setting Sevco up.

Plenty of us were asking those questions.

No-one wanted to answer us.

The media blanked them, or accused of us being fantasists.

The governing bodies … well, I have no idea how they felt about the possibility that they might have assisted in the perpetration of a fraud, but as far as I can see the road would be wide open, in the result of guilty verdicts, for not only the creditors of OldCo Rangers to sue them but for those who bought shares under Green to do so as well.

See, that’s something else no-one else ever explores; the SFA and the SPL/SPFL are regulatory bodies … it is their legal responsibility to assure that the highest standards of corporate governance are being observed by their member clubs.

It’s not enough for them to step back and let those clubs police themselves; this is why fit and proper person criteria exists in the first place, it’s why punishments are handed down for those who violate it.

(Unless those people are connected to Ibrox, which is sort of the point.)

The Pinsent Mason report is an outrage the club should never have been able to get away with, and not one of the Celtic blogs was silent in calling that an embarrassment and a disgrace. That reeked, and it reeks today, especially in light of these court cases.

Anyway, ignorance of these matters – even if we believed they were ignorant – might not be enough to save them from legal consequences, and a judicial inquiry at least.

I repeat; they had, and still have, a duty to do their homework, and not simply abdicate that responsibility to those who run those the clubs. The clubs themselves should be holding them to account for loss of earnings and reputational damage … and I don’t know why they don’t.

And far from learning lessons from those events the SFA continues to ignore its duties, even today.

No-one is asking whether Sevco is technically trading whilst insolvent, and the backgrounds of those who’ve given them the latest loans to keep on the lights aren’t deemed worthy of comment in the press, far less an investigation at Hampden.

Once again, only The Bampots seem interested in what is obviously a major story.

If that money had been dropped off at Ibrox in cash, the proceeds of a heist … Jesus, are we to believe Doncaster and Regan would simply have shrugged their shoulders and deemed that a matter for the club itself to look into?

What kind of people are these?

The technical term for this is “institutional failure”, and on the larger stage it’s what brought us the banking crash of 2008, in which the roots of Rangers’ demise and all these issues can be found.

Ignorance isn’t what happened anyway; what actually happened is partly to be found in the nearly universal contempt for the bloggers that existed then and which will we continue to struggle against in our quest to be taken more seriously.

The governing bodies were well aware of all this stuff at the time, and the media were too.

Enough people on Twitter and elsewhere were sending them links and stories and telling them what we’d found out, and what we were speculating on.

Either the governing bodies decided these issues weren’t worth looking into or they knew more than people were aware, and didn’t like us rocking the boat.

The media refused to take us even remotely seriously, and that was because they didn’t acknowledge us as worthy participants in the debate.

Nobody is laughing at us now.

Nobody underestimates our role.

I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, and I now make a tentative living out of it because of the support some of the readers are able to provide – and I’m beyond grateful to all those who do. Between that and the ads I manage to make this thing work.

As a consequence, I can now devote myself full-time to the task of analysing these issues and others like them, to research and explore evidence no matter where it comes from.

I never expect to make the money a “journalist” at The Daily Record would; if I was interested in that I’d be pursuing it properly as a career, but knowing that I’d have to give up my independence and the right to say what I wanted.

Money isn’t everything. As long as I can pay my bills as they fall due I’m a happy camper, because I’ve come to love this stuff and it gives me the freedom to pursue my grander goal which is to make my way as a writer of fiction. (If I can ever finish the second novel!)

Likewise, I don’t do it for glory because there’s precious little of that when I have to be hypercritical of my own club at times; on those horrible days this feels like shovelling shit uphill … or raking leaves in the rain, if I might use one of my own actual experiences to emphasise the point.

Like other guys, I do this because it’s often fun, it’s intellectually challenging and finally because it’s nice to feel part of a wider endeavour and a community all dedicated to the same stuff.

More than that, I genuinely believe this is important.

What I do, what James Doleman’s been doing, what The Clumpany does, what Paul Brennan has been doing even longer than me, what sites like VideoCelts produce every day … this stuff matters.

This isn’t just a Scottish football story … Rangers was a major social institution, and what happened – what was allowed to happen – within its walls for decades, preceding even these events, was outrageous and an affront to more than just sport.

We’re not PR factories, spinning facts and twisting reality.

We’re in nobody’s pockets and nobody’s employ.

We write what we see in front of us, without fear or favour – and I do this about politics in Scotland as well as on football – without taking our cue from others.

None of us expects to win awards, nor great wealth, nor any special status doing what we do.

We have the respect of our peers and the thanks of a great many people who like to be informed and entertained without the media’s PR filter and that’s enough. On most days.

Beyond that, we don’t ask for or want anything at all.

But today, reading the charge sheets against a bunch of people we’ve spent the better part of five years warning Scottish football against, and seeing the catalogue of offences which bear a striking resemblance to those we were asking questions about before even the Fraud Squad got to them, it would be nice if we got some acknowledgement for it.

It would be nice if we got some credit from those who treated us with such appalling disdain.

Because whether these cases end in guilty verdicts or not, these issues, which we were told weren’t worth bothering about, were serious enough to have warranted a trial.

The questions we were asking, and which so many were ignoring, were prescient enough and forensic enough, to have merited police and judicial attention.

The evidence we were digging for, examining, and highlighting in the hope those with the resources and the reach to do it justice, or in the hope that the governing bodies would take note and move to avert the consequences for our sport – and those consequences are coming – and which those people sneered at or refused to even look at … well they had the substance to start the machinery of legal proceedings.

In short, I do believe, verdicts notwithstanding, that we’ve been vindicated in full.

It would be good if our critics acknowledged that simple truth.

The Internet Bampots.

Right from the start.

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)

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Sevco: Survival Of The Unfittest

Wolf_chasing_rabbitA few days ago, during the Steam Christmas Sale, I bought a brand new game for the PC. It cost me £7, and rarely have I gotten such satisfaction from spending so little.

It’s a quirky wee title, called The Long Dark, which is a reference to the inevitable moment when the game kills you.

It always does. The game is a survival simulator, with the single objective to last as long as you can. My record thus far is four days.

Last time I died I was sitting in an ice fishing hut on a frozen lake, during a blizzard. I had nothing to light a fire with, and no way of getting the quarter mile or so back to my camp because I’d been attacked by a wolf and he was still out there somewhere.

The game is full of “safe places” where you can hide out from the weather. There ought not to be any need, ever, for me to have slipped into the Long Dark in that tiny hut. The reason I was there was simple enough; I needed to fish because I had no food left and even with the wolf attack, I would have been fine had I been able to get a heat.

What this game does is brings survival down to a few key things. It becomes a constant struggle for resources; for the stuff to feed you, for stuff to burn, for the medicines that will knock down a wolf-bite infection and keep you alive a little longer.

It has a certain savage beauty to it.  I really do love it, and although it’s only in Alpha, and not yet complete, the designers have made something that is astoundingly simple to get to grips with yet amazingly complex at the same time and even in its current state it plays like a full title. Seriously, if you like games I’d recommend it to you all.

I was delighted that in this game I found my theme for what, aside from the weekend’s dire Celtic performance and the need to address issues at my own club before I wrote a single word about the one across the city, would have been my first major article of the year.

It’s been clear to many of us for a while now that Sevco was in serious danger of slipping into The Long Dark, and the Festive Period was remarkable for the way in which the news of their latest series of loans was spun, as somehow something positive.

In the game, you, the wildlife and every item you can discover is generated randomly at the beginning, and scattered across the various locations on the map. You never know where you’re going to wind up at the start or what you’ll find in each place you explore, but as a rule of thumb you’ll always find stuff in any dwelling you stumble across.

It’s possible, therefore, to get by the first couple of days in-game simply by travelling from place to place if you’ve got a good idea where to head. But that doesn’t last, because before long you’ve found every soda can and every chocolate bar there is left to find (unless you stumble upon the fabled bunker, which I haven’t yet, and who’s location is also randomly generated) and the struggle against the elements and the wolves starts for real.

But yeah, for a few days at least that “plan” can get you by …

And that’s exactly where Sevco is right now; like the protagonist of The Long Dark, moving from place to place, scrounging whatever meagre sustenance he can find, not with long term goals or ideas – and those are possible in the game, when you’ve taught yourself how to trap wildlife, how to make rudimentary weapons and to use snow for drinking water – but simply to survive in the short term. To get through the next few desperate days.

I’ve said this before, but in light of yesterday’s piece I figured I better say it again; in spite of my concerns that “the strategy” at Celtic Park is taking us backwards, it doesn’t threaten our survival in the short to medium term. Long term, it’ll need to change if the club is to maintain season ticket sales, but that’s for down the road.

The truth is, we can downsize some yet to keep up with falling crowds and I get the impression a lot of our fans wouldn’t care as long as they had Celtic Park to go to every week; that’s up to them, and I’m not about to criticise them for loving their team, although I honestly wish they would extend myself and other fans the same basic courtesy.

But even as a critic, I have to admit that our strategy is cautious, pragmatic, risk-averse and it’s intellectually consistent and with a coherence that’s hard to deny. No wonder it still looks like the smart way to go for a lot of our supporters.

We’re looking ahead further than just a day or two at a time.

Sevco has no long term plan, just short-term loans. There’s no real sense that they are moving in the right direction; they’re simply staying alive, living one day at a time, a hand to mouth existence that will work just so long as the next cabin on the lake has enough tomato soup cans in it to alleviate that particular worry for a little bit longer.

As Chuck Palahniuk says, in Fight Club (the quote appears as one of the loading screens in the game, which I was delighted with) “Sooner or later, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero …” That’s a universal truth, but external forces can rapidly speed up the process.

I can’t understand the general outpouring of relief, and even some delight, in the press over this news. The phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul” comes to mind and that’s to say nothing about the “dodgy geezers” they borrowed the money from in the first place. I don’t even want to speculate on how wide and deep their version of that goes.

My first reaction to hearing that story was to burst out laughing. I thought it was a joke, and in part I suppose that’s what it is. Because only in the environs of a screwball comedy could you come up with a scenario, and a football club, like this.

As straight fiction it would be too unbelievable.

But then this is reality.

Reality at the club calling itself Rangers.

If you believe the media right now, everything that’s happened over there in the last few months has been washed away in a couple of days. Ashley and his people have their money (and they still have their merchandising deal, but let’s not mention that eah?), they have what they need to keep the lights on a wee bit longer and they are winning on the park.

I watched the Hibs game. I thought Alan Stubbs’ team defended dreadfully and were the architects of their own destruction throughout. I was also amused to note the euphoria that surrounded their win at the weekend; Falkirk had a similar result, at the same ground, earlier in the season and not one single newspaper gushed over it the way they have here.

The mood of self-congratulation over there is hilarious to the outsider, and not a little bit bizarre to behold. Don’t get me wrong; survival itself is not to be knocked, and I would never give them stick for it. It’s more than the club that came before them managed, after all.

But the manner of their survival, being celebrated like it’s some kind of major victory, that suddenly wild mushrooms grow on every tree, that the cupboards are full and all the wolves have been turned into bunny rabbits … maybe I’m just not seeing what they are.

Just because trouble isn’t visibly mounting all around them it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Financial trouble and debt at a football club is like a dead body hidden in the basement; sooner or later it starts to stink the place up and before long someone’s going to come looking for it. Eventually it has to be dealt with. As Phil is fond of reminding people; this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.

These loans have to be paid back, and on top of that there’s the next big demand on funding, which will come during the summer if not much sooner.

At the moment Sevco are sitting pretty in the Trappers Lodge (apt, right?) with a good supply of antibiotics, a little deer meat and enough bottled water to see them through a few stormy nights. That’s a good result, as results go in the survival business.

But it all runs out. It always runs out. And then regardless of what the weather outside looks like, they’re going to have to pull on the heavy boots and get moving, back to the hand-to-mouth stuff, the act of desperate scrambling, just to stay alive.

Sooner or later the survival rate for all indebted football clubs drops to zero.

When Sevco finally runs out of resources – and time is the most precious resource of all – their fall into The Long Dark will be unlike anything we’ve seen in Scottish football before. I can’t conceive of circumstances where a third version of Rangers emerges.

In the game itself, there’s one last outstanding feature which I have to mention, and it has the players debating endlessly, with most (myself included) in favour of it because it ups the stakes massively.

It’s called perma-death.

When you succumb everything goes; even your save game is deleted, forever.

As in real life, there’s no second chances or “retention of history.”

All your achievements are wiped away.

All you’ve accumulated, everything you’ve done … it’s gone in heartbeat.

Realistic, or what?

And we know who it reminds us of, right?

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)

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Sums Sevco Style

rsz_istock_000017344562_fullOn Saturday, Sevco came within a few minutes of losing to Morton at home.

Denny Johnstone, the former Celtic player now at Cappielow, said his team went to Ibrox confident that they could get a result. Sides no longer fear going there, even second tier ones.

Chris Jack, one of Scotland’s “up and coming” sports journalists, a guy who simply can’t bring himself to write unemotionally about the club he loves, said no-one in the crowd should have been surprised.

A bad performance, he said, “was coming.”

Indeed it was. It had been “coming” for months, and in case he’s failed to notice it wasn’t the first time they’ve struggled badly. In fact, Warburton has been dropping points left, right and centre and his club was very lucky a late penalty decision didn’t go against them (I know, I laughed too) and that Hibs spent much of their game against Falkirk with ten men … because without those things the pressure would be unbelievable.

It’s mounting up.

What amazes me is that Jack, and others, are proposing a wholly unrealistic solution to the club’s problems; spending money.

There’s an obvious obstacle here; they’re skint.

It seems we can go over this issue over and over again, but some folk just aren’t getting it.

This baffles me, as I’m sure it baffles many of you.

Not the issue itself; we understand that just fine, as we’ve written and discussed many times.

What baffles us is that they don’t get it, and we wonder how they can keep on living in denial as they do.

Let’s go back in time for a minute, to the start of this season.

King was promising “overinvestment” but that talking halted the minute the team started to win a couple of matches. Most of us were never convinced by this nonsense talk in the first place; the figures, some as high as £20 million, were sheer pie in the sky.

They spent virtually nothing on transfer fees, and the pursuit of one player – John Eustace – became so convoluted that it was hilarious. One Celtic blog – Video Celts – got in the habit of ending every piece with the words “Mark Warburton expects to complete the deal in the next 24 hours.”

It remains unsealed to this day, and the player is a free agent.

Don’t be surprised if his name appears on the list of targets.

Let’s not forget that just six months ago we were being told that the club had plenty of money.

Back then, when hacks mentioned the Sports Direct £5 million, the word was that there was cash in the bank but as it wasn’t actually a loan there was no immediate need to pay it back.

All of a sudden, at the EGM, they announced that they’d need £2.5 million to get through the season.

No-one bothered about the £5 million at that point because there were other issues and most of the media had accepted the story about there being no need for repayment of that particular debt.

Now something else has changed.

At the recent AGM they told their fans that the money was going to repaid.

Of course, at that time they had no idea they’d lost the crucial resolution at that meeting, the one that would have given them option of selling more shares to raise some capital.

When they found that out they should have ceased with the bombast.

But King needed a way to bamboozle the Sports Direct lawyers last week, and so his legal team told the court that the bill was now paid. That didn’t turn out to be 100% accurate, as we all know well, with them now claiming they’re £500,000 short.

Do the sums.

Even if the court cases had cost them nothing at all the club that was going to have borrow £2.5 million from its directors to get through the season suddenly has to find £5 million more.

Why?

What’s changed?

If they’ve almost paid it off, where did they get the money?

Let’s try to look at this logically.

As far as we’re aware, they were under no real pressure on the £5 million.

If Sports Direct were asking for repayment they were doing so quietly, and under the radar. They appeared to understand that forcing the club wasn’t going to help anyone.

Sevco itself was dealing with the matter appropriately. There were bigger fish to fry, because the need to get through the season without administration is obviously of monumental importance.

If they hit the skids tomorrow they’ll be in serious trouble and promotion will look unlikely at best.

The cash to finish the current campaign needs to be found, at all costs.

The signing of players was always going to come second best to that and Warburton needs to start grasping that fact, and quickly. That he’s keeping the faith is admirable, I suppose, but he’s probably not studied these matters, or those he works for, as much as we have.

So some belt tightening was already going to have to happen, and the manager’s chances of getting anything to spend were already going to be somewhere between slim and none.

The decision to pay the £5 million – if indeed it was taken – appears ridiculous in light of that, even if you accept the contemptible nonsense King was talking about at the AGM, of the club’s financial position being “the envy of world football.”

The paying back of £5 million you don’t have to … that’s just dumb.

Who made that decision?

King himself, or so it seems. He told the AGM he had a teleconference with the other directors and they agreed that it should be done. From that, we can infer that the proposal was his.

So what motivated it?

Was it to avoid the court cases?

Maybe, but Sports Direct’s case of last week appeared pretty weak, at least as far as King going to jail was concerned, and on top of that Ashley doesn’t give off the impression that he’s willing to negotiate a settlement at this point.

If the club finds the money he’ll take it, but I would bet on it changing nothing in their relationship.

The more you look at this, the more King’s decision looks like pure ego on the one hand sheer presumption on the other. After all, the cash, if it’s coming, isn’t coming from his own pockets here.

As far as the manager goes, it hardly matters what the reasoning was.

Warburton wants a transfer kitty at a time when the club needs to find anywhere between £3 million – £7.5 million – depending on whether you accept that they need the full amount or are only £500,000 short – before the directors give him a thought at all, and this doesn’t take into account their voluminous legal fees or whatever the ongoing situation with Ibrox maintenance is going to cost them.

How much money do they really need?

There are a lot of unknowns.

But one thing I know for sure; the manager isn’t getting a fortune to spend on players, not even the Scottish equivalent of one.

From where I’m sitting, Warburton would be better trying to pull rabbits out of his magic hat than waiting on King coming through with the cash. Even if your business knowledge extends further than Sums Sevco Style there’s no easy way to raise that kind of cash.

I’ll tell you something else too, and it appears to be largely ignored by their fans and the press; when a manager has a playing budget four or five times bigger than any other club in the league and still needs to spend money in the January transfer window in order to be sure of success then I’d suggest he’s just another chequebook boss without a clue as to how to really build a football team.

That’s another aspect of this the media would rather not go into.

But the window is nearly open.

By the end of it, the eyes of even the blindest Sevco fan will surely do the same.

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)

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The Ingratitude Of Sevconians

JS56340180Today saw another court battle between Mike Ashley’s people and those of Dodgy Dave King.

It wasn’t as explosive as yesterday’s, but it was instructive nonetheless.

The headline story from it will be that Sevco hasn’t actually paid back the £5 million Sports Direct loan, as their legal counsel claimed in court yesterday; in fact, according to them, they’re still trying to get the money together to do so.

They’re £500,000 short … what Ashley would regard as petty cash.

I laughed reading that, partly at my own naivety in so readily accepting that claim yesterday. This was, after all, made at the same hearing where King claimed to have amnesia on so many issues I would not have been surprised if he’d momentarily forgotten his own name.

But all that is to digress. The reason for this piece is the dollops of abuse being heaped on the freelance journalist James Doleman, who’s covering the story from the courtroom, and tweeting back to all those who’re interested.

And for that, he’s being singled out. He’s being labelled a hater.

He’s also being called out for the crowd-funding campaign he ran in order to cover his expenses. I’m going to talk about that briefly for a minute before I go on, and I hope you’ll bear with me.

It may shock some of these people to realise this, but what James Doleman does, what I do, what Paul67 does, what Phil does, it’s time consuming and it’s difficult. This is my day job; it’s not a hobby that I spend an occasional five minutes on.

Yesterday, I wrote and published four different blogs, an article for a magazine, a third of a chapter of a novel and started re-designing a digital magazine. This is a full-time gig, and James is the same, a freelance journalist and blogger of some repute.

Neither he nor myself, or any of the other bloggers with Donate buttons on their sites, is asking for charity. If people like what we do they can support it, or not.

The notion that this is rattling the tin cup is ludicrous, and I don’t feel any sense of embarrassment about it.

I know what rattling the tin cup looks like.

It’s a football club that claims its finances are the “envy of world football” asking its own fans if they can carry out maintenance work at the stadium to save the club money, and the attendant consequences when bits of the roof are falling off.

It’s King going to his own directors for soft loans to keep on the lights.

It’s the club going cap in hand to the supporter’s own “Fighting Fund” singing a chorus of “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

It’s organising a football match for charity, then sloughing off part of the proceeds to pay the bills and feeling no sense of shame at all about it.

I’m surprised they don’t recognise it themselves.

So yes, James asked for help meeting his costs, and I’ve done the same and my own work depends on the steady trickle of support I get from good people who like what I do. So we have Donate buttons and fund raising appeals … and every penny is declared to HMRC.

But let’s be clear; we’re not putting up paywalls and asking for subscription fees. There are a few sites which have online shops, but none of us is making a living selling, for example, unbranded tat ostensibly in an effort to screw a major retailer.

James is a big boy, and he’s batted back easily enough at those who’ve labelled him as some kind of scrounger. It’s those who’ve tried to label him a hater that I want to talk about.

This guy has been working as a freelance court reporter for years. I’ve been following his stuff for a while. His blog is interesting and engaging and he knows what he’s talking about. He covers any matter he thinks there’s a public interest in, and say what you like about Sevco but it’s a circus that never ends and is the subject of much attention inside and outside Scotland.

James is probably not used to the abuse he’s had in the last week, not like some of us are, but the Goon Squad now have him firmly in their sights and I fear he’ll have to tolerate it a while.

An example of the garbage he’s had to put up with:

One tweet called him a “bead rattler”. James threatened to block the guy.

And what response did he get for that?

More abuse, and the guy calling him a bigot.

How do you even begin to respond to that?

Where do you start?

You’re not dealing with ordinary, well-formed individuals here; you’re conversing with the institutionally stupid, people so dense light bends around them.

Their favourite refrain, of course, is to say we’re “obsessed.” James got that one thrown at him more than a few times in the last week. Today he posted a link to his blog to demonstrate the extent of this “obsession” … and I’m sure you can guess what it reveals.

I know why they use that word so frequently, and I’ve blogged on it several times in the past; this is their self-image talking, this idea that the reason they’re still “current” is that they’re a massive football club with wealth and power, and not an impoverished wreck still floundering in the lower leagues. They’re missing the big picture, because all they see is their own narrow view.

And in the big picture they’re nowhere.

All this attention we’re paying to events there isn’t even wholly about them; the larger issue is the governance of Scottish football. The Ibrox freak show is amusement for some, schadenfreude for others and simply banter for more. But to those of us who take the game seriously, and care about it, events at Ibrox are a microcosm of a wider problem; the cancer eating away at our national sport, rotting it from within.

But there’s more. Their attitude stinks not just because it’s the product of unbelievable – and grossly misplaced – arrogance, but because it’s fundamentally unappreciative.

At the helm of their club is a notorious liar, a man who has no qualms about gilding the lily whenever he pleases, a man a judge in his homeland says will alter his narrative to suit whatever audience he’s in front of at any given time.

Yesterday he sat in a courtroom and feigned amnesia for most of the proceeding. Then, in violation of a judge’s orders, he went outside and told a subservient media that he had won some great victory, when, in fact, he had simply avoided jail.

To me, that seems like it ought to be an occasion for relief.

For this guy it’s business as usual, and that ought to trouble these people more than it does.

The media, which today proclaimed his great win, are not going to dig deep into what’s really going on at their club.

They never have before.

Theirs is now a cut-and-paste profession; every major story they’ve “broken” in the last five years was on the forums and blogs first.

They contributed nothing to the cause of “saving Rangers” and their habit of jumping into bed with anyone who claims to want to “invest” and give a manager a “war chest” long ago ceased to be embarrassing and has been a major factor in creating the circumstances that let men like Whyte and Green in there.

King is no better than those men, and I would have thought Sevco fans would have had a great deal of interest in those proceedings yesterdays and those still to come.

But their intolerance keeps getting in the way of their common sense. James Doleman now joins the ranks of “the enemy” when all he, and others, have done is try to keep them informed about events surrounding something they claim to love.

Yes, but he’s just “an obsessed Tim with an agenda.”

If more of them had given a damn, if more of them had focussed their own meagre intellects on events at Ibrox they might not be in such a godawful state.

And they know it. And they hate it.

And that’s why they’re so pissed off all the time.

Nevertheless, their behaviour and ingratitude is shameful.

It says a lot about who they are.

(This site depends on the support of its readers. If you want to help me keep it going, you can make a donation at the link below. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. I honestly couldn’t do this without you all. Many thanks in advance.)

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King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime

The-Wicker-ManThere’s a fine moment in the great British horror movie The Wicker Man when the main character is being admonished for his naivety.

In the scene he’s wearing a garish costume (as are most of the others in the iconic moment), that of a familiar comic character.

“You are the fool, Mr. Howie,” he’s told. “Punch, one of the great fool-victims of history, for you have accepted the role of king for a day, and who but a fool would do that?”

Who indeed? Three guesses.

Today, Dave King walked out of a court-room in London after Sports Direct’s efforts to have him thrown in jail for breaching a gagging order were thrown out by the judge, who was pretty scathing about the failures of their lawyers to make a coherent case as to why he should be. Instead of retiring to a five star hotel room to count his lucky stars, he grabbed the first journalist he saw and gave us all a virtuoso display of hubris.

First he claimed he’d been vindicated completely, which he hadn’t. Then he moved forward with his usual reserve and decorum, by insulting Mike Ashley and saying how the hearing had “humiliated” him. Tactful, respectful and dignified it was not.

It was, in short, exactly what one would have expected from this embarrassment of a man, a guy who deflected his way through the hearing by referencing his notoriously short memory, including, in one fantastic moment of theatre, claiming that he hadn’t realised he had his “Rangers hat on” when talking about his club’s financial relationship with the distributor, in an interview where he talked transfer funds, the manager, the direction of Sevco and a possible share issue.

He also submitted an affidavit in which he claimed he wasn’t aware of the precise nature of the gagging order itself!

Had he been on the stand at the time, one can only wonder how that would have gone down with the judge.

In the meantime, The Daily Record was putting a “magic hat” on King’s lawyer, although he was barely heard during the proceedings, with the judge dismissing the central plank of the case without hearing detailed testimony from him.

For their ridiculous display of sycophancy, in which they anointed King like a triumphant warlord, the judge admonished them saying they got “nil points for accuracy of reporting.”

He also advised King, strongly, not to talk to the press, perhaps not realising the South African had already held court, and reminded him that he had not been “acquitted” just because he wasn’t being sent to jail.

Sevco fan sites, and the Twitterati, erupted with joy at this news, perhaps not realising that this matter is far from over. It was, in fact, merely a skirmish before the real fun starts early next year, with the legal cases starting to pile up.

This wasn’t a good day for their club or its chairman. In fact, he might well have talked his way into trouble far deeper than Sports Direct were able to conjure up in this case.

This was also a bad day for the SFA.

I said in the article Dark Places & Alien Space Bats that this would be the very worst verdict for them, and I stand by that. Had he been severely sanctioned today – and not even sent to prison, simply raked over the coals – they could have acted, revoked his “fit and proper person” status and hoped it would satisfy Ashley and make him drop his coming case.

This leaves him in place, more arrogant than ever, and with his statements today in front of the media it will have angered Ashley to the point where reasoning with him will be a non-starter. The trouble coming Sevco’s way is only just beginning; today was a foretaste of it and nothing more.

The judge has made it clear there are other proceedings to be had, but they appear to be in relation to the Sports Direct injunction, which it seems the company is not for lifting.

That it will tie King and Sevco up in court for many more days and weeks is, perhaps, part of the plan. Certainly, His Honour was a little baffled as to what Sports Direct were up to when he saw the weakness of their case today, and it has to be said that lawyers as expensive as Ashley’s don’t often – if ever – drop the ball to this degree.

Something more is going on, but what it is remains a mystery although it might be instructive to consider that the estimated £200,000 Ashley laid out for this is a high price to pay for what, on paper, appeared to be a pretty weak line of attack, and I can only conclude that it’s but one angle from which he intends to come at the King regime.

If that’s the case, think for a moment on the kind of man who will spend that kind of cash for no other reason than to waste your time and fill up days in the calendar. Is that the kind of man you’d stand outside a court and insult in front of the TV cameras?

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a massive story detailing how a couple of their undercover reporters had gotten jobs in, and gone digging around, Shirebrook, the home of the Sports Direct operation, and what it uncovered was awful yet unsurprising.

The business practices of the company Ashley owns are appalling, and the existence of such a place is anathema to me as a socialist.

It infuriates me that so many of us should be looking to him to take the action our clubs should have, in trying to get to the bottom of the corrupt behaviour of the SFA, and I want, at all costs, to avoid seeming as if I’m lionising this guy or making him some sort of poster boy for the campaign to reform our game here in Scotland.

I would not want this man as an ally, in any fight, against any opponent, but I definitely would not want him as an enemy, and Dave King appears to be doing everything in his considerable power to make sure this battle goes on and on and on.

And who but a fool would do that?

(This site depends on the support of its readers. If you want to help me keep it going, you can make a donation at the link below. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. I honestly couldn’t do this without you all. Many thanks in advance.)

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Sevco: A Storm Off Starboard

ratsI just got done having watched the final season of Deadliest Catch, perhaps the best reality TV show I’ve seen. It reminded me, in many ways, of having read Sebastian Junger’s wonderful book A Perfect Storm last year.

After I’d finished reading that book I wrote an article for this site on the Sevco crisis in which I used a number of examples from the story to highlight issues relating to the club.

I called it Storm Front Coming, and it was prescient in a number of ways, especially in relation to the intentions of a man named Mike Ashley, who some of the media were telling us wanted Sevco as a valuable asset, to be competitive, that he saw value in “Champions League exposure.”

All nonsense, of course, as most of us were well aware.

That piece was well received by non-Sevco readers; I got a lot of nice emails and good comments about that one.

It went down like a lead weight with their fans, though, who took serious offence to any suggestion theirs wasn’t a sound ship, and to the notion that Ashley was only interested in sucking the marrow off their bones.

Yet look where we are now, on the day before Dodgy Dave King goes head to head with Ashley’s lawyers in court.

Much has changed in the year and a bit since I posted that piece.

Yet much remains exactly the same.

This vessel is still sailing in the stormiest of seas.

There’s little good to say about them on or off the park at the moment; their fans will say that’s ridiculous, when they are top of the second tier and in the third tier cup final, but actually some of them realise things aren’t going terribly well.

For all the “great start” they’ve made to the season, Hibs are perilously close to them in the title race and winning the third tier cup competition at the fourth time of asking – if they do – is not going to satiate the appetites of fans who stupidly bought into the Survival Myth and still expect to see this club playing in Europe in the near future.

Their League Cup exit came as a drastic, and sobering, shock although they and their manager try to laugh it off as though it were a minor matter.

The longer you watch this club, and the more you listen to these gullible fans, the more you come to understand what the Survival Myth really is; not a comfort blanket, as some have stated, but a drug they can’t manage to shake, a continuing act of psychological self-harm that combines the worst elements of obsession, arrogance and delusion.

And of course, it has affected all of Scottish football, with our governing bodies willing to bend over backwards to accommodate those who have a vested interest in promoting it.

The dark clouds on the horizon haunt the SFA as much as Sevco, because a lot of people at Hampden are deeply involved in the goings on up at Ibrox. The water level is rising around them. They are, literally, in this up their necks.

We know they were aware that Craig Whyte intended to crash Rangers, and that this would leave hundreds of creditors, great and small, out of pocket.

We know they looked the other way when allegations surfaced in relation to Green, even giving Sevco a green light to investigate itself.

We know too that they breached their own regulations to allow King a seat on the Ibrox board.

I could go on. And on. And on.

There is no hiding place for them if this Force 12 blows across the deck.

This will overwhelm them.

Yesterday, Roger Mitchell, the former SPL CEO, went public with his view that Sevco will come to regret putting King on the board, that he is “damaged” and ought not to have been granted “fit and proper person” status.

I agree with him, but King is just a symptom of the bigger problem.

The bigger problem is at the SFA itself.

After years of studying this stuff, I often ponder just what kind of state Sevco would be in if we had an association that treated them like any other club.

A big part of what makes the coming storm so destructive is that the SFA are about to be swamped at just the moment the Ibrox operation might need them most.

It is inconceivable to almost all of us that Stewart Regan can survive his own court appearance against Ashley in April next year. The Sports Direct supremo has him in the gun sights and he is a dead shot.

The SFA may try to buy him off, or to get him to quit, by throwing King on the fire as a sacrifice, but this isn’t likely to cut much slack with a man so set on winning.

The hurricane sweeping across the sea towards these people is going to blow away everything in front of it.

By the time it passes, the wreckage will stretch over miles of flat, calm ocean.

The scenario we’re looking at is one where Regan has gone and possibly takes a few others with him; it’s one where the clubs are flexing their muscles; where the league’s governing body is under pressure to play by the rules; where the media has been exposed as complicit in the whole Sevco scandal (as they are) and has no moral authority to even attempt to influence the debate, and where the Ibrox club is impoverished and endangered.

Removed of the association CEO who has protected them, without Ogilvie on hand to offer his own brand of “look the other way”, and with Doncaster exposed to the harsher realities of his own position with a mood amongst the other clubs that is in no way sympathetic to another attempted stitch-up, Sevco will be alone, its leaders standing on the deck of a floundering ship, staring out into the rain.

Reform will be possible then, real reform, and not the phony kind that’s raised its head this week.

I mean a reformatted League Cup, to create a group stage, but one which excludes the clubs playing in Europe?

Why does the cynic in me see a clear motivation of providing “more money for Sevco” in that arrangement?

Why, when I contemplate which club will gain the most out of that, do I think of them first?

Could it be that I see most of the matches in this competition being played in front of three quarters empty grounds?

That I see no real benefit to other clubs except more games?

Some of those clubs are already complaining about this, saying they weren’t consulted. Other clubs say they were, but you know what? Regardless of whether they were consulted or not, I have limited sympathy for the leaders of a lot of our teams right now; Doncaster and others only exist because these people haven’t acted decisively and removed them.

What, precisely, will it take for them to act?

When he and Regan all but destroyed the game here as a commercial endeavour in 2012 with their “Scottish football is worthless without Rangers in the top flight” guff, that ought to have been that; jotters, ta-ta, pack your pencils and beat it.

The fans knew it. The fans wanted it.

The clubs failed us all.

You can’t have followed these events and doubt it.

Today, secure in his job, with the “confidence” of the teams, Doncaster is singing that old familiar song about a 14 team top flight, coincidentally as Sevco and Hibs are within touching distance of each other.

I mean, seriously?

These people will do anything to see their beloved Ibrox club in the top flight, and if the directors of other teams haven’t twigged that yet – that their own wishes and ambitions will be subservient to that one – then I don’t know what to say to them.

This failure is theirs too, and if the day ever comes and the duopoly that almost destroyed them is restored they can explain to their own fans why it was allowed to happen.

Sooner or later the directors of other clubs have to wake up. Stewart Regan standing in court, fumbling his words, whilst Doncaster waits on his own turn in the dock as a witness for Craig Whyte … well, yes, that ought to do it.

In the short term, it will barely matter anyway.

This League Cup wheeze has a shelf life of five minutes, and if clubs are complaining about it before it’s even started I have doubts it’ll be more than a one season wonder. Whatever attraction it does have will wane quickly, once the novelty wears off.

The idea isn’t terrible, by the way, but the costs of putting on these games will be higher, in many instances, than the clubs can bring in at the gate, as fans offer their own verdict on the changes.

At Ibrox this is more acute than elsewhere, as the huge expense of match-day can turn a possible source of profit into a loss-making endeavour before you know it, and that this might not even benefit Sevco financially is hilarious to me.

The governing bodies have bent over backwards for this club in the last few years and not one decision they’ve taken has made life at Ibrox better.

Why should this be any different?

Rangers was like a sword boat that the Department of Fish & Game allowed to leave port overloaded with more gear than any other ship in the fleet. It was against regulations, those which existed to protect other vessels from unfair practices, but it also ran against those safety rules which were in place to protect the boat itself.

For years the captain and crew rode their luck, but when the hurricane swept over them in 2012 they went down like a steel anchor.

In a similar fashion, Sevco is like a ship holed below the waterline, allowed to leave port although the authorities are aware of the cracks in the superstructure. Furthermore, it’s one which is captained by a notorious character who cheated other regulatory bodies and was partly responsible for Rangers’ sinking.

As such, he ought never to have been given command of a boat again.

The authorities know this too, and have spent the last year crossing their fingers that everything would be alright on his watch anyway.

That it’s so swiftly gone bad must be haunting their every waking moment, and when this ship starts to sink they’ll do anything to keep the stink of the scandal from their own door.

Anything, that is, except do the only thing that can save Sevco, which is the spending of copious amounts of money.

Without that, their ability to direct influence events once this ship runs into trouble is much as it was when Rangers began to slide below the surface; in other words, zero.

With no Coast Guard cutter on the horizon, what is this club going to do?

One of the things I learned from Sebastian Junger’s book is that sending out a “mayday” quite literally means that everyone on the ship has given up and they’ve accepted that they’re going down.

The word itself originates from the French, “m’aidez”, which in English means “help me”.

For a while now that signal has been getting pumped out of the Blue Room on a fairly steady rhythm.

King’s wee visit to Hampden last week was either them answering or his making sure it was being properly heard; either way, they’re not the people he really wanted to be talking to.

A little sympathy, and maybe the promise of league reconstruction talks, is all they’re able to offer, and he needs those things, but not as much as he needs the money, and besides a change in the weather and he’ll no longer be able to rely on them.

In the meantime, they just keep on repeating the message;

“Mayday, mayday, this is the HMS Sevco … we are in urgent need of assistance … Mayday, mayday …”

But Jim McColl isn’t picking up the phone.

Brian Kennedy is slinging them a deafy.

The “Rangers minded businessmen” who King talked about, but conveniently didn’t want to name, haven’t been forthcoming.

The current board members are keeping things rolling along with soft loans, but they’ll last only as long as their patience does.

When the next distress flare goes up from Ibrox, the one to signify that there’s water in the engine room, shorting the circuits and turning out the lights as well as silencing the radio, it’s more than possible that storm will already have changed everything around them.

There they’ll be, friendless, alone, in the midst of the big waves, waiting for the ship to go down.

King can’t save them, and no-one else wants to, but what will hurt most of all will be that lengthy wait for the Coast Guard … followed by the realisation that help is no longer going to come.

This is the Perfect Storm.

Hell mend everyone caught in the path of it.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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