Scottish Football: Living In Ignoreland

indexIn 1992, REM released Automatic For The People, one of the greatest albums ever. One of the tracks on that album became a hit although it was never properly released as a single.

It was written in response to the Iran-Contra scandal, and its roots in 1979, and the election of Republican candidates for years after it.

Its target, in part, was the American media who had turned the hostage crisis of that year into a referendum on Jimmy Carter. This cost him the 1980 election. They then soft pedalled on how the Reagan administration dealt with it, which allowed his team to get through his re-election campaign in 1984 without ever having explained what was going on (they were trading military hardware for the hostages; literally buying them back with heavy duty weapon systems) then almost completely ignored Bush’s role in what became a monumental scandal although he’d been director of the CIA. This led to his own election in 1988.

Michael Stipe called the song Ignoreland.

It’s probably the most fitting metaphor for Scotland, as represented by the Fourth Estate, which I’ve ever come across.

Let me tell you, before I get to the point, just how little faith I have in our media to properly execute its responsibilities and do the job it’s meant for.

I started writing this article on Thursday night, after The Tax Justice Network, through their ancillary organisation The Offshore Game published their astounding report into the SFA and the way they dealt with Rangers. They didn’t quite call the SFA corrupt, but they didn’t stop far short of it. What they did say is that there are serious questions over the ability of the organisation to act impartially.

For those unfamiliar with the kind of nuance that’s prevalent in these kind of documents, this is a polite way of saying the people running our national sport are about one step shy of deserving to be paraded through the streets to the stocks.

It is a devastating judgement.

I had fully intended to do a long piece on that and publish it the following day. When the following day came I had a million other things to do, but at the back of my mind I kept thinking this had to be written, that the report had to be explored properly and stripped down for the layperson or those who didn’t have time to go through it line by line.

But by Friday night I’d concluded that there was simply no hurry.

In fact, I actually thought the article would have greater weight if I left it until after the league title had been wrapped up.

By that point I had moved on from where I was writing only about the report itself and decided what this piece had to be was an assault on the media.

I was so confident that the press would continue to ignore that report that I actually laid everything aside over the weekend and took Saturday and Sunday off.

I mean, it’s only the most damning report an outside agency has ever written about the game here … what were the chances of the press picking it up and running with it?

None whatsoever, of course.

It wasn’t that I took a calculated risk that the story would still be waiting for me today; I knew for a fact it would.

Isn’t that damning?

Isn’t that a greater statement about these people and how useless and corrupt and gutless they are than any words in this article ever could be? I felt confident enough that our media would not touch this that I left it for four full days, knowing that I could come back to it and write it and that it would be even more potent because of that.

People probably know I have a certain contempt for our press.

I can’t put it more bluntly than this: if you are a Scottish sports reporter and you’re not all over this story then you, my friend, are a fraud. Pure and simple. You’re a thief because you’re taking money under false pretences. You are conning your bosses and you’re conning the readers. Stop pretending that a NUJ card makes you a journalist.

You are the furthest thing from it.

Yet I know the press is perfectly capable of working away when it wants to.

Why just last week I read a story that was actually researched. It was on Celtic players and their salaries. It ran on the website of a national title. It listed the wages of every player at our club. The trouble was, the writer had taken them from Football Manager.

Nevertheless, as unprofessional and ludicrous as that was, it must have required some work; booting up the game, selecting Celtic, checking every individual player. Sniggering at Efe Ambrose allegedly on £7000 a week. Writing it all down. Uploading it.

Effort. Graft. Of a sort.

The media is also capable of writing controversial stuff that offends large numbers of people, like last week’s story about a Hillsborough campaigner who was encouraged to say disparaging things about our club.

That was nothing other than a smear job against Celtic, and it backfired spectacularly and resulted in an apology. Yet it proved that these people aren’t afraid of taking on power when they want to, even if this time they were crushed like a worm.

How does a story as weak and pitiful as the first, and one as basically reeking as the second, make it past editors and end up published when the biggest football story in the country – maybe the biggest ever – can be ignored for days, and would, without articles like this from the bloggers, actually never see the light of day beyond the initial report?

Where is the professional pride in our newsrooms when the whole of the Scottish football public knows they’re simply hoping this will go away?

There was a time when people got into their profession for more than just a fat expense account and a chance to hob-nob with the beautiful people, or the Scottish celebrity equivalent thereof. These people have disgraced it. Eventually, they’re going to kill it.

What a legacy to leave behind you. The people who killed newspapers in Scotland. The people who destroyed the reputations of once great titles. The people who obliterated their own industry because they couldn’t stay one step ahead of people like me; folk who do this from their bedrooms and spare rooms and don’t make a fraction of a journalist’s wage.

Let me break it down, real quick.

An organisation which has enormous credibility in the twin spheres of politics and economics, which wrote one of the most quoted and re-published articles on tax avoidance in the history of journalism, which made international headlines and affected public policy making in a big way, published, through its offshoot a story on how the SFA had been lied to, and how its officers had lied in turn, over issues affecting Rangers Football Club. This article stated that the Lord Nimmo Smith verdict stinks to high heaven, and can no longer be left as the final word on title stripping. It made it clear that the Resolution 12 boys don’t have a case as much as they have an iron clad slam-dunker of one. It called into question the SFA’s ability to govern the game in a fair and impartial way. It said that what these issues require is a fully independent public inquiry with the power to make recommendations for sweeping changes in the sport.

They called the former head of the SFA, Campbell Ogilvie, an out and out liar. They accused Stewart Regan of presiding over a shambles and knowingly allowing corrupting – and possibly even criminal – behaviours to be swept under the carpet, or was complicit in that himself. It says there are serious doubts as to whether the SFA is even capable of reforming itself, so deeply embedded in the structure of that organisation are these underhanded and cynical methods of dealing with issues. They are to do with Rangers, yes, but Rangers was never the target of our interest – as much as their stupider fans might have thought otherwise.

This was always about football governance, or lack thereof.

This report says football governance in Scotland is a misnomer. It’s a contradiction in terms. It is non-existent. It says the people running our sport either haven’t got a clue or are bent beyond redeeming and need, instead, to be swept away.

The Offshore Game’s original article on overseas ownership of football clubs in the UK created a surge of news stories and articles poring over every detail. It wasn’t a national story; it was a national event.

Every newspaper in Britain ran a piece on it. They update what they call The Offshore League Table every single year; Celtic is 8th on it, because Dermot Desmond holds his shares in our club through an offshore trust called Line Nominees.

The larger organisation which runs The Offshore Game site, the Tax Justice Network’s 2012 story on offshore banking beat the Panama Papers on the subject by four years, and was an international news story of epic scale and consequence.

Everyone was quoting it, from The Wall Street Journal to The Sunday Times, who had to rewrite their Rich List for the following year in one big hurry.

And irony of ironies, in the aftermath of the Panama Papers, another report from the Tax Justice Network is a main story on the websites of every credible news title from The Guardian to The Independent even as I sit here and write these words.

These people redefine the word “credible” as it’s used in the context of the issues we’re talking about. This is the equivalent of Holy Writ. It’s impartial, written by people with no axe to grind at all. It’s professionally sourced and presented. Every named person was contacted for a reaction quote (and every one refused) beforehand. Every assertion is backed by facts. This is a brick bunker of an article, unimpeachable in every way.

Yet it remains wholly untouched by the media which allegedly writes about issues affecting our game. This investigation into the SFA may well prove to be the least reported on document the Tax Justice Network has ever commissioned.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing, of course. It’s the same old picture. The same feeble attitude, gutless, heartless or clueless, I’ve stopped caring now. I’ve even stopped caring whether it’s the hacks themselves or their editors who stop this stuff getting a proper airing.

Journalists would once have resigned over being told to ignore an obvious news story like this. They’d have been asking their bosses who benefited from silence, whether there was an agenda.

They would threaten to take the thing to another publication.

But no publication wants a piece of this. Why?

Cause it’s not news? Are you joking?

This is the textbook definition of a news story. An independent agency has slammed a public body in a damming report, claiming that it’s incapable of impartiality and ought to be reviewed by outsiders because it can’t be trusted to reform itself?

In which parallel universe is that not news?

I can only call these people gutless frauds so many times before it all becomes just words. I know they don’t care about it, because they think theirs is the final word. They have no concept of what the historical verdict will say any more than Sevco fans do. Their supporters think because the corrupt football association that runs our game “recognises” the history and didn’t strip the titles that this is how it’s going to be, forever.

But every one of those titles will forever have an asterix beside it, because there is a permanent record of what these people did and what the governing body allowed them to do, and we’re writing that permanent record right now.

When the books are written about this period in Scottish football – and I’m more and more sure that I’ll personally write one of them – they will end up as part of the permanent record of this moment and what was happening in it, and in that record the media’s silence will be logged for posterity and future generations can draw their own conclusions from it.

When media students ask why the Scottish sporting press contracted and died, and in a few short years was supplanted by the bloggers and the citizen journalists those books and these blogs will be the permanent record, and their disgrace will be known to all.

The press can’t escape that judgement. They can’t run from that verdict. History will devour their reputations and make a mockery of everything they think they’ve achieved. If titles aren’t stripped they’ll be forever tainted. Because the real truth will be on the record, and it will be all the more illuminating because it wasn’t put there by the mainstream press.

It’s never been more important for those of us in the blogosphere to keep on doing what we do, because this is a sterling example of how little our media can be relied on, and I actually write that with great sadness and regret because until we have the reach the mainstream press does we’ll never be able to affect the kind of change they can.

I do believe that if the media was willing to write about these matters honestly and faithfully that Scottish football would change, and it would change for the better. The people running our game in this disastrous fashion can only do so because of a complete lack of oversight and the kid gloves treatment they get from the people in the newsrooms.

Even when Mike Ashley Holdings obtained the full details of the SFA’s decision over Dave King recently, that story was spun to do the minimum damage to the men at Hampden. Indeed, it was spun as a victory for the SFA and King, when actually Ashley got exactly what he wanted, a full and frank explanation, and the documentary proof of the SFA’s ludicrous decision making process. His demand for “full disclosure” – that the SFA should make this stuff public – was ignored, even when he pointed out that fans deserved the answers.

These people don’t believe we deserve answers, and the problem doesn’t just lie with the media or the governing bodies. It lies with the clubs too, and even with some of the fans. There are too many people, even those who take an interest in these affairs, who think stuff like Resolution 12 is the peculiar fixation of Celtic fans only, without seeing that it has a wider impact, even if you discount how it affected other clubs and their finances.

This is about naked corruption, and that shouldn’t be left to Celtic supporters to fight alone. There are a lot of people who wail about Scottish football and the issues in it who are all too quick to put Celtic in the same box as Rangers, although the proofs that the game here has been bent for just one club are piled high like snowdrifts on all sides of them.

An independent report has borne out two of the central allegations Celtic fans have made in the last few years. It’s now an established fact that lies were told, rules subverted, other clubs disenfranchised. Why are we still pretending these issues only matter to Celtic fans? Why do so many people still seem to believe these aren’t problems for their own teams too?

It’s been proved, conclusively, that Rangers got a European license in contravention of the rules; would Aberdeen have got one? Or Hearts? It wouldn’t have mattered if these clubs had been facing a dire financial situation, as Rangers was at the time. The SFA would have given them nothing. Why aren’t their shareholders asking for a full investigation into this?

Motherwell were denied European income as a consequence of the SFA’s action. Where are their shareholders on this issue? Why aren’t they asking the same questions as Celtic’s are? How much money was taken from them? They followed the rules. Their fans, players and management team did nothing wrong. They didn’t deserve to be penalised for playing it straight.

But how much do they care? How much have they done to bring the truth to light?

The media aren’t the only ones in Scotland living in Ignoreland. Much as Stipes’ seething commentary wasn’t only directed at the media and the Republican Party it was a pointed dig at the voting public too. There are no secrets anymore and there never were.

Ignoreland is a safe place to live, even a happy place.

Where do you think the saying “Ignorance is bliss” comes from? How do you think it came into vogue in the first place? Knowledge is power, but it’s also responsibility and for a long time now a lot of people have been hiding away from both.

There have been opportunities to change the game in the last three or four years. Even the SPL’s disgraceful 11-1 voting system would not have been a meaningful barrier to change, with Rangers out of the picture, had fans been lobbying their own clubs to do what was right. Financial Fair Play would be a reality already if shareholders at other teams pressed the people in their boardrooms to put it on the agenda.

To some, these campaigns look like Celtic fan driven vendettas. The media has had no problem painting them as such. But an independent report from a well-respected and highly influential think-tank has said everything we’re concerned about is valid, which means it’s no longer just our issue but one that belongs to the whole of the sport.

The media is going to ignore this, and I’m past trying to shame them into doing what’s right. They’re beyond shaming. They’re beyond reach of anyone who actually cares about our sport.

The game needs leadership and as we know it’s not going to come from those who’re supposed to deliver it, who do you reckon that leaves?

It leaves the fans themselves. And don’t worry Aberdeen fans and Hibs fans and Dundee Utd fans and those of our clubs who’ll say that Celtic is one of the obstacles to change; a lot of us sussed that a long time ago, and we’re working on setting that right. Do the same at your clubs and don’t spend so long worrying about ours.

Your CEO has the same vote Celtic’s does and if you get your club on board with reform it really won’t matter if we fail to do the same with ours. The numbers will be there. The change will come because it has to. Because it’s time.

Michael Stipe was one pissed off guy in 1992, and he said so in his song.

“TV tells a million lies. The paper’s terrified to report anything that isn’t handed on a presidential spoon. I’m just profoundly frustrated by all this. So, f@@@ you, man.”

Sound familiar? Yeah, doesn’t it?

REM’s angry song ends up on a bum note though, with what sounds like an admission of defeat.

“I know that this is vitriol. No solution, spleen-venting. But I feel better having screamed. Don’t you?”

We’ve been screaming a long time now. Feel better yet?

No, me neither. Nobody listens in Ignoreland.

When the world turns to crap you’ve got two choices; get comfortable living in it or pick up a shovel. I’m sick of living in this. How do you feel about it? You wanna keep screaming, or you wanna get busy with a flat headed implement?

This article has been amended. In the original I said it was Kilmarnock who had suffered because of the granting of a European license to Rangers. Actually, back then, before they made the Scottish Cup runners up ineligible, it would have been Motherwell who were due to compete in Europe had the proper procedures been followed. Thanks to Matt Leslie and a couple of others for that correction.

(This site couldn’t run without the support of its readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. If every reader was able to give just a small sum this site would be all the healthier for it.)

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The SFA Is Terrified Of A Shareholders Judicial Review

JS77064508The French dramatist Jean Racine said “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”

Benjamin Franklin lamented the difficulty in hiding things when he said “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

They both knew, as so many others do, that nothing stays hidden forever; people talk, things get discovered or those previously put aside come into view again as new information shines light on dark corners left and forgotten.

Today there was a bizarre little moment in the court battle between Mike Ashley and the SFA, over Dave King, where the association’s lawyer asked a completely unrelated question about whether Celtic fans could sue them “if King is a success”. During the case itself, Ashley and his people backed away from holding the SFA to account, but that question reveals something interesting about the thinking at Hampden at the present time.

Call it a Freudian slip.

These people are positively petrified by what football fans might uncover should they decide to push for their own judicial reviews into SFA procedures.

And you know what? They should be.

Resolution 12 looms large in the thinking here, but so does the debate over title stripping in the event that the Supreme Court rules in favour of HMRC over the Big Tax Case. These are hot-button issues for our fans, and the anger runs so deep on both that there’s little prospect of the SFA wishing these matters away. Even Celtic itself has no recourse to stop individual shareholders in certain actions if they chose to try.

Let me clarify something for you.

In terms of Resolution 12, what fans want more than anything else is to see justice done through the football structures. This is why the objective was always to have this matter analysed properly at UEFA. The SFA is never going to come around to admitting mistakes or culpability; this was always about getting an independent football body to look at the evidence and examine it in full, without us worrying that it would lead to a biased conclusion.

Going through the SFA and the proper procedures was vital, and still is, for getting a footballing solution. Celtic are the ones who need to raise this matter at UEFA, or with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. There’s no way for the fans to raise this independently through those bodies.

There are also certain legal actions which would have to go through the club.

But shareholders have rights, and they’ve always been able to pursue those rights through the legal system, even if the club itself is not fully on-board. One of the vehicles for doing this is a judicial review, but it’s not the only one.

Celtic shareholders never pursued this option, because the football route was the preferred one for getting to the bottom of this morass.

But should that route prove fruitless, whether because the SFA or Celtic or whoever put up a roadblock to it, those other paths can be taken instead.

It must be said that this does not harm Celtic in any way.

UEFA and FIFA regulations are very specific about how the clubs must do things in relation to the law. They must go through the governing bodies themselves, with CAS as a last resort. They cannot pursue legal channels out-with that, because UEFA and FIFA do not allow legal interference in the running of the game. Draconian punishments can handed down for doing so, including banning teams from Europe and stopping the national team from taking part in competition football.

These regulations do not cover individual actions by shareholders.

This matters in football because the SFA is not, as Regan and others appear to believe, an organisation which does what it likes and is accountable to no-one.

The Scottish Football Association is not a private members club; it’s a public authority, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the law. It gets part of its funding from the tax payer. It is responsible for licensing. It is answerable to government agencies in relation to some of its activities. It has to comply with Freedom of Information requests.

Regan simply cannot pull down the shutters here, much as he’d like to.

Now, a judicial review won’t accomplish all our goals. What it does is forces a public body to declare the means by which it arrived at a decision. There are misconceptions about that, and I want to set them straight. A judicial review would compel the SFA to lay out the evidence that it followed the rules and that it did everything it was obliged to do.

Frankly, they’ll have a job there because as I pointed out in last night’s piece on Resolution 12, over on the CelticBlog, they’ve either ignored evidence, hidden evidence or were very selective on the questions they asked, knowing the kind of answers they’d get.

Procedures were followed up to a point. Beyond that, they either knew enough not to want to know more or they simply ignored what was in front of them and granted the license anyway.

The process would be laid out there.

We’d know what information they asked for, and received.

We’d know what they didn’t bother with or ignored completely.

Based on what was put in the public domain, I have no doubt UEFA would find itself involved.

The SFA has been at it so long they are terrified of outside scrutiny.

Look at how they handled the allegations that Charles Green was involved with Craig Whyte. If the Rangers First guys want to do something that rocks the boat a wee bit they should ask for their own judicial review into that particular matter; no-one will convince me the SFA did due diligence on that, it’s frankly incredible anyone could be expected to believe it.

Pinsent Mason’s report came back to say “no evidence” had been found in that case; sterling work, with a company hiring a firm to investigate itself. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Yet there was enough of a link for the Crown Prosecution Service, who’ve levelled criminal charges on the back of it.

How was Sevco allowed to stay in the hands of a guy like Green long enough to have caused the chaos we know he did? A lot of their fans were asking that very question, but they were asking the wrong people.

A lot of the Celtic bloggers said it right from the start; ask the SFA.

They had a legal responsibility to that club’s shareholders, and to the rest of the game, to get to the bottom of issues like that, and they never bothered their arses.

Celtic shareholders have been similarly disenfranchised, over stuff such as Resolution 12 and title stripping. Their own legal protections have been nullified by the SFA’s lack of oversight and their criminal contempt for shareholders rights, espoused beautifully in today’s question to the judge, in Regan’s “I’d do nothing” reply when asked if he would act if irrefutable evidence was presented to him proving the Resolution 12 case in full, and most clearly in the letter some of the Resolution 12 requisitioners received recently in which he stated his view that the governing body is neither answerable to Celtic shareholders or those of any other club.

Such contempt has earned its day in court, as far as I’m concerned, and it makes Ashley’s decision not to proceed both baffling and infuriating. Is he what King says he is? A bully, a braggart but ultimately a gutless coward?

Where the billionaire feared to go, Scottish football fans make yet tread and Celtic aren’t the only club with lots of shareholders or the only club whose fans feel positively screwed over by the arrogant idiots at Hampden.

Anyone who doubts fans will put their money where their mouths are need to think again. Scottish football fans must be amongst the best in the world when it comes to holding people to account, and doing so with their hard earned cash.

Celtic fans have already paid for a full page newspaper ad tackling the Survival Myth. Websites like this one couldn’t survive without donations. James Doleman’s court expenses were covered by Scottish football supporters who wanted to get to the truth. There’s an appetite out there for a crowdfunded legal challenge, and I think a lot of lawyers who would love to take on our case for a very reasonable fee. The mood for one is growing, and at long last the supporters realise that it might well be the only way we get some answers.

Shareholders hold all the cards here.

There are enough of them, from various clubs, including the Ibrox ones, who feel the SFA’s lax regulations and contempt for their own rules has had adverse consequences, including for share prices and dividends, and that’s the key factor.

All a judge requires to consider a judicial review is evidence that procedural failings at a public body may have resulted in a loss to shareholders. That’s clear enough and easy to demonstrate in cases where you’re talking about huge sums of money or falling share prices.

When the SFA’s lawyer contemptuously raised the spectre of fans taking legal action against the association for failing in its basic requirements as a public body, he was expressing a very real, very reasonable, fear which exists in that organisation.

They know there are bodies buried out there, and they know a lot of people are very busy with their shovels. It’s a matter of time before these things are uncovered, and the only questions that remain are about how that’ll be achieved and what comes afterwards.

The novelist Margaret Attwood once said “The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

That approach might have worked once at the SFA but they no longer feel they to need to pretend with us. They’re very open about their propensity for hiding and covering things up, otherwise they wouldn’t expend such energy in telling us such things were none of our business, and that we have no right to know about them.

It was James Joyce who called secrets “tyrants waiting to be dethroned.”

The SFA knows it can’t keep the lid on this forever, but it continues to try.

When the dethroning comes here, they’re only going to have themselves to blame.

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A Very Scottish Scandal: How Rangers Almost Wrecked Scottish Football – Part One

ogilvie1This article is the first part of a piece I’m writing for another site I’ve just taken over, one about football in England and across Europe.

I thought it was time we moved the Rangers-Sevco debate outside Scotland, to an audience beyond our borders, perhaps in the hope of interesting the London based media in this sordid, and unbelievable tale …

To do so, it’s necessary to tell it all, exactly as it happened, without inference or bias, as a straightforward presentation of facts. That way we can give investigators their framework.

It is going to be long, easily the longest piece I’ve ever published. It’s also complicated, as the situation has been, and continues to be.

Of course, it was always my intention to publish it here as well.

It’s still being written, but it was getting too long to post as a single article, so I’m splitting it.

Part 2 will be up in the next day or two.

In the meantime, this is the backstory of the scandal that almost destroyed Scottish football.

Part One: The Introduction

Football in England is in good shape. Or bad shape. Or improving. Or getting worse.

Depending on who you are talking to, it’s all of these things and it’s none of them.

From up here in Scotland it looks pretty healthy to me, without necessarily being on a par with how things are in, for example, Germany.

But the game is in safe hands.

You only to have look at the way the FA has dealt with club owners who’ve tried to take the piss to see that.

The folk running football in England get it.

When the game down there suffered the match-fixing/betting scandal in 2013, that sent a number of people to jail, the National Crime Agency was widely praised for their role in it, but in my view the Football Association deserved enormous credit too.

Football didn’t try to cover this up.

The FA co-operated in full. Nothing was with-held and nothing was swept under the carpet.

I envy you guys leadership like that. Up here, we have none.

I’m going to tell you all the story of a cancer eating Scottish football from the inside.

I’m a Celtic blogger, and I’m telling you that upfront because this involves my club’s biggest rivals, and I want it to be clear what my background is before you carry on reading a word.

Everything I’m about to write is the truth.

All of the facts are verifiable and easy to confirm.

Fans in England have maybe heard some of the story, but I’m willing to bet the version of it you’ve been reading or hearing about isn’t exactly … complete.

There are reasons for that.

For one thing, the story isn’t complete yet and it might not be for a long, long time.

It’s also complicated, with roots going back more than fifteen years, involving a Who’s Who of characters right out of a James Bond film.

Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not.

It takes place across four continents, with scenes set in South African mansions, waterfront properties in Monaco, expensive London hotels and grubby back door boozers in Belfast.

It’s a sexy story, involving politicians, dodgy bank officials, money laundering, tax evasion, fraud and a host of other offences, and I can’t even write down all the gory details because some of them are currently the province of the courts.

But it’s also about failures of governance, a compliant and even complicit media, and corrupt practices which are widely known about up here but haven’t yet been accounted for.

It’s about a decade of cheating, and about the concerted efforts of a group of people to make sure that no-one was punished for it.

They first tried to ignore it, then tried to excuse it, then tried to buy off their critics with promises to tackle it before they made it 100 times worse.

It’s the biggest scandal in the history of sport on this island.

It’s torn Scottish football apart, but could yet turn out to be the thing that saves it.

Part Two: 2007 – The Origins Of A Scandal

This story properly begins in 2007, with a police raid on Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, the home of my club’s biggest rivals, Rangers. The purpose of the raid was to obtain information, on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, to aid in their investigations of football corruption, involving backhanders in transfer deals and the tapping of players.

Amongst the evidence collected were computers and financial records.

One of the deals they were looking at involved the sale, by Rangers, to Newcastle United of the French defender Jean Alain Boumsong, for £8 million, a transfer that was somewhat unusual as he’d only been at Ibrox for six months, after arriving on a free.

The Newcastle manager was, of course, former Rangers boss Graeme Souness.

He wasn’t charged with anything, and in a later stage of the inquiry was cleared in relation to the matters at hand. Rangers itself wasn’t implicated in the scandal.

But there was a nasty sting in the tail for the club.

On the computers, and in the club’s books, there were details of dozens of payments made to footballers and club employees – and some ex-employees, as we’ll discuss – totalling tens of millions of pounds, payments which seemed unusual. The Met passed them on to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, who examined them and concluded that they were part of a tax evasion policy the world has come to know as an EBT – an Employee Benefit Trust.

HMRC began an investigation.

It was a bad time for the Treasury, with the first ripples of the coming global financial storm already tingling the antennae of certain economists and politicians, amongst them Vince Cable who was trying to warn his parliamentary colleagues that a catastrophe was just around the corner. They largely ignored him, as a lot of those in the Square Mile ignored their own Cassandra’s.

Reality can be ignored. For a while. Then it comes crashing through the walls.

The tsunami struck less than year later, and Gordon Brown’s government was engulfed as they tried to keep the rising waters from sinking the UK economy.

Alastair Darling, Brown’s Chancellor, was soon having round the clock meetings at Threadneelde Street and the Treasury with bank officials who started out claiming their institutions were sound but eventually were forced to admit this wasn’t true, and that they badly needed government help.

One of the last banks in the UK to admit they had a problem was one of the flagship enterprises Brown and others had been so proud of, Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), which had once been a sleepy, down home conservative high street institution but which over time had turned its backroom into a speculators casino.

At a dinner party, at the height of the crisis, Brown spoke privately with the head of another of Britain’s leading banking companies, Lloyds TSB, which had successfully evaded trouble by staying out of the dicier activities going on in the Square Mile, to find out if they’d be interested in taking over HBOS on the cheap.

In order to smooth the path for the deal, Brown agreed that the merger would be exempted from the UK’s competition regulations.

In one of the worst failures of due diligence in financial history, and with politicians breathing down their necks, determined to avoid a crash, Lloyds completed the deal in jig time, only to discover something appalling; HBOS was sitting on a £10 billion hole.

The big bosses at Lloyds slammed the brakes on at once, as they started to go through the disaster zone with a fine toothed comb.

Of particular interest to them were the goings on of a handful of directors, including Peter Cummings and his predecessor, a guy called Gavin Masterton.

I could write a book on these two, and in years to come others will definitely do so. Their story fits into the picture here and a bigger picture besides, which overlaps with this one. I’m not going into the full scale of it – most if has no bearing on this – but the part that does has to be laid out properly and understood, in order to comprehend how big this is.

Here’s a little history lesson, before we go on.

Part Three: David Murray & The Bank That Couldn’t Say No

Back in the 90’s Gavin Masterton was one of the most powerful individuals in Scottish football, although only a handful of people knew that at the time. His department at what was then the Bank of Scotland had on its books the debts of almost all the Premier League clubs, including Celtic’s.

In fact, in 1994, Masterton’s department came within 24 hours of closing Celtic down over a debt of £5.25 million, cash the old board couldn’t repay.

The club was saved by a Canadian supporter named Fergus McCann, who along with a group of likeminded individuals effectively put up the collateral for that debt and then paid it off entirely. According to McCann, who took over the running of the club, he and his board approached the bank 10 months later, to find out on what terms they’d be granted a loan facility.

The bank offered them £2.5 million, fully securitised, which McCann and his people regarded as an insult. They ended the club’s relationship with Bank of Scotland there and then, and he retained deep distrust of them until the day he stepped down from his role.

As a gauge of how ridiculous the bank’s offer had been, McCann later told a newspaper that shortly afterwards the club was able to obtain a £10 million loan on very favourable terms from the Co-Op bank in Manchester.

Celtic’s issues with the bank were in sharp contrast to the relationship Masterton had with the owner of Rangers, David Murray.

At that time, and for years afterwards, Murray was regarded as a true example of Scottish entrepreneurial genius. He seemed to have a flair for making money, and for courting publicity. Indeed, there’s much in his personal story that should earn him high praise. He prevailed through astonishing adversity in his early career, even coping with the loss of his legs in a car accident, to rise to become one of the shining lights of Thatcher-era business.

He took over Rangers in 1988, and immediately set about transforming the club into the biggest football operation in Scotland. First, he completed the re-development of Ibrox, turning into an all seater stadium the envy of almost every club in Britain. And, at a time when English clubs were banned from Europe, they spent lavishly on bringing the likes of Woods and Butcher and Steven to Scotland in big money deals.

But Fergus McCann and the new Celtic board were about to change the game entirely. They had arrived with a momentous business plan, one which the Canadian set about with aplomb, rebuilding the dilapidated Celtic Park into one of the biggest and best club stadiums on this island – crucially, with 10,000 more seats than at Ibrox.

After nearly a decade of being the biggest club in the land, Rangers saw their hold broken as Celtic stopped them from beating their own club record of nine in a row, on the last day of a breathless season in 1998. It had taken Fergus and his people just three years to rebuild the club into something the fans could again be proud of.

What happened next was staggering, and laden with consequences.

Murray threw more money at his team than had ever been seen in Scottish football. The knock on effects are still difficult to quantify; it ushered in an era of rising transfer fees and over the top spending at many other clubs … and to the crippling debts that came later.

Within a year, the Ibrox debt had swollen to £50 million, as Murray, with typical bombast, told a media that lapped up his every word, that “for every fiver Celtic spend we will spend a ten.”

In point of fact, he exceeded that by quite some way. The spending gap was actually far higher – a ratio of three or four to one, and was actually completely unsustainable.

Everyone assumed – because the media dared not ask – that Murray himself was footing the bill for this outrageous cash splurge. What nobody knew, until much later, was that a good deal of the money to fund these signings had come from the very same bank, and the very same people, that had almost closed Celtic down just a few years before.

In 2001, The Bank of Scotland had merged with Halifax to become HBOS, and Masterton had handed over responsibility to Peter Cummings, his protégé, who had been at his side through much of the insanity of the previous few years.

Over the next 12 months, the debt at Rangers climbed even higher until it topped £80 million. Again, the real facts were largely hidden out of sight, but we know now that in 1999 the bank had taken part ownership of Rangers during “corporate restructuring” at MIH, the umbrella organisation owned by David Murray, and which controlled 85% of the club. The banks £20 million “investment” in MIH entitled them to 12 million shares in that company and a holding in Rangers itself.

On the surface, everything looked calm. But HBOS and Murray were hiding a devastating secret, one which would be uncovered in due course. The Murray “success story” was being funded by bank loans. In 2001, they borrowed £50 million, on extremely good terms, and their exposure only increased in the years that followed.

In 2004, Murray “personally” underwrote a share issue to remove £50 million of the debt burden from the club. The papers lauded him for this largesse, but in actual fact, with the help of the bank and some clever accounting, the debt was simply transferred to another section of MIH.

By 2006, two years before the financial crash, the newly named Murray Group owed the Bank of Scotland £209 million. A year later, the debt stood at £290 million.

When Lloyds took over in 2008, they uncovered the truth, not just about the £10 billion hole but that HBOS had been effectively trading whilst insolvent, and had received a $12.5 billion emergency loan from the US Federal Reserve on the night of the takeover, and a £24.5 billion loan from the Bank of England at Threadneedle Street shortly thereafter.

Lloyds officials started to dig. They soon found out where the money had gone.

Masterton, Cummings and friends had been having a rare old time, lending money at ludicrously generous rates to their pals in business, much of it in Scotland, of whom Murray, through the ownership of Rangers, was the most high profile here.

These loans were generally acknowledged to be ridiculous, but as long as the companies they were investing in seemed solvent – and in Murray’s case high real estate prices, including Ibrox, which he had valued at nearly twice its land worth, were making it seem that way – they were able to keep a lid on the pressure cooker and the lending went on.

The HBOS affair was so toxic – and it wasn’t limited to Scotland – that it became the subject of a major criminal fraud investigation called Operation Hornet. I’ll skip the details of that, as it doesn’t apply to this story, but one fact ought to make the eyes of any reader bulge. A report commissioned by Lloyds Banking Group at the time estimated that fully 69% – worth a mind-bending £80 billion – of the money Cummings and his department lent during its roller coaster existence, fell outside of what the more conservative bank called its “risk appetite.”

The damage had been done. Saddled with this enormous hole in the balance sheet, Lloyds Banking Group – who had hitherto avoided being dragged into the swamp of the financial crash – became one of the organisations part-nationalised by the government in 2009, who took 43.3% of its shares in exchange for a bailout package.

As a consequence, most of the debts from that era were written off, at the taxpayers’ expense. Murray, and Rangers, as it turned out, were quite literally funded from the public purse.

We didn’t know the half of it.

Even as Lloyds was trying to get its house in order, turning off the lending taps and asking the recipients of HBOS loans to see the colour of their money, and as a consequence bringing Rangers into line with the rest of Scottish football, at last, in terms of spending only what they earned, the club was hit with a sledgehammer.

The 2007 investigation into the Jean Alain Boumsong transfer had provided HMRC with evidence of wholescale tax fraud at the club, and in 2010 they sent their tax bill to Ibrox, amounting to a demand for repayment of £40 million plus fines.

When the story broke it send shockwaves through Scotland. A tax bill that size, with HMRC insisting on payment on demand, was capable of wiping out any club overnight. Rangers were appealing it, so it wasn’t imminently due, but that was of little consolation to Murray who, with the bank breathing down his own neck, was no longer able to support the club as lavishly as he had with the use of his flexible friend and an unlimited line of credit.

He put Rangers up for sale, and waited for the offers to flood in.

A few people expressed interest. One was a hard-line Unionist MP, who never made it clear where he was getting the cash to buy a football club. Another was a Russian oligarch who turned out to be a vicious gangster. The News of the World ran an editorial saying Rangers fans were open to anyone, that they didn’t care where the money came from, or who the owners were, as long as the club was able to compete with Celtic.

Financial analysts and people within the club pleaded with Murray to start setting cash aside to indemnify them against a negative outcome in what became known as the Big Tax Case, but he wouldn’t hear of it. The club was still spending every penny that came in the door, as fast as it did, and in order to maintain the liquidity of his corporate empire Lloyds were still allowing him huge overdraft facilities. That allowed a certain leeway.

But the spectre of EBT use hung over the club like a killing weight. To understand how this happened you have to go back to 1999.

Part Four: Ten Years Of EBT’s

Celtic, under Fergus McCann, had just completed the shimmering new Celtic Park and Fergus had announced his departure, as per his “five year plan.”

In that time he had turned around the club, making them financially self-sustainable with the second biggest season ticket base in the UK after Manchester United. Furthermore, with 10,000 seats more than Ibrox the new ground was capable of giving the club a long-term financial advantage, provided both sides were run on a similar basis.

But of course, they weren’t and Murray was chasing more than just Scottish glory. He saw European success as a primary goal too, and that needed to be funded and even with the Bank of Scotland loaning him staggering sums he was looking at other measures.

As Fergus was preparing to exit Celtic Park, Murray told one of his media acolytes that “whoever takes over Celtic next had better have the deepest pockets imaginable.”

To be sure his were deeper still, in 1999 he and the Rangers board set up what became known as the Discounted Options Scheme, what we now refer to as “the wee tax case.” This was a highly complicated way of paying players huge lump sums on top of their salaries, so as to defeat the taxman. It was the dodgiest of dodgy schemes, like EBT’s now absolutely illegal, but at the time … well, borderline, if run right.

The scheme was opened by a Rangers director named Campbell Ogilvie, a man who was to play a huge, and important, role in what was to come. Over the four years of its existence, the Discounted Options Scheme provided remuneration packages for some of the most high-profile players in the club’s recent history, including Ronald DeBoer and Tore Andre Flo.

Part of the trouble, for Murray and his club, was that Celtic were undergoing a remarkable transformation in the early part of the new millennium. Martin O’Neill had arrived as manager and the club was on a sound financial footing, allowing him access to funds no boss at the club had ever been given before. He signed top players, like Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson and Neil Lennon, to augment the talents already at Parkhead, including Lubo Moravcik, Johan Mjallby, Stilian Petrov and, of course, the majestic Henrik Larsson.

In his first year at the club, 2001, O’Neill won the domestic treble.

Murray and the Rangers board then embarked on a level of spending hitherto unseen in football here. Their relationship with the Bank of Scotland was at its zenith, as Masterton made way for Cummings, but even that wasn’t enough. Murray slapped down the gauntlet with his notorious “for every fiver” speech and the crazy days began.

The £12 million purchase of Tore Andre Flo, a Scottish record to this day, sums up the insanity of it all. The deal made no financial sense, because it was designed to rub Celtic’s face in Rangers’ financial muscle, doubling, as promised, the £6 million we had splashed out on Sutton. The media loved it, not wondering where the cash was coming from.

The same year, Murray International opened up the Employee Benefit Trust’s at Ibrox, with the aim of paying players above and beyond their declared earnings.

The man who set up the scheme for them was a lawyer and financial whiz-kid named Paul Baxendale Walker, a colourful character with his finger in many pies, including writing, acting and TV production. He later became a writer, director and star in pornographic movies owned by one of his companies.

At the time, the only people he was interested in shafting were those at HMRC.

Over the next ten years, Rangers paid players an estimated £48 million over and above their declared salaries, through a scheme which was setup to look like it provided “soft loans” to those who applied for them. In fact, these payments were negotiated with the footballers in advance of them signing for the club, and as players and agents don’t trust handshake agreements or directors keeping their word, many of them asked for, and were given, “side contracts” to that effect.

These contracts were to pose problems when HMRC stumbled on the scheme. By their very nature, those contracts turned those “loans” into salary perks, making them taxable. Rangers knew that at the time, and so they were determined to keep them secret from all but those who were working inside the club itself.

So those contracts were stuck in a file cabinet and never declared, either to the tax authorities or to the relevant football governing bodies, whose regulations are pretty clear on the point that all paperwork relating to such matters as salary and remuneration should be presented to them post haste as part of their general licensing criteria.

In other words, without those contracts players were not properly registered.

But of course, Rangers didn’t worry about that.

They had friends in high places.

Part Five: Succulent Lamb & Friends In High Places

From 1989 until 1998, Rangers won nine league titles in a row, all of them with Murray at the helm. During that time, and with help from the bank, he filled the club with phenomenally talented, and hugely expensive, players like Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne. He also courted the media as no other football chairman ever had before.

O’Neill’s success at Celtic, and the new direction of the club, was the first serious challenge to their hegemony in that decade, at least as far as what happened on the pitch went. Off the field, Murray and Rangers’ position was pretty much untouchable for years.

During the glory days, he and Rangers were not so much Scotland’s football superpower as they were a hyperpower, and this extended into the way they were treated by the media and in the influence they held within the governing bodies.

How much influence did they have? Well, by 2007 a former Rangers player ran the Players Union, another was CEO of the SFA, a former director was the Vice President there and others sat on the boards of the Premier League and other agencies of the national association … all at the same time. No other club had so many of its officials and former employees so deeply embedded in the footballing power structure.

And this had huge consequences for the game.

Before the recent scandals, the biggest crisis in our sport had been sparked by the SFA’s failure to properly register a Celtic signing, the Portuguese striker Jorge Cadete, at a crucial stage of the league campaign in 1995-96. The deal had been done just prior to the transfer deadline, but someone inside Hampden didn’t put through the paperwork.

The player missed important games including that year’s Scottish Cup semi-final match against Rangers, which the club lost 2-1. Did it also cost Celtic the league? That’s a difficult question to answer, because he missed four matches, three of which ended in draws. The following year he scored 33 times in 44 games, but then Celtic didn’t win the title that season either.

You could debate that issue all day and all night, but what was important was that McCann was incensed and believed the failure to push through the registration had been deliberate. He focussed his anger in on two men in particular; the SFA chief executive, Jim Farry, and the association’s head of registrations, Sandy Bryson.

He took the matter to the courts, and in the case that followed, Farry destroyed his career with his own words. The SFA relieved him of his duties after Celtic won at the hearing.

Afterwards, McCann told the Scottish media, “I’m not claiming there was malice but there was intent. There was a failure on his part despite the advice of FIFA and Celtic. This is a matter that goes beyond Celtic Football Club, it’s a question of somebody who has failed to follow the rules of football.”

Sandy Bryson remained in his post, and the club settled for the CEO’s head on a spike.

Years later, Scottish football would have ample cause to regret that.

In 1998, with Rangers chasing ten titles in a row, David Murray sat down with a number of senior journalists at the Scottish dailies. One of them, Jim Traynor, wrote a remarkable account of one of the most famous interviews of that era.

The published piece that followed under Traynor’s name ranks as one of the most obsequious ever penned by a supposedly serious reporter. It gave Scottish football a catch-all phrase for the hacks who fluttered around the Rangers chairman, and the stuff that they gushed out onto the page.

We now call such stories “succulent lamb journalism.”

The relevant part of the text reads as follows;

If the past 10 years have taught Murray, who is one of Britain’s wealthiest individuals, anything it is how to win and he believes Rangers will continue to grow and prosper.

“I look upon these last 10 years as a having been a great era, but it is over and Rangers are about to head on into a new era,” he said over a glass of the finest red.

He was about to take in another mouthful of the most succulent lamb – anyone who knows Murray shouldn’t be surprised to learn he is a full-blooded, unashamed red meat eater – when he put down his knife and fork.

It was like a statement of intent and looking directly across the table to make sure I hadn’t yet succumbed to the wine, he said:

“Bring on the next 10 years, there’s more to come for Rangers. Understand that I care passionately about what I’m doing with Rangers and believe that in 10 years’ time we will still be setting the pace. Too many of us have put too much into this club and we won’t let someone come along and take it all away. What I’m saying here is that no matter who buys Celtic from Fergus, they will need to have the deepest of pockets imaginable.”

Speaking, years later, to Channel 4’s crack investigator Alex Thomson, when he embarked on his own coverage of the Rangers administration and liquidation crisis, the veteran journalist Graham Spiers, who was at that famous meeting, spoke about it and the wider atmosphere that pervaded Scottish football reporting at the time.

“Succulent lamb journalism means a culture – and I hold my hand up here too – a culture of sycophantic, unquestioning, puff journalism that went on around Rangers generally and Sir David Murray particularly … Look, you are making a pact with the devil if you like. You get thrown the best scraps. You get something for the back page or whatever. But there’s a tacit deal. You don’t dig too deep. You don’t cause any trouble.”

And that was the way of it, for over ten years. Every one of Murray’s pronouncements was treated as gospel. Even the sheer flight of fancy, in 2008, whilst the financial crisis was gathering pace and his bankers were working round to the clock to stave off disaster, that £280 million was about to spent on Ibrox, making it “the first stadium in Britain to have a retractable roof and a hovering pitch”, was printed and praised without serious questions being asked.

By then, the fans of other Scottish clubs were already calling him David “Moonbeams” Murray after another of his notorious public pronouncements, in 2006, where he’d used the colourful phrase to predict that another era of untrammelled success was just around the corner.

Even when the media had a profound duty to criticise the club, they didn’t do it. For over 70 years, Rangers had operated a sectarian signing policy excluding Catholic players. Murray had shattered that, and signed a number of them, but a section of the support remained wedded to the old times, and in 2007 they were the subject of a UEFA investigation for discriminatory songs at a match in Villarreal. The SFA ignored it, refusing to take any responsibility for what went on inside their own grounds. The response of Scotland’s media was even more astonishing.

First, they tried to paint the issue as being one involving a small number of fans, which clearly it wasn’t as anyone who’d ever been to Ibrox could attest. Then, after a steer from a PR firm with links to the Ibrox club, they tried to drag Celtic into the mire, accusing UEFA of ignoring that club’s fans and their singing about the Irish wars of independence.

Finally, with pressure from Ibrox to close the debate down, some of the media outlets started to question exactly what the Rangers fans had done wrong.

This was too much for some of them to swallow, and even the aforementioned Jim Traynor was past the point of trying to make excuses. In a memorable, and explosive, debate on Radio Scotland with one of his fellow pundits, the journalist, agent and former Rangers player Gordon Smith, who was one of the men pushing this line, Traynor exploded.

“Tell me, Gordon,” he asked, “which part of fuck the Pope do you not find sectarian?”

Smith had no answer for that one, and he stuttered and stammered through an attempted justification for his view. It didn’t wash, and everyone who heard him that day knew it. What few were aware of at the time was that he’d been asked to write a chapter in a book about the club, and he duly did so, in which he accused Scottish football, and its governing agencies, of having an “agenda” against them, a quite laughable assertion.

A few months later, with the resignation of the SFA chief executive David Taylor, the SFA placed an advert in the national press asking for applications to fill the post.

The man who ran the interview process was SFA President George Peat, who a year later would be instrumental in pressuring the SPL to extend the league campaign, for the second time, to accommodate Rangers quest to win the UEFA Cup, and who offered to suspend the showpiece event of the SFA’s season, the Scottish Cup Final, in which the club was taking part, without bothering to consult either his board or Queen of the South, the other finalists.

His most valued colleague during that time was the SFA’s Vice President, former Rangers director Campbell Ogilvie, who had been so active in the creation of EBT’s.

They had a list of criteria which was very detailed and specific, yet when the new CEO was unveiled to the media he ticked precisely none of those boxes.

You’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to say next.

Yes, it was Gordon Smith himself.

Of course, none of this was of the slightest concern to the ranks of the Scottish press, who let’s Smith’s scandalous appointment pass without critical comment of any kind.

He resigned the post in April 2010, the very month in which the story about HMRC’s tax demand broke. He cited “family reasons.”

No-one bothered to ask if there was more to it than that.

Probably, that wasn’t considered “real news.”

Part Six: The Motherwell Born Billionaire

By 2010, the Lloyds Banking Group were done with Rangers, and wanted out.

They were so determined to get spending at Ibrox under control they’d placed one of their key point-men, Donald Muir, on the club’s board of directors and with other officials in place at Murray’s other companies a period of cost-cutting was finally getting underway.

Time was running out for the steel magnate, and the bank’s patience was almost at an end. They knew full well the consequences for the whole Murray empire if HMRC’s tax case verdict went against them, and anyway, they were equally sick of the sight of the man who, in 2007, had received a knighthood for “services to business in Scotland.”

He had been searching for a buyer for nearly three years, and had vowed to the club’s supporters that he would only give up control when the “right person” came along, someone with the means to take Rangers forward, someone who would “protect it” as he had.

After Russian mobsters and Unionist MP’s had failed to make their bids, and after a national newspaper had told the world that Rangers fans would accept anyone as long as that person made big promises about spending money, it was perhaps only natural that they’d attract the attention of a man like Craig Thomas Whyte.

He emerged as if from a clear blue sky with headlines screaming the unbelievable news to the world. The Daily Record was the lead-off hitter, telling its readers, on 18 November 2010, “Billionaire Scot Set To Buy Rangers For £30 million.”

As the deal neared completion, the fever inside the newsrooms spiked. Other news outlets rushed to hail the man Record “journalist” Keith Jackson had hailed the “Motherwell born billionaire” with “off the radar wealth.”

Murray’s Moonbeams were replaced by fantasies that the Rangers manager Walter Smith would be handed a “Whyte Knight Warchest” to spark a new series of big money signings.

It’s impossible to over-state how ridiculous some of this coverage was. The reports that Whyte was a billionaire were easy enough to confirm. Every year The Sunday Times extensively trawls tax returns and other financial records in the public domain to compile the definitive guide to the wealthiest people in the country – the annual Rich List. To be on it is considered the ultimate badge of honour, and Whyte had actually featured years before, earning a place on the Young Rich List when he was in his early 20’s, with an estimated wealth of around £20 million.

That year, The Rich List was so extensive that those at the bottom had wealth in the low tens of millions, similar to what his net worth had once been. He didn’t even scrape into this level, and so a lot of us knew early on that he had no “off the radar wealth” and we asked ourselves a couple of simple questions; what else were those big bold headlines hiding, and what else were our fearless crusading journalists equally unaware of?

The answer, as it turned out, was a lot.

With issues relating to the takeover, and what happened afterwards, in the legal system at the moment I’m limited in what I can write about the multi-faceted background and business history of Craig Whyte, but even the earliest, and most basic, enquiries revealed a string of failed companies and contradictions to the media narrative.

To use but one example, The Record had reported that the takeover was being plotted from Whyte’s “bases” in Glasgow and the Virgin Islands. Internet sleuths soon tracked down the registered addresses from which the bid was being run.

One was an office in Glasgow City Centre.

It was visited by an online blogger, who took photographs of a single locked room with grilles on the windows and nothing in it but a single filing cabinet, gathering dust.

The photograph another online investigator published, of Whyte’s Virgin Islands “headquarters”, was equally stunning.

It was a portacabin, in the middle of a field, surrounded by cows. That picture later appeared on the front page of The Daily Record’s sister publication, The Sunday Mail, months after the fact, when the war-chests hadn’t been delivered and everyone was asking questions.

Well before the takeover was completed there was ample information in the public domain to scotch Whyte’s credentials as a very wealthy man. His chequered business history was being discussed openly on the internet, on various Scottish football blogs. There was plenty of serious doubt about his ability to finance the club in the event that something went wrong, and it was generally known that bank was no longer prepared to.

From his “home base” in Monaco, Whyte appeared to be making ever more grandiose promises, issuing statements through a PR firm every other day, which the media was printing without doing any research. Part of the problem was the timeframe.

Rangers’ fans wanted signings made in the January window, and as that deadline came, and went, they wondered where the man with the money was.

The media, still being fed nonsense and still lapping it all up, claimed Whyte had made Murray an offer of £28 million to buy him out, but that it had been vetoed by Lloyds, who wanted the club’s debt erased before they would agree to a sale. As it turned out this, as with most other assertions in the press at the time, was nonsense. The bank hadn’t vetoed anything; what they had done was ask for certain guarantees that they’d be paid back.

The takeover was finally completed on 6 May 2011, and the first seismic shock, which ought to have given the Rangers fans pause was the purchase price; for all the talk of multi-million pound deals their club, stadium, players, history and all changed hands for £1.

Part of the SFA’s licensing regulations, on fit and proper individuals, requires the club itself to certify that its leaders are sound individuals with no blemish on their characters. It is a ludicrous policy, relying on self-policing and dishonest or disreputable individuals confessing that upon taking over and submitting their paperwork.

Whyte was hiding more than just his business history; he had also been banned from being a director at one point. His submission to the SFA included none of this information. They could have done their own digging, but they didn’t bother.

But what few people outside Ibrox were aware of was that certain directors at the club had been suspicious of Whyte from the first, perhaps alerted, in part, by the work being done by online journalists and bloggers. There was a Takeover Panel within the club to scrutinise potential candidates for ownership.

When they met the “Motherwell born billionaire” they were unimpressed by his “plans.” They then hired a private investigator to look into him, and he presented a report before the takeover was signed and sealed. That report found things that even the internet bloggers hadn’t. Did they include his directorship ban? Unknown. But the people on that panel shelved the report once he was in the boardroom. They didn’t share it with the SFA, as they had a duty to.

Boy oh boy, how they were to regret that.

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No Justice, No Moving On

59cf4bcc9d0a97e18a1085deeb864589Tonight, as I write this, the world of athletics is in uproar over the behaviour of the Russian team in the 2012 Olympics.

It looks certain that Russia will be banned from competing in international competition and that their athletes will face their own sanctions in due course.

These will probably include the removal of all the medals they won during that competition.

Much of the evidence that there was specific wrong-doing has been destroyed. This won’t matter, and is pretty much what guarantees the harshest measures.

The entire national athletics structure appears to have been involved in the offences and that means everyone will suffer the consequences. Consequences are important. When cheating is discovered in professional sport they tend to be rather draconian.

The stripping of titles isn’t unusual. It’s par for the course.

Everyone in Scottish football knows what Rangers did and that it was cheating.

A lot of smoke is being blown to distract people from that simple fact, but it’s undisputable just the same.

Note that no-one is suggesting that what the club did wasn’t wrong. Everyone accepts that. What their defenders are doing instead is trying to square the circle by suggesting that other clubs have done similar stuff. They’re saying that other clubs have spent money they didn’t necessarily have. And they’re suggesting we “just move on.”

Scottish football’s “leaders” – and I say that word with the maximum irony – would do well not to underestimate how angry people are over this.

The incumbents at Hampden, at the SFA and the SPFL, are gutless to their core.

King, as we all know, ought never to have been in a position of football responsibility again in Scotland after his own role in this scandal, to say nothing of his criminal conviction for tax fraud in South Africa, but because our game here is run by little men without a shred of backbone he’s chairman of the club they would have you believe is the same one that caused all this chaos in the first place.

The folk who were at Rangers are now three years past the point where they ought to have atoned, and been punished, for this stuff.

I’ve already laid out the ways in which what Rangers did was a crime against society, and not just against sport, but HMRC took care of that by consigning the club to the graveyard. The SFA has never lived up to its own responsibilities in this case, and it’s imperative that they are now forced to own that failure and act.

The thing is, very few people in Scottish football trust them when it comes to that. We can all too easily imagine a scenario where the SFA or whoever sets up another Lord Nimmo Smith panel, giving it instructions to tread softly and not upset people too much, out of a combination of fear or whatever. Stewart Regan and his “social unrest” comments spring all too readily to mind.

If we’re to truly get to the bottom of this cesspit, this matter needs a public enquiry of the sort not seen in football before. Other sports have them. Athletics is heading for a major one, in the aftermath of the damning report on Russia.

The people in charge of the IAAF have been complacent for a long time, but they’re wide awake now and focussing not only on the integrity of their own competitions but on the reputation of competitive sport as a whole.

In an editorial for The Guardian last night, the journalist Owen Gibson quoted Dick Pound, the boss of Wada, the athletics agency responsible for catching doping, who said “The public is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt and that certainly affects the credibility of sport.”

He’s right.

Mark Daly, the man who broke apart the EBT story, did the same with athletics, which led in no small way to the current crisis there. He is one of a handful of world class journalists – and how proud we should be of him – who’s got the intelligence and guts to go after stories like this.

What he found out – that doping for sport, and faking a blood test, is astonishingly simple – has haunted that game ever since, but other games were reeling before this.

Cycling had been devastated by Lance Armstrong. Bloodgate had taken its toll on rugby. Horseracing has been stalked by a variety of allegations. So too has cricket and golf. Even the Paralympics hasn’t been free of this; the 2000 Games saw Spain accused of having won a basketball gold medal in the intellectual disability section, without any of their players actually suffering from one.

In the US, the “biogenesis scandal” saw more than a dozen professional baseball players indicted and suspended for doping.

There have been scandals in American football and hockey.

We know football isn’t clean.

Even if the world governing body was not descending into total chaos under FBI and Justice Department subpoenas there have been scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and elsewhere.

Associations across the globe have found evidence of corruption at every level.

In Spain just last month, an assistant referee ran to the police, he claims, after his bosses began pressuring him to give decisions in favour of Real Madrid in the coming El Classico match.

In England, they’ve already had the first trial sending people to jail for match fixing in relation to betting syndicates, a subject I’ve written about before.

Scottish football’s scandal eclipses them all.

EBT use itself lasted ten years and the crisis that grew out of it has lasted another four. Rangers went into liquidation more than three years ago, and the governing bodies have mishandled every moment since.

Keith Jackson has said the EBT affair had “scarred the game” here, perhaps in the hope the rest of us will forget that it was the behaviour of one club that caused all this. Yet in one sense he was correct; that event has had serious repercussions and shattered the faith the fans have in the governing bodies, and that has scarred the sport.

We don’t trust these people, and why should we?

The SFA’s own head of registrations, in one of the most perverse moments in this ghastly state of affairs, testified to Lord Nimmo Smith that the player registrations which were with-held from the governing body did not constitute a breach of the rules because no-one knew about them at the time.

This is not just the smoking gun proving the governing bodies are in this up to their necks; this is the smoking ruin of sporting integrity with the Ibrox flag planted on top of it, and messers Doncaster, Ogilvie and Regan posing before it for a photo.

It’s a bit like saying a crime isn’t a crime if no-one actually knows it’s been committed, and that once people find out that it has been it shouldn’t be investigated as one because … no-one knew at the time.

It’s still mind-bending, two years after the fact and that he was allowed to get away with that is almost unbelievable.

The problem he and others have got is that the crime is now public knowledge and the notion that those responsible should get away with what they spent a decade doing is rightly seen as unacceptable.

An “internal inquiry” isn’t going to do it either.

All of this has to be handed over to serious people who can do a serious investigation.

Frankly, I don’t know why UEFA isn’t involved in this. Those footballers played in European games and that has badly compromised their competitions as well as those here in Scotland. All it will take – and I’m shocked it’s not happened already – is for one of the clubs who played Rangers on the continent to complain … and we’re in new territory.

This whole thing reeks, everything about it, from the day the EBT case was uncovered all the way through Whyte and Green and into the disgraced King being given a seat on the board with the SFA seal of approval.

There’s no way in Hell the people who presided over this can be expected to deal with it, honourably, as we go forward.

Who knew what, where and when?

Who got paid and how much?

These are the questions that we most often ask in relation to the EBT drama.

But there are other questions, other things that don’t make sense in all this, potential scandals waiting to be uncovered, and not just the secret list of EBT recipients who’s names were never published, and are known to the BBC and other outlets … but, yes, that too …

Who was on that list? How big is this thing?

Most importantly, these were payments for ‘services rendered’ … and one of the most interesting questions is what, in some cases, did those ‘services’ involve?

There’s barely one of us who isn’t aware, for example, that Graeme Souness got an EBT ten years after leaving Ibrox.

Ten years, friends. That’s not something that can be easily explained away.

What was this cash for?

The name of this scam, after all, was the Employee Benefit Trust … so in exactly what capacity was Souness still employed by Rangers and Murray?

He was at Blackburn from 2000-2004.

In January 2000, Rangers signed Tugay Kerimoğlu.

The following year he went to Rovers in a deal that reunited him with a manager he’d played for in Turkey. That deal appears kosher, but questions have long surrounded what happened three years later, when Souness was in his first season at Newcastle.

Jean Alain Boumsong, a player the Ibrox club signed as an out-of-contract freebie, was at Rangers for less than six month before Souness took him to his new club, paying £8 million for his services.

That transfer was later part of the Stevens Inquiry into bungs and backhanders in transfer deals, with the sting in the tail being that part of that was a raid on Ibrox and the confiscating of computers, and it was on these that the EBT use became known to HMRC.

So, we know what the Geordie side got for their money … and it wasn’t very much.

Boumsong was a dreadful signing for them, playing 40 odd games before they sold him for less than half of what they paid.

What we don’t know for sure is what Rangers got for their cash.

We know too that a number of people who are now journalists got EBT’s.

We don’t know how many did because the full list isn’t known.

Martin Bain got one whilst he was on the Rangers board, but he was also on the SPL Board of Directors at the same time.

That’s a post, similar to that held by Peter Lawwell at the moment, where you’re obliged to act in the best interests of the sport.

Yet he would have known league rules were being breached all the while.

Andrew Dickson, who was at Ibrox at the time, was elected to the SFA Congress this very year … an outrage considering what we know to have been going on whilst he was a club employee, responsible for “Football Adminstration” during the period when the dual contracts were being hidden away from the very body which he now sits on.

How do we know this? We know it because the SFA told us, in their investigation into Craig Whyte, who Dickson had testified to the governing body as being a “fit and proper person.”

He was also the recipient of an EBT, one worth £33,000.

You literally could not make this stuff up.

And then there’s Campbell Ogilvie himself, who left Rangers in 2005, receiving an EBT as a “golden handshake” after departing for Hearts. He was already the SFA treasurer, and two years later he was association Vice President.

Apart from having received a payment from the Ibrox club after he’d left he also held shares in Rangers, whilst at Tynecastle … a clear violation of the regulations he was supposed to enforce.

He knew all of it, along with Dickson and Bain, about the legal advice and the side letters and the non-disclosure and the illegality of the Discounted Options Scheme.

They had to, otherwise you have to surmise that they were absolutely, perhaps even criminally, negligent in their duties.

Their EBT payments compromise all of them in terms of their positions on those boards, and it’s astonishing that Dickson is at the SFA right now with all this swirling around him, but that Ogilvie received part of his after his employment at Ibrox is far worse, and makes me wonder just what that payment represented.

One thing is for sure; he looked the other way on these issues all the way through his tenure at the SFA, and he was still working on the club’s behalf right up to the moment Nimmo Smith gave his verdict in the last so-called “independent inquiry” we had, the one where the frame of reference was all decided in advance by organisations with everything to lose.

A lot of folk in our media have already been caught out as implicated in this.

Billy Dodds had one, Neil McCann had one and so did Stephen Thompson.

Those guys all won medals at the club during the EBT years and their views are still sought today in various media outlets. All are hopelessly compromised, as are the newsrooms in which they’ve spent their time, filled as they’ll be with their mates.

In addition, although he wasn’t at the club itself, Souness frequently appears on Sky Sports as a pundit, although he’s never asked about goings on at Ibrox. He doesn’t need to be. Off-camera, I’m sure he’s pushing the Victim Myth like crack cocaine.

No wonder the media narrative is that title stripping isn’t required, or even wanted.

A lot of former Celtic players have already been lined up to say they’re against it, or so it’s being spun. In fact, many have been asked if they would like the retroactive awarding of titles, which isn’t the same thing, and very few footballers would ever want that.

The campaign being waged on the other side is sneaky, and those behind it are those with far too much to lose to allow an inquiry that’s fully independent of the sport. But that’s what necessary, because the EBT scandal is bigger than it looks and it’s led to other scandals, some of which have the potential to do even more damage.

This thing began with off-the-books payments and concealed contracts but it didn’t end there, of course.

The real scandals came later.

First, the “conflicted” SFA President and the corrupted media, some of whom were in receipt of those payments, fought to see that ten years of cheating went unpunished when Rangers was liquidated and Sevco was born, giving the new owners guarantees of immunity before a shred of evidence had even been heard in the case.

They think we’ve forgotten this, about the secret memo that gave Charles Green his “no title stripping” assurances.

He’s now headed for a courtroom as the people who allowed him to get control pretend none of this is their doing.

They are in this up to their necks.

That’s why what happens next shouldn’t – indeed can’t – be dictated by them.

When these affairs came to light the natural inclination these people had was to sweep it under the carpet.

When it wouldn’t stay there they lied to us all about seeking justice, and gave the offenders a free pass.

An official at the SFA went in front of a tribunal and excused cheating on an industrial scale on the grounds we didn’t know it was cheating at the time.

They did no due diligence on Green.

When evidence of his links to Whyte emerged they let the club investigate itself.

They watched as a share issue was launched on decidedly dicey foundations and then rubber stamped two people who didn’t meet the Fit and Proper Person criteria as it’s laid down in the rules – their own set of rules, which have been used to punish other clubs for offences not even remotely this severe.

We have criminal cases pending.

The tax scam itself has been deemed illegal.

King himself is a convicted crook, running a Scottish club, the same one making threatening noises about not accepting further sanctions, when they haven’t even accepted responsibility for the pathetically ineffectual ones that were imposed on them three years ago.

Our entire national sport is mired in an enormous scandal that would be game-changing in any other national association in Europe.

Yet many of the guilty men still hold office.

In light of all this, a landscape of destruction stretching out for miles, we’re being told to “move on.”

Anybody arguing that needs therapy.

The game needs cleansing from top to bottom, and no-one involved in these affairs should be near its fresh start, which is the bare minimum that’s required before we can even start thinking about putting this in the past.

Dismay was yesterday’s emotion.

Disbelief stopped applying many, many moons ago.

What’s replacing all of that is anger, the anger of fans who’ve had to watch this unfolding, ever evolving shambles for near on three years, which gets worse the deeper into it we go.

I’m not approaching this as a Celtic fan.

I’m approaching it as an outraged football fan who’s more and more convinced that we’re watching something that’s not actually a competitive sport at all.

My girlfriend is a wrestling fan, a staged “sport” which is an interesting spectacle but can’t in any way, shape or form be viewed as a serious undertaking.

If we want to package football in this country on that basis, then great, but let’s acknowledge that fact.

Hibs haven’t won a Scottish Cup since 1902?

Well, wouldn’t that make a wonderful “story”? Let’s fix that for them next year, yeah?

The SPL’s become a one horse race?

Let’s make sure we throw it for Aberdeen, just to create a romantic “narrative.”

Let’s create rivalries between players, between managers, between officials and even fans.

Let’s artificially create heroes and villains, let’s have nothing that’s real.

Let’s remove sporting integrity from the field entirely.

See how many fans go to see it.

I said three years ago, when the initial moves to put Sevco in the SPL were being made, that we’d reached a turning point for our sport.

The fans saved the integrity of the game by lobbying their clubs.

This crisis will require them to do it again, to see that ten years of cheating and all that’s come since doesn’t go unpunished.

I do not trust our governing bodies to do this right.

The inquiry, when it happens, has to be wholly independent with the power to call witnesses and make them answer questions.

This isn’t a joke; the illegal activities of Rangers Football Club cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and there are a thousand unanswered questions about where the money went, and why.

At the end of all of it, justice has to be done and it has to be seen to be done so that our national sport can begin to recover and heal.

That means title stripping.

That means heads must roll.

That means a complete hollowing out of the structures at the SFA and the SPFL and the creation of robust, and meaningful, regulations to assure none of this can happen again.

Then, and only then, can we finally “move on.”

(This site relies on your support, my friends. If every reader was able to make a donation that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Guilt By Association? Did The SFA Help Perpetrate A Fraud?

20205757.JPG-pwrt3Over the last week, I’ve written various pieces in relation to arrests concerning the establishment of Sevco, with the emphasis on looking at how it affects their club, but there’s a bigger issue, by far, that no-one seems to want to touch.

Back in 2012, when the NewCo was being established, there was concern on some of the blogs, this one included, that proper due diligence hadn’t been done by the game’s governing bodies.

Over the course of the next 12 months, that concern grew.

The gravest concerns we had revolved around – and continues to revolve around – the notorious Five Way Agreement and the way it is structured, as well as the people who actually signed it and were party to its creation.

This website has already described that as the most dangerous document in the history of Scottish football, and a phalanx of other sites have been clamouring for its full publication since then.

A version of it has already been leaked online, and distributed widely.

It is a document that has no parallel in our sport.

Nothing like it had been commissioned before or since.

It is, it will remain, wholly unique.

What we had is a group of senior officials in our game sitting down with people who weren’t even football administrators – Duff & Phelps, let’s not forget, were parties to this – as well as the owners of the new club, to bend regulations and ignore others in order to get them a berth in the Scottish football league structure, at a time when that was up in the air.

Back in November last year, this site published an article called Five Way To Hell. We asked a simple, but deadly, question, one the media has still not taken up, as we’d hoped, nearly 10 months later.

Was the SFA, inadvertently or not, party to a fraud?

Let’s be clear; I am neither accussing them of that or even saying that a fraud has been committed.

But these events are subject to legal action, and are going to court. I won’t discuss those events or those who were involved for that very reason.

I am simply asking that if the defendents are found guilty, and those charges proven, was the SFA a party, willingly or not, knowingly or not, to a crime?

And if the answer to this is yes, what might be the consequences for our national sport?

The Five Way Agreement bears the stamp of Duff & Phelps and that of the company calling itself Sevco Scotland Limited.

It seems clear – and it was being debated, openly, even at the time, most notably by the late Paul McConville – that this should have been questioned by those running our game.

The legal agreement to purchase the assets of the club was agreed in a different company name; that of Sevco 5088.

It has been alleged, openly and freely, by people associated with this takeover that those assets ended up in Sevco Scotland Ltd by less than exemplary means.

That’s me being diplomatic, and staying within the confines of legal allowance … but Charles Green himself told a national newspaper that, in fact, he had established Sevco Scotland Ltd as a vehicle by which he could “dupe” Craig Whyte and others.

That’s a matter of public record.

What some of us were asking – and still are – is what steps the SFA took at the time, or has taken since, to establish whether or not they are partly culpable if it turns out that Whyte and Worthington have a legitimate claim here?

A new wave of arrests has been made in connection with this, including that of Green himself.

Imran Ahmad is refusing to set foot in the UK until all this is resolved, fearing the legal consequences if he does.

Whyte himself has been huckled, and was subject to the full lynch mob treatment after being charged.

In spite of people hoping it had gone away this story has exploded all over again as any sensible person could have predicted well in advance.

It’s not going away.

I disagree with almost every single statement that comes out of the Rangers Supporters Trust, but they were 100% right when they said the SFA failed in its responsibilities to football when it allowed men such as Green and Whyte to take positions at Ibrox.

Regardless of the outcome in this case, those men were grossly unfit to have a role in running football here.

In my personal view the SFA exacerbated that failure this year in allowing Dave King on the board.

I’m not even going to dwell on the obvious – that the RST would have reacted with typical hysteria had the SFA board actually done what they’re now suggesting they should have.

The principle remains correct.

It was a failure of football governance and a staggering one at that.

What in God’s name were the SFA and the SPL legal teams doing?

If a blogger like Paul was asking questions, why the Hell were none of them doing the same?

How hard was it to ask for proper clarity on the issues, and to enquire just why the purchase agreement hadn’t been adhered to?

It’s not like it’s a small thing; this was a legally binding piece of paper, directing the disposal of assets in a company liquidated for non-payment of tax and other debts. This was serious business, being conducted in full public view … and the whole lot of it ended up transferred to another company entirely, and in circumstances that are going to be the subject of court proceedings.

The cavalier way in which these people went about this is disgraceful.

None of these issues is new.

No new facts have emerged here.

None of this has been raised just in the last four weeks.

I’m not inventing things or discussing the case itself … there were issues which were being raised at the time which the SFA and others had a duty to get to the bottom of, and it seems they never even bothered to try.

Those of us who’ve followed this have long suspected that the governing bodies were so concerned with getting a club calling itself Rangers into the league structure that they overlooked a lot of things they ought to have been on top of.

They allowed themselves to be rushed, to be bullied, to be so intimidated by threats that the takeover might collapse that they simply let Green and others run over them with a tank.

There’s ample evidence for that, such as the memo that guaranteed no title stripping and the way in which the Sevco “transfer ban” allowed the loophole which saw eight players come into the club during a period when they weren’t supposed to have been able to add to the squad.

The granting of a temporary SFA license before a lot of these issues had been resolved was, in my view, absolutely gutless and a devastating strategic error which put the Sevco owners in the driving seat in terms of any future negotiations.

From that moment on, any threat to prevent the club from playing games unless it agreed to a raft of conditions was as empty as a Dave King promise and everyone involved knew it well.

The people running the game in Scotland have given up any pretence of corporate responsibility in recent years.

That Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan remain in post three years after the scandalous summer of 2012 is an outrage for which all of our clubs are, in part, accountable, and Celtic as much as, if not more, than others.

Celtic’s Peter Lawwell, after all, is the one who continued to lend legitimacy to Neil Doncaster far beyond the point where it made any sense at all to do so. Doncaster is a busted flush, widely regarded as a joke by every supporter of every club in the game. Quite why anyone would wish him to remain in his current role is a mystery only those involved can clear up.

Neither he, nor Stewart Regan, two men who between them publicly declared our national sport worthless without Rangers in it, should be anywhere near Scottish football.

It’s instructive too that Alan McRae, elected SFA President on 9 June this year – months ago – has yet to offer any vision, any blueprint, any guidance or leadership on these or other issues in that time.

If there’s change in the air, there’s scant evidence of it.

We really do tolerate an appallingly dearth of ambition or imagination in the way football is run here in Scotland, and we’ve allowed glaring holes in the regulations to be exploited without even bothering to close them and assuring it can’t happen again.

The decision to grant Fit & Proper Person status to King and Murray, when both were on the board of a liquidated club and the chairman has a string of fraud convictions, was not only weak but dangerous as it proves the authorities have learned precisely nothing from the Whyte and Green cases.

That these things have all gone on at one particular club – the one they told us was “too big to fail” – makes it all the worse, because there’s no disincentive for anyone at the club to take a position there with less than honourable intentions.

Nobody should be under any illusions about the competence, or lack thereof, of those who run football in Scotland.

This isn’t even a debating issue any longer.

To call them useless would be to give them more credit than they deserve, but with these arrests we’re in uncharted waters.

There is surely not a single person in our game who was not fully aware that questions existed in relation to thse matter at the time – as Paul McConville had documented extensively – and certainly no-one in the slightest doubt t after November last year.

These assets were sold dirt-cheap, as has been acknowledged everywhere.

The creditors of OldCo Rangers will probably receive pennies in the pound if they are very, very lucky.

This was an unpardonable series of events, and it was the responsibility of the SFA and the other governing agencies to assure that following Whyte’s running of the club that everything in the aftermath was above board.

All this self regulation stuff is cobblers.

They allowed Sevco Rangers to investigate itself over some of these issues, and that particular scandal tells you just how rotten they know this situation actually is, where they couldn’t afford full and independent scrutiny of any aspect of it.

But now these matters are heading for a courtroom, and don’t be surprised if there are shocking revelations along the way, especially where Whyte is concerned, with his penchant for keeping meticulous records of conversations, including on tape.

The Five Way Agreement is just one aspect of all this that those at the top of our sport thought – hoped – would forever remain a secret, buried from view. Now even they have to conclude that there is not the remotest possibility of that happening.

It’s all going to come out.

We are going to get answers, one way or another.

And when they come heads are going to roll, and that’s the very best people can hope for.

My last article on this site suggested that Peter Lawwell of Celtic consider his position at the club and how he wants to be remembered by history. I said it’s not too late for him to save his reputation.

I think the reputations of the people involved in this scandal are beyond saving.

What they have to worry about now is their freedom.

A lot of people in Scottish football must have serious trouble sleeping at the moment.

If so, then good.

That, at least, is a measure of justice for sins past because a lot of them are guilty, even if it is only by association.

A more definitive form of justice might just be on its way, and in a court of law instead of the one of public opinion.

A verdict there has consequences for us all.

(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 just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Shooting The Messenger

stock-footage-a-man-in-a-fedora-typing-on-a-vintage-manual-typewriter-film-noirThere are things you get used to when you do this sort of thing.

One of them is the criticism of those who’s closed minds don’t want exposure to the truth, the kind of people who would rather live in ignorance than confront reality.

There are a lot of them in Scottish football.

The last article this site published – on Dave King and why his fortune might not be as large or readily available to Sevco as many of their fans, and our media, seem to believe – was extraordinarily well received, at least in terms of the number of hits it generated.

A lot of those who read it were the supporters of the Ibrox club, and it’s fair to say not all of them liked it.

I understand that. But shooting the messenger … that’s harder to comprehend.

I have a long history with these people taking pot shots at me.

Phil has the same issue, and Paul67 too.

Forget that we’ve been right on the money far more often than we’ve been wrong.

Forget that King has behaved exactly as we predicted up until now – putting not one penny of his own cash into the club.

They don’t want to hear any of it.

Especially not from us.

Check out their forums if you don’t believe it.

The second they realise that a challenging article came from a “Celtic site” they shut down at once.

This marries bigotry with stupidity in a way that makes me want to gawp in amazement.

In truth, though, any blogger who consistently tries to paint a picture of the real world for these people – and I include some of their own; McMurdo has been required reading in the last few months, as one of the very few who won’t touch the Kool Aid – is branded an idiot automatically.

I can take being tagged like that.

What I won’t take is being called a bigot myself.

It’s a charge I refute utterly and anyone who throws it around better be prepared for consequences; I’ve threatened to sue for that in the past and I repeat that threat to anyone who’s game enough.

Simply put, myself and others are going to keep telling these people what they don’t want to hear.

And they’re going to continue resisting that.

Because the truth hurts … and the truth is all I have for them.

Why do we do this so much?

People ask me that all the time.

There are a few reasons.

For one, they are sheer entertainment in a way that has nothing to do with sport, or football itself.

To me, now, they’ve become the ultimate cautionary tale, the example future football fans will come to study in order to learn what not to do as a support, in much the same way as business school students will study the bank who let them, and Murray, live it large only to be brought down when things took a turn for the worse.

I think the Rangers fans will make an excellent case study.

I find it fascinating that so many people can wilfully unplug themselves from facts, logic and even common sense and go on believing that the world is what they wish it were, rather than focus on what it is.

I find it incredible that they can ignore clear evidence and wrap themselves in the comfort blanket of fairy tale ideas as if they were little children who still believe in Santa.

For what is a sugar daddy owner to football supporters but Father Christmas himself, in a good suit?

First it was Murray they believed in, then Whyte, followed by Green and now, finally, they’ve arrived at King.

Along the way they’ve destabilised their club to the point where a man of genuine means, who could play Santa until the cows come home, has become their implacable foe instead.

And this, in itself, is an achievement, of course.

They’ve turned an honest-to-God “nothing personal, strictly business” type into a guy who might well shoot them just to watch them die.

I have the luxury – we have the luxury – of being able to indulge in this guilty pleasure, because we do so from a secure vantage point.

We are the biggest club in Scotland, without dispute, and liable to be that for a long time to come.

There’s no escaping from that fact for them, no matter how much they might wish it were otherwise, and we’re comfortable enough with our position going forward that the occasional diversion to check out the parlous state of the club that kids on it’s our greatest rival is something we can easily afford.

If our position were not so strong, would we be focussing so much attention on them?

Of course we wouldn’t.

We’re not like them, gazing around, looking to pick fights, when we should be trying to drag ourselves up.

Their club is in a chaotic state.

Instead of focussing on that, some of their fans are still chasing dreams of “nailing Celtic” in a discredited “case” over land.

I mean … seriously?

We do this because we can, because our own club, well run (for the most part) and with a plan (whether we like it or not) can navigate whatever troubles come its way. We’re not constantly dealing with crisis at every turn.

They are worthy of our study because of the sheer lunacy of their behaviour.

We’re trying to find method in the madness, perhaps, and we can afford to take time out to look.

That’s the first reason.

The second reason we do it is that we like it.

There it is. I confess. We enjoy their suffering, and why not?

They sure as Hell enjoyed ours.

I rememeber their nine in a row. It’s what made stopping the ten so thoroughly satisfying, and these last few years into something almost blissful.

That’s an unpalatable truth though, one that’s hard to take because it makes me wonder if we’re any better than gawkers at the scene of a car crash, which is undoubtedly the best representation of them I can think of.

They are a car crash, happening in slow motion.

They can hide behind that pitiful “obsessed” nonsense too, and for as long as they like, but we’re no more obsessed by them than we are at the circus freak shows which once drew a crowd.

There is something in human nature that makes you slow you own vehicle down when you see emergency service lights on the motorway, surrounding a hunk of twisted metal.

Maybe we’re sadists.

Watching them flail around these last couple of years has definitely been fun.

Why else do they think a lot of us have OD’d on jelly and ice cream?

The hint is in the stuff itself.

It’s party food, but it’s kids party food, which should tell them how seriously we really view them in our lives.

I am amazed more of them don’t get that.

The final reason I do this so much is that this mind-set of theirs has been truly damaging for Scottish football.

If the only effects of it were to their own club then they would be justified in telling us to butt out and mind our own business.

But when the governing bodies and the media try to bully other clubs into accepting the wholescale bending of the rules, when league reconstruction is constantly being mooted as an alternative to clubs reaching the top flight on merit, when the atmosphere at grounds is polluted by the most appalling, retrograde singing from a section of their support and whilst they continue to indulge in a re-write of history that excuses the most scandalous practices ever seen in Scottish football whilst they simultaneously play the “victim card”, telling the world they have been unfairly treated … well that is our business and no mistake.

All the calamities which have struck them in recent years, whether you’re talking about Sevco or those which obliterated Rangers, were self-inflicted. This constant casting about for people to blame not only damages our game but stops them learning the lessons of history.

They blame Craig Whyte for their demise, ignoring the fact that had they been in good financial health and able to meet their funding requirements as per every other club in the leagues that he wouldn’t have needed to take such drastic action when they were knocked out of Europe.

When you boil it down, their real complaint against Whyte isn’t that he was a bad man. It’s that he wasn’t a rich one, as their media friends had led them to believe. He didn’t have the cash to continue funding a playing squad the club could not afford.

They think we’re stupid, that we’ve forgotten that for a while they were gleeful at the prospect of “starting fresh” without debts.

They spent their first year as Sevco boasting about it, and King was still boasting about it last week, even as BDO continued to sift through the rubble out of which they crawled, blaming everybody else.

They are back in the courts this week too, as the Big Tax Case drags on, another area where they claim to have been the targets of unscrupulous people, as if the Unseen Fenian Hand has reached as far as HMRC and turned it against them.

You really have to take your hats off to them for the scope of what they allege.

It really is something.

In their world, officials at BOS and Lloyds colluded against them.

HMRC came after them out of hate.

Every club in Scottish football lashed out vindictively.

At the same time, numerous Scottish based public bodies were coming together to let Celtic have land on the cheap, and in violation of the law.

This is mind-boggling … a kind of multi-track, multi-agency, multi-level conspiracy involving political corruption, misuse of company funds and public resources, cover-ups and deceit which could send people to jail if true … based on jealousy of a football club.

That is the definition of paranoia.

And to think they used to call it “the Irish disease.”

What’s the truth about all this?

That the governing bodies of football, run by one of their former directors, one heavily implicated in their scandals, let them away with murder and continues to.

That the bank which gave their owner unlimited access to funds, with which he built their ego-stoked “glory days” and let them run up debts in the tens of millions before the financial crash of 2008 stopped all that in its tracks, was the same one that almost closed Celtic’s doors over a deficit of only £7 million.

That they get an easier ride from the newspapers than any other football club in the UK.

That we here in Scotland invented “the Internet Bampots” to counter that.

That we re-wrote the media lexicon to include the phrase “succulent lamb journalism” and were the nation whose press once sat in silence at a media conference after a calamitous result for Rangers because no-one wanted to ask a negative question and there were no positives to be had.

That the whole of our political and media class, as well as the governing bodies themselves, ignored sectarian singing for decades and a religious based signing policy which should have made them a pariah club across world football.

That even the scandalous behaviour of a section of their support, in numerous European cities, including Pamplona, Barcelona and Manchester, was excused – and even blamed on the fans of other clubs.

That they still claim HMRC had no basis to go after them in the first place, and have distorted the verdict in the case as it stands as “a victory” when, in fact, it highlighted numerous breaches of tax rules and revealed a pattern of concealment and dishonesty which is breath-taking.

I’ve long argued that I, personally, do not care what the final verdict in that case ends up because that will simply tell the world whether their smart lawyers dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s properly and so kept their tax scam “legal.”

I’m more interested in whether or not it was moral.

We know the answer to that one.

The consequences we see for society are pretty clear. It was anything but.

In only the second article for this site – “More Than A Sports Story” – I examined those consequences in terms of hard numbers and it still blows you away to go back and look over today.

Through all this, I’ve said, repeatedly, that I do not hate the club that plays out of Ibrox.

There is a section of their support, mired in sectarianism, fuelled by paranoia, wallowing in a superiority complex that is woefully misplaced, which I despise, and I make no secret about that.

You know the ones I mean; those who proclaim their patriotism by making the Nazi salute.

Those who “honour” their “culture” by reminding the world every single year how backward it is.

Those who think hiding behind abused children and even clambering onto the corpses of the dead, is a way to score cheap points.

It is impossible not to loathe such people.

They are uncivilised scum.

They are what we call the Huns.

Furthermore, I would argue that many of their “fellow fans” feel the same way about them.

I know they do.

I know for a fact they do.

I’m going to keep highlighting those people too, because the game (and their club) will be better off when they are rooted out of it.

All of this poisons our game here.

The scandals, the corruption, the rule bending, the bigotry, the Survival Myth and the Victim Myth.

They all feed into a perception, which our media is happy to promote, that our game is a mess; that we’re a basket case country instead of simply one with a single, renegade, basket case club which got “too big to fail” and then failed anyway, changing our perceptions of football reality overnight in a way a lot of people still don’t accept.

But of course, what it really did was introduced that reality to a world which had lived in denial of it long before the Internet Bampots got here.

The real problem they have with us is that we keep trying to make them confront that fact, and all the unpleasant truths that go with it.

They can shoot the messenger all they like.

Their problems won’t go away.

We won’t either.

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The Charade Of Integrity

JS58473599Tonight Scottish football has no soul.

Tonight the Scottish Football Association has traded it all in for what Justin Currie once called “the last cheap shot at the dream.” Their dream. Not ours.

For the last three years they’ve wanted someone to come in and relieve the misery of having to be the governing body that got everything wrong.

At the start of that long, dark period they faced one of the gravest crises the game here has ever seen, when Rangers Football Club circled the drain and then swirled down the plughole.

At a time like that, you really want someone to step up and show leadership. You want the people responsible for running things to act with gravity, with decisiveness and with the best interests of the sport at the heart of everything they do.

It didn’t have to be this way.

They could have defended the integrity of our game, by holding up the dead club as an example to warn others off the path of financial madness.

See, Rangers was the cautionary tale.

It was the object lesson in how not to run a club.

They were the poster boy for living beyond your means, and paying the price.

Everyone knew their stunning demise would have an impact on the game, with knock-on consequences affecting every single club in the land. We knew those effects could last for years and damage football here as a commercial attraction for advertisers.

All of this was a secondary consideration to most of us, including the impact on our own clubs, Celtic fans most of all.

The reason for this is simple, and it has nothing to do with the numerous motives – hate, jealousy, bigotry – which were ascribed to us.

We are not wrestling fans, after all, knowingly watching a rigged game for the value of the spectacle itself. We are football fans.

Football is a sport.

We value it as an endeavour based on merit.

At the time, all the governing body had to do was acknowledge this, and to make it clear that the wounds from which Rangers finally perished were self-inflicted. They were accumulated over years of spending above what they could afford, and had this been any other club in the country that is exactly what the SFA would have done.

Instead they made it clear that the club was not to pay the price for its failure to get its own house in order. Instead, the integrity of Scottish football itself would be thrown on the alter table and sacrificed in its place.

Had that decision been allowed to stand our sport would have ground to a halt. It would be an epochal disaster from which the game here would never have recovered. It was Jock Stein who said “football without the fans is nothing”, and for a brief time in 2012 there was a very good chance that here in Scotland we might have proved the proposition.

The SFA and the SPL tried everything to convince us that this was the right move.

They would have turned this game on its head and emptied out of its pockets everything that made it worth fighting for.

They would have destroyed it to save one club.

The lack of leadership was scandalous.

In the end, it took one brave man – Turnbull Hutton – to take a stand, on the steps of Hampden itself, and in front of the cameras, to tell it like it was, to give the fans someone they could rally behind.

The supporters, and Turnbull, saved the game from its own leaders.

We never ought to forget that; the guardians of our sport would have nuked it, but we didn’t let them.

In the three years that followed, they allowed a guy like Charles Green to make slanderous accusations about corruption and bigotry being behind the decision we forced our clubs to take. He was clearly not “fit and proper” either, and when he made a racist comment about a member of his own board he knew he had to step down … but without the SFA telling him to.

Stories of men wanted by Interpol meeting with his board passed without comment. A rash of police investigations didn’t prompt a response. Scandal piled up on scandal. Crisis swirled around the club like flies around a corpse. The SFA said not one word.

In the meantime, they worked behind the scenes to give the NewCo as soft a landing as they could. They imposed a transfer ban that was easily circumvented, almost as if they and the club had sat down together and came up with a scheme that looked kosher but was as bent as the one they’d offered when they were going to put them straight into the SPL.

The Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry was a fraud from the start, omitting the details of one case in which the club was unequivocally guilty of tax evasion and concealment of documents. A guarantee had already been given to them – behind the scenes – that the inquiry would not end with the stripping of titles, and then to make sure of it the SFA’s registrations officer gave one of the most palpably dishonest statements in the history of professional sport when he said that the rules prevented the SFA from taking action because they hadn’t known about breaches of them at the time.

The more one looks at it all, the more you can see that we didn’t really win anything in 2012 except for time.

The SFA has been playing the Long Game since then, but badly, knowing that Sevco is not a stable ship and worrying all along that it might crash against the rocks and sink without a trace.

That would expose the charade, and force them to admit that their behaviour three years ago inflicted long-term damage on the sport here in Scotland.

Tonight, they have cleared David Cunningham King as a “fit and proper person” despite 40 odd criminal convictions in South Africa for numerous violations of their tax laws. He had also been charged with over 200 other crimes, including racketeering, bribery and forgery.

Those charges were dropped in accordance with his “plea bargain” in this case.

Scottish football’s regulations are quite clear as to what King’s status is.

Anyone in a similar position, who not only had recent convictions but had served on the board of a club that had crashed, would have been disqualified at once, but the over-hyped King has one distinct advantage that none of those guys had; he has tailored himself, and been promoted by the press, as the one guy who can save Sevco from going the same way as Rangers did.

Whether he can accomplish it or not is irrelevant.

I personally have my doubts, because he faces an almost impossible task, but it doesn’t really matter.

King’s being cleared was necessary for an association that, above all else, wants a return to what they and others still think of as the natural state of our game – the Glasgow duopoly beyond which their imaginations can’t quite make the leap.

He is their last throw of the dice, the final chance the club has of gaining credibility, as if that was possible with a guy at the helm with a string of broken promises, evasions and criminality behind him.

The AIM stock market weren’t convinced.

The City of London is so far not on board, and even a virtually unregulated market like ISDX won’t touch them.

It is also probably worth pointing out that King has utilised the full weaponry of the “glib and shameless liar” in his efforts to get approved; he withheld documents until the media crescendo was in full tilt, he appointed a PR firm to spin on his behalf and he used some of his useful idiots in the press to spread wholly inaccurate stories about his being “unable” to invest in the club until the SFA had cleared his appointment.

None of these are the hallmarks of an honest or honourable man, one who will act with probity and in good faith in his dealings with the authorities and with other clubs. It is actually questionable whether he’s been wholly honest with the club’s own fans.

All of these people have been warned; this guy is already walking all over them.

What’s worse though is the way the SFA are walking all over the rest of us.

Our opinions don’t matter a damn to these people.

Our concerns are simply ignored.

The things we care about are unimportant to those who “know better”, who would have destroyed the village in order to save it and who even today can’t understand why we stopped them.

King is a crook.

He and the club he now effectively runs are a match for each other, easily the most perfect marriage of institution and owner that I can conceive of.

But our governing bodies are another matter entirely.

If they are not weak and spineless then they are simply corrupt. Turnbull Hutton certainly thought so.

Tonight, the sport we love has been tarnished again by those who are supposed to be running it in its best interests.

They believe those are served by shredding the rulebook to allow a convicted tax cheat to save a club whose predecessor was liquidated for unpaid tax.

The message it sends out to HMRC and other watching agencies is equally appalling.

In their eyes tonight, Scottish football’s bosses have made it plain that they have no respect for the rules and regulations, and no regard for laws, either constitutional or natural. I cannot think of anything more potentially ruinous for our clubs and the games reputation.

Days like this are wearying, but this one feels oddly liberating at the same time.

Because tonight it’s clear that supporting the game and supporting those who administer it are two wholly separate things.

If it’s going to take fans boycotting Hampden then so be it.

If it’s going to take another campaign to force our own clubs to accept and embrace change, or suffer the consequences, then that, too, is what will happen.

But we owe these people nothing.

No loyalty. No allegiance. No respect. No support.

It doesn’t matter what your club team is, this casual disregard for the rulebook is scandalous and it is damaging and tonight it has corrupted all of football in this land.

Looking at it all this evening, one thing angers me above everything else; the length of time it took them to arrive at tonight’s outrage.

Because the rules were, and are, clear on these issues; King ought to have failed at the first hurdle and been rejected on the first day.

The SFA’s statement suggests that they’ve taken their time to make sure the regulations were being followed.

It is clear to anyone who looks at this properly that this is the precise opposite of what has occurred; in fact, this decision was delayed until King and others could provide them with a cover behind which they could decide not to follow these guidelines.

In short, they’ve spent the last few months looking for a reason to break their own rules.

And this time we were not able to prevent this act of recklessness.

This was not about integrity, whatever people will say over the next few days.

It was about the charade of integrity, about putting on a show, about looking to have been acting when the decision was probably made months ago.

No-one is fooled. No-one is convinced.

This decision shames them, and indirectly all the rest of us.

Scottish football is a lunatic asylum where the inmates are now running amuck; lawless, ruled only by whichever one of the nutjobs has forgotten to take his pills and has the loudest voice on any given day.

I cannot conceive of this matter not haunting them, but whatever happens tomorrow the damage that has been done today will take years to erase.

This is an act of self-sabotage from which we won’t soon recover, if we ever do.

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No Resolution

_68112347_campbell_ogilviePower corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton.

Last week, Celtic cyberspace was buzzing with two stories; the first was about the Josh Meekings case and the other was about the continuing saga of Resolution 12.

That Resolution 12 is still alive at all is a miracle, owing everything to a group of Celtic supporters who simply will not give up.

Those guys – Auldheid, Canamalar, Morrissey, BRTH and others – have carried this matter forward for years. Their efforts in the name of getting to the truth, to getting justice for our club, have been nothing short of heroic.

It was first put to the Celtic AGM nearly three years ago, and when the fans were asked to withdraw the motion they were told that the club knew their concerns and shared them.

They were told that Celtic would look into matters independently and they would get back to the requisitioners on the issue.

Those guys agreed to do that, knowing there would be a backlash, and there was.

A lot of Celtic fans scoffed at the notion of our club wanting to keep this going.

The guys behind Resolution 12 have been pilloried by a great many on their own side.

I understand – in part – why this happened.

Celtic does its business in private, not public, and that can often give the impression that nothing is happening.

They respect certain unwritten rules of the game here, and they have a policy that they don’t comment on certain issues until things have run their course.

As a consequence, people have been saying that the club has been dragging its feet on this. Or worse, that the fans who put the motion on the table and then withdrew it at the board’s urging were duped.

Now, we may be on the verge of getting some measure of justice as reports suggest the issue is now with UEFA after Celtic sent them a dossier.

At the same time, we’re told that Celtic has sent another to the SFA, requesting that certain issues are clarified and that certain questions are answered.

If true then Celtic are to be commended for not letting this matter quietly die.

They could have. A lot of issues from the post-liquidation Rangers period apper to have been dropped.

But Resolution 12 lives on, as it should, because aside from the damage this affair inflicted on sporting integrity it potentially cost Celitc millions of pounds, and the board had a duty to its shareholders to see it was investigated.

Yet as glad as I am about this, there are some who will say it’s come about too late.

The hour at which this matter will finally be decided comes as one of the guilty men – perhaps the guiltiest man of all – prepares to swan off into the sunset, pension intact, reputation intact, legacy assured.

The media will eulogise and laud the “achievements” of Campbell Ogilvie. They might even talk to you about “integrity”, but those of us who’ve invested time and study in these matters know that few men in the recent history of the Scottish game have done more to damage it than he has.

In my view he stands, alongside the disgraced Jim Farry, as one of the most corrupt leaders the game in Scotland has ever had.

At the end of this month he walks away.

As things presently stand he leaves without a stain on his character, at least as far as the history books go. Indeed, the SFA nominated him for a post at UEFA and he almost found himself there, alongside his other disgraced buddy, Hugh Dallas, who one can only assume was given a reference by the governing body although he’d been sacked for a sectarian offence.

Ogilvie taking up a seat alongside him would have been the grossest insult to Celtic fans for quite some time.

All this makes me angry, as it should make every football fan angry.

Yet this isn’t over by a long way. Resolution 12 may yet destroy all that.

That is necessary for the good of this sport.

Celtic may finally be vindicated over Resolution 12, but the greater series of offences against the sport will go unresolved unless his part in it all is fully brought into public focus and he is stripped of any legitimacy he currently holds.

Graham Spiers is but one journalist who will resist any effort to scrutinise this man properly and bring his story full circle. He once described Ogilvie as “one of the most decent men you could ever meet”, and I suspect it wasn’t to get free match tickets for Hampden.

Spiers and others actually do believe this.

I wonder if they are just ignorant of the facts, or if they’re letting their personal views influence their ability to be objective.

Either way, their narrative will not reflect the facts.

That quote comes from an interview he did with Ogilvie for an article in 2013, where he cited Lord Nimmo Smith’s decision to criticise the Rangers board that implemented the EBT scheme. Instead of taking that to its logical, and correct, conclusion Spiers talked about how the former Ibrox director was a man of “integrity” and never questioned the SFA head when he denied playing a part in running the tax scam.

“The EBTs were set up around 2001 at Rangers and I’ve never hidden from the fact that I was then a director at the club,” Ogilvie said in that piece. That statement says a lot about how he views himself; here he is trying to make a virtue out of being upfront about something that is in the public domain anyway, and which he couldn’t slither out of if he tried.

It’s what he says next that blows the mind.

“I didn’t get involved in the financial management of the club in that context. That’s not an excuse – that’s just a fact. I ceased being Rangers’ secretary in 2002 and I ceased being involved in the football admin at Rangers in 2002.”

Of course, we now know that which he then stated as “a fact” is a barefaced lie. So, too, is his contention that his EBT was “to do with me leaving the club in 2005.” Historical research proves both these things to be absolutely false.

Not content with spinning a blatant untruth, he goes even further, and tries to palm all this off as being someone else’s responsibility, choosing to blame his fellow directors, and even accountants and lawyers.

“Maybe as a director I should have asked more questions about it – I accept that now – but when things are signed off by legal people, by accountants, I tended to accept it,” he told Spiers. “I’m not saying the EBTs were illegal. But, knowing all the hassle that they caused, with hindsight, if I could go back, I wouldn’t go down that road.”

Even if we take his word for all of that – ignoring the evidence we know is to hand – what he has just said there makes him grossly unsuitable for the position he went on to hold, the one he holds today, that of President of the Scottish Football Association.

This is a man who’s best defence of that time – indeed his only defence – is that he didn’t know what was happening, that he never asked, that he neglected even his most basic – and legal – duties as a director.

And, of course, the truth is even more damning.

See, Spiers and others don’t like to go here, but Ogilvie admits to having known about EBT’s.

He admits to having been the link man between the club and the governing bodies for several years after the schemes were set up.

Yet despite a raft of regulations Ogilvie knew full well about (and he should have been sacked if he didn’t) those contracts were never declared to the SFA, as his Head of Registrations, Sandy Bryson, later admitted.

In fact, Bryson’s testimony ought to have seen Ogilvie walk the plank anyway, because although his bizarre assertion that the EBT second contracts did not render those players invalid – because no-one knew about them at the time; all that ultimately prevented title stripping on a grand scale – it also puts it on the record that the man at the helm of our association not only knew of their existence but knew that they were being concealed.

I mean, he was treasurer of the SFA whilst on the Ibrox board at the time when EBT’s were a regular part of the club’s wage structure.

He knew they existed, as he admits himself.

He would have known whether the SFA was in possession of them.

He has no defence, and the only one he can attempt is to plead utter ignorance and, as noted, that should have disqualified him from holding any job in football again.

Quite how anyone can support him I simply do not know.

None of this has ever been disputed. It’s just not discussed at all.

The media silence on it is deafening.

I find all this particularly amusing in the week where Gordon Waddell has suggested that Peter Lawwell’s position at the SFA is compromised by his wanting to do the best by Celtic. It is ludicrous, and scandalous, that the same journalists engaging in that line of attack against the Parkhead CEO are notoriously silent on the issues surrounding the SFA President.

They are shameless. The way they target one man whilst protecting the other reveals a naked bias that makes them impossible to take seriously as journalists.

But of course there are too many facts in the public domain for their view on this to prevail over everyone who watches the Scottish game.

Resolution 12 is what damns Ogilvie.

That Rangers was given a license to compete in European football in the 2011/12 season when they had a “tax liability payable” is an outrage which ought never to be forgotten. This referred not to the Big Tax Case, but to the Discounted Options Scheme, the Wee Tax Case, which, at the time, had not formed part of the larger investigation.

The Discounted Options Scheme was, and remains, so toxic that the SFA and SPL made sure it did not form part of the Lord Nimmo Smith case, because it is almost the textbook definition of “the smoking gun”, damning everyone who knew about it.

That senior members of the SFA, including Ogilvie himself, did, and that they also knew full well how dangerous it was is not in dispute either.

For one thing, Ogilvie and Stewart Regan sat down to dinner with a senior Rangers executive in December of that year to discuss spin control on this very issue. They knew this was going to explode, and that meeting was called so they might come up with ideas about how best to defuse the bomb they knew was primed underneath them.

The club certainly knew that license should never have been granted, because HMRC sent the final demand for payment to the club, prior to legal proceedings beginning, in February that year and Rangers’ own lawyer, Andrew Thornhill QC, was left in absolutely no doubt that the legal position regarding the Discounted Options Scheme could not be defended.

Less than one month later, he sent the club a letter outlining his views on this.

The crucial paragraph of the legal advice he offered reads thus:

“The scheme was carried out in a way which suggests that arguing the case would be an uphill task. However, the deciding factor in favour of settling the matter is the existence of side letters in two instances demonstrating that there was a true intention of putting cash into the hands of players as part of their remuneration package. It does not help either that the existence of these letters has been denied or not revealed by the club.”

Ogilvie took the SFA President’s office in June 2011, just two months after HMRC’s final demand, and less than one month before the final SFA decision on the license was granted.

The SFA’s licensing committee, which made that decision, included Andrew Dickson, then Rangers’ head of football administration. The media which has spent the last week castigating Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell appears not to think that was a conflict of interest.

And who is the man who actually initiated this particular tax avoidance scheme at Ibrox?

Well there’s an answer to that too, because despite his denials that he ever played any part in the EBT affair at Rangers, it was Campbell Ogilvie himself who signed the first piece of paper relating to the Discounted Options Scheme.

He was, in fact, the first “shareholder” in the sub-company at Rangers which was running the entire scam.

The irony of all this, of course, is that the club was roundly humiliated when it entered the European arena that year, being knocked out of both continental competitions within a month.

Yet what is equally clear, from what happened next, is that things at Rangers were so perilous that the absence of European football income utterly destroyed Craig Whyte’s business plan, forcing him to stop paying the bills and leading to the ruination of the club.

In short, those inside Ibrox knew how vital European football was to them.

There is little doubt they informed the SFA of the likely consequences of denying them a license and that this played a major part in the decision to grant them one. Regulations be damned. Sporting integrity didn’t even come into it.

Other clubs would have been forced to sell players and try and get their finances under control. Because it was Rangers, and because they had friends in high places, the regulations were ignored and the law itself was bent to the snapping point.

Those people helped to steer Lord Nimmo Smith away from examining the issue and they have been scrambling to clean up the mess ever since.

But Resolution 12 now looms in front of them, like a mugger in alleyway.

Ogilvie has presided over an association that has allowed things to spiral so far out of control at Rangers, and then at Sevco, that it quite literally boggles the mind, but they are far from his only sins.

The SFA President is the walking epitome of the aphorism that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

This is the man whose organisation has just sat in judgement of Livingston over “undue influence”, almost crushing them under a sweeping array of punishments because a director of that club held shares in another.

The slap on the wrist Mike Ashley received was a joke next to what’s happened to the Championship team, but it’s no less appalling than when you consider that in the time he was at the SFA he, himself, was knowingly in violation of the same rules.

He held shares in Rangers whilst as a director of Hearts.

He eventually transferred those to the control of his wife, apparently not realising – or more likely just not giving a damn – that this, too, clearly breaches the regulations.

At the same time, because of his position at Ibrox, he would certainly have known that the Airdrie chairman and President of the Scottish Football League, Jim Ballantyne, was a Rangers shareholder and the same applied to Donald Findlay, the chairman at Cowdenbeath.

Of course, these men might well argue that they had no “undue influence” over matters at Ibrox, but in the context of the time that, too, is plainly not the case.

When this was first revealed, at the moment Sevco was still trying to claw its way into the top flight, Ballantyne appeared at a fund-raiser for the club, at Linfield in Belfast, wearing a Rangers Fighting Fund badge on his lapel.

Not only was he serving in those other positions at the time, but he was on the board of the SFA, along with Campbell Ogilvie himself.

In the wake of a public outcry over his appearance at this game, he announced that his club would play no part in the vote to grant Sevco a place in the Championship. Yet even that was not an acknowledgement that his position was untenable in light of his open support for a club not his own.

In the end, his club didn’t vote because they would have been a direct beneficiary of a decision to make Sevco start in the bottom tier.

Ballantyne remains on the SFA Professional Game Board to this day.

Neither he, nor his club, have ever been the subject to disciplinary action for his dual shareholding, nor has Findlay at Cowdenbeath, and of course Ogilvie himself has never been asked the serious questions about his and his wife’s shareholding in Rangers that ought to have been levelled at him when he took up a senior position at Tynecastle.

Rangers – Sevco certainly was certainly never likely to pay a price for these activities, although they opened up the potential of one club and people associated with it wielding enormous influence at the SFA and the Scottish Football League.

Ogilvie is, at best, an unbelievable hypocrite.

At worst, he is the embodiment of the SFA’s long history of bent practices and looking the other way.

He exemplifies what happens when someone is allowed to escape the scrutiny that should automatically go to someone in a position of authority and responsibility. In effect, he has spent the latter part of his career deciding what regulations apply to him and the club where he earned his stripes.

The end of his tenure ought to have been forced on him at least three years ago. That it wasn’t will remain one of the great scandals in the history of our sport and if Resolution 12 explodes – and it has the potential to be thermonuclear – it will haunt the SFA for years to come.

When Ogilvie departs, and the post is up for grabs, it must be hoped that someone with more integrity takes over in his absence. The end of the old “SFA blazer” era is long, long overdue. Light has to be allowed to flood into the dark corners.

I have real hope that this organisation can yet be reformed, and made serve the game as a whole.

But Ogilvie, himself, must not be allowed to swan off into the sunset with a hundred unanswered questions about his tenure remaining.

He must not be granted the media send-off which is almost certain, and which he does not deserve.

Justice is still undone.

It will remain like that until Campbell Ogilvie joins Jim Farry in the SFA Hall of Shame.

Celtic can bring to light the scandal of the UEFA License in 2011-12, but until this man is called out for what he is, and his reputation is in shreds much like the SFA Constitution he leaves behind him, there will remain no resolution.

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The Need For Leadership

167444-campbell-ogilvie-and-stewart-regan-sfaOver on The Scottish Football Monitor, my good friend Auldheid has put together a truly special piece of work which I’m going to take apart in more detail at another stage this week.

In the meantime, I would urge everyone to go and read it, and to watch the video that he opens with, even if you’ve seen it before; it’s Alex Thomson interviewing Stewart Regan back in 2012.

Auldheid has been exceptional on these issues, in chasing down facts and putting them together for people to see. He is not alone in this.

There a few truly exceptional individuals out there doing digging, some of them on a daily basis, with the objective of changing the nature of the game here. They are our standard bearers, doing the heavy lifting on our behalf.

But those guys can’t do it alone, and although many of us in the blogosphere are pushing the same agenda, often in concert with these guys, we can’t do it either. The time is coming for the great mass of Scottish football fans to come together and work hard, with an agenda, with a specific plan, to press for the kind of real reform that Scottish football needs.

I don’t even pretend to think it’ll be easy, but it’s definitely required and it’s long overdue. Without it, we’re sleepwalking from one disaster to another, from one crisis point to another, and that will go on and on until none of us can bear to set foot in a football ground again.

The game here will die unless we act. There it is, as bluntly as I can put it.

Our governing bodies have no interest in saving it for the greater good. If we’re being generous, we’ll accuse them merely of lacking the imagination to see past a two team duopoly which has sustained interest in the sport for too long. If we’re being less kind, we’ll call it what it is; a subservience to the whims of one club that makes no sense at all, that damages the game and that will continue until we put a stop to it.

The media will not lead this campaign, because they don’t think anything needs to change except that Sevco Rangers should be “competing” with Celtic every year. In their world, every ill in the game right now can be traced to the decision to “relegate” (their word, not mine) that club from the top flight. As I said in my last piece, I no longer care whether or not it’s because of inherent bias or because they, too, lack the creative intelligence to imagine something better … the point is that they are looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

They can’t help us. They won’t help us.

This campaign can no longer – it never could – be the province of a small group of people being run on a small number of websites, even sites like TSFM which was set up principally for that task and which is, with all respect to a number of others out there, easily the most important of all Scottish football’s forums and weblogs.

This has to go live, to become something more. It really should have happened already, in the aftermath of the Rangers crisis of 2012, but basking in our victory then, and in light of the shambles Sevco descended into afterwards, we took our eyes off the ball temporarily.

The Lord Nimmo Smith verdict should have shocked us out of apathy, but a lot of people saw that as primarily affecting only one club, rather than looking past it to a greater truth.

Auldheid has laid that greater truth out for us all to see.

What’s happened at Hampden, in relation to the Rangers – Sevco scandal has affected every club in the country, and it has dragged down our national game to the point where major competitions have no sponsors and we get in TV income for a year what the average EPL club gets from the same companies in a week.

That’s not right, but it’s the all too predictable result of a summer in which the governing bodies lined up their CEO’s to tell the world how worthless our national sport was without a club called Rangers in the top flight.

Shame on them. Shame on our other clubs for letting these people keep their jobs in the aftermath of such a moment of economic self-sabotage.

Before we can even start to think about getting a campaign off the ground, though, there are a number of issues which need to be resolved first, because without them – without an acknowledgement of them anyway – we’re dead in the water.

Some of these are issues of perception. Some are deeper than that.

I’ll go over the most important, one at a time, listing them first and then going into a little more detail on each.

I am not pretending this is an exhaustive list, and as I’ve said this is not a series of actual proposals. These are foundation stones. Readers should feel free to add to them, or call them nonsense, as they see fit.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers here. Not even close. No-one can.

Which is why we need to focus all our energies on this rather than leaving it up to a mere few.

1) This has to be a multi-club endeavour or it will absolutely fail.

2) This endeavour concerns itself with Scottish football governance; it must not be seen as about justice, or revenge, for the sins of Rangers and Sevco. An exploration – a full exploration – of certain issues in relation to those events, and an accounting for them, is definitely crucial to the overall process, but it’s not the primary objective.

3) This campaign has to be rooted in the fans, and that includes the Sevco Rangers supporters, who I personally think have been let down as badly as anybody by the rank incompetence and corrupt behaviour of the people who run our national sport.

4) Fans have to put aside their tribal tendencies to work together … hugely important or this campaign will absolutely fail.

5) We have to resist the temptation to organise alongside Occupy lines; in other words, this needs a structure. It needs a set of goals. It needs a clear roadmap to accomplishing them. Otherwise we’re a disorganised rabble complaining about everything and fixing nothing.

6) We have to believe we can accomplish our goals, otherwise this campaign will absolutely fail and there will be no prospect of a future one succeeding either.

The first one speaks for itself. As tempting as it is for many fans to point the finger at guys like Peter Lawwell (and it is very tempting, I know it well), they don’t operate in a vacuum. If, as some suspect, the Celtic CEO is pushing the “Old Firm” brand (and I’ve written about my own suspicions on that score right here on this site) he could only succeed in promoting an easy ride for Sevco if other clubs were willing to go along with it.

Scottish football governance is run on a democratic basis. It’s a crude one, and an incestuous one … but it does depend on the consent of the membership and Lawwell can’t be blamed for everything … but nor can he disavow responsibility.

Our member clubs have clearly accepted unacceptable conduct and unacceptable practices over the years, and they’ve allowed people to stay in office who to call them unfit would be to do them a kindness they don’t deserve.

Our member clubs get away with this only because all the scrutiny we give our teams tends to be based on what they do individually; the players they sign, the deals they make, their appointments, sackings and other activities.

We pay little, or no, heed to what they do collectively, in our name.

If we change that, then we can change everything.

If we push enough of them the right way they will influence others and that will bring real reform within reach. But this has to be done in a co-ordinated fashion. We need an agenda and that agenda needs to be presented to all the clubs, individually and as one.

The second is also self-explanatory. This is not a Celtic fans campaign, and it never was. You could argue that Celtic fans took the lead in it, but that’s a surface assumption. Start with the petition that is credited in many quarters as having sunk like a stone Sevco’s chances of starting in the SPL. It came from a site called SPL Survey, and it was set up by two non-Celtic fans.

I think it’s important that the full scale of the LNS scandal is uncovered and that people lose their jobs for it. I think it’s important to establish the full facts of the Discounted Options Scheme, and I’ve written at length on both these things. I also think we need to find out what’s in the Five Way Agreement and what really happened with the SPL TV deal.

Those things aren’t about Rangers. This is a misunderstanding that goes to the heart of our problem here. Too many people, in the media and amongst the fans of all the clubs, have a tendency to believe our intention here is to ruin whichever club is playing at Ibrox.

This has never been about that, and I am tired of saying it.

These things are about how the governing bodies colluded to excuse behaviours from that club that they would not have excused from any other team, and about the potential for even greater rule breaking in future because of the deadly precedents that have been set. Bottom line.

Those things were scandals and they affected us all, firstly in destroying the SPL and the SFA’s mandate to govern the game “in the interests of all the clubs”, secondly because they damaged the concept of sporting integrity – and would have destroyed it had these people got their way – and finally because of the enormous reputational, and as a consequence financial, damage they inflicted on the sport, damage which reverberates through it today.

Thirdly, this campaign has to be rooted in the fans. The clubs have to know, and they have to make clear, that they are acting on our mandate and in our interests and they have to follow the agenda we set out. No fudging. No compromises.

No having certain chairmen telling us they know better than we do and offering to “lead this” on our behalf, only to dump some of our ideas. Only by making sure this campaign belongs to us are we making sure it achieves its aims. All of them. Without exception.

This has to include the fans of Sevco Rangers, who can, and will, play a full part in it because it’s in their best interests to do so, in particular as the people in charge of their club today are already starting to backtrack on more openness, fan involvement and have a business plan which calls for the spending of huge sums the club can’t afford.

In short, once they take off the short-sight blinkers they should be screaming for rigorous Fit & Proper Person tests, for requirements for full and transparent financial disclosure, for Financial Fair Play … these things would have saved their club, by preventing the EBT scandal, the running up of huge debts and Murray’s penchant for hiding unfortunate facts from their sight. They would have won less during the “glory years”, but who now wouldn’t have traded some of those to avoid the ignominy and disgrace of more recent times?

This means putting aside the Victim Myth, and it means Celtic fans having to work with them, as tough as that will be for some of them to bear.

It means that the supporters of clubs outside the West of Scotland really need to get over their own tribal dislike of the clubs which play there – and their fans – and start acting in concert with the fans of those sides who are not just interested in their own quest for glory but who want something more out of the Scottish game. That is probably the most vital requirement here.

I can already hear these ideas being shouted down because I’m a Celtic fan. I’d rather people just asked “who is this cheeky, presumptive arse?” rather than turn this into an issue of “Old Firm fans thinking they have a divine right …” I have no divine right.

I am not suggesting everything I say be adopted … I am offering a possible starting point.

Yet there’s no use pretending that this campaign can just rattle along, adding every perceived grievance and wrong to our list. We have to be realistic in our goals. There’s no point in trying to push clubs to vote the SFA board out because they won’t ban Sky cameras from Scotland until the TV companies give us a better shake. Our aims have to be achievable.

We can’t do this by town meeting either.

Internet polls, fan surveys and everything else can be utilised to get us thinking of what our agenda should be, but it’s going to take an actual structure, with volunteer leaders and those chosen by the individual supports to serve on its committees to make sure this is pursued.

Furthermore, it’s going to take an umbrella organisation to get this stuff done. There’s no point in us “organising” a campaign as a rabble because no-one will take us seriously if we do.

Lastly, those of us who commit to getting involved in this have to understand that there will be people out there who’ll tell us we are wasting our time and that the things we want are beyond our reach and that the game here cannot be changed.

That is defeatist talk, and we ought not to tolerate it. Those who think our governing bodies have already gotten away with murder need to be reminded that we’ve held them to account before and there’s no real obstacle to doing it again except for the idea that we can’t.

I think there are clear objectives we should be aiming for; financial fair play rules; more solid regulations on fit and proper persons; more concrete regulations on administration and the outlawing of clubs being able to “newco” and retain all the paraphernalia they had before they were killed by mismanagement. These are all reasonable aims.

In my view we should also be campaigning for some kind of fans pressure on the Culture and Sport ministers in Holyrood and Westminster for a review of commercial revenues in sport – and whether we’re being hurt by a cartel – and in the meantime we ought to dust off those FansTV proposals Rob Petrie worked so hard on and consider those too.

I’m just a guy with a blog, but for too long Scottish football has tolerated sub-standard leaders who seem to have no long term plan. I have no faith in them, and I believe that I’ve seen enough of my fellow fans to know they have more imagination, passion and courage than these jokers ever have or ever will, and they care deeply about the game too.

We might not get everything right, but we will certainly not get the staggering amount of big decisions wrong that has been the hallmark of the last couple of years. We can only be better than this.

Friends, I look forward to your comments and ideas.

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A Moment Of Clarity?

Neil-DoncasterWell, the New Year has barely begun and already Neil Doncaster is demonstrating to the world his total ineptitude and unsuitability for the job he holds.

Today, completely unprompted, he gave an interview to the BBC Sports hack Chris McLaughlin, where he flat out said that Sevco and Rangers are the same club. Although McLaughlin asked him to repeat the assertion, to get it properly on the record, he did not challenge Doncaster on it.

As it stands then, it is now the official position of the SPFL to support the Survival Myth, in spite of the numerous contradictions inherent within it and regardless of the reputational damage it does to our league competitions, and the sport as a whole.

Already the statements are being condemned on websites such as Video Celts. The CQN Facebook page is asking for an official statement from Celtic, and even the politics blog Wings Over Scotland has jumped into the debate.

Stuart Campbell has chosen to focus on McLaughlin’s failure to tackle what is a blatant lie, and to echo sentiments I have on this site and others before; that the way in which the media bows to power, and helps to maintain cushy relationships, including those which are harmful, even dangerous, is absolutely scandalous. He is right to do so, and his article lays out a cogent argument against Doncaster’s nonsense.

I, of course, want to concentrate on the footballing aspect of it.

Doncaster spoke today in his role as the head of the SPFL and so this goes way beyond McLaughlin’s failure to highlight the contradictions in what he has said. If those remarks are not disavowed, then the game in this country is now unmistakably run by men who have no problem with corruption being allowed to flourish.

Doncaster’s comments go much further than merely getting his facts wrong. Today he has legitimised debt dumping and fraud, and because his role is that of the figurehead for all the member clubs he has spoken for them and tied them to this statement, which is precisely why the CQN Facebook moderators are so concerned. And they are right to be.

For the part three years, this matter has been the subject of much discussion and debate, but the governing bodies have resisted comment, and this has been a deliberate policy and one that has allowed the issue to go unresolved, at least officially.

The people running our governing bodies are weak, and they were too afraid of the Ibrox club and its reach. They believed their own nonsense about Rangers being “too big to fail”.

They decided that the supporters of that club would never accept the truth, although there was a point when every sports writer in Scotland, and even people within the club itself, were stating, for the record, that if the club failed to gain a CVA that liquidation would mean the end.

Every decision that was taken in the aftermath of that, from the members making them start from the bottom, to the decision to place Sevco in preliminary rounds in the cup competitions instead of seeding them as should have been the case (seeding is based on the prior year’s league position, not on the current one), as well as UEFA’s three year ban, not to mention giving oldco Rangers a vote on which league the newco played in– it all pointed to the clear truth, that the club which plays out of Ibrox is a different entity to that which did before.

The whole notion that football clubs “cannot die” has been disproved again and again and again, from Ireland to the former Eastern Bloc countries.

It is a nonsense, and it insults the intelligence of fans to pretend otherwise. Ask Gretna supporters how they feel about it. Ask the fans of Hearts, who fought like tigers to prevent their own club sliding into the abyss. Why did they bother?

Doncaster has gone on the record and made a highly contentious set of statements today, which are legally dicey and procedurally nonsensical, and he has stated that these are the official positions of the organisations he represents. If that’s the case then the clubs should have no problem standing behind them when supporters start emailing to ask, right?

I’d like to see the official minutes where this issue was discussed and the vote on it was taken.

When did it become fact that clubs are separate from the companies that own them?

If it’s true, how was it legal for virtually every member of the Rangers first team squad to leave their contracts and go and play somewhere else?

Where is the piece of paper, where is the agreement from the clubs he is there to represent, on which he is basing these spurious, contemptible claims?

Was it passed with a big majority? A small one? Was legal opinion sought?

Doncaster is saying that football clubs in Scotland are immune from paying what they owe. He’s saying they can run up huge debts, liquidate and start again. This isn’t a small matter. This is fundamental to the way our sport is run, and on what basis clubs exist.

He is not mandated to take a decision like that on his own … so I repeat, if he is not simply giving his own opinion – and one would think doing so in this way is a sacking offence – then when did this become fact?

The decision to make Sevco start in the lower leagues is solely based on them being a new football club, one which starts at the bottom because that’s how it has to be. Without that, there was no legal basis for what happened to them.

Is that what he’s claiming? That what the SPL and then the SFL did was illegal?

Because that, too, is surely a sacking offence unless he’s clarified it with the clubs.

It also feeds into the Victim Myth, which, as we all know, is one of the most divisive and pervasive, dangerous falsehoods currently running riot in the game. He is legitmising the views of the lunatic fringe of the Rangers support who claim the rest of Scottish football acted out of spite and hate. Does he have any idea what that does to the image of our game? Does he care?

Doncaster says that the issue was “put to bed” by the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission, which itself is completely discredited in the way it arrived at its decisions, and ought to be the subject of a review and possible re-sit based on the evidence the guys on The Scottish Football Monitor, in particular Auldheid, uncovered, and which I summarised on this site in the article Justice Undone.

Yet even if the Lord Nimmo Smith commissions were still regarded as credible by the vast majority of football fans, Doncaster has actually misrepresented its stated position, and I am sure he’s done so quite wilfully.

Page 32 of the Smith Commission report makes it quite clear where they stand.

“We see no room or need for separate findings of breaches by Rangers FC, which was not a separate legal entity and was then part (although clearly in football and financial terms the key part) of the undertaking of Oldco.”

Doncaster is not only stating, as fact, a change in policy he is not authorised to make but he is doing so hiding behind a report who’s words he has twisted into the very opposite of what they say.

Are we really going to stand for this?

Are we really going to let this stay on the record, as the “official position” of one of the governing bodies of our game?

The clubs make up the membership of that body, and the fans are the lifeblood of the clubs. We are entitled to answers on this issue and I would hope that every supporter in Scotland is writing to his or her club in order to get them.

Today’s interview was an attempt to justify the catastrophic failures of governance in our top flight, which had led to the leagues not having a sponsor. It’s been over a year since the SPFL was founded, and to have not gotten the job done in that time is disgraceful.

What exactly are the clubs waiting for before they convene a meeting and chase this guy? Only in Scottish football could we continue to put up with rank incompetence on this level, allowing a halfwit like this to make such statements unchallenged on a day when he should be getting raked over the coals for the magnitude of his own mistakes.

McLaughlin even gave him an out, seeking to put the blame for Doncaster’s failures on the “uncertainty at Rangers”.

I might accuse the Sevco board of many things, but I will not accuse them of that. Our leagues do not have a sponsor because no-one will negotiate terms with a man who is on the record as having said the product he’s selling is worthless.

When is the media going to get off the fence when it comes to this guy and Regan and call them what they are?

In order to do it, of course, the media would have to come to terms with its own failings.

At one point in the interview Doncaster said “”It’s vital for everyone within the game – clubs, the league, the association, the media – to help talk the game up as best we can.”

I laughed listening to that, at the sheer brass neck of it, and it’s even more amazing to me that McLaughlin didn’t see the irony in his own question, the kind of question that perpetuates the falsehood that the prosperity of the game here is dependent on a club calling itself Rangers.

We are three years down the line, and the success stories we’re seeing everywhere in our sport have happened with the Ibrox NewCo in free-fall. The one club that has been affected – Celtic – is still posting record profits, albeit suffering slightly on the park.

It’s time this ridiculous and dangerous notion was put to bed once and for all.

There’s one other thing that bothers me about these statements today and it’s this; if you watched the interview or read the transcript it is quite clear that Doncaster was not asked a direct question on the issue of the NewCo-OldCo debate. He very deliberately steered the discussion in that direction himself, with no prompting at all.

I find that extremely suspicious, and I worry about why he did that.

It looks to me as if Doncaster has been tipped the wink about what is coming next at Ibrox. Is he laying the tracks for Sevco II? I would urge everyone reading this article to think very carefully about that, and to consider what it might mean.

If Doncaster is right, and the position of the SPFL is that clubs do not die, then there is no legal basis on which a liquidated team which started up again could be denied its place in the league … which is what brought us to the edge the last time.

There is nothing in the rule book covering this. I cannot articulate that enough.

It is at the “discretion of the SPFL Board” what to do with a phoenix club now; the decision will not be left to the members. Despite lengthy debates on what to do with clubs which enter administration, and despite a very clear need to actually put down in writing what will happen to phoenix clubs, the governing bodies has dithered and nothing has been set in stone.

I wrote at some length in a previous piece about how the SPFL and the SFA had automatic relegation for clubs in administration voted down … and this is an even bigger issue than that. That piece was a warning against complaceny, and yet here we are, sleepwalking into it, and having the people who failed us last time dictating the terms of the debate.

Neil Doncaster’s comments today have started 2015 by lobbing a hand grenade into the room. He either doesn’t realise that – in which case he’s too incompetent to stay – or he knew exactly what he was doing and there’s an agenda being pursued.

Either way, how much longer are our clubs going to put up with it?

Or to ask a different question … is he, after all, speaking for them too?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Respect For The Law?

_53295183_sfa_vt2_640Two interesting stories have piqued my curiosity today. One is that Dave King has set up a wee business to collect the season tickets of the Sevco Rangers fans.

The other is that Kilmarnock are going to be the subject of an investigation for a forged signature on a document, rendering one of their players ineligible.

I find both fascinating, and the irony is not lost on me, or anyone else I’d expect. It was the French philosopher Pascal who wrote that “law without force is impotent”, but how are we to reconcile one with the other on a day like today?

With the King situation, we see no force or effect. The man pled guilty to tax evasion on a grand scale, and only then to avoid a trial that would have seen him not only convicted of that but possibly also for crimes ranging from forgery to bribery. These things should carry an automatic directorship ban here in the UK, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped him.

Unless the authorities step in and tells King this is a non-starting event, how are we supposed to take their regulations seriously? Sevco Rangers already has a long history of ignoring them, and this alone makes credibility hard to sustain.

That aside, let’s go over, again, the reason he’s setting up this company in the first place. King wants to use it as the vehicle for the fans to place their season ticket money, instead of putting it into the club.

I’ve already described this as madness, suicidal madness at that, especially when the club has explicitly spelled out the consequences, by putting a “going concern” clause in their accounts, but it appears to phase neither King nor some of the “supporters.”

The organisation standing behind King, the Union of Fans, released a statement last night outlining what they “expect” from the 120 day review, and making it clear that their demand for security over the club’s real estate assets is still the central plank of their platform.

They might as well have demanded proof of Santa Claus, because the chances of them getting that and the chances of them getting what they want here are about roughly the same.

They are also demanding that the 120 day review spells out where “£30 – £50 million in investment” is coming from, something which indicates that a profound break with reality has occurred somewhere here. Let’s, just for a moment, dwell on this point, and try to imagine the circumstances of the next Sevco Rangers share issue.

The “investors” thus far have seen the value of their shares drop like a stone. The principal shareholders who own the majority of the club have yet to make a penny from it, in two years, and are now in fact carrying £16 million in debt. (Probably higher now.)

There is a concerted campaign of destabilisation going on right now, with customers being asked not to give them any more money. The attitude of the media is febrile, veering sharply from wild acclaim one day to bitter, outraged criticism the next.

A large and vocal section of the customer base is unhinged, and led by institutionally stupid people who have backed – and then turned on – every director the club has had in the last 36 months, and some of them are inclined towards intimidation to get what they want. To give you an analogy for what we’re talking about here, think of the kids from Children of the Corn protesting against not getting what they want for Xmas.

Add to this mix of the mad and the bad the highest paid person in the company, and the snarling, spitting, angry, aggressive public face of every decision, who won’t back his employers in a crisis if he thinks it will damage his “standing with the troops” – the self same barking dogs described above – and who, incidentally, can’t do his own job unless he’s outspending every one of his prospective rivals by a ratio on the order of 10 to 1.

Now that’s the company you are being asked to invest £30 – £50 million in, part of a plan presided over by a convicted tax cheat who spent time in prison, and eyed from the outside by a guy who paid £40 million to avoid an 82 year prison sentence of his own. How much you invest is up to you, but you should know that three things will apply.

1) You will never see a return on any of it. Not one penny. The guys who came before you are carrying debt. Buy enough of the company and you’ll be expected to do the same.

2) That the bulk of the money raised will be spent on transfer fees and wages for footballers. None of it will be invested in infrastructure with the aim of generating more income.

3) That the over-riding principle objective of said company is not “turning a profit” or “paying a dividend” or “guaranteeing a return for investment” but the vague and very un-business-like concept of “challenging Celtic.”

Today Sandy Easdale has spoken to the BBC in the starkest terms yet about the situation facing the club. He’s told the fans to show their loyalty, and there is the veiled threat that they would “not survive” what he’s termed a “second administration.”

Obviously I take issue with him, as they didn’t actually “survive” the first, but his point is clear nonetheless. If the NewCo falls into a black hole like the OldCo it is difficult to imagine them climbing out.

One source inside Ibrox has gone even further and told the BBC “the club is on life support.” It will not take much before those in charge decide to pull the plug. This is the very real danger facing them, and the awful choice that confronts the supporters.

Easdale, apparently speaking for the board, says “At the end of the day, the club is at a crossroads at the moment … It can either go forward with a … long-term view, steady as she goes, or be pulled apart in other directions …” There are some, including some of their “fans” who seem set on doing just that. Easdale is telling the rest of the fans to be wary.

The other option, of course, is to believe in Dave King, should the authorities decide that he is fit to run a company. The SFA will also have to decide that, and we know how seriously they take their own regulations. Which brings me to the second story of the day.

Kilmarnock are in trouble, it seems, over an ineligible player. There is talk of draconian punishment, but I very much doubt that will happen. During the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, Sandy Bryson, the SFA Registrations Officer, gave his own, rather unusual, interpretation of the rule book when it comes to player registration. Put in its most simple form, he said that a registration is valid until it is found to be invalid, and that if all parties were acting in good faith then there should be no punishment.

Now, applied to the Kilmarnock case it seems like a nonsense. This was a forged signature, after all, and this should, therefore, be beyond question.

Yet, the OldCo Rangers case didn’t simply involve side contracts but a policy of concealment, of disinformation, of cover-up, of obfuscation, of outright denial and lies. There’s not really much grey area there either, and no question at all of all the parties acting “In good faith.” OldCo Rangers was quite clear in what it was doing when it hid details of player remuneration from the authorities, and it did so again during the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry itself, when it concealed the full details of the Discounted Options Scheme.

The result of all this is precisely what worried many of us in the wake of Bryson’s testimony to Lord Nimmo Smith; that it has created an appalling precedent, one with the potential to unleash all manner of chaos on our national sport.

That he was allowed to get up there and use this explanation as a cover for what Rangers did was an outrage, and it was a matter of time before the chickens came home to roost and made a mockery out of his bizarre claims.

It would be one thing if that’s all it did, but this shoddy series of events has, additionally, made a mockery of our whole national sport. It is proof – not that we required any more – that the people running our game are out of step with its needs, utterly untrustworthy, out of their depth and incapable of doing the right thing. They all ought to be rooted out.

So, hammer Kilmarnock and justice will have been served. Yet that will make the enormous injustice of the Lord Nimmo Smith verdict all the more obvious and scandalous. Let Kilmarnock slip off the hook, because of that diabolical precedent, and you further enshrine it for the future and Scottish football will reap the whirlwind in due course.

What horrified some of us at the time was just this. When you bend, break, remake, ignore, deny and selectively apply the regulations which are supposed to bind everyone, and you do this, initially, for the benefit of one club you are not simply legislating for their cheating but you are unleashing forces you cannot control, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Had Hearts been refused a CVA they’d have died and probably “resurrected” again as a NewCo, allowing Scottish football’s clubs the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card forevermore.

It is bad enough that on the day Sevco Rangers steps out onto a pitch in European football they will do it with the SFA referring to them as if they were not doing so for the first time. It is inconceivable that UEFA would ever dare endorse this position, because it would take the Scottish FA’s ridiculous decision making continental and bring a world of trouble down on their heads.

This is what happens when laws are ignored, when rules are bent, when the regulations are flexible.

This is how Scottish football got into such a mess. We are only just emerging from the darkness. Today’s double whammy shows us, again, that the spiralling crisis at Ibrox yet has the potential to drag the rest of us down with them.

Be warned friends, and be alert. It’s not over by a long way.

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Justice Undone

article-2229687-15DD2FE7000005DC-956_468x286Early last week, I marvelled at the story of Crystal Palace and Cardiff battling it out over a leaked team sheet.

If you haven’t heard this one it’s a beauty.

Way back at the start of the month, on 5 April, Palace beat Cardiff by 3-0. Now the Welsh side wants the result set aside, because Palace engaged the dark arts to get their hands on their team selection in advance of the game.

It sounds barmy, and it will almost certainly never go anywhere, but it’s a clear demonstration of how seriously clubs in the English Premier League take even the appearance of cheating, or wrongdoing, or even unsporting behaviour.

I wish I could say they care about these things out of altruistic motives, or the love of the game. In fact, as we all know, it’s about money, and there’s so much of it as stake, especially at the bottom of the table, that no negative outcome can be allowed to stand if there is even the smallest hint that something isn’t kosher.

Even if I don’t entirely respect their motivation, I understand why some English clubs have made issues out of things such as this, and in the past even sued one another, as happened with Carlos Tevez’s spell at West Ham, which Sheffield United took them to court over. They won a settlement of £20 million. The numbers are huge, so these people don’t mess about.

This is why it’s all the more galling that, here in Scotland, we’ve allowed one of the greatest acts of cheating in the history of the game to, essentially, go unpunished and, furthermore, we’ve allowed the people who oversaw it to stay in post. For all the game is moving forward, it is still held back from real progress because so many things remain unresolved.

In no other corporate culture would a man like Campbell Ogilvie stay in his job. Even Fred Goodwin realised the gig was up eventually, and Maria Miller at least offered a half apology before she tried to cling on, prior to her own realisation that it was only going to end one way.

Has Ogilvie even offered that for the years he allowed Rangers to run rough-shod over the rules and regulations that govern the game? Since the Lord Nimmo Smith verdict, the supporters of this deceased club have claimed vindication, as if the findings exonerated them. They didn’t.

Rangers were found guilty of failure to properly register over 40 players. The perversity lies in how they were allowed to escape serious punishment for that scandalous list of offenses. The verdict in that case did not go in their favour. What did was that its conclusions were twisted into a shape, and a form, that still stinks to high heaven.

Scottish football needs to “move on” from this we’re told. Yes, like the country has to “move on” from the appalling economic damage done by our white collar criminals par excellence in the City of London. Because picking at this scab, what good could it possibly do?

How about delivering justice, at last? How about re-writing the historical narrative to more accurately reflect the truth?

What is the truth? That Scottish football needs Rangers? That the “punishments” already handed out to the club have damaged the game? Lies. What Scottish football really needs is a cleansing from top to bottom. What damaged the game was the way in which its entire structure was twisted out of shape to benefit just one of its teams.

Not content with excusing the industrial scale of the rule breaking inside Ibrox, Scottish football’s governing bodies ripped up and shredded the remainder of the rule book in a bid to assure that some version of that club could continue to play, and that it could continue to assume the identity of the old one even as it washed its hands of the debts.

God knows how many supporters have walked away from the game forever over this. Many are still contemplating it, because the reek of this continues to permeate the halls of power. Celtic’s place on the SPL Board of the time makes this harder, not easier, to understand for the Celtic supporters who know the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry was a despicable fraud, decided in advance, as is clearly spelled out in the Letter of Undertaking leaked by Charlotte Fakeovers, which reads:

“….. the SPL hereby undertakes solely and exclusively to Sevco and to no other Person (defined below), that notwithstanding clause 2.1 of the Agreement that the SPL shall not after Completion take or commence disciplinary proceedings against Sevco under and in terms of the SPL Rules (as defined in the Agreement) for an alleged breach of the SPL Articles (as defined in the Agreement) and/or the SPL Rules by RFC and/or Rangers FC (as defined in the Agreement) prior to Completion in respect of any EBT Payments and Arrangements (as defined below), except where any such EBT Payments and Arrangements shall constitute a CW Enduring Act or Acts (as defined in the Agreement) …”

Stripped of the legalese, this is an SPL guarantee of July 2012 , granted to Sevco Scotland Limited, that there would be no stripping of titles for 11 years of non-disclosure of contracts, and it was signed and sealed before the LNS inquiry had even sat.

Now as noted above, the guarantee was given to Sevco, which is understandable if the buyers of the assets wanted assurances that they would not be punished for any misdemeanours perpetrated by Rangers. However as it appears the football authorities see Sevco as a continuation of Rangers, then it looks like this guarantee applied to Rangers in liquidation as perpetrators, as well as the purchasers of the assets of the liquidation sale.

I say this is how it looks, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the guarantee was only given to the new club and if so no doubt the SPL successor organisation (SPFL)  will put us straight  on the their motives for granting it, but until they respond on this point and the others that follow, the appearance will exist, allowing us to conclude, that damage limitation was already the order of the day whilst the Lord Nimmo Smith investigation was being commissioned from April to August of 2012.

One day, books will be written that reflect the totality of what happened here, and I firmly believe that this will be recognised as one of the greatest scandals not just in the history of football but sport itself. No-one should be under any illusions about this going away. The wounds are too deep, the anger still raw. The people who did this are going to stand in judgement for it, whether that’s in the court of public opinion ten years down the road or in having to clear their desks long before that. It will happen, because justice will not quit digging until it does.

The best of that digging continues to go on over on The Scottish Football Monitor (TSFM), where they have laid out the sorry tale.

http://www.tsfm.net/an-honest-game-convince-us/#comments

Their contributors have been working on this for a long time. An exhaustive amount of research has been done by these guys, and in times to come the fans of every club in the land will owe them a debt of gratitude.

This doesn’t just affect Celtic supporters. It affects everyone who cares about the integrity of our sport. These offenses, their disclosure, and the subsequent efforts by the governing bodies to mitigate the damage to Rangers – and at all costs that was to be their aim – impact on us all. They cannot be allowed to stand, or our game is a corrupt joke.

The work these guys have done is as exhaustive as its findings are staggering. For it is clear from what they’ve produced that the LNS inquiry was prejudiced from the beginning and that it was designed to offer cover to the governing bodies whilst they essentially ignored a decade of financial doping and failure to properly register players. But there was more to it even than that.

The EBT case centres on the allegations made by former Rangers director Hugh Adam, that the club had with-held information from the tax man and the football authorities over how Rangers paid its players from the mid-nineties all the way through until the HMRC “big tax” bombshell hit a decade later. It was, and is, an awesome series of allegations.

The investigation was launched by the SPL, and the SFA made it clear from the start they wouldn’t be getting involved, far less starting their own.

They hid behind their role as the “court of appeal”, but this was only the first abrogation of responsibility so they wouldn’t have to do any serious digging of their own. In truth, they should have launched their own investigation a long time before.

Instead, they handed control to a league body which appears to have given  Rangers, if they and Sevco are the same in their eyes, a categorical assurance that the investigation would result in no serious consequences, and which, even then, was scrambling to find a way of limiting the scope to assure there wouldn’t have to be.

The SFA’s failure to investigate this matter themselves is a disgrace on its own. They were the body responsible for making sure the contracts of all the players were up to snuff. Their decision not to take this matter on was convenient in many ways, none the least of which is that if they’d ultimately been responsible for the inquiry and found, as Nimmo Smith did, that players had been wrongly registered they would have had to strip the club of Scottish Cup’s and, possibly even more alarmingly for them, hand the whole case over to UEFA, as wrongful registration of players would have had an impact on their competitions as well.

We can only speculate on the potential enormity of that, but it would certainly have been devastating. The damage done to clubs like Spartans, merely for wrongly dating a piece of paper, offer ample precedent for what the SFA would have been required to do.

As it is, Nimmo Smith’s verdict does make it clear that these offences took place, and the SFA’s failure to act in light of that speaks volumes for how little they actually want this matter resolved. They would rather it had never been raised, and they would definitely rather it just went away.

When the announcement about the inquiry was made the period under investigation was supposed to run from July 1998, from the formation of the SPL. However when the actual investigation was announced, following preliminary examination of the evidence provided to SPL lawyers Harper MacLeod, by Rangers administrators Duff & Phelps, the scope of the investigation was set to run from 23 November 2000 … for reasons that were not immediately clear.

This caused much confusion at the time. It’s only through the hard work from contributors to The Scottish Football Monitor that we can now see this in context, and understand the potential impact of the curtailment of the investigation.

The decision to limit the scope of the inquiry had eliminated an entire section of this case from being relevant. Why was it done and what was the effect?

Why it was done now requires further investigation by the SPFL, as successors to the SPL who commissioned the investigation. Someone steered the SPL towards this decision, and Scottish football’s fans need to know who that was. We cannot speak to the cause of this change, but we can see clearly that the effect was to omit the Discounted Options Scheme (DOS), better known as the Wee Tax Case, payments made to the Rangers Employee Benefit Trust (REBT), from the inquiry. There were two reasons why this was crucial to the direction of the investigation.

First, Rangers had admitted legal culpability in the case of the DOS REBTs, and had agreed to repay the money owed. Secondly, the Discounted Options Scheme had a certain set of fingerprints on it, and this made it … difficult for the SFA in particular.

Let’s start with the first point. The SFA and the SPL had a fear that if the club was found guilty of utilising a payment scheme that had been deemed illegal it would open doors best left closed, especially if there were “side letters” to that effect. The side letters, in fact, were the very reason HMRC believed this was an illegal tax avoidance scheme.

A letter the QC to the Murray Group, Andrew Thornhill, wrote to his clients, recommending they accept and settle the DOS REBT liability, as opposed to contesting it at the First Tier Tribunal alongside the later and much more extensive Murray Group Managements Remuneration Trust (MGMRT) EBTS    aka the Big Tax Case – is devastating in this regard. It reads

“The scheme was carried out in a way which suggests that arguing the case would be an uphill task. However, the deciding factor in favour of settling the matter is the existence of side letters in two instances demonstrating that there was a true intention of putting cash into the hands of players as part of their remuneration package. It does not help either that the existence of these letters has been denied or not revealed by the club.”

Thornhill is telling his clients that, in the case of the Discounted Options Scheme, they knowingly participated in a tax scam and then lied about it, not only to HMRC but to the footballing authorities. This is a step far beyond failure to disclose side contracts to the governing bodies. If a club was found to be paying its players in cash, from brown paper bags, from the proceeds of a robbery, the punishments would be so draconian the club would be as well to close shop entirely.

The Discounted Options Scheme was tax evasion, pure and simple, and tax evasion is a crime. The evidence that this was tax evasion is there in black and white, contained in one of the letters which can found on TSFM site, a letter from Rangers to HMRC explicitly denying that side letters existed. (The letters did. Copies of them are also on the TSFM site.)

This letter prompted a later response from HMRC which drew their attention to the seriousness of that denial in light of what had emerged in their own investigation. That reply is also available to view on the site. It, too, is devastating.

Which brings us neatly around to the individual who signed the contracts and initiated the Discounted Options Scheme in the first place. His name? Campbell Ogilvie.

Lord Nimmo Smith cleared him of any involvement in the EBT affair during the inquiry, based in no small part on Ogilvie’s own testimony to the inquiry, but, of course, his involvement in the Discounted Options Scheme was not disclosed to that Commission because it was not under investigation. We now know that not only did he know about it, but he was the one who instigated it having been a member of the internal Rangers Employee Remuneration group who set Rangers on the EBT road as a matter of club policy.

TSFM has the minutes of the meeting which set it up, and the letter which confirms the first two “shares” in the company which administered it. Ogilvie attended that meeting. It is his name, and his signature, on the document of ownership for the shares. That document is dated 3 September 1999.

That this man has never been held to account beggars belief. That he was re-elected SFA President, unopposed, is an outrageous stain on the reputation of our game. No explanation. No apology. No hint of contrition or personal doubt. It is disgusting.

A number of documents relating to the Discounted Options Scheme have been submitted from TSFM to Harper MacLeod the legal team who “prosecuted” the Lord Nimmo Smith case, and to the legal experts Nimmo Smith worked with on the matter. The same documents have been sent to all of the board members of the SPL. They demonstrate, clearly, that Rangers lied in their submissions to the inquiry, that they lied to the game’s heads and that some of those responsible for assuring good governance helped them do it. The Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, already a discredited joke in some circles, is now an evident extension of the unfolding scandal that was the conduct of Rangers Football Club, from at least 1998 to the moment it vanished in 2012.

The Discounted Options Scheme was excluded from the investigation because, in that matter, the documents show that Rangers are bang to rights, and because they show Ogilvie is involved in it up to his neck. The effect of narrowing the scope was to exclude a matter that, unlike the MGMRT EBT scheme which came after it, there is no doubt Rangers, effectively, paid two players with the proceeds of a scam, and they with-held that information from the governing bodies. The person who instigated that scam ended up President of one of those governing bodies, the one which would not conduct its own investigation into this affair.

Does anything stink more than this? Actually, yes, because the Discounted Options Scheme forms the basis of the Celtic shareholders resolution which relates to the SFA granting Rangers a European license in 2011. This was the very definition of “tax liabilities payable” as Rangers knew full well, and as Campbell Ogilvie was equally aware given his attendance, in December 2011, at a dinner along with SFA CEO Stewart Regan, where along with Rangers business managers, they discuss a draft statement the CEO had prepared, for clearance by Rangers, in order to answer questions on the granting of the UEFA licence to the club, in spite of their having a tax liability that remains unpaid to this day, and which should have barred them from getting one.

At the time this decision was made in March 2012, Rangers had, in their possession, the letter from their own lawyer, effectively pleading “no contest.” Campbell Ogilvie, who had taken part in setting this scheme up, and surely knew it had involved undisclosed “side letters”, was the head of the licensing organisation that granted one to that club, in those circumstances. The totality of this scandal can only be understood when you fully realise what that means.

The Lord Nimmo Smith verdict has been spun as a “victory for Rangers”. It wasn’t, but nor was it a victory for those who wanted to see the club properly punished for a decade of financial doping. The guilty verdict was supposed to end with restitution being made. Instead, the SPL seems to have already given the club, as Sevco, an assurance that no real punishment would come from it. Add to this the limited  scope of the investigation, which excluded an aspect where Rangers were manifestly guilty of more than just failure to register contracts, and which put Ogilvie himself in the frame, and it all supports the feeling that justice itself has been cheated.

There was never going to be a proper resolution here, because the obfuscations, denials and the concealment that had characterised the whole affair was still on-going, as a matter of policy, despite all that had happened. Even under new management, even with much of the secret history exposed, with lawyers picking over the bones, they were still hiding the full facts about what went on.

As a result, we were all lied to. The football authorities were probably lied to. Nimmo Smith himself was certainly misled as to who knew what and when, and he was kept from examining the full scope of the affair he was supposed to get to the bottom of. As such, when men like Ogilvie swore they were not involved, they were telling the truth only because the questions themselves had to be limited in their context. This is a fraud against the whole sport.

It is clear this was not about integrity, and it was not about getting to the truth.

Instead it was Justice Undone.

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