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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can then decide what you think.

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

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

It’s all very … doable.

And that’s what worries me.

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

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

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

One of those overseas assets was a company called NOVA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll get back to that number shortly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or so I long suspected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is where our friend Keith Jackson comes in.

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

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

Was Jackson reading up on South African exchange control laws?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did he get that number from?

Was it “direct knowledge”?

Was it a wee emailed memo, perchance?

Something thrown to him by a PR firm?

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

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

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

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

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

And this is where we head into speculative territory.

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

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

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

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

Did that money originate elsewhere?

Say, in South Africa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not even improbable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But like I said, that’s his business.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did they quiz him on South African financial regulations?

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

We know it’s impossible.

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

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

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

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

Who better than Stewart Regan knows how hard that is?

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

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

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

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

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

But they were also linked with Sevco itself.

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

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

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

Who says we’ve been left out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or was there another reason? A darker one?

One more to do with transparency and openness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can’t put it more bluntly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does it still sound unlikely to you?

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

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

What’s the line from The Godfather?

“It’s business, not personal.”

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

It would just be business as usual.

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

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Resolution 12 Campaign Leaves Sevco Facing A European Ban

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

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

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

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

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

This was never about embarrassing people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People at Sevco are worried about this campaign.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Resolution 12 guys can blow that all to Hell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I personally don’t think that’s fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then punishment will follow, like night follows day.

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

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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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Sevco: Survival Of The Unfittest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As straight fiction it would be too unbelievable.

But then this is reality.

Reality at the club calling itself Rangers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s called perma-death.

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

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

All your achievements are wiped away.

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

Realistic, or what?

And we know who it reminds us of, right?

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Sums Sevco Style

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

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

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

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

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

It’s mounting up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now something else has changed.

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

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

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

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

Do the sums.

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

Why?

What’s changed?

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

Let’s try to look at this logically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who made that decision?

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

So what motivated it?

Was it to avoid the court cases?

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

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

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

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

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

How much money do they really need?

There are a lot of unknowns.

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

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

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

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

But the window is nearly open.

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

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

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The Ingratitude Of Sevconians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know what rattling the tin cup looks like.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what response did he get for that?

More abuse, and the guy calling him a bigot.

How do you even begin to respond to that?

Where do you start?

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

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

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

And in the big picture they’re nowhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They never have before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they know it. And they hate it.

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

Nevertheless, their behaviour and ingratitude is shameful.

It says a lot about who they are.

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

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King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime

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

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

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

Who indeed? Three guesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was also a bad day for the SFA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And who but a fool would do that?

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

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Sevco: A Storm Off Starboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet much remains exactly the same.

This vessel is still sailing in the stormiest of seas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We know they looked the other way when allegations surfaced in relation to Green, even giving Sevco a green light to investigate itself.

We know too that they breached their own regulations to allow King a seat on the Ibrox board.

I could go on. And on. And on.

There is no hiding place for them if this Force 12 blows across the deck.

This will overwhelm them.

Yesterday, Roger Mitchell, the former SPL CEO, went public with his view that Sevco will come to regret putting King on the board, that he is “damaged” and ought not to have been granted “fit and proper person” status.

I agree with him, but King is just a symptom of the bigger problem.

The bigger problem is at the SFA itself.

After years of studying this stuff, I often ponder just what kind of state Sevco would be in if we had an association that treated them like any other club.

A big part of what makes the coming storm so destructive is that the SFA are about to be swamped at just the moment the Ibrox operation might need them most.

It is inconceivable to almost all of us that Stewart Regan can survive his own court appearance against Ashley in April next year. The Sports Direct supremo has him in the gun sights and he is a dead shot.

The SFA may try to buy him off, or to get him to quit, by throwing King on the fire as a sacrifice, but this isn’t likely to cut much slack with a man so set on winning.

The hurricane sweeping across the sea towards these people is going to blow away everything in front of it.

By the time it passes, the wreckage will stretch over miles of flat, calm ocean.

The scenario we’re looking at is one where Regan has gone and possibly takes a few others with him; it’s one where the clubs are flexing their muscles; where the league’s governing body is under pressure to play by the rules; where the media has been exposed as complicit in the whole Sevco scandal (as they are) and has no moral authority to even attempt to influence the debate, and where the Ibrox club is impoverished and endangered.

Removed of the association CEO who has protected them, without Ogilvie on hand to offer his own brand of “look the other way”, and with Doncaster exposed to the harsher realities of his own position with a mood amongst the other clubs that is in no way sympathetic to another attempted stitch-up, Sevco will be alone, its leaders standing on the deck of a floundering ship, staring out into the rain.

Reform will be possible then, real reform, and not the phony kind that’s raised its head this week.

I mean a reformatted League Cup, to create a group stage, but one which excludes the clubs playing in Europe?

Why does the cynic in me see a clear motivation of providing “more money for Sevco” in that arrangement?

Why, when I contemplate which club will gain the most out of that, do I think of them first?

Could it be that I see most of the matches in this competition being played in front of three quarters empty grounds?

That I see no real benefit to other clubs except more games?

Some of those clubs are already complaining about this, saying they weren’t consulted. Other clubs say they were, but you know what? Regardless of whether they were consulted or not, I have limited sympathy for the leaders of a lot of our teams right now; Doncaster and others only exist because these people haven’t acted decisively and removed them.

What, precisely, will it take for them to act?

When he and Regan all but destroyed the game here as a commercial endeavour in 2012 with their “Scottish football is worthless without Rangers in the top flight” guff, that ought to have been that; jotters, ta-ta, pack your pencils and beat it.

The fans knew it. The fans wanted it.

The clubs failed us all.

You can’t have followed these events and doubt it.

Today, secure in his job, with the “confidence” of the teams, Doncaster is singing that old familiar song about a 14 team top flight, coincidentally as Sevco and Hibs are within touching distance of each other.

I mean, seriously?

These people will do anything to see their beloved Ibrox club in the top flight, and if the directors of other teams haven’t twigged that yet – that their own wishes and ambitions will be subservient to that one – then I don’t know what to say to them.

This failure is theirs too, and if the day ever comes and the duopoly that almost destroyed them is restored they can explain to their own fans why it was allowed to happen.

Sooner or later the directors of other clubs have to wake up. Stewart Regan standing in court, fumbling his words, whilst Doncaster waits on his own turn in the dock as a witness for Craig Whyte … well, yes, that ought to do it.

In the short term, it will barely matter anyway.

This League Cup wheeze has a shelf life of five minutes, and if clubs are complaining about it before it’s even started I have doubts it’ll be more than a one season wonder. Whatever attraction it does have will wane quickly, once the novelty wears off.

The idea isn’t terrible, by the way, but the costs of putting on these games will be higher, in many instances, than the clubs can bring in at the gate, as fans offer their own verdict on the changes.

At Ibrox this is more acute than elsewhere, as the huge expense of match-day can turn a possible source of profit into a loss-making endeavour before you know it, and that this might not even benefit Sevco financially is hilarious to me.

The governing bodies have bent over backwards for this club in the last few years and not one decision they’ve taken has made life at Ibrox better.

Why should this be any different?

Rangers was like a sword boat that the Department of Fish & Game allowed to leave port overloaded with more gear than any other ship in the fleet. It was against regulations, those which existed to protect other vessels from unfair practices, but it also ran against those safety rules which were in place to protect the boat itself.

For years the captain and crew rode their luck, but when the hurricane swept over them in 2012 they went down like a steel anchor.

In a similar fashion, Sevco is like a ship holed below the waterline, allowed to leave port although the authorities are aware of the cracks in the superstructure. Furthermore, it’s one which is captained by a notorious character who cheated other regulatory bodies and was partly responsible for Rangers’ sinking.

As such, he ought never to have been given command of a boat again.

The authorities know this too, and have spent the last year crossing their fingers that everything would be alright on his watch anyway.

That it’s so swiftly gone bad must be haunting their every waking moment, and when this ship starts to sink they’ll do anything to keep the stink of the scandal from their own door.

Anything, that is, except do the only thing that can save Sevco, which is the spending of copious amounts of money.

Without that, their ability to direct influence events once this ship runs into trouble is much as it was when Rangers began to slide below the surface; in other words, zero.

With no Coast Guard cutter on the horizon, what is this club going to do?

One of the things I learned from Sebastian Junger’s book is that sending out a “mayday” quite literally means that everyone on the ship has given up and they’ve accepted that they’re going down.

The word itself originates from the French, “m’aidez”, which in English means “help me”.

For a while now that signal has been getting pumped out of the Blue Room on a fairly steady rhythm.

King’s wee visit to Hampden last week was either them answering or his making sure it was being properly heard; either way, they’re not the people he really wanted to be talking to.

A little sympathy, and maybe the promise of league reconstruction talks, is all they’re able to offer, and he needs those things, but not as much as he needs the money, and besides a change in the weather and he’ll no longer be able to rely on them.

In the meantime, they just keep on repeating the message;

“Mayday, mayday, this is the HMS Sevco … we are in urgent need of assistance … Mayday, mayday …”

But Jim McColl isn’t picking up the phone.

Brian Kennedy is slinging them a deafy.

The “Rangers minded businessmen” who King talked about, but conveniently didn’t want to name, haven’t been forthcoming.

The current board members are keeping things rolling along with soft loans, but they’ll last only as long as their patience does.

When the next distress flare goes up from Ibrox, the one to signify that there’s water in the engine room, shorting the circuits and turning out the lights as well as silencing the radio, it’s more than possible that storm will already have changed everything around them.

There they’ll be, friendless, alone, in the midst of the big waves, waiting for the ship to go down.

King can’t save them, and no-one else wants to, but what will hurt most of all will be that lengthy wait for the Coast Guard … followed by the realisation that help is no longer going to come.

This is the Perfect Storm.

Hell mend everyone caught in the path of it.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Sevco, Dark Places & Alien Space Bats

Dave-King-XXX-high-resWe in Scottish football who’ve been following the Sevco story have had one heck of a day already, as we head into what might prove to be a defining week.

First up was the news that the Sevco shareholders have voted against Resolution 10 at their AGM, which was their only visible means of raising money in the short term.

Devastating.

And yet I am less than devastated.

Adrian Durham, who this website slated earlier this year, has written another bizarre article today saying Celtic fans miss a club called Rangers.

Does it sound like we do?

I’d like nothing more than to see Hibs catch them, forcing them into another play-off, and then failure.

You’d think Durham would learn from the slagging he took last time, but in he goes again like a kid who’s been burned once but insists on sticking his hand in the flames again.

There’s just one word for that; idiocy.

He’s not alone, of course. In the Scottish media, just writing nonsense is considered a masterful performance, worthy of awards.

In The Telegraph Roddy Forsyth has written another of his own barmy pieces trying to equate what Rangers did with the numerous legal tax avoidance mechanisms which individuals and companies all across the world exploit.

This comes days after The Evening Times ran a headline suggesting that Sevco’s financial position was “the envy of world football.”

At the same time, Celtic are being spun as in crisis because of a couple of tweets from a malcontented player.

Uhuh.

From the ridiculous to the sublimely ludicrous.

These people live in a parallel universe, I swear to God they do. They believe in things that are so utterly out of step with reality you want to give them a good shake sometimes.

Someone asked me recently if I can see a way of forestalling another administration event at Ibrox.

Today this news about the share issue only reinforces what I’ve long believed; there’s only one possible solution to their ills.

Their fans enjoy alternative history; Hell, they practically live in one.

The Survival Myth, the Victim Myth, this notion of still being a huge club … it’s all unreal, all the stuff of Narnia, but they believe it.

See, part of the problem is the media that publishes this stuff. They’ve proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there’s still a market for “alternative history” fiction … and as most of their stuff appears to fall into this category they’ll understand me when I tell them what I think is the only thing that can save Sevco now.

It’s simple. Alien space bats.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a phrase used in the alternative history genre to describe a plot point or event that is so implausible it almost breaks the narrative structure, as in “Sevco needs five million to see them through the season … they won’t get the money but they can conquer the Earth instead by using alien space bats …”

In other words, it’s going to take something out of left field, something ridiculous, an Arab billionaire with King Billy tattooed on his backside maybe.

Or Dave King finding money under the mattress … you know, large sums of undeclared South African Rand.

Other than that, I think they’re done for.

The Three Bears can loan them all the money they can get out of their pockets in the meantime, but finally that will run out … and then it’s all over.

King is the problem, of course, as most people are all too aware. The Scottish FA might love him, the Scottish media might idolise him, but business people don’t trust him and don’t want to be seen to be involved with a man of his background and reputation.

As long as he’s there, that’s not going to change.

Before Breaking Bad took the title of Greatest Television Show Ever Made, my favourite was a cop show with a difference; Shawn Ryan’s The Shield.

There’s a moment in Season 6 that always makes me laugh and I’ve been thinking about that moment lately in the context of Scottish football, the SFA and Dodgy Dave King.

In the scene, Vic Mackey, the main character, a dirty cop par excellence, is investigating the murder of a society girl. His objective is twofold; to catch the killer and to steer the investigation away from any inconvenient fact that will harm the reputation of her family and particularly her father, a man of some prominence and position.

Vic’s former boss, and candidate for high office, David Aceveda, comes to see him to ask how the investigation is proceeding.

“It’s getting to a dark place,” Vic tells him.

“Meaning?” Aceveda asks.

Vic gives it to him straight; the victim turns out to have been a drug addicted prostitute who paid for her stuff with sexual acts too graphic to go into …

“Other than that,” Vic says, “she was Pippi Longstocking …”

And that’s what we’re dealing with here; a football association which has allowed a criminal convicted on over 40 tax evasion counts, to take over one of its clubs.

This guy is due in court over the next day or two, charged with breaching a high court injunction, and he’s already on a suspended sentence for contempt in the country he calls home.

He’s also a congenital liar, as esteemed law lords in that nation can attest and he has one hand in the pockets of his fellow directors and another in the hands of his club’s own fans … without ever having put one in his own.

Other than that, he’s a perfectly fit and proper person.

And Brutus too is an honourable man …

In the meantime, BDO has announced their intention to appeal the Big Tax decision, which has a lot of people banging drums and celebrating wildly, as well as pointing their fingers at the Internet Bampots as if this decision somehow means the central thrust of what we’ve been saying for the past few years was wrong.

So this saga still has a ways to run. Scottish football’s governors, who are frantically trading manoeuvring space for time, like Soviet soldiers during the Great Patriotic War, have themselves a little room to breathe. No decision on title stripping is imminent, unless the Supreme Court tells BDO to chase themselves, which it well might.

But this delay is a disaster for football governance here.

It’s put off a series of decisions that, sooner or later, absolutely have to be made if we’re going to move the game forward. I don’t believe for one second that the Supreme Court, even if it hears the case, will over-turn this verdict, and that simply means that these issues will be waiting to confront the sport at another time.

In the meantime, chaos reigns.

Later this week, Dave King will face Mike Ashley in court. One suspects yesterday’s appeal decision may well be the best news day Sevco will have for quite a while. The ground ahead looks rocky at best, and they can cling to nonsense stories like Warburton rejecting a possible move to Fulham all they like; this is a club running into big trouble.

The SFA is, sooner or later, going to have to account for why they’ve allowed a guy like King to get his hands on the club. I have a sneaking feeling they know that quite well and they’re getting themselves ready for doing what has to be done.

Want my view on it? I think King will have left the Ibrox boardroom by March.

This guy is now simply a millstone around people’s necks.

With him in charge, Ashley will continue trying to tie them in knots. He’s also got one eye on the SFA now, and they’ve got to be having collective heart failure at Hampden as a consequence of that. The man from Sports Direct knows neither the club nor the association has the cash to fight a series of battles with him in the courts.

King doesn’t even live in this country, so his presence around the club is negligible, and when he does touch down on these shores he has brought trouble with him, and he multiplies it every time he talks to the press. His ego is far bigger than his brain but not quite as big as his mouth.

The only reason to keep King around, at all, was the so-called financial muscle he had at his disposal, but that’s turned out to be a busted flush.

So, I ask you, with the walls closing in on all sides what is the merit in keeping him around, either for Sevco or the association? The SFA must now wish he’d never been granted “fit and proper person” status, and they might even view this week as an opportunity to get rid, and hope that it satisfies Ashley enough to make him go away.

The very worst outcome here, for them, would be for the courts this week to do little or nothing, to slap King on the wrist and tell him not to be a naughty boy. That would leave this thing in flux, and only give Ashley an incentive to drum up trouble elsewhere.

At the same time, it’s become increasingly hard to shake the notion that King himself would love to leave all this behind, that whatever motivated him to get involved has been replaced by the dread certainty that this is all too much for him, that he’s better off away.

I can think of no better scenario for him than for the SFA to change its mind now, and do what it ought to have done in the first place. He can walk away from that clean, blaming all around him, and keeping his “reputation” in the eyes of the dopier Sevco supporters.

Whatever his end game was it’s over now. All that’s left to decide is the manner in which he finally leaves Ibrox behind once and for all.

We live in interesting times.

As Vic Mackey might have said, we’re “getting to a dark place.”

For the SFA and the Ibrox operation, the need for some Alien Space Bats has never been more acute.

The next few weeks are going to be … busy.

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Friends Like These

Walter Smith has confirmed in a statement that he is leading a new bid to buy RangersWell it’s been a fun few days in the Celtic blogosphere.

Let’s take the return – the welcome return – of RTC to Twitter.

The information he’s putting out there is, as usual, amazing.

The documents which show that Walter Smith had an EBT are not at all surprising, but they offer an insight into the Real Rangers Men which should intrigue everyone.

I wrote an article for this site last year called The Enemies of Rangers?. I made it clear who I believed those enemies to be; the people who’ve lied to their supporters over and over again.

Since that article was written, the inconvenient truth about Ally McCoist has seeped into the public domain.

When he said “we don’t do walking away” some of us realised he was talking about sticking it out on a huge and unjustified salary, that he was actually saying he’d be hanging in there as long as the terms and conditions were to his liking.

We tried to point that out.

Sevco fans didn’t listen, but they can no longer be in denial about what McCoist was; a leech, a fat, well fed leech who had every incentive to stay when others went.

He’s never going to come close to those earnings again.

Indeed, my prediction, made back when Sevco was born in the lower leagues, that he would never again manage a team in top flight football, anywhere, looks more secure by the day.

He and his predecessor, Walter Smith himself, did as much as any two people apart from Murray to speed that club towards the inevitable graveyard. They behaved with a selfishness that was, and still is, absolutely appalling, and yet their role in the downfall of that club remains largely unscrutinised except on certain blogs and websites.

Back in 2012, Alex Thomson broke ranks on this issue to become the first mainstream journalist in the UK to actually question the role played by Smith in what happened to Rangers.

It was commonly known, at the time, that the then boss was one of the loudest voices at the club raised against the austerity package Lloyds’ point man, Donald Muir, was trying to implement.

I think, to this day, that would have saved them.

What happened instead was that Smith went on the radio and told the world the bank was running the club, and in doing so he got the supporters behind a vicious campaign against them.

The banners, protesting against Lloyds, began to turn up at the ground. Impromptu protests sprung up outside the headquarters and at local branches. The calls came for supporters to start closing their accounts en masse.

Instead of offering a rousing chorus in praise of the one man on the board who was trying to enforce fiscal sanity on the rest – and the rest included Paul Murray and Dave King, let’s not forget – instead they were united in singing Money’s Too Tight To Mention.

Stop for a moment and ponder that for a second, the sheer insanity of what these people were doing.

Smith had said the bank was running the club. What he meant effectively was that Rangers existed at their indulgence.

Think about the idiocy, the lunacy, that’s required to actually spit in the faces of the people who are keeping your lights on.

The banks were the best friends Rangers ever had.

The nine in a row years would not have happened without them.

The club got to 2012 precisely because the banks were letting them spend far more than they ought to have. Forget EBT’s. This club was financially doped for years beyond count, before Murray ever embarked on that scheme.

Now we know that Smith was a recipient of one of those “trust funds”, thanks to what’s now in the public domain.

Aside from his own huge salary, he, too was taking a wee bit extra.

He spent years telling the world how committed he was to the club. In point of fact, the money was right and that’s what mattered. In fact, we can see, clearly, that there was barely an individual connected with the Ibrox operation who wasn’t sucking the marrow off the bones.

How tough must it have been for players and executives when they realised the gravy train was about to come to a sudden stop?

We’ve all been saying for a while now that the worst enemies of the club were the people inside its own walls, and that’s still the case today.

Only this time, there’s a new man at the helm.

I don’t have to tell anyone how I feel about Dave King or his alleged plans for the club. Nothing he says or does stacks up, and in doing a similar thing to what Rangers did over Lloyds – picking a fight with the people keeping the lights on – he’s dragged the club into a legal and financial dogfight against a guy with the means to shut them down.

Today Sports Direct released a statement accusing King of “misleading the fans.”

We’ve been saying much the same thing since he rode into town, and I understand why the supporters don’t want to hear it. There is no messiah on the horizon for this club, no-one waiting in the wings if King’s revolution upends and he’s forced to admit what we all know.

They’ve picked this guy. This is the last throw of the dice before hard times.

Those hard times are coming whether he’s there or not, but the truth of that will come down like an anvil if Ashley hammers him in court this time next week. God help them then.

In the meantime, King, like Murray, and like Smith, has his wee favourites and he’s not shy about promoting them.

Unlike those guys, King doesn’t choose them based on any skills they might have.

His decision to promote Chris Graham to the board could only have come from someone rewarding sheer sycophancy, without a clue as to what that move represented. It blew up, spectacularly, when the “fan rep” had to resign within days.

Yesterday, he appointed John Brown as the club’s ambassador for a trip to Russia, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Moscow Dynamo tour of the UK at the end of the Second World War. I can think of few less credible people to be representing a football club in an official capacity, but this is Sevco, and there’s something almost beautiful about the decision.

This is the sneering, semi-literate halfwit who Hugh Keevins once famously said wouldn’t have green jelly at his table at a night out once. A complete muppet, a goon, right out of nutjob Central Casting.

The guy who once made headlines standing on a doorstep shouting about title deeds, in front of a howling mob, foaming at the mouth, will now be travelling to Russia wearing a club blazer and tie.

Ambassador John Brown.

Wow. Just wow.

Sevco fans don’t like me much.

That’s hardly a surprise.

But sometimes you need someone from the outside to tell you the truth a friend won’t.

When you consider who their idols are, and the way those people have behaved, they should be welcoming any advice that doesn’t come from the Real Rangers Men.

This is an absolute shambles.

That they don’t want to hear that is only one reason they’re heading down the tubes.

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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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Crisis At Sevco: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

Downfall-Der-Untergang-downfall-der-untergang-32193090-1920-1080On 16 January 1945, Adolf Hitler moved into the final home he would ever know, the Fuhrerbunker underneath the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

Over the next few months, as his detachment from reality grew more acute, he and the members of the general staff felt the noose grow ever tighter round their necks as the Allies closed in from the West and the Soviets closed in from the East.

It was the Soviets who got there first, on 16 April.

The Battle of Berlin began.

A day later, Eva Braun threw a party in the chancellery itself, to celebrate the dictator’s 56th birthday. It was the last hurrah. During the festivities a Soviet shell landed yards from the building and blew out a wall.

The party ended, those who could escape did and the others settled down to await the end.

In the movie Downfall, which charts the final days of the regime, there is a discussion about whether Hitler himself should try to flee the city.

It is his senior adviser Albert Speer who speaks the words that will determine his fate; “You must be on stage when the curtain falls,” he says, and Hitler nods.

From that moment on, those who had wedded themselves to the dictator, who had pledged to stand by him to the last, had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Those who stayed knew the ultimate fate, and they accepted it with him.

Those who have chained themselves to the Dave King regime at Ibrox must feel like that, as if the walls are closing in around them today. It’s been a dreadful, a thoroughly appalling, last few days, from Friday’s bizarre late night press release to the hammer blows which have hit them, one after the other, in the last 24 hours.

Erase any thought that I feel bad for them.

These people deserve everything they get.

Sympathy isn’t exactly my default position when it comes to these folk; corrupt administrators, compromised journalists, braindead and ambitious fan reps. They’ve all conspired to put the club in the hands of a man a South African judge called “a glib and shameless liar” and they tied whatever was left of their reputations to his.

What a colossal error in judgement, one for which they will pay a high price before this matter is fully resolved.

This is a club on the brink of a catastrophe.

Let’s look at where things stand this morning.

Yesterday they published their accounts, and what a shambles they are.

The top-line figure of £7.4 million in losses would be dreadful enough, but that hides a multitude of sins. Without a series of loans, including the Sports Direct £5 million, the sale of a player and some other add-ons the actual figure would have been twice as high.

The club admits it doesn’t have the capital to get through the season, with the cash needed to do it supposedly coming from a proposed debt-for-equity swap that might not make it past the shareholders.

They are in hock to current directors at the moment, and rumours continue to circulate that these guys have had it.

Their other key lender is a guy they’ve pissed off so much he’s now taking legal action to have the chairman thrown in jail.

King himself has already been indicted and convicted for a tax fraud in South Africa, but before this he was on the board of the previous football club, which has just been found guilty of a massive, and long term, tax evasion scheme which in any other football association would have immediately opened an investigation leading to title stripping and historical disgrace.

As Andrew Smith has said, in an astonishingly blunt, and uncompromising, piece in The Scotsman this morning; “At the very least, the titles Rangers won in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010 should be declared void. These honours were won in the most dishonourable fashion.”

He’s correct. The Big Tax Case verdict is a moment that will haunt the club forevermore.

Their liquidation was all the more inevitable in the light of it, and Craig Whyte, the man the media and the Sevco fans love to blame, is shown to have been a spiv and a chancer, but also is absolved of the historic responsibility for their ultimate fate.

Rangers did not “die for nothing”, as some of their more ridiculous supporters reps have claimed.

They died because for too long they spent other people’s money, and finally yours and mine. When they were forced to pay their own way – and Whyte’s season was the first time in decades when they had to do that without European income – that fate was sealed.

At the same time, the manager has reversed himself on team building policy.

He’s seen his club crash out of one of the two main domestic cup competitions already and they just lost to their biggest challengers in the league.

On the football front, things aren’t bad.

They’re certainly not in crisis, but if they lose another match in the next few weeks the pressure on that end will begin to stack up.

The squad as it stands appears capable, but only in their current division.

Furthermore, with this club surrounded in uncertainty that is bound to take its toll.

There’s also the question as to whether the manager feels he’s going to get the backing he was promised.

He seemed genuinely excited a week ago when he talked about bringing in a better class of player. Just a few days later, he was no longer signing them and the statement that the club released later that night made it clear the money for them isn’t there unless it comes from more soft loans from the boardroom.

How long before he’s fed up with that?

This isn’t a guy with “Rangersitus” here. He’s a hardnosed professional, a guy who came from the financial markets. He believes he can build a reputation in football, and he will realise in the fullness of time what a car-crash Sevco actually is, if he isn’t already becoming aware of that.

Remember, this isn’t a guy King and the board can buy off with some cobblers about jam tomorrow.

He knows how to work with numbers. He knows you can’t build the kind of club he wants them to become without cold hard cash. He’s worked in the City, and he knows what it takes to go out and get financing. He knows about market credibility … and if he doesn’t already realise that Sevco has absolute none of that well, how the Hell did he make his money?

So there aren’t immediate problems in the dressing room, but those problems are on their way and you can see it for miles and miles.

If things get too difficult and Warburton believes his own reputation is being tarnished, this guy will walk and not look back.

All this is to say nothing of asset ownership issues, court cases mounting up, and persons connected to the club being under indictment.

Throughout all of what’s come before we’ve heard the usual bleating that none of this is the fault “of the club” itself, that the fans are victims, as if directors don’t make decisions on behalf of the institution that they’re running and those supporters didn’t have a chance.

This is a club where crisis is a permanent state of affairs, where one boardroom shyster is soon replaced by another and where all of them – without exception – are cheered in and jeered out later by a support which appears stone stupid and unable to learn from past mistakes.

They backed Whyte before they turned on him, even as we told them he was a charlatan of the very worst kind.

We exposed his lies even before he took over, and they didn’t listen and hailed him a hero.

They were still unbelieving right up to administration day itself.

They welcomed Green with open arms, buying not so much into his business plan (which had more holes in it than a Jerry Bruckheimer film) as his bombast when he talked about “Rangersitus” and how every other club hated them because of bigotry.

I ask you, if you were a dodgy geezer looking for people to fleece, could you do any better than tens of thousands who would reach into their wallets the moment you started talking about how they were special and the rest of the world was against them because of it?

That’s the easiest money the guy ever made in his life.

Now there’s Dave King, the “glib and shameless liar”, the man who a court condemned in the harshest language permissible without resorting to swearing.

This guy has reversed himself so many times since taking over it’s become impossible now to recognise the place where reality ends and the pipe dreams begin. Fact, fiction, even fantasy, have merged into one with this joker, and you get the impression watching him, reading him and listening to him that he simply says whatever comes into his head, or whatever he thinks the audience wants to hear, whatever its relationship to truth.

The media loves him, for reasons passing understanding as he is not evenly remotely credible.

His record in front of them is deplorable. He treats them like absolute mugs, clearly thinking of them as useful idiots without a shred of backbone at all. He has to, otherwise he wouldn’t so freely, and fearlessly, lie to their faces.

Even today, Keith Jackson has praised King for “openness” in how they’ll get through the season; loans from existing shareholders.

Those loans, according to Jackson, have already been agreed by the directors.

Is that true? I think he should check and make sure this isn’t just a case of King being economical with the facts again.

He’s bought, wholly, into the stated figure of £2.5 million being enough to get the club through the season too. I’m willing to bet that long before the current campaign ends we’ll be hearing that it isn’t quite enough, that it’s going to take the same again – at least – to actually complete their fixtures. And where’s that coming from?

He’s talking the usual nonsense about how the club can “untangle the finances” with a share issue, and goes on to call those of us who are predicting “imminent catastrophe” as indulging in “absurd wishful thinking.”

First, none of us said this is “imminent.”

That is to say that it won’t be tomorrow or the day after that.

They may even limp to the end of the season.

But there are long term structural problems at Ibrox that won’t be resolved as long as Dave King is at the helm, and sooner or later his fellow directors are going to tell him there’s no more gas left in the tank.

Imminent? No. But certain, and it doesn’t take a genius to work this stuff out.

Basic math is all that’s required.

With their losses at the current level – even taking loans into account, by God – this is a club heading for disaster.

That’s a simple statement of fact.

And this share issue he’s talking about … let’s surmise that they’re able to launch it. Let’s even surmise they can hit their target, whatever that is.

This isn’t money for infrastructure spending. It’s going to be spent on the team; King’s made that pretty clear. So the wage bill will rise. Fans will get a temporary hit and buy season tickets.

Then what? Scottish football revenues aren’t enough to sustain their greedy over-reach. Once the share issue money is gone – and it won’t take long – then what?

With a new cost base that will be twice what it currently is they’ll be counting on European income to survive, if they make it that far.

Haven’t they been there before?

That way lies the boneyard.

If Jackson, Scotland’s most clinically stupid “journalist”, wants a textbook example of “absurd wishful thinking” he just gave it to us himself.

The supporters and the media have gone “all in” with Dave King, as have the governing bodies, who passed him as fit and proper despite his criminal past and his relationship with the old club that went bust on his watch.

That they allowed this guy to take up a senior position with a Scottish football club with the words of King’s national judiciary completing his disgrace was stunning to all of us who, nevertheless, had been expecting it to happen.

Like the acolytes of Hitler, who crowded into the bunker, his future and theirs are now inextricably entwined.

If he should, for example, wind up in the jail come the end of the year – and whatever Jackson reckons his suspended sentence for contempt in a South African court, and the noxious mix of what Ashley is accusing him of, makes it dangerously possible that he will – the first thing that will happen is their collective credibility will tank.

He doesn’t even have to wind up in prison for that to happen. Jackson has dismissed, as if it’s nothing, the possibility that the court will simply fine King instead. For contempt of court. Because that happens to football chairmen all the time, right?

Yes, somewhere a village is definitely missing its idiot.

If King is actually admonished by the court the consequences for the club will be further disgrace at the very best.

If he’s jailed they’ll be catastrophic.

My prediction is that they’ll enter administration on the same day, or shortly thereafter, as the directors run to distance themselves from a crisis of Chernobyl proportions.

Their fundraising capability will be obliterated well into the long term future, at least as long as King is chairman and for many, many years beyond.

The reputational damage to the club and to many in the game here, especially those who waved him through Fit and Proper person, will be monumental.

Disaster is closing in on this club, whatever optimistic press releases they might put out and whatever their friends in the media might want people to believe.

There’s a reason a judge in South Africa called King a “glib and shameless liar” and there’s a reason the Scottish sporting press have a toxic reputation with their former readers and the Bampots.

The undertone of panic in some of the coverage today is palpable, and it’s there because these people know that when the roof falls in it’s going to land right on top of them.

That’s the consequence of getting down into the bunker with a madman and his circus of fools.

And with crisis now coming at them from all sides, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

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Sevco In A Dark Place As Ashley Makes It Personal

Mike AshleyThere’s a 1990 movie I want to talk about a little bit. It has a bearing on the point of the piece.

The film’s called Pacific Heights. It’s not Oscar worthy, but it’s Friday night popcorn and beer entertainment, with a different kind of horror story.

At the heart of it, the movie is about money. Financial hardship caused by buying a house.

The plot is simple enough, some would say a little thin; a cute couple, played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffiths, buy a house they can’t afford on their own. The only way to make it work is by renting out two ground floor apartments.

So they set about trying to find people suitable to fill them, eventually settling on a nice Japanese couple for the first, and coming awfully close to letting the second out to an earnest black man who thinks the colour of his skin might count against him.

He submits the application, which gets lost as the Japanese family moves in, trampling through the halls and making a mess. When said application doesn’t turn up the couple assumes he’s changed his mind, and it’s at that moment Carter turns up, driving a Porsche.

Carter (played superbly by Michael Keaton) wants the apartment. He’s well heeled, and flashes a wedge. He leaves personal references and vanishes without signing a lease or paying a penny. Shortly thereafter, he returns in the morning and basically moves in, telling Griffiths he’s squared it with Modine.

He hasn’t. But he makes big bold claims about his trust fund and flashes more money.

He promises to have the first few months’ rent squared away in a week.

Then he vanishes again, in his shiny black ride. Days go by. Then a week has past.

No rent.

Modine goes down to the apartment to check it out and finds an odd looking dude living there … not Carter, who is “away on business.”

Modine does, at that point, what anyone would do and loses it, especially when he finds out they’ve changed the locks and like drilling at 3:00 am.

The scam is pretty simple.

According to California state law, once Carter is inside the apartment he has all the rights of a fully paid up tenant and over the course of the movie he slowly strangles the life out of Modine and Griffiths, trying to ruin them financially.

Before long, he’s well on top. He has succeeded in forcing the Japanese couple to leave (late night drilling is one thing; but he breeds cockroaches too and lets them loose into the next door unit) and even in getting a restraining order against his landlord.

His objective is to prise the house away from them, and it’s not the first time he’s done it to someone.

In fact, it’s his day job.

“For him it’s business as usual,” Modine morosely tells Griffiths one drunk night, after he’s heard Carter outline the plan to his mate. “This is what he does for a living.”

Indeed it is. Carter is a scam artist par excellence, and I’ve thought about him, and I’ve thought about that film, a lot from the hour Craig Whyte took over Rangers. The parallels are pretty obvious, and will become even clearer as the looming court case goes on.

Leeching the life out of companies and individuals is precisely what some people do for a living, and they make good money crushing the dreams of others. For all that, I don’t think these guys get any pleasure or satisfaction out of that side of it.

This is just about the bottom line. Cold hard cash.

Mike Ashley isn’t a scam artist. He’s made his money legitimately, which is why he must find Dave King’s constant moralising tiresome and even offensive. Because King is more Carter than he is; the series of offences for which the South African government went after him, and to which he pled guilty, are right out of the Wolf of Wall Street.

He artificially inflated the price of one of his companies and then cashed out, leaving the shareholders with nothing. He then salted that cash away out of reach – or so he thought – of the tax man.

For all his bombast though, Dave King is essentially small fry.

The media here might go goo-goo over his swanky South African pad, but then they were having the same conniptions over Craig Whyte and his castle when this whole saga began, and now take great delight in telling us that, in fact, he didn’t have a pot to piss in then or now.

King is probably wealthier than Whyte.

I use that word carefully, because there are things I know about Whyte and things I can guess which I’m not legally permitted to write here. Somewhere else, some other time, for sure … but not here, and not now.

King certainly has money, but he doesn’t have enough of to do half what he claimed he would at Ibrox.

The gap between rhetoric and reality has only just started to become clear to Sevco fans.

I’ve always found it terribly ironic that what these fans have longed for most is a genuine billionaire with a genuine interest in football at their club, and when they got exactly that it was in a form they didn’t expect and didn’t particularly like.

Because Ashley is everything King is not.

He’s respected as a businessman, phenomenally successful, a gambler who plays big odds with real-life off the radar wealth and if he went to the stock market to float a company he would bring with him a ton of credibility and wouldn’t have to fudge the figures. He would set a target and probably get every single penny from the “institutional investors.”

Furthermore, Ashley could, quite literally, fix much of what’s wrong with Sevco out of his petty cash.

Did he once want to? Oh, I very much doubt it.

He saw them for what they were; a light snack, a way to make a few million in sales, as just another company in his portfolio. He saw a huge advertising hoarding for his flagship enterprise, attained dirt cheap.

He’s a businessman. He saw a chance to turn a profit.

He was never particularly likely to catch Rangersitus or any of the other notable afflictions in this saga.

But he could have been convinced to play nice.

He could have been made to feel welcome, and for his contribution to have been appreciated.

He was the guy who kept the lights on last season, and without him there would have been little to stop Sevco from going the way of the club that died.

At the time he had a merchandising deal. Over the last couple of years, he got his hands on other items and the fans are in uproar that he was allowed to. Yet, those other items were all that was available as collateral at the time. They forget that in their anger, stirred up by a media that either lost sight of the big picture or was too dumb to see it.

In short, this guy saw money but had no bad intentions.

That didn’t suit the narrative King and others wanted to build. They needed to paint the old board as an enemy of the club itself, and Ashley was little more than a stick to beat them with.

I am sure he realised that at the start. It’s why he was originally willing to negotiate and work out some kind of compromise, if it left his people on the board, where his interests could be protected.

He probably thought King was playing to the gallery, nothing more.

But King wasn’t.

King is an arrogant, spitefil sod, a man motivated, in part, by a belief in his own bull. He blusters because he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong, even when he knows what he’s saying is groundless nonsense.

It’s a character flaw, a dangerous one at that, one that means this guy can never be fully trusted.

Somewhere along the line, whatever the initial motivation, King really did start to view Ashley as more than just a boardroom problem. Whether it was envy or natural spite or whatever, he started to see things in the way he sees Celtic; not as something to aspire to or overcome, but as something to hate, something standing in his way of his own self image.

And I marvelled at that on this very site.

I wondered just what in the Hell Dave King thought he was doing, in butting heads with a guy who could, if he was so minded, make the next 12 months of Sevco’s life utterly impossible before he pulled the plug.

I wrote an article called Making Enemies, where I expressed my view that to piss this guy off too much would be the summit of madness and invite retribution. I quote Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to illustrate the point.

There’s a similar moment in Pacific Heights, where Modine and Griffiths find a lawyer willing to help them and she gives them the news outside the courtroom after they’ve lost the first skirmish. She tells Griffiths, for her own good, that they should walk away. Put the house up for sale, take the financial hit and get on with their lives.

“It’s nothing personal,” she tells Griffiths. “God forbid he ever makes it personal.”

Which brings us to today’s stories, which reveal that Ashley wants to haul King into court for breaching the confidentially agreement that exists between Sevco and Sports Direct.

I’m not surprised by it, not even a little, although the story appears somewhat older than Keith “Exclusive” Jackson would have you believe.

In fact, King has been courting this kind of disaster for months, almost as if he’s on a self-destructive course that he can’t seem to break free of. His public comments have been inviting it, egging Ashley on.

It was reckless and it was stupid, and it was always going to end in tears.

He’s made an enemy, which is what he seemed to want to do, and if I struggle to understand just what King’s endgame is at Ibrox, with no visible means of success, I find this even more mystifying, because it truly is a battle without hope of victory.

Ashley is now making it personal, because King has forced him to.

Sevco fans should be concerned with that because he’s taking it out, in part, on their club.

If it was a simple issue between Ashley and their absentee chairman their supporters could simply let the two of them get on with it, but it’s not how things are. King’s position on the board is part of it, but he’s attacking Ashley “on their behalf” without a plan.

Incredibly, most of their fans are cheering this on.

Indeed, a number of their supporter’s organisations seem just as determined to force their way onto Ashley’s radar with fake shirts and alternative merchandise. They’ve tried their lousy, pathetic, One Pound Protest and they’ve said they won’t buy official club products, although there seem to be a lot of replica strips in the stands.

Ashley’s people seem happy with the current deals.

They’re making money in spite of the “official boycott.”

That’s why they’ll be nearly impossible to shift.

There’s one bonkers suggestion doing the rounds at the moment about what fans are calling Stink Bomb Saturday, targeting Sports Direct shops.

Idiocy, proposed by idiots.

All this is the height of folly, whether the behaviour of the fans or King himself.

Poking a dangerous animal with a stick like this can only end in disaster.

How can they be this stupid, with their club already hanging by a thread?

King has invested precisely nothing; they’re floating on soft loans and nothing else, and those are being provided by other existing directors. All he seems to have brought to the table is a big mouth a world of trouble, and the situation is now threatening to get out of control.

Sevco doesn’t have the resources for a minor skirmish with Ashley, let alone a full-on war.

They’ve antagonised a man who holds their future in the palm of his hand. He knows they’ve not got the money to pay back the £5 million loan, and he can make it so they never do. If he decides to, he can launch a legal battle every single day, sucking them dry in the process.

They will be swallowed whole, and what goes in one end will come out the other in a form most definitely not to their liking.

If I were in their shoes this is the last guy’s leg I’d be pissing up.

They seem determined to try.

And for that, they’ve got all the trouble in the world coming their way.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Sevco Mind

JS56038833It was Alanis Morissette who once asked “What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?”

The song was called Hands Clean.

The album was called Under Rug Swept.

Tonight, all that seems peculiarly apt.

As we get nearer to a denouement in the Sevco situation, it becomes ever clearer that many people have a lot they’d like to sweep under the rug.

Few involved in this continuing saga have clean hands.

When it comes to selective memory, there’s no-one in this land of ours who can compare with those who inhabit the Ibrox universe, whether that’s the fans or the media or those inside the walls. They have elevated doublethink to an art form.

Last week, over on The CelticBlog, I mourned a media culture that thinks a routine training ground bust up merits front page stories and large tracts of the sports section.

Was it a slow news day, I wondered?

No, because there was a lot going on in the wider world and in football.

It was simply a chance to pile pressure on my club, with the added benefit that it stopped questions being asked elsewhere.

No sooner had I posted the article, than a truly extraordinary media conference took place, when Mark Warburton reversed himself completely on the subject of making new signings in January.

He had initially said he wanted five.

Now, just days later, on Friday, he told the media that such a policy would be disrespectful to his team. No-one in the press pack thought to ask what had changed in the intervening time, but to some of us it was pretty obvious.

The media accepted his explanation although it was transparent nonsense. He had made it clear what he believed the team needed, and the press had been breathlessly reporting it for days. He didn’t want squad fillers. He wanted “stars”, players who would walk into the first team and take them to the level required to challenge Celtic.

His statements to that effect had been unambiguous.

Something – or someone – had compelled him to get in front of the hack pack with a “clarification”, and as per usual the Ibrox manager got away with a blatant, and humiliating, climb-down as if it was nothing.

King had “jetted in” to meet with him in the days before.

It seemed pretty clear that he’d told Warburton there was no money, and to get in front of the press and tell them he’d misspoken when he’d talked about making January signings.

Only hours later we got confirmation of all we had suspected, and straight from the Blue Room itself, when someone cynically issued a late night press release out of the club to clear things up for those who were still in denial.

Before I go into that, a confession; part of me wants to express admiration for the way this was handled.

Any political organisation would have been proud of that.

As a former activist I know the value of the Friday night press release. It gets lost in the weekend, drawing no scrutiny or comment. Even huge stories have been largely left alone when “taken out with the trash” between the close of business Friday and mid-Monday.

Just because Sevco has had to cut back on the PR it doesn’t mean they don’t still get good advice.

They knew what they were doing with that one alright.

Yet it amazes me that more hasn’t been made of that statement, because in it lies the confirmation of everything this site and others have been saying for months. Even our intrepid hacks can’t deny that it’s news – and big news.

This is Sevco’s press team admitting that the central problems we identified months ago are now acute, and without realistic solutions.

The statement admits that a new share issue is impossible at the current time.

It admits that this would have been the preferred fund raising option for the club at a time when, it now acknowledges, it needs cash badly.

It admits that this cash will have to come from the current directors, or those who don’t live in South Africa anyway.

And it confirms that there is no money in a transfer kitty for the manager, that any signings will have to be sold to the board, funded by soft loans, and only on a case-by-case basis.

It’s a statement that contradicts all King’s bombast when he took over, and as I said in my second to last piece on this site confirms that they are stuck in the mud and in no better a position than they were in before the Great Revolution.

The club is all over the place; the statement makes that clear, coached as it is in a “don’t worry, be happy” tone.

It also says that a couple of million will get them “comfortably” through the rest of the season; a claim so ridiculous it’s simply begging to be challenged.

Most importantly, the statement makes it clear there’s no real prospect of the directors who loan the club money being paid back anytime soon, and it proposes what is essentially a “debt for equity” style arrangement; the loanees – all current shareholders – will get more shares in exchange for the cash.

This is perfectly valid and they don’t need a share issue to do it. But it essentially dilutes the value and voting power of every other person who owns a piece of the club.

All those supporter organisations and individual fans who’ve “invested” risk seeing the value of what they hold reduced to virtual worthlessness.

All the work the Supporters Trust at Ibrox, all the efforts of Rangers First, it’s all going to be for nothing if this goes through.

Getting it passed requires 75% shareholder approval.

That presents problems on its own.

Ashley and his people certainly won’t vote for it.

Whatever is left of the “institutional investor” organisations will certainly oppose it.

The ordinary fans have no incentive to support it whilst King is yet to put his hands in his own pockets, but the man has the nuclear threat, of course, if he’s willing to use it; that without this influx of money there might well not be a club left to support this time next year.

That might well be the most honest thing he ever says to them.

All of this is news, and what looms over all of it is the unspoken truth that King is trying to raise money just to keep on the lights.

This isn’t investment in their future; this is to assure that the future itself lasts past January.

Sevco is spiralling downward, and it’s not surprising that our intrepid media doesn’t want to focus on that. They’d rather look at Celtic, of course, a club sitting top of the SPL by six points and chasing a domestic treble.

Is everything inside Celtic Park as it should be?

No, of course it’s not and a few good results don’t change that.

I think the manager’s tactical inflexibility will hurt us whenever we venture onto the European stage, and sure as Hell The Strategy will continue to strangle our ability to even aspire to that level.

These things don’t need to be; they aren’t inevitable.

They are the result of choices consciously made, and there are other choices and other options that could have been explored but weren’t.

I still harbour doubts, and they are real and won’t be erased quickly or easily.

I have written about all of those doubts.

Our supporters have debated and discussed – and they continue to debate and discuss – what Celtic is, what it’s doing and what it should be aiming to do better in the future. That’s not unhealthy; quite the opposite.

This is scrutiny. This is how it ought to work.

The Scottish sporting press doesn’t do “scrutiny.” They stir the soup. They do the bidding of PR firms who aren’t our friends.

The media’s “scrutiny” of Celtic would be more palatable to many of us if they gave Sevco occasional harsh examination.

That they so rarely do tells you what the nature of their attention to us is about.

The media leaves Sevco to its own devices, never questioning a thing unless it suits an agenda.

The last board got criticism because the media narrative was structured around getting The Real Rangers Men into office.

That has been achieved, and now these people have no alibis left but those the press is willing to allow, but it’s not the media these people will have to answer to when – not if, but when – the wheels fall off the bandwagon.

The title of this article comes from a movie of course, one in which the pain of a bad breakup leads the two main characters to have their memories of one another erased.

Yet it opens with them meeting on a train, after the fact, and it ends with them falling for one another again.

What’s the moral?

That some things are pre-determined?

If that’s true then we know their future before it starts; another bad breakup.

Regardless, they decide to try anyway, leading me to wonder if the real moral is that people just don’t learn anything.

At Sevco, and in the media that constantly tries to deflect from trouble there, we can see the shadows of what brought Rangers low.

Ibrox is haunted.

It’s haunted because for all the supporters and those on the board claim to have kept the history, they’ve chosen to erase the parts of it that they’d rather not face up to, the lessons of what brought Rangers low and which now threaten to destroy what’s left of the reanimated corpse.

That history stalks Sevco like a horror movie monster.

It’s going to catch up to them.

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Dave King And Sevco: Stuck In Lodi Again

JS65868640Tonight Dave King has released a quite unhinged, unprompted statement “updating the fans” on the club’s relationship with Sports Direct.

The statement itself is ludicrous, self-righteous twaddle.

It’s mixed with vague threats they can’t possibly hope to deliver on, but once parsed basically says “we were unhappy last time we spoke about this and we’re still unhappy and apart from that nothing has actually changed”.

That it’s come tonight is, however, enlightening.

Today someone sent me an article Keith Jackson wrote for The Daily Record, an article in which he’s asking some of the questions sites like this one were asking months ago. It’s equally instructive to note that Jackson and his paper echo those predictions whilst continuing to pour scorn on others.

For now let’s just congratulate them on having got here at all, as late in the day (and it’s later than many think) as it is.

As Jackson says in his piece, it’s been a while now since King and his cohort breezed into town on the back of good press that made you think we were witnessing a liberating army sweeping aside a corrupt and bitter regime. What happened was that they replaced a Sevco board which had been forced to take soft loans to keep the lights on. Nothing more.

Now, months on, they’re taking soft loans to keep on the lights.

But of course, these are Real Rangers Men … so that makes everything okay, right?

I love the media’s ignorant reporting on stuff involving this lot. They just never get past the notion that somewhere, out there, are a load of multi-millionaires with King Billy tattooed on their backsides.

They can’t get their heads around the simple truth; Sevco is a West of Scotland football team that continuously loses money, and no-one is willing to bail it out, far less finance the next European adventure, with their own cold hard cash.

And, sooner or later, that means the lights will go out at the Big House.

One of the great rumours doing the rounds is that they’re finally trying to cut costs and that part of this is scaling back on their public relations.

How satisfying if true.

Traynor and his buddies must have thought they were onto a permanent winner there, a long-term, lifetime, meal ticket.

I would hope all Sevco fans are delighted that’s not the case.

But of course, King, who’s always been able to afford (or at least count on) good press will know that old political adage about the media; either you feed the beast, or the beast feeds on you.

Is that, maybe, why we’re here tonight?

Has Traynor been onto his buddy at The Record and suggested the time has come – now his own contract’s been cancelled – to start digging?

It’s comi-tragic in a way. Jackson’s article talks about how quiet things are at Ibrox right now, something I’ve suggested isn’t good news (the Titanic went down in calm seas, after all) only for this to erupt tonight, out of the blue.

There’s a wee comical aphorism that we used to toss around back when I worked for Glasgow City Council in the Parks; real work plus appearance of work equals actual work.

That’s never been more true than it is in the case of those who’ve been running the show at Ibrox these past eight or nine months. Tonight looks like nothing more than the “appearance of action” in an effort to make them look busy on important stuff, just to silence the one piece of media questioning they’ve had to deal with in that time.

King isn’t a man who wants scrutiny of any kind, you see. And when someone doesn’t want people to know what’s actually going on … well, that’s when people start trying to find out what is going on. If only we could rely on our hacks to take the next, logical step.

Sevco is pretty near to being skint if it isn’t skint already.

Phil’s been writing about their financial tribulations for a while now, and one of the things he keeps on hinting at, and was still hinting at today, is how little appetite there is in the Blue Room for anyone on the board to carry this financial basket case with their own cash.

Jackson’s article “presumes” that the money will come from the so-called Three Bears.

Ha! How nice it must be to spend other people’s cold hard cash in such a way.

If it was you in that room, how keen would you be to dip into your own pockets – again – when the loudmouth in the chairman’s seat (only when he can be bothered, living as his does in another country) is yet to put his hand in his?

Not very, I’d suggest, as Phil has been saying for a while.

And if not them, then who?

Where’s the cash coming from?

We’ve already been over why it can’t come from the fans.

Tonight’s barmy rant was, when trimmed down, about how little of their merchandising wonga they get to keep, so that avenue is closed off as a serious fund raiser. Season tickets are already sold. A cup of tea at Ibrox is plenty expensive but they’d need to tie up a 500 year contract for the Women’s Institute annual get-together to make much of a difference that way (and some of where that money goes will be discussed in a courtroom pretty soon if I’m reading the landscape right).

Which leaves a share issue.

Which said court case makes impossible.

This is a monumental mess, and when even Jackson’s notoriously funky radar is bleeping you know trouble is now where people can see it, and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg peeking above the water.

The real game changing stuff is still hidden from view, but just below the surface.

His article says that the club will only need two or three million in external funding to get them through the season; that assertion ought to be viewed with about as much scepticism as a Del Trotter Money Back Guarantee.

Previous boards have had to source funding two or three times that in the course of a season; nothing at Ibrox is cheaper than it was then, and with all these people they’ve just added to the payroll you best believe the wage bill is climbing again at a merry old clip.

And who are these people anyway?

Oh that’s right, one is “the guy who found Raheem Sterling” because, of course, without him wee Raheem would be working in the local Greggs selling the last steak bake before Ally could get to it.

Tonight, our intrepid media is regurgitating the King press release like it’s The Ten Commandments.

Most are suggesting that this is King getting tough.

So job done then, and proof that you don’t need PR people to get good PR, not when you have a compliant media that will swallow anything.

Jesus wept … I mean, the coverage this club gets is unfailingly positive all the time.

And they wonder why crisis keeps on creeping up to the front door and kicking it in like a police raid at four in the morning.

The bottom line is that tonight Dave King has torn himself away from his latest South African self-assessment to respond to an article in a newspaper few read and even fewer believe, but which this time decided to fulfil its one basic function.

When it comes right down to it, this is an act of fear because this club hasn’t moved an inch from when he took over, in spite of all the positive headlines.

There’s a great Creedence Clearwater Revival song about a guitar player who visits a nowhere town called Lodi. He ends up stuck there for months because he hasn’t got the cash to leave again. A lot of people inside Ibrox right now can certainly relate.

Here this club is, back where it was before, unable to move on.

No amount of attempted spin can hide that.

“Oh lord. Stuck in Lodi again.”

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Arrested Development: The Fans At Ibrox Just Never Learn

Former-Rangers-owner-Craig-Whyte-541404Last week I was away for a few days, taking a break from the madness and the insanity and unplugging myself from the blogosphere. My mistake was in staying connected to the internet at all, and therefore I was not unaware of events at Ibrox.

I pondered long and hard on what I wanted to write as regards these latest developments. There are, after all, legal considerations to take into account.

As such, I decided what this particular article was going to be about pretty early on. Others will certainly follow it; I want to look at these matters from a variety of different angles, but before I get to those more important matters I need to go over some old ground.

The Sevco fans’ reaction to Whyte and Green being arrested is extraordinary for a number of reasons, not least amongst them is the sheer mental gymnastics it must take to blame those men for the annihilation of their football clubs.

Way back in July last year, I wrote a piece on this site called The Club That Debt Built where I hammered across the point that Whyte was not the guilty party here. He had his hands on the steering wheel when the car crashed, but that was only because the previous driver bailed out when he saw the brick wall approaching.

The banking crisis was the moment Rangers started the long slow slide into the abyss.

This site wasn’t around then, but I was writing for E-Tims and Cybertims on that very subject and Paul Brennan of CQN had been doing much the same thing, and for far longer. In fact, it’s probably not unfair to say he was the guy who saw this coming before anyone else.

My first major article on the subject, entitled The End of Rangers? was published in 2008, and Phil McGiollabhain wrote his seminal article The Fall of the House of Murray in 2009.

These pieces, which explored the consequences for Rangers should Murray no longer be able to support them, as well as Paul Brennan’s own extensive writing on the subject, were amongst the very first to paint a dire picture for the Rangers fans … and, of course, we were completely ignored.

Part of it was simply that too many people in Scotland were believers in the concept of Rangers as “too big to fail”, in the same way that Titanic was once too good a ship to sink.

That historical precedents existed for this collapse wasn’t deemed relevant; the vast, vast majority of their fans, and all of the hacks, simply refused to entertain the idea of it.

I’m not saying this to bang our drum. I’m saying it because it demonstrates, clearly, that four years before the tsunami engulfed them people were predicting just such a thing.

This didn’t come out of a clear blue sky, and it wasn’t the fault of the Motherwell Born Billionaire.

This was being driven by financial reality, and forces over which the Scottish media and the Rangers fans had no control.

In short, it was inevitable and the only thing that might have stopped it would have been if Whyte was the guy they all hoped he was.

We had no crystal ball. We were simply willing to look at things objectively.

When you stripped away emotion, nostalgia, when you looked at Rangers as not a football club but a business struggling with the realities of that time it was pretty clear what was coming.

Empires fall, as I said in another piece for this site, and if that can happen then it should have come as no surprise to anyone that a Scottish based football club could too.

This is one that overspent, that relied for years on sugar daddy wealth and the largesse of a bank, that resorted to diverting money from the taxman when it was no longer able to compete and which continued to spend more than it earned even after Lloyds tried applying the brakes.

It was never going to have a bright and shining future when the crash turned into a recession.

Whyte had certain plans for Rangers, but it’s not clear that they involved an administration event at first, although he knew that might be the one way they could get the HMRC “big tax case” out of their hair. I do believe he had fully intended to run the club on a “break even” basis until he could resolve that, but doing so relied on European income and a share issue.

He was to be robbed of the share plan because the European money was snatched away by the ineptitude of his manager.

I’ve long argued that what Rangers fan blame Whyte for – all they can blame him for – is not being as wealthy as the press had said he was. He is being judged not for something he actually did but for what he was unable to do; keeping them afloat with his own money.

Rangers’ fans had believed all the billionaire and war chest hype. They welcomed him with open arms because they accepted, without question, these ridiculous assertions, which Celtic fans were questioning from the first.

It was this continuing belief that he had “off the scale wealth” which blinded them to the very real danger of administration past the point where it had become impossible to ignore.

They maintained their belief in those fantasises – and some were defending Whyte fulsomely – until as late as January 2012, when the transfer window opened to wild anticipation about real money being spent on the team … in spite of all the information at their disposal.

By the time that window closed, a lot of expectations and assumptions had already smashed against the rocks of hard reality, and this is what makes their apparent, and genuine, shock about what happened just a month later all the harder to understand.

It’s not as if they weren’t warned that it was coming.

We gave them the early heads-up that this guy was a dodgy geezer without the funds to carry them forward.

The very people who stood outside the police station the other day, like a baying mob (more on that later in the week) were telling us then to piss off, accusing of us running scared.

They did the same thing when we told them not to believe a single word that came out of Charles Green’s mouth, and we’ve been repeating that mantra over and over as regards the string of broken promises already from Dave King.

They’re doing the same again.

They’ve learned nothing.

They’d rather live in ignorance than face facts, and especially from us.

No matter which way they dress this up, no matter how much they might want to point the finger at Whyte and Green and the spivs, the simple truth is that their club was brought down by decades of overspending and a collective inability to confront that, and act accordingly, when the banks stopped indulging their madness.

The Rangers they knew was built on credit, and brought down by debts.

They ought to have cut spending. They could have sold key players. The playing squad would have suffered, and they’d have had to accept a period when success wasn’t likely … but that would have been small beer compared to the years they’ve spent since, following a newco as it clawed its way up through the ranks of the Scottish game.

Above all else, their club would have survived. It would not have been comfortable – indeed, the scale of the cuts would have scared the Hell out of their fans – but they would not have suffered the catastrophic effects of liquidation.

There was no grand conspiracy here.

The truth they’re going to have to grasp is that there was no need for one.

All Celtic and others had to do was follow Napoleon’s old maxim about not interrupting an enemy whilst he was making a mistake, and wait for the walls to come tumbling down.

We didn’t need to intervene. We simply had to bide our time.

The same thing applies today.

I’m going to explore the full consequences of last week’s actions later this week, but one of those is that any new share issue proposal is dead already. Even if the stock market was willing to allow a company to trade shares which are the subject of a police inquiry, who in God’s name is going to buy them? The fans? They haven’t before … I see no evidence at all that they will carry the water for King when his own grandiose promises are still fresh in the mind.

The point is moot.

There are now so many obstacles in the way of the club being able to get a new share flotation that it’s simply the stuff of fantasy.

Without it, they’re going to have one Hell of a job getting through the season.

All the hopes riding on the shoulders of Mark Warburton are largely dependent on him getting a clear run at things, without worrying about off the field matters.

That now looks like a forlorn hope, as some of us suggested that it might be.

Oh there may not be a group of agitators on the side-lines this time (they are now in the boardroom), but there are enough issues bubbling away under the surface, including the immoveable Mike Ashley and his contracts, to provide us with entertainment far into the future.

In due course, even their most avid fans are going to have to come to terms with the simple truth that whether they believe in the Survival Myth or not that the party is over.

The club playing out of Ibrox is going to have to cut its cloth to suit, and that means that the days of big spending and top players are gone and gone for good and the best thing Dave King could have done for them is to have levelled with them about that instead of promising them moonbeams.

No club’s supporters have ever been in more need of honesty from their own board, the kind of honesty that hurts but in the same way cauterising a wound does.

These people cling to fantasy like a comfort blanket, and for their own good it ought to be snatched away from them.

Craig Whyte did not destroy Rangers.

Sevco was not brought to the brink by Charles Green.

Overspending destroyed the first, and the stupidity of the supporters was the key contributing factor in the success enjoyed by the Yorkshireman with the big hands.

I mean, the guy told them – he actually said it in straight, plain language – that those hands were for grabbing money … and they loved him because he played the old “Rangersitus” card.

To watch their fans in the news footage last week, howling at the door of a police station like vigilantes, was appalling.

Their self-absorption remains total, and it’s their defining characteristic.

They won’t like reading this, and I expect the usual howling at the moon from them as a result.

But that anger largely comes from their internal knowledge that if they’d listened to us in the first place this might have been avoided.

I fully understand why they struggle with this.

But on the surface, they refuse to acknowledge how they got here or accept that it was partly their own fault.

As a consequence, they are headed down the same road and they will not change course.

That’s why the next administration event is not a matter of if but when.

You can bank on it.

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