Over the last week, I’ve written various pieces in relation to arrests concerning the establishment of Sevco, with the emphasis on looking at how it affects their club, but there’s a bigger issue, by far, that no-one seems to want to touch.
Back in 2012, when the NewCo was being established, there was concern on some of the blogs, this one included, that proper due diligence hadn’t been done by the game’s governing bodies.
Over the course of the next 12 months, that concern grew.
The gravest concerns we had revolved around – and continues to revolve around – the notorious Five Way Agreement and the way it is structured, as well as the people who actually signed it and were party to its creation.
This website has already described that as the most dangerous document in the history of Scottish football, and a phalanx of other sites have been clamouring for its full publication since then.
A version of it has already been leaked online, and distributed widely.
It is a document that has no parallel in our sport.
Nothing like it had been commissioned before or since.
It is, it will remain, wholly unique.
What we had is a group of senior officials in our game sitting down with people who weren’t even football administrators – Duff & Phelps, let’s not forget, were parties to this – as well as the owners of the new club, to bend regulations and ignore others in order to get them a berth in the Scottish football league structure, at a time when that was up in the air.
Back in November last year, this site published an article called Five Way To Hell. We asked a simple, but deadly, question, one the media has still not taken up, as we’d hoped, nearly 10 months later.
Was the SFA, inadvertently or not, party to a fraud?
Let’s be clear; I am neither accussing them of that or even saying that a fraud has been committed.
But these events are subject to legal action, and are going to court. I won’t discuss those events or those who were involved for that very reason.
I am simply asking that if the defendents are found guilty, and those charges proven, was the SFA a party, willingly or not, knowingly or not, to a crime?
And if the answer to this is yes, what might be the consequences for our national sport?
The Five Way Agreement bears the stamp of Duff & Phelps and that of the company calling itself Sevco Scotland Limited.
It seems clear – and it was being debated, openly, even at the time, most notably by the late Paul McConville – that this should have been questioned by those running our game.
The legal agreement to purchase the assets of the club was agreed in a different company name; that of Sevco 5088.
It has been alleged, openly and freely, by people associated with this takeover that those assets ended up in Sevco Scotland Ltd by less than exemplary means.
That’s me being diplomatic, and staying within the confines of legal allowance … but Charles Green himself told a national newspaper that, in fact, he had established Sevco Scotland Ltd as a vehicle by which he could “dupe” Craig Whyte and others.
That’s a matter of public record.
What some of us were asking – and still are – is what steps the SFA took at the time, or has taken since, to establish whether or not they are partly culpable if it turns out that Whyte and Worthington have a legitimate claim here?
A new wave of arrests has been made in connection with this, including that of Green himself.
Imran Ahmad is refusing to set foot in the UK until all this is resolved, fearing the legal consequences if he does.
Whyte himself has been huckled, and was subject to the full lynch mob treatment after being charged.
In spite of people hoping it had gone away this story has exploded all over again as any sensible person could have predicted well in advance.
It’s not going away.
I disagree with almost every single statement that comes out of the Rangers Supporters Trust, but they were 100% right when they said the SFA failed in its responsibilities to football when it allowed men such as Green and Whyte to take positions at Ibrox.
Regardless of the outcome in this case, those men were grossly unfit to have a role in running football here.
In my personal view the SFA exacerbated that failure this year in allowing Dave King on the board.
I’m not even going to dwell on the obvious – that the RST would have reacted with typical hysteria had the SFA board actually done what they’re now suggesting they should have.
The principle remains correct.
It was a failure of football governance and a staggering one at that.
What in God’s name were the SFA and the SPL legal teams doing?
If a blogger like Paul was asking questions, why the Hell were none of them doing the same?
How hard was it to ask for proper clarity on the issues, and to enquire just why the purchase agreement hadn’t been adhered to?
It’s not like it’s a small thing; this was a legally binding piece of paper, directing the disposal of assets in a company liquidated for non-payment of tax and other debts. This was serious business, being conducted in full public view … and the whole lot of it ended up transferred to another company entirely, and in circumstances that are going to be the subject of court proceedings.
The cavalier way in which these people went about this is disgraceful.
None of these issues is new.
No new facts have emerged here.
None of this has been raised just in the last four weeks.
I’m not inventing things or discussing the case itself … there were issues which were being raised at the time which the SFA and others had a duty to get to the bottom of, and it seems they never even bothered to try.
Those of us who’ve followed this have long suspected that the governing bodies were so concerned with getting a club calling itself Rangers into the league structure that they overlooked a lot of things they ought to have been on top of.
They allowed themselves to be rushed, to be bullied, to be so intimidated by threats that the takeover might collapse that they simply let Green and others run over them with a tank.
There’s ample evidence for that, such as the memo that guaranteed no title stripping and the way in which the Sevco “transfer ban” allowed the loophole which saw eight players come into the club during a period when they weren’t supposed to have been able to add to the squad.
The granting of a temporary SFA license before a lot of these issues had been resolved was, in my view, absolutely gutless and a devastating strategic error which put the Sevco owners in the driving seat in terms of any future negotiations.
From that moment on, any threat to prevent the club from playing games unless it agreed to a raft of conditions was as empty as a Dave King promise and everyone involved knew it well.
The people running the game in Scotland have given up any pretence of corporate responsibility in recent years.
That Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan remain in post three years after the scandalous summer of 2012 is an outrage for which all of our clubs are, in part, accountable, and Celtic as much as, if not more, than others.
Celtic’s Peter Lawwell, after all, is the one who continued to lend legitimacy to Neil Doncaster far beyond the point where it made any sense at all to do so. Doncaster is a busted flush, widely regarded as a joke by every supporter of every club in the game. Quite why anyone would wish him to remain in his current role is a mystery only those involved can clear up.
Neither he, nor Stewart Regan, two men who between them publicly declared our national sport worthless without Rangers in it, should be anywhere near Scottish football.
It’s instructive too that Alan McRae, elected SFA President on 9 June this year – months ago – has yet to offer any vision, any blueprint, any guidance or leadership on these or other issues in that time.
If there’s change in the air, there’s scant evidence of it.
We really do tolerate an appallingly dearth of ambition or imagination in the way football is run here in Scotland, and we’ve allowed glaring holes in the regulations to be exploited without even bothering to close them and assuring it can’t happen again.
The decision to grant Fit & Proper Person status to King and Murray, when both were on the board of a liquidated club and the chairman has a string of fraud convictions, was not only weak but dangerous as it proves the authorities have learned precisely nothing from the Whyte and Green cases.
That these things have all gone on at one particular club – the one they told us was “too big to fail” – makes it all the worse, because there’s no disincentive for anyone at the club to take a position there with less than honourable intentions.
Nobody should be under any illusions about the competence, or lack thereof, of those who run football in Scotland.
This isn’t even a debating issue any longer.
To call them useless would be to give them more credit than they deserve, but with these arrests we’re in uncharted waters.
There is surely not a single person in our game who was not fully aware that questions existed in relation to thse matter at the time – as Paul McConville had documented extensively – and certainly no-one in the slightest doubt t after November last year.
These assets were sold dirt-cheap, as has been acknowledged everywhere.
The creditors of OldCo Rangers will probably receive pennies in the pound if they are very, very lucky.
This was an unpardonable series of events, and it was the responsibility of the SFA and the other governing agencies to assure that following Whyte’s running of the club that everything in the aftermath was above board.
All this self regulation stuff is cobblers.
They allowed Sevco Rangers to investigate itself over some of these issues, and that particular scandal tells you just how rotten they know this situation actually is, where they couldn’t afford full and independent scrutiny of any aspect of it.
But now these matters are heading for a courtroom, and don’t be surprised if there are shocking revelations along the way, especially where Whyte is concerned, with his penchant for keeping meticulous records of conversations, including on tape.
The Five Way Agreement is just one aspect of all this that those at the top of our sport thought – hoped – would forever remain a secret, buried from view. Now even they have to conclude that there is not the remotest possibility of that happening.
It’s all going to come out.
We are going to get answers, one way or another.
And when they come heads are going to roll, and that’s the very best people can hope for.
My last article on this site suggested that Peter Lawwell of Celtic consider his position at the club and how he wants to be remembered by history. I said it’s not too late for him to save his reputation.
I think the reputations of the people involved in this scandal are beyond saving.
What they have to worry about now is their freedom.
A lot of people in Scottish football must have serious trouble sleeping at the moment.
If so, then good.
That, at least, is a measure of justice for sins past because a lot of them are guilty, even if it is only by association.
A more definitive form of justice might just be on its way, and in a court of law instead of the one of public opinion.
A verdict there has consequences for us all.
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