It looks certain that Russia will be banned from competing in international competition and that their athletes will face their own sanctions in due course.
These will probably include the removal of all the medals they won during that competition.
Much of the evidence that there was specific wrong-doing has been destroyed. This won’t matter, and is pretty much what guarantees the harshest measures.
The entire national athletics structure appears to have been involved in the offences and that means everyone will suffer the consequences. Consequences are important. When cheating is discovered in professional sport they tend to be rather draconian.
The stripping of titles isn’t unusual. It’s par for the course.
Everyone in Scottish football knows what Rangers did and that it was cheating.
A lot of smoke is being blown to distract people from that simple fact, but it’s undisputable just the same.
Note that no-one is suggesting that what the club did wasn’t wrong. Everyone accepts that. What their defenders are doing instead is trying to square the circle by suggesting that other clubs have done similar stuff. They’re saying that other clubs have spent money they didn’t necessarily have. And they’re suggesting we “just move on.”
Scottish football’s “leaders” – and I say that word with the maximum irony – would do well not to underestimate how angry people are over this.
The incumbents at Hampden, at the SFA and the SPFL, are gutless to their core.
King, as we all know, ought never to have been in a position of football responsibility again in Scotland after his own role in this scandal, to say nothing of his criminal conviction for tax fraud in South Africa, but because our game here is run by little men without a shred of backbone he’s chairman of the club they would have you believe is the same one that caused all this chaos in the first place.
The folk who were at Rangers are now three years past the point where they ought to have atoned, and been punished, for this stuff.
I’ve already laid out the ways in which what Rangers did was a crime against society, and not just against sport, but HMRC took care of that by consigning the club to the graveyard. The SFA has never lived up to its own responsibilities in this case, and it’s imperative that they are now forced to own that failure and act.
The thing is, very few people in Scottish football trust them when it comes to that. We can all too easily imagine a scenario where the SFA or whoever sets up another Lord Nimmo Smith panel, giving it instructions to tread softly and not upset people too much, out of a combination of fear or whatever. Stewart Regan and his “social unrest” comments spring all too readily to mind.
If we’re to truly get to the bottom of this cesspit, this matter needs a public enquiry of the sort not seen in football before. Other sports have them. Athletics is heading for a major one, in the aftermath of the damning report on Russia.
The people in charge of the IAAF have been complacent for a long time, but they’re wide awake now and focussing not only on the integrity of their own competitions but on the reputation of competitive sport as a whole.
In an editorial for The Guardian last night, the journalist Owen Gibson quoted Dick Pound, the boss of Wada, the athletics agency responsible for catching doping, who said “The public is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt and that certainly affects the credibility of sport.”
Mark Daly, the man who broke apart the EBT story, did the same with athletics, which led in no small way to the current crisis there. He is one of a handful of world class journalists – and how proud we should be of him – who’s got the intelligence and guts to go after stories like this.
What he found out – that doping for sport, and faking a blood test, is astonishingly simple – has haunted that game ever since, but other games were reeling before this.
Cycling had been devastated by Lance Armstrong. Bloodgate had taken its toll on rugby. Horseracing has been stalked by a variety of allegations. So too has cricket and golf. Even the Paralympics hasn’t been free of this; the 2000 Games saw Spain accused of having won a basketball gold medal in the intellectual disability section, without any of their players actually suffering from one.
In the US, the “biogenesis scandal” saw more than a dozen professional baseball players indicted and suspended for doping.
There have been scandals in American football and hockey.
We know football isn’t clean.
Even if the world governing body was not descending into total chaos under FBI and Justice Department subpoenas there have been scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and elsewhere.
Associations across the globe have found evidence of corruption at every level.
In Spain just last month, an assistant referee ran to the police, he claims, after his bosses began pressuring him to give decisions in favour of Real Madrid in the coming El Classico match.
In England, they’ve already had the first trial sending people to jail for match fixing in relation to betting syndicates, a subject I’ve written about before.
Scottish football’s scandal eclipses them all.
EBT use itself lasted ten years and the crisis that grew out of it has lasted another four. Rangers went into liquidation more than three years ago, and the governing bodies have mishandled every moment since.
Keith Jackson has said the EBT affair had “scarred the game” here, perhaps in the hope the rest of us will forget that it was the behaviour of one club that caused all this. Yet in one sense he was correct; that event has had serious repercussions and shattered the faith the fans have in the governing bodies, and that has scarred the sport.
We don’t trust these people, and why should we?
The SFA’s own head of registrations, in one of the most perverse moments in this ghastly state of affairs, testified to Lord Nimmo Smith that the player registrations which were with-held from the governing body did not constitute a breach of the rules because no-one knew about them at the time.
This is not just the smoking gun proving the governing bodies are in this up to their necks; this is the smoking ruin of sporting integrity with the Ibrox flag planted on top of it, and messers Doncaster, Ogilvie and Regan posing before it for a photo.
It’s a bit like saying a crime isn’t a crime if no-one actually knows it’s been committed, and that once people find out that it has been it shouldn’t be investigated as one because … no-one knew at the time.
It’s still mind-bending, two years after the fact and that he was allowed to get away with that is almost unbelievable.
The problem he and others have got is that the crime is now public knowledge and the notion that those responsible should get away with what they spent a decade doing is rightly seen as unacceptable.
An “internal inquiry” isn’t going to do it either.
All of this has to be handed over to serious people who can do a serious investigation.
Frankly, I don’t know why UEFA isn’t involved in this. Those footballers played in European games and that has badly compromised their competitions as well as those here in Scotland. All it will take – and I’m shocked it’s not happened already – is for one of the clubs who played Rangers on the continent to complain … and we’re in new territory.
This whole thing reeks, everything about it, from the day the EBT case was uncovered all the way through Whyte and Green and into the disgraced King being given a seat on the board with the SFA seal of approval.
There’s no way in Hell the people who presided over this can be expected to deal with it, honourably, as we go forward.
Who knew what, where and when?
Who got paid and how much?
These are the questions that we most often ask in relation to the EBT drama.
But there are other questions, other things that don’t make sense in all this, potential scandals waiting to be uncovered, and not just the secret list of EBT recipients who’s names were never published, and are known to the BBC and other outlets … but, yes, that too …
Who was on that list? How big is this thing?
Most importantly, these were payments for ‘services rendered’ … and one of the most interesting questions is what, in some cases, did those ‘services’ involve?
There’s barely one of us who isn’t aware, for example, that Graeme Souness got an EBT ten years after leaving Ibrox.
Ten years, friends. That’s not something that can be easily explained away.
What was this cash for?
The name of this scam, after all, was the Employee Benefit Trust … so in exactly what capacity was Souness still employed by Rangers and Murray?
He was at Blackburn from 2000-2004.
In January 2000, Rangers signed Tugay Kerimoğlu.
The following year he went to Rovers in a deal that reunited him with a manager he’d played for in Turkey. That deal appears kosher, but questions have long surrounded what happened three years later, when Souness was in his first season at Newcastle.
Jean Alain Boumsong, a player the Ibrox club signed as an out-of-contract freebie, was at Rangers for less than six month before Souness took him to his new club, paying £8 million for his services.
That transfer was later part of the Stevens Inquiry into bungs and backhanders in transfer deals, with the sting in the tail being that part of that was a raid on Ibrox and the confiscating of computers, and it was on these that the EBT use became known to HMRC.
So, we know what the Geordie side got for their money … and it wasn’t very much.
Boumsong was a dreadful signing for them, playing 40 odd games before they sold him for less than half of what they paid.
What we don’t know for sure is what Rangers got for their cash.
We know too that a number of people who are now journalists got EBT’s.
We don’t know how many did because the full list isn’t known.
Martin Bain got one whilst he was on the Rangers board, but he was also on the SPL Board of Directors at the same time.
That’s a post, similar to that held by Peter Lawwell at the moment, where you’re obliged to act in the best interests of the sport.
Yet he would have known league rules were being breached all the while.
Andrew Dickson, who was at Ibrox at the time, was elected to the SFA Congress this very year … an outrage considering what we know to have been going on whilst he was a club employee, responsible for “Football Adminstration” during the period when the dual contracts were being hidden away from the very body which he now sits on.
How do we know this? We know it because the SFA told us, in their investigation into Craig Whyte, who Dickson had testified to the governing body as being a “fit and proper person.”
He was also the recipient of an EBT, one worth £33,000.
You literally could not make this stuff up.
And then there’s Campbell Ogilvie himself, who left Rangers in 2005, receiving an EBT as a “golden handshake” after departing for Hearts. He was already the SFA treasurer, and two years later he was association Vice President.
Apart from having received a payment from the Ibrox club after he’d left he also held shares in Rangers, whilst at Tynecastle … a clear violation of the regulations he was supposed to enforce.
He knew all of it, along with Dickson and Bain, about the legal advice and the side letters and the non-disclosure and the illegality of the Discounted Options Scheme.
They had to, otherwise you have to surmise that they were absolutely, perhaps even criminally, negligent in their duties.
Their EBT payments compromise all of them in terms of their positions on those boards, and it’s astonishing that Dickson is at the SFA right now with all this swirling around him, but that Ogilvie received part of his after his employment at Ibrox is far worse, and makes me wonder just what that payment represented.
One thing is for sure; he looked the other way on these issues all the way through his tenure at the SFA, and he was still working on the club’s behalf right up to the moment Nimmo Smith gave his verdict in the last so-called “independent inquiry” we had, the one where the frame of reference was all decided in advance by organisations with everything to lose.
A lot of folk in our media have already been caught out as implicated in this.
Billy Dodds had one, Neil McCann had one and so did Stephen Thompson.
Those guys all won medals at the club during the EBT years and their views are still sought today in various media outlets. All are hopelessly compromised, as are the newsrooms in which they’ve spent their time, filled as they’ll be with their mates.
In addition, although he wasn’t at the club itself, Souness frequently appears on Sky Sports as a pundit, although he’s never asked about goings on at Ibrox. He doesn’t need to be. Off-camera, I’m sure he’s pushing the Victim Myth like crack cocaine.
No wonder the media narrative is that title stripping isn’t required, or even wanted.
A lot of former Celtic players have already been lined up to say they’re against it, or so it’s being spun. In fact, many have been asked if they would like the retroactive awarding of titles, which isn’t the same thing, and very few footballers would ever want that.
The campaign being waged on the other side is sneaky, and those behind it are those with far too much to lose to allow an inquiry that’s fully independent of the sport. But that’s what necessary, because the EBT scandal is bigger than it looks and it’s led to other scandals, some of which have the potential to do even more damage.
This thing began with off-the-books payments and concealed contracts but it didn’t end there, of course.
The real scandals came later.
First, the “conflicted” SFA President and the corrupted media, some of whom were in receipt of those payments, fought to see that ten years of cheating went unpunished when Rangers was liquidated and Sevco was born, giving the new owners guarantees of immunity before a shred of evidence had even been heard in the case.
They think we’ve forgotten this, about the secret memo that gave Charles Green his “no title stripping” assurances.
He’s now headed for a courtroom as the people who allowed him to get control pretend none of this is their doing.
They are in this up to their necks.
That’s why what happens next shouldn’t – indeed can’t – be dictated by them.
When these affairs came to light the natural inclination these people had was to sweep it under the carpet.
When it wouldn’t stay there they lied to us all about seeking justice, and gave the offenders a free pass.
An official at the SFA went in front of a tribunal and excused cheating on an industrial scale on the grounds we didn’t know it was cheating at the time.
They did no due diligence on Green.
When evidence of his links to Whyte emerged they let the club investigate itself.
They watched as a share issue was launched on decidedly dicey foundations and then rubber stamped two people who didn’t meet the Fit and Proper Person criteria as it’s laid down in the rules – their own set of rules, which have been used to punish other clubs for offences not even remotely this severe.
We have criminal cases pending.
The tax scam itself has been deemed illegal.
King himself is a convicted crook, running a Scottish club, the same one making threatening noises about not accepting further sanctions, when they haven’t even accepted responsibility for the pathetically ineffectual ones that were imposed on them three years ago.
Our entire national sport is mired in an enormous scandal that would be game-changing in any other national association in Europe.
Yet many of the guilty men still hold office.
In light of all this, a landscape of destruction stretching out for miles, we’re being told to “move on.”
Anybody arguing that needs therapy.
The game needs cleansing from top to bottom, and no-one involved in these affairs should be near its fresh start, which is the bare minimum that’s required before we can even start thinking about putting this in the past.
Dismay was yesterday’s emotion.
Disbelief stopped applying many, many moons ago.
What’s replacing all of that is anger, the anger of fans who’ve had to watch this unfolding, ever evolving shambles for near on three years, which gets worse the deeper into it we go.
I’m not approaching this as a Celtic fan.
I’m approaching it as an outraged football fan who’s more and more convinced that we’re watching something that’s not actually a competitive sport at all.
My girlfriend is a wrestling fan, a staged “sport” which is an interesting spectacle but can’t in any way, shape or form be viewed as a serious undertaking.
If we want to package football in this country on that basis, then great, but let’s acknowledge that fact.
Hibs haven’t won a Scottish Cup since 1902?
Well, wouldn’t that make a wonderful “story”? Let’s fix that for them next year, yeah?
The SPL’s become a one horse race?
Let’s make sure we throw it for Aberdeen, just to create a romantic “narrative.”
Let’s create rivalries between players, between managers, between officials and even fans.
Let’s artificially create heroes and villains, let’s have nothing that’s real.
Let’s remove sporting integrity from the field entirely.
See how many fans go to see it.
I said three years ago, when the initial moves to put Sevco in the SPL were being made, that we’d reached a turning point for our sport.
The fans saved the integrity of the game by lobbying their clubs.
This crisis will require them to do it again, to see that ten years of cheating and all that’s come since doesn’t go unpunished.
I do not trust our governing bodies to do this right.
The inquiry, when it happens, has to be wholly independent with the power to call witnesses and make them answer questions.
This isn’t a joke; the illegal activities of Rangers Football Club cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and there are a thousand unanswered questions about where the money went, and why.
At the end of all of it, justice has to be done and it has to be seen to be done so that our national sport can begin to recover and heal.
That means title stripping.
That means heads must roll.
That means a complete hollowing out of the structures at the SFA and the SPFL and the creation of robust, and meaningful, regulations to assure none of this can happen again.
Then, and only then, can we finally “move on.”
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