Last week, Celtic cyberspace was buzzing with two stories; the first was about the Josh Meekings case and the other was about the continuing saga of Resolution 12.
That Resolution 12 is still alive at all is a miracle, owing everything to a group of Celtic supporters who simply will not give up.
Those guys – Auldheid, Canamalar, Morrissey, BRTH and others – have carried this matter forward for years. Their efforts in the name of getting to the truth, to getting justice for our club, have been nothing short of heroic.
It was first put to the Celtic AGM nearly three years ago, and when the fans were asked to withdraw the motion they were told that the club knew their concerns and shared them.
They were told that Celtic would look into matters independently and they would get back to the requisitioners on the issue.
Those guys agreed to do that, knowing there would be a backlash, and there was.
A lot of Celtic fans scoffed at the notion of our club wanting to keep this going.
The guys behind Resolution 12 have been pilloried by a great many on their own side.
I understand – in part – why this happened.
Celtic does its business in private, not public, and that can often give the impression that nothing is happening.
They respect certain unwritten rules of the game here, and they have a policy that they don’t comment on certain issues until things have run their course.
As a consequence, people have been saying that the club has been dragging its feet on this. Or worse, that the fans who put the motion on the table and then withdrew it at the board’s urging were duped.
Now, we may be on the verge of getting some measure of justice as reports suggest the issue is now with UEFA after Celtic sent them a dossier.
At the same time, we’re told that Celtic has sent another to the SFA, requesting that certain issues are clarified and that certain questions are answered.
If true then Celtic are to be commended for not letting this matter quietly die.
They could have. A lot of issues from the post-liquidation Rangers period apper to have been dropped.
But Resolution 12 lives on, as it should, because aside from the damage this affair inflicted on sporting integrity it potentially cost Celitc millions of pounds, and the board had a duty to its shareholders to see it was investigated.
Yet as glad as I am about this, there are some who will say it’s come about too late.
The hour at which this matter will finally be decided comes as one of the guilty men – perhaps the guiltiest man of all – prepares to swan off into the sunset, pension intact, reputation intact, legacy assured.
The media will eulogise and laud the “achievements” of Campbell Ogilvie. They might even talk to you about “integrity”, but those of us who’ve invested time and study in these matters know that few men in the recent history of the Scottish game have done more to damage it than he has.
In my view he stands, alongside the disgraced Jim Farry, as one of the most corrupt leaders the game in Scotland has ever had.
At the end of this month he walks away.
As things presently stand he leaves without a stain on his character, at least as far as the history books go. Indeed, the SFA nominated him for a post at UEFA and he almost found himself there, alongside his other disgraced buddy, Hugh Dallas, who one can only assume was given a reference by the governing body although he’d been sacked for a sectarian offence.
Ogilvie taking up a seat alongside him would have been the grossest insult to Celtic fans for quite some time.
All this makes me angry, as it should make every football fan angry.
Yet this isn’t over by a long way. Resolution 12 may yet destroy all that.
That is necessary for the good of this sport.
Celtic may finally be vindicated over Resolution 12, but the greater series of offences against the sport will go unresolved unless his part in it all is fully brought into public focus and he is stripped of any legitimacy he currently holds.
Graham Spiers is but one journalist who will resist any effort to scrutinise this man properly and bring his story full circle. He once described Ogilvie as “one of the most decent men you could ever meet”, and I suspect it wasn’t to get free match tickets for Hampden.
Spiers and others actually do believe this.
I wonder if they are just ignorant of the facts, or if they’re letting their personal views influence their ability to be objective.
Either way, their narrative will not reflect the facts.
That quote comes from an interview he did with Ogilvie for an article in 2013, where he cited Lord Nimmo Smith’s decision to criticise the Rangers board that implemented the EBT scheme. Instead of taking that to its logical, and correct, conclusion Spiers talked about how the former Ibrox director was a man of “integrity” and never questioned the SFA head when he denied playing a part in running the tax scam.
“The EBTs were set up around 2001 at Rangers and I’ve never hidden from the fact that I was then a director at the club,” Ogilvie said in that piece. That statement says a lot about how he views himself; here he is trying to make a virtue out of being upfront about something that is in the public domain anyway, and which he couldn’t slither out of if he tried.
It’s what he says next that blows the mind.
“I didn’t get involved in the financial management of the club in that context. That’s not an excuse – that’s just a fact. I ceased being Rangers’ secretary in 2002 and I ceased being involved in the football admin at Rangers in 2002.”
Of course, we now know that which he then stated as “a fact” is a barefaced lie. So, too, is his contention that his EBT was “to do with me leaving the club in 2005.” Historical research proves both these things to be absolutely false.
Not content with spinning a blatant untruth, he goes even further, and tries to palm all this off as being someone else’s responsibility, choosing to blame his fellow directors, and even accountants and lawyers.
“Maybe as a director I should have asked more questions about it – I accept that now – but when things are signed off by legal people, by accountants, I tended to accept it,” he told Spiers. “I’m not saying the EBTs were illegal. But, knowing all the hassle that they caused, with hindsight, if I could go back, I wouldn’t go down that road.”
Even if we take his word for all of that – ignoring the evidence we know is to hand – what he has just said there makes him grossly unsuitable for the position he went on to hold, the one he holds today, that of President of the Scottish Football Association.
This is a man who’s best defence of that time – indeed his only defence – is that he didn’t know what was happening, that he never asked, that he neglected even his most basic – and legal – duties as a director.
And, of course, the truth is even more damning.
See, Spiers and others don’t like to go here, but Ogilvie admits to having known about EBT’s.
He admits to having been the link man between the club and the governing bodies for several years after the schemes were set up.
Yet despite a raft of regulations Ogilvie knew full well about (and he should have been sacked if he didn’t) those contracts were never declared to the SFA, as his Head of Registrations, Sandy Bryson, later admitted.
In fact, Bryson’s testimony ought to have seen Ogilvie walk the plank anyway, because although his bizarre assertion that the EBT second contracts did not render those players invalid – because no-one knew about them at the time; all that ultimately prevented title stripping on a grand scale – it also puts it on the record that the man at the helm of our association not only knew of their existence but knew that they were being concealed.
I mean, he was treasurer of the SFA whilst on the Ibrox board at the time when EBT’s were a regular part of the club’s wage structure.
He knew they existed, as he admits himself.
He would have known whether the SFA was in possession of them.
He has no defence, and the only one he can attempt is to plead utter ignorance and, as noted, that should have disqualified him from holding any job in football again.
Quite how anyone can support him I simply do not know.
None of this has ever been disputed. It’s just not discussed at all.
The media silence on it is deafening.
I find all this particularly amusing in the week where Gordon Waddell has suggested that Peter Lawwell’s position at the SFA is compromised by his wanting to do the best by Celtic. It is ludicrous, and scandalous, that the same journalists engaging in that line of attack against the Parkhead CEO are notoriously silent on the issues surrounding the SFA President.
They are shameless. The way they target one man whilst protecting the other reveals a naked bias that makes them impossible to take seriously as journalists.
But of course there are too many facts in the public domain for their view on this to prevail over everyone who watches the Scottish game.
Resolution 12 is what damns Ogilvie.
That Rangers was given a license to compete in European football in the 2011/12 season when they had a “tax liability payable” is an outrage which ought never to be forgotten. This referred not to the Big Tax Case, but to the Discounted Options Scheme, the Wee Tax Case, which, at the time, had not formed part of the larger investigation.
The Discounted Options Scheme was, and remains, so toxic that the SFA and SPL made sure it did not form part of the Lord Nimmo Smith case, because it is almost the textbook definition of “the smoking gun”, damning everyone who knew about it.
That senior members of the SFA, including Ogilvie himself, did, and that they also knew full well how dangerous it was is not in dispute either.
For one thing, Ogilvie and Stewart Regan sat down to dinner with a senior Rangers executive in December of that year to discuss spin control on this very issue. They knew this was going to explode, and that meeting was called so they might come up with ideas about how best to defuse the bomb they knew was primed underneath them.
The club certainly knew that license should never have been granted, because HMRC sent the final demand for payment to the club, prior to legal proceedings beginning, in February that year and Rangers’ own lawyer, Andrew Thornhill QC, was left in absolutely no doubt that the legal position regarding the Discounted Options Scheme could not be defended.
Less than one month later, he sent the club a letter outlining his views on this.
The crucial paragraph of the legal advice he offered reads thus:
“The scheme was carried out in a way which suggests that arguing the case would be an uphill task. However, the deciding factor in favour of settling the matter is the existence of side letters in two instances demonstrating that there was a true intention of putting cash into the hands of players as part of their remuneration package. It does not help either that the existence of these letters has been denied or not revealed by the club.”
Ogilvie took the SFA President’s office in June 2011, just two months after HMRC’s final demand, and less than one month before the final SFA decision on the license was granted.
The SFA’s licensing committee, which made that decision, included Andrew Dickson, then Rangers’ head of football administration. The media which has spent the last week castigating Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell appears not to think that was a conflict of interest.
And who is the man who actually initiated this particular tax avoidance scheme at Ibrox?
Well there’s an answer to that too, because despite his denials that he ever played any part in the EBT affair at Rangers, it was Campbell Ogilvie himself who signed the first piece of paper relating to the Discounted Options Scheme.
He was, in fact, the first “shareholder” in the sub-company at Rangers which was running the entire scam.
The irony of all this, of course, is that the club was roundly humiliated when it entered the European arena that year, being knocked out of both continental competitions within a month.
Yet what is equally clear, from what happened next, is that things at Rangers were so perilous that the absence of European football income utterly destroyed Craig Whyte’s business plan, forcing him to stop paying the bills and leading to the ruination of the club.
In short, those inside Ibrox knew how vital European football was to them.
There is little doubt they informed the SFA of the likely consequences of denying them a license and that this played a major part in the decision to grant them one. Regulations be damned. Sporting integrity didn’t even come into it.
Other clubs would have been forced to sell players and try and get their finances under control. Because it was Rangers, and because they had friends in high places, the regulations were ignored and the law itself was bent to the snapping point.
Those people helped to steer Lord Nimmo Smith away from examining the issue and they have been scrambling to clean up the mess ever since.
But Resolution 12 now looms in front of them, like a mugger in alleyway.
Ogilvie has presided over an association that has allowed things to spiral so far out of control at Rangers, and then at Sevco, that it quite literally boggles the mind, but they are far from his only sins.
The SFA President is the walking epitome of the aphorism that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is the man whose organisation has just sat in judgement of Livingston over “undue influence”, almost crushing them under a sweeping array of punishments because a director of that club held shares in another.
The slap on the wrist Mike Ashley received was a joke next to what’s happened to the Championship team, but it’s no less appalling than when you consider that in the time he was at the SFA he, himself, was knowingly in violation of the same rules.
He held shares in Rangers whilst as a director of Hearts.
He eventually transferred those to the control of his wife, apparently not realising – or more likely just not giving a damn – that this, too, clearly breaches the regulations.
At the same time, because of his position at Ibrox, he would certainly have known that the Airdrie chairman and President of the Scottish Football League, Jim Ballantyne, was a Rangers shareholder and the same applied to Donald Findlay, the chairman at Cowdenbeath.
Of course, these men might well argue that they had no “undue influence” over matters at Ibrox, but in the context of the time that, too, is plainly not the case.
When this was first revealed, at the moment Sevco was still trying to claw its way into the top flight, Ballantyne appeared at a fund-raiser for the club, at Linfield in Belfast, wearing a Rangers Fighting Fund badge on his lapel.
Not only was he serving in those other positions at the time, but he was on the board of the SFA, along with Campbell Ogilvie himself.
In the wake of a public outcry over his appearance at this game, he announced that his club would play no part in the vote to grant Sevco a place in the Championship. Yet even that was not an acknowledgement that his position was untenable in light of his open support for a club not his own.
In the end, his club didn’t vote because they would have been a direct beneficiary of a decision to make Sevco start in the bottom tier.
Ballantyne remains on the SFA Professional Game Board to this day.
Neither he, nor his club, have ever been the subject to disciplinary action for his dual shareholding, nor has Findlay at Cowdenbeath, and of course Ogilvie himself has never been asked the serious questions about his and his wife’s shareholding in Rangers that ought to have been levelled at him when he took up a senior position at Tynecastle.
Rangers – Sevco certainly was certainly never likely to pay a price for these activities, although they opened up the potential of one club and people associated with it wielding enormous influence at the SFA and the Scottish Football League.
Ogilvie is, at best, an unbelievable hypocrite.
At worst, he is the embodiment of the SFA’s long history of bent practices and looking the other way.
He exemplifies what happens when someone is allowed to escape the scrutiny that should automatically go to someone in a position of authority and responsibility. In effect, he has spent the latter part of his career deciding what regulations apply to him and the club where he earned his stripes.
The end of his tenure ought to have been forced on him at least three years ago. That it wasn’t will remain one of the great scandals in the history of our sport and if Resolution 12 explodes – and it has the potential to be thermonuclear – it will haunt the SFA for years to come.
When Ogilvie departs, and the post is up for grabs, it must be hoped that someone with more integrity takes over in his absence. The end of the old “SFA blazer” era is long, long overdue. Light has to be allowed to flood into the dark corners.
I have real hope that this organisation can yet be reformed, and made serve the game as a whole.
But Ogilvie, himself, must not be allowed to swan off into the sunset with a hundred unanswered questions about his tenure remaining.
He must not be granted the media send-off which is almost certain, and which he does not deserve.
Justice is still undone.
It will remain like that until Campbell Ogilvie joins Jim Farry in the SFA Hall of Shame.
Celtic can bring to light the scandal of the UEFA License in 2011-12, but until this man is called out for what he is, and his reputation is in shreds much like the SFA Constitution he leaves behind him, there will remain no resolution.
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