The other is that Kilmarnock are going to be the subject of an investigation for a forged signature on a document, rendering one of their players ineligible.
I find both fascinating, and the irony is not lost on me, or anyone else I’d expect. It was the French philosopher Pascal who wrote that “law without force is impotent”, but how are we to reconcile one with the other on a day like today?
With the King situation, we see no force or effect. The man pled guilty to tax evasion on a grand scale, and only then to avoid a trial that would have seen him not only convicted of that but possibly also for crimes ranging from forgery to bribery. These things should carry an automatic directorship ban here in the UK, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped him.
Unless the authorities step in and tells King this is a non-starting event, how are we supposed to take their regulations seriously? Sevco Rangers already has a long history of ignoring them, and this alone makes credibility hard to sustain.
That aside, let’s go over, again, the reason he’s setting up this company in the first place. King wants to use it as the vehicle for the fans to place their season ticket money, instead of putting it into the club.
I’ve already described this as madness, suicidal madness at that, especially when the club has explicitly spelled out the consequences, by putting a “going concern” clause in their accounts, but it appears to phase neither King nor some of the “supporters.”
The organisation standing behind King, the Union of Fans, released a statement last night outlining what they “expect” from the 120 day review, and making it clear that their demand for security over the club’s real estate assets is still the central plank of their platform.
They might as well have demanded proof of Santa Claus, because the chances of them getting that and the chances of them getting what they want here are about roughly the same.
They are also demanding that the 120 day review spells out where “£30 – £50 million in investment” is coming from, something which indicates that a profound break with reality has occurred somewhere here. Let’s, just for a moment, dwell on this point, and try to imagine the circumstances of the next Sevco Rangers share issue.
The “investors” thus far have seen the value of their shares drop like a stone. The principal shareholders who own the majority of the club have yet to make a penny from it, in two years, and are now in fact carrying £16 million in debt. (Probably higher now.)
There is a concerted campaign of destabilisation going on right now, with customers being asked not to give them any more money. The attitude of the media is febrile, veering sharply from wild acclaim one day to bitter, outraged criticism the next.
A large and vocal section of the customer base is unhinged, and led by institutionally stupid people who have backed – and then turned on – every director the club has had in the last 36 months, and some of them are inclined towards intimidation to get what they want. To give you an analogy for what we’re talking about here, think of the kids from Children of the Corn protesting against not getting what they want for Xmas.
Add to this mix of the mad and the bad the highest paid person in the company, and the snarling, spitting, angry, aggressive public face of every decision, who won’t back his employers in a crisis if he thinks it will damage his “standing with the troops” – the self same barking dogs described above – and who, incidentally, can’t do his own job unless he’s outspending every one of his prospective rivals by a ratio on the order of 10 to 1.
Now that’s the company you are being asked to invest £30 – £50 million in, part of a plan presided over by a convicted tax cheat who spent time in prison, and eyed from the outside by a guy who paid £40 million to avoid an 82 year prison sentence of his own. How much you invest is up to you, but you should know that three things will apply.
1) You will never see a return on any of it. Not one penny. The guys who came before you are carrying debt. Buy enough of the company and you’ll be expected to do the same.
2) That the bulk of the money raised will be spent on transfer fees and wages for footballers. None of it will be invested in infrastructure with the aim of generating more income.
3) That the over-riding principle objective of said company is not “turning a profit” or “paying a dividend” or “guaranteeing a return for investment” but the vague and very un-business-like concept of “challenging Celtic.”
Today Sandy Easdale has spoken to the BBC in the starkest terms yet about the situation facing the club. He’s told the fans to show their loyalty, and there is the veiled threat that they would “not survive” what he’s termed a “second administration.”
Obviously I take issue with him, as they didn’t actually “survive” the first, but his point is clear nonetheless. If the NewCo falls into a black hole like the OldCo it is difficult to imagine them climbing out.
One source inside Ibrox has gone even further and told the BBC “the club is on life support.” It will not take much before those in charge decide to pull the plug. This is the very real danger facing them, and the awful choice that confronts the supporters.
Easdale, apparently speaking for the board, says “At the end of the day, the club is at a crossroads at the moment … It can either go forward with a … long-term view, steady as she goes, or be pulled apart in other directions …” There are some, including some of their “fans” who seem set on doing just that. Easdale is telling the rest of the fans to be wary.
The other option, of course, is to believe in Dave King, should the authorities decide that he is fit to run a company. The SFA will also have to decide that, and we know how seriously they take their own regulations. Which brings me to the second story of the day.
Kilmarnock are in trouble, it seems, over an ineligible player. There is talk of draconian punishment, but I very much doubt that will happen. During the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, Sandy Bryson, the SFA Registrations Officer, gave his own, rather unusual, interpretation of the rule book when it comes to player registration. Put in its most simple form, he said that a registration is valid until it is found to be invalid, and that if all parties were acting in good faith then there should be no punishment.
Now, applied to the Kilmarnock case it seems like a nonsense. This was a forged signature, after all, and this should, therefore, be beyond question.
Yet, the OldCo Rangers case didn’t simply involve side contracts but a policy of concealment, of disinformation, of cover-up, of obfuscation, of outright denial and lies. There’s not really much grey area there either, and no question at all of all the parties acting “In good faith.” OldCo Rangers was quite clear in what it was doing when it hid details of player remuneration from the authorities, and it did so again during the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry itself, when it concealed the full details of the Discounted Options Scheme.
The result of all this is precisely what worried many of us in the wake of Bryson’s testimony to Lord Nimmo Smith; that it has created an appalling precedent, one with the potential to unleash all manner of chaos on our national sport.
That he was allowed to get up there and use this explanation as a cover for what Rangers did was an outrage, and it was a matter of time before the chickens came home to roost and made a mockery out of his bizarre claims.
It would be one thing if that’s all it did, but this shoddy series of events has, additionally, made a mockery of our whole national sport. It is proof – not that we required any more – that the people running our game are out of step with its needs, utterly untrustworthy, out of their depth and incapable of doing the right thing. They all ought to be rooted out.
So, hammer Kilmarnock and justice will have been served. Yet that will make the enormous injustice of the Lord Nimmo Smith verdict all the more obvious and scandalous. Let Kilmarnock slip off the hook, because of that diabolical precedent, and you further enshrine it for the future and Scottish football will reap the whirlwind in due course.
What horrified some of us at the time was just this. When you bend, break, remake, ignore, deny and selectively apply the regulations which are supposed to bind everyone, and you do this, initially, for the benefit of one club you are not simply legislating for their cheating but you are unleashing forces you cannot control, and there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Had Hearts been refused a CVA they’d have died and probably “resurrected” again as a NewCo, allowing Scottish football’s clubs the ultimate Get Out of Jail Free card forevermore.
It is bad enough that on the day Sevco Rangers steps out onto a pitch in European football they will do it with the SFA referring to them as if they were not doing so for the first time. It is inconceivable that UEFA would ever dare endorse this position, because it would take the Scottish FA’s ridiculous decision making continental and bring a world of trouble down on their heads.
This is what happens when laws are ignored, when rules are bent, when the regulations are flexible.
This is how Scottish football got into such a mess. We are only just emerging from the darkness. Today’s double whammy shows us, again, that the spiralling crisis at Ibrox yet has the potential to drag the rest of us down with them.
Be warned friends, and be alert. It’s not over by a long way.
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