Sevco: A Club Where Crisis Is Permanent

SNA280922-682_917173aDuring the last fortnight, whilst I’ve been recharging the batteries and sorting out some stuff, things have been a little quiet in Scottish football.

Derek McInnes and his Aberdeen side have exploded like a hand grenade. Efe Ambrose has blown another golden opportunity to be a hero to the Celtic fans and Scotland have likewise self-destructed, with a last minute goal against Poland set to haunt all our summers.

One other thing; Scottish football held onto one of its “best young managers” when Liverpool decided not to offer Mark Warburton their manager’s post. They went for some relative unknown, and thus kept real talent here in the domestic game.

Am I the only one who laughed uproariously reading that guff last week?

On top of all that, the SFA has declared its support for a clear-out at FIFA, which is also kind of hilarious when one considers what they’ve allowed to go on in their own back yard.

Before I get to the meat of the article, I’ll say that the situation at FIFA is a deplorable scandal, the most disheartening part of which is that the candidates to replace Blatter all seem cut from the same cloth, even the ”football man” Platini, in whom so much confidence and hope was being placed not that long ago.

If ever the global game needed a hero it’s now, but they are in short supply.

Cleaning out these Aegean Stables seems a task beyond everyone involved, requiring three things none of them seem to possess; integrity, a strong back and an even stronger stomach.

It’s apparent that football governance issues aren’t confined to Scotland. These problems run deeper. They go further. The game itself seems corrupt right at its very heart.

The issue at FIFA is, of course, about money.

Here in Scotland the issues are about fear and lack of imagination if they aren’t about pure and simple bias. That has clearly raised its head more than a few times, but I’ll go with the first two as explanations for the stunning lack of real leadership we have here.

At Ibrox, another winter of discontent looms, as problems continue to plague the club although things on the pitch have improved somewhat.

They are now beating part-time sides with the aplomb one would expect, but even that has to be qualified with a little realism. Their side is still not remotely ready for life in the top flight.

Those who think there’s no difference between the more organised SPL teams and those playing in the Championship have already got good reason to eat those words.

I watched the Sevco v St Johnstone game, and the Perth men outplayed them for most of the match. Warburton’s approach is alright as far as it goes, but in a grind, in a match where opponents press high and hard, pretty football doesn’t work nearly so well.

In the meantime, structural problems continue to beset them off the pitch. I read, with a degree of amusement, last week that Warburton is planning to restructure the scouting and recruitment network, and I raise a glass and tip it to his eternal optimism.

I also mourned, again, the dearth of journalism in a country where this is presented as some kind of stunning plan for the future by people whose first duty was to ask how exactly such a shining vision was going to be paid for.

Because, of course, that kind of thing requires money, and a lot of it.

Too many Sevco fans seem to be operating under the assumption that what Celtic has done was either cheap or easy; here’s the news; our scouting team wasn’t studying the Football Manager wonder kids list. It took years and cost millions to get to this point, and the system is far from perfect. It still throws up duds like Pukki and Balde once in a while.

The cash with which to build a network like that simply isn’t there at Sevco, and they have no concrete plans for generating it. There is no excuse for that, and no excuse for the media’s lack of hard questions about it.

We’re well into the King tenure now and as far as I can see nothing at Ibrox has really changed except for the names above the doors. McCoist had a season very much like the one Warburton is enjoying right now, but no-one was suggesting that all in the garden was rosy. The Englishman has done no more than what Robbie Neilson accomplished last season with Hearts.

The real magic was supposed to come from King, because it’s only from his office that the club can be set on the right footing again. Despite that, he’s yet to give the manager the promised “transfer war chest”, he’s yet to fix a single thing wrong with the stadium and he’s yet to make moves towards the much heralded share issue.

On that one, at least, we can allow him an alibi.

There is too much uncertainty surrounding affairs at the club to secure one of those.

You can’t go to the City of London to raise capital when so many people connected with your institution are awaiting trial, where the very ownership of the assets are the subject of a fraud case and especially not where there appears to be no concrete plan for the funds themselves short of “chasing Celtic.”

See, this is where they lose me on all this. Any cash raised will be squandered regardless.

Crisis is never far away at this club because they don’t understand, or accept, the fundamentals. There’s no plan to spend on infrastructure, although that’s exactly what Warburton is talking about doing. This cash will go on bling; on transfers, on wages, with some of it being used to cover day to day expenses, which is the very worst reason to raise share capital anyway.

As the legal issues mount up and as the case for the prosecution starts to gather pace, some of their more optimistic fans have started to push a strange fantasy on their fellow supporters; that all of the destruction that has been wrought on the NewCo will have a happy ending. They think it can all be unravelled during the course of these legal proceedings, that the skies will part with rainbows and at the end of each will be a pot of gold.

Nothing speaks more clearly to their stupidity than this.

Without commenting on the proceedings themselves, without wanting to look into the range of outcomes in the cases, I think it’s instructive to note that all of the principals have been charged in relation to the takeover of Rangers and the subsequent purchasing of the assets of that dead club by Charles Green and his Sevco consortium.

None of it, so it appears, relates to the activities inside first Rangers and then Sevco, and there’s a very good reason for this, but it’s not one the fans want to hear.

In the case of Rangers, that club simply ran out of money. Its demise can be traced to a single event; the financial crash of 2008. The wild party that had been going on inside HBOS came to a shuddering halt, and with it went Murray International Holdings, who’s unique relationship with the bank was all that was keeping Rangers Football Club afloat in the bad years.

There’s no secret as to where all the money at Ibrox went.

Much of it was out on the pitch. Some of it was keeping the roof on Ibrox and the big jumbo screens working. Some of it was being spent on the flow of fine red wine and succulent lamb to Scotland’s intrepid hacks. That club was bleeding red ink, but as long as the big boys at HBOS were willing to carry the debts all was well in the land.

As much as their fans might accuse Whyte of steering the ship onto the rocks the plain and simple fact of it is that he was just the guy with his hands on the tiller when the crash came. He wasn’t to blame. That club was living beyond its means and after the bank pulled the plug one bad season was all it was ever going to take to crash it.

Murray got out when he did because he knew that full well. It never ceases to amaze me how few of the club’s supporters actually seem to have grasped it.

The Charles Green story has always been more complicated, of course, but even that doesn’t require a PhD to get to grips with.

He made big bucks out of Sevco, but he was fully and legally entitled to do that.

Lawyers siphoned off huge sums, a consequence of a ream of legal battles which never seemed to end, many of them emanating from the genius who’s now running the show.

The firms who ran the share issue made millions more as is the case with any stock market floatation, something the media greeted with the shock of people who lack even the first clue as to how any of this stuff works.

Along the way, contracts were outsourced and assets changed hands and services were paid for … as is the case in any business.

Was it ethical? Hell no, and you’d need to be pretty heartless to say otherwise.

Of course it’s not ethical to take shares in a company and put your wife on the payroll for big money, or to have your brother in law come in once a week to empty the bins on a six figure salary, or to let your cousin have the carpark concession because he buys you drinks at the weekend.

None of that is ethical, nor are any of the other myriad ways unscrupulous sods can get rich whilst they bleed a company to death in little, innocuous, ways.

But it happens everywhere.

These things do go on and it didn’t take a genius to work out Charles Green’s plan for the club revolved around such an idea.

But let me repeat; as distasteful as this kind of thing is, it remains perfectly legal.

Look at the recent news about Facebook, who handed all their top executives tens of millions of pounds in bonuses and salaries and then paid less than £5000 in taxes. The scruples of some of these people are such that Mafioso seem almost honest by comparison.

Sevco fans keep on saying they’ve been victims of a crime here, but that doesn’t stand up and it never has. Sevco has never been mismanaged. It’s been run exactly as was intended by the people who bought the assets and formed the company.

It was run to make them money, and to keep on doing so far into the future. The clue was in the last share issue; the phrase “institutional investors.”

Investors don’t do it out of Rangersitus. They do it to get paid. Simple. No-one can dispute that a Hell of a lot of people were paid, and damned well, for playing their role.

That money is gone and it’s gone for good. Yet the fantasy persists in some corners of the Sevco support that it can all be gotten back. In their febrile imaginations what will follow here will be the great unravelling of the scam, to their benefit.

Tens of millions of pounds, perhaps as much as a hundred million, will be found to have left their club by various dastardly means, and all that cash will be traced right to the bank accounts where it lies, and those accounts will be emptied and all that money returned to them for their future.

I understand the attraction of such a fantasy but it is absolute nonsense just the same, in part fed to them by a media that seems to believe in this as much as they do.

They talk about the money that “vanished” from the club as if this is even remotely accurate, as if they never published any accounts at all, as if every single penny wasn’t wholly accounted for in those documents.

Why is it hard to understand that running an upper tier football club with lower tier income is bad for your financial health?

Trying to pay for a training ground, a 50,000 all seater stadium, sending your players to five star hotels before matches, running a media department and paying expensive lawyers and grossly over-rated PR people … none of this is cheap, and all of it before you pay a footballer, a management team or the day to day bills as they come due.

Oh yeah, and then there’s Uncle Hector, who has a special interest in you what with the fact you’re based out of an address with a history of tax avoidance, and especially now with a convicted criminal at the helm who’s crime was in the same field.

These people are kidding themselves on that any of that money is coming back and without it, without any influx of money that doesn’t have to be paid back at exorbitant interest rates those fans are going to be following a club that lives within its means for the first time in nearly 30 years. There are people alive right now who don’t remember a club called Rangers who did that.

King may or may not put his hands in his own pockets, of course. I doubt that he will, partly because he’s not as loaded as some of them think and partly because exchange controls and the terms of his legal agreements with the South African government make it impossible.

What is more likely is that he will demand that the fans dig into theirs. That’s the way things are shaping up, the way they always looked like spinning out.

Yet even that has a limited shelf life.

Unless the money is invested in areas where the club can grow as a business – instead of on transfer fees and salaries – there will, in all likelihood, need to be another bailout not too far down the line. This is a club which believes in jam today, no matter what that means for tomorrow.

Some will say I’m stirring it again, that myself and others are intent on damaging Sevco. Yet it seems to me there’s little I could do that some inside the club haven’t already done. The present incumbents destabilised the previous regime, they drove down the share price, they burned the bridges with the City, waging war with lies and smears all the way.

The only people at Ibrox who have ever damaged the club are those inside it, those who indulge in the fantasy that they are going to rise to “challenge Celtic.”

The glory years at Rangers were built on unsustainable foundations, on rampant debt, on financial doping, and without them that club would have been little more than a provincial West of Scottish football team with an oddly backward support whose traditions are to be found in Halloween costumes in July and a misplaced superiority complex.

All of that ended on 19 January 2009, when the Lloyds Banking Group formally took charge of the HBOS account book. From that moment on the largesse of the bank that couldn’t say no came to an end, and the one that likes to say yes changed their policies to suit the climate.

With Murray unwilling to put his own personal finance on the line that was all she wrote.

Six years on, some have still to grasp the significance of that. Crisis swirls around them because they just cannot come to grips with the world as it is, preferring to live in the one they wish it to be.

But they will come to terms with it eventually.

You can ignore reality, and even deny reality.

But you cannot change reality.

The wheel never stops spinning, and until that club realises where and what they are now the trouble will never be behind them, simply on the other side of that wheel, coming back around again.

With numerous court cases due to start, one of which looks set to cost them upwards of £500,000, which they simply can’t afford, cases which will tie their assets up for years, the media is writing PR pieces about how the restructuring is well underway.

But look carefully; you can already see clouds on the horizon, promising another storm.

This is going to be a very interesting second half of the month.

Stay tuned for early fireworks.

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28 comments on “Sevco: A Club Where Crisis Is Permanent
  1. Yes, the Rangers fans are a strange, misguided lot. I happened to read the Daily Radar’s Hotline the other day (don’t judge me!) and one fan blamed Scotland’s latest failure on the SFA and SMSM being more interested in “lynching” Rangers than fixing Scottish football! Incredible!

  2. I found a factual error in your piece – it\’s the Augean stables. Ha ha, that means EVERYTHING you say is wrong!

    Seriously, I was going to post that in a reply to you on Twitter but what you have to deal with on there…Jesus Christ.You\’re a glutton for punishment.

  3. The mythical stables are \”Augean\”, not \”Agean\”.

    100 lines; \”I must not undermine my intellectual credibility with risible misquotes\”

  4. I watched the North Korean military parade on the news at the weekend and the dolphin show and the ecstatic populace – and who did I think of. Yes, the Sevconians!

    The good people of NK have no outlet for critical thought or reductive reasoning. The slightest sign of dissent carries the risk of their extended family being sent to a death camp.

    In comparison, The People have the full benefits of living in a stable democracy where debate is actively encouraged, yet they choose to behave as if some horror hangs over them to keep them bowed and subservient.

    Is that horror the thought that they may become just another ordinary football club that must play by the same rules as anyone else – with no friends in high places?

    Is it better to have no football club at all than an ordinary football club? So don’t scare the horses by discussing what is very likely to happen – and we all know it – just hope the non-ordinary club survives somehow against all the odds?

  5. James,perhaps it’s just as well you didn’t refer to the Seventh Labour of Hercules as I’m pretty sure that The Glib and Shameless One at The Stade De Bigot owns the copyright on “Cretin Bull” ;<) HH

  6. If you can\’t pay your wifi bill what chance of lawyers fees nevermind your enemies silk who\’s on thousands of pounds per day , not counting his legal team ? A man in a white wig and gown will decide the future of a club followed by bigots/racists for those who wore white pointed hoods the clock is ticking , the day of the klan is over hopefully !

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