The Crumbling State Of Sevco Threatens Our National Game

26783406.jpg.galleryOne of the ways in which I like to relax is to immerse myself in computer games. I don’t play the sort most people would associate with de-stressing though. I enjoy war games, the more complex the better. For that, nothing beats the Total War series.

The most misunderstood of these games is Empire, which is a sprawling epic set in or around the Napoleonic Wars. What made that era perfect for a wargame was that it was, historically, locked in almost constant conflict. Diplomacy in that age mostly involved getting out of the way of the guns, and the reasons why countries went to war were myriad.

It was a dangerous time right across the world.

Hindsight means we can look back at that era and spot all the places along the path to the wars which redrew the map. Yet even then it must have been obvious which countries were to be watched, which were to be viewed as potential threats. Empire lets you do that too. A country with a weak government, a history of treachery, and expansionist ideology and which is short on key resources is one you have to be wary of. If you’re one its neighbours and you’re not locked in a formal military or diplomatic alliance then start arming up.

We have one of those in the vicinity; not a rogue nation, but a rogue football club and the things that happen there have a tendency to cast a dark shadow far beyond the environs of Ibrox. This organisation still has the ability to self-detonate, and because our governing bodies haven’t taken the precautions that would limit the damage to the club itself any scenario in which they explode could still take much of the national sport with it.

Sevco really does resemble a rogue state, you know.

They have a weak government, run by a guy so thin skinned he makes Donald Trump look like a model of composure. Their history of backstabbing, concealment, dodgy deeds and bending rules goes back beyond the current incarnation and deep into that of the club who’s identity they’ve assumed. Their ideology is, in many ways, aggressively expansionist. They believe they are the biggest club in the land and they seek to be taken seriously as a continental player too. In spite of that their economic situation is not only dire, it’s desperate.

It is run by unscrupulous leaders who pander to the worst elements of the populace. It also operates largely unscrutinised by the media, and if it was a country it would be one of those Security Council members who can do as they please without incurring sanctions. When Rangers collapsed in 2012 people talked about how they’d been punished; in point of fact, they never actually were. What happened to them was simply the inevitable consequences of administration, and then liquidation. They were never actually held accountable for the various corrupt practices that got them there, and it’s that that still rankles many today.

Officialdom is either terrified of the Ibrox operation or broadly in sympathy with it. That’s one of the things that worries us the most. There are lots of rumours swirling around about the club and it’s future. Some are more than just speculation, some are grounded in hard fact and they are of grave concern to an awful lot of people. But the chances of anything ever being done to get to the bottom of them are virtually zero. A media blackout of anything negative is guaranteed over there; that’s what gave men like Murray, Whyte, Green and King license to do whatever they pleased.

So let’s analyse the situation over there, not as Celtic supporters looking to get a good laugh – although we can do that too – but as dispassionate outsiders.

First, is the club is in financial danger?

For me, yes, I absolutely do believe that it is.

Do we believe the governing bodies and the media are aware of that?

I don’t see how they cannot be. The facts are freely available. The club makes losses year on year and they’ve recently embarked upon a quite crazy transfer spree which although it hasn’t involved spending big on fees has increased the wage bill massively. This kind of spending is wholly unsustainable for a club which, even at the height of its power, never made the kind of money Celtic consistently has. When your running costs are nearly £20 million before you pay a footballer or coach and that’s barely met by what’s coming in via season tickets you simply can’t afford to go out and sign nine players and give others huge wage increases.

But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

They will burn through the season ticket cash insanely quickly, and then the real fun starts when they’ve got to find more.

As I pointed out over on The CelticBlog last week, we’re fortunate that the SPFL elections have given us – albeit narrowly – a board where the majority is in favour of sporting integrity. It’s this organisation that will be responsible for deciding where any Rangers III ended up. Stewart Robertson shamefully finding his way onto the SFA Professional Game board confronts us with another scenario entirely; it’s entirely possible that the SFA would bend over backwards for the NewCo even to the extent where they tried to force the league body’s hand.

Do I think that could happen?

Sadly, I have to conclude that yes, it could happen and probably would happen. When all you have to go on are the lessons of the past, well we can look back four years and see what they did last time. One would imagine they’d view this situation as even more desperate and fraught with dangers than that one was. Because there are issues here above and beyond any that a club at Ibrox has faced before.

There is a very real threat to even the existence of a club calling itself Rangers.

We’re in truly uncharted territory here.

Just the other day I was listening to an ancient Radio Scotland debate, the one where Chick Young and the idiotic Jim Traynor went toe-to-toe over whether or not Alastair Johnson had nodded his head to confirm that Rangers could go bust if the Big Tax Case went against them. It’s beyond dispute that Johnson and the board were fully aware of the likelihood of that and he didn’t need to inform anyone of that fact. But it caused quite the flare up between the two hacks, because back then none of them could grasp the size of the thing in their hands. They still can’t, which is why so many still cling to the Survival Lie like a comfort blanket.

The Tax Case was the sort of crisis that could have closed their doors, and everyone knew it. I once thought that the collapse of David Murray’s companies could have done the same.

Craig Whyte ran up £20 million worth of bad debts, with a huge sum owed to HMRC. They refused the CVA because of non-payment of PAYE; don’t let anyone kid you that the Big Tax Case is what shut Rangers down. It wasn’t part of the equation. HMRC folded that bill into the final sums which were handed to the liquidators, but with the case still pending at the time it was a phantom issue.

Rangers was closed because of those Craig Whyte debts, but even with the Big Tax Case folded in as long as the assets were available in a liquidation sale there was always going to be a club at the end of it, whatever it called itself, just so long as the debts weren’t part of the package.

Those assets were always tremendously undervalued, or at least that was the perception most people had about them. But what if we were wrong? What if the asset valuation was actually right on? There were no debts, sure, but perhaps those assets came with their own, hidden, liabilities? Recent evidence suggests that they did.

Imagine that Sevco, in its present incarnation, was presented with a bill they simply didn’t have the money to pay? They’d go into administration, right? Easy. Whoever the creditors were they’d get pennies in the pound and the debts would vanish. Correct, but what if that bill couldn’t simply be set aside? What if even a third version of Rangers was impossible without it being paid?

There are some bills which wouldn’t be so easy to dodge, such as one for essential stadium repairs. If such a bill ran into eight digits it would be one that administration, even liquidation, would not be able to erase. That’s as bad as it gets.

If Sevco were unable to get Ibrox up to speed, and were rendered incapable of using the ground, where exactly would that leave them? Season tickets would be rendered worthless overnight. Even if they moved to Hampden on a temporary basis – and the SFA would bend over backwards to let them do that – the impact on their supporters would be considerable.

The impact on their finances would be absolutely catastrophic.

The club has just been granted a new safety certificate for the ground. Even the release of that information is suspect, the manner of it and the tone. Yet this news would appear – on the surface of it – to close the story down completely, but like much else it’s nowhere near as simple as that. Glasgow City Council, unprompted, appeared to confirm that there were problems with the matter. They said there was a delay in giving it to them, and that this was the result of a clerical error. That news has been greeted with frank disbelief in many quarters, especially amongst those of us who know there are issues over there which are in dire need of fixing.

I said in a recent article over on The CelticBlog that if a certificate were granted and something went wrong that a lot of people – the club included – would be in the most serious trouble imaginable. There are some suggestions that the certificate has been granted without a proper investigation taking place; a lot of people do not think it remotely likely that the council would take such a glib attitude towards safety at a public venue; that ignores past precedent, financial concerns and that famous old ugly issue of politics.

Do I believe that a safety certificate might have been granted on a nod and a wink? I am not saying that’s what’s been done, but I sadly can’t conclude that it’s impossible or even unlikely, although I wish to God that it was.

For one thing, Sevco’s board would launch their own legal action against the council, for plunging them into financial chaos. That’s why even shutting the ground whilst a full health and safety investigation takes place hasn’t even been considered. That, in itself, would create enormous problems for the club with a new season about to start. A long term closure, enforced by the HSE, would spark a court battle that could expose the council to serious financial risks. For that reason alone it’s not as simple as it probably should be.

But there’s a much more serious issue at stake.

If Ibrox is closed on the evidence of the council, for a series of expensive repairs, Sevco would collapse like a house of cards. In those circumstances it is highly unlikely that the ground would ever be opened again. The effects of that would be enormous, for the local area, for Scottish football, for the council itself. Its officials would be blamed for closing the doors on the club, however unfair that assertion might be, and with elections coming next year that would hammer the final nail into the coffins of the Labour administration.

The dominos do not stop falling in a scenario like that.

But nor do they stop falling in a scenario where someone is hurt, or God forbid killed, in an incident where a structural flaw results in an accident. Then both club and council would be exposed to searing criminal and civil consequences who’s certain, and inevitable, ending would be to wipe Sevco away. That couldn’t fail to have the direst effects on the whole of Scottish football, our own club included, whether we like it or not.

When Rangers was on the edge last time, it was the so-called leaders of our game who talked it into the shredder.

They crushed its commercial viability, collapsing the value of every sponsorship deal we were likely to get and they would have cast sporting integrity itself aside if they thought they could have gotten away with it. God alone knows what they would do faced with a scenario where the Ibrox club looked like it could vanish forever.

When people ask me why I constantly write about Sevco, why I focus such attention on them, why I waste my time on it, the answer is patently obvious. It’s because of stuff like this. The potential for that club going nuclear remains. That creates dangers for every other club in Scotland. The SFA knows there are financial difficulties over there, but they’ve not insured the sport against that, perhaps because they are unable to believe it could all happen again.

It could. It might. The risks are real.

The one thing at Ibrox you can be absolutely assured of is you can’t predict what will happen there. Trouble can come right out of a clear blue sky. The next twelve months could be as momentous as anything we’ve seen in the last four years.

Be ready for anything.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A Toxic Association: How A Soldiers Charity Has Been Dragged Into The Ibrox Civil War

Brits_At_Ibrox_September2013Tomorrow, the Chilcot Report will be published and the clamour will start in Westminster about what it actually says and means.

I suspect it’ll say little and mean less than what we already know about the Iraq War, that it was an un-necessary disaster with consequences that continue to reverberate around the world.

Iraq had a profound, life changing, effect on me.

I was involved in the public campaign to stop that war. Our failure to do it destroyed my faith in the political process and plunged me into a deep personal state of anger and frustration that lasted for years. The demons were exorcised only after I’d written a book and took some time to process my thoughts on it all. I don’t kid myself that I’m over it. I’ll never get over it, but I don’t regard myself as someone who bore the full brunt of it either.

There are millions of people who did.

Some are alive. Most are dead.

Some of those who died wore military uniforms emblazoned with the Union Flag. Those who mourn them say they died for us; actually, they died for US and British politicians and oil interests. Their courage is no less because of it, but Chilcot is important because his report will acknowledge that fact and I expect we’ll see something incredible, a Labour Party leader who’ll stand up in Parliament and apologise for that decision and condemn his predecessor, the man who took it before most of us were even aware.

That apology is overdue.

To the people of Iraq first, and those in the wider Middle East which our actions plunged into turmoil which continues today. It’s also due to the families and friends of the servicemen and women who that government sent over there to fight, some to die, on a false prospectus.

It amazes me that those people would ever trust our political leaders again, and that isn’t good for any of us because we have a volunteer army in this country and it relies on that trust if it’s to keep recruiting.

Let’s face it, we’ll run out of soldiers long before we run out of wars for the politicians to send them to.

The reason I mention this is that tonight a story’s broken about a Sevco fan group allegedly using a website to sell merchandise bearing the Help for Heroes logo, without that organisation’s permission.

Congratulations to James Doleman on breaking that.

The website has been told to desist from doing this – probably under a legal threat – but that they did it in the first place is telling for a number of reasons, and that story segues into a much bigger one that’s bubbling away under the surface, which is that of the Sevco fan groups themselves and their expanding civil war which is going to make Labour’s look tame.

There are major problems at Ibrox, most of which the press won’t bother to fill you in on. They’ve been there for the past couple of years but King has been able to slap a sticking plaster on the bigger ones up until now, knowing even so that this isn’t going to hold forever. Blood still oozes out of a dozen open wounds and the time for changing the dressing on those he’s patched up is long since overdue.

Infections are spreading, and one of them is going to kill the patient stone dead.

This time there’ll be no SFA inspired recovery.

Their need for funds has ignited the war inside the fan organisations, and the realisation is dawning on a lot of folk that those groups are now in the hands of people who’ve got no interest in the wider support or the stated objectives those organisations were set up with. Of particular interest is the fate of Rangers First, a fan group which was established to purchase shares in the club and give the fans a real say in how it was run.

That organisation has effectively been subsumed by a larger umbrella group called Club 1872. Those who support that change like to remind people that the decision was taken by a vote of the members, most of whom had as much knowledge of the inner workings of that organisation as the average voter had of the European Union.

We know what happened when that subject was put to a referendum recently.

Things are murky at best.

Rangers First was set up in the aftermath of a liquidation; the members who formed it offered real leadership to a traumatised and shell-shocked support who needed it more than they ever had.

The plan – and it’s a noble and just one – was to seek influence with the board without getting too close to it. They were there to hold people to account, to do what people like Paul Murray and Dave King had failed to when they were directors at Rangers.

Fans raised money, as much as any fan collective in the country.

It’s to their immense credit that they put it in a bank account and established a commitment to using it only for the purchasing of parcels of shares as they became available. No-one could have begrudged them that. It looked like being the perfect working model for other fan organisations who wanted a say in the running of the clubs they loved.

That all looks set to end in tears amidst bitterness, acrimony and toxic mistrust and that’s not for nothing because £500,000 of their cash is already gone, and I’d guess it will never see the light of day again.

It was “loaned” to the club itself, to a board led by the self-same directors Murray and King who so failed in their own due diligence, on an unsecured basis with no repayment schedule to speak of.

It’s a gross insult to everyone who put their money in.

Three members of the Rangers First board have already resigned over this decision. Some inside the organisation talk about a culture of secrets and of boardroom influence in its running. One of the directors cited the involvement in Rangers First of James Blair, who is actually on the board of the club itself, as clear a conflict of interests as you could wish to see.

Opposition to this loan was widespread, and concerns over the nature of it were raised in public before the vote was taken and continue to be raised today. According to one source, at a recent symposium of supporters groups from clubs all across the country, the Rangers First team stunned the room by asking a representative from another Supporters Trust who’d given their own club a loan, whether they’d have agreed to a proposal that came without security or any timeframe attached.

They were told that would have been simply unthinkable.

That club’s fans got the same security as a bank would have asked for, and they’ll see each and every penny of their cash back.

This is just an abysmal turn of events, and even the hardest heart has to break for the guys who sunk their cash into this scheme because they were sceptical of the direction of their club, intent on holding its board to account, only for that money to be appropriated by the directors to plug holes in their own financial plan. You feel sick for those guys; they are ordinary supporters just like us and no matter how much we might laugh at times, these guys are victims here of an unscrupulous bunch who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

Divide and conquer appears to be the tactic of the day, and you have to bear in mind that this is a battle being waged in part by the club against their own fans. So they favour some reps but not others. They invite some for tea and biscuits whilst the rest wait outside the door. Some are given reason to believe there’ll be seats around the boardroom table eventually, and in the meantime there are soft ones in or near the director’s box. Other fans are marginalised, shunted into the cold.

Those who speak out or question this … well there are forums that just love to flame grill these people, even going through their personal lives for information to hurt them.

It is low order stuff, for high stakes.

Rangers First could have raised £1 million by the end of this year and there are people out there making a nice living on the margins of this and they’ve got a vested interest in keeping the faith with King and his boardroom.

After all, with the club at war with its merchandising partner and the intellectual property up for grabs you could be talking about a multi-million pound operation run by a few “fans” if King grants them the franchise, as many believe is on the cards.

This is quite literally a fight for the integrity of the fan groups, but it’s also about big money and the politics of the club itself and we ought not to forget, or ignore, that. It has implications for Scottish football too; who knows who might emerge as leading the “official” fan organisation? Who knows what paranoid theories, ideas or ideology might be governing the second biggest support in the country?

That affects everyone who follows football here, not just the supporters of that club, many of whom would love dearly to drag it back from the knuckleheads and corrupt individuals who have their claws in it right now.

Will these groups be separate entities whose job is to provide the scrutiny the media won’t, or will they be populated by subservient creatures of the board, indirect fund raising conduits doing the job King promised to do himself?

When you look at it like that, it’s little wonder that a lot of people within these organisations are asking tough questions.

It’s a monumentally important issue.

Which is why the fight over it is has gotten so dirty.

Frankly, nothing is beyond King and his cohort.

Why should we be surprised that they’re openly trying to divide their own fans?

They’ve played the sectarian card in an effort to divide the whole of Scottish football. They’ve got their hooks deep into the media, spinning outright lies about “over-investment”, blowing the Victim Myth to spectacular levels. They sabotaged the club’s stock exchange listing and were thrown off the exchange, just so they could conduct their “business” in total secret, away from prying eyes, as some of us explicitly said they’d do when they were flatly denying that. Even some of the money they’ve “raised” is of questionable origin; this site is not the only one to look into the £5 million “loan” they got from the Far East, which some, myself included, believe could have come from King himself, laundered through a company in which he has a level of control.

This, of course, would be a criminal act; money laundering, in effect.

Yet it’s also a crime to use market sensitive information to destabilise a company’s share price so that you and others can pick up a controlling interest on the cheap; stories to that effect are doing the rounds too, and this goes back to when King and his people took over.

Tonight, Help For Heroes has told a website that raises money for Club 1872 to remove listings which include merchandise bearing their logo. I have no idea who told them about that, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the information came from within one of the fan groups who make up the structure of that umbrella organisation.

That drags Help For Heroes into the ongoing saga of this club and links their cause to Sevco’s chronic need for cash, in an unsavoury episode that shows some of the people involved with the club at their very lowest and running worst.

And this is the inevitable PR catastrophe that was always coming here, an outcome every bit as predictable as it is disastrous for a public body and registered charity that allowed itself to become far too close to this football club, its fans and the people who run it for its own good.

They were warned, and some within its ranks have harboured grave concerns about it for a while.

Those chickens have come home to roost.

In Aesop’s famous fable The Farmer and the Stork, the titular characters encounter one another when the stork is caught in a snare the farmer has laid out in his field. It wasn’t for the stork; indeed, it was set up to catch cranes and geese who were stealing crops. The farmer kills the stork anyway, over its protests, being caught, as it was, “in the company of thieves.”

The military association with this club has always been a bad reflection on the troops. There were obvious dangers in becoming too closely associated with it, and if the footage of serving soldiers singing sectarian songs didn’t do it, and the sight of others holding up flags emblazoned with loyalist paramilitary paraphernalia wasn’t enough then this scandal tonight should be the moment where a lot of the brass take a deep breath and extricate the armed services from what goes on at that ground; everything from the sale of scarves with the RAF logo beside the old Rangers badge to the annual lunacy of Armed Forces Day and all the negative publicity that ensues.

Why it was allowed to go this far I have no idea, and what makes tonight especially repulsive is not just the suspicion that some of the money raised from the sale of these shirts will find its way into the Ibrox coffers but the simple and breath-taking presumption of putting that logo on them in the first place, without asking permission.

That permission was just assumed; people within Sevco simply make no distinction any longer between Help For Heroes, the Armed Forces and the club. One is seen as serving the interests of the other as if James Blair was sitting on those boards as well. That level of cynical appropriation of something much bigger and more substantial than a football club is hard to comprehend soberly.

Chilcot’s report and the reaction to it will go some way towards restoring the trust members of the armed services have in government again; it’s to be hoped so anyway. We owe those people more than to send them to fight and perhaps die on the basis of lies.

That’s a disgusting and shameful moment in the history of this country.

The military needs to be seen to be above politics, and outside of its scope.

Yet tonight, on the eve of that report, some of its patrons are involved in yet another political scandal, a low-grade grubby one, over money and who controls a football team, and some will say they only have themselves to blame for it because they’ve failed to draw a line between the two before now.

At a time when the armed forces are gearing up for a busy time ahead they can’t afford to be perceived here, in Scotland, as the plaything of a football club that stands for such a narrow range of interests and ideas, some of which are anathema to a very many of us.

This is an unfolding story.

I don’t believe it’ll be the last article I post on it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Long Dark Night Of Dodgy Dave King

Dave-King-XXX-high-resThis has been a long few days of late nights and all-day back and forth on social media. The EU referendum produced a shock result, but it was nothing on the chaos and the mayhem that’s followed since it was announced in the early hours of Friday.

A Prime Minister has gone. Labour’s leader hangs on by a thread; at the time of writing this over a dozen members of his shadow cabinet had resigned in an attempt to provoke a coup. EU leaders are terrified of their own people demanding similar plebiscites. Scottish independence seems like it’s a matter of time away. The pound has plummeted in value. A recession looms. Indeed, our economy has been degraded by a number of ratings agencies.

Not even half a week has elapsed, and the stage is piled with corpses.

In the midst of it all stand the men who organised this “victory” – for such is the way they refer to it. Yet amidst their finest moment few can muster a smile. Only Nigel Farage – who conceded, unconceded, reconceded and then unconceded again – seems pleased with it.

One could be forgiven for forming the distinct impression that this is neither what these people expected nor even wanted; when Johnson and Gove – arguably the greatest “winners” in all this – appeared before the media on the day after the vote they were not just subdued, they looked positively shell-shocked.

They and their cronies are already back-tracking on everything.

Except for the consequences.

They, and the rest of us, are stuck with those.

In the immediate aftermath, David Cameron resigned. In doing so, he threw the enormous economic, social and constitutional mess into their laps and they did not look like men who welcomed that responsibility.

They are not the first men to secure a triumph and then find the cost of it was too great to bear; I have, on occasion, mentioned Pyrrhus of Epirus on this site. He won a great success against the Romans but realised that it had cost him the better part of his army, and history is full of examples like it. The phenomenon even has a name; it’s called a Pyric victory, after the Greek general himself, and I thought of it watching Gove and Johnson on Friday.

I also thought of Dave King and Sevco.

In the aftermath of the Celtic v Sevco cup semi-final, I wrote an article on this site called The Storm Before The Calm. In it, I suggested that what our club had needed most was a day of reckoning, because it would inevitably lead to better times. I suggested that for the more cerebral Sevconites it was a battle they didn’t really want to win, because they knew what the consequences of it would be; confronted with that day of reckoning, Celtic would move forward and rediscover our purpose. In the weeks that followed we did exactly that.

In the aftermath of the Rodgers appointment and their defeat in the cup final I wrote an article for the CelticBlog where I asked who really won that semi-final. A lot of Sevco fans told me they did, but those who realised I was asking a deeper question decided to abuse me instead. That reaction was sparked by their very rational fears and the realisation that it was a legitimate enquiry. Their penalty kicks victory gave them one day in the sun, but that’s all they got. Celtic was reinvigorated and transformed. They stumble on in worse shape than before.

The Good Ship Sevco continues to drift towards the rocks of financial crisis. At the helm is a man who, like Johnson and Gove, has been cornered by his own lies, and now faces the prospect of making good on promises he had no business making and no idea how to keep. He will now have to live with the consequences of the reality which has caught up to him and exposed him as a fraud. Dave King should have stayed on the side-lines. Instead he secured a victory in a war he should never have fought and now wishes he’d never won.

Making big promises is easy to do. I was in politics long enough to know that. I saw many people who couldn’t help themselves, knowing it would get them a bump in popularity. Many had the luxury of knowing they could do so with impunity because they would never be near a position where they might have to keep them. Others seemed, to me, to be reckless almost beyond belief. Their pledges might well have to be kept, and some of these people had not the first clue how to take word and make it form. They were gambling that either they’d not win or that the people who cast the votes would quickly forget all that was sworn to them.

It was Rod Stewart’s narrator who lamented “I was only joking my dear” in the famous song, but at least he had the decency to admit what he’d done and besides, he had the wine to blame it on. When you make a promise you can’t keep it’s bad enough. To make those you had no intention of even trying to keep is far, far worse.

From the minute Dave King took over at Sevco this site and others were telling the fans not to believe a word that came out of his mouth. People always focus on the judge who called him a “glib and shameless liar” but I’ve long believed it’s other parts of that withering verdict which should have been focussing fans minds instead;

“As his evidence progressed it became clear that he has no respect for the truth and does not hesitate to lie, or at least misrepresent the facts, if he thinks it will be to his advantage … There can be little doubt that on most occasions Mr King lied, as he knew the correct facts and obviously decided to misrepresent these facts … he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is support by documents and other objective evidence.”

So what’s a Dave King promise worth? Ask Mark Warburton. He came to Ibrox believing in big transfer war chests and the notion that he was joining a massive club. Within a year he’s been dissuaded enough of the idea of this as a project with a future to have already considered his position. He vanished entirely for nearly two months in the aftermath of the cup final in which, like in the semi, he named only five subs in an effort to focus the attention of the media and the fans on the threadbare nature of his squad.

That squad has barely moved forward. Oh a handful of players have been signed, but an equal number have left, and although more signings are supposed to be on the way we would do well to look at those the club has already brought in to gauge their likely worthiness. As before, I am grateful to the blogger Johnjames for his research on this; it was eye-opening and any Sevco fan not paying attention needs to wise up fast.

Josh Windass and Matt Crooks are being signed from Accrington Stanley for a combined total of £60,000. That’s £60,000 more than they’ve ever been sold for in their careers thus far. Windass, who the media hilariously claimed had been “attracting Arsenal” was playing for the mighty Harrogate Railway FC until Accrington took him on a free in 2013. Crooks has been on loan at Halifax, Hartlepool and the footballing dynasty at Radcliffe Borough.

Last year, Clint Hill, who’s 38, didn’t make the QPR squad in 24 of their games. He was on the bench, and never got on the park, in another 9. You might be forgiven for wondering if he’s injury prone, but in fact he’s fitter than some at Ibrox.

The same can’t be said of Jordan Rossiter, the Liverpool youth player, who’s made only five first team appearances for the club in two years. Last season he was a reserve player who injury derailed for 17 out of 22 Under 21 games. He is said to have serious underlying fitness issues, which would be tragic for a player so young and disastrous for the club which has signed him.

Matt Gilks, a 34 year old goalkeeper, has arrived from Burnley. He featured once last season, in the League Cup. He replaced the younger, better, Cammy Bell who has left for Dundee Utd.

They’ve signed Joey Barton, at 34, a guy who’s a walking liability with a Twitter feed that’s a recipe for disaster and a list of criminal offences matched, at Ibrox, only by Dave King himself. This guy is a time bomb waiting to blow. The irony is that he’s not a bad player, although nowhere near as good as he seems to believe himself.

And what of Niko Kranjcar, the Croatian “genius” who somehow didn’t manage to get into their European Championship squad, despite being the best footballer never to play in Scotland since Mario Jardel? Well, it’s not for nothing that Johnjames has called him the “9 minute Galactico” as that’s precisely how much game time he got last season at Dynamo Kiev. He went to the US after their season was done, and played 7 games.

This is the “standard” they are going for. Don’t let anyone kid you that this is a squad that can challenge Hearts and Aberdeen, far less Celtic. The total outlay is that £60,000 for the Accrington Stanley players, and they had to be forced to meet that commitment.

The website transfermarkt.com – not a definitive source because they traditionally underestimate what clubs are willing to pay for players, but one that has been praised by the Centre for Economic Performance – rates the Celtic squad’s total value to be £39.9 million. The second most valuable squad in the league is rated as that of Aberdeen, at £6.73 million, followed by Hearts £6.19 million, St Johnstone £5.66 million and Ross County £4.67 million.

Sevco’s squad is rated as worth a little more than that, at £4.9 million. For all the talk about them being the “second biggest club in the country” their team is rated as worth less than the Dundee Utd side that was relegated last year, which was valued at £5.08 million.

This is most definitely not what was promised to their fans when King took over.

The £30 million war-chests have never come to pass. The over-investment has never been forthcoming. This club might be charging big money for season tickets, yet its playing staff was recruited right out of the cheap seats. Yet in spite of this, the club remains a loss making company with no clear path towards raising the sort of funds that will enable them to be more.

Sevco is a financial basket case. Before Rangers was liquidated they had sold off or shut down every major revenue creation stream. The merchandising deal that they are so concerned with was the spiritual successor to Rangers one with JJB that was ridiculous in itself. That club tried making its own shirts. They tried entering into a TV partnership with STV, which followed on from their disastrous decision to do the famous NTL deal. None of this worked, but flogged valuable commercial assets for a pittance.

Now even the infrastructure which enabled them is gone. In his Q&A series with the fans, he’s admitted that the task of rebuilding that will cost a fortune and take years. He has neither the time nor the money to pull that off. The rewards for playing in the SPFL top flight aren’t lucrative enough to justify all the excitement over reaching it.

Only playing in Europe could bail them out of this, and anyone who thinks that squad would get past even meagre opposition needs a reality check. King says he’d spend to ensure it, but that puts us back on the carnival ride of lies again.

How many times has this site written about King’s financial predicament? Even if he had the money some have suggested, the South African government would make it difficult verging on impossible to remove it from the country by legal means. If he wants to play Russian roulette with their regulators he can do so, of course, but history suggests he’ll get caught.

All football is run on money these days. When you have costs which top £1 million a month before you even pay a football player you need to be bringing in a steady stream of it just to keep up. King could have made this work, but it would have involved being honest with people and that’s simply not within his DNA.

Like Gove and Johnson, King has played a good game of bluff and bullshit up until now, but as they both found out last Friday morning there comes a time when your distorted version of reality comes into contact with people holding notebooks who remember the promises. More important even than them, so do those you made those promises to and who gave you their trust on the back of them. For the Brexiters the full weight of their unwanted and unforeseen victory is now pressing down on them. For King, a season looms under circumstances he would never have wanted. He needed to raise expectations to sell tickets and with the media machine pumping out the propaganda those expectations are now sky high and wildly unrealistic.

King knows that; more to the point, so does his manager.

The new season looms in front of these people like a dark road with no clear destination at the end of it.

To paraphrase Harry Truman, King is the only person in the history of Scottish football in charge of a major club to talk out of both sides of his mouth and to tell the truth out of neither.

Sooner or later, that catches up to you, and sometimes when you least expect it.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A “What If …?” Scenario That Should Scare The SFA

1280px-HK010I’m going to tell you a story here, and please bear with me.

Before I do I want to thank two people; one directly, and one anonymously.

The direct thanks I send to the writer of the John James blog, whose recent works have been great reference points in helping me get to the bottom of a murky story I heard earlier this year and which another source all but confirmed over the weekend.

That source is the one I’d like to thank anonymously. He knows who he is and why it’s important that I don’t use his name.

What I am about to write for the next few paragraphs is all fact.

I’ll tell you when I start speculating, because it’s important to separate the two things.

On a day when The Guardian is publishing unsubstantiated crap in an effort to attack the Resolution 12 team, and maintaing that Scottish football governance issues are of concern only to Celtic and our fans I am not about to claim, for one second, that what you are about to read is all referenced and properly sourced and 100% accurate.

I’m not even going to tell you the specifics of what I’ve heard; I’ll give you the background and a hypothetical scenario based on some of it, and what I don’t write you can check out for yourself. Some of it is already online.

You can then decide what you think.

Nothing I’ve seen is actual evidence; I want to reiterate that now, although I’m equally certain neither John James nor my other sources are going on rumour alone. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t write an article based on such rumours, but it is not how real or not these stories are that bothers me and made me decide it was a worthwhile piece.

I’m writing it because this isn’t impossible. It isn’t even implausible.

It’s all very … doable.

And that’s what worries me.

This story starts in South Africa in 2013, when the tax authorities there brought an end to their campaign of chasing the assets of, and threatening to jail, one David Cunningham King, now the chairman of Sevco, otherwise referred to on the various Celtic blogs as the “glib and shameless liar.”

One of the key provisos of the deal was that he “repatriate his overseas assets.”

In other words, they wanted his cash reserves and his future earnings right where they could see them, where they could keep a close watch on what he was up to.

One of those overseas assets was a company called NOVA.

He sold that company to another, MicroMega. The South African government got the proceeds of the sale.

NOVA had been a pretty important part of the King portfolio. It had subsidiary branches in China, Brazil and Peru.

But it was a strange deal, one that bore scrutiny. It was so strange that the South African government had to independently investigate it to make sure the shareholders at MicroMega got themselves enough bang for their bucks. Because, you see, MicroMega is partially owned, and chaired, by none other than David Cunningham King himself.

This isn’t uncommon in the business world, and here it was a perfectly logical step.

King still does a lot of business abroad and NOVA still has offices in various nations; what’s changed is simply that the company now has its headquarters in South Africa. Although MicroMega also has subsidiaries in various nations around the world, they are registered at home, whereas the registered offices for NOVA had been in Hong Kong.

At various times in the last two or three years I’ve looked into King for this and for the CelticBlog.

It wasn’t hard to discover that his reported wealth these days is mostly on paper, tied up in the share value of companies he is sitting on the boards of and has shares in.

It’s an established fact that all of his disposable assets were seized by the government; the cars, the houses, the wine cellars. His liquid assets were either turned into cash to pay the fines or likewise seized. The settlement didn’t wipe him out, and in comparison to the likes of us he’s still a wealthy man, but it didn’t leave him much to “invest” in Sevco either.

But he still works hard and he has a lot of shares, and based on the values of those he still appears to be quite well off.

But this has always been a fundamentally misleading indicator of actual wealth, because if, say, Mark Zuckerberg were to announce, tomorrow, that he was putting up the entirety of his Facebook shareholding as a public offering, the value of those shares would go through the floor as people wondered why he was bailing out.

King’s done that before, of course, which is what got him into trouble with SARS in the first place, and although it is possible for him to liquidate shareholdings in little chunks, this potentially has a negative impact on the value of the rest of his shares.

In June of last year, King sold 15 million shares in MicroMega for a value of £8.5 million.

I’ll get back to that number shortly.

South Africa is a country that takes a dim view of the things Dave King did in his tax avoiding years.

Other countries have a similarly dark attitude towards tax evasion, but South Africa take it more seriously than most, in particular because much of the cash they lose out on ends up overseas. Their government likes to keep their national wealth in-country, as it were, which is one of the reasons King was told to “repatriate” his assets back to where the tax man could get at them.

South Africa also has rather robust exchange control regulations, which heavily penalise high worth individuals who want to move cash out of the country. They’d prefer that cash was invested, and taxed, right there at home, for obvious reasons.

There’s a financial cost to transferring money out of South Africa.

There are also regulations in place which require disclosure on where the money is going and what it’s ultimately for.

These rules would be even more rigorously enforced with a man like Dave King.

Without prior approval from their government and Treasury, no resident can transfer cash out of the country in any significant sums. There’s simply no getting around that fact.

This site has long argued that the combination of Dave King’s tax settlement, the government’s insistence on the repatriation of assets and the harsh exchange controls which the South African government has in place, make it virtually impossible for him to “invest” in the club to the extent he and others seemed to suggest he would.

In short, even if he had that kind of wealth he’d never be allowed to spend it catering to the egos of Scotland’s most ungrateful and impatient football fans.

This site and others are on the record as having said that King has spent precisely nothing on NewCo Rangers up until now, save for the purchasing of some shares and giving a loan of £1.5 million in the name of New Oasis Asset Limited, which is referenced as a “King family trust” and, for all we know, doesn’t even have his name on it.

Any further “investments” should be very easy to demonstrate because something like that would leave a very long paper trail.

Or so I long suspected.

At the same time, this site and others have long argued that the present directors, none of whom are high worth individuals – save for Douglas Park, who has always shown great reluctance to pour it into the black hole of a football club – will be able, or are willing, to keep on funding the club from their own “soft loans.”

The only person in the history of Sevco who had the financial wherewithal to do that into perpetuity is the one King has worked so assiduously to push away; Mike Ashley, who’s Sports Direct billions could have kept the lights on indefinitely.

That means that without “outside investment” sooner or later it’s going to fall on King to keep his promises, or not.

King can buy shares in, and invest in, any company he likes, just so long as he does it through a South African registered “vehicle”, and the tax man knows how it’s been done. There are “foreign portfolio investment allowances” which have to be run through registered bodies, and individual allowances, which can be up to £400,000.

It is possible to get certain funds abroad for such purposes.

Buying shares in foreign registered companies comes under the exchange control laws and his initial share purchase, plus the £1.5 million in loans, probably doesn’t push him over the threshold depending on what’s in the “family trust.”

In the main, however, the more money he has to “invest” the more likely it is that the South African government will draw a big line and subject him to those more rigorous investigations and rules. South Africa’s government is not of a mind to let any high worth individual – far less one they had to chase for years – take significant sums out of their country.

And this is where our friend Keith Jackson comes in.

On 7 December 2015, Jackson wrote one of his best articles of last year, if not the very best. In it, he questioned King’s “investment” in the club and wondered where the £5 million which they had recently announced would pay off Sports Direct was going to come from. It was one of the first articles to actually ask hard questions about the Sevco board and their long term plans.

And a certain man in South Africa was spooked by that, because he has always been able to rely on a subservient media in order to get the things he wants. He had made promises and Jackson was asking he keep them, but the Record writer was also casting doubt over the veracity of a lot of King’s claims and that bothered him most of all.

Was Jackson reading up on South African exchange control laws?

No, he was simply wondering why, when it only takes 11 hours to fly here from Johannesburg, that King hadn’t already simply delivered the money and given it to the Newcastle owner.

For all it was a ridiculous notion, there was a core of truth in what Jackson actually said … and he was right to be asking the question. He should have asked more questions though, such as where King had allegedly found the two “investors” who were said to be putting up the bulk of the cash. Jackson had doubts about those guys, and those doubts were not without foundation.

Whether Jackson pushed King and his people into speeding things up or whether his intervention was shrugged off inside Ibrox and utterly ignored is something we’ll never know, but that money duly found its way to Ibrox shortly thereafter and the debt to Ashley was cleared. The Sevco board agreed another £1.5 million in loans, and they were able to get through the season.

Just a month after he had written that piece, with the money now in place and with Ashley paid off, Jackson was singing a very different song. Yet oddly he wasn’t giving the credit where it was supposed to be due.

In fact, he was telling everyone that King had actually invested “north of £7 million” in the club himself.

Myself and others mercilessly and brutally mocked him for that assertion.

Where did he get that number from?

Was it “direct knowledge”?

Was it a wee emailed memo, perchance?

Something thrown to him by a PR firm?

If it was then it was the daftest ever released in the history of public relations in Scotland, because it has been focussing minds ever since. As John James has already pointed out, the total “take” Sevco had brought in since King became chairman was not far from that sum and we know much of that had come from other members of the board.

But there was still that rather large chunk of money that came from elsewhere, from “Hong Kong-based fans” Barry Scott and Andy Ross.

Sadly, for Sevco, it quickly became apparent that Ross had some “background”.

In December 2014, he had been charged by the Securities Commission over there, and found guilty of numerous failures in relation to his handling of an audit involving a company that was being investigated for fraud. The charge was “improper personal conduct” and he was fined and banned from serving on an SEC-regulated company for a term of three years.

It’s not clear if he knows, or has done business with, George Latham, the other Hong Kong based Sevco investor, who is rumoured to be deeply unhappy with things at the club. Perhaps he’s aware of stuff that the average punter isn’t. I have heard that he was explicit in demanding that King finally show the others the colour of his money.

And this is where we head into speculative territory.

According to the people I’ve spoken to, and as  John James has suggested quite openly, neither Ross nor Scott has that kind of money. With Ross unable to sit on a board of directors, and with his net worth unknown, we can’t really say whether that’s true or not, but it can’t be easy to just find £2.5 million that’s going spare, even if, as some have suggested, there’s a Wonga rate of interest on it.

If these guys don’t have that kind of money, if John James and others are right, then they’re not the source of the £5 million which is attributed to them in the Sevco accounts and which so famously bought Ashley off and ended his hold over the club.

We know the money is real, but if it didn’t come from them then where did it come from?

Let’s start there. Let’s speculate a little.

Did that money originate elsewhere?

Say, in South Africa?

Was it funnelled through Hong Kong and into the accounts at Ibrox, with those two “investors” playing patsy, and either taking their cut of the interest or being looked after some other way?

In short, did that money come from Dave King himself?

First, with King’s financial situation being what it is, where would he get the cash?

Well, I suppose, if we’re speculating, that it’s possible the genesis of these funds was the £8.5 million in shares which he sold in MicroMega in June last year. This, after all, was the very company he used for the incestuous deal that let NOVA become a South African company, although it was based in Hong Kong. In fact, isn’t it also possible that the £5 million actually went through NOVA itself?

As I said, I’m not saying this is true.

This is all speculative, a “what if?” scenario.

But the way the game is run here in Scotland, it’s not impossible.

It’s not even improbable.

Because this isn’t even about King, not really. This is a scenario that could as easily have involved Craig Whyte or Charles Green or the Easdales or whoever else has sat on the Ibrox board over the last few years. The loopholes that allowed those guys to get their feet under the table are still wide open, and God alone knows what might happen in the future if they stay like that.

As to King himself, well what he does with his own money is his lookout. He’s already proven to be a little slippery, but also a little stupid. In the documented instance which he’s famous for he did, after all, get caught.

I expect someone who screws up that badly would be odds-on to do so again.

It’s not as if there aren’t people looking.

As simple as it would be for someone like him to move money around like that and find ways of doing it, he has to know he wouldn’t be operating in the dark. He’d be doing it surrounded by eager eyes.

I’m 100% certain that SARS keeps a close one on him and they aren’t the only ones. He has seriously pissed off an actual billionaire, a guy who knows his background and will be very aware of South African exchange controls and the corporate structures at NOVA and MicroMega, and will be understandably curious about what the source of the £5 million which paid him off is.

Is that a guy you’d want digging into you?

We already know King provokes him to a foolish, even dangerous, degree but could he really have been that stupid?

Ego does things to people. It doesn’t keep them smart.

But like I said, that’s his business.

If he’s done something daft then it’s on his head, and there’ll be no dodging the bullet this time.

The issue here, as ever, is football governance or what passes for it in Scotland, because I cannot imagine another association where a scenario like the one I just proposed is even remotely possible, in light of all the outside agencies supposed to be watching.

What troubles me is this; what does it mean to Scottish football?

Because we’d be talking about money laundering here, and that’s the best case scenario. That’s the long and short of it, and that goes well beyond the usual nonsense we often hear about. This would be the illegal transfer of funds from one country to another, evading financial controls and other laws, and probably screwing with the tax man into the bargain. Again.

It all comes down to how this kind of thing could easily happen with the people we have running the Scottish game. As John James has pointed out, if someone wanted to do this kind of thing he only has to look at the way the media ignores any issue it doesn’t want to deal with and the way in which the SFA turns a blind eye to all manner of things, no matter how dark.

None of this should be possible with the proper controls, but it is.

Good governance doesn’t even have to be that complicated, not in this case.

I cannot overstate enough times that Dave King is an open book. His history is not a secret and neither is the fact he needs to comply with South African laws involving investment and the transfer of funds. That’s a fact and whether he simply found two Hong Kong based mugs or whether he used them as conduits for a scam is beside the point.

To get where he is right now, he had to pass a “fit and proper person” exam.

We all know that. Ashley took the SFA to court to find out how they arrived at the decision, and he demanded they make their report on it public. He hinted at some deadly information in there. I think I know what that information is. It’s not what they asked King or what answers he gave. It’s what they didn’t bother to ask him at all. It’s the answers they didn’t even look for.

When he sat in front of the SFA for his fit and proper person examination, how much did they really want to know?

Did they quiz him on South African financial regulations?

How much clarity did they seek about how he was going to meet all of his stated commitments about investing tens of millions of “his children’s inheritance”?

We know it’s impossible.

But this guy was presenting himself as the saviour of the club, in the same manner Whyte did, with glib assurances painting over blatant bullshit. Remove Dave King and his grandiose and utterly ridiculous promises and isn’t Sevco a club in serious danger of collapse as a going concern already?

It’s his alleged wealth that underpins the “business plan”, the one on which the club getting a UEFA Level License to compete in the top flight next season legally depends … this is right there, in black and white, in the SFA and UEFA rule books.

Wasn’t it important to know where the cash was coming from?

Surely they didn’t just accept all that nonsense about how easy it would be to find “outside investment”?

Who better than Stewart Regan knows how hard that is?

This is a Scottish club that emerged from a liquidation, which is still haunted by a tax scam and wIth no record of posting profits. As Phil is fond of saying, “this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.”

Sevco’s short term business plan is wholly dependent on Dave King’s promised pot of gold, and as we’ve seen even if that exists he’s not going to be able to use it for that purpose, not legally, not by any means that would be palatable to his government or in line with the deal he’s made with them. So where’s the money actually coming from?

Some folk in a position to know assertain that everything about the Hong Kong deal is fishy. That nothing about it really fits. Where the Hell did King find these guys? Why didn’t they “invest” before? Their £5 million could have bought the assets of the club in 2012, so why now? Why have they only now popped up out of the woodwork?

They were initially touted as being “Rangers men.” But they were previously “investors” in Workington Reds, where they were similarly packaged as “fans” investing their cash in an act of love.

It’s not hard to come up with tenuous links between Ross and King, if we wanted to take speculation to absurd heights. Ross works for Baker Tily. They are one of the biggest accounting firms in the world, so it may just be a coincidence that they’ve worked with NOVA. That they’ve got offices in both Hong Kong and Johannesberg. That there are other subtle connections.

But they were also linked with Sevco itself.

In August 2015 they were being touted as the club’s official auditors, and in an odd turn of events Phil reported that a “senior client” of the company had strongly objected to that. He sent them a bunch of questions on the matter, alleging that they’d turned down the opportunity and that Campbell Dallas LLB had been approached instead. As it turned out, they were duly appointed a day or two later.

Although The Offshore Game and the Tax Justice Network guys have had all the ink recently, they’re not the only NGO to have looked into the dark corners of football. In 2009, The Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental agency, wrote a report called Money Laundering Through The Football Sector. It is a damning, shocking, and incredibly prescient piece of work.

Since then, of course, Scotland has seen a parade of less than savoury characters troop across the landscape singing The Billy Boys. As one guy on TSFM said recently (and thanks to him, REIVER, for posting a link to the FATF report, “organised crime has its grubby hands in sport all around the world why would Scotland be left out?”

Who says we’ve been left out?

Does any of this even remotely compute at the SFA? Do they give a damn? Can something as potentially damaging as this really happen right under their noses? Of course it could. Because it’s happened already.

I mean, don’t these people have a fiduciary responsibility to scrutinise the means by which a football club comes into millions of pounds?

My God, doesn’t that open the doors wide to corruption on a grand scale?

How do we know clubs aren’t being financed by the proceeds of crime right now?

That there isn’t at least one Scottish club paying its bills with drug money or loan sharking debts or worse? The Ashley loans were at least open and transparent, his company at least reputable if not entirely wholesome.

King couldn’t wait to get Sevco off the stock exchange. We’ve all wondered why. Is it because, as he puts it, that it’s expensive and wasteful of time and effort? Did he really ditch is so he wouldn’t have to fill in a few forms? It’s a lot of inconvienance, including not being able to start a share issue, just to save on the admin costs.

Or was there another reason? A darker one?

One more to do with transparency and openness?

These are just some of the reasons why a scenario like the one I’ve outlined is more than just a flight of fancy and the stuff of the internet Bampot. We have rules here so lax you could get around them in a hundred ways, and it wouldn’t take an international super villain out of a Bond movie to come up with a dozen strategies for pulling it off.

Doesn’t our football association need full transparency about these sort of things?

Isn’t it way past time for fit and proper person criteria to do what it says on the tin?

Isn’t it time for financial fair play to be introduced so stuff like this is impossible and not just unbelievable?

Because the only reason I’m not wholly convinced of this is that it just sounds so absolutely out there and unreal because of all the implications of it.

And that begs one last question; at what point does a failure in governance become complicity?

When does looking the other way graduate to something more serious?

Is wilfully ignoring a possible criminal act not, itself, a criminal offence?

The SFA is a public body. It has responsibilities beyond covering its own backside and that of a certain football chairman.

If the SFA has helped Dave King commit a crime here – either by accident or design – then not only should heads roll but people should be indicted alongside him as co-conspirators or accessories after the fact.

I can’t put it more bluntly.

This policy of “look the other way” when it comes to Ibrox has been disastrous for the club and for Scottish football but we’re on a whole new playing field if a scenario like the one I just proposed ever comes to pass and the authorities find out about it.

People will say this is a crazy suggestion, and at any other association it would be.

As those who’ve been following the Resolution 12 situation though, we know what these folk are capable of.

The SFA knew what Whyte was planning months before he pulled the plug, allowing Rangers to trade whilst insolvent and continuing to run up debts it had no intention of paying.

They allowed the assets of the liquidation to be bought by a company which wasn’t named on the original sales documents, and they gave that company a license.

They allowed Green to sell shares when it was apparent to many they might not be his to sell and they stood back whilst his board of directors investigated itself over links to Craig Whyte, links which had a direct bearing on that share issue.

I have long contended that this might have made them party to a fraud.

Does it still sound unlikely to you?

Americans have a law that I sometimes think would work very well over here; they call it RICO. The Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organisation Act, which seeks to destroy entire groups involved in what the FBI refers to as a “continuing criminal conspiracy.”

Regan, Doncaster and others have gone out of their way to help first Rangers and then the NewCo avoid the scrutiny every other club would get, and through all of it their only defence is to accuse those of us who question it of bias and being motivated by hate.

What’s the line from The Godfather?

“It’s business, not personal.”

This wouldn’t be a shock if it turned out to be true, and people at Hampden who should have known better either averted their eyes or simply pretended it wasn’t happening at all. For people who understand the words “continuing criminal conspiracy” better than most, having assisted Craig Whyte in one, this wouldn’t be personal.

It would just be business as usual.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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Sevco Statements & Charlie Cheswick’s Cigarettes

7110692_origImagine a world where the loudest guy in the room always got his way. Imagine a world where logic, rationality, civilised debate and basic human decency played second place, always, to those who could make the biggest nuisance of themselves.

Do you know what a world like that would look like? I think it would look a little bit like Scotland and a lot like Scottish football. I blame many people for that, but I blame the media most of all.

I can already hear Jackson and Keevins and English and others decry that statement, saying that it’s not fair. I care about their poor hurt feelings like I care how a rabid dog feels in the moment it’s being put down. If it stings a little, too damned bad.

Last night, as everyone who follows Scottish football will be aware, Sevco’s official press office released one of the most astonishing and irrational statements ever put out by a major organisation in this country. Vindictive, spiteful, illogical, hateful, bitter, almost rabid itself, this dragged the club into the dark ages, pandering to their worst elements.

Imagine Celtic behaved like this? Imagine our board has released such an inflammatory communique?

Do you remember when we actually made the first efforts at tackling sectarianism? Before Rangers did the same? Our board was criticised just for the name, with one hack suggesting Bhoys Against Bigotry was a bad choice because of the “provocative H.”

Celtic would have been crucified for something as deranged as this.

A major Scottish organisation, one which calls itself an institution, excused the deplorable behaviour of its own followers. It suggested that the rest of Scotland’s football followers are as mad and demented as they are. It elevated paranoia to staggering heights.

It made a mockery of the very idea that those running things there care a jot for the greater good of the sport. If one positive came out of it, and I am clutching at straws here because a statement like that has profound consequences for society, it’s that Stewart Robertson will never be elected to the SFA board whilst others at Ibrox are literally foaming at the mouth.

They will say that proves no-one likes them, but in fact it’ll be for the same reason no-one wants to sit beside the guy on the bus who stinks of old booze and mutters profanities to himself under his breath. Getting too close to madness makes you feel unclean, as if it’s catching, as if it’s infective and you’ll come away from the experience with the bug.

Such was the content of their statement even I expected the Scottish media to hammer them for it today. I should have known better.

I guess my old man’s cynicism was justified. He told me the second the statement was read to him that the media would either ignore it or endorse whole chunks of it. They did both, deciding not to confront the parts that just contained lies whilst making headlines out of the parts that were simply unhinged. It didn’t matter that it specifically targeted some of them, named individuals right out of Jim Traynor’s Wee Black Book Of Guys Who Stole My Parking Place. After all, this was like a crazy woman throwing her shit. It just went everywhere.

The media never rallies around its own and most of them don’t deserve it anyway, as prone as some are to throwing their own colleagues under the bus when it suits.

I know Stuart Cosgrove won’t tolerate this guff and won’t bend. The others? Gutless to a man, with Tom English already furiously backtracking on his balanced comments of earlier when he spread the blame beyond just Hibs fans.

Jackson and the brand of decorative bog roll for which he works went even further, and put outright lies on the front page, lies which were proven to be that within minutes of the first tweet when Kenny Miller’s own wife publicly scotched them.

The claim that not a single Sevco player made it up the tunnel unhurt was a base lie disproved simply by watching the footage. He claimed he got it from a “dressing room source.”

Either his dressing room source is a liar (and the media is not supposed to protect sources who do that, are they?) or Jackson himself is making it up as he goes along; either way, that the story was ever run without the most basic fact checking tells you everything you’ll ever need to know about him and the rag he’s employed by.

It is unconscionable that a national newspaper behaves like this, giving credence and credibility not only to lies but to dangerous lies.

Our media is filled to the rafters with people who commit fraud every time they collect their wages under the auspices of journalism. I object to that, as someone who wants to live in an informed country where facts are important.

But last night, more than I ever have before, I got honestly angry at their conduct, because it went beyond bending facts till the elastic snapped, or pandering in exchange for an easy life. They gave license to lunatics. They endorsed lies that could get someone killed. We’re all supposed to be angry about that. Because that’s important.

That’s too much. This is where we ought to draw the line.

In not offering blanket criticism to that statement last night the media is helping to fuel the Victim Myth which, this weekend, has scaled dangerous heights. Sevco’s statement excused and justified the violent behaviour of its own supporters and no right thinking person in Scotland should be anything but appalled and sickened by that and in doing this they’ve given not simply a nod and wink to the nutcase element of their own support – which needs no encouragement – but they’ve raised a flag for going on the offensive.

Mark my words, this will end up with people hurt, perhaps even dead.

I am going to blame the Sevco board and Keith Jackson and Tom English and others if that happens, every bit as much as I’m going to blame the psychopath holding the knife or the blade or the bludgeon.

The people who gave the go-ahead for that statement, the institutionally hysterical idiot who wrote it and the hacks whose newspapers covered it without wholeheartedly condemning it will have blood on their hands; it’s as simple as that.

About the club itself I’ve said about as much as I intend to say, except that when someone on CQN last night suggested that the article bore all the hallmarks of Chris Graham I wrote, without thinking on it, that it bore all the hallmarks of Charlie Cheswick.

It was only when I took some time to think about it properly that I realised just how apt the analogy actually is.

I had already written, yesterday, that whereas they used to sing “no-one likes us we don’t care” they now wail and whine and wallow in self pity over the same.

But dig a little deeper and you find the reason why.

They were taken apart at times on Saturday.

They are grossly unprepared for life in the SPL, and they actually realise this.

Celtic’s appointment of Brendan Rodgers only makes that more acute. In fact, if you’re looking for a real trigger for the way their fans behaved as the Hibs supporters entered the field, you’re probably going to have to go back a day.

It was the Rodgers appointment that tipped them over the edge. The idea that Celtic was mired in crisis was their fondest wish. The way that was erased in a single announcement clearly drove them past the point of rationality.

But it’s more than that.

Their anger and their outpouring of victimhood is actually self-loathing because what gets to them most isn’t that no-one likes them, it’s that no-one fears them anymore. No-one would pay them any mind but for their constant displays of irrational behaviour.

Celtic has had bad days. When Rangers was winning nine in a row we didn’t have the proverbial pot to pee in or a window to throw it out. Under the Kelly’s and the White’s we were skint and the suffering seemed it would never end. Parkhead had a funereal atmosphere for some games. At others, do you remember what our response to adveristy was?

We sang “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.”

Our fans weren’t sitting in grubby backstreet boozers poring over “enemies lists” and fantasising about a great dark conspiracy that was holding us back from being all we could be. All that kept us from that was a weak, incompetent board without a business plan. Fergus sorted the place out in under five years, and the good times were rolling again.

Celtic fans, for all we were accused of paranoia, never embraced it the way these people have. We never wore the coat and knitted the sweater to go with it. These people are in a class of their own, and the Victim Myth hangs over Scottish football like a noxious fume.

And they call Celtic fans “obsessed” for pointing this out, and their lack of self awareness has blossomed to the point where they actually believe this, where they do believe that scrutiny is a form of jealousy.

I’ve repeatedly said this, but it bears saying once more; people are always mesmerised by the freak show, by the sight of a drunk guy who’s shit his pants and doesn’t even know it. People slow down to look at car wrecks. The two headed cat is too fascinating to look away from, no matter how it makes your skin crawl and your mind throb.

Charlie Cheswick, from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, played in the movie by the late, great, Sydney Lassick, has a complete emotional breakdown at a group discussion when he brings up the rationing of his cigarettes, which the institution has imposed because he and the other inmates were losing them all to Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy.

He asks for his back, and he starts out pretty calm, even keeping it civil, but before long his request has become a demand, his demand has become a tirade and his tirade has become a full-on screaming fit at the peak of which he’s shrieking over and over again “I want something done! I want something done! I want something done!”

At the heart of his frustration and his madness is his sub-zero self-image and his complete lack of emotional growth or self-restraint flows from that. In that moment, what tips him over the edge is the knowledge that he’s powerless, unable to get what he wants. His screaming tantrum is that of a five year old child who can’t bend the will of a parent, and so erupts in frustration.

A better-rounded individual would have kept calm, confronting the Big Nurse with the reality of her own psychological tic, which is the need, always, to seem in control but he can’t grasp that concept and even if he could he’s not hard-wired to keep cool and thus retain the high ground.

At Sevco all they had to do was act with some dignity and class.

They had the moral high ground, or a big part of it anyway and had they condemned the behaviour of their own fans, had they behaved semi-rationally, had they treated the rest of the game with respect instead of taking a great big piss on all of it last night, they might even have kept some of it.

Instead they started shrieking, and they did it because they feel powerless and alone and stripped of the pomp and swagger they once had. Their own insanity is based on arrogance and this notion that they are superior. The overwhelming tone of that lunatic screed was entitlement. A sense that the world owed them more than they’d got.

They’ve still not even bothered to offer their congratulations to Hibs.

I ask again; imagine that Celtic had acted this way? You suspect the press coverage would have been very, very different.

What a disreputable shower they are.

And that’s what people will remember.

What they don’t seem to realise is that this diminishes them every bit as much as the skelping the Hibs players gave them during the 90 minutes of football. It reduces them further in the eyes of every normal person, and whilst the media might have collectively shit its pants over this the people running the other clubs have had an almighty wake up call, especially with elections coming.

They now know that the team playing out of Ibrox is run by crazy people, by a board that in the cold half-light of the dawning season has the look of twitching, bug-eyed, shaven headed ghouls in a 16th century tavern, men who’ve been out robbing graves all night.

No-one wants to sit next to men who look like that.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The SFA Is Terrified Of A Shareholders Judicial Review

JS77064508The French dramatist Jean Racine said “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.”

Benjamin Franklin lamented the difficulty in hiding things when he said “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

They both knew, as so many others do, that nothing stays hidden forever; people talk, things get discovered or those previously put aside come into view again as new information shines light on dark corners left and forgotten.

Today there was a bizarre little moment in the court battle between Mike Ashley and the SFA, over Dave King, where the association’s lawyer asked a completely unrelated question about whether Celtic fans could sue them “if King is a success”. During the case itself, Ashley and his people backed away from holding the SFA to account, but that question reveals something interesting about the thinking at Hampden at the present time.

Call it a Freudian slip.

These people are positively petrified by what football fans might uncover should they decide to push for their own judicial reviews into SFA procedures.

And you know what? They should be.

Resolution 12 looms large in the thinking here, but so does the debate over title stripping in the event that the Supreme Court rules in favour of HMRC over the Big Tax Case. These are hot-button issues for our fans, and the anger runs so deep on both that there’s little prospect of the SFA wishing these matters away. Even Celtic itself has no recourse to stop individual shareholders in certain actions if they chose to try.

Let me clarify something for you.

In terms of Resolution 12, what fans want more than anything else is to see justice done through the football structures. This is why the objective was always to have this matter analysed properly at UEFA. The SFA is never going to come around to admitting mistakes or culpability; this was always about getting an independent football body to look at the evidence and examine it in full, without us worrying that it would lead to a biased conclusion.

Going through the SFA and the proper procedures was vital, and still is, for getting a footballing solution. Celtic are the ones who need to raise this matter at UEFA, or with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. There’s no way for the fans to raise this independently through those bodies.

There are also certain legal actions which would have to go through the club.

But shareholders have rights, and they’ve always been able to pursue those rights through the legal system, even if the club itself is not fully on-board. One of the vehicles for doing this is a judicial review, but it’s not the only one.

Celtic shareholders never pursued this option, because the football route was the preferred one for getting to the bottom of this morass.

But should that route prove fruitless, whether because the SFA or Celtic or whoever put up a roadblock to it, those other paths can be taken instead.

It must be said that this does not harm Celtic in any way.

UEFA and FIFA regulations are very specific about how the clubs must do things in relation to the law. They must go through the governing bodies themselves, with CAS as a last resort. They cannot pursue legal channels out-with that, because UEFA and FIFA do not allow legal interference in the running of the game. Draconian punishments can handed down for doing so, including banning teams from Europe and stopping the national team from taking part in competition football.

These regulations do not cover individual actions by shareholders.

This matters in football because the SFA is not, as Regan and others appear to believe, an organisation which does what it likes and is accountable to no-one.

The Scottish Football Association is not a private members club; it’s a public authority, as has been demonstrated time and time again in the law. It gets part of its funding from the tax payer. It is responsible for licensing. It is answerable to government agencies in relation to some of its activities. It has to comply with Freedom of Information requests.

Regan simply cannot pull down the shutters here, much as he’d like to.

Now, a judicial review won’t accomplish all our goals. What it does is forces a public body to declare the means by which it arrived at a decision. There are misconceptions about that, and I want to set them straight. A judicial review would compel the SFA to lay out the evidence that it followed the rules and that it did everything it was obliged to do.

Frankly, they’ll have a job there because as I pointed out in last night’s piece on Resolution 12, over on the CelticBlog, they’ve either ignored evidence, hidden evidence or were very selective on the questions they asked, knowing the kind of answers they’d get.

Procedures were followed up to a point. Beyond that, they either knew enough not to want to know more or they simply ignored what was in front of them and granted the license anyway.

The process would be laid out there.

We’d know what information they asked for, and received.

We’d know what they didn’t bother with or ignored completely.

Based on what was put in the public domain, I have no doubt UEFA would find itself involved.

The SFA has been at it so long they are terrified of outside scrutiny.

Look at how they handled the allegations that Charles Green was involved with Craig Whyte. If the Rangers First guys want to do something that rocks the boat a wee bit they should ask for their own judicial review into that particular matter; no-one will convince me the SFA did due diligence on that, it’s frankly incredible anyone could be expected to believe it.

Pinsent Mason’s report came back to say “no evidence” had been found in that case; sterling work, with a company hiring a firm to investigate itself. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Yet there was enough of a link for the Crown Prosecution Service, who’ve levelled criminal charges on the back of it.

How was Sevco allowed to stay in the hands of a guy like Green long enough to have caused the chaos we know he did? A lot of their fans were asking that very question, but they were asking the wrong people.

A lot of the Celtic bloggers said it right from the start; ask the SFA.

They had a legal responsibility to that club’s shareholders, and to the rest of the game, to get to the bottom of issues like that, and they never bothered their arses.

Celtic shareholders have been similarly disenfranchised, over stuff such as Resolution 12 and title stripping. Their own legal protections have been nullified by the SFA’s lack of oversight and their criminal contempt for shareholders rights, espoused beautifully in today’s question to the judge, in Regan’s “I’d do nothing” reply when asked if he would act if irrefutable evidence was presented to him proving the Resolution 12 case in full, and most clearly in the letter some of the Resolution 12 requisitioners received recently in which he stated his view that the governing body is neither answerable to Celtic shareholders or those of any other club.

Such contempt has earned its day in court, as far as I’m concerned, and it makes Ashley’s decision not to proceed both baffling and infuriating. Is he what King says he is? A bully, a braggart but ultimately a gutless coward?

Where the billionaire feared to go, Scottish football fans make yet tread and Celtic aren’t the only club with lots of shareholders or the only club whose fans feel positively screwed over by the arrogant idiots at Hampden.

Anyone who doubts fans will put their money where their mouths are need to think again. Scottish football fans must be amongst the best in the world when it comes to holding people to account, and doing so with their hard earned cash.

Celtic fans have already paid for a full page newspaper ad tackling the Survival Myth. Websites like this one couldn’t survive without donations. James Doleman’s court expenses were covered by Scottish football supporters who wanted to get to the truth. There’s an appetite out there for a crowdfunded legal challenge, and I think a lot of lawyers who would love to take on our case for a very reasonable fee. The mood for one is growing, and at long last the supporters realise that it might well be the only way we get some answers.

Shareholders hold all the cards here.

There are enough of them, from various clubs, including the Ibrox ones, who feel the SFA’s lax regulations and contempt for their own rules has had adverse consequences, including for share prices and dividends, and that’s the key factor.

All a judge requires to consider a judicial review is evidence that procedural failings at a public body may have resulted in a loss to shareholders. That’s clear enough and easy to demonstrate in cases where you’re talking about huge sums of money or falling share prices.

When the SFA’s lawyer contemptuously raised the spectre of fans taking legal action against the association for failing in its basic requirements as a public body, he was expressing a very real, very reasonable, fear which exists in that organisation.

They know there are bodies buried out there, and they know a lot of people are very busy with their shovels. It’s a matter of time before these things are uncovered, and the only questions that remain are about how that’ll be achieved and what comes afterwards.

The novelist Margaret Attwood once said “The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

That approach might have worked once at the SFA but they no longer feel they to need to pretend with us. They’re very open about their propensity for hiding and covering things up, otherwise they wouldn’t expend such energy in telling us such things were none of our business, and that we have no right to know about them.

It was James Joyce who called secrets “tyrants waiting to be dethroned.”

The SFA knows it can’t keep the lid on this forever, but it continues to try.

When the dethroning comes here, they’re only going to have themselves to blame.

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Sevco: Survival Of The Unfittest

Wolf_chasing_rabbitA few days ago, during the Steam Christmas Sale, I bought a brand new game for the PC. It cost me £7, and rarely have I gotten such satisfaction from spending so little.

It’s a quirky wee title, called The Long Dark, which is a reference to the inevitable moment when the game kills you.

It always does. The game is a survival simulator, with the single objective to last as long as you can. My record thus far is four days.

Last time I died I was sitting in an ice fishing hut on a frozen lake, during a blizzard. I had nothing to light a fire with, and no way of getting the quarter mile or so back to my camp because I’d been attacked by a wolf and he was still out there somewhere.

The game is full of “safe places” where you can hide out from the weather. There ought not to be any need, ever, for me to have slipped into the Long Dark in that tiny hut. The reason I was there was simple enough; I needed to fish because I had no food left and even with the wolf attack, I would have been fine had I been able to get a heat.

What this game does is brings survival down to a few key things. It becomes a constant struggle for resources; for the stuff to feed you, for stuff to burn, for the medicines that will knock down a wolf-bite infection and keep you alive a little longer.

It has a certain savage beauty to it.  I really do love it, and although it’s only in Alpha, and not yet complete, the designers have made something that is astoundingly simple to get to grips with yet amazingly complex at the same time and even in its current state it plays like a full title. Seriously, if you like games I’d recommend it to you all.

I was delighted that in this game I found my theme for what, aside from the weekend’s dire Celtic performance and the need to address issues at my own club before I wrote a single word about the one across the city, would have been my first major article of the year.

It’s been clear to many of us for a while now that Sevco was in serious danger of slipping into The Long Dark, and the Festive Period was remarkable for the way in which the news of their latest series of loans was spun, as somehow something positive.

In the game, you, the wildlife and every item you can discover is generated randomly at the beginning, and scattered across the various locations on the map. You never know where you’re going to wind up at the start or what you’ll find in each place you explore, but as a rule of thumb you’ll always find stuff in any dwelling you stumble across.

It’s possible, therefore, to get by the first couple of days in-game simply by travelling from place to place if you’ve got a good idea where to head. But that doesn’t last, because before long you’ve found every soda can and every chocolate bar there is left to find (unless you stumble upon the fabled bunker, which I haven’t yet, and who’s location is also randomly generated) and the struggle against the elements and the wolves starts for real.

But yeah, for a few days at least that “plan” can get you by …

And that’s exactly where Sevco is right now; like the protagonist of The Long Dark, moving from place to place, scrounging whatever meagre sustenance he can find, not with long term goals or ideas – and those are possible in the game, when you’ve taught yourself how to trap wildlife, how to make rudimentary weapons and to use snow for drinking water – but simply to survive in the short term. To get through the next few desperate days.

I’ve said this before, but in light of yesterday’s piece I figured I better say it again; in spite of my concerns that “the strategy” at Celtic Park is taking us backwards, it doesn’t threaten our survival in the short to medium term. Long term, it’ll need to change if the club is to maintain season ticket sales, but that’s for down the road.

The truth is, we can downsize some yet to keep up with falling crowds and I get the impression a lot of our fans wouldn’t care as long as they had Celtic Park to go to every week; that’s up to them, and I’m not about to criticise them for loving their team, although I honestly wish they would extend myself and other fans the same basic courtesy.

But even as a critic, I have to admit that our strategy is cautious, pragmatic, risk-averse and it’s intellectually consistent and with a coherence that’s hard to deny. No wonder it still looks like the smart way to go for a lot of our supporters.

We’re looking ahead further than just a day or two at a time.

Sevco has no long term plan, just short-term loans. There’s no real sense that they are moving in the right direction; they’re simply staying alive, living one day at a time, a hand to mouth existence that will work just so long as the next cabin on the lake has enough tomato soup cans in it to alleviate that particular worry for a little bit longer.

As Chuck Palahniuk says, in Fight Club (the quote appears as one of the loading screens in the game, which I was delighted with) “Sooner or later, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero …” That’s a universal truth, but external forces can rapidly speed up the process.

I can’t understand the general outpouring of relief, and even some delight, in the press over this news. The phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul” comes to mind and that’s to say nothing about the “dodgy geezers” they borrowed the money from in the first place. I don’t even want to speculate on how wide and deep their version of that goes.

My first reaction to hearing that story was to burst out laughing. I thought it was a joke, and in part I suppose that’s what it is. Because only in the environs of a screwball comedy could you come up with a scenario, and a football club, like this.

As straight fiction it would be too unbelievable.

But then this is reality.

Reality at the club calling itself Rangers.

If you believe the media right now, everything that’s happened over there in the last few months has been washed away in a couple of days. Ashley and his people have their money (and they still have their merchandising deal, but let’s not mention that eah?), they have what they need to keep the lights on a wee bit longer and they are winning on the park.

I watched the Hibs game. I thought Alan Stubbs’ team defended dreadfully and were the architects of their own destruction throughout. I was also amused to note the euphoria that surrounded their win at the weekend; Falkirk had a similar result, at the same ground, earlier in the season and not one single newspaper gushed over it the way they have here.

The mood of self-congratulation over there is hilarious to the outsider, and not a little bit bizarre to behold. Don’t get me wrong; survival itself is not to be knocked, and I would never give them stick for it. It’s more than the club that came before them managed, after all.

But the manner of their survival, being celebrated like it’s some kind of major victory, that suddenly wild mushrooms grow on every tree, that the cupboards are full and all the wolves have been turned into bunny rabbits … maybe I’m just not seeing what they are.

Just because trouble isn’t visibly mounting all around them it doesn’t mean that it’s not there. Financial trouble and debt at a football club is like a dead body hidden in the basement; sooner or later it starts to stink the place up and before long someone’s going to come looking for it. Eventually it has to be dealt with. As Phil is fond of reminding people; this is a loss making company with no credit line from a bank.

These loans have to be paid back, and on top of that there’s the next big demand on funding, which will come during the summer if not much sooner.

At the moment Sevco are sitting pretty in the Trappers Lodge (apt, right?) with a good supply of antibiotics, a little deer meat and enough bottled water to see them through a few stormy nights. That’s a good result, as results go in the survival business.

But it all runs out. It always runs out. And then regardless of what the weather outside looks like, they’re going to have to pull on the heavy boots and get moving, back to the hand-to-mouth stuff, the act of desperate scrambling, just to stay alive.

Sooner or later the survival rate for all indebted football clubs drops to zero.

When Sevco finally runs out of resources – and time is the most precious resource of all – their fall into The Long Dark will be unlike anything we’ve seen in Scottish football before. I can’t conceive of circumstances where a third version of Rangers emerges.

In the game itself, there’s one last outstanding feature which I have to mention, and it has the players debating endlessly, with most (myself included) in favour of it because it ups the stakes massively.

It’s called perma-death.

When you succumb everything goes; even your save game is deleted, forever.

As in real life, there’s no second chances or “retention of history.”

All your achievements are wiped away.

All you’ve accumulated, everything you’ve done … it’s gone in heartbeat.

Realistic, or what?

And we know who it reminds us of, right?

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The Ingratitude Of Sevconians

JS56340180Today saw another court battle between Mike Ashley’s people and those of Dodgy Dave King.

It wasn’t as explosive as yesterday’s, but it was instructive nonetheless.

The headline story from it will be that Sevco hasn’t actually paid back the £5 million Sports Direct loan, as their legal counsel claimed in court yesterday; in fact, according to them, they’re still trying to get the money together to do so.

They’re £500,000 short … what Ashley would regard as petty cash.

I laughed reading that, partly at my own naivety in so readily accepting that claim yesterday. This was, after all, made at the same hearing where King claimed to have amnesia on so many issues I would not have been surprised if he’d momentarily forgotten his own name.

But all that is to digress. The reason for this piece is the dollops of abuse being heaped on the freelance journalist James Doleman, who’s covering the story from the courtroom, and tweeting back to all those who’re interested.

And for that, he’s being singled out. He’s being labelled a hater.

He’s also being called out for the crowd-funding campaign he ran in order to cover his expenses. I’m going to talk about that briefly for a minute before I go on, and I hope you’ll bear with me.

It may shock some of these people to realise this, but what James Doleman does, what I do, what Paul67 does, what Phil does, it’s time consuming and it’s difficult. This is my day job; it’s not a hobby that I spend an occasional five minutes on.

Yesterday, I wrote and published four different blogs, an article for a magazine, a third of a chapter of a novel and started re-designing a digital magazine. This is a full-time gig, and James is the same, a freelance journalist and blogger of some repute.

Neither he nor myself, or any of the other bloggers with Donate buttons on their sites, is asking for charity. If people like what we do they can support it, or not.

The notion that this is rattling the tin cup is ludicrous, and I don’t feel any sense of embarrassment about it.

I know what rattling the tin cup looks like.

It’s a football club that claims its finances are the “envy of world football” asking its own fans if they can carry out maintenance work at the stadium to save the club money, and the attendant consequences when bits of the roof are falling off.

It’s King going to his own directors for soft loans to keep on the lights.

It’s the club going cap in hand to the supporter’s own “Fighting Fund” singing a chorus of “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

It’s organising a football match for charity, then sloughing off part of the proceeds to pay the bills and feeling no sense of shame at all about it.

I’m surprised they don’t recognise it themselves.

So yes, James asked for help meeting his costs, and I’ve done the same and my own work depends on the steady trickle of support I get from good people who like what I do. So we have Donate buttons and fund raising appeals … and every penny is declared to HMRC.

But let’s be clear; we’re not putting up paywalls and asking for subscription fees. There are a few sites which have online shops, but none of us is making a living selling, for example, unbranded tat ostensibly in an effort to screw a major retailer.

James is a big boy, and he’s batted back easily enough at those who’ve labelled him as some kind of scrounger. It’s those who’ve tried to label him a hater that I want to talk about.

This guy has been working as a freelance court reporter for years. I’ve been following his stuff for a while. His blog is interesting and engaging and he knows what he’s talking about. He covers any matter he thinks there’s a public interest in, and say what you like about Sevco but it’s a circus that never ends and is the subject of much attention inside and outside Scotland.

James is probably not used to the abuse he’s had in the last week, not like some of us are, but the Goon Squad now have him firmly in their sights and I fear he’ll have to tolerate it a while.

An example of the garbage he’s had to put up with:

One tweet called him a “bead rattler”. James threatened to block the guy.

And what response did he get for that?

More abuse, and the guy calling him a bigot.

How do you even begin to respond to that?

Where do you start?

You’re not dealing with ordinary, well-formed individuals here; you’re conversing with the institutionally stupid, people so dense light bends around them.

Their favourite refrain, of course, is to say we’re “obsessed.” James got that one thrown at him more than a few times in the last week. Today he posted a link to his blog to demonstrate the extent of this “obsession” … and I’m sure you can guess what it reveals.

I know why they use that word so frequently, and I’ve blogged on it several times in the past; this is their self-image talking, this idea that the reason they’re still “current” is that they’re a massive football club with wealth and power, and not an impoverished wreck still floundering in the lower leagues. They’re missing the big picture, because all they see is their own narrow view.

And in the big picture they’re nowhere.

All this attention we’re paying to events there isn’t even wholly about them; the larger issue is the governance of Scottish football. The Ibrox freak show is amusement for some, schadenfreude for others and simply banter for more. But to those of us who take the game seriously, and care about it, events at Ibrox are a microcosm of a wider problem; the cancer eating away at our national sport, rotting it from within.

But there’s more. Their attitude stinks not just because it’s the product of unbelievable – and grossly misplaced – arrogance, but because it’s fundamentally unappreciative.

At the helm of their club is a notorious liar, a man who has no qualms about gilding the lily whenever he pleases, a man a judge in his homeland says will alter his narrative to suit whatever audience he’s in front of at any given time.

Yesterday he sat in a courtroom and feigned amnesia for most of the proceeding. Then, in violation of a judge’s orders, he went outside and told a subservient media that he had won some great victory, when, in fact, he had simply avoided jail.

To me, that seems like it ought to be an occasion for relief.

For this guy it’s business as usual, and that ought to trouble these people more than it does.

The media, which today proclaimed his great win, are not going to dig deep into what’s really going on at their club.

They never have before.

Theirs is now a cut-and-paste profession; every major story they’ve “broken” in the last five years was on the forums and blogs first.

They contributed nothing to the cause of “saving Rangers” and their habit of jumping into bed with anyone who claims to want to “invest” and give a manager a “war chest” long ago ceased to be embarrassing and has been a major factor in creating the circumstances that let men like Whyte and Green in there.

King is no better than those men, and I would have thought Sevco fans would have had a great deal of interest in those proceedings yesterdays and those still to come.

But their intolerance keeps getting in the way of their common sense. James Doleman now joins the ranks of “the enemy” when all he, and others, have done is try to keep them informed about events surrounding something they claim to love.

Yes, but he’s just “an obsessed Tim with an agenda.”

If more of them had given a damn, if more of them had focussed their own meagre intellects on events at Ibrox they might not be in such a godawful state.

And they know it. And they hate it.

And that’s why they’re so pissed off all the time.

Nevertheless, their behaviour and ingratitude is shameful.

It says a lot about who they are.

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King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime

The-Wicker-ManThere’s a fine moment in the great British horror movie The Wicker Man when the main character is being admonished for his naivety.

In the scene he’s wearing a garish costume (as are most of the others in the iconic moment), that of a familiar comic character.

“You are the fool, Mr. Howie,” he’s told. “Punch, one of the great fool-victims of history, for you have accepted the role of king for a day, and who but a fool would do that?”

Who indeed? Three guesses.

Today, Dave King walked out of a court-room in London after Sports Direct’s efforts to have him thrown in jail for breaching a gagging order were thrown out by the judge, who was pretty scathing about the failures of their lawyers to make a coherent case as to why he should be. Instead of retiring to a five star hotel room to count his lucky stars, he grabbed the first journalist he saw and gave us all a virtuoso display of hubris.

First he claimed he’d been vindicated completely, which he hadn’t. Then he moved forward with his usual reserve and decorum, by insulting Mike Ashley and saying how the hearing had “humiliated” him. Tactful, respectful and dignified it was not.

It was, in short, exactly what one would have expected from this embarrassment of a man, a guy who deflected his way through the hearing by referencing his notoriously short memory, including, in one fantastic moment of theatre, claiming that he hadn’t realised he had his “Rangers hat on” when talking about his club’s financial relationship with the distributor, in an interview where he talked transfer funds, the manager, the direction of Sevco and a possible share issue.

He also submitted an affidavit in which he claimed he wasn’t aware of the precise nature of the gagging order itself!

Had he been on the stand at the time, one can only wonder how that would have gone down with the judge.

In the meantime, The Daily Record was putting a “magic hat” on King’s lawyer, although he was barely heard during the proceedings, with the judge dismissing the central plank of the case without hearing detailed testimony from him.

For their ridiculous display of sycophancy, in which they anointed King like a triumphant warlord, the judge admonished them saying they got “nil points for accuracy of reporting.”

He also advised King, strongly, not to talk to the press, perhaps not realising the South African had already held court, and reminded him that he had not been “acquitted” just because he wasn’t being sent to jail.

Sevco fan sites, and the Twitterati, erupted with joy at this news, perhaps not realising that this matter is far from over. It was, in fact, merely a skirmish before the real fun starts early next year, with the legal cases starting to pile up.

This wasn’t a good day for their club or its chairman. In fact, he might well have talked his way into trouble far deeper than Sports Direct were able to conjure up in this case.

This was also a bad day for the SFA.

I said in the article Dark Places & Alien Space Bats that this would be the very worst verdict for them, and I stand by that. Had he been severely sanctioned today – and not even sent to prison, simply raked over the coals – they could have acted, revoked his “fit and proper person” status and hoped it would satisfy Ashley and make him drop his coming case.

This leaves him in place, more arrogant than ever, and with his statements today in front of the media it will have angered Ashley to the point where reasoning with him will be a non-starter. The trouble coming Sevco’s way is only just beginning; today was a foretaste of it and nothing more.

The judge has made it clear there are other proceedings to be had, but they appear to be in relation to the Sports Direct injunction, which it seems the company is not for lifting.

That it will tie King and Sevco up in court for many more days and weeks is, perhaps, part of the plan. Certainly, His Honour was a little baffled as to what Sports Direct were up to when he saw the weakness of their case today, and it has to be said that lawyers as expensive as Ashley’s don’t often – if ever – drop the ball to this degree.

Something more is going on, but what it is remains a mystery although it might be instructive to consider that the estimated £200,000 Ashley laid out for this is a high price to pay for what, on paper, appeared to be a pretty weak line of attack, and I can only conclude that it’s but one angle from which he intends to come at the King regime.

If that’s the case, think for a moment on the kind of man who will spend that kind of cash for no other reason than to waste your time and fill up days in the calendar. Is that the kind of man you’d stand outside a court and insult in front of the TV cameras?

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a massive story detailing how a couple of their undercover reporters had gotten jobs in, and gone digging around, Shirebrook, the home of the Sports Direct operation, and what it uncovered was awful yet unsurprising.

The business practices of the company Ashley owns are appalling, and the existence of such a place is anathema to me as a socialist.

It infuriates me that so many of us should be looking to him to take the action our clubs should have, in trying to get to the bottom of the corrupt behaviour of the SFA, and I want, at all costs, to avoid seeming as if I’m lionising this guy or making him some sort of poster boy for the campaign to reform our game here in Scotland.

I would not want this man as an ally, in any fight, against any opponent, but I definitely would not want him as an enemy, and Dave King appears to be doing everything in his considerable power to make sure this battle goes on and on and on.

And who but a fool would do that?

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Sevco, Dark Places & Alien Space Bats

Dave-King-XXX-high-resWe in Scottish football who’ve been following the Sevco story have had one heck of a day already, as we head into what might prove to be a defining week.

First up was the news that the Sevco shareholders have voted against Resolution 10 at their AGM, which was their only visible means of raising money in the short term.

Devastating.

And yet I am less than devastated.

Adrian Durham, who this website slated earlier this year, has written another bizarre article today saying Celtic fans miss a club called Rangers.

Does it sound like we do?

I’d like nothing more than to see Hibs catch them, forcing them into another play-off, and then failure.

You’d think Durham would learn from the slagging he took last time, but in he goes again like a kid who’s been burned once but insists on sticking his hand in the flames again.

There’s just one word for that; idiocy.

He’s not alone, of course. In the Scottish media, just writing nonsense is considered a masterful performance, worthy of awards.

In The Telegraph Roddy Forsyth has written another of his own barmy pieces trying to equate what Rangers did with the numerous legal tax avoidance mechanisms which individuals and companies all across the world exploit.

This comes days after The Evening Times ran a headline suggesting that Sevco’s financial position was “the envy of world football.”

At the same time, Celtic are being spun as in crisis because of a couple of tweets from a malcontented player.

Uhuh.

From the ridiculous to the sublimely ludicrous.

These people live in a parallel universe, I swear to God they do. They believe in things that are so utterly out of step with reality you want to give them a good shake sometimes.

Someone asked me recently if I can see a way of forestalling another administration event at Ibrox.

Today this news about the share issue only reinforces what I’ve long believed; there’s only one possible solution to their ills.

Their fans enjoy alternative history; Hell, they practically live in one.

The Survival Myth, the Victim Myth, this notion of still being a huge club … it’s all unreal, all the stuff of Narnia, but they believe it.

See, part of the problem is the media that publishes this stuff. They’ve proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there’s still a market for “alternative history” fiction … and as most of their stuff appears to fall into this category they’ll understand me when I tell them what I think is the only thing that can save Sevco now.

It’s simple. Alien space bats.

For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a phrase used in the alternative history genre to describe a plot point or event that is so implausible it almost breaks the narrative structure, as in “Sevco needs five million to see them through the season … they won’t get the money but they can conquer the Earth instead by using alien space bats …”

In other words, it’s going to take something out of left field, something ridiculous, an Arab billionaire with King Billy tattooed on his backside maybe.

Or Dave King finding money under the mattress … you know, large sums of undeclared South African Rand.

Other than that, I think they’re done for.

The Three Bears can loan them all the money they can get out of their pockets in the meantime, but finally that will run out … and then it’s all over.

King is the problem, of course, as most people are all too aware. The Scottish FA might love him, the Scottish media might idolise him, but business people don’t trust him and don’t want to be seen to be involved with a man of his background and reputation.

As long as he’s there, that’s not going to change.

Before Breaking Bad took the title of Greatest Television Show Ever Made, my favourite was a cop show with a difference; Shawn Ryan’s The Shield.

There’s a moment in Season 6 that always makes me laugh and I’ve been thinking about that moment lately in the context of Scottish football, the SFA and Dodgy Dave King.

In the scene, Vic Mackey, the main character, a dirty cop par excellence, is investigating the murder of a society girl. His objective is twofold; to catch the killer and to steer the investigation away from any inconvenient fact that will harm the reputation of her family and particularly her father, a man of some prominence and position.

Vic’s former boss, and candidate for high office, David Aceveda, comes to see him to ask how the investigation is proceeding.

“It’s getting to a dark place,” Vic tells him.

“Meaning?” Aceveda asks.

Vic gives it to him straight; the victim turns out to have been a drug addicted prostitute who paid for her stuff with sexual acts too graphic to go into …

“Other than that,” Vic says, “she was Pippi Longstocking …”

And that’s what we’re dealing with here; a football association which has allowed a criminal convicted on over 40 tax evasion counts, to take over one of its clubs.

This guy is due in court over the next day or two, charged with breaching a high court injunction, and he’s already on a suspended sentence for contempt in the country he calls home.

He’s also a congenital liar, as esteemed law lords in that nation can attest and he has one hand in the pockets of his fellow directors and another in the hands of his club’s own fans … without ever having put one in his own.

Other than that, he’s a perfectly fit and proper person.

And Brutus too is an honourable man …

In the meantime, BDO has announced their intention to appeal the Big Tax decision, which has a lot of people banging drums and celebrating wildly, as well as pointing their fingers at the Internet Bampots as if this decision somehow means the central thrust of what we’ve been saying for the past few years was wrong.

So this saga still has a ways to run. Scottish football’s governors, who are frantically trading manoeuvring space for time, like Soviet soldiers during the Great Patriotic War, have themselves a little room to breathe. No decision on title stripping is imminent, unless the Supreme Court tells BDO to chase themselves, which it well might.

But this delay is a disaster for football governance here.

It’s put off a series of decisions that, sooner or later, absolutely have to be made if we’re going to move the game forward. I don’t believe for one second that the Supreme Court, even if it hears the case, will over-turn this verdict, and that simply means that these issues will be waiting to confront the sport at another time.

In the meantime, chaos reigns.

Later this week, Dave King will face Mike Ashley in court. One suspects yesterday’s appeal decision may well be the best news day Sevco will have for quite a while. The ground ahead looks rocky at best, and they can cling to nonsense stories like Warburton rejecting a possible move to Fulham all they like; this is a club running into big trouble.

The SFA is, sooner or later, going to have to account for why they’ve allowed a guy like King to get his hands on the club. I have a sneaking feeling they know that quite well and they’re getting themselves ready for doing what has to be done.

Want my view on it? I think King will have left the Ibrox boardroom by March.

This guy is now simply a millstone around people’s necks.

With him in charge, Ashley will continue trying to tie them in knots. He’s also got one eye on the SFA now, and they’ve got to be having collective heart failure at Hampden as a consequence of that. The man from Sports Direct knows neither the club nor the association has the cash to fight a series of battles with him in the courts.

King doesn’t even live in this country, so his presence around the club is negligible, and when he does touch down on these shores he has brought trouble with him, and he multiplies it every time he talks to the press. His ego is far bigger than his brain but not quite as big as his mouth.

The only reason to keep King around, at all, was the so-called financial muscle he had at his disposal, but that’s turned out to be a busted flush.

So, I ask you, with the walls closing in on all sides what is the merit in keeping him around, either for Sevco or the association? The SFA must now wish he’d never been granted “fit and proper person” status, and they might even view this week as an opportunity to get rid, and hope that it satisfies Ashley enough to make him go away.

The very worst outcome here, for them, would be for the courts this week to do little or nothing, to slap King on the wrist and tell him not to be a naughty boy. That would leave this thing in flux, and only give Ashley an incentive to drum up trouble elsewhere.

At the same time, it’s become increasingly hard to shake the notion that King himself would love to leave all this behind, that whatever motivated him to get involved has been replaced by the dread certainty that this is all too much for him, that he’s better off away.

I can think of no better scenario for him than for the SFA to change its mind now, and do what it ought to have done in the first place. He can walk away from that clean, blaming all around him, and keeping his “reputation” in the eyes of the dopier Sevco supporters.

Whatever his end game was it’s over now. All that’s left to decide is the manner in which he finally leaves Ibrox behind once and for all.

We live in interesting times.

As Vic Mackey might have said, we’re “getting to a dark place.”

For the SFA and the Ibrox operation, the need for some Alien Space Bats has never been more acute.

The next few weeks are going to be … busy.

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Friends Like These

Walter Smith has confirmed in a statement that he is leading a new bid to buy RangersWell it’s been a fun few days in the Celtic blogosphere.

Let’s take the return – the welcome return – of RTC to Twitter.

The information he’s putting out there is, as usual, amazing.

The documents which show that Walter Smith had an EBT are not at all surprising, but they offer an insight into the Real Rangers Men which should intrigue everyone.

I wrote an article for this site last year called The Enemies of Rangers?. I made it clear who I believed those enemies to be; the people who’ve lied to their supporters over and over again.

Since that article was written, the inconvenient truth about Ally McCoist has seeped into the public domain.

When he said “we don’t do walking away” some of us realised he was talking about sticking it out on a huge and unjustified salary, that he was actually saying he’d be hanging in there as long as the terms and conditions were to his liking.

We tried to point that out.

Sevco fans didn’t listen, but they can no longer be in denial about what McCoist was; a leech, a fat, well fed leech who had every incentive to stay when others went.

He’s never going to come close to those earnings again.

Indeed, my prediction, made back when Sevco was born in the lower leagues, that he would never again manage a team in top flight football, anywhere, looks more secure by the day.

He and his predecessor, Walter Smith himself, did as much as any two people apart from Murray to speed that club towards the inevitable graveyard. They behaved with a selfishness that was, and still is, absolutely appalling, and yet their role in the downfall of that club remains largely unscrutinised except on certain blogs and websites.

Back in 2012, Alex Thomson broke ranks on this issue to become the first mainstream journalist in the UK to actually question the role played by Smith in what happened to Rangers.

It was commonly known, at the time, that the then boss was one of the loudest voices at the club raised against the austerity package Lloyds’ point man, Donald Muir, was trying to implement.

I think, to this day, that would have saved them.

What happened instead was that Smith went on the radio and told the world the bank was running the club, and in doing so he got the supporters behind a vicious campaign against them.

The banners, protesting against Lloyds, began to turn up at the ground. Impromptu protests sprung up outside the headquarters and at local branches. The calls came for supporters to start closing their accounts en masse.

Instead of offering a rousing chorus in praise of the one man on the board who was trying to enforce fiscal sanity on the rest – and the rest included Paul Murray and Dave King, let’s not forget – instead they were united in singing Money’s Too Tight To Mention.

Stop for a moment and ponder that for a second, the sheer insanity of what these people were doing.

Smith had said the bank was running the club. What he meant effectively was that Rangers existed at their indulgence.

Think about the idiocy, the lunacy, that’s required to actually spit in the faces of the people who are keeping your lights on.

The banks were the best friends Rangers ever had.

The nine in a row years would not have happened without them.

The club got to 2012 precisely because the banks were letting them spend far more than they ought to have. Forget EBT’s. This club was financially doped for years beyond count, before Murray ever embarked on that scheme.

Now we know that Smith was a recipient of one of those “trust funds”, thanks to what’s now in the public domain.

Aside from his own huge salary, he, too was taking a wee bit extra.

He spent years telling the world how committed he was to the club. In point of fact, the money was right and that’s what mattered. In fact, we can see, clearly, that there was barely an individual connected with the Ibrox operation who wasn’t sucking the marrow off the bones.

How tough must it have been for players and executives when they realised the gravy train was about to come to a sudden stop?

We’ve all been saying for a while now that the worst enemies of the club were the people inside its own walls, and that’s still the case today.

Only this time, there’s a new man at the helm.

I don’t have to tell anyone how I feel about Dave King or his alleged plans for the club. Nothing he says or does stacks up, and in doing a similar thing to what Rangers did over Lloyds – picking a fight with the people keeping the lights on – he’s dragged the club into a legal and financial dogfight against a guy with the means to shut them down.

Today Sports Direct released a statement accusing King of “misleading the fans.”

We’ve been saying much the same thing since he rode into town, and I understand why the supporters don’t want to hear it. There is no messiah on the horizon for this club, no-one waiting in the wings if King’s revolution upends and he’s forced to admit what we all know.

They’ve picked this guy. This is the last throw of the dice before hard times.

Those hard times are coming whether he’s there or not, but the truth of that will come down like an anvil if Ashley hammers him in court this time next week. God help them then.

In the meantime, King, like Murray, and like Smith, has his wee favourites and he’s not shy about promoting them.

Unlike those guys, King doesn’t choose them based on any skills they might have.

His decision to promote Chris Graham to the board could only have come from someone rewarding sheer sycophancy, without a clue as to what that move represented. It blew up, spectacularly, when the “fan rep” had to resign within days.

Yesterday, he appointed John Brown as the club’s ambassador for a trip to Russia, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Moscow Dynamo tour of the UK at the end of the Second World War. I can think of few less credible people to be representing a football club in an official capacity, but this is Sevco, and there’s something almost beautiful about the decision.

This is the sneering, semi-literate halfwit who Hugh Keevins once famously said wouldn’t have green jelly at his table at a night out once. A complete muppet, a goon, right out of nutjob Central Casting.

The guy who once made headlines standing on a doorstep shouting about title deeds, in front of a howling mob, foaming at the mouth, will now be travelling to Russia wearing a club blazer and tie.

Ambassador John Brown.

Wow. Just wow.

Sevco fans don’t like me much.

That’s hardly a surprise.

But sometimes you need someone from the outside to tell you the truth a friend won’t.

When you consider who their idols are, and the way those people have behaved, they should be welcoming any advice that doesn’t come from the Real Rangers Men.

This is an absolute shambles.

That they don’t want to hear that is only one reason they’re heading down the tubes.

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Crisis At Sevco: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

Downfall-Der-Untergang-downfall-der-untergang-32193090-1920-1080On 16 January 1945, Adolf Hitler moved into the final home he would ever know, the Fuhrerbunker underneath the Reich Chancellery in Berlin.

Over the next few months, as his detachment from reality grew more acute, he and the members of the general staff felt the noose grow ever tighter round their necks as the Allies closed in from the West and the Soviets closed in from the East.

It was the Soviets who got there first, on 16 April.

The Battle of Berlin began.

A day later, Eva Braun threw a party in the chancellery itself, to celebrate the dictator’s 56th birthday. It was the last hurrah. During the festivities a Soviet shell landed yards from the building and blew out a wall.

The party ended, those who could escape did and the others settled down to await the end.

In the movie Downfall, which charts the final days of the regime, there is a discussion about whether Hitler himself should try to flee the city.

It is his senior adviser Albert Speer who speaks the words that will determine his fate; “You must be on stage when the curtain falls,” he says, and Hitler nods.

From that moment on, those who had wedded themselves to the dictator, who had pledged to stand by him to the last, had nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. Those who stayed knew the ultimate fate, and they accepted it with him.

Those who have chained themselves to the Dave King regime at Ibrox must feel like that, as if the walls are closing in around them today. It’s been a dreadful, a thoroughly appalling, last few days, from Friday’s bizarre late night press release to the hammer blows which have hit them, one after the other, in the last 24 hours.

Erase any thought that I feel bad for them.

These people deserve everything they get.

Sympathy isn’t exactly my default position when it comes to these folk; corrupt administrators, compromised journalists, braindead and ambitious fan reps. They’ve all conspired to put the club in the hands of a man a South African judge called “a glib and shameless liar” and they tied whatever was left of their reputations to his.

What a colossal error in judgement, one for which they will pay a high price before this matter is fully resolved.

This is a club on the brink of a catastrophe.

Let’s look at where things stand this morning.

Yesterday they published their accounts, and what a shambles they are.

The top-line figure of £7.4 million in losses would be dreadful enough, but that hides a multitude of sins. Without a series of loans, including the Sports Direct £5 million, the sale of a player and some other add-ons the actual figure would have been twice as high.

The club admits it doesn’t have the capital to get through the season, with the cash needed to do it supposedly coming from a proposed debt-for-equity swap that might not make it past the shareholders.

They are in hock to current directors at the moment, and rumours continue to circulate that these guys have had it.

Their other key lender is a guy they’ve pissed off so much he’s now taking legal action to have the chairman thrown in jail.

King himself has already been indicted and convicted for a tax fraud in South Africa, but before this he was on the board of the previous football club, which has just been found guilty of a massive, and long term, tax evasion scheme which in any other football association would have immediately opened an investigation leading to title stripping and historical disgrace.

As Andrew Smith has said, in an astonishingly blunt, and uncompromising, piece in The Scotsman this morning; “At the very least, the titles Rangers won in 2003, 2005, 2009 and 2010 should be declared void. These honours were won in the most dishonourable fashion.”

He’s correct. The Big Tax Case verdict is a moment that will haunt the club forevermore.

Their liquidation was all the more inevitable in the light of it, and Craig Whyte, the man the media and the Sevco fans love to blame, is shown to have been a spiv and a chancer, but also is absolved of the historic responsibility for their ultimate fate.

Rangers did not “die for nothing”, as some of their more ridiculous supporters reps have claimed.

They died because for too long they spent other people’s money, and finally yours and mine. When they were forced to pay their own way – and Whyte’s season was the first time in decades when they had to do that without European income – that fate was sealed.

At the same time, the manager has reversed himself on team building policy.

He’s seen his club crash out of one of the two main domestic cup competitions already and they just lost to their biggest challengers in the league.

On the football front, things aren’t bad.

They’re certainly not in crisis, but if they lose another match in the next few weeks the pressure on that end will begin to stack up.

The squad as it stands appears capable, but only in their current division.

Furthermore, with this club surrounded in uncertainty that is bound to take its toll.

There’s also the question as to whether the manager feels he’s going to get the backing he was promised.

He seemed genuinely excited a week ago when he talked about bringing in a better class of player. Just a few days later, he was no longer signing them and the statement that the club released later that night made it clear the money for them isn’t there unless it comes from more soft loans from the boardroom.

How long before he’s fed up with that?

This isn’t a guy with “Rangersitus” here. He’s a hardnosed professional, a guy who came from the financial markets. He believes he can build a reputation in football, and he will realise in the fullness of time what a car-crash Sevco actually is, if he isn’t already becoming aware of that.

Remember, this isn’t a guy King and the board can buy off with some cobblers about jam tomorrow.

He knows how to work with numbers. He knows you can’t build the kind of club he wants them to become without cold hard cash. He’s worked in the City, and he knows what it takes to go out and get financing. He knows about market credibility … and if he doesn’t already realise that Sevco has absolute none of that well, how the Hell did he make his money?

So there aren’t immediate problems in the dressing room, but those problems are on their way and you can see it for miles and miles.

If things get too difficult and Warburton believes his own reputation is being tarnished, this guy will walk and not look back.

All this is to say nothing of asset ownership issues, court cases mounting up, and persons connected to the club being under indictment.

Throughout all of what’s come before we’ve heard the usual bleating that none of this is the fault “of the club” itself, that the fans are victims, as if directors don’t make decisions on behalf of the institution that they’re running and those supporters didn’t have a chance.

This is a club where crisis is a permanent state of affairs, where one boardroom shyster is soon replaced by another and where all of them – without exception – are cheered in and jeered out later by a support which appears stone stupid and unable to learn from past mistakes.

They backed Whyte before they turned on him, even as we told them he was a charlatan of the very worst kind.

We exposed his lies even before he took over, and they didn’t listen and hailed him a hero.

They were still unbelieving right up to administration day itself.

They welcomed Green with open arms, buying not so much into his business plan (which had more holes in it than a Jerry Bruckheimer film) as his bombast when he talked about “Rangersitus” and how every other club hated them because of bigotry.

I ask you, if you were a dodgy geezer looking for people to fleece, could you do any better than tens of thousands who would reach into their wallets the moment you started talking about how they were special and the rest of the world was against them because of it?

That’s the easiest money the guy ever made in his life.

Now there’s Dave King, the “glib and shameless liar”, the man who a court condemned in the harshest language permissible without resorting to swearing.

This guy has reversed himself so many times since taking over it’s become impossible now to recognise the place where reality ends and the pipe dreams begin. Fact, fiction, even fantasy, have merged into one with this joker, and you get the impression watching him, reading him and listening to him that he simply says whatever comes into his head, or whatever he thinks the audience wants to hear, whatever its relationship to truth.

The media loves him, for reasons passing understanding as he is not evenly remotely credible.

His record in front of them is deplorable. He treats them like absolute mugs, clearly thinking of them as useful idiots without a shred of backbone at all. He has to, otherwise he wouldn’t so freely, and fearlessly, lie to their faces.

Even today, Keith Jackson has praised King for “openness” in how they’ll get through the season; loans from existing shareholders.

Those loans, according to Jackson, have already been agreed by the directors.

Is that true? I think he should check and make sure this isn’t just a case of King being economical with the facts again.

He’s bought, wholly, into the stated figure of £2.5 million being enough to get the club through the season too. I’m willing to bet that long before the current campaign ends we’ll be hearing that it isn’t quite enough, that it’s going to take the same again – at least – to actually complete their fixtures. And where’s that coming from?

He’s talking the usual nonsense about how the club can “untangle the finances” with a share issue, and goes on to call those of us who are predicting “imminent catastrophe” as indulging in “absurd wishful thinking.”

First, none of us said this is “imminent.”

That is to say that it won’t be tomorrow or the day after that.

They may even limp to the end of the season.

But there are long term structural problems at Ibrox that won’t be resolved as long as Dave King is at the helm, and sooner or later his fellow directors are going to tell him there’s no more gas left in the tank.

Imminent? No. But certain, and it doesn’t take a genius to work this stuff out.

Basic math is all that’s required.

With their losses at the current level – even taking loans into account, by God – this is a club heading for disaster.

That’s a simple statement of fact.

And this share issue he’s talking about … let’s surmise that they’re able to launch it. Let’s even surmise they can hit their target, whatever that is.

This isn’t money for infrastructure spending. It’s going to be spent on the team; King’s made that pretty clear. So the wage bill will rise. Fans will get a temporary hit and buy season tickets.

Then what? Scottish football revenues aren’t enough to sustain their greedy over-reach. Once the share issue money is gone – and it won’t take long – then what?

With a new cost base that will be twice what it currently is they’ll be counting on European income to survive, if they make it that far.

Haven’t they been there before?

That way lies the boneyard.

If Jackson, Scotland’s most clinically stupid “journalist”, wants a textbook example of “absurd wishful thinking” he just gave it to us himself.

The supporters and the media have gone “all in” with Dave King, as have the governing bodies, who passed him as fit and proper despite his criminal past and his relationship with the old club that went bust on his watch.

That they allowed this guy to take up a senior position with a Scottish football club with the words of King’s national judiciary completing his disgrace was stunning to all of us who, nevertheless, had been expecting it to happen.

Like the acolytes of Hitler, who crowded into the bunker, his future and theirs are now inextricably entwined.

If he should, for example, wind up in the jail come the end of the year – and whatever Jackson reckons his suspended sentence for contempt in a South African court, and the noxious mix of what Ashley is accusing him of, makes it dangerously possible that he will – the first thing that will happen is their collective credibility will tank.

He doesn’t even have to wind up in prison for that to happen. Jackson has dismissed, as if it’s nothing, the possibility that the court will simply fine King instead. For contempt of court. Because that happens to football chairmen all the time, right?

Yes, somewhere a village is definitely missing its idiot.

If King is actually admonished by the court the consequences for the club will be further disgrace at the very best.

If he’s jailed they’ll be catastrophic.

My prediction is that they’ll enter administration on the same day, or shortly thereafter, as the directors run to distance themselves from a crisis of Chernobyl proportions.

Their fundraising capability will be obliterated well into the long term future, at least as long as King is chairman and for many, many years beyond.

The reputational damage to the club and to many in the game here, especially those who waved him through Fit and Proper person, will be monumental.

Disaster is closing in on this club, whatever optimistic press releases they might put out and whatever their friends in the media might want people to believe.

There’s a reason a judge in South Africa called King a “glib and shameless liar” and there’s a reason the Scottish sporting press have a toxic reputation with their former readers and the Bampots.

The undertone of panic in some of the coverage today is palpable, and it’s there because these people know that when the roof falls in it’s going to land right on top of them.

That’s the consequence of getting down into the bunker with a madman and his circus of fools.

And with crisis now coming at them from all sides, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

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Sevco In A Dark Place As Ashley Makes It Personal

Mike AshleyThere’s a 1990 movie I want to talk about a little bit. It has a bearing on the point of the piece.

The film’s called Pacific Heights. It’s not Oscar worthy, but it’s Friday night popcorn and beer entertainment, with a different kind of horror story.

At the heart of it, the movie is about money. Financial hardship caused by buying a house.

The plot is simple enough, some would say a little thin; a cute couple, played by Matthew Modine and Melanie Griffiths, buy a house they can’t afford on their own. The only way to make it work is by renting out two ground floor apartments.

So they set about trying to find people suitable to fill them, eventually settling on a nice Japanese couple for the first, and coming awfully close to letting the second out to an earnest black man who thinks the colour of his skin might count against him.

He submits the application, which gets lost as the Japanese family moves in, trampling through the halls and making a mess. When said application doesn’t turn up the couple assumes he’s changed his mind, and it’s at that moment Carter turns up, driving a Porsche.

Carter (played superbly by Michael Keaton) wants the apartment. He’s well heeled, and flashes a wedge. He leaves personal references and vanishes without signing a lease or paying a penny. Shortly thereafter, he returns in the morning and basically moves in, telling Griffiths he’s squared it with Modine.

He hasn’t. But he makes big bold claims about his trust fund and flashes more money.

He promises to have the first few months’ rent squared away in a week.

Then he vanishes again, in his shiny black ride. Days go by. Then a week has past.

No rent.

Modine goes down to the apartment to check it out and finds an odd looking dude living there … not Carter, who is “away on business.”

Modine does, at that point, what anyone would do and loses it, especially when he finds out they’ve changed the locks and like drilling at 3:00 am.

The scam is pretty simple.

According to California state law, once Carter is inside the apartment he has all the rights of a fully paid up tenant and over the course of the movie he slowly strangles the life out of Modine and Griffiths, trying to ruin them financially.

Before long, he’s well on top. He has succeeded in forcing the Japanese couple to leave (late night drilling is one thing; but he breeds cockroaches too and lets them loose into the next door unit) and even in getting a restraining order against his landlord.

His objective is to prise the house away from them, and it’s not the first time he’s done it to someone.

In fact, it’s his day job.

“For him it’s business as usual,” Modine morosely tells Griffiths one drunk night, after he’s heard Carter outline the plan to his mate. “This is what he does for a living.”

Indeed it is. Carter is a scam artist par excellence, and I’ve thought about him, and I’ve thought about that film, a lot from the hour Craig Whyte took over Rangers. The parallels are pretty obvious, and will become even clearer as the looming court case goes on.

Leeching the life out of companies and individuals is precisely what some people do for a living, and they make good money crushing the dreams of others. For all that, I don’t think these guys get any pleasure or satisfaction out of that side of it.

This is just about the bottom line. Cold hard cash.

Mike Ashley isn’t a scam artist. He’s made his money legitimately, which is why he must find Dave King’s constant moralising tiresome and even offensive. Because King is more Carter than he is; the series of offences for which the South African government went after him, and to which he pled guilty, are right out of the Wolf of Wall Street.

He artificially inflated the price of one of his companies and then cashed out, leaving the shareholders with nothing. He then salted that cash away out of reach – or so he thought – of the tax man.

For all his bombast though, Dave King is essentially small fry.

The media here might go goo-goo over his swanky South African pad, but then they were having the same conniptions over Craig Whyte and his castle when this whole saga began, and now take great delight in telling us that, in fact, he didn’t have a pot to piss in then or now.

King is probably wealthier than Whyte.

I use that word carefully, because there are things I know about Whyte and things I can guess which I’m not legally permitted to write here. Somewhere else, some other time, for sure … but not here, and not now.

King certainly has money, but he doesn’t have enough of to do half what he claimed he would at Ibrox.

The gap between rhetoric and reality has only just started to become clear to Sevco fans.

I’ve always found it terribly ironic that what these fans have longed for most is a genuine billionaire with a genuine interest in football at their club, and when they got exactly that it was in a form they didn’t expect and didn’t particularly like.

Because Ashley is everything King is not.

He’s respected as a businessman, phenomenally successful, a gambler who plays big odds with real-life off the radar wealth and if he went to the stock market to float a company he would bring with him a ton of credibility and wouldn’t have to fudge the figures. He would set a target and probably get every single penny from the “institutional investors.”

Furthermore, Ashley could, quite literally, fix much of what’s wrong with Sevco out of his petty cash.

Did he once want to? Oh, I very much doubt it.

He saw them for what they were; a light snack, a way to make a few million in sales, as just another company in his portfolio. He saw a huge advertising hoarding for his flagship enterprise, attained dirt cheap.

He’s a businessman. He saw a chance to turn a profit.

He was never particularly likely to catch Rangersitus or any of the other notable afflictions in this saga.

But he could have been convinced to play nice.

He could have been made to feel welcome, and for his contribution to have been appreciated.

He was the guy who kept the lights on last season, and without him there would have been little to stop Sevco from going the way of the club that died.

At the time he had a merchandising deal. Over the last couple of years, he got his hands on other items and the fans are in uproar that he was allowed to. Yet, those other items were all that was available as collateral at the time. They forget that in their anger, stirred up by a media that either lost sight of the big picture or was too dumb to see it.

In short, this guy saw money but had no bad intentions.

That didn’t suit the narrative King and others wanted to build. They needed to paint the old board as an enemy of the club itself, and Ashley was little more than a stick to beat them with.

I am sure he realised that at the start. It’s why he was originally willing to negotiate and work out some kind of compromise, if it left his people on the board, where his interests could be protected.

He probably thought King was playing to the gallery, nothing more.

But King wasn’t.

King is an arrogant, spitefil sod, a man motivated, in part, by a belief in his own bull. He blusters because he thinks he’s right and everyone else is wrong, even when he knows what he’s saying is groundless nonsense.

It’s a character flaw, a dangerous one at that, one that means this guy can never be fully trusted.

Somewhere along the line, whatever the initial motivation, King really did start to view Ashley as more than just a boardroom problem. Whether it was envy or natural spite or whatever, he started to see things in the way he sees Celtic; not as something to aspire to or overcome, but as something to hate, something standing in his way of his own self image.

And I marvelled at that on this very site.

I wondered just what in the Hell Dave King thought he was doing, in butting heads with a guy who could, if he was so minded, make the next 12 months of Sevco’s life utterly impossible before he pulled the plug.

I wrote an article called Making Enemies, where I expressed my view that to piss this guy off too much would be the summit of madness and invite retribution. I quote Mario Puzo’s The Godfather to illustrate the point.

There’s a similar moment in Pacific Heights, where Modine and Griffiths find a lawyer willing to help them and she gives them the news outside the courtroom after they’ve lost the first skirmish. She tells Griffiths, for her own good, that they should walk away. Put the house up for sale, take the financial hit and get on with their lives.

“It’s nothing personal,” she tells Griffiths. “God forbid he ever makes it personal.”

Which brings us to today’s stories, which reveal that Ashley wants to haul King into court for breaching the confidentially agreement that exists between Sevco and Sports Direct.

I’m not surprised by it, not even a little, although the story appears somewhat older than Keith “Exclusive” Jackson would have you believe.

In fact, King has been courting this kind of disaster for months, almost as if he’s on a self-destructive course that he can’t seem to break free of. His public comments have been inviting it, egging Ashley on.

It was reckless and it was stupid, and it was always going to end in tears.

He’s made an enemy, which is what he seemed to want to do, and if I struggle to understand just what King’s endgame is at Ibrox, with no visible means of success, I find this even more mystifying, because it truly is a battle without hope of victory.

Ashley is now making it personal, because King has forced him to.

Sevco fans should be concerned with that because he’s taking it out, in part, on their club.

If it was a simple issue between Ashley and their absentee chairman their supporters could simply let the two of them get on with it, but it’s not how things are. King’s position on the board is part of it, but he’s attacking Ashley “on their behalf” without a plan.

Incredibly, most of their fans are cheering this on.

Indeed, a number of their supporter’s organisations seem just as determined to force their way onto Ashley’s radar with fake shirts and alternative merchandise. They’ve tried their lousy, pathetic, One Pound Protest and they’ve said they won’t buy official club products, although there seem to be a lot of replica strips in the stands.

Ashley’s people seem happy with the current deals.

They’re making money in spite of the “official boycott.”

That’s why they’ll be nearly impossible to shift.

There’s one bonkers suggestion doing the rounds at the moment about what fans are calling Stink Bomb Saturday, targeting Sports Direct shops.

Idiocy, proposed by idiots.

All this is the height of folly, whether the behaviour of the fans or King himself.

Poking a dangerous animal with a stick like this can only end in disaster.

How can they be this stupid, with their club already hanging by a thread?

King has invested precisely nothing; they’re floating on soft loans and nothing else, and those are being provided by other existing directors. All he seems to have brought to the table is a big mouth a world of trouble, and the situation is now threatening to get out of control.

Sevco doesn’t have the resources for a minor skirmish with Ashley, let alone a full-on war.

They’ve antagonised a man who holds their future in the palm of his hand. He knows they’ve not got the money to pay back the £5 million loan, and he can make it so they never do. If he decides to, he can launch a legal battle every single day, sucking them dry in the process.

They will be swallowed whole, and what goes in one end will come out the other in a form most definitely not to their liking.

If I were in their shoes this is the last guy’s leg I’d be pissing up.

They seem determined to try.

And for that, they’ve got all the trouble in the world coming their way.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Sevco Mind

JS56038833It was Alanis Morissette who once asked “What part of your memory is selective and tends to forget?”

The song was called Hands Clean.

The album was called Under Rug Swept.

Tonight, all that seems peculiarly apt.

As we get nearer to a denouement in the Sevco situation, it becomes ever clearer that many people have a lot they’d like to sweep under the rug.

Few involved in this continuing saga have clean hands.

When it comes to selective memory, there’s no-one in this land of ours who can compare with those who inhabit the Ibrox universe, whether that’s the fans or the media or those inside the walls. They have elevated doublethink to an art form.

Last week, over on The CelticBlog, I mourned a media culture that thinks a routine training ground bust up merits front page stories and large tracts of the sports section.

Was it a slow news day, I wondered?

No, because there was a lot going on in the wider world and in football.

It was simply a chance to pile pressure on my club, with the added benefit that it stopped questions being asked elsewhere.

No sooner had I posted the article, than a truly extraordinary media conference took place, when Mark Warburton reversed himself completely on the subject of making new signings in January.

He had initially said he wanted five.

Now, just days later, on Friday, he told the media that such a policy would be disrespectful to his team. No-one in the press pack thought to ask what had changed in the intervening time, but to some of us it was pretty obvious.

The media accepted his explanation although it was transparent nonsense. He had made it clear what he believed the team needed, and the press had been breathlessly reporting it for days. He didn’t want squad fillers. He wanted “stars”, players who would walk into the first team and take them to the level required to challenge Celtic.

His statements to that effect had been unambiguous.

Something – or someone – had compelled him to get in front of the hack pack with a “clarification”, and as per usual the Ibrox manager got away with a blatant, and humiliating, climb-down as if it was nothing.

King had “jetted in” to meet with him in the days before.

It seemed pretty clear that he’d told Warburton there was no money, and to get in front of the press and tell them he’d misspoken when he’d talked about making January signings.

Only hours later we got confirmation of all we had suspected, and straight from the Blue Room itself, when someone cynically issued a late night press release out of the club to clear things up for those who were still in denial.

Before I go into that, a confession; part of me wants to express admiration for the way this was handled.

Any political organisation would have been proud of that.

As a former activist I know the value of the Friday night press release. It gets lost in the weekend, drawing no scrutiny or comment. Even huge stories have been largely left alone when “taken out with the trash” between the close of business Friday and mid-Monday.

Just because Sevco has had to cut back on the PR it doesn’t mean they don’t still get good advice.

They knew what they were doing with that one alright.

Yet it amazes me that more hasn’t been made of that statement, because in it lies the confirmation of everything this site and others have been saying for months. Even our intrepid hacks can’t deny that it’s news – and big news.

This is Sevco’s press team admitting that the central problems we identified months ago are now acute, and without realistic solutions.

The statement admits that a new share issue is impossible at the current time.

It admits that this would have been the preferred fund raising option for the club at a time when, it now acknowledges, it needs cash badly.

It admits that this cash will have to come from the current directors, or those who don’t live in South Africa anyway.

And it confirms that there is no money in a transfer kitty for the manager, that any signings will have to be sold to the board, funded by soft loans, and only on a case-by-case basis.

It’s a statement that contradicts all King’s bombast when he took over, and as I said in my second to last piece on this site confirms that they are stuck in the mud and in no better a position than they were in before the Great Revolution.

The club is all over the place; the statement makes that clear, coached as it is in a “don’t worry, be happy” tone.

It also says that a couple of million will get them “comfortably” through the rest of the season; a claim so ridiculous it’s simply begging to be challenged.

Most importantly, the statement makes it clear there’s no real prospect of the directors who loan the club money being paid back anytime soon, and it proposes what is essentially a “debt for equity” style arrangement; the loanees – all current shareholders – will get more shares in exchange for the cash.

This is perfectly valid and they don’t need a share issue to do it. But it essentially dilutes the value and voting power of every other person who owns a piece of the club.

All those supporter organisations and individual fans who’ve “invested” risk seeing the value of what they hold reduced to virtual worthlessness.

All the work the Supporters Trust at Ibrox, all the efforts of Rangers First, it’s all going to be for nothing if this goes through.

Getting it passed requires 75% shareholder approval.

That presents problems on its own.

Ashley and his people certainly won’t vote for it.

Whatever is left of the “institutional investor” organisations will certainly oppose it.

The ordinary fans have no incentive to support it whilst King is yet to put his hands in his own pockets, but the man has the nuclear threat, of course, if he’s willing to use it; that without this influx of money there might well not be a club left to support this time next year.

That might well be the most honest thing he ever says to them.

All of this is news, and what looms over all of it is the unspoken truth that King is trying to raise money just to keep on the lights.

This isn’t investment in their future; this is to assure that the future itself lasts past January.

Sevco is spiralling downward, and it’s not surprising that our intrepid media doesn’t want to focus on that. They’d rather look at Celtic, of course, a club sitting top of the SPL by six points and chasing a domestic treble.

Is everything inside Celtic Park as it should be?

No, of course it’s not and a few good results don’t change that.

I think the manager’s tactical inflexibility will hurt us whenever we venture onto the European stage, and sure as Hell The Strategy will continue to strangle our ability to even aspire to that level.

These things don’t need to be; they aren’t inevitable.

They are the result of choices consciously made, and there are other choices and other options that could have been explored but weren’t.

I still harbour doubts, and they are real and won’t be erased quickly or easily.

I have written about all of those doubts.

Our supporters have debated and discussed – and they continue to debate and discuss – what Celtic is, what it’s doing and what it should be aiming to do better in the future. That’s not unhealthy; quite the opposite.

This is scrutiny. This is how it ought to work.

The Scottish sporting press doesn’t do “scrutiny.” They stir the soup. They do the bidding of PR firms who aren’t our friends.

The media’s “scrutiny” of Celtic would be more palatable to many of us if they gave Sevco occasional harsh examination.

That they so rarely do tells you what the nature of their attention to us is about.

The media leaves Sevco to its own devices, never questioning a thing unless it suits an agenda.

The last board got criticism because the media narrative was structured around getting The Real Rangers Men into office.

That has been achieved, and now these people have no alibis left but those the press is willing to allow, but it’s not the media these people will have to answer to when – not if, but when – the wheels fall off the bandwagon.

The title of this article comes from a movie of course, one in which the pain of a bad breakup leads the two main characters to have their memories of one another erased.

Yet it opens with them meeting on a train, after the fact, and it ends with them falling for one another again.

What’s the moral?

That some things are pre-determined?

If that’s true then we know their future before it starts; another bad breakup.

Regardless, they decide to try anyway, leading me to wonder if the real moral is that people just don’t learn anything.

At Sevco, and in the media that constantly tries to deflect from trouble there, we can see the shadows of what brought Rangers low.

Ibrox is haunted.

It’s haunted because for all the supporters and those on the board claim to have kept the history, they’ve chosen to erase the parts of it that they’d rather not face up to, the lessons of what brought Rangers low and which now threaten to destroy what’s left of the reanimated corpse.

That history stalks Sevco like a horror movie monster.

It’s going to catch up to them.

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Dave King And Sevco: Stuck In Lodi Again

JS65868640Tonight Dave King has released a quite unhinged, unprompted statement “updating the fans” on the club’s relationship with Sports Direct.

The statement itself is ludicrous, self-righteous twaddle.

It’s mixed with vague threats they can’t possibly hope to deliver on, but once parsed basically says “we were unhappy last time we spoke about this and we’re still unhappy and apart from that nothing has actually changed”.

That it’s come tonight is, however, enlightening.

Today someone sent me an article Keith Jackson wrote for The Daily Record, an article in which he’s asking some of the questions sites like this one were asking months ago. It’s equally instructive to note that Jackson and his paper echo those predictions whilst continuing to pour scorn on others.

For now let’s just congratulate them on having got here at all, as late in the day (and it’s later than many think) as it is.

As Jackson says in his piece, it’s been a while now since King and his cohort breezed into town on the back of good press that made you think we were witnessing a liberating army sweeping aside a corrupt and bitter regime. What happened was that they replaced a Sevco board which had been forced to take soft loans to keep the lights on. Nothing more.

Now, months on, they’re taking soft loans to keep on the lights.

But of course, these are Real Rangers Men … so that makes everything okay, right?

I love the media’s ignorant reporting on stuff involving this lot. They just never get past the notion that somewhere, out there, are a load of multi-millionaires with King Billy tattooed on their backsides.

They can’t get their heads around the simple truth; Sevco is a West of Scotland football team that continuously loses money, and no-one is willing to bail it out, far less finance the next European adventure, with their own cold hard cash.

And, sooner or later, that means the lights will go out at the Big House.

One of the great rumours doing the rounds is that they’re finally trying to cut costs and that part of this is scaling back on their public relations.

How satisfying if true.

Traynor and his buddies must have thought they were onto a permanent winner there, a long-term, lifetime, meal ticket.

I would hope all Sevco fans are delighted that’s not the case.

But of course, King, who’s always been able to afford (or at least count on) good press will know that old political adage about the media; either you feed the beast, or the beast feeds on you.

Is that, maybe, why we’re here tonight?

Has Traynor been onto his buddy at The Record and suggested the time has come – now his own contract’s been cancelled – to start digging?

It’s comi-tragic in a way. Jackson’s article talks about how quiet things are at Ibrox right now, something I’ve suggested isn’t good news (the Titanic went down in calm seas, after all) only for this to erupt tonight, out of the blue.

There’s a wee comical aphorism that we used to toss around back when I worked for Glasgow City Council in the Parks; real work plus appearance of work equals actual work.

That’s never been more true than it is in the case of those who’ve been running the show at Ibrox these past eight or nine months. Tonight looks like nothing more than the “appearance of action” in an effort to make them look busy on important stuff, just to silence the one piece of media questioning they’ve had to deal with in that time.

King isn’t a man who wants scrutiny of any kind, you see. And when someone doesn’t want people to know what’s actually going on … well, that’s when people start trying to find out what is going on. If only we could rely on our hacks to take the next, logical step.

Sevco is pretty near to being skint if it isn’t skint already.

Phil’s been writing about their financial tribulations for a while now, and one of the things he keeps on hinting at, and was still hinting at today, is how little appetite there is in the Blue Room for anyone on the board to carry this financial basket case with their own cash.

Jackson’s article “presumes” that the money will come from the so-called Three Bears.

Ha! How nice it must be to spend other people’s cold hard cash in such a way.

If it was you in that room, how keen would you be to dip into your own pockets – again – when the loudmouth in the chairman’s seat (only when he can be bothered, living as his does in another country) is yet to put his hand in his?

Not very, I’d suggest, as Phil has been saying for a while.

And if not them, then who?

Where’s the cash coming from?

We’ve already been over why it can’t come from the fans.

Tonight’s barmy rant was, when trimmed down, about how little of their merchandising wonga they get to keep, so that avenue is closed off as a serious fund raiser. Season tickets are already sold. A cup of tea at Ibrox is plenty expensive but they’d need to tie up a 500 year contract for the Women’s Institute annual get-together to make much of a difference that way (and some of where that money goes will be discussed in a courtroom pretty soon if I’m reading the landscape right).

Which leaves a share issue.

Which said court case makes impossible.

This is a monumental mess, and when even Jackson’s notoriously funky radar is bleeping you know trouble is now where people can see it, and that it’s only the tip of the iceberg peeking above the water.

The real game changing stuff is still hidden from view, but just below the surface.

His article says that the club will only need two or three million in external funding to get them through the season; that assertion ought to be viewed with about as much scepticism as a Del Trotter Money Back Guarantee.

Previous boards have had to source funding two or three times that in the course of a season; nothing at Ibrox is cheaper than it was then, and with all these people they’ve just added to the payroll you best believe the wage bill is climbing again at a merry old clip.

And who are these people anyway?

Oh that’s right, one is “the guy who found Raheem Sterling” because, of course, without him wee Raheem would be working in the local Greggs selling the last steak bake before Ally could get to it.

Tonight, our intrepid media is regurgitating the King press release like it’s The Ten Commandments.

Most are suggesting that this is King getting tough.

So job done then, and proof that you don’t need PR people to get good PR, not when you have a compliant media that will swallow anything.

Jesus wept … I mean, the coverage this club gets is unfailingly positive all the time.

And they wonder why crisis keeps on creeping up to the front door and kicking it in like a police raid at four in the morning.

The bottom line is that tonight Dave King has torn himself away from his latest South African self-assessment to respond to an article in a newspaper few read and even fewer believe, but which this time decided to fulfil its one basic function.

When it comes right down to it, this is an act of fear because this club hasn’t moved an inch from when he took over, in spite of all the positive headlines.

There’s a great Creedence Clearwater Revival song about a guitar player who visits a nowhere town called Lodi. He ends up stuck there for months because he hasn’t got the cash to leave again. A lot of people inside Ibrox right now can certainly relate.

Here this club is, back where it was before, unable to move on.

No amount of attempted spin can hide that.

“Oh lord. Stuck in Lodi again.”

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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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