And You Dare To Call Us Sectarian?

133605071-c2bc15dd-b8a9-4c80-ab0d-7e6454f88526-1“No, no, no, it’s not ok, it’s not going to be ok, and I’ll tell you why.

Because you’re fair game, so I hope your knickers are clean because every seat-sniffing little shi@bag that’s ever filed a by-line is gonna be questioning you!

Because now it’s in the f@@@@@@ public interest, isn’t it? And they are gonna hit you with any sh@t they can find and you’re gonna be spread out in front of them like a trollop in the stocks!” – Malcolm Tucker.

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We’ve all heard that expression, right? I am amazed at the number of times you catch folk out doing just that.

Supporters do it all the time. This week is the first time – and it ought to be the last time – that a football club does it. Sevco’s statement on the behaviour of our fans was disgraceful, but it was also kind of amazing, in that way watching a posing twat walking into a lamp post is. Being lectured on sectarianism by their board of directors … it is jaw-dropping.

You could write an entire dissertation on the shameful baggage that clubs at Ibrox have carried everywhere with them, from a sectarian signing policy to UEFA fines for the song-book. But you don’t have to go as far back as that, all the way to the OldCo to find scandal and hate wafting down the Marble Staircase at you. You don’t even have to dig as far as the on-pitch outrage at Linfield just over a week ago, although that’s an excellent case in point.

No, you only have to look at the day itself to realise that Sevco’s sanity smashing statement about what their fans had to “endure” stank like a week old corpse. It takes formidable brazenness to point that self-righteous fury at another club’s fans when your own behaved, on the same day, like the lowest order degenerate scum.

I’ve written about the behaviour of a small number of Celtic fans over on The CelticBlog, so as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to accuse me of whatabouttery here can bin it. This isn’t about that. Did some of our fans let us down? Damned right. This is about not wanting – not being willing – to be lectured by anyone who’s double standard is quite so pronounced.

These people aren’t even hiding their own hatred; they wear it front and centre.

Some of them have said the effigies were a reference to suicide, timed to offend their fans and one of their former players, on a day which sought to raise awareness of the issue. I’ll tell you right now that I had no idea Saturday was Suicide Awareness Day and the vast majority of our supporters would have been equally clueless about it.

But of course, they will believe what they want to, that our fans learned this and timed their actions accordingly.

Well it was also the anniversary of Jock Stein’s death. I don’t know whether their fans knew that or not, but there were at least two banners on full display referencing a certain scandal. Did their fans time that well, or was it a coincidence?

I’m happy to accept the coincidence explanation, and not because I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt or because I think the milk of human kindness runs through their veins, but simply because some of these gutter rats fly those banners everywhere they go and have been smearing the great man’s name for years.

So they don’t get to talk about hate, or targeting individuals who were at their club.

They don’t get to make that accusation whilst there are scum amongst their number flying those flags.

We’re not standing for it, not putting up with that.

And I’ll go on, because the National Famine Memorial Day – commemorating the victims of the Great Hunger – was the day after the game, and our club wore a logo on their shirts in recognition of that fact. Did their fans know that? I neither know nor care, but they spent much of the game singing the sectarian, illegal, bigoted dirge entreating us to “go home.”

Coincidence? Who cares?

They’ve been doing it so long no-one even notices anymore.

On top of that we were “treated” to various renditions of The Billy Boys, with its expressions of joy about being up to their knees in our blood. That song is also illegal, and for a while it wasn’t being heard in the Ibrox stands. Now it’s back, as ubiquitous as it ever was, part of that “unique Ibrox atmosphere” Warburton and others go on about so much.

The sight of those effigies at Celtic Park made my skin crawl, but no more than those Sevco fans themselves once brought to Ibrox, one called Green and the other Whyte.

They can spare me the sermon on how vicious the image of the hanging dolls was, because as horrendous as they were their own had names, and wore suits, and did not represent an impersonal generic “they” but were specific, targeted, like one I saw once of “Neil Lennon” and those you see on the top of the Loyalist bonfires every year in July, like the one in the picture at the top of this article, the hanging effigy of Gerry Adams.

And what’s that he’s wearing?

Oh yes, it’s a Celtic top.

“But that didn’t hang from the stands at Ibrox ..” is doubtless the refrain I’ll hear on that, but it doesn’t take much imagination to draw the line from the people who hung that ugly thing and those the club’s players and officials – including some of the hypocrites who okayed that statement – were photographed posing with in Linfield the weekend before last.

Club 1872 can bite me as well; their own foaming at the mouth statement contained an oblique reference to our fans’ support for the people of Palestine, and what do you know? They’ve got a new logo, the six pointed star, so similar to the one on the flag of Israel.

I shake my head at the lamentable nature of that, and marvel at the mind who came up with it.

They will appropriate anything to score cheap points, but this one’s espcially delicious considering their history of Nazi salutes and the undercurrent of far-right, fascist sympathy that runs through their support like a virus. And let them wail about how it’s a Red Hand Salute instead, as if commemorating the killing of Catholics is somehow a better proposition than celebrating the murder of Jews.

Because as they and their media acolytes like to remind us, it’s the visual image that reeks; it’s not what people intend something to be it’s what other people think it is.

See? I too can utilise that particular weapon.

I’ll tell you what; their club and its shareholders group can give us the big talk when they get their own house in order.

They can point their fat ignorant fingers at Celtic Park when they’ve pointed them into their own stands first and said, with loud voices for everyone to hear, “You lot … clear out.”

But that will never happen, because as Rangers was built on the back of barely legal bank largesse, the NewCo, from the moment of its inception, from the moment Charles Green stood on a pitch in front of the media and said that Rangers had been targeted by bigotry and hate – birthing the Victim Lie in all its unholy splendour – was built on bile and hatred, all the better to spoon money out of gullible fools simultaneously preaching their supremacy whilst lamenting the reach and the influence of their myriad, fictious enemies.

Talk about an exercise in doublethink.

This lot are so far outside the margins of reasonable behaviour now that it makes your head throb trying to imagine what they are thinking inside that crumbling ruin of theirs, but see, that crumbling ruin is the point, that wreckage of a football club is the real issue, because if their supporters weren’t all focussed on this kind of nonsense they might instead be focussed on that, because there are real issues there and real problems looming.

But this board knows its audience.

They know its fans.

They know they can get away with anything, anything at all, if they blame every failure on somebody else.

They can blame us for what they like, as they tried with Motherwell fans, as they attempted to do with Hibs supporters. Aberdeen fans will be next, you wait and see, after they leave Pittodrie with a hiding and the gap is even wider than now.

They could go round the block for the whole of this season, hitting every club one at a time or all in one shot, throwing blame hither thither and yon. The media can get behind it, or ignore the double standard, as they like. But sooner or later a reckoning will come, with their own supporters if not with the governing bodies or the legal system.

Until then, this whole country – and their club too – would benefit from a long, enforced period of dignified silence over there. I don’t expect it, because dignity is another word they simply don’t understand any longer … if they ever did.

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 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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Sky Sports Scotland Insults Scottish Football With Talk Of Rangers’ “Demotion”

3Gduepif0T1UGY8H4yMDoxOjBzMTtyGkSky Sports Scotland has had a bad reputation for a while now. This section of the broadcasting monolith has an almost pathological fixation with what’s going on at Sevco, sometimes to the detriment of the rest of the sport.

Regular viewers can pick their own examples, but the ones that come most to mind for me and for others are Jim White’s fawning over Charles Green in his “deathbed confession”, his lickspittle interview in South Africa with Dodgy Dave King and Charles Patterson and Luke Shanley spending so much time standing outside Ibrox and Murray Park that they might as well have opened a special Sevco broadcasting unit and put beds in there for them.

Today Sky Sports Scotland hit a new low, when they decided to open their coverage for the season at Ibrox, and to include in the press release a scandalous statement about how the club was “demoted” for “financial irregularities.”

I agree with the second bit, in a conceptual sense.

It is as close to suggesting that what happened to Rangers was an act of fraud as they think they can get away with, although it hasn’t stopped myself and others from calling it exactly that, and in those very words. It was an act of fraud, as Sevco’s continuing to trade without the funds to complete a season is.

But Sevco is a new club, which started at the bottom as every new club should.

Sky’s press release insults every Scottish football fan, including a large number of their own subscribers. They may as well have slapped a advert for Android boxes on the bottom of the piece, as that’s exactly how many people will choose to “enjoy” their coverage from now on. This is one of many reasons why people would rather buy dodgy gear than give money to people who’s penchant for slabbering on Sevco is known and who’s relationship with the truth appears fleeting at best.

There was, of course, no demotion.

It’s one of the most absurd statements I’ve seen published on their website in many moons. It’s a concept so discredited you barely see it anywhere except on the more lunatic Sevco fan forums and blogs. There, I don’t mind it. Demented people believe in crazy things. I resent seeing it where people might take it seriously, where it might promote a distorted image of our game.

This isn’t even pandering; it’s flat out lying.

There are people who ask when Scottish football is going to “get past this” stuff. There’s no getting past this until people are honest about exactly what’s taken place here. A lot of us would be happy to move on, but this constant bullshitting isn’t going to be allowed to stand and it isn’t just Celtic supporters who are furious about this garbage.

None of this does them any favours. None of this does Sevco any favours. That club is stuck in the mud by a blind refusal to accept its actual status; not that of a giant in the game but that of a perennial struggler, skint and powerless but still with friends where they think they can have an influence. The longer they cling to this illusion of superiority and supremacy – the very last trait they should have ported over from DeadCo – the tougher ahead the road will be.

Celtic is moving forward with purpose, with a brilliant new manager and what look to be exciting signing targets. Yet Sky has decided we’re the sideshow, that the curtain raiser for the new season shouldn’t be the champions against the team that finished third, but a newly promoted club which has spent the summer scrambling around the bargain basement of free transfers and has-beens whilst its manager sulked on the other side of the Atlantic.

Such are the priorities of the broadcaster. Such is the way it views the Scottish game, and all this feeds into the demented egos of fans who simply have not adjusted to the reality of their actual position. That reality is coming soon, and it’s going to hurt a lot. Many of us are looking forward to seeing how fact and fantasy collide.

Sky clearly isn’t interesting in facts. They would rather live with, and in, the fantasy and the growing contempt in which the media is held in Scotland and beyond only grows greater with every single instance of something like this.

The truth is known to everyone. It was an article of faith before Charles Green scooped up the assets of the dead club that failing to get a CVA meant death. There was no demotion here. I cannot say that often enough, and it makes those who push this line look utterly ridiculous. Still, they continue to push it like a drug and those addicted to this WATP crap lap it up like Pavlov’s slabbering dogs. It defies belief, but it will no longer go unchallenged.

Are the Internet Bampots the only people in this damned country who are prepared to speak the truth on this issue?

Are we the only ones who care?

Sooner or later, the narrative is going to be scrubbed clean of all these lies.

There are those in a position to do it, and it becomes increasingly difficult to understand their reluctance to.

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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The Storm Before The Calm

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Death_of_Caesar_-_Walters_37884On 15 March 44BC a group of Roman senators, believing they were striking a blow for freedom, ambushed and murdered one of the most important men in history, Gaius Julius Caesar, the dictator, general, politician and statesman.

They had expected the acclaim of the masses. They had killed a tyrant after all.

Instead of celebrations, they were greeted with sullen silence. Caesar’s closest friend, Marc Anthony, capitalised on that. He negotiated a sham peace, and then at the funeral gave an oration that sparked a riot. The assassins fled, for their own safety.

Within two years, everyone involved in the plot to kill Caesar was dead.

The seeds of their stunning downfall had been sown in the act itself. They never stood a chance.

First, the plan had left Anthony alive when the smart thing to do would have been to kill him, and second, and more important, they had reckoned without Caesar, who had chosen his successor with the greatest care.

It was his nephew Octavian, then just 18.

Octavian had all the political skills of Caesar. Although not as fine a general, he was more ruthless than his uncle. Whereas Caesar had spared the lives of many of his political rivals, Octavian executed everyone who wasn’t firmly fixed in his own camp.

Gaius Octavian became Augustus. He transitioned the Roman Republic out of existence, and became the first Emperor, in the ultimate irony as it was the Republic that Brutus, Cassius and the other assassins had killed Caesar to maintain.

Caesar’s assassins would never have killed him had they an inkling of the skills young Octavian possessed, and they would certainly have balked at the act had they known that for years it was the dictator himself who was the key restraining influence on Marc Anthony, who would have had many of them executed far in advance of that deadly day.

The fate of those men is history’s great cautionary tale, but it’s not the only one.

It’s dangerous to carry out an assassination if you’re unsure of what might follow it, and you should never assume you know what that will be.

I think often of the Rangers fans who danced and celebrated Inverness’ stunning victory over Celtic in the Scottish Cup back in August 2000, which led to the sacking of John Barnes.

Had they known what would follow that night I doubt they’d have partied so long or so hard.

Likewise, I know of no Celtic fan who was happy on the day that McCoist fell, or on the day Sevco decided Stuart McCall would not lead them into a full season. We never wanted those men gone; we liked them just fine right where they were.

I know that some of the Sevco fans who danced in the stands at Hampden on Sunday last week did so with a heavy heart; they never wanted to see Ronny Deila fall. Celtic winning the double would have appeased enough supporters, maybe, that the board would have risked keeping him in place for another year. That would have suited Sevco just fine.

As it is, Deila is packing his bags.

Without knowing who’s coming in, it’s hard to say what Celtic will look like this time next year, but one thing is for sure; we’ll be better off for it.

As if watching Deila fall wasn’t bad enough for them, their victory may just have shaken up more than just the dugout.

If it has, then it’s truly been a  Pyrrhic win because the last thing their fans wanted to see was a fundamental shift in the approach at Celtic Park.

Yet to outsiders it still looks like Celtic is in meltdown. The fans are staying away. The board is unpopular and teetering on the brink of crisis. Many of the players are a waste of a jersey. The manager is shockingly inept, with woeful tactics.

And yet … it’s impossible not to see this as the storm before the calm.

And at the end of the storm is a golden sky.

Because Celtic is changing.

This is what change looks like.

It’s painful and it’s dramatic and it’s often scary when you’re in the midst of it.

Even as our slumbering club comes fully awake for the first time maybe in years the club across the city is celebrating victory before the war’s even won … and you know something? I think they’re going to get the biggest shock since Cassius and Brutus stood watching Marc Anthony give the most inflammatory funeral speech of all time.

For one thing, they’re not as good as that media would have you believe. The league table never lies, they say; well try this for size. After the same number of games as Celtic this season they’re not much better off, points wise, than we are. The difference is that we’ve not been playing second tier, even amatuer, teams all season.

The media which lauds them, and the fans who follow them blindly, are labouring under an enormous – and dangerous – misconception, that just because Celtic is stagnant and vulnerable looking that we are somehow as weak as they are.

It’s not true.

Our club is immeasurably stronger than theirs is.

They are mistaking weak leadership for a flaw in the system itself. No such flaw exists. Leadership aside, Celtic is a machine. It’s been running on 20% power, and some have taken that to be the maximum it’s capable of.

This is foolish in the extreme.

The resources at our disposal absolutely dwarf what they can bring to bear.

Our financial position is rock solid. With the right man in the manager’s office and the right strategy behind him we are capable of burying any threat they, or anyone else, is likely to pose.

This is all about the fundamentals, and when you break down the facts and the figures we are in front of them by every accepted standard. We appear less than we are at the moment; a consequence of that appalling management.

Get that part of it right … and this isn’t even a contest.

Let’s take but one example; the stadium.

Our stadium has a higher capacity than Ibrox, and this haunted David Murray all the way through his last years at Rangers. Those 10,000 extra seats represent more than just bragging rights. As Fergus understood full well when he laid the plans for Celtic Park, they confer a huge financial advantage upon us if we can fill them.

With a plan in place to restore us to our rightful status, and the supporters on board with that and returning in numbers, those seats allow us to open up a gap King and his cronies simply cannot bridge, no matter what they do.

Their club is still six years from a favourable merchandising deal.

They are at least ten away from being able to navigate beyond the earliest rounds in Europe, should they ever manage to get there. Without real European income, their chances of catching a Celtic side that has that advantage are somewhere between slim and none. To open up that gap, we have to do our own part but even that isn’t as difficult as some would have you believe.

I would suggest that a better manager than Deila would, with the players to hand, have gotten us past Maribor and Malmo and possibly even Legia Warsaw. Those who say our chances of qualifying are getting worse by the year are looking at the world through blue tinted glasses. We had the measure of these clubs. Our squad is better than theirs. Managerial failings are what made the difference.

Even without Champions League qualification next season, however, there should be no question of us failing to reach the Europa League groups at the very least and this, in itself, will put us on another financial plane entirely unless Warburton – completely untested at that level and with a second tier squad of players – was able to achieve the same; unlikely if we’re being generous.

It’s been five years since Rangers was washed away in the aftermath of Craig Whyte’s disastrous reign, but what Whyte did was simply acknowledge the truth that still dare not speak its name; Rangers was a financial basket case.

What we think of as that club’s strength and power was built on sand.

Stripped of the bank funding that allowed their glory years, they fell into complete ruin and then oblivion.

Whatever the club playing out of Ibrox might call itself, no matter what history it might shamelessly and fraudulently claim, the similarity ends with blue jerseys and the logo on them.

I cannot accentuate this point enough, and yet I’ve had to over and over again.

The Rangers we knew never really existed; it was smoke and mirrors, a shadow on the wall. They were never a financial superpower, merely a club whose owner was hyped up and feted by a bank that was out of control in an era when reckless spending seemed almost virtuous. Without the criminal indulgence of Masterton and Cummings there’d have been no nine in a row, no Gazza, no Laudrup.

On its own, Rangers could never have bought these players, and these before EBT’s gave them another advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have had and which is denied to them today.

When Murray and his flexible friend were no longer on hand, that club was only heading one way;

“Express elevator to Hell … going down.”

Without a sugar daddy in charge, this was inevitable and if Sevco is ever to scale those heights it’s going to take another one to get them there.

And those are in short supply.

In the meantime, as King goes cap in hand to his fellow directors and Paul Murray pulls up the sofa cushions looking for loose change, over at Celtic Park, a long dormant engine is growling back into life. The gears may need a little grease and some of the spark plugs might need replacing, but this machine is essentially sound and when it gets rolling it will be a ten ton tank next to their refurbished Vauxhall Velox. Oh they can pretty up theirs as they like, but when the time comes we’re going to drive our war machine right over it.

But first, a period of turmoil when to the outside world it will look like we’re mired in crisis.

To Brutus and Cassius, Marc Anthony’s political manoeuvring must have looked a little like that, like the scrambling of a desperate man, determined to hang on to what little he had left in the world.

They were wrong, as so many of those looking at Celtic are wrong.

They ought not to feel bad when the reversal of all they thought they knew finally comes about. The historical tendency of those who win a major victory is to believe it’s the same as winning the war.

One of the most potent examples was on 7 December, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, achieving as they saw it the conditions that would allow them dominion over the Pacific.

One senior admiral knew it was not so, and although there’s no evidence he used the words which are often ascribed to him, Yamamoto’s foreboding proved warranted. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Sevco fans, take note.

Celtic is awake. You’re the ones who did it.

Enjoy your moment.

For you, this is the calm before the storm.

(This site couldn’t run without the support of its readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. If every reader was able to give just a small sum this site would be all the healthier for it.)

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Sevco & The Orchestra Of Hate

rangers_2047642cThis week feels like another red letter one in the recent history of hate in Scotland.

Before I start, I want to share a story with you.

Back in the 1980’s, Italy was being riven by violence as the heads of the Cosa Nostra, many of whom were in prison or awaiting trial, unleashed a war on the state in an effort to back off the many prosecutors and judges who were attempting to bring them to justice.

It was a bad time to be one of that handful of brave men, much like those who were fighting a similar battle, at the same time, against the growing power of the Colombian drug cartels and facing similar unrelenting terrorism.

On two continents, the self-same chaos was being unleashed and at the root cause of it all was money and the corruption that was rampant.

In Italy they had a word for it; pizzo, which is a derivation of pizzu, a Sicilian word literally meaning “beak”, as in “letting me wet my beak”; i.e giving someone a taste.

The Pizzo – the protection money – went both ways; local businesses paid it to the Mafia and they in turn spread it up through the political system so they wouldn’t be targeted by the judges and politicians.

It was a sweet deal for those who took the cash. For those who didn’t, who took their responsibilities seriously, it meant death.

In Colombia the same system was in operation, where it was called Plata O Plomo, “Silver or lead”. You either took the Cartel’s money or you accepted their bullets instead.

It created chaos and it made life exceedingly dangerous for the men who refused to be bought or cowed.

In Colombia they were soon being gunned down and blown up in spectacular acts of violence.

In Italy, where Cosa Nostra was altogether more sophisticated and their penetration of the system more acute, the killings happened in due course but the psychological warfare came first.

It manifested itself in various ways; for example, prosecutors would be sent funeral cards inviting them to their own wake. Wreaths would be delivered, hour on hour, to their judicial offices. Coffins would be left outside their homes.

This was nothing compared to the reaction of their colleagues.

Like an animal cut from the herd, the brave few would find themselves isolated and alone, shunned by their peers, snubbed by the establishment they were sworn to defend.

One described it as walking in a crowd and then watching people drift away from you one at a time until you were standing there in empty space; the “clear field of fire” which would send a very obvious message to the gangsters.

The point of the story is that these criminal elements drew their real power from the corruption of the state.

Without that they would have been the ones standing alone on a killing ground.

In Italy, in particular, the killing of high level individuals usually only happened at the point when the state itself turned its back on them and gave the assassins their cue.

I’ve always been fascinated by that, and by the way other governments and other organisations with influence over the actions of others have, from time to time, sent them subliminal messages urging action or caution, sanctioning certain things or letting them know it was time to stand down.

Which brings me to the point.

Earlier this week, I got an email from a friend of mine drawing my attention to a brand new website promoting an organisation called The Bears Fightback.

I read their editorial with much amusement, all the while recognising the menacing tone in which it had been coached.

I’ve seen similar missives before.

I’m not even terribly ashamed to admit that once, back in my intemperate days, I got in trouble at the University of Stirling for posting a similar article on an official Student Union messageboard, wherein I “invited” a certain right wing organisation to visit the campus, even offering to organise a “welcome party” for them at the train stration.

The Bears Fightback site didn’t really hide what it was all about; it had been created for the same reason as the Italian Cosa Nostra sent wreaths and funeral cards to the offices of prosecutors.

It was intended as a “frightener”, albiet one mysellf and most others in the Internet Bampots didn’t find very frightening.

I mean, just on a personal level how seriously am I meant to take nonsense like that? Targeting my employers? I am self employed, supported in part by you, the readers, especially those who are able to make a donation.

So what are they going to do?

Grass me up? To you lot?

I don’t know this for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion many of you already know how I feel about Sevco and Rangers and that section of their support which refuses to join the rest of the world in laying aside hate and 17th century attitudes.

The “threat” to inform my family, friends and loved ones seems, to me, equally absurd. I have a vague inkling that they just might be aware of it too.

If I’ve been hiding it under a bushel up until now, I should maybe spell it out; I don’t like these people very much, which, I dunno … wasn’t exactly a secret.

As for the notion that they will “investigate” me, what’s there to investigate?

Again, I’m not exactly leading a secret life.

I post under my own name, my Facebook page is an open book, I’m on Twitter, Amazon Authors, I’ve been in a couple of newspapers and I have an active social life which doesn’t require disguises or an assumed identity.

The notion that such people might one day “come after me” is pretty ridiculous as well. In terms of “action within the law” I’m more than happy for them to try because I’m perfectly prepared to sue anyone who steps over the line in that regard, and the money would pay for a lot of tins for the Green Brigade’s annual food-bank appeal.

Such action would also, very quickly, pull back the veil of secrecy these cowards choose to hide behind. That probably hasn’t twigged with them yet.

As to other action, the very futility of it is reason enough not to bother.

It absolutely would would not stop me.

I would simply write down every detail and publish it, shaming them and “their club” further by exposing their behaviour to civilised view.

At some point they have to realise the embarrassment and shame they heap onto the thing they profess to love. At some stage the circuits have to fire in their tiny, infinitesimal brains and they have to comprehend that nothing damages it more than they do, because no sane person who values their own reputation would want it associated with an organisation which attracts such people like flies around fresh shit.

And you know what?

At some point that organisation has to realise it too.

Which is the real point of the article, of course.

As I said earlier, the Italian prosecutors who went after the mob knew the hammer was going to fall the minute their colleagues started to desert them. That official “nod and wink” isn’t exactly subtle, in the way some of the “dog whistle” politics we see here in the UK is clearly about pandering to ignorance, fear and hate.

Equally unsubtle, coming in the same week as “Bears Fightback” rears its head, was the “nod and wink” to the wise which came out of Ibrox, in the shape of another ban on the BBC journalist Chris McLaughlin.

In my opinion, there is a causal link here.

Am I suggesting that someone inside Ibrox, or at their PR firm, is responsible for the sudden emergence of “Bears Fightback”?

Of course not.

My God, how stupid would that make them?

An organisation which did something like that would deserve everything coming to it.

The matter is currently being investigated by Police Scotland. I suspect they will very quickly establish who the “authors” are, and that’s their cards marked.

So whilst I’m sure neither the club nor its PR arm are reckless enough to have been involved in the creation of this horrendous site, I am in no doubt at all that they were fully aware of its existence.

As such I find myself marvelling at the coincidence of it appearing, and the notorious petition targeting McLaughlin with it, in the same week we get news that he is, once again, persona non grata within Ibrox Stadium.

And I ask myself; am I imagining things here?

Because if I’m not … well, isn’t that appallingly dangerous?

Couldn’t it be seen as a de-facto endorsement – by the club itself – of that site, and its not-too-subtle threatening tone?

The BBC has reacted properly, by giving McLaughlin its full support.

As a result, he’s not standing in a free fire zone.

He has the support of his colleagues (that some of his former ones had been given the same) both in journalism and in the blogosphere, and I write that having openly called for people like Keith Jackson to be banned from Celtic Park.

As I’m fond of saying, people can criticise and slag you all they want … but they ought not to be surprised if you ban them from doing it in your front room.

What makes the difference, at least in my view, is that Jackson and others are opinion piece writers, like me, who’s ability to do the job and earn a living isn’t impacted by such bans and who’s writing is designed to provoke a response.

You only have to look at the reactions of those who get banned to see how little it bothers them; Hugh Keevins wore it like a badge of honour for years.

I’ll tell you what though; I would have a very serious issue with our club if it decided it would ban a journalist simply for reporting facts.

I also might wonder what we were trying to hide.

What Chris McLaughlin did in this case – and in the last case where he was banned from Ibrox – was he reported the news.

He simply laid out the facts, and we all know exactly what facts they were and how inconvenient they were for the club; that during the Hibs game at Christmas a large number of their fans sung a song that UEFA and Scottish criminal law considers not only offensive but sectarian and thereby criminal too.

The decision to ban him is an attack on journalism itself.

It’s saying that the reporting of facts is to be discouraged, and that does impact on the ability of these people to do their jobs as well as on how they do them.

And, especially in this case, that has wider implications.

Because to me, and to others, this looks in many ways, like it could be a co-ordinated effort between a website which has threatened “the enemies” of Sevco and the club.

It looks, in some ways, like a nod and a wink.

Other journalists and news outlets were named by this site, all for having the temerity to have reported facts the club, and the site, would rather they’d not. That, in itself, should have every writer out there asking who these people are and where they sprung from.

This obsession some Sevco fans have with the way the world views them, and with trying to “protect their image” – such as it is – appears paranoid verging on hysterical, but it has a serious point to it for an institution which is rattling the tin cup.

What makes it especially hilarious to me is that all their conduct does is heap further disgrace on them, something that appears not to have dawned on them at all.

They’ve made their club famous for this, and brought further – and even more widespread – attention to the stuff McLaughlin and others have been trying to highlight.

I’ll be frank; had I wanted to cause the maximum negative publicity to the club playing out of Ibrox, and in turn eroded their ability to raise external finance … Hell, I might have created Bears Fightback, and written that inflammatory editorial, myself.

For all that, it wouldn’t exactly shock me to find out some within Ibrox were wholly in favour of this latest example of counter-productive stupidity.

After all this wouldn’t be the first time the nuttier elements of the Sevco support have been given a steer by someone from within the club.

Both Craig Whyte and Charles Green were very quick to court those elements from the moment they took over, and the Yorkshireman gave them one of their most famous soundbites when he accused the SFA’s member clubs of “sectarianism” following the decision to make Sevco start in the bottom tier.

And who can forget McCoist’s snarling demand for the names of an SFA investigative panel, and the subsequent targeting of those individuals in the aftermath?

Or his spiteful – and wholly wrong – suggestion that the burning of a garage and the destruction of the club’s new bus was something “rival fans” might have done?

Many of us aren’t surprised by this kind of conduct, but that doesn’t make it any less worrying.

So yes, this does feel like a red letter day for those who chronicle the hateful behaviour of certain elements in their support.

It feels like a new low, and the coincidence of the club’s action in the same week as this website appears, with McLaughlin very publicly in the cross-hairs, is clearly something that needs more than the standard media response.

This is a broadside against their whole profession.

The club itself has serious questions to answer here.

Let’s see if anyone dares to ask them … and if not what else are we to conclude but that these people are winning after all?

They must not be allowed to do that.

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Sevco: A Storm Off Starboard

ratsI just got done having watched the final season of Deadliest Catch, perhaps the best reality TV show I’ve seen. It reminded me, in many ways, of having read Sebastian Junger’s wonderful book A Perfect Storm last year.

After I’d finished reading that book I wrote an article for this site on the Sevco crisis in which I used a number of examples from the story to highlight issues relating to the club.

I called it Storm Front Coming, and it was prescient in a number of ways, especially in relation to the intentions of a man named Mike Ashley, who some of the media were telling us wanted Sevco as a valuable asset, to be competitive, that he saw value in “Champions League exposure.”

All nonsense, of course, as most of us were well aware.

That piece was well received by non-Sevco readers; I got a lot of nice emails and good comments about that one.

It went down like a lead weight with their fans, though, who took serious offence to any suggestion theirs wasn’t a sound ship, and to the notion that Ashley was only interested in sucking the marrow off their bones.

Yet look where we are now, on the day before Dodgy Dave King goes head to head with Ashley’s lawyers in court.

Much has changed in the year and a bit since I posted that piece.

Yet much remains exactly the same.

This vessel is still sailing in the stormiest of seas.

There’s little good to say about them on or off the park at the moment; their fans will say that’s ridiculous, when they are top of the second tier and in the third tier cup final, but actually some of them realise things aren’t going terribly well.

For all the “great start” they’ve made to the season, Hibs are perilously close to them in the title race and winning the third tier cup competition at the fourth time of asking – if they do – is not going to satiate the appetites of fans who stupidly bought into the Survival Myth and still expect to see this club playing in Europe in the near future.

Their League Cup exit came as a drastic, and sobering, shock although they and their manager try to laugh it off as though it were a minor matter.

The longer you watch this club, and the more you listen to these gullible fans, the more you come to understand what the Survival Myth really is; not a comfort blanket, as some have stated, but a drug they can’t manage to shake, a continuing act of psychological self-harm that combines the worst elements of obsession, arrogance and delusion.

And of course, it has affected all of Scottish football, with our governing bodies willing to bend over backwards to accommodate those who have a vested interest in promoting it.

The dark clouds on the horizon haunt the SFA as much as Sevco, because a lot of people at Hampden are deeply involved in the goings on up at Ibrox. The water level is rising around them. They are, literally, in this up their necks.

We know they were aware that Craig Whyte intended to crash Rangers, and that this would leave hundreds of creditors, great and small, out of pocket.

We know they looked the other way when allegations surfaced in relation to Green, even giving Sevco a green light to investigate itself.

We know too that they breached their own regulations to allow King a seat on the Ibrox board.

I could go on. And on. And on.

There is no hiding place for them if this Force 12 blows across the deck.

This will overwhelm them.

Yesterday, Roger Mitchell, the former SPL CEO, went public with his view that Sevco will come to regret putting King on the board, that he is “damaged” and ought not to have been granted “fit and proper person” status.

I agree with him, but King is just a symptom of the bigger problem.

The bigger problem is at the SFA itself.

After years of studying this stuff, I often ponder just what kind of state Sevco would be in if we had an association that treated them like any other club.

A big part of what makes the coming storm so destructive is that the SFA are about to be swamped at just the moment the Ibrox operation might need them most.

It is inconceivable to almost all of us that Stewart Regan can survive his own court appearance against Ashley in April next year. The Sports Direct supremo has him in the gun sights and he is a dead shot.

The SFA may try to buy him off, or to get him to quit, by throwing King on the fire as a sacrifice, but this isn’t likely to cut much slack with a man so set on winning.

The hurricane sweeping across the sea towards these people is going to blow away everything in front of it.

By the time it passes, the wreckage will stretch over miles of flat, calm ocean.

The scenario we’re looking at is one where Regan has gone and possibly takes a few others with him; it’s one where the clubs are flexing their muscles; where the league’s governing body is under pressure to play by the rules; where the media has been exposed as complicit in the whole Sevco scandal (as they are) and has no moral authority to even attempt to influence the debate, and where the Ibrox club is impoverished and endangered.

Removed of the association CEO who has protected them, without Ogilvie on hand to offer his own brand of “look the other way”, and with Doncaster exposed to the harsher realities of his own position with a mood amongst the other clubs that is in no way sympathetic to another attempted stitch-up, Sevco will be alone, its leaders standing on the deck of a floundering ship, staring out into the rain.

Reform will be possible then, real reform, and not the phony kind that’s raised its head this week.

I mean a reformatted League Cup, to create a group stage, but one which excludes the clubs playing in Europe?

Why does the cynic in me see a clear motivation of providing “more money for Sevco” in that arrangement?

Why, when I contemplate which club will gain the most out of that, do I think of them first?

Could it be that I see most of the matches in this competition being played in front of three quarters empty grounds?

That I see no real benefit to other clubs except more games?

Some of those clubs are already complaining about this, saying they weren’t consulted. Other clubs say they were, but you know what? Regardless of whether they were consulted or not, I have limited sympathy for the leaders of a lot of our teams right now; Doncaster and others only exist because these people haven’t acted decisively and removed them.

What, precisely, will it take for them to act?

When he and Regan all but destroyed the game here as a commercial endeavour in 2012 with their “Scottish football is worthless without Rangers in the top flight” guff, that ought to have been that; jotters, ta-ta, pack your pencils and beat it.

The fans knew it. The fans wanted it.

The clubs failed us all.

You can’t have followed these events and doubt it.

Today, secure in his job, with the “confidence” of the teams, Doncaster is singing that old familiar song about a 14 team top flight, coincidentally as Sevco and Hibs are within touching distance of each other.

I mean, seriously?

These people will do anything to see their beloved Ibrox club in the top flight, and if the directors of other teams haven’t twigged that yet – that their own wishes and ambitions will be subservient to that one – then I don’t know what to say to them.

This failure is theirs too, and if the day ever comes and the duopoly that almost destroyed them is restored they can explain to their own fans why it was allowed to happen.

Sooner or later the directors of other clubs have to wake up. Stewart Regan standing in court, fumbling his words, whilst Doncaster waits on his own turn in the dock as a witness for Craig Whyte … well, yes, that ought to do it.

In the short term, it will barely matter anyway.

This League Cup wheeze has a shelf life of five minutes, and if clubs are complaining about it before it’s even started I have doubts it’ll be more than a one season wonder. Whatever attraction it does have will wane quickly, once the novelty wears off.

The idea isn’t terrible, by the way, but the costs of putting on these games will be higher, in many instances, than the clubs can bring in at the gate, as fans offer their own verdict on the changes.

At Ibrox this is more acute than elsewhere, as the huge expense of match-day can turn a possible source of profit into a loss-making endeavour before you know it, and that this might not even benefit Sevco financially is hilarious to me.

The governing bodies have bent over backwards for this club in the last few years and not one decision they’ve taken has made life at Ibrox better.

Why should this be any different?

Rangers was like a sword boat that the Department of Fish & Game allowed to leave port overloaded with more gear than any other ship in the fleet. It was against regulations, those which existed to protect other vessels from unfair practices, but it also ran against those safety rules which were in place to protect the boat itself.

For years the captain and crew rode their luck, but when the hurricane swept over them in 2012 they went down like a steel anchor.

In a similar fashion, Sevco is like a ship holed below the waterline, allowed to leave port although the authorities are aware of the cracks in the superstructure. Furthermore, it’s one which is captained by a notorious character who cheated other regulatory bodies and was partly responsible for Rangers’ sinking.

As such, he ought never to have been given command of a boat again.

The authorities know this too, and have spent the last year crossing their fingers that everything would be alright on his watch anyway.

That it’s so swiftly gone bad must be haunting their every waking moment, and when this ship starts to sink they’ll do anything to keep the stink of the scandal from their own door.

Anything, that is, except do the only thing that can save Sevco, which is the spending of copious amounts of money.

Without that, their ability to direct influence events once this ship runs into trouble is much as it was when Rangers began to slide below the surface; in other words, zero.

With no Coast Guard cutter on the horizon, what is this club going to do?

One of the things I learned from Sebastian Junger’s book is that sending out a “mayday” quite literally means that everyone on the ship has given up and they’ve accepted that they’re going down.

The word itself originates from the French, “m’aidez”, which in English means “help me”.

For a while now that signal has been getting pumped out of the Blue Room on a fairly steady rhythm.

King’s wee visit to Hampden last week was either them answering or his making sure it was being properly heard; either way, they’re not the people he really wanted to be talking to.

A little sympathy, and maybe the promise of league reconstruction talks, is all they’re able to offer, and he needs those things, but not as much as he needs the money, and besides a change in the weather and he’ll no longer be able to rely on them.

In the meantime, they just keep on repeating the message;

“Mayday, mayday, this is the HMS Sevco … we are in urgent need of assistance … Mayday, mayday …”

But Jim McColl isn’t picking up the phone.

Brian Kennedy is slinging them a deafy.

The “Rangers minded businessmen” who King talked about, but conveniently didn’t want to name, haven’t been forthcoming.

The current board members are keeping things rolling along with soft loans, but they’ll last only as long as their patience does.

When the next distress flare goes up from Ibrox, the one to signify that there’s water in the engine room, shorting the circuits and turning out the lights as well as silencing the radio, it’s more than possible that storm will already have changed everything around them.

There they’ll be, friendless, alone, in the midst of the big waves, waiting for the ship to go down.

King can’t save them, and no-one else wants to, but what will hurt most of all will be that lengthy wait for the Coast Guard … followed by the realisation that help is no longer going to come.

This is the Perfect Storm.

Hell mend everyone caught in the path of it.

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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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Dave King: An Obsession With Celtic

Dave+KingWell, … just when you thought it was all quieting down in Sevconia.

You know, I wasn’t even going to bother with an article on King’s comments yesterday, save for the quick one I posted on the CelticBlog about Scott Allan. I figured that it was just another excuse for him to get his face in the papers, which we all know he loves.

What I didn’t expect – although I think this guy is an absolute charlatan – was that he would do the interview in a manner that suggested someone had slipped something into his water. Some heavy dope maybe. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

So tell me, then, how do Sevco fans feel about him tonight?

Are they still liking what they hear? What they see?

Do they still have faith?

Are they worried yet? Concerned?

Because … by God, they should be.

They have a certifiable nut running their club. No joke. I am not being flippant. I really believe this. There are deep issues with Dave King that have nothing to do with his past, but are all concerned with the way he sees the world.

This guy is off his face, and if they’re happy with that then I guess I’m happy for them to be. Because there’s no way this is good for them. There’s no way this wannabe, this Walter Mitty character, has answers to the myriad questions they should be asking.

Honestly, I’m sitting here trying to get my head around what I’ve just read.

Let’s start with this one.

He says the club has no need of his £20 million, although he admits soft loans will be required to get them through the season. I literally don’t know how else to respond to that than with sarcasm, mockery and disbelief.

That, on its own, would have had me on the floor busting a gut.

I can just imagine some fans nodding their heads in agreement at that.

Those who think this guy can do no wrong, and don’t even want to question him.

But the rest of them must be going ballistic.

This is such open nonsense that I have to conclude he thinks they are all thick.

Putting it bluntly, Dave King is insulting their intelligence.

He’s feeding into every negative thing I’ve been saying, and writing, about some of them in the last couple of years. Their own chairman – their big hero – is saying things that don’t even hide that he thinks large numbers of them are absolute mugs.

If their supporters swallow this, they might as well paint targets on their backs because this guy is going to bleed them for every cent he can. Green, at least, was happy enough taking the cash raised from the institutional investors to buy his swanky pad over in France.

King wants the real cheesecake, the untapped tens of millions in their pockets.

The more you look at Dave King, the more you see that this is a guy who dissembles on every subject, no matter who his audience is or how important the issue.

Sometimes he merely bends the truth, sometimes he gives a wrong impression about it, leading the listener away from what he’s actually saying and down a path towards another meaning entirely. There are times when he invents reality whole, like a fiction writer, as if he hopes you’ll get so immersed in the world he’s created for you that you will forget, albeit briefly, the real one.

I cannot think of anyone in the history of Scottish football – and I include Charles Green, Craig Whyte and everyone else connected with the sordid Ibrox operation – who has been quite so brazen as this.

Whenever he gets in front of the media he openly contradicts everything he’s said before.

Let’s cast our minds back to the judge’s view of him in South Africa, and I don’t simply mean the “glib and shameless” part, which I’ve always thought of as being a nice line but one that falls far short of being the real meat in that particular helping of succulent lamb.

For openers, Judge Smallwood pointed out one of King’s key character traits.

“He is extremely arrogant and obviously thinks that whatever he says is so.”

Arrogance can be perilous. At its worst, it confers upon someone a belief in themselves which often far outstrips any actual skill or talent they possess. But look at the second part of that statement; the judge is also calling him delusional.

The next bit should occasion shock amongst even his defenders.

“He deliberately misrepresented the facts of the case to his legal representatives.”

When you’re in the fight of your life and you are lying to your own lawyers … well, that’s not a sign of anything good is it?

As if that’s not enough, Smallwood went on to say;

“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.”

Smallwood and his fellow judges then delivered what I believe to be easily the most damning verdict of all on the South African who now runs Sevco.

“(We) saw Mr King testify in court and in cross-examination for four days and are unanimous that he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is supported by documents or other objective evidence.”

I didn’t just make those quotes up, or invent them out of thin air.

They are part of the official record, the official court transcript, in a tax evasion and fraud case against him.

The judges are saying that King lied to the court. He lied to his lawyers. He lied to everyone, perhaps even himself, on things both great and small. He lied when huge matters were at stake. He lied to protect himself. But he also lied about little things.

He lied when he didn’t even have to, as if lying itself comes naturally to him, as if it’s a habit or a compulsion.

Does anyone really believe that a guy who would sit in a courtroom and tell blatant, open, brazen untruths to a judge, whilst under oath, would hesitate to do the same in front of a Scottish media pack that is all too ready, and willing, to believe?

That never questions him?

That never goes away and scrutinises even a single word he’s said before accepting it as fact?

If you were of the right mind-set, facing such pitiful interrogators, you might find yourself misleading them for no reason other than that you could. For the sheer thrill of it, to know that no matter how barmy your comments that they’d find an audience and make the front page. You too might well find yourself selling pie in the sky and promising moonbeams.

Of course, this interview was notable for one thing in particular; King’s “plan” to restore the OldCo.

That this is fanciful rubbish – an absolute Dave King fantasy- hardly needs saying, but that he’s even discussing such a loony concept in the press is proof that he just likes to see his name in print.

Yet I think, when you look at the whole interview, and the conduct of this guy and his board in the last six months, you see something else, something I find hugely interesting.

When I posted on the CelticBlog concerning the Scott Allan comments, I said I thought they were typically small minded and petty from this guy, as he seems simply unable to see anything go past him.

But it’s only when I read the whole interview that the over-arching theme comes through.

This guy is obsessed with Celtic, and the entire direction of his club at the moment is geared towards nothing less than matching every single thing we do. His strategy is totally reactive, and it’s dictated by our own actions.

When he talks about the club’s ambitions in a football sense, challenging Celtic is all he sees.

The rest of the teams, they don’t matter to him.

They may as well not even exist, because we’re all he thinks about and talks about.

This is understandable, in a sense, because we are, after all, the biggest club in the country, by miles. That he has set his sights on our rear view lights is perfectly normal, as far as it goes, but it doesn’t stop there.

His determination to catch us means he’s committing his board – for all a commitment from this guy is worth anyway – to over-spending, and risking their existence, if that’s what it takes.

This, too, you could simply put down to a typically Sevconian outlook in order to catch the top side … but he’s also basing his transfer policy on ours and planning to emulate our approach to that.

So it’s buy them young, train them up and sell them on.

Forget the fact this policy has seen Celtic go from a Champions League team to one that can barely handle the Europa League … this is the road he’s going down, or so he claims.

There’s not an original idea in this guy’s head … he’s copying everything from Celtic Park. This is not a guy who’s come to Ibrox with a grand master plan of his own. No, his sole strategy is to bend his club until it looks like ours.

Even here he might just be forgiven as there’s a certain logic in doing things the Celtic way if the objective is to make money – which for him, it is.

This, too, can be rationalised.

Where he starts coming off like a stalker is when he tells the fans they have to be more like us, to spend more money than us, to try and copy us as he’s trying to copy our strategy.

It becomes even spookier when you factor in his reaction to the Allan transfer and the way he sarcastically thanked us for signing the player … although he was their top target.

In light of that, his comments about Allan make perfect sense.

His ego has been pierced here, and the arrogant side of him came rushing to the surface.

No other club could have had this effect on him, though.

He is consumed by his obsession with us.

The Ibrox fans must have squirmed hearing him talk yesterday about restoring the OldCo for no other reason than we badger them about the death of their club. They’ve spent three years telling us this is not an issue … and in a single day he has expressed his own doubts loud and clear, and claimed to want to resolve it. He then says it doesn’t bother him!

Aye, right …

He knows full well – he said it before the CVA was rejected – that Rangers is dead and gone, and that even relisting the company that once existed won’t bring them back to life … the whole exercise is pedantic, and pointless, and stupid and will make no difference at all.

But it burns him that we have that to hang over his head, and it affects him so much that he’s largely oblivious to the myriad footballing issues that would arise – such as another enforced absence from European football for materially changing the corporate structure of the club – as well as the legal implications if HRMC are to claim a final victory in the Tax Case.

This guy thinks about Celtic constantly, and he will risk everything – expect his own money – to catch us.

He talks big, but ultimately he talks nonsense.

Yesterday was the day he finally tripped the wire and veered into outright nuttiness.

His Celtic obsession, his ego and his pathalogical inability to tell the truth … they merged, perfectly, in one session with the media.

If I were a Sevco fan, I’d be very concerned about all of that.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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Sevco: The Calm Before The Storm

mark-warburtonFor weeks now, Scottish football news has been dominated by two subjects; how close Celtic are to being knocked out of the Champions League and how wonderful everything is at Ibrox.

I’ll get to the Champions League tomorrow, before and after the game.

For now, let’s have a look at what’s happening across town.

In a previous article, I discussed the wonderful book A Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, as an analogy of life at Sevco.

Stormy seas. Water pouring over the sides.

Black clouds and thunder overhead.

Right now, everything about the club seems rosy and bright. They are, to use another shipping analogy, gliding through calm seas.

But if you know your history you’ll know this.

It was calm seas that sunk the Titanic.

Calm seas, flat seas, are a warning indicator.

They are one of the signs of nearby pack ice and as the night of the sinking was also moonless it made the icebergs much more difficult to spot than they’d otherwise have been, because aside from there being little light except that from the boat itself there were no “breaking waves” off the berg.

This is why when I hear talk of it being smooth sailing at Ibrox right now I want to laugh.

This is a club that has been mired in crisis and scandal for the last few years, and something tells me we’ve not seen the last of it just yet.

I find a lot of the euphoria over there fascinating.

The fans appear to believe six wins on the bounce against mostly part time sides is cause for celebration.

They think Warburton is some kind of managerial guru.

It’s a lot like the response Stuart McCall got last season … for a while.

Then there are the accolades being poured onto certain players, as if they’ve gone out and brought in an undiscovered genius.

They don’t appear to understand football very much; the scouting systems these days are so fool-proof that there’s no such thing.

James Tavernier is a former Newcastle youth player who’s had eight clubs – count that, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 clubs – in four years.

He actually started his career at Farsley Celtic, where Leeds United spotted him (he had spent a year playing in goal) and snapped him up before he went to Newcastle. There, he might have been expected to develop if there was something to him, but it was the start of a period which involved more packing of bags than pulling on football boots.

In 2011 alone he was farmed out to Gateshead, Carlisle United and Sheffield Wednesday.

The following year he was off to the MK Dons.

A year later, he was at Shrewsbury.

Followed by Rotherham.

Followed by Wigan.

Followed by Bristol City … and then Sevco.

If you listen to Warburton – and I do, because I find him interesting too – this is one of the players they are counting on being able to sell in years to come, along with Martyn Waghorn, the striker they signed in the same deal.

He, too, has had a career of adventure, having played for six clubs so far, including Milwall, Hull, Leicester and Charlton.

They evidently believe they will amass huge transfer fees for these players … when no other club they’ve been with has managed it thus far.

Am I saying these guys won’t do well for them?

No, I’m saying that they aren’t world beaters.

I’m saying they aren’t going to lead Sevco to the top of the SPL.

I’m saying they won’t bring in big money when the club finally moves them on.

It’s a fantasy, but it’s got to be an encouraging, pleasant fantasy for those who follow the club.

There have been no negative headlines for a while now.

It helps, of course, when you have PR people making sure there is a steady stream of good news to write about.

It helps too when there isn’t a faction standing on the side-lines stirring the soup and causing chaos at every opportunity.

See, much of the last two years’ chaos was a direct consequence of King and his people causing as much trouble as they could from the outside.

Now they’re on the inside, is it a coincidence that things have calmed down a little?

The issues that faced the club then face it now though.

They haven’t gone away. Not even close.

There’s not enough money in the bank to get them through the rest of the season; serious structural problems continue to plague it.

They’ve gotten lucky that the gamble on Warburton hasn’t already blown up in their faces; if it had, and the team was not playing well, there would be hard questions from every quarter, except the press.

Performances on the park – and a couple of them have been very decent – have led to big crowds too, but this nonsense about their fans outspending ours would still be ridiculous if they were packing them in like sardines every second week.

Even if the club had sold every available seat, and every one a season ticket, they’d still have the same set of problems they have now and those problems won’t recede no matter how many magic hats the fans wear.

Dave King, in the meantime, continues to get his free ride from the Scottish sporting press.

The Scotsman, in the run up to the Hibs match at the weekend, actually said Sevco’s argument with the Edinburgh side over the Scott Allan transfer was brought about by the Ibrox clubs “spending power”; a quite ridiculous assessment of things considering they were outbid for their number one target of the summer and have spent almost nothing.

The broken promises will be forgotten as long as part time teams continue to swoon before the blue jerseys; a habit most of them had gotten out of but now appear to be falling into all over again.

But that odd myopia will only last as long as it takes for other sides to find out that Sevco isn’t unbeatable, that this patchwork team of lower league footballers aren’t on their way to being world beaters.

The name “Rangers” still carries some talismanic ability to intimidate, that and an entire media industry telling everyone how great they are.

But come winter, come the bad weather, when all Scotland’s pitches have become quagmires … well, sexy football has a habit of coming undone and when it goes the Sevco fans will quickly realise that all the lovely editorials of today are simply the chip wrappers of the rainy season.

You just watch what happens then.

When calls for the transfer war chest start for real, at a time when the club has to actively go out and ask the supporters for more money.

That’s going to be fun and games, for sure.

King and his people are on the board now, and they’re running the show.

There is nobody out there on the horizon, battering war drums, because no-one outside of Scottish football has the remotest interest in a provincial second tier club.

There’s not going to be another takeover bid, so more boardroom battles seem unlikely unless some of those around King get sick carrying the water. Don’t rule that out, but it won’t be until after the New Year.

This club is still riding a train bound for nowhere.

The money to sustain it simply is not there.

There are problems just below the surface of these smooth seas alright.

Or to put it another way, and to use another mariners term, it’s the calm before the storm.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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No Standards

PETER MARTINAs many of you know well, I am a geek about the Roman Empire, in particular the early years when it was run by what historians refer to as the Julio-Claudian dynasty; from the era of Octavian up until the death of Nero, from roughly 44BC until AD68.

In the midst of this period – when Rome had five emperors – was the reign of Caligula. Whilst not as insane as Nero, he was, some historians claim, nevertheless barking mad, arrogant and sadistic.

He also hated the Senate with a passion that can best be summed up by stories that he nominated his horse, Incitatus, to that famous body and even talked of making it Consul.

It is probably history’s greatest expression of contempt.

I thought about that a lot when the Sevco directors named Chris Graham as one of them.

I chortled over that appointment because it was so obviously ridiculous, and bound to end in tears.

Caligula payed for his own numerous insults with death; he was assassinated in a conspiracy involving a number of senators and his own Praetorian Guard.

Graham too was taken care of, when it became obvious even to the blinkered idiots who had thought him fit for such a post that he was radioactive.

There were no knives in his back but it seems clear he was convinced to jump before he was pushed, to spare the club further embarrassment.

He is an embarrassment.

The website he helped found, which is called The Rangers Standard, actually started out with good ideas and noble intentions.

I read some of the earlier pieces, and thought they were excellent and opened up a lot of possibilities for the club’s supporters engaging with other fans.

That didn’t last long.

The lunatics were soon in charge of the asylum and the title became a grim unintended parody of itself.

They’ve been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a long time now.

Over the weekend, Graham’s organ went right through the bottom, hit the dirt and started digging for China.

Low standards have become no standards.

Any shred of credibility he and his website had is gone.

When Sevco played St Mirren on Friday night, there was a minutes silence for the ex-Rangers player Sammy Cox.

After the match, somebody with a rather big mouth and an extremely small brain “informed” the team at The Rangers Standard that the journalist Peter Martin had refused to stand in observance of this.

Now, there are many reasons why someone might not stand.

Maybe they can’t.

Maybe they are unwell and need to remain in the seat.

Maybe they knew the person personally – and Martin would certainly have known Sammy Cox, in a professional capacity as well as a social one – and choose to pay a silent, reflective, tribute by taking a moment to sit and think about the times they had spent together.

And, of course, the whole thing might just be cobblers.

Which, you won’t be surprised to learn, is exactly what it turned out to be.

But none of that entered the mind of the erstwhile Sevco director or whoever was in charge of the Twitter feed on that particular day.

They tweeted an accusatory and highly inflammatory, even dangerous, allegation without checking the facts, without considering nuance, without thinking about the consequences.

There are a range of potential consequences too.

When one considers bombs sent to people’s homes and fans running onto the pitch to attack a Celtic manager, you do get a sense of what some on the far fringes of sanity might consider or even engage in following such a dramatic disclosure.

The mind-numbing stupidity of this act is equalled only by its sheer recklessness.

And at its heart is a horrible, evil presumption that can only be the product of a hateful mind.

Graham or one of his people heard this and believed it because they see the whole world through their own set of unhealthy prejudices.

They didn’t bother with the “benefit of the doubt” or anything else; they heard the story, applied their own thought processes to it (such as they are) and concluded that they should put it out there because it sounded right in their own head.

I am harsh on our press. But even I realise that much of what I perceive as anti-Celtic bias is simply the hacks slotting into a culture which we have here.

Every word out of Ibrox is treated as gospel although the institution run out of that ground is a basket case and much of what pours out of its PR wings is purely and simply absolute cobblers.

Celtic, on the other hand, are scrutinised and held to different standards, from the boardroom to the dugout.

It’s more than just because we’re now the biggest club in the country; there’s an element of bitterness in it at times … but that’s just part of living here in Scotland.

The word “hate” doesn’t factor into my thinking.

Hate is a strong word, a vicious word, a word that is overused when it ought to be one we apply very carefully.

Some of the hacks don’t like my club much.

Some of them may be overly enamoured with the Ibrox operation.

But it would take an almost mind-bending display of ugliness – the kind not seen since David Leggat last worked for a national title – before I’d accuse one of the hacks of outright hating Celtic, of wishing us harm, of being motivated by nothing else.

Can you imagine the level of loathing it takes for someone not to pay their respects to a dead man, just because of the football club he played for?

Thank God, but that kind of mentality is exceedingly rare and there isn’t a single one of our journalists – not one, no matter how much I may do my nut at the things they write or say – who is built like that.

And Peter Martin?

A couple of seconds of rational contemplation should have dissuaded anyone from giving even the remotest credence to such obvious bullshit.

For Gods sakes, if you were looking to pick a guy who’s considerate, genuine and without a bitter, far less hateful, bone in his body you couldn’t do much better.

That anyone with a degree of level-headedness would think, for a second, that he’s moved by those emotions … it’s unbelievable.

Whoever sent out that tweet belongs in a secure unit, pulling the padding out of his cell walls.

Sevco are at war with the media at the moment – or select parts of it anyway, those which actually see “doing the news” as an essential part of the job and which don’t just regurgitate Level 5 PR statements as if they were Holy Writ – and the whole club is wrapping itself in the “no-one likes us we don’t care” comfort blanket of old.

But they need to pull their heads out of their backsides and this humiliating screw up – and the Rangers Standard has already apologised, but only after Martin explicitly accused them of lying and said he wouldn’t stand for it, threatening to sue – ought to give them pause and a wee moment for thinking about what they’re actually engaged in here.

Some of them clearly do prefer living in ignorance to being in possession of the facts, even those that could help them.

Some of them are more comfortable making enemies lists than engaging with other clubs and their supporters.

But this perma-rage has made their club weaker, not stronger.

It has made their lives harder, not easier.

For some there’s simply no going back though; this consumes them now, and colossal errors of judgement and breaks with reality are simply the norm with a large section of them, one that really has swallowed the Survival Myth whole and believes in the Victim Myth without question.

The Rangers Standard has apologised on Twitter, to Martin and to its own readers, giving them assurances that they were told of Martin’s refusal to stand and hinting that they used it in “good faith.”

There is no “good faith” argument in running a gutter level lie.

They get no credit for their apology, which actually reeks of fear of legal consequences as much as genuine contrition.

It isn’t the first time they’ve slandered people; Graham in particular enjoys throwing the word “bigot” around, although he’s the one who had to resign from the Sevco board for such conduct. Their twitter feed also throws the words “lies” and “liars” around with almost reckless abandon that, sooner or later, will result in them ending up in court.

So no, they get no credit for being “sorry”.

What started out as a positive, intelligent and potentially important website for the NewCo supporters has become something ugly, something reckless and self-absorbed, but it’s embraced by a lot of people who are simply lost in the darkness in which their club still finds itself, in spite of recent improved performances on the pitch.

These guys could do themselves and the club they purport to love a huge service by disbanding and shutting the Hell up.

At the very least, they might want to consider a name change.

And on the other hand … maybe not.

They have, after all, been key supporters of the Glib & Shameless South African tax cheat and his band of fellow travellers, those who thought appointing Chris Graham to the board was a good idea, as Caligula once thought nominating his horse to the Senate was.

For this shoddy, shabby, cowardly behaviour …it’s the norm now.

Their own board, after all, has broken promises, engaged in shady practices, changed its story like the weather and after promising a “new era of transparency” is banning journalists who have the cheek to do their jobs.

This is The Rangers Standard now, isn’t it?

Talk about fiddling whilst Rome burns.

(Writing is my full time job friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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A Terrible Week For The Hacks

JS69303298This has been an interesting seven days for those of us who watch the media.

First, let me say how tremendous it was to see Jim Spence talking to one of the blogs, on the record, over the weekend.

That’s what I predicted when he left the BBC and I’m delighted that one of his stated reasons for doing that was that he wanted to be less constrained in what he could say.

A guy like Jim, with integrity and passion, and who understands the fans, is a voice we should have articulating his views without fear or favour. He will be a supreme asset to our national sport debates going forward, and I am looking forward to his next intervention.

With other journalists, I have less sympathy and less desire to offer praise or support.

I refrained, at the weekend (although only just) from posting a full-on rant over Neil McCann’s latest spitting out of the dummy, over whether Craig Gordon should have been sent off against Ross County, this time complete with pamphlet waving as if he was holding the Ten Commandments.

McCann isn’t my favourite person. He can’t hide his dislike of Celtic (and yes, I know he grew up a Celtic fan; King Kenny and Danny McGrain grew up Rangers supporters and neither has a whole lot of love for the blue half of Glasgow) and that’s an appalling thing in a so-called impartial reporter.

I let it slide because there’s not much more to say on the subject. I’ve ranted about him a couple of times in the past and most people have a pretty clear idea of how I regard him; I would not let him into Celtic Park even if he was paying at the gate.

The club has, to the best of my knowledge, done nothing to keep him from our door and that’s up to them. Perhaps it’s not wanting to piss off Sky and perhaps it’s just that they don’t regard a torn faced hack and his ludicrous opinions as more than a minor irritant and they probably don’t want to give him the oxygen of more publicity, which a ban would do.

I can get behind that view and I can only imagine the squealing he’d do if he was given martyrdom to wrap himself in.

When we banned Keevins I thought it was about time, and his own wailing was sweet music. He, too, has had an odd seven days. I didn’t listen to Clyde myself last week (I never do unless there is an expanding crisis on or off the park at Ibrox, because then it is just beautiful; at any other time it is  a hellish drag, so pro the Ibrox club it would make you sick) but I heard about it afterwards from numerous friends, most of whom were incredulous.

Apparently the “poor man’s Gerry McNee” (and you can have no concept of just how low that standard is unless you once endured that eejits writing) thinks Warburton is a proven quality who will lead Sevco to the Championship title by ten points at least.

Let’s forget for a moment that he thought his mate Coisty (he freely admits this) was of similar skills and made exactly the same prediction last year … let’s focus on this one.

For one thing, he like many of his hack mates has been impressed by Warburton’s track record although none of them have been able to say just why. I’ve gone over that subject here before too, but in case any of the hacks is reading here’s a wee refresher course.

He’s in his fifties and has exactly eighteen months experience as a coach. He has won nothing in that time, save for a couple of manager of the month awards. He came from Brentford, not AC Milan, and only then because their ambitious and brilliant chairman made a decision halfway through last season not to renew his contract. Get that? He was let go and out of work and there was not a queue of clubs at the door, enquiring about his services.

If we contrast that with the way Keevins and others reacted to Celtic’s appointment of Ronny Deila we see the old familiar pattern; we aren’t a million miles away from the days when Jo Venglos and his signings were being slated without mercy.

Deila, apparently, “had to prove himself” and was seen as a huge risk. Despite being in his mid-thirties, with a national league title and cup to his name already.

These kind of “expert opinions” from lickspittle gutter grabbers are why Scottish sports journalism is viewed with such absolute and utter contempt. You don’t ask for much more than consistency, than some intellectual integrity, some basic honesty. What you get instead is spiteful, wilful idiocy designed to earn controversy points.

It’s because of people like Keevins that there’s very little sympathy going around for Chris McLaughlin and Graham Spiers, in light of their ban from Ibrox.

Now, as a guy who has called for Keevins’ ban from Celtic Park to be extended to everywhere within 100 miles of the stadium (or any stadium where we are likely to play) and who wants McCann to do his next Sky commentary at Parkhead from the carpark, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to criticise Sevco for handing out bans to hacks they don’t particularly like.

Yet there is a difference and you don’t have to be a genius to see it.

Just take off the blue tinted glasses.

I do have some residue of empathy with Graham Spiers. I’ll get to him in a minute. But I find what happened to Chris McLaughlin almost painfully funny even if the club is disgracing itself in pandering to its lunatic fringe with the move.

All McLaughlin did on this occasion was to highlight that a number of the vermin who follow that club and who keep on shaming it had been arrested following the match at Easter Road and that the match delegate had noted sectarian singing in his report.

Now whether some Sevco fan sites and groups like it or not, that is news. It’s a big story and I was glad to see that the BBC was acting responsibly by covering it and not simply ignoring it and hoping that it would go away. McLaughlin was right to highlight it and the ridiculousness of the reaction from the Blue Room puts the writing on the wall for every hack in the land.

And it will work too, because most of them, and most of their papers, are gutless frauds. Not everyone has the integrity and courage of Jim Spence.

What laces this with deadly humour is that McLaughlin has been one of the most sycophantic pro-Sevco, pro-King supporters out of all of the BBC’s resident line animals. He is mocked almost constantly on Twitter for the way his nose is constantly pressed against the backside of whomever occupies the Ibrox boardroom at any one time.

He was entitled to better than this, he really was. The Dave King Medal of Honour at the very least. In my view he has been treated abysmally considering the services he’s rendered over the years, all of it whilst working on the taxpayer’s tab too.

Spiers is a different ballgame entirely, and his being singled out is significant and should be a big flashing warning light for everyone who believed, for a second, King’s claims that he wanted to run a more transparent club.

We’ve said from the start that you can’t believe a word that comes out of King’s mouth and it not greatly surprising to see the notion of openness go by the boards. These people, for whatever reason, are determined to avoid scrutiny of any sort, even when, as McLaughlin has done, all the hacks are doing is reporting the facts.

But Spiers has simply been critical and asked some questions about the club and how it’s being run. He’s asked the questions a lot of the supporters of the club would want a good journalist to ask. The decision to ban him reeks of fear and suppression of dissent.

It is the behaviour, frankly, of people with something to hide.

Sevco fans ought to be grievously concerned by that, instead of stupidly dancing on the tables at the purging of “enemies of the club.” Haven’t they ever heard the phrase “sunlight is the best disinfectant”? Do they not know what it means?

They are only following a NewCo In the first place because Whyte was able to bamboozle some of the media and silence the rest whilst he got on with running them into the ground. Murray only got away with his own disastrous policies because he was doling out the succulent lamb.

The media has been the club’s most effective ally in keeping the truth from the supporters for many, many years now … and every journalist who has broken ranks in that time and delivered the facts to those who needed them most ought to have been a hero amongst the fans.

Instead … they get this.

Witch hunted by the websites and the supporters groups.

Madness. They just never will get it.

In the meantime, the dearth of good sports journalism in Scotland has taken a battering and a half over the last seven days … with only Spency emerging with much credit.

It was ever thus, though.

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The Numbers Game

Dave-KingThe day before yesterday, Dave King gave an extraordinary interview to a star-struck Jim White where he said that in order for the club to catch Celtic the supporters would have to outspend ours.

This rare moment of truth from King – an admission, in effect, that the money wasn’t going to be coming out of his pockets or those of his “investor” friends – has been the subject of much discussion on the forums and the blogs already.

My last piece for this site was on that very subject, in which I explored the whole interview, but the specific part of it where he laid it out for the Sevco supporters needs to be examined in some detail.

Forget for a second that he is equating Sevco with Rangers.

We know they are different entities entirely.

Let’s take it on face value, as he intends it.

His claim is that the Rangers/Sevco fans “built the club” by outspending the Celtic supporters throughout their history.

Now, we can’t trace the club’s financial ins and outs for every single year of the century he’s talking about, but it’s plainly garbage, like nearly everything King says.

What we do have are some pretty detailed financial figures for the decade 2001 – 2010, from the audited reports.

Those are pretty telling, offering up a devastating story which doesn’t just blow holes in the nonsense King is talking, but reveals the scale of the task he’s now putting onto the shoulders of the long suffering Sevco fans.

Let’s start with this; Celtic’s turnover was greater than theirs for eight of the ten years.

Split those ten years into two five year periods, and the average has Celtic’s turnover well ahead in both.

Obviously the overall ten year average also has Celtic on top.

These aren’t small advantages either.

The 2001-2005 average has Celtic an astonishing £8 million better off, per annum, over the course.

The 2006-2010 average is even grimmer, because that has Celtic an almost mind-bending £15 million (and change) better off, on average, every single year …

The ten year average for the period has Celtic with a £63 million turnover, and Rangers lagging far behind on a turnover of £51.6 million … a differential of more than £11 million.

Drill down a little deeper.

Let’s take the numbers year by year.

In 2001, on a turnover of £42,000,000 we finished £5 million behind Rangers, one of only two years during that decade where we did.

It is, by far, our lowest year in turnover during that ten year period.

Our average for the timeframe is £20 million higher.

Season 2000-2001, the season these numbers refer to, had Rangers in the Champions League, where they reached the Groups, finishing third, and dropping into the UEFA Cup, where Kaiserslautern knocked them out.

They played 6 games at home in European competition that season, including the three Champions League group game matches.

In contrast, we played three, all in the UEFA Cup qualifiers.

Their turnover of £47 million was on the low side compared to what we would later have.

Indeed, our turnover exceeded it by £9 million the following year and we never came close to dropping below the £50 million level during the next decade.

In contrast, Rangers managed it four times, actually dropping below £40 million during one particular season which I’ll get to shortly.

The following season, 2001-2002, we participated in the Group Stages of the Champions League, and we saw our turnover rocket accordingly.

It hit £56 million that year, whilst Rangers’ fell back to £44 million.

Our fans outspent theirs by £12 million.

The following season, our turnover hit the £60 million mark, as what looked like a catastrophic setback in Europe – being knocked out of the Champions League by Basle – resulted in our march to the UEFA Cup Final in Seville.

Celtic had increased their turnover by 50% in just two years.

Rangers’ remained stagnant. That year their turnover was £49 million.

The following year, both clubs managed to reach the Champions League Groups and when we finished third in ours we dropped into the UEFA Cup, where we got to the quarter finals.

Our turnover rose by another £9 million, putting us on the cusp of the £70 million mark.

Rangers turnover went up to £57 million, which was an increase of £8 million.

Yet in spite of this, they still finished far behind us in overall terms.

The following year, our turnover dropped back instead of surging forward; we made £62 million, in spite of again reaching the Groups.

Our fourth place finish was abysmal, but it was better than Rangers managed; they failed to reach the Groups in the Champions League, dropped into the revamped UEFA Cup and finished fourth in a five man group run on a bizarre system of each team playing every other side once instead of twice.

They lost £2 million from the previous year.

We lost a dreadful £7 million in turnover terms.

That money being lost didn’t put them in front of us.

We still topped their turnover by £7 million.

The following year, their turnover leapt by £6 million, whilst ours fell again, with us hitting a four year low of £57 million.

They got above £61 million, finishing above us, with a total turnover advantage of £4 million.

And how did they do this?

Well, that was the year of the Nightmare in Bratislava where we crashed out of Europe in Gordon Strachan’s first attempt, whilst they were in the Champions League Groups and qualified for the second stages, where Villarreal finally put them out.

We played one European tie at home. They played five.

That was the key difference that year, the only reason they finished in front of us.

The £4 million advantage works out at about £1 million per European game.

European football was the only reason their income rose by £6 million on the previous year.

The following season, oh what a difference.

Their income dropped like a rock; £20 million was lost to them as our income leapt by £18 million.

This was for two main reasons.

Alex McLeish, who had been manager the previous season, had been wobbling for some time and managed only third place in the league. The “loyal Rangers fans” were moody and introspective.

Celtic fans, on the other hand, were buoyant at what Strachan appeared to be building.

That was one Hell of a year for us.

It was the year of Nakamura’s free kicks against Manchester United, the year we lit up Parkhead with big performances against big teams.

We were painfully, crushingly, close against Milan in the Champions League knockout rounds too.

Rangers had reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup too, being dispatched by Osasuna.

This begs the question as to just what happened that transformed the clubs so spectacularly in one year, that Celtic finished with a financial advantage over Rangers of a staggering £34 million.

LeGuen had started to fold the hand in November and was replaced in January; his term at the club cannot explain away, and nor can the disparity between Champions League football and not, the enormity of that financial gulf.

The following season, Rangers income rose by £20 million on the back of the Champions League Groups, where they finished third, dropped into the UEFA Cup and had their own, shame filled, march to the Final.

Celtic also reached the Groups in the Champions League, going through to the knockout stages along with Milan, before Barcelona sent us home.

We still finished £8 million in front of them on the financial front.

In the financial figures posted in 2009, Rangers had their worst year for over a decade.

They were knocked of Europe by Kaunas, whereas Celtic played in the Champions League groups again.

They finished the season with a turnover of £39 million whereas ours was £72 million … another astronomical gap which revealed the difference between the two clubs was not just to be found in Champions League income.

The following year, having meekly surrendered our SPL title in 2009, we had to play in the Champions League Qualifiers whilst they went straight to the groups. We navigated one round, got Arsenal in the next one and dropped into the revamped Europa League.

Despite having to watch as Rangers won the double, played in the biggest tournament of them all and enduring a dismal season in the Europa League groups, where we finished third in our section, Celtic fans still outspent Rangers supporters by £5 million, on a turnover of £61 million against their £56 million.

That takes care of the ten year period in question.

What about the modern numbers?

In 2013, Celtic posted astounding annual turnover figures of £75.8 million.

Sevco’s income was a mere £19 million.

Last year we dropped some, with a turnover of £64.7 million.

The drop is significant, because as awful as those figures appear to be, that number is still more (narrowly, by about £200,000) than the high water mark of Rangers’ earnings in the ten year period before the club was liquidated in 2011 – their UEFA Cup Final and Champions League groups season.

Paul Brennan of CQN thinks that our turnover in the next set of accounts will be our lowest since 2001, some £55 million.

That will represent a calamitous fall in our finances that is going to be difficult to turn around in the short term.

It is the consequence of a major drop in the price of season tickets, a fall in overall attendances and no Champions League football.

A winning team on the park, a return to the Groups, some signs of life from the boardroom and those problems can be resolved.

But you know something you won’t read in The Record when the numbers come out?

Even with a drop that big, that £55 million will still be more than Rangers earned in five of their ten final years of existence … the pinnacle of their historic earning power, and they are never going to get close to that again.

Sevco’s last published accounts show income at £25 million.

So even now, preparing for our worst set of annual figures for a while, and second worst in the last 15 years, they would need to roughly double their income even to break even with us.

Our figures for last season are exceptional in that they’ll fall below the £60 million mark for only the fourth time in 15 years.

If they managed to reach the £60 million mark it would only be for the second time in that same timeframe.

Don’t let anyone kid you about their club being bigger than we are.

Don’t let anyone feed you guff about them outspending our fans either.

In 15 years the Ibrox operation has only managed to exceed our income twice, and one of those years was in the exceptional circumstances where they played in the Champions League groups and got to a UEFA Cup Final.

They also reached two domestic cup finals.

Yet in that year our earnings were greater than theirs.

In the period between 2001-2010 Celtic’s total turnover was £630,000,000.

Rangers’ turnover for the same period was £516,450,000.

King says he wants the Sevco fans to outspend Celtic supporters “again.”

He claims that they’ve done so for most of the last century.

I think he’s certifiable because a look at those numbers shows how poorly the argument stacks up.

To catch Celtic, King’s club is going to need to spend serious money.

The turnover differential when the next accounts are posted will be somewhere in the region of £30,000,000 and that’s on an exceptionally bad year for us.

They won’t get that close this season or next.

Can the supporters really be expected to plug that kind of gap, far less exceed it?

What will they expect in return for that kind of effort, even if it were someone conceivable for the club to double the price of season tickets, renegotiate the Sports Direct deal to more favourable conditions and get the fans to buy more merchandise than they ever have before?

The interview was a joke.

If this is all King has got he’s got nothing.

The Sevco fans are being led up the garden path here and no mistake.

The numbers do not lie.

We can’t say the same about the man in the big chair at Sevco.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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The One Eyed Man

JimWhiteandDaveKing_3328278There are people who have succeeded in life far beyond any skills they actually possess, and their move up through the ranks of their chosen profession baffles those who are seasoned watchers of those industries.

I am sure that Jim White is a talented guy, and not only in the sense that he can do a tough, high pressured job in front of the cameras every night.

To get a job like that you need a certain charm, a certain smoothness, a certain ability to be ingratiating and probing at the same time.

You need to be a superb networker, and ambitious enough to push yourself.

White has skills, and that’s clear and it’s without question.

Unfortunately White also comes across sometimes as hopelessly sycophantic and arse-kissing.

As a celebrity in his own right, albeit a C-List one, he ought not to get star-struck, and indeed I’ve seen him interview top players and managers and equate himself well.

Yet White has a tendency to get all gooey-eyed and flaky whenever he comes across certain people, representing one particular football club. Regular readers on this blog will not need three guesses to suss which one it is.

I think that’s a very bad thing in a journalist because it destroys impartiality at a stroke and makes you vulnerable to people serving you up big steaming helpings of BS.

White has fallen victim to that before, on a couple of occasions, and he’s also been on the wrong end of the laughs for two pretty memorable interviews where his effusive gushing over the subject (Brian Laudrup in the first and Charles Green in the second) earned him derision.

Last night, I incredulously watched another of them, a performance so bad, so lickspittle awful, that I confidently predict it will, in time, become the “succulent lamb” piece of the broadcast media.

Everything about it was horrendous, from the awed tones when White pulled up to the house to the way in which King showed off his (largely) criminal gains, boasting about having sunk more money into Rangers than anyone in its history.

The piece was not simply amateur hour in its tone.

White, who appears to have swallowed an entire Level 5 Dave King profile whole, actually opened up with the ridiculous (and shockingly easy to disprove) assertion that the convicted tax cheat recently appeared on a list of the ten richest men in South Africa.

I actually expressed my disgust at this quite vocally as I watched it, unable to believe that White put that on the record without remotely examining the claim.

To give you the facts; King was nowhere near the top 10, or even the top 20.

His daughter got into the top 30 on one poorly researched list, as a consequence of being the senior named director of the family’s biggest company (worth a reputed £30 million) … but daddy was nowhere to be seen.

I found that particular comment interesting for more than just its lack of truth.

White was standing on the grounds of a mansion, but someone felt the need to gild the lily.

Was it White himself?

It’s hard to believe he plucked that claim out of thin air … more likely, he was fed it by someone, and told to push it.

What purpose did it serve?

Well, for one thing it kept alive this notion of King being a man with the means to transform the lower league Newco into something more.

It also made him sound like a man who’d worked hard and achieved tremendous success, rather than a predator capitalist who acquired much of whatever wealth he has in a share pump-and-dump and aggressive tax avoidance.

White sat all through King’s statements nodding his head.

There were no serious, journalistic, questions, simply softballs which were designed to make the South African sound like a guy who had a plan, even if he didn’t lay out many of the details.

It’s the one detail he did outline that I’m sure we all found fascinating.

Since the hour of King’s takeover this website and others have been expressly, explicitly, warning the Sevco fans that this was not a sugar-daddy who was going to come in and pour his own millions into Ibrox.

Indeed, this site has gone even further and enquired as to whether he has the means to do so even if he was so inclined (which he hasn’t, and isn’t anyway.)

We have been saying, from the start, that even the most basic examination of King’s statements reveals backtracking, obfuscation and occasionally outright cobblers.

The words of a South African judge about King being a “glib and shameless liar” are often quoted, but I find other parts of that statement to be just as instructive.

After watching him give testimony for four days, the presiding judge said that he and his cohorts were ““unanimous in finding that he is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue unless it is supported by documents and other objective evidence”.

Whose evidence should not be supported on any issue.

Any issue, okay?

Not simply those relevant to the case or the matter at hand.

They were saying that this is a guy for whom dishonesty is routine.

And the statement went even further, and commented on his general demeanour.

“It was remarkable that King showed no sign of embarrassment or any emotion when he conceded that he had lied …”

There is quite literally nothing I could write that is more damning than that.

That’s who runs Sevco now.

That’s the man so many of them trust.

And so it was that last night the man who said he had a NOMAD lined up and hasn’t got one yet, who had started out promising to spend “whatever it takes”, who talked of quadrupling the wage bill and then denied he had, who then moderated his initial comments to say he would invest as much as £30 million, before altering that to promise an unspecified sum on a £ for £ basis with “other investors”, has, at last, got to the truth, at least in part.

He and his people will “make up the shortfall.”

In other words, they will carry the clubs short term debts for a while.

But beyond that, he’s made it abundantly clear who will be paying for the revolution he and others are talking about.

The fans will.

He admitted it last night, finally, after this website and others had been hollering this at the Sevco fans for over a year.

He did, of course, try to sugar the pill, but how he did that tells you everything you need to know about how he intends to run things.

He told the fans that the club had been successful because they (the supporters) had traditionally outspent Celtic supporters … and that would be the means for getting them back to the top.

Now, if I had said that everything King has said prior to this was lies, and this would turn out being put onto the Sevco fans, and that they would have to outspend Celtic fans in order to make their club into challengers, my inbox would have overflowed with their unhappy Peepil abusing me and assuring me that King would do his bit.

Now it’s on the record, in his own words.

Of course, like everything else that comes from King you need to actually strip his comments down, and even look past them, to get to the greater truth, and I’ll examine the actual substance of his comments in a minute …

But there is no longer any bombast about he and his “investors” throwing money at this task.

He’s said that it’s the fans who will have to cough up and he’s added that unless they do the club will not be able to catch Celtic.

It’s the straightest he’s ever talked to them, and we can take him on his word this time because those words are, indeed, supported by facts and evidence, as we’ve gone over again and again and again.

But still we’re forced to strip it down.

What does it actually mean?

Well King still lives in South Africa and he’s making no move to change that.

He has gone out of his way to distance himself from the manager, who he hasn’t met and didn’t interview.

Failure in that department falls outside his remit.

He’s gone out of his way to distance himself from what his people on the board are telling the SPFL and the SFA.

Neil Doncaster said during the week that he and King haven’t met.

Now he is getting his alibi for failure in ahead of time with the supporters.

When this all goes wrong, it’ll be their fault and not his.

So … what exactly is he asking them to do?

Well even if you take his comments at face value – that his central point, that they’ve outspent us for “over a century” is true, and it’s not and nor is the suggestion that the fans built a “successful Rangers”; the banks he was so scathing at in the interview were the ones who actually did that, as he is doubtless well aware – what’s he suggesting?

Spend money on season tickets?

They’ve already done that for this year.

Buy shares?

That requires a lot of legal framework that’s not in place and won’t be for months, at best.

Buy merchandise?

Well, he’s also repeated his nonsense about “renegotiating” the deals with Sports Direct.

Perhaps he missed the pre-EGM statement Ashley’s people released saying they were happy with the terms as they stand, happy with the wording of the deals and saw no need to change them?

Perhaps he didn’t.

Perhaps he’s forgotten.

Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of money coming from that angle.

How many bricks can fans buy?

Lottery tickets?

Match programmes?

How many pies sold would allow them to claim they were outspending the Celtic supporters?

Furthermore – and it bothered David Murray enormously – our stadium has 10,000 more seats.

If the clubs both filled the ground their tickets would have to be some 20% more pricey than our own, and that wouldn’t even be palatable to their supporters if both sides were playing in the same league.

Sevco fans are being asked to make up a tremendous financial shortfall out of their own pockets … but there’s nothing for them to spend that kind of money on, even if they were of a mind to.

King is setting them an impossible task, and he’s telling them that this is their only option.

Dave King is preparing his fans and his club for failure.

He’s appealing now to their most visceral motives, saying they can’t beat us on the park until the financial gap is bridged … hoping they won’t remember that he was brought to the club on the back of promises that he would bridge that gap out of his pocket.

White, of course, swallowed it all.

The most animated he got was when King took him down to the wine cellar.

It was one of the worst “interviews” I’ve ever seen, little more than a soft sofa PR piece, at the Sky subscriber’s expense, and packaged as King laying out a plan. He did no such thing.

Last night was as clear a demonstration as their fans could hope for that this is a guy who’s making it up as he goes along.

Nothing that he says can be trusted 100%, and even today’s derisory offer for a player Hibs can’t afford to sell to them looks designed to do little more than distract their fans from what they actually heard Dave King say, in plain speaking, last night.

But they better ponder on this; even with the a version of the truth now coming out, there’s still no sign of an overarching strategy.

Even now, when he’s reversed himself on every single promise he’s made, and he’s finally levelling with people on that score, he doesn’t know how in the Hell they are going to manage any of it.

What he will do, of course, along with Murray and the rest of his board is make sure they are all well compensated for taking the fans’ money and feeding them this crap, even as he prepares for another administration event, which is the only concievable outcome here.

His PR mate Traynor is already doing very nicely out of all this and he’ll have plenty of work to do in the coming year.

It is a truly amazing state of affairs, and watching him last night I realised that the South African tax cheat has made flesh that famous old aphorism.

SevcoLand is truly the Land of the Blind.

And in the Land of the Blind, the one eyed man is King.

He saw the Peepil coming a mile away.

Hell mend them.

They can’t say they weren’t warned.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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A Thousand Cuts

razors_t658Earlier I read a blog that Phil posted, a blog which made me smile because, if true, it joined a lot of dots and answered a lot of questions.

Before I get to that, let me tell you a story.

Bear with me here. This is important.

Way back in the annals of time, I read an article written by a famous British writer and journalist who had gone to some far-off country in the Africa’s to cover a revolution.

The government forces were stronger, by far, than the insurgents. They had the numbers and they had the cities and they had the money.

Yet everywhere the journalist went, he found ministers, soldiers and other high ranking officials in morbid terror.

Furthermore, no-one would tell him why.

Finally he was told to report to a senior intelligence official, who took him for a drive.

They headed out of the city, and towards the open country.

Finally, the car stopped on a plain and the official asked him to observe something.

Looking through the binoculars he saw a group of lionesses pull down a cape buffalo. It was an impressive sight, but not nearly as impressive as what happened next. The lionesses were attacked by a small group of hyena.

Their physical presence was nowhere that of the big cats, but they were nimble, cheeky, coming in from all sides, nipping at the larger, more powerful animals and then retreating swiftly, barking their odd little bark.

The lionesses tried to hold on to their kill, but in the end it did no good. The smaller, quicker hyenas ended up with it all.

The intelligence officer turned to the journalist, and he told him that the rebels would win because their tactics were better.

Their skill was in hitting, running, hiding, regrouping and then coming back to strike again.

The rebels did win. They overthrew their government within a year.

The full details escape me, but that’s not the point. They did it by inflicting the Death of a Thousand Cuts.

The strategy is as old as war itself.

Over the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve thought about that story and the Thousand Cuts, and I am certain that I’ve mentioned it before, if not the specific story with which I associate it.

The Death of Thousand Cuts started as a method of torture in Imperial China, where they called in Lingchi.

We’re witnessing it happeneing at Ibrox right now.

Before that, let’s talk about tactics. The hyenas and the rebels knew tactics.

Tactics are necessary to win battles.

Strategy wins wars. It’s not about individual engagements but where they fit into the bigger picture.

The rebels clearly knew strategy too.

I have no doubt that Mike Ashley is a master of it.

He’s a self made billionaire who made his money selling trainers. How is that even possible?

Lesser men can barely run a single sports shop. He knows how to do “big think” like few others.

Those in our media and in the Sevco support who think King has beaten Ashley because he’s blungeoned his way to the Blue Room are missing the point. Ashley’s silence is ominous, because it’s the silence of a man who’s already thought this through and already has all the pieces on his side of the board arrayed just as he wants them. This game is already over.

Early in 2010, I wrote an article called The End Of Rangers? in which I pondered the previous year’s accounts from Murray International. Looking at them, I knew the club was doomed because the financial crisis had stripped away his ability to keep them running.

I wanted to see them collapse, and vanish for good.

In February 2012 they did.

A lot of people refuse to believe they died, but that’s less important than what has happened to the NewCo that rose in their place. They started from the bottom, with nothing. They have squandered the opportunity history afforded them to be more. Now they’re spending a second season in the second tier, having suffered a calamitous last 12 months.

We thought we’d spent the last three years watching the Death of a Thousand Cuts, and indeed that club has been bled almost white, but it’s the position Ashley has them in now that will make them scream both long and loud.

He is the true master of the ancient Chinese form of terror.

In his blog, Phil has charted the latest revelations from King’s meeting in London with the Sports Direct supremo.

This is the most important of the pieces he’s written on it, because it appears to have cracked opened the door of secrecy that the Sports Direct lawyers tried to close last week.

When I heard that their lawyers were seeking an injunction against the club I simply couldn’t believe it.

What was in those contracts that could be so bad that it requires an impenetrable legal veil, and the services of five lawyers?

More to the point, what was worse than the stuff that had already leaked out, the stuff that was already in the public domain?

The legal case was brought about because The Daily Record had printed details of the seven year rolling contract … a staggering and shocking obstacle to the club sorting things out without spending an enormous sum of money.

Now we know, or at least we have a hint.

Earlier in the year, The Union of Fans raised a little Hell with a claim that their scrutiny of the club’s accounts revealed that they were paying a hugely inflated price for buying in merchandising stock. I found that amazing, and hard to believe, especially the contention that in some cases they were being charged more for the stuff than the recommended retail value of the goods.

“No way,” I remember thinking.

Now it looks to me as if they were right on the money, although whether they understood the implications of it is up for debate.

This isn’t usually how football clubs and retail outlets do business.

But Sevco have an exclusive retail deal with Sports Direct and its Ashley’s company which sets the terms of that deal.

Incredibly, they seem to have written a phenomenally damaging clause into that agreement, one that was clearly intended to negate last year’s shirt sales boycott, and one which renders the “don’t buy merchandise” campaign which the supporters groups have just announced not only irrelevant but potentially dangerous to the club itself …

In short, Sports Direct are now billing Sevco for unsold jerseys … and according to Phil they are charging scalpers prices – nearly the full retail price – for the transaction.

This seems incredible on the surface of it, almost too crazy to accept at face value, but it ties in to what the Union of Fans claim to have found.

It makes good commercial sense to Sports Direct too because the current version of the deal was negotiated at a time when the club was being sniped at from King and others and they would have wanted to protect any investment they made, in particular as they were the only retail outlet available to stock what the club was selling.

It explains the need for that heavy handed legal team last week, to stop the full details getting out.

It explains that unusual mention of replica shirt sales in not only Sevco’s pre-EGM announcement (the one where King claimed they once sold 500,000 strips) but also Sports Direct’s reply, where they specifically told the club that it would make more money if it ordered less strips.

Because, of course, the number of unsold shirts shouldn’t affect the club at all … that should only affect the retail outlets selling them.

It doesn’t really matter what the mechanism for this is, whether it’s, as Phil says, literally billing the club the retail value of every shirt they have sitting in a Sports Direct warehouse or whether they have a “minimum profit” figure that has to be met, or Sevco themselves make up the difference … this is an extraordinary and deadly way for these arrangements to be structured.

It really is a long, slow bleeding out of Sevco.

Today the club’s fans are being asked to part with their money for season tickets on the premise that this is a Brave New Dawn, with new signings and a management team heading in a fresh, exciting direction.

Forget for a minute that what we’ve seen so far is the worst kind of “Sky Sports Scouting”, all “known qualities” rather than something more radical … that, in itself, is a kind of stability and I understand what the appeal in it must be.

But the biggest events to happen at Ibrox in the coming season are going to be those which happen off the pitch.

Dave King’s campaign of destabilisation worked wonders, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It weakened the club to the point of near death, but the unintended consequence was that the board of the time was forced to go to the only man who could save them, the man who King and others had made into the symbol of The Enemy, even as he still possessed the power to change the terms of every deal he had with them.

And so, at some point, he did just that, knowing that the “long game” was the important one, knowing that King might win the early battles and that he would probably get to sit on the throne.

Ashley knew it would be the most Pyrrhic victory since Pearl Harbour.

He must have smiled to realise what it meant for King to take over and realise the scale of Sports Direct’s true hold over the club, one that remains absolutely unbreakeable to the present day.

Now the aptly named South African has found himself the monarch of a shattered, indebted, and indentured empire, one that still totters on the brink, like some medieval Prince who thought he’d inherited a kingdom but found instead a volcano of jealousy, greed, ambition, bloodshed and murder, and he charged with putting the lid on it.

In short, this won’t end well.

If he doesn’t already understand it, he’s very soon going to have a deep appreciation for what that means, and for what Shakespeare meant when, in Henry IV he wrote “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbour attacks, a lot of the Japanese generals celebrated what, at the time, appeared to be a stunning win, much like King basked in the glory on the pitch at Ibrox in front of a fawning media.

But the general’s euphoria covered a multitude of serious errors by their naval counterparts, including the astonishing mistakes that left the carriers relatively undamaged, and the supply stores, especially the oil tanks, and the repair facilities, largely intact.

One of the admiral’s knew there were even greater implications, and at the end of the film Tora Tora Tora is a famously bastardised version of Yamamoto’s “sleeping enemy” quote.

The historical version isn’t nearly as sexy, so it’s the fictional one I’ll use.

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

That’s pretty close to the mark.\

King’s victory has come at a tremendous price. He’s made a deadly enemy out of a man who now considers bleeding this club out “just business” and is no mood to renegotiate his sweet, sweet deal because The Peepil ain’t happy.

But it’s another of Yamamoto’s (actual, historical) quotes which I like best, which fits more closely with what I’m trying to say, and should fill the Sevco fans with dread.

“I can run wild for six months,” he said in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbour assault. “After that, I have no expectation of success.”

The Sevco fans are having a wee moment in the sun today, but all too soon the dark clouds are going to roll in, because this party has to be paid for, one way or another … and unless King has grown altruistic in his old age, or Park is feeling especially generous, what they manage to bag from season ticket sales will very soon be gone.

And that’s when the fun really starts and the chickens come home to roost.

Ashley has made sure he can’t lose either way, and the boycott will not touch his profits.

What it will do is plunge the club deeper into debt.

You could not make this up, and on a day when the Sevco fans are gloating over Danny Wilson and the phantom “snub” to Celtic, I wonder just what it is they think they have to celebrate. This is the calm before the storm.

They sang songs on the deck of the Titanic too, you know.

The band simply provided the background noise.

It was the punters who were standing watching the lifeboats sail away, not realising there weren’t enough for everyone, who’s music filled the air that night.

Even as the ship was going down.

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The Abyss

3016256178Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

So said Friedrich Nietzsche, anyway.

I’ve always liked the quote.

What it means (to me) is simple enough, I guess; the first part says you have to be careful when you dedicate yourself to a struggle against something you consider evil that you don’t convince yourself that the ends justify the means and that you have the moral right to cross the line.

The second part, connected to the first, is that once you stray over that line, even if you convince yourself that your reasons are right, that you risk lose yourself completely because (I’ve always believed anyway) that we are all born half in the darkness and our lives are a constant struggle to stop that from defining us. Surrender to it at all, and you risk being overwhelmed.

Now the Championship playoff final isn’t done yet. The teams are halfway through a 180 minute game, but tonight, as I watch as McCall and King and the rest of the Ibrox cohort step up to their own personal Grand Canyon and look down I am delighted beyond measure, and I wonder to myself; does that make me a bad person? Is it a character flaw?

And then I remember.

I didn’t do this.

You didn’t do it.

We didn’t do it.

Oh we might be sitting here tonight getting ready to order in a year’s supply of Haagen-Dazs, but we bear not one iota of responsibility for the disaster that looms in front of Sevco and threatens to plunge them into the Ninth Circle of Hell.

Did we give history a nudge?

Yes, I think we did. We emphasised every calamity that befell them, ramping up the crisis level to Condition Red, every chance we got.

We mocked every bad decision and we gleefully celebrated every major defeat.

Our highlighting of every scandal and screw up even moved the press at times.

We made heroes of men like Whyte. We made icons out of guys like Charles Green. We may well be the only fans in British football who have a soft spot for Mike Ashley, even those of us who think he’s a loathsome bastard running a company built on zero hour contracts and slave wages. Somehow, he and this club are a perfect fit, tied to each other and imperilled.

And because of all this we kept morale amongst their fans at rock bottom.

But I repeat; none of this is our fault. We reacted (jovially) but we did not cause this.

They did this to themselves. Everything that happened was caused inside their own walls. It was caused by hubris, by greed, by their own blindness and their inability to change.

Before the game started tonight they were gleefully singing “We Are The People”, their anthem of superiority, a song that sums up every reason the OldCo collapsed and was buried three years ago.

See, this club was cloned from the DNA of the dead one, but one of the problems with cloning is that whatever genetic defects afflicted the source carry over … and the moment the press and the NewCo’s owners started to push the Survival Myth that was it.

Some flaws are in the genes, it’s as simple as that. The sins of the fathers were always going to lead to the sons singing Folsom Prison Blues.

Tonight, as King contemplates having to fund this shambles for another year in the Championship and ponders the devastating effects that will have on his “plans” I believe Scottish football will be the prime beneficiary if this is what comes to pass.

Because in a sense it was the game itself that was on the edge of the abyss tonight. The club that plays out of Ibrox is breaking and bending every rule. The governing bodies are letting them away with murder. You’d think the OldCo was still with us.

They’ve spent three years trying to claw their way up Scottish football’s league system and it’s been hilarious at times as their hubris grew like a pearl, only to crash against the rocks of reality. This year, in particular, has been a multi-layer calamity but the talk out of Ibrox wasn’t tempered by any of that but swelled with pride to predict that they would sweep aside every other club but Celtic, and be challenging them within a couple of years.

And how was this to be done? Debt. Overspending. Running at a loss.

Like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

The SFA knows this of course, and they are happy to promote it and excuse it and look the other way. No rules have been passed to put the blockers on it, like the financial fair play regulations that would end the scandal of financial doping here forever so that no owner or club could ever do what Murray did again, plunging the whole game into crisis when the crash came.

And they have the cheek to offer criticism of Sepp Blatter tonight, as though our game was a paragon of virtuous behaviour and the highest of corporate standards.

Tonight at Ibrox a convicted tax cheat sat in the stand alongside another director who shouldn’t be on the board of a Scottish football club. The Association is run by a guy who was involved in a gigantic tax scam which violated his organisation’s own rules. And he was elected, unopposed, with all that hanging over him.

The SFA presided over one of the biggest scandals in the history of our sport. What a laugh to be lectured by this mob. No wonder Blatter thinks he can survive.

Come Sunday night, we’ll know whether Sevco has staged a fight back and completed their journey from the lowest tier. But tonight ought to be a humbling, chastening experience for them and the media which never tires of telling us how great they are, how important they are, how necessary it is for all of us that they are playing in the top flight.

Motherwell were written off here before a ball was even kicked. None of this was in the script tonight and you can read the shock in the faces of the commentators and the fans and the Sevco players and their backroom team.

Nobody amongst our media class saw this coming, although all the signs were there and have been all season and for the last three years.

Those pushing the Survival Myth are their own worst enemies because all of that should have been left behind and buried, because only then did this club stand a chance to be better, to be more, to have a future that didn’t too closely resemble the recent past.

Because whether or not you subscribe to the “continuation of history” – and it is patent nonsense, and I will keep on saying it no matter what FIFA bloggers (but not FIFA) write in their opinion pieces – it matters not in the Grand Scheme of Things.

Those of us who grew up watching Rangers sign Gascoigne’s and Laudrup’s will never see days like it again in our lives. The club that died with Davis, Naismith, McGregor, Edu, Lafferty, Whittaker and others still on its books is gone forever. The one that crawled out of the grave was comprised of free transfers, out of shape has-beens and a bunch of never were’s.

And that is their future if this result is not overturned in the second leg.

In short, the Rangers we grew up viewing as our implacable foe is dead and gone, whatever the status of the club that currently bears its name.

Tonight bears out the totality of what happened in the summer of 2012.

It strips bare the pretensions of the entity that shambled out of the darkened graveyard and slipped into Mother’s clothes and parked a fat arse in her chair by the window. Norman Bates FC. Keeping alive the illusion that something gone forever is still there.

It matters not.

Tonight they stare into the abyss, and the abyss stares back.

I did not do this.

You did not do this.

We did not do this.

And even if we had, I cannot bring myself to feel bad for them.

Tonight I don’t care what people think that makes me.

I’m a happy Celtic supporter and Scottish football fan.

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