Last night, as I was reading over the incredible catalogue of crimes with which former Rangers and Sevco directors are being charged, something dawned on me.
None of this would ever have come to pass – not Whyte, not Green, perhaps not even King – but for the contempt in which many in the media and in the game’s governing bodies once held (and some still hold) the Internet Bampots.
Yet today, I feel more than a small degree of satisfaction; indeed, I feel fully vindicated in almost everything I’ve spent the last few years writing.
In some ways that’s enough.
It’s time we got some acknowledgement though.
I understand that there are legal minefields here in which I don’t want to tread. That’s the reason Part 3 of my overview of how Rangers and the SFA almost destroyed Scottish football has been delayed so long. It’s not that I lost the thread of it or couldn’t be bothered writing it; much of it is already done. The rest … well, the events Part 3 charts are in the court system at the moment and I’m being careful not to write a word that second guesses those proceedings.
I’m going to be careful here too.
But there are things that I can say with absolute certainty.
Not one single person connected to Scottish football is now in even the slightest doubt that Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the cohort that trooped through Ibrox in the years from 2011 – 2015 did enormous harm to the institutions of Rangers and Sevco.
Not one single person does not believe that some sections of an almost overwhelmingly subservient, cheerleading, wholly ineffectual media was not at least partially responsible for the chaos that has followed, by lending credibility to men who otherwise would have had none.
And not one single person with the remotest interest in the sport here is in the slightest doubt that had the SFA and the SPFL taken their own regulatory roles more seriously that none of these guys would have been within miles of a major Scottish football club.
As a lawyer might say, “these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.”
The only people who can emerge from this with their heads held high are the fans, and in particular the online community who went where the press and the authorities didn’t want to go and who dug into Whyte and then Charles Green.
I’m going to do a few pieces on the coming case, obviously, but for the moment I just want to look at the basic charge sheet, the top sheet, not the more detailed indictment.
In broad terms there are three principle sections to it; 2010 until February 2012, February 2012 until the assets of the liquidated and defunct Rangers were purchased by Green and what followed on afterwards.
From the first, the Internet Bampots were onto Whyte.
Some in the media would rather ignore that.
The governing bodies have turned doing that into an art form.
Some in the media, at least, started nicking our stories and actually pushing them, although claiming exclusives they weren’t entitled to. The governing bodies waited until Whyte had already put on his show, dragged Scottish football through the mud and put a boot print on the national shirt before they did something about it, expressing their surprise the whole while.
According to the indictment, Craig Whyte is being charged with wilfully putting the club into administration, in order to leave behind creditors and emerge debt free.
It would take a neck of solid brass to pretend that comes as a shock to anybody, because he was quite upfront about it right from the beginning, and as the Bampots know well he even told the governing bodies about his plans.
If what he’s done is a criminal offence – and a court will decide that in good time – then it’s not hard to make a case that, based on information in the public domain, Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan should think themselves awful damned lucky they aren’t there in the dock with him, indicted alongside the rest, as co-conspirators.
Above and beyond what he told them himself, Whyte had a string of failed and liquidated businesses behind him, and we pointed this out, with many tweeting Regan at the SFA directly with their findings.
Beyond that, there was actual, verifiable, credible information in the public domain a full four months before the club entered administration, and it was put there by Mark Daly of the BBC, laying out Whyte’s previous MO in some detail.
At the time, not one other media outlet was demanding a fuller exploration of those accusations; indeed, many of his contemporaries in the print media sneered at him, and some of them continue to do so to this day.
But he had the full throated support of, and respect from, the Bampots.
I’ll tell you what I think of Mark Daly;
Scottish football is enormously indebted to him and the team who worked with him on those documentaries, because without them I am convinced – 100% – that Craig Whyte would still be at the helm of a football club calling itself Rangers, whether visibly or working behind the scenes. Oh the hacks might have dug around and found some of it, but Graham Speirs has already told us they knew things they never published because they didn’t want to be seen to have been the people who brought the regime down.
Sure as Hell, nobody in any position of authority wanted to hear us.
We know that because at Hampden they weren’t even really listening to him.
In fact, evidence suggest that not only did our governing bodies know this was going on but they wholeheartedly backed it, as Neil Doncaster himself said on 18 May 2012, when he dismissed the difference between a CVA and a liquidation as an “irrelevance” and said the “attitudes of creditors” should not matter to football governing bodies when dealing with financially stricken clubs.
He went on to say that whilst he didn’t think it was “right” for clubs to dump their debts and emerge unscathed on the other side that “it happens” and he had no problem with it. He had his facts badly wrong when trying to name clubs who had done it – the two examples he gave of clubs which had gone the NewCo route were Leeds and Palace, none of whom actually did – but few can be in any doubt that he wasn’t concerned in the slightest by the sheer immorality of it, or the dangers it posed to Scottish football in the long term.
He ought to have been sacked there and then.
His continued employment is a source of enormous frustration and offence to many people and I long since concluded that he can only be there because he still retains the confidence of our clubs, which means that on some level many of them do support this utter nonsense and don’t want to see him replaced by someone with a different view.
Indeed, this time last year I published a piece called A Moment Of Clarity, after he’d started 2015 with a scandalous interview which turned football reality in Scotland on its head.
I thought, then, that his comments were so absolutely ridiculous that he couldn’t possibly survive them … but a year on down the line, there he is, still in his office.
His presence there is about to heap scandal on disgrace.
He and Regan better understand this; they are our great piece of “unfinished business” and their part in this isn’t going to be simply ignored or airbrushed out of all memory. This is what these two will be remembered for, long after they’ve left office.
We are going to keep on highlighting these issues until they’re both gone, and then far beyond, because their conduct can’t be allowed to escape scrutiny and the verdict of history, otherwise their behaviour becomes a reflection on the wider game here.
They would have flushed sporting integrity down the pan in 2012.
Only the intervention of the fans stopped that.
If Craig Whyte eventually gets up, in open court, and talks about how Doncaster and Regan knew exactly what he was up to the whole time then that’s catastrophic. That’s a FIFA style scandal on our own doorstep, and the world will know it.
The reputational damage to our sport that the allegation itself will do … even if it’s never examined in greater detail … enormous.
The directors of the other clubs have to know some of what we do; are they waiting for legal proceedings before acting to safeguard the game?
Shouldn’t the chairmen themselves be asking for an independent inquiry, not into Whyte and Green but what the governing body CEO’s really knew about events at Ibrox?
I can’t put it more bluntly than to say that these two men and their continuing presence at Hampden represents an existential risk to the reputation of our sport … and the more you dig into the charge sheet the more serious it starts to look for them.
And once again, the Internet Bampots were signposting the way.
There isn’t one Celtic site whose writers and contributors were not asking questions, from the off, about the manner in which Charles Green emerged, as if from nowhere, to bid for the assets of OldCo Rangers. The antennae were twitching from the moment his name was first mentioned and it didn’t take long before numerous links between Whyte and Green were established.
Those links are unmistakably real; there’s not the slightest debate about them and no rational person with a scintilla of knowledge about these matters actually believes these two men didn’t know each other beforehand.
It might not have been Paul McConville who first starting asking questions about Sevco 5088 and its relationship to a company called Sevco Scotland Ltd, but he certainly wrote a series of outstanding, and deadly, pieces on that subject.
Not one newspaper article ever ran asked the questions those articles demanded.
The SFA never once issued a statement on them.
Those question have been ongoing since mid-2012 and were ignored by governing bodies and media outlets alike, although then and now they were enormously significant. I myself posed some of those questions when Green announced the share issue, and Whyte emerged to allege that he’d had some role in setting Sevco up.
Plenty of us were asking those questions.
No-one wanted to answer us.
The media blanked them, or accused of us being fantasists.
The governing bodies … well, I have no idea how they felt about the possibility that they might have assisted in the perpetration of a fraud, but as far as I can see the road would be wide open, in the result of guilty verdicts, for not only the creditors of OldCo Rangers to sue them but for those who bought shares under Green to do so as well.
See, that’s something else no-one else ever explores; the SFA and the SPL/SPFL are regulatory bodies … it is their legal responsibility to assure that the highest standards of corporate governance are being observed by their member clubs.
It’s not enough for them to step back and let those clubs police themselves; this is why fit and proper person criteria exists in the first place, it’s why punishments are handed down for those who violate it.
(Unless those people are connected to Ibrox, which is sort of the point.)
The Pinsent Mason report is an outrage the club should never have been able to get away with, and not one of the Celtic blogs was silent in calling that an embarrassment and a disgrace. That reeked, and it reeks today, especially in light of these court cases.
Anyway, ignorance of these matters – even if we believed they were ignorant – might not be enough to save them from legal consequences, and a judicial inquiry at least.
I repeat; they had, and still have, a duty to do their homework, and not simply abdicate that responsibility to those who run those the clubs. The clubs themselves should be holding them to account for loss of earnings and reputational damage … and I don’t know why they don’t.
And far from learning lessons from those events the SFA continues to ignore its duties, even today.
No-one is asking whether Sevco is technically trading whilst insolvent, and the backgrounds of those who’ve given them the latest loans to keep on the lights aren’t deemed worthy of comment in the press, far less an investigation at Hampden.
Once again, only The Bampots seem interested in what is obviously a major story.
If that money had been dropped off at Ibrox in cash, the proceeds of a heist … Jesus, are we to believe Doncaster and Regan would simply have shrugged their shoulders and deemed that a matter for the club itself to look into?
What kind of people are these?
The technical term for this is “institutional failure”, and on the larger stage it’s what brought us the banking crash of 2008, in which the roots of Rangers’ demise and all these issues can be found.
Ignorance isn’t what happened anyway; what actually happened is partly to be found in the nearly universal contempt for the bloggers that existed then and which will we continue to struggle against in our quest to be taken more seriously.
The governing bodies were well aware of all this stuff at the time, and the media were too.
Enough people on Twitter and elsewhere were sending them links and stories and telling them what we’d found out, and what we were speculating on.
Either the governing bodies decided these issues weren’t worth looking into or they knew more than people were aware, and didn’t like us rocking the boat.
The media refused to take us even remotely seriously, and that was because they didn’t acknowledge us as worthy participants in the debate.
Nobody is laughing at us now.
Nobody underestimates our role.
I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, and I now make a tentative living out of it because of the support some of the readers are able to provide – and I’m beyond grateful to all those who do. Between that and the ads I manage to make this thing work.
As a consequence, I can now devote myself full-time to the task of analysing these issues and others like them, to research and explore evidence no matter where it comes from.
I never expect to make the money a “journalist” at The Daily Record would; if I was interested in that I’d be pursuing it properly as a career, but knowing that I’d have to give up my independence and the right to say what I wanted.
Money isn’t everything. As long as I can pay my bills as they fall due I’m a happy camper, because I’ve come to love this stuff and it gives me the freedom to pursue my grander goal which is to make my way as a writer of fiction. (If I can ever finish the second novel!)
Likewise, I don’t do it for glory because there’s precious little of that when I have to be hypercritical of my own club at times; on those horrible days this feels like shovelling shit uphill … or raking leaves in the rain, if I might use one of my own actual experiences to emphasise the point.
Like other guys, I do this because it’s often fun, it’s intellectually challenging and finally because it’s nice to feel part of a wider endeavour and a community all dedicated to the same stuff.
More than that, I genuinely believe this is important.
What I do, what James Doleman’s been doing, what The Clumpany does, what Paul Brennan has been doing even longer than me, what sites like VideoCelts produce every day … this stuff matters.
This isn’t just a Scottish football story … Rangers was a major social institution, and what happened – what was allowed to happen – within its walls for decades, preceding even these events, was outrageous and an affront to more than just sport.
We’re not PR factories, spinning facts and twisting reality.
We’re in nobody’s pockets and nobody’s employ.
We write what we see in front of us, without fear or favour – and I do this about politics in Scotland as well as on football – without taking our cue from others.
None of us expects to win awards, nor great wealth, nor any special status doing what we do.
We have the respect of our peers and the thanks of a great many people who like to be informed and entertained without the media’s PR filter and that’s enough. On most days.
Beyond that, we don’t ask for or want anything at all.
But today, reading the charge sheets against a bunch of people we’ve spent the better part of five years warning Scottish football against, and seeing the catalogue of offences which bear a striking resemblance to those we were asking questions about before even the Fraud Squad got to them, it would be nice if we got some acknowledgement for it.
It would be nice if we got some credit from those who treated us with such appalling disdain.
Because whether these cases end in guilty verdicts or not, these issues, which we were told weren’t worth bothering about, were serious enough to have warranted a trial.
The questions we were asking, and which so many were ignoring, were prescient enough and forensic enough, to have merited police and judicial attention.
The evidence we were digging for, examining, and highlighting in the hope those with the resources and the reach to do it justice, or in the hope that the governing bodies would take note and move to avert the consequences for our sport – and those consequences are coming – and which those people sneered at or refused to even look at … well they had the substance to start the machinery of legal proceedings.
In short, I do believe, verdicts notwithstanding, that we’ve been vindicated in full.
It would be good if our critics acknowledged that simple truth.
The Internet Bampots.
Right from the start.
(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)