Celtic Fans Crowdfunded Newspaper Ad On SFA Scandals Is Paid For And Ready To Go

stack-newspaper-pile-croppedBefore we go any further, let me apologise to all of you who were trying to access the site, and this article, before now. Although I should be used to all manner of mendacity and hassle by this point I’m clearly still a babe in the woods.

This evening, after I published this article, this site was subjected to what I can only describe as a “brute force” assault.

First it was a Denial of Service attack and then it was straightforward hacking job, which took down this article and infected the rest of the site with God knows what.

This was a pretty bad evening, and costly too. I won’t go into details. It’ll depress me. But you know something? If they’re screwing with you to this degree you’re doing something right.

Anyway, congratulations to the guys over on CQN, and to the Celtic Family as a whole, for another outstanding achievement.

Today, Winning Captains has announced that the costs of two full page advertisements – one in the Swiss press and one in The Guardian – are now paid for and booked, and good to go for next week.

The Guardian ad will bring the Celtic fan led reform campaigns to the attention of an English based audience and seek to spark interest in the cause in the wider media.

As the ad before last season’s League Cup semi-final got people outside Scotland to look at the Survival Myth, this ad will get the media down south focussed on the way the one up here ignores major issues and the SFA continues to be run by people who think they should be immune from scrutiny.

This is a landmark moment; mark my words, it will have an effect.

The ad in the Swiss press is even more important, of course, because it’s the moment we put this issue in front of the eyes of UEFA.

We can write all the letters to these guys that we want, but nothing we do in that regard will have an ounce of the impact taking out an ad in a newspaper right on their doorstep will have. It’s an incredibly ambitious move.

And it’s a game changer.

In addition to all this, the guys behind this campaign are pushing out the boat one last time, to run a third ad in a Scottish newspaper at a later date.

I can’t overstate how important this development is.

I’d urge anyone who’s able to support them to do so by visiting the following link:

Crowdfunding Campaign

I’ll tell you why this is an amazing achievement.

Celtic fans, and a small but important number of those at other clubs have gone to incredible lengths to bring these matters to light. The whole of Scottish football was hurt by what Rangers did, but it was a small handful of supporters who took the lead in driving reform.

This isn’t to say the majority of fans at other clubs didn’t get involved.

When the moves were afoot to parachute the NewCo into the SPL they rallied as we did and lobbied like mad to prevent it.

But it was mostly Celtic fans who pushed hardest and longest to make sure nothing like this could happen again. With a small handful of fans from other clubs, it was Celtic supporters who laid the foundation stones for sites like The Scottish Football Monitor, which sought and still seeks to engage all supporters, everywhere.

Because of that, there’s a perception amongst many that this remains a “Celtic fan led” campaign and whilst not entirely untrue efforts like this wouldn’t be possible without a greater hunger amongst football fans to see real transparency in our sport.

We should all take heart from the way this war is being waged.

Because when you consider what it must cost to place an in just one newspaper you have to be awed at the commitment from our supporters towards making it happen in two, and actually pushing further for three.

I know, from personal experience, how fantastic that commitment is; this site only continues at all (and some big stuff is coming on it soon!) because of donations and the other support that it gets.

It’s humbling to get that support, but I’ve ceased being surprised by it because our fans (and others) are remarkable in that they don’t just talk a good game … they put their money where their mouths are. They are willing to fund challenges to the status quo. They are willing to push agendas, even when it means dipping into their wallets.

I find this incredible, and what it portends for the future can’t be doubted.

If it comes to the crunch, fans will fund legal challenges to the SFA if that’s what it takes to get justice. It’s a long game we’re playing here, and as we’ve all seen getting the results won’t happen overnight – it never does – but I’ve never stopped believing that it will happen.

Take pride in this development, friends, because this is a big one.

Now I’m going to tell you why these ads are necessary; why, in fact, they are vital to the campaign and why they should be given every support, not only financially.

I’ve been doing this now for five years nearly, and there are guys out there who’ve been doing it even longer. There have been books about this, documentaries, and a small handful of journalists have tried to get it into the mainstream.

None of it has crystallised thinking as it should have.

One day I’m going to write a ball-buster of a book about this period, and I know others will do the same, and they might impact the debate in their own way, as these blogs might grow their readerships to the point where Celtic fans don’t bother with the mainstream press at all … but until we get to that point the papers will always have longer reach than we do.

We’ve worked an absolute miracle so far, all of us, together, in transforming the way the debate over football governance in this country is conducted. There was a time when the SFA would never have had to face scrutiny like this, and the idea, five years ago, that we would be able to hound the CEO of the association into answering his critics would have seemed preposterous.

Guys like Tom English can talk the most lamentable bullshit all day, every day, about “flaws” in the Offshore Game report without once pointing out what a single one of them is, but these people can no longer close off the debate completely by doing that.

Our quest for the big three – governance, accountability and oversight – has been unrelenting.

The impact we’ve had so far has been immense.

But it’s not enough.

This is still, primarily, an internet campaign and these ads are a monumentally important step towards changing that, and taking us into a brand new phase.

When you think about what people like Matt McGlone were able to achieve many years ago, getting Celtic fans interested in taking control of our club, it’s extraordinary to imagine that they did it before this great engine of information was invented.

We can learn huge lessons from what they did and how it was done, because the online game isn’t the only one we can play.

This is a move towards a different way of fighting this battle, and if there’s anyone left in the media in this country (and this move absolutely disgraces them; Celtic fans actually paying to put in their papers what they don’t have the balls to write themselves. Try hiding behind “legalities” now you gutless worms) or amongst the governing bodies who has the slightest doubt about our intent and determination this should erase them once and for all.

We are here to stay, and we’re going to hold you to account no matter what.

None of these issues is going away, no matter how much they wish they would.

We will get the reforms we want. We will get the justice we demand. Because we have all the time and the will in the world, and eventually we’ll bring this wall down, whether it’s by chipping away one piece of stone at a time or finally driving a wrecking ball through it.

Those on the other side better brace themselves either way.

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

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Sevco, 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.

(This site relies on the support of its readers. If you like what you read and are able, you can make a donation at the link below. If everyone who read On Fields of Green did that it would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

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A Very Scottish Scandal: How Rangers Almost Wrecked Scottish Football – Part Two

craig-whyte-691403225(This is Part 2 of a lengthy article for this site and another one on the saga that saw Rangers fall into administration and liquidation, and how they and the governing bodies almost wrecked our national sport. Originally intended to be in two parts, this has grown to the point where it has to be considered a four-part piece with the rest soon to follow.

The last section charted the story of how Rangers was built on bank debt and tax evasion, how the party ended in 2008 and of how the club was allowed to get away with it all because it had friends in the governing bodies and the media.

This part tells the incredible story of the reign of Craig Thomas Whyte, and about how that same media exalted him without cause, how the governing bodies conspired with him without shame and how a handful of bloggers and serious mainstream media journalists investigated him without fear or favour.)

Part Seven: The Start Of The Whytewash ….

The high point of Craig Whyte’s time at Rangers came only 10 days after he took over the club, when they won their 54th, and final Scottish Premier League title. They were still betting everything on European football income, and winning the SPL had given them a potential path back to the riches of the UEFA Champions League.

Walter Smith, the manager, was due to leave at the end of that season and in a press conference after the match he told the waiting journalists that Whyte would have to deliver big money to “continue the success” at the club.

At that point, they had a squad of highly paid footballers, and operating expenses of over £40 million a year. The financial crisis was receding, but people were still feeling the pinch.

Smith’s statement was the purest sign you could get that the “Murray Way” of doing things at Ibrox was still very much part of the club’s DNA, and why not? Rangers hadn’t had to live within its means for nearly 30 years.

Three days later, Whyte told the media that the new boss, Ally McCoist, would get the money that he needed. It was a foolish promise to make when you considered that with Lloyds now gone they had no credit line from a bank and that the directors would be forced to personally carry any shortfall in funds.

But that kind of talk was needed to sell season tickets, and between those and European football income it might well have be enough to see them through the following campaign.

Just six days after making that promise, nine days after they won the title and only nineteen after he had secured control, the bloodbath started. Alastair Johnston and Paul Murray were kicked off the board. The chief executive, Martin Bain, and the Finance Director, Donald McIntyre, were suspended. Whyte’s gunsights were also trained on those who were left.

Their time would come. He could afford to wait.

In June, Bain announced that he was going to sue the club for breach of contract. When his case finally arrived at the courts, in September that year, Rangers were already reeling from one hammer blow after another.

The summer transfer business wasn’t what Rangers fans had been hoping for; there were no multi-million pound signings, but seven players were brought to the club for £4 million. There were a rash of outgoings, as several out of contract players weren’t offered new deals.

None of it significantly weakened the playing squad; in fact, the Scottish media, and the Rangers management team, were delighted with the business, and big things were predicted for the season.

On 26 July, Malmo travelled to Ibrox for the first leg of their key Champions League qualifying match. Rangers lost 1-0. A week later, on 3 August, they exited that competition after an ill-tempered 1-1 draw away from home. It was a disaster. Champions League revenues vastly outstripped those in the UEFA Cup, and the club needed them to stay afloat.

On 25 August even that was no longer there for them, when a 1-1 draw at NK Maribor, after a 2-1 defeat at home, saw them crash out of Europe for the second time in a month.

The hole this left in the balance sheet was enormous, somewhere between £10 million and £15 million. When their accounts came out later that year, they showed a profit of a mere £76,000 for the previous year.

European income had been keeping on the lights, quite literally, leaving the club just one season from disaster.

That season had arrived, and in the interim, player salaries had increased as all the top stars were offered new deals, and new players were purchased.

Things were bad, they shortly got worse.

The following month, when he appeared in front of the judge, in his case against the club and Whyte, Martin Bain’s lawyer told the court he believed the club was in serious financial trouble and would run out of capital by the end of the season. The judge believed him. He froze £500,000 in assets, in anticipation of a future court date.

Bain and the judge were right to be worried.

A lot of stuff about the club’s financial positon was already seeping into the public domain, in no small part because of more trouble with the taxman …

Part Eight: The Taxman Cometh …

On 10 August 2011, an astonishing thing happened at Ibrox. Sherriff officers came to the stadium, to serve paperwork on the club in relation to the Discounted Options Scheme, the Wee Tax Case, as it was known. An online journalist, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain – who, in fact, had been the man who brought the story of HMRC’s Big Tax Case demand to the attention of the world – had written a story earlier that week saying they were due; the club denied it and, as usual, the media ran with the denials and poured scorn on the idea.

The following day they all ran with the “exclusive” story, of course.

The sheriff officers’ visit was a crucial moment in this saga; it was the moment when things that had been going on behind the scenes momentarily came to light, like the tip of an iceberg, visible above the waves but hiding much more. The importance of it was not confined to the Whyte regime; it’s a moment that still scares the SFA.

The taxman had been investigating goings on at Ibrox for four years at this point, and whilst they believed that EBT’s per se were a form of tax evasion and were pursuing this vigorously, they already had precedent for saying that the Discounted Options Scheme was.

Discounted Options Schemes had been made illegal in 2003, and in November 2010, HMRC had won a landmark battle in the Aberdeen Asset Management case where they tried to apply retroactive punishment on that very point.

They presented Rangers with a bill for the Discounted Options Scheme almost immediately, but the club rejected the initial settlement offer. When HMRC had asked if side contracts existed, the club had flatly denied it.

By February 2011 HMRC knew that was a lie.

On 11 February, HMRC sent a letter to the club laying out a new payment demand, having revised their claim of November, adding interest and updating the claim to backdate it to a time they hadn’t even been aware of it at first.

HMRC’s communique also revealed their knowledge of the side letters.

The letter did not dwell on the matter, but reminded Rangers that they had previously denied this.

HMRC’s letter made it clear that it had been taken into account.

Rangers’ own legal adviser, Andrew Thornhill QC, read that letter and sent one to the club shortly afterwards, in which his advice was clear; plead no contest to the DOS EBT and pay the tab. He was particularly concerned with those side letters and that HMRC had discovered them; he knew that taking it to a tribunal would have been a losing battle where the club’s malfeasance would have been put out there for everyone to see.

Rangers decided to pay. They arranged a meeting with HMRC for March, where the two parties hashed it all out. We know this because the bill appeared in their April accounts, informing the wider world of its existence for the first time.

On 6 May, Craig Whyte took over the club. The bill was still outstanding at that point. On 10 May, Whyte told the Rangers fans that there was no tax bill outstanding; he admitted they were appealing the Big Tax Case, but didn’t mention the payable due on the Discounted Options Scheme.

Yet the very next day another meeting took place between Rangers representatives and the taxman. HMRC made it clear that the bill was due, immediately, pointing out that they had the power to levy further penalties and costs on the club if it didn’t follow at once.

They sent a further letter, to that effect, to the Ibrox club on 20 May, which was to be their final warning before additional action was taken.

That bill was due. That bill was unpaid, and that had been the status of it since the club’s own lawyer had said they should find the money and get it sorted out.

On 2 June, the sheriff officers served notice on Rangers for the first time. No-one knew about it, and the event went unreported, or even speculated on. It was to be two more months before the more famous visit by the taxman’s hard guys was reported in the press, and this one with pictures which made it undeniable to even the most hardened cynic or faithful supporter.

Pressures were mounting up on Rangers and on the shoulders of the Motherwell Born Billionaire. The club was embroiled in chaos. Board members had been purged. They had exited Europe, twice, in quick succession and now bailiffs had visited the ground.

The bill was still unpaid on 2 September. The taxman sent Whyte and the club a demand for payment which brooked no compromise. At the same time, a firm of lawyers had submitted a demand for £35,000 which was still unpaid, and they were taking the matter to the courts to get their own money, as fears that the club could go bust were growing inside Ibrox and elsewhere across Scottish football.

By the time Martin Bain and his lawyer got in front of a judge on 14 September things were already bad and getting worse. The court froze £500,000, money the club simply didn’t have. The judge accepted that there was a “real risk” of them going bust. A month after that, Donald McIntyre, their former finance director, put in a claim for £300,000.

Just six days after McIntyre made his move, on 20 October, the real crash came.

Part Nine: Vindication For The Bampots

At some point over the preceding months, a group of online bloggers and commentators had started to play an actual role in these events. The most famous of them was, and remains, an anonymous fellow who goes by the name The Rangers Tax Case. His blog was the first reference point for all of us who wanted an education in these affairs, and a place where the issues around them could be discussed and dissected.

There has probably never been a more important website in the history of Scottish football. It was where the information on Whyte was slowly, but surely, amassed and exchanged and it was the focal point for some of the campaigns that followed. But above all that, it was the first source of information we had on the scale of what Rangers had done.

RTC, as the site became known, went on to scoop the Orwell Prize for investigative journalism; it was an honour that belonged not only to the sites anonymous founder but to everyone involved in it, everyone who dug out a piece of information or uncovered a trail of breadcrumbs. You had to follow the work these guys were doing to fully get it, but it was, and remains, an extraordinary collective achievement, one that changed the game here forever.

I got involved in commentating on this saga at around about this time, working on a magazine with the team at another famous blog, Celtic Quick News. The magazine’s first issue came out in August 2011, so we were literally on hand to chart the course of the Craig Whyte disaster and all that came after it. Looking back on early issues now, and in the online debates that were going on, it’s incredible to me how far ahead of the media curve we actually were.

Yet for all that, we were disparaged by those same tired hacks.

They even invented a name for us, one we took and pinned on as a badge of honour and which we still wear today; the Internet Bampots.

Yet for that, for all the tremendous work these two sites and others were doing, the whole thing might have stayed an internet joke until the hammer came down in February 2012 had it not been for two brilliant investigative journalists in the mainstream press, Alex Thomson of Channel 4 and BBC Scotland’s Mark Daly.

These guys were on the ball. They brought the story to the attention of a wider audience. They put it on television, and that took it off the net forever. The Scottish mainstream press never admitted that we got this so right and they so wrong, but we’re not so leery of giving credit where it’s due. These two men uncovered much we hadn’t, and they published stuff the Internet Bampots would not have been able to. Without Daly and Thomson so much that was secret might have stayed that way for a long, long time. These guys, literally, shattered the can of worms.

On 18 October, the club made a twin announcement. First, John Grieg and John McLelland, two of the remaining directors on the Ibrox board, resigned, claiming they’d been isolated and marginalised in the boardroom. That was bad enough for Rangers fans to take, but the second announcement was a warning shot across everyone’s bow.

The club announced that it had broken off all relations with the BBC over a documentary that was due to air later that week. This was to be the first time, but not the last, that the club and the national broadcaster would come into conflict.

Two days later, on 20 October, Scotland found out why as the BBC broadcast a stunning documentary; Rangers – The Inside Story, fronted by the brilliant, and soon to be legendry, Mark Daly, a man who later went on to blow the lid off the biggest scandal in athletics.

It was the mainstream media’s first look at the hitherto untold (in their case) tale of Craig Thomas Whyte, and it laid out the story of the man who had taken over, and his early business history.

Whyte was not a billionaire, of course, and even the hacks had long since stopped referring to him as one. It was revealed later that the “Motherwell Born Billionaire” stories had originated with a PR firm who simply gave the Scottish hacks their instructions on what to say when people asked just how much money Whyte actually had.

The show blew the last remaining holes in his credibility, and theirs.

Rangers – The Inside Story was a startling journalistic achievement, for which Daly and his bosses ought to be proud; amongst the allegations it aired were claims that Whyte had been struck off as a director, in 2000, for a period of seven years; that investigators believed he had fraudulently run at least one company, Re-Tex Plastics, from behind the scenes during that time; that the company had been involved in a phony share issue and a tax fraud and that, furthermore, Whyte had even appointed a phantom firm of auditors to do its books!

The Internet Bampots had not found this stuff, but it had fully vindicated our view, held from the start, that Whyte was the dodgiest of dodgy geezers and not someone you’d want within 100 miles of any football club with which you had the slightest interest.

The documentary not only uncovered Whyte’s business history, but the rogues gallery with whom he’d been surrounding himself for years, including a convicted fraudster named Kevin Sykes. The program quoted Sykes during a 2001 courtroom appearance, where he laid out the Whyte MO for posterity. It’s worth pondering for a moment.

“What Whyte will do is buy a stake in a failing UK business, and it will be up to me, then, to assist him in restructuring the business, to be blunt, to be able to leave the unsecured creditors behind. Legally, of course.”

You could not have a wished for a more cogent, coherent, summation of what was about to happen at Ibrox over the next few months.

Whyte was no longer working alongside Sykes, at least as far as anyone’s been able to find out, but he was busying away behind the scenes, nonetheless. He knew, by this point, what the club’s financial situation was like, and he had a fair idea what to do next.

Because Whyte had already had some of the key meetings.

He had already started the ball rolling for what would happen on 14 February 2012.

Those meetings had, in no small part, already laid down the groundwork for the administration, and possible liquidation, of Rangers.

And the people who’d been at them?

The unlikeliest folk imaginable.

Or, at least, they would have been, anywhere but Scotland.

Part Ten: Saviours In The Shadows

Whatever his specific plans for Rangers had been at the start, Craig Whyte had known from the moment the full time whistle blew in the Europa League tie with Maribor that the club was heading for administration, and possibly worse.

Whether or not he’d taken the decision to start with-holding tax revenues at that point is irrelevant; he must have realised that was the logical route of travel. There was little point in paying some bills but not others, and he’d clearly already concluded that, in keeping with his previous strategies, that anything kept from the creditors now would be kept from them for good.

It was the business he was in. He’d been doing it for years.

Yet Whyte was in a slightly unusual position when it came to Rangers. This was not a private company one could simply wipe out and walk away from. This was a massive football club, with massive exposure and media interest, one which David Murray had once described, with typical hubris, as “the second biggest institution in Scotland after the church”.

In order to douse what he knew would be a firestorm Whyte needed friends, people who could help him smooth the path towards his eventual destination, and he needed guarantees that the club itself could emerge on the other side of it.

He reached out to the only people who could give those to him; to the governing bodies.

This is where the Rangers situation, already a scandal involving the club, the bank, Murray and a cast of characters out of a Hollywood movie widened to become one that involved the SFA and the SPL, and became of grave concern to everyone who cares about the game.

In early October, Whyte flew to London and met with two men, Neil Doncaster and Ralph Topping, of the Scottish Premier League. By his account, he told those men, at that meeting, that the club was in a dire financial position and that administration was near certain. In addition to that, he says he told them that the issues they faced were so tough that getting a CVA was “unlikely.”

Whyte has a difficult relationship with the truth, but there’s no reason not to believe this version of events. Indeed, emails followed confirming that these discussions had been had, emails in which the SPL CEO suggested that Whyte share with them a “road map” spelling out exactly what he’d do and how the governing bodies should respond.

This document already existed, dated 5 October.

It had been put together by a company called MCR. The code-name for the plan was Project Charlotte.

On 31 October, eleven days after the BBC had stripped Whyte in front of the nation, revealing his background, his business record and his modus operandi, as stated by his long-term business associate, and convicted fraudster Kevin Sykes, the SPL held a meeting to discuss the future of their television deal with Sky.

Neil Doncaster went to that meeting knowing that a plan virtually identical to what Sykes had alleged in court was already underway at Rangers. He knew it would involve debt dumping. He knew it would leave the tax payers millions of pounds out of pocket. He knew too that there were probably some football clubs who would suffer.

He did not share that information with the SPL board.

At that point, the Sky TV deal had three years left to run, but the SPL had an “opt out” option for the following year, and the meeting was to consider whether or not that option should be exercised in light of proposals which had been brought forward for a TV company owned by the league itself. Named Fans TV, it would have ended, once and for all, Scottish football’s dependence on the crumbs from Sky’s table.

The architect of the plan was Hibs chairman Rob Petrie.

At the 31 October meeting, it was decided to put off a decision until 21 November. Petrie and others left believing they had a chance to make the Fans TV case, and further work was done to make sure all the I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed.

At some time over the next few days Doncaster got his board together and told them something – we’ve never been able to fully establish what – that provoked fury around the table, and questions about what Doncaster had known, and when.

In addition, it killed the possibility of Fans TV stone dead.

Insiders spoke later of being told about a developing “situation within Scottish football” that would have left the SPL dangerously exposed. Doncaster urged the board to adopt a proposed extension to the Sky TV deal “without delay.”

Why did he do that?

The deal had three years left to run at that point.

What was the urgency?

Why was it necessary to re-negotiate an agreement which was iron clad?

What we know, for sure, is that the revised television deal, which was signed and sealed in short order, committed Sky to a further two years of Scottish football. By the end of the contract the full package would have been worth £80 million.

By this point, the SFA would have been in the know about coming events at Rangers, as Whyte’s roadmap required them to give guidance and support on the mooted “transfer of membership”, as well as information on the legal position of a NewCo.

It helped that the traffic of employees between the governing bodies and the club was working both ways at the time.

In June that year, Whyte had appointed a new CEO at Ibrox. It was Gordon Smith, who had resigned from his post at the SFA just a few weeks before, citing “family reasons”, just as the EBT story had broke.

Smith had departed with the praise of his former bosses, and Rangers manager Walter Smith, ringing in his ears, in spite of a tenure weighted down with gaffes and PR disasters, the last of which was a public spat with Livingston FC who claimed he’d gone around the ordinary procedures to discipline one of their players for diving.

His appointment at Ibrox certainly couldn’t have hurt a club that needed official sanction, and assistance, for its more secretive plans and schemes.

But in November 2011, public disclosure of those was still a ways off.

In the meantime, something else had been going on in the background.

At the meeting on 21 November, the SPL agreed to renew the Sky deal after the member clubs were finally informed of some of what was brewing at Rangers.

Ewing Grahame, a journalist on the The Telegraph, had a meeting with Neil Doncaster on the day the SPL signed the agreement.

In the article he published afterwards, he made a striking claim.

“The Old Firm remain the biggest draw for broadcasters,” he wrote, “and one of the conditions attached to the new document was that the Glasgow giants will continue to play each other four times in the league.”

In case anyone was in doubt as to this being the big story, Grahame’s article was headlined “Recession-beating five-year TV deal binds Celtic and Rangers to SPL.”

Yet in the piece, Doncaster claimed this had been a standard part of Sky’s TV deals “for years.”

Still, Grahame wrote about it as if it was new information.

Indeed, Doncaster’s claim seems ludicrous in light of what the public facts were then.

First, the clause would have been pointless.

Neither club had ever been remotely in danger of relegation. Neither could leave the Scottish league, even if there was somewhere to go, without a lengthy notice period and financial reparations, and the only way both would ever have done so was with the connivance, and probably at the behest, of television itself.

Some have suggested it was a clause to block league reconstruction proposals, the kind that would have expanded Scotland’s top flight and eliminated the prospect of the “four Old Firm games.”

This is nonsense too.

No TV company would ever have inserted itself into the game’s politics in such a manner, and clubs wouldn’t have stood for it.

Anyway, league reconstruction had been mooted literally dozens of times in the years of Sky’s Scottish football involvement, from 2002 onward. At no point was the issue of how it would affect television contracts ever raised in that time.

Besides, as many have pointed out since, the only conceivable circumstances in which this scenario might have occurred would have been Celtic or Rangers having a disastrous year and falling out of the top six; with the SPL’s odd structure, that possibility would have seen them play each other three times and not four.

But for a TV company to withhold cash on that basis would have been a serious risk to sporting integrity which no sane person would ever have allowed in a contract.

There has also long been some doubt about exactly how the clause was worded.

In Grahame’s article, he drew attention to the possibility that it might “save Rangers” in the event they entered administration and faced relegation or demotion from the top flight. Some have suggested that the clause didn’t mention “four Old Firm games” at all; that it was specifically concerned with “circumstances where either Celtic or Rangers were not in the league.”

If that’s the case, how did Sky come to the conclusion that this was likely? Rumours of administration were one thing … but at that point few people thought the club itself was in serious jeapordy. Only a handful of people knew better.

It so happened that Neil Doncaster was one of them.

Whatever the truth, this clause, which appeared to have come out of nowhere, was to prove crucial to the events which followed, and cast serious doubt on the real motives of the men running the league.

That was for the future.

The Big Tax case First Tier Tribunal had kicked off on 7 November, and the club and Murray sent their legal representatives into action. On 30 November, the club published accounts for the last time.

They weren’t properly audited, and never would be. They revealed a miniscule operating profit for the previous year of just £76,000. You didn’t have to be a maths genius to work out that between bills coming due, no European football, a raft of legal expenses and other things going on that the club was in serious peril, and that the cash would soon run out.

A day later, Whyte confirmed that he’d received a directorship ban from the courts.

In the background, the SPL and the SFA were still in talks with him over how best to handle the upcoming carnage at the club; now he’d confirmed the basis of the BBC documentary that had accused him of concealment and even fraud.

The governing body asked for more information.

In the meantime they continued to assist him as he plotted the wholescale dumping of the club’s growing debts.

Based on the announcement itself, they could have opened immediate proceedings against him, on the basis that he had not disclosed this before and was clearly not a “fit and proper person” to hold a position of responsibility at a Scottish football club, but they didn’t.

To do so would have exposed the club, immediately, to the full horrors of administration, without someone at the helm who was willing to go through that, and then beyond, to what would inevitably follow.

So Whyte had to be left in charge, with no official interference, to finish the job, or at least put the restoration of the Ibrox operation on the rails … and it didn’t matter what happened to the creditors, or indeed the game itself, in the meantime.

Up until that point, it was the single most damaging period in the history of Scottish football and one of the most disgraceful series of events in the history of professional sport on this island, and that was based only on what was in the public domain.

One issue that was already raising its head, and scaring the SFA press office stupid, concerned the Wee Tax Case, and the moment when it “crystallised”.

If anyone was in any doubt about the willingness of the governing body to assist the Whyte regime at Ibrox, they only had to look back on the earliest days of it, when a seemingly routine decision was made in relation to club licensing, one that, had it gone the other way, would have doomed Whyte before he started.

That decision still haunts the SFA today.

Part Eleven: Out On License

In October 2013, Celtic shareholders put a remarkable item on the agenda for discussion at the club’s AGM, which was due to take place on 15 November. The board sent an immediate letter out, asking the fans not to support this item, and gave no further comment.

The press interpreted that as the board wanting the issue buried; in fact, they opened up a line of dialogue with the supporters behind the scenes. On the morning of the AGM those who proposed the motion withdrew it from the agenda, after talks with club officials. The matter had not been kicked into the long grass; in fact, it was, and still is, very much on their minds.

The matter was adjourned. The club and the fans kept talking.

The motion was entitled Resolution 12.

Such an innocuous name for something so potentially devastating.

At its heart was a simple, but deadly, question;

On what grounds exactly were Rangers Football Club allowed an SFA license to play European football in the 2011-12 season?

The resolution asked that the club clarify this, not with the SFA but with UEFA, and urged Celtic to support a UEFA led inquiry into not only this affair but the way the governing body had dealt with the whole Rangers situation from the granting of that license until the liquidation in 2012.

The question as to Rangers’ European license had first come to light when the sheriff officers visited Ibrox in August 2011, to serve HMRC’s notice on the club in regards to the Wee Tax Case.

SFA regulations specifically forbid the granting of such a license when the club in question has a “tax liability payable” to Revenue and Customs.

As we’ve already established, this bill was the very definition of that; it was due by summer 2011 and it had been for months.

The club’s own legal advice was that it should be paid.

During those summer months, the SFA was involved in its annual audit of Scotland’s clubs in preparation for the coming season. The relevant paperwork, and all the club declarations, had to be in place by the end of May.

The existence of the Discounted Options Scheme was not a secret any longer. It had been in the public domain from April that year, when Rangers themselves published it in their annual accounts.

The SFA could not have been unaware of its existence.

The license was allowed, provisionally, at least, but by the end of June 2011 they had to meet UEFA’s own deadline and criteria, and at that point the SFA had an obligation to clarify this matter once and for by talking to the club, and if necessary HMRC, and inform UEFA of what they had found.

Again, this clearly hadn’t been done.

Calls to Rangers saw the whole thing put in a holding pattern; the club apparently told the governing body they were “in talks” with HMRC on the matter. A single call to the tax authorities would have clarified what that meant.

Whyte was stalling, and as we’ve seen from his history it was probably on his mind the whole time that he could let this one lie.

As we know, the bill was still unpaid in September that year when HMRC issued its “final warning” on the matter, and it remains unpaid to this day.

As with many other things it was folded into the carnage of the administration and what came afterwards.

By mid-September numerous football websites were already clamouring for the answers the Celtic fans would formally apply for in November 2013. Leading the way was the RTC site, CQN and Scotzine, an all-purpose site on the Scottish game.

By December, Stewart Regan, the Chief Executive of the SFA since Gordon Smith resigned, was forced to talk to the fans about the issue. His answers, given on Twitter, were vague, even contradictory.

He claimed at one point the bill had not come due at the point when the licensing decision was made, using the later oft-quoted phrase “crystallised” to describe the process.

He had his facts badly wrong.

That bill was due from 20 May, at the latest, and by mid June it had certainly become overdue as defined in UEFA FFP articles.

He seemed rattled.

He had reason to be, although none of us knew what they were until November 2013.

The truth is that Celtic’s board had been concerned about this issue going all to way back to the awarding of the license itself, and before the sheriff officers came calling at Ibrox.

They had queried the European license themselves, and received what they regarded as highly unsatisfactory answers.

Following that visit, they sought further clarity and, again, were unimpressed by what they’d heard.

They had never quite given up on the issue, or on others they believed were peripheral to it, and this was why they’d agreed to keep the lines of communication open with the supporter’s who’d raised Resolution 12.

As has clearly been demonstrated already, Rangers was a club floating on an ocean of debt at the time, and even though the bank were no longer holding anything over them anyone who could read a finance statement knew they faced a huge hole in the balance sheet without European football income.

In light of what happened later, it’s almost inconceivable to imagine the SFA denying them an avenue to money which was quite literally keeping on the lights, no matter what the club had done.

Yet had the SFA acted when they should have, and demanded that Rangers settle this bill immediately or accept the revocation of their European license, Whyte would have been faced with coming clean about his plans sooner, or finding the money to pay up.

They either abrogated their responsibility to check out the true status of that bill or they waved the European license through regardless; either way, it was another scandal in a growing series of them.

The ultimate irony of this, of course, is that it was all for naught anyway.

The Promised Land of Champions League income was never to be realised. Ally McCoist’s later maligned managerial incompetence took care of that, and they exited the elite competition against Malmo before Maribor turfed them out of Europe entirely.

It was to become a feature in everything that came to pass; the governing bodies would bend over backwards, even breaking their own rules, to assure the Ibrox operation as smooth as a passage as was possible, and here, as with later, it didn’t help them a bit.

Part Twelve: The Final Mile

On the night of 15 October 2011, the day after Donald McIntyre appeared in court to seize £350,000 of Rangers’ assets, and five days before Mark Daly stunned Scotland with his seismic documentary on Whyte, one of those football matches that, in hindsight, changes the course of the future took place at Rugby Park.

Whilst things off the field were, by now, spiralling out of Craig Whyte’s control things on the pitch had been better than anyone could have dreamed and Celtic appeared to have collapsed completely.

The Parkhead club went into that game ten points behind the Ibrox club, and badly in need of a lift.

Before half time, it all looked over … the league challenge, and the reign of the manager, Neil Lennon.

Kilmarnock had run riot.

The score was 3-0 to the home side.

All of us watching remembered what had happened to Tony Mowbray, caught in a similar storm, on 24 March 2010 when his Celtic team was destroyed 4-0 at Love Street against St Mirren.

He lasted less than 24 hours, being relieved of his duties and Lennon put in charge on the following day.

The second half transformation was extraordinary, made all the more so by an atmosphere in the ground that was electrifying from the moment the teams came out of the tunnel for the 45 minutes. The Celtic fans have rarely given such passionate, vocal, unequivocal backing as they did that night, and it lifted everyone out in the pitch in a club jersey.

The team rallied. They clawed back the deficit and might even have won the game.

They dropped points, but that night Rangers did too and the equation hadn’t changed. But something had. Although Celtic dropped two more points before that month ended, in a match against Hibs, increasing the gap at the top to 12, and pushing us into third, albeit with Celtic having a game in hand, something had irrevocably shifted in the dressing room and out on the park.

From that point on in the league, Celtic barely looked back.

Every match in November was met, and matched. Lennon’s boys were storming just as Rangers began stumbling. As off-field chaos continued to mount, McCoist’s team began reverting to type and blowing it in their own definite style.

Off the pitch, things continued to get worse.

Eight days after Whyte had confirmed to the world that he had, indeed, been banned as a director the club was rocked by yet another financial blow, this time delivered by Celtic themselves.

The clubs were due to meet, at Celtic Park, on 28 December, and it was custom and practice for the away side to receive its tickets and pay for them later. Celtic had been following events at Ibrox closely, more closely than most were aware, and weren’t about to join what was already known to be a rapidly expanding creditors list.

According to the Scottish media, who covered the story with typical hyperbole, on 9 December Celtic asked for the full balance – £350,000 – upfront, or the tickets would be placed on public sale to their own supporters.

Whyte found the cash from somewhere and the tab was duly paid.

Months later, with Rangers circling the drain, the same media shrieked that the Parkhead club was refusing to pay for its own match tickets up front. With their usual lack of grace and respect for the tension of the times they even accused Celtic of putting jobs at risk whilst the club was in the process of an administration.

Celtic refused to comment on such hysterical claims, and three weeks later, with the game out of the way, they paid the cash in full. At the time, they briefed that they were reluctant to part with cash, in advance, for a match that might not take place, and in the circumstances of that time, that position had seemed like nothing but good common sense.

A day after that story broke, Rangers settled with Donald McIntyre out of court.

The details of the final settlement were never published, but it couldn’t have been cheap.

By the time the match at Celtic Park came around everyone at Rangers knew the New Year was going to bring nothing but misery.

They went into the match with their lead at the top of the table reduced to a single point.

In the 56th minute of the match, Charlie Mulgrew whipped a corner into the box. Kirk Broadfoot, the Rangers defender, was the nearest to the ball but Joe Ledley, the Welsh midfielder, was more determined to get there, and he rose above him and nodded it home.

Parkhead erupted.

Celtic had been 15 points behind in early November, and even with two games in hand the psychological advantage Rangers had enjoyed was enormous.

By full time, Celtic were on top of the table.

Ally McCoist and his players were shattered, and in truth they never really recovered.

The whole club was on the brink.

2012 opened with another hammer blow, the news that the club had been banned from the Stock Exchange for not having a set of audited accounts in by the years end. This was, technically, another breach of SFA regulations but again, nothing was done, probably because the governing bodies already knew how this particular story would end.

The Tax Case tribunal, which had paused during the Holiday Season resumed on the 16th. It finished two days later, and the judges retired to ponder the issues and render a verdict.

It wouldn’t come for an age, and in the meantime things ran their course.

On 20 January, Andrew Ellis was appointed to the Rangers board. He had been involved with Whyte in the takeover, and would later tell another BBC documentary he had personally introduced Whyte to David Murray after the Motherwell Born Billionaire had sold him on his vision for the club by giving him the name of a mystery man who wanted to invest.

The man was none other than Prince Albert of Monaco, a man Whyte said he “saw every week.”

He just never elaborated, and Ellis never asked him to.

By then, time was quickly running out.

On 31 January, the intrepid Scottish media, shocked into life by the news that Whyte wasn’t what he’d seemed, and no longer able to rely on PR releases to guide them through the maze, actually ran a major story in the case.

The Daily Record told the country how Craig Whyte had sold four years of future season ticket revenues to a company called Ticketus, in order to obtain the cash that had let him pay off Lloyds Bank in the deal which saw him get control of the club.

Keith Jackson shamelessly claimed this as an exclusive, and he has got a lot of mileage out of it since. Indeed, whenever the mainstream press wants to defend its shattered reputation, this is one of the stories they point to.

In truth, the story itself was months old. Jackson had written a version of it in June 2011, but Whyte had brought in lawyers and successfully spooked The Record into blocking it.

Yet even then, the story wasn’t as “exclusive” as he’d claimed.

In fact, the Ticketus story was broken by the bloggers.

The Rangers Tax Case site and the Celtic fans forum Kerrydale Street were foremost amongst them. The Companies House document from which The Record got their story had already been published on both of those sites, and all the pieces put together, a fortnight before.

The Internet Bampots had made all the crucial connections, with some even scrutinising previous Ticketus deals for clues.

On 6 June, a full week before Jackson’s “exclusive” first ran, one of the KDS posters wrote, with remarkable prescience, “I reckon the probable solution to this is the most obvious. It’s season tickets we’re talking about here. Who gives out loans against future season ticket revenue? Ticketus. How much is involved here? Roughly £52million. What were the total sums pledged by Whyte for his takeover over four years? Roughly £52million. So what’s happened here? Whyte has pledged future Rangers season ticket cash to pay for his takeover.”

The numbers may have been off, but the guy had it right on the nose.

The story hitting the tabloids was, however, a minor turning point.

Rangers’ fans, for a long time asleep at the wheel, finally woke up to the reality of the position, on the same day the club sold its star striker Nikica Jelavic to Everton, for £7 million.

Five days later they crashed out of the Scottish Cup, at a half empty Ibrox, against Dundee Utd.

A day after that, the BBC’s Mark Daly struck again when he revealed that Whyte may have lied in testimony he gave to a Glasgow court.

The allegation centred on a civil case dating back to December where he’d appeared in connection with an unpaid debt to a firm that had done building work at Castle Grant, his lavish country home.

During his testimony the prosecution asked him about his seven year directorship ban. Whyte said he couldn’t remember what it had been for. When asked if it related to his treatment of creditors, Whyte had denied it.

Those records were gone, or so he’d believed.

Actually, Daly had obtained them and within them was a damning paragraph from the judge in his case.

Only one figure connected with this whole saga would ever be subject to such withering criticism from a judicial bench, although time may change that.

“The assets of the company were put out of the reach of the creditors … the degree of recklessness shows Mr Whyte is thoroughly unfit to be a director.”

Whether he’d committed perjury or not, it was another warning to the SFA about the kind of man they were already tucked up in bed with.

The time for robust action, to save the game from further embarrassment, ought to have been there, and then.

The decision to continue dialogue, to wait for Whyte to send them further information, could only have been made by an association that wanted him in place until certain other conditions had been met.

No-one inside or outside Ibrox would have blinked had they convened a hearing that very day and kicked him out of Scottish football at once. That would have left the club rudderless, going into administration without a man at the helm who’d been over the ground before.

Project Charlotte was, to their eyes, the only route through for Rangers.

So, again, they did nothing at all.

The SFA would finally declare Craig Thomas Whyte “unfit and improper” on 23 April 2012.

By then, a lot of things happened that didn’t have to.

On 13 February Rangers announced that they’d enter administration the following day.

For the supporters on both sides of the Glasgow divide Valentine’s Day would never be the same again.

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No Justice, No Moving On

59cf4bcc9d0a97e18a1085deeb864589Tonight, as I write this, the world of athletics is in uproar over the behaviour of the Russian team in the 2012 Olympics.

It looks certain that Russia will be banned from competing in international competition and that their athletes will face their own sanctions in due course.

These will probably include the removal of all the medals they won during that competition.

Much of the evidence that there was specific wrong-doing has been destroyed. This won’t matter, and is pretty much what guarantees the harshest measures.

The entire national athletics structure appears to have been involved in the offences and that means everyone will suffer the consequences. Consequences are important. When cheating is discovered in professional sport they tend to be rather draconian.

The stripping of titles isn’t unusual. It’s par for the course.

Everyone in Scottish football knows what Rangers did and that it was cheating.

A lot of smoke is being blown to distract people from that simple fact, but it’s undisputable just the same.

Note that no-one is suggesting that what the club did wasn’t wrong. Everyone accepts that. What their defenders are doing instead is trying to square the circle by suggesting that other clubs have done similar stuff. They’re saying that other clubs have spent money they didn’t necessarily have. And they’re suggesting we “just move on.”

Scottish football’s “leaders” – and I say that word with the maximum irony – would do well not to underestimate how angry people are over this.

The incumbents at Hampden, at the SFA and the SPFL, are gutless to their core.

King, as we all know, ought never to have been in a position of football responsibility again in Scotland after his own role in this scandal, to say nothing of his criminal conviction for tax fraud in South Africa, but because our game here is run by little men without a shred of backbone he’s chairman of the club they would have you believe is the same one that caused all this chaos in the first place.

The folk who were at Rangers are now three years past the point where they ought to have atoned, and been punished, for this stuff.

I’ve already laid out the ways in which what Rangers did was a crime against society, and not just against sport, but HMRC took care of that by consigning the club to the graveyard. The SFA has never lived up to its own responsibilities in this case, and it’s imperative that they are now forced to own that failure and act.

The thing is, very few people in Scottish football trust them when it comes to that. We can all too easily imagine a scenario where the SFA or whoever sets up another Lord Nimmo Smith panel, giving it instructions to tread softly and not upset people too much, out of a combination of fear or whatever. Stewart Regan and his “social unrest” comments spring all too readily to mind.

If we’re to truly get to the bottom of this cesspit, this matter needs a public enquiry of the sort not seen in football before. Other sports have them. Athletics is heading for a major one, in the aftermath of the damning report on Russia.

The people in charge of the IAAF have been complacent for a long time, but they’re wide awake now and focussing not only on the integrity of their own competitions but on the reputation of competitive sport as a whole.

In an editorial for The Guardian last night, the journalist Owen Gibson quoted Dick Pound, the boss of Wada, the athletics agency responsible for catching doping, who said “The public is going to move towards the view that all sport is corrupt and that certainly affects the credibility of sport.”

He’s right.

Mark Daly, the man who broke apart the EBT story, did the same with athletics, which led in no small way to the current crisis there. He is one of a handful of world class journalists – and how proud we should be of him – who’s got the intelligence and guts to go after stories like this.

What he found out – that doping for sport, and faking a blood test, is astonishingly simple – has haunted that game ever since, but other games were reeling before this.

Cycling had been devastated by Lance Armstrong. Bloodgate had taken its toll on rugby. Horseracing has been stalked by a variety of allegations. So too has cricket and golf. Even the Paralympics hasn’t been free of this; the 2000 Games saw Spain accused of having won a basketball gold medal in the intellectual disability section, without any of their players actually suffering from one.

In the US, the “biogenesis scandal” saw more than a dozen professional baseball players indicted and suspended for doping.

There have been scandals in American football and hockey.

We know football isn’t clean.

Even if the world governing body was not descending into total chaos under FBI and Justice Department subpoenas there have been scandals in Germany, Brazil, Italy, Turkey and elsewhere.

Associations across the globe have found evidence of corruption at every level.

In Spain just last month, an assistant referee ran to the police, he claims, after his bosses began pressuring him to give decisions in favour of Real Madrid in the coming El Classico match.

In England, they’ve already had the first trial sending people to jail for match fixing in relation to betting syndicates, a subject I’ve written about before.

Scottish football’s scandal eclipses them all.

EBT use itself lasted ten years and the crisis that grew out of it has lasted another four. Rangers went into liquidation more than three years ago, and the governing bodies have mishandled every moment since.

Keith Jackson has said the EBT affair had “scarred the game” here, perhaps in the hope the rest of us will forget that it was the behaviour of one club that caused all this. Yet in one sense he was correct; that event has had serious repercussions and shattered the faith the fans have in the governing bodies, and that has scarred the sport.

We don’t trust these people, and why should we?

The SFA’s own head of registrations, in one of the most perverse moments in this ghastly state of affairs, testified to Lord Nimmo Smith that the player registrations which were with-held from the governing body did not constitute a breach of the rules because no-one knew about them at the time.

This is not just the smoking gun proving the governing bodies are in this up to their necks; this is the smoking ruin of sporting integrity with the Ibrox flag planted on top of it, and messers Doncaster, Ogilvie and Regan posing before it for a photo.

It’s a bit like saying a crime isn’t a crime if no-one actually knows it’s been committed, and that once people find out that it has been it shouldn’t be investigated as one because … no-one knew at the time.

It’s still mind-bending, two years after the fact and that he was allowed to get away with that is almost unbelievable.

The problem he and others have got is that the crime is now public knowledge and the notion that those responsible should get away with what they spent a decade doing is rightly seen as unacceptable.

An “internal inquiry” isn’t going to do it either.

All of this has to be handed over to serious people who can do a serious investigation.

Frankly, I don’t know why UEFA isn’t involved in this. Those footballers played in European games and that has badly compromised their competitions as well as those here in Scotland. All it will take – and I’m shocked it’s not happened already – is for one of the clubs who played Rangers on the continent to complain … and we’re in new territory.

This whole thing reeks, everything about it, from the day the EBT case was uncovered all the way through Whyte and Green and into the disgraced King being given a seat on the board with the SFA seal of approval.

There’s no way in Hell the people who presided over this can be expected to deal with it, honourably, as we go forward.

Who knew what, where and when?

Who got paid and how much?

These are the questions that we most often ask in relation to the EBT drama.

But there are other questions, other things that don’t make sense in all this, potential scandals waiting to be uncovered, and not just the secret list of EBT recipients who’s names were never published, and are known to the BBC and other outlets … but, yes, that too …

Who was on that list? How big is this thing?

Most importantly, these were payments for ‘services rendered’ … and one of the most interesting questions is what, in some cases, did those ‘services’ involve?

There’s barely one of us who isn’t aware, for example, that Graeme Souness got an EBT ten years after leaving Ibrox.

Ten years, friends. That’s not something that can be easily explained away.

What was this cash for?

The name of this scam, after all, was the Employee Benefit Trust … so in exactly what capacity was Souness still employed by Rangers and Murray?

He was at Blackburn from 2000-2004.

In January 2000, Rangers signed Tugay Kerimoğlu.

The following year he went to Rovers in a deal that reunited him with a manager he’d played for in Turkey. That deal appears kosher, but questions have long surrounded what happened three years later, when Souness was in his first season at Newcastle.

Jean Alain Boumsong, a player the Ibrox club signed as an out-of-contract freebie, was at Rangers for less than six month before Souness took him to his new club, paying £8 million for his services.

That transfer was later part of the Stevens Inquiry into bungs and backhanders in transfer deals, with the sting in the tail being that part of that was a raid on Ibrox and the confiscating of computers, and it was on these that the EBT use became known to HMRC.

So, we know what the Geordie side got for their money … and it wasn’t very much.

Boumsong was a dreadful signing for them, playing 40 odd games before they sold him for less than half of what they paid.

What we don’t know for sure is what Rangers got for their cash.

We know too that a number of people who are now journalists got EBT’s.

We don’t know how many did because the full list isn’t known.

Martin Bain got one whilst he was on the Rangers board, but he was also on the SPL Board of Directors at the same time.

That’s a post, similar to that held by Peter Lawwell at the moment, where you’re obliged to act in the best interests of the sport.

Yet he would have known league rules were being breached all the while.

Andrew Dickson, who was at Ibrox at the time, was elected to the SFA Congress this very year … an outrage considering what we know to have been going on whilst he was a club employee, responsible for “Football Adminstration” during the period when the dual contracts were being hidden away from the very body which he now sits on.

How do we know this? We know it because the SFA told us, in their investigation into Craig Whyte, who Dickson had testified to the governing body as being a “fit and proper person.”

He was also the recipient of an EBT, one worth £33,000.

You literally could not make this stuff up.

And then there’s Campbell Ogilvie himself, who left Rangers in 2005, receiving an EBT as a “golden handshake” after departing for Hearts. He was already the SFA treasurer, and two years later he was association Vice President.

Apart from having received a payment from the Ibrox club after he’d left he also held shares in Rangers, whilst at Tynecastle … a clear violation of the regulations he was supposed to enforce.

He knew all of it, along with Dickson and Bain, about the legal advice and the side letters and the non-disclosure and the illegality of the Discounted Options Scheme.

They had to, otherwise you have to surmise that they were absolutely, perhaps even criminally, negligent in their duties.

Their EBT payments compromise all of them in terms of their positions on those boards, and it’s astonishing that Dickson is at the SFA right now with all this swirling around him, but that Ogilvie received part of his after his employment at Ibrox is far worse, and makes me wonder just what that payment represented.

One thing is for sure; he looked the other way on these issues all the way through his tenure at the SFA, and he was still working on the club’s behalf right up to the moment Nimmo Smith gave his verdict in the last so-called “independent inquiry” we had, the one where the frame of reference was all decided in advance by organisations with everything to lose.

A lot of folk in our media have already been caught out as implicated in this.

Billy Dodds had one, Neil McCann had one and so did Stephen Thompson.

Those guys all won medals at the club during the EBT years and their views are still sought today in various media outlets. All are hopelessly compromised, as are the newsrooms in which they’ve spent their time, filled as they’ll be with their mates.

In addition, although he wasn’t at the club itself, Souness frequently appears on Sky Sports as a pundit, although he’s never asked about goings on at Ibrox. He doesn’t need to be. Off-camera, I’m sure he’s pushing the Victim Myth like crack cocaine.

No wonder the media narrative is that title stripping isn’t required, or even wanted.

A lot of former Celtic players have already been lined up to say they’re against it, or so it’s being spun. In fact, many have been asked if they would like the retroactive awarding of titles, which isn’t the same thing, and very few footballers would ever want that.

The campaign being waged on the other side is sneaky, and those behind it are those with far too much to lose to allow an inquiry that’s fully independent of the sport. But that’s what necessary, because the EBT scandal is bigger than it looks and it’s led to other scandals, some of which have the potential to do even more damage.

This thing began with off-the-books payments and concealed contracts but it didn’t end there, of course.

The real scandals came later.

First, the “conflicted” SFA President and the corrupted media, some of whom were in receipt of those payments, fought to see that ten years of cheating went unpunished when Rangers was liquidated and Sevco was born, giving the new owners guarantees of immunity before a shred of evidence had even been heard in the case.

They think we’ve forgotten this, about the secret memo that gave Charles Green his “no title stripping” assurances.

He’s now headed for a courtroom as the people who allowed him to get control pretend none of this is their doing.

They are in this up to their necks.

That’s why what happens next shouldn’t – indeed can’t – be dictated by them.

When these affairs came to light the natural inclination these people had was to sweep it under the carpet.

When it wouldn’t stay there they lied to us all about seeking justice, and gave the offenders a free pass.

An official at the SFA went in front of a tribunal and excused cheating on an industrial scale on the grounds we didn’t know it was cheating at the time.

They did no due diligence on Green.

When evidence of his links to Whyte emerged they let the club investigate itself.

They watched as a share issue was launched on decidedly dicey foundations and then rubber stamped two people who didn’t meet the Fit and Proper Person criteria as it’s laid down in the rules – their own set of rules, which have been used to punish other clubs for offences not even remotely this severe.

We have criminal cases pending.

The tax scam itself has been deemed illegal.

King himself is a convicted crook, running a Scottish club, the same one making threatening noises about not accepting further sanctions, when they haven’t even accepted responsibility for the pathetically ineffectual ones that were imposed on them three years ago.

Our entire national sport is mired in an enormous scandal that would be game-changing in any other national association in Europe.

Yet many of the guilty men still hold office.

In light of all this, a landscape of destruction stretching out for miles, we’re being told to “move on.”

Anybody arguing that needs therapy.

The game needs cleansing from top to bottom, and no-one involved in these affairs should be near its fresh start, which is the bare minimum that’s required before we can even start thinking about putting this in the past.

Dismay was yesterday’s emotion.

Disbelief stopped applying many, many moons ago.

What’s replacing all of that is anger, the anger of fans who’ve had to watch this unfolding, ever evolving shambles for near on three years, which gets worse the deeper into it we go.

I’m not approaching this as a Celtic fan.

I’m approaching it as an outraged football fan who’s more and more convinced that we’re watching something that’s not actually a competitive sport at all.

My girlfriend is a wrestling fan, a staged “sport” which is an interesting spectacle but can’t in any way, shape or form be viewed as a serious undertaking.

If we want to package football in this country on that basis, then great, but let’s acknowledge that fact.

Hibs haven’t won a Scottish Cup since 1902?

Well, wouldn’t that make a wonderful “story”? Let’s fix that for them next year, yeah?

The SPL’s become a one horse race?

Let’s make sure we throw it for Aberdeen, just to create a romantic “narrative.”

Let’s create rivalries between players, between managers, between officials and even fans.

Let’s artificially create heroes and villains, let’s have nothing that’s real.

Let’s remove sporting integrity from the field entirely.

See how many fans go to see it.

I said three years ago, when the initial moves to put Sevco in the SPL were being made, that we’d reached a turning point for our sport.

The fans saved the integrity of the game by lobbying their clubs.

This crisis will require them to do it again, to see that ten years of cheating and all that’s come since doesn’t go unpunished.

I do not trust our governing bodies to do this right.

The inquiry, when it happens, has to be wholly independent with the power to call witnesses and make them answer questions.

This isn’t a joke; the illegal activities of Rangers Football Club cost the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds and there are a thousand unanswered questions about where the money went, and why.

At the end of all of it, justice has to be done and it has to be seen to be done so that our national sport can begin to recover and heal.

That means title stripping.

That means heads must roll.

That means a complete hollowing out of the structures at the SFA and the SPFL and the creation of robust, and meaningful, regulations to assure none of this can happen again.

Then, and only then, can we finally “move on.”

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Crisis At Sevco: Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide

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

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

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

The Battle of Berlin began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erase any thought that I feel bad for them.

These people deserve everything they get.

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

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

This is a club on the brink of a catastrophe.

Let’s look at where things stand this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the football front, things aren’t bad.

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

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

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

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

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

How long before he’s fed up with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were still unbelieving right up to administration day itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They may even limp to the end of the season.

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

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

Basic math is all that’s required.

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

That’s a simple statement of fact.

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

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

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

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

Haven’t they been there before?

That way lies the boneyard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, somewhere a village is definitely missing its idiot.

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

If he’s jailed they’ll be catastrophic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sevco: A Club Where Crisis Is Permanent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing speaks more clearly to their stupidity than this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it happens everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet even that has a limited shelf life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But they will come to terms with it eventually.

You can ignore reality, and even deny reality.

But you cannot change reality.

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for early fireworks.

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Shooting The Messenger

stock-footage-a-man-in-a-fedora-typing-on-a-vintage-manual-typewriter-film-noirThere are things you get used to when you do this sort of thing.

One of them is the criticism of those who’s closed minds don’t want exposure to the truth, the kind of people who would rather live in ignorance than confront reality.

There are a lot of them in Scottish football.

The last article this site published – on Dave King and why his fortune might not be as large or readily available to Sevco as many of their fans, and our media, seem to believe – was extraordinarily well received, at least in terms of the number of hits it generated.

A lot of those who read it were the supporters of the Ibrox club, and it’s fair to say not all of them liked it.

I understand that. But shooting the messenger … that’s harder to comprehend.

I have a long history with these people taking pot shots at me.

Phil has the same issue, and Paul67 too.

Forget that we’ve been right on the money far more often than we’ve been wrong.

Forget that King has behaved exactly as we predicted up until now – putting not one penny of his own cash into the club.

They don’t want to hear any of it.

Especially not from us.

Check out their forums if you don’t believe it.

The second they realise that a challenging article came from a “Celtic site” they shut down at once.

This marries bigotry with stupidity in a way that makes me want to gawp in amazement.

In truth, though, any blogger who consistently tries to paint a picture of the real world for these people – and I include some of their own; McMurdo has been required reading in the last few months, as one of the very few who won’t touch the Kool Aid – is branded an idiot automatically.

I can take being tagged like that.

What I won’t take is being called a bigot myself.

It’s a charge I refute utterly and anyone who throws it around better be prepared for consequences; I’ve threatened to sue for that in the past and I repeat that threat to anyone who’s game enough.

Simply put, myself and others are going to keep telling these people what they don’t want to hear.

And they’re going to continue resisting that.

Because the truth hurts … and the truth is all I have for them.

Why do we do this so much?

People ask me that all the time.

There are a few reasons.

For one, they are sheer entertainment in a way that has nothing to do with sport, or football itself.

To me, now, they’ve become the ultimate cautionary tale, the example future football fans will come to study in order to learn what not to do as a support, in much the same way as business school students will study the bank who let them, and Murray, live it large only to be brought down when things took a turn for the worse.

I think the Rangers fans will make an excellent case study.

I find it fascinating that so many people can wilfully unplug themselves from facts, logic and even common sense and go on believing that the world is what they wish it were, rather than focus on what it is.

I find it incredible that they can ignore clear evidence and wrap themselves in the comfort blanket of fairy tale ideas as if they were little children who still believe in Santa.

For what is a sugar daddy owner to football supporters but Father Christmas himself, in a good suit?

First it was Murray they believed in, then Whyte, followed by Green and now, finally, they’ve arrived at King.

Along the way they’ve destabilised their club to the point where a man of genuine means, who could play Santa until the cows come home, has become their implacable foe instead.

And this, in itself, is an achievement, of course.

They’ve turned an honest-to-God “nothing personal, strictly business” type into a guy who might well shoot them just to watch them die.

I have the luxury – we have the luxury – of being able to indulge in this guilty pleasure, because we do so from a secure vantage point.

We are the biggest club in Scotland, without dispute, and liable to be that for a long time to come.

There’s no escaping from that fact for them, no matter how much they might wish it were otherwise, and we’re comfortable enough with our position going forward that the occasional diversion to check out the parlous state of the club that kids on it’s our greatest rival is something we can easily afford.

If our position were not so strong, would we be focussing so much attention on them?

Of course we wouldn’t.

We’re not like them, gazing around, looking to pick fights, when we should be trying to drag ourselves up.

Their club is in a chaotic state.

Instead of focussing on that, some of their fans are still chasing dreams of “nailing Celtic” in a discredited “case” over land.

I mean … seriously?

We do this because we can, because our own club, well run (for the most part) and with a plan (whether we like it or not) can navigate whatever troubles come its way. We’re not constantly dealing with crisis at every turn.

They are worthy of our study because of the sheer lunacy of their behaviour.

We’re trying to find method in the madness, perhaps, and we can afford to take time out to look.

That’s the first reason.

The second reason we do it is that we like it.

There it is. I confess. We enjoy their suffering, and why not?

They sure as Hell enjoyed ours.

I rememeber their nine in a row. It’s what made stopping the ten so thoroughly satisfying, and these last few years into something almost blissful.

That’s an unpalatable truth though, one that’s hard to take because it makes me wonder if we’re any better than gawkers at the scene of a car crash, which is undoubtedly the best representation of them I can think of.

They are a car crash, happening in slow motion.

They can hide behind that pitiful “obsessed” nonsense too, and for as long as they like, but we’re no more obsessed by them than we are at the circus freak shows which once drew a crowd.

There is something in human nature that makes you slow you own vehicle down when you see emergency service lights on the motorway, surrounding a hunk of twisted metal.

Maybe we’re sadists.

Watching them flail around these last couple of years has definitely been fun.

Why else do they think a lot of us have OD’d on jelly and ice cream?

The hint is in the stuff itself.

It’s party food, but it’s kids party food, which should tell them how seriously we really view them in our lives.

I am amazed more of them don’t get that.

The final reason I do this so much is that this mind-set of theirs has been truly damaging for Scottish football.

If the only effects of it were to their own club then they would be justified in telling us to butt out and mind our own business.

But when the governing bodies and the media try to bully other clubs into accepting the wholescale bending of the rules, when league reconstruction is constantly being mooted as an alternative to clubs reaching the top flight on merit, when the atmosphere at grounds is polluted by the most appalling, retrograde singing from a section of their support and whilst they continue to indulge in a re-write of history that excuses the most scandalous practices ever seen in Scottish football whilst they simultaneously play the “victim card”, telling the world they have been unfairly treated … well that is our business and no mistake.

All the calamities which have struck them in recent years, whether you’re talking about Sevco or those which obliterated Rangers, were self-inflicted. This constant casting about for people to blame not only damages our game but stops them learning the lessons of history.

They blame Craig Whyte for their demise, ignoring the fact that had they been in good financial health and able to meet their funding requirements as per every other club in the leagues that he wouldn’t have needed to take such drastic action when they were knocked out of Europe.

When you boil it down, their real complaint against Whyte isn’t that he was a bad man. It’s that he wasn’t a rich one, as their media friends had led them to believe. He didn’t have the cash to continue funding a playing squad the club could not afford.

They think we’re stupid, that we’ve forgotten that for a while they were gleeful at the prospect of “starting fresh” without debts.

They spent their first year as Sevco boasting about it, and King was still boasting about it last week, even as BDO continued to sift through the rubble out of which they crawled, blaming everybody else.

They are back in the courts this week too, as the Big Tax Case drags on, another area where they claim to have been the targets of unscrupulous people, as if the Unseen Fenian Hand has reached as far as HMRC and turned it against them.

You really have to take your hats off to them for the scope of what they allege.

It really is something.

In their world, officials at BOS and Lloyds colluded against them.

HMRC came after them out of hate.

Every club in Scottish football lashed out vindictively.

At the same time, numerous Scottish based public bodies were coming together to let Celtic have land on the cheap, and in violation of the law.

This is mind-boggling … a kind of multi-track, multi-agency, multi-level conspiracy involving political corruption, misuse of company funds and public resources, cover-ups and deceit which could send people to jail if true … based on jealousy of a football club.

That is the definition of paranoia.

And to think they used to call it “the Irish disease.”

What’s the truth about all this?

That the governing bodies of football, run by one of their former directors, one heavily implicated in their scandals, let them away with murder and continues to.

That the bank which gave their owner unlimited access to funds, with which he built their ego-stoked “glory days” and let them run up debts in the tens of millions before the financial crash of 2008 stopped all that in its tracks, was the same one that almost closed Celtic’s doors over a deficit of only £7 million.

That they get an easier ride from the newspapers than any other football club in the UK.

That we here in Scotland invented “the Internet Bampots” to counter that.

That we re-wrote the media lexicon to include the phrase “succulent lamb journalism” and were the nation whose press once sat in silence at a media conference after a calamitous result for Rangers because no-one wanted to ask a negative question and there were no positives to be had.

That the whole of our political and media class, as well as the governing bodies themselves, ignored sectarian singing for decades and a religious based signing policy which should have made them a pariah club across world football.

That even the scandalous behaviour of a section of their support, in numerous European cities, including Pamplona, Barcelona and Manchester, was excused – and even blamed on the fans of other clubs.

That they still claim HMRC had no basis to go after them in the first place, and have distorted the verdict in the case as it stands as “a victory” when, in fact, it highlighted numerous breaches of tax rules and revealed a pattern of concealment and dishonesty which is breath-taking.

I’ve long argued that I, personally, do not care what the final verdict in that case ends up because that will simply tell the world whether their smart lawyers dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s properly and so kept their tax scam “legal.”

I’m more interested in whether or not it was moral.

We know the answer to that one.

The consequences we see for society are pretty clear. It was anything but.

In only the second article for this site – “More Than A Sports Story” – I examined those consequences in terms of hard numbers and it still blows you away to go back and look over today.

Through all this, I’ve said, repeatedly, that I do not hate the club that plays out of Ibrox.

There is a section of their support, mired in sectarianism, fuelled by paranoia, wallowing in a superiority complex that is woefully misplaced, which I despise, and I make no secret about that.

You know the ones I mean; those who proclaim their patriotism by making the Nazi salute.

Those who “honour” their “culture” by reminding the world every single year how backward it is.

Those who think hiding behind abused children and even clambering onto the corpses of the dead, is a way to score cheap points.

It is impossible not to loathe such people.

They are uncivilised scum.

They are what we call the Huns.

Furthermore, I would argue that many of their “fellow fans” feel the same way about them.

I know they do.

I know for a fact they do.

I’m going to keep highlighting those people too, because the game (and their club) will be better off when they are rooted out of it.

All of this poisons our game here.

The scandals, the corruption, the rule bending, the bigotry, the Survival Myth and the Victim Myth.

They all feed into a perception, which our media is happy to promote, that our game is a mess; that we’re a basket case country instead of simply one with a single, renegade, basket case club which got “too big to fail” and then failed anyway, changing our perceptions of football reality overnight in a way a lot of people still don’t accept.

But of course, what it really did was introduced that reality to a world which had lived in denial of it long before the Internet Bampots got here.

The real problem they have with us is that we keep trying to make them confront that fact, and all the unpleasant truths that go with it.

They can shoot the messenger all they like.

Their problems won’t go away.

We won’t either.

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Appalling Display By Officials Thwarts Celtic Treble Ambitons

A-League Rd 13 - Sydney v Central CoastAnybody who argues that officials don’t change games, and their mistakes don’t change destinies and have enormous impacts, wasn’t watching that game today.

At the end of the first half, we witnessed one of the worst decisions any of us is ever going to see. To say it was a shocker is an understatement.

To say that the officials were scandalous is to give them more credit than they are due.

At least two of them, perhaps three, had a clear line of sight to an obvious handball.

It was deliberate, it was a crucial factor in preventing a clear goal scoring chance and it should not only have been a penalty but a straight red card.

There are simply no excuses on offer here.

It was a diabolical moment in a game which flipped on its head.

The next major decision, to send of Craig Gordon and award Inverness a penalty, was unarguable. But had Celtic gone in at half time with a two goal advantage, far less against ten men, it would never have come about.

The whole second half would have had a different complexion … and with it, perhaps, the history books.

So much that is wrong with the Scottish game can be expressed clearly in that moment.

Some will scream Operation: Stop The Treble.

Others will simply point to a level of incompetence that would have people fired from another job.

It matters whether it’s one or the other, it matters a great deal, but what is not in dispute is that these “honest mistakes” cost clubs vast sums of money and change the trajectory of careers, and if the price for managerial failure – which so often turns on moments like these – is high, which it is, then our officials should not be immune from the consequences of these ghastly bad calls.

The officials who “missed” this decision – which happened right in front of their open eyes – ought to be doing something else on a Saturday. Because if they can miss something like that then what exactly is the point to having them near the pitch?

Not only the referee, and not just the linesman, but the extra official behind the goal – who arguably had the best line of sight of all – failed to spot a clear, and obvious, infringement and act accordingly.

That is simply unbelievable, and unacceptable.

It materially influenced the outcome of the match.

It impacts on the remainder of Celtic’s season and it has knock on effects beyond it.

Midway through the first half of extra time, Celtic’ treble ambitions were in shreds. John Guidetti then scored his free kick and that gave the team a zip they hadn’t had for much of the game but to ask any team to play this long with ten men was unrealistic.

It was always more likely than not that this would end in disaster, and it did.

I thought we should have won the match regardless, ten men or not, but it doesn’t matter now.

I didn’t have to play out on that pitch, covering much more ground than usual.

I didn’t have to labour under the enormous psychological pressure those players were under, pressure the officials did nothing at all to lessen and everything to enhance. An early booking for Scott Brown had the captain walking a tightrope, and that could have been avoided had the referee been at all level headed, which on the day he failed to be.

The treble dream is over for another season.

It is the toughest thing in football to accomplish, and days like today are a clear demonstration as to why. The slightest mistake – from a player or from a referee – is amplified 100 times.

I feel pretty gutted – of course – but more than that I feel angry.

To simply not rise to the occasion, to lose it because you just didn’t show up is one thing … to have a monumental and disgraceful decision so clearly impact the course of the game is simply unacceptable.

The team has come a long way though.

To ask them to go that extra mile, with ten men on the pitch for the whole second half plus extra time, has proved too much to ask.

Despite that, we can’t overlook that there are deficiencies in this team, most notably up front where we definitely lack a big, target man who can hold the ball up on a day like today, when we’re forced into playing with one up front.

But I’ve been singing that song now for near on three years. If our scouting system can’t find maybe it’s time to rip it up and start again. How much clearer can it be, for God’s sake?

That needs to be addressed. A tight title race and a reversal like today removes the alibis a treble would have given the board of directors.

They did what they had to do in the January transfer window, signing two players who will make an impact on the team for years to come, but there will be no excuses if they do not give the manager and the fans the players they deserve in the summer.

Congratulations to John Hughes and his team today.

I hope Falkirk trounce them in the final, but I like big Yogi and he deserves credit for what he’s accomplished.

But today belongs to the men in black. Theirs is the contribution to this season that will live longest in memory and infamy.

How much longer do we have to put up with such a staggering degree of ineptitude … or bias?

It matters which one, but not right now.

For now I have some drinking to do.

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Cover

Complete Incomprehension

article-0-0C3CF89B000005DC-856_634x375Yesterday, when I posted in disbelief and mounting anger about the SPFL’s decision to corrupt sporting integrity for a grubby handful of TV cash, I had no idea that the story would dominate the rest of my day, but it did.

First came the outpouring of venom, and bile, from the Illiterati on Twitter, as SevcoLand went into meltdown over what they saw as a piece motivated by hate.

I’ll deal with that first before I move on to the more substantial issues.

For openers, you really have to have hate on the brain to have read any malice into my article, except at that directed at the so-called governing bodies. Sevco fans erupted anyway, with the usual gush of child abuse comments and supremacist remarks.

I argued the toss with them for a wee while before my common sense kicked in, and I blocked a bunch of the more disgusting ones.

To them I’d say this; if you think being blocked represents some kind of victory you are entitled to that view, but your only mistake is thinking I care what you think. I have no wish to discuss anything with you any more than I want to chat away to those who think point scoring on something as appalling as paedophilia is anything less than repulsive.

Those people are gutter rats, the dregs of humanity, and aren’t worth the shit on my shoes far less the fraction of a brain cell it takes to demolish any flimsy argument they stand up. I have a very clear idea of what my own club is, its history and its culture. I also have a very clear idea what their version of their club is, and its own history and ideology.

I know which side I’m on, and I like to think if I hadn’t been brought up a Celtic fan that my politics and my outlook and my social leanings would have made me one.

Yet I also suspect that all of those things come from being a Celtic fan … and I have never been less than proud of that.

If they are proud of their own institution that’s their business.

If they want to believe it lives on, blindly supporting the resurrected version of it, without realising it’s some kind of Frankenstein’s Monster, all the better to fill the pockets of select English based businessmen, well they are entitled to that too, and I say “good luck to you” much as I would not discourage anyone who still wanted to believe in Santa Claus or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

I just wouldn’t want them working in a nuclear power plant.

I have been called a bigot more than once since I started this site.

It’s not true, and I defy anyone to suggest that it is.

Indeed, I’ve threatened legal action against various people who have put that word in writing beside my name. I won’t stand for it, and won’t allow anyone to level that charge at me. It doesn’t stand up to even the slightest examination.

For the record; I do not hate the club that calls itself Rangers.

I do not hate their fans.

I believe some of them are dumb to an almost subhuman degree and that others merely use the club itself to project onto the world their own warped view of it. I do marvel at the club when it panders to those halfwits, as doing so is social, political and economic suicide, limiting their appeal now and forever, but you could say that about any number of other institutions.

I don’t hold that against everyone else associated with them.

In an earlier article, I scoffed at those who would attempt to divide this country into “us and the enemy” because as someone who’s lived beside “the enemy” my whole life, as someone who has loved “the enemy”, worked with “the enemy”, fought alongside them and campaigned for a better Scotland and a better world with some of them, I do not recognise, or accept, the narrow caricature of the “Celtic and Rangers hatred” that some people think drives our lives.

On top of all that, this is a city I love with all my heart, and it’s why I write about it, blog about it and now publish a magazine about it. Everyone says there’s no place like home, but there are few cities in the world – but Glasgow is one of them – where just being from there grounds you and influences you for the rest of your time on this planet.

I resent the Hell out of those who would promote this place as some kind of bastion of hate.

It is not true, it has never been true, it will never be true and I want nothing to do with the lie, or those who have perpetuated it and gotten fat off of it for too damned long.

I write two blogs on football. This is the “big picture” one, the one that I try to make about serious issues.

The other is less high-minded, where I go to vent or to celebrate.

My own club is featured on there, but Sevco are our rivals and so I poke them with a stick where and when I can.

Occasionally I delve into the bigger picture … but mostly I save that for here.

Yesterday’s article was not about Sevco inasmuch as it was about the incompetence and lack of regard the governing bodies have for every fan in Scottish football. Indeed, the sentiments I expressed in the piece were later echoed by the boards at Hibs and Hearts and by Stuart McCall himself, and the media was, for once, almost united in condemnation.

So you tell me; who was on the wrong side of the argument here?

Two groups of people. The Sevco hate brigade and the SPFL.

The hate brigade were doing what they do. Hating. Give them their due, because they do it very well. They’ve practiced it and they have it down to a fine art. They are unimportant to the wider debate because it’s over their heads, outside their narrow ability to comprehend and compute.

The SPFL, well, they are my bigger concern, as the piece made clear.

For the whole day yesterday I got emails from fans of clubs out with Glasgow who were shocked and appalled by the SPFL’s decision, some wondering what my own club’s take on it might be.

I told them that it really isn’t Celtic’s business, but that in SFA terms I hoped we were taking a lead to make real changes.

In truth, my club, acting alone, can’t transform anything. To accomplish any goal that’s worth a damn will take a national campaign, where fans from other teams will need to put aside their differences and work as a team.

Sevco Rangers fans will have to play a part in it too. I know it’s inconvenient for those who want to accuse me of bigotry and hate, but I’ve long argued that and I’ve long said that no other group of supporters has been as badly served by the incompetence of the governing bodies.

Any campaign for meaningful change would help, not hurt, them.

I do believe their club has been pandered to, since time immemorial.

The evidence for it is overwhelming.

Paradoxically, it has done them more harm than good over the long haul. The failure to do “fit and proper person” examinations on their board members, the failure to hold Ashley to account, the way Green was allowed to basically lie his way through 18 months … all of it was tolerated and accepted by the governing bodies, who are mute at the moment as a convicted fraudster takes his place at the club.

If this is love, it is a curious type.

If it was done for their gain, what a mess it’s made instead.

On top of that, unlike a lot of people I don’t believe they “won” anything from the events of the past four years.

Even if you accept their viewpoint that the club lives on, I don’t think you can call it a victory when they’ve lost uncounted millions in revenue, seen an expensive first team of players all walk away for free, had their banking facilities withdrawn, cost them a fortune in sponsorship and watched the infrastructure of club ground down to nothing.

This is to say nothing of the monumental reputational damage it has all inflicted on them.

To cap it all, they wound up in the lowest tier and suffered the ignominy and shame of staggering ineptitude on and off the park, from Ally to Ashley.

That is the damndest victory I ever heard of.

And they had it coming.

They don’t like that either, but it remains true nonetheless.

For the better part of my life they were financially doped to the eyeballs.

They didn’t generate the income that paid for their success; they borrowed it. And then they didn’t want to pay it back, so they bent rules and laws and in the end they folded the hand and the taxpayer picked up the tab.

Shame on them for it.

If the history continues in their eyes, so be it. Their recent past has been the history of disgrace, and it goes on to this day, with Murray and King sitting in a directors box they ought not to be allowed near, and not only because they fail the most fundamental tests.

Two guys who wrought havoc on something they claimed to love, destabilised it to the point of crisis, very deliberately, whilst blaming the previous board for that, and who then used the conditions they had manufactured personally to gain control …

I think to call them parasites would be doing them more justice than they deserve.

If Sevco fans want to support that with their hard earned cash, so be it.

For all that, my gripe is with the governing bodies who allow all this to go on and who, yesterday, shamed themselves and heaped embarrassment on the sport with a scandalous decision which brought the integrity of our game into question.

Then they compounded that grievous mistake – which nearly everyone in Scottish football agrees is a shocker – with a self-justifying statement which is so crass, ill-judged and ridiculous that the only rational response to it is contempt.

Nearly every major piece this website has written in the two and some years since I started it has been, in some way, connected with the way our game’s governors have either failed in their most basic duties or made a mockery of their own rules.

So many of those cases have involved Rangers and Sevco.

The crisis that erupted at the first, swallowed them whole, and gave birth to the second, were not simply manufactured by Craig Thomas Whyte; they existed in embryonic form before he arrived at the club.

Their roots are to be found in what Auldheid and others have painstakingly charted … a decade or more of outright mendacity and concealment of contracts and financial projections, which the SFA was in part aware of and which at least one of its chief officers had extensive knowledge of, if not outright involvement in.

It involved, amongst other things, hidden player contracts and deliberately misleading information over the status of their tax affairs.

For example, we know of at least one season where they were granted a license to play European football when they were materially in breach of the requirements for one.

The documentation proving it is there in black and white, no matter how much people inside and outside the governing bodies, the major clubs and the media might want to ignore it.

The failures of governance that are involved here are colossal.

It is not for nothing that many of us have taken to calling it The Greatest Scandal in the History of Sport.

Yesterday the SPFL wrote another sordid chapter in that history.

Neil Doncaster will have a starring role in the numerous books and essays and studies of this which we’ll certainly see in years to come, and future generations will marvel that he wasn’t sacked in 2012 when he self-detonated the commercial side of the league’s businesses.

That he has remained in post to this day, with all the attendant disgrace he has layered on since, will stagger them.

So much of this happened at one club, and appears to be for the benefit of that club.

I am asked, often, if Doncaster has been “got to” or “bought.”

I tell them the answer is no.

As much as some might shake their heads at my saying this, I believe that if Celtic had been as badly run as Rangers and landed in the same position he and Regan would have been just as willing to bend every rule and co-opt the rest of the clubs, using much the same tactics as they did in 2012, to achieve the ends they wanted.

They would have risked everything, and burned this game to the bedrock if the fans of other clubs had allowed them to get away with it.

The issue here is the duopoly, and the lack of any imagination that our national sport can be something more.

The “two club” scenario in which these people fanatically believe – which is that our game, essentially, only has “relevance” because of the Glasgow sides – is what has corrupted every bit of our sport and got us here.

We Celtic fans, for our own reasons, have long loathed and despised the “Old Firm” tag, which we think insults us in seeking to tie us not to another club but to a pact of mutual hatred.

It markets nothing but bitterness, and tries to tap into something ugly.

We want no part of it and it’s been a long time since we did.

Our national sport could have weaned itself off this evil, corrupting drug … but our leaders and our media wouldn’t let it.

They pushed the Two Club Myth.

To keep it going they invented and nurtured the Survival Myth.

To feed and grow that they’ve invented the Victim Myth, which promotes nothing but anger and resentment and which Sevco fans are mugs to believe in.

Yesterday, even the press were amazed at the ignorance and lack of logic the SPFL showed, and the gaping holes in the decision making process their choices revealed.

The statement the SPFL released late last night, full of self justification and arrogance, but without an iota of insight into the minds of the fans (not that they gave a damn anyway) was greeted with a disbelief and contempt I haven’t heard in the voices of commentators and analysts since Comical Ali stood on the streets of Baghdad and told the world that Iraqi forces were fighting hard against the American invaders as US tanks rolled by in the background.

That’s where we are right now, with these people trying to defend the indefensible, insulting the people who matter most, pissing on us all and not even having the decency to call it rain.

A section of the Sevco support, forever wrapped in its own wee bubble of self importance, saw our condemnation of that scandal as an attack on them. Those who didn’t throw disgusting insults instead chucked back the softball of “obsessed.”

They miss the point, as the clinically selfish always do.

They are at the centre of the story, but they are not the story. I have only the most peripheral interest in their club in all this. My gripe is with the football authorities. They allow this nonsense. They make these decisions. They break their own rules.

Some think that’s none of our business, but they are the same people who come out with crap like “it’s all about the Rangers” and talk through the sides of their mouths about how “necessary” they are to the game whilst wishing every other club had died to prove the point.

Their club is a side-show here. Beyond wanting to see this game made better, I don’t give a damn what happens to them.

My own club is in a position where I’m comfortable that we can handle their pale shadow if it ever lumbers towards our door.

The rest of Scottish football has bigger things on its mind.

Doncaster packing up his pencils should be first on everyone’s list this morning.

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Cover

 

The Long Spoon

134831-neil-doncaster-spl-chief-executive-interviewed-for-tvLong spoons. Yes, indeed.

According to the parable, the Long Spoon has special significance in both Hell and Heaven, where they are the common utensils at the dinner table.

In Hell, the Damned starve. They cannot eat because they cannot hold the long spoons in such a way as to get food into their mouths.

In Heaven, everyone eats because the Saved used the spoons to feed each other.

The 14th Century phrase that “he who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon” is another favourite of mine, implying that you ought to keep your distance when dealing with bad people. I used that analogy at the end of my last piece.

There’s a good reason why I did that.

Scottish football is going through a period of transformation right now. Light is flooding in, and when that happens things tend to be illuminated that for a long time have been concealed in shadow.

I’ve said this before, so let me say it again; the wall is coming down. Nothing that has happened in the last four years – whether that involves OldCo Rangers and their fall into liquidation or what has happened since – is going to stay hidden.

They can’t keep these secrets forever. In many ways there are no secrets anymore. Everything is “out there”, waiting to be found, much of it just a mouse click away.

The regular readers here will know that it’s our considered opinion, our informed opinion, that Neil Doncaster’s position as CEO of the SPFL is untenable and that he should resign.

We’d go even further than that now, though, and say that he should be fired. Every day brings new things to light, and if I were on the SPFL board I would be careful about standing next to this guy … because as sure as a great big turd draws flies, the stench is going to taint more than just his shiny suit.

There are secrets so big they will blow the lid off the whole can of worms. It might be years before everything comes out, but little by little we’re starting to see the outlines of it all, and some parts of it are now being exposed to the disinfectant of sunlight.

Let me tell you a story, and before I start I want to pay tribute to the guys at the CelticResearch twitter feed, as well as the individual known as Charlotte Fakeovers. I also want to pay tribute to Ecobhoy from TSFM, for some sterling work in dragging this particular tale into the light. It would also be remiss of me not to pay tribute to a guy called Mark Murphy, at twohundredpercent.net, who’s own piece on these events, from 2012, was vital to a proper understanding of the affair I’m about to chart in its totality.

These guys have done an incredible job, but for various reasons, including the fact that the CR guys don’t write a blog, the whole thing has never been threaded together in a single article, and placed in the context of both those times and now.

Every single thing I have written here has been taken from publicly available sources. Almost all of it has been debated already, but never taken as a whole.

When I am guessing, or stating a personal opinion, I will make that clear.

Where I speculate I have done so on the basis of what seems logical, and balanced with the facts I have available to hand.

Where I am relying on second hand information – i.e. on rumour or heresay – I make that equally clear.

I have tried not to do that, except in one circumstance.

Where possible, I have provided links to the information I’m working from.

I believe what you are about to read is a sound overview of what happened, but I would welcome corrections and clarifications where I have my facts wrong or when new information comes to light.

This blog has always operated on the basis of “right of reply” and it will continue to.

There is an irony in my putting this together, and it’s this; if Neil Doncaster had not tried to raise the dead recently, with his comments on the “continuation of Rangers” this matter would have been receding into the rear view mirror until it was little more than a pin-prick.

So much is going on at Ibrox at the moment, including the latest news on Ashley’s land grab, that this piece of ancient history might not have come to light for years.

Now, with the blogosphere in uproar and the clubs largely mute, everyone out there is digging away again, looking for information on the background, trying to piece together things that might have been left in the past, at least awhile.

We’re not going to stop now until Neil Doncaster is gone. It’s a matter of time. This is not personal. It’s just business.

This story began on 25 August 2011, a Thursday evening.

Rangers had just drawn 1-1 with Maribor, confirming their exit from the Europa League. They’d already been knocked out of the Champions Cup, and in light of that the Maribor result was calamitous.

A few weeks later, according to Craig Whye, in an interview with the BBC, Neil Doncaster and Ralph Topping flew to London to meet him, and at that meeting, Whyte spelled it all out to them, in graphic, ghastly detail.

He told them the club was certain to go into administration, and that liquidation was a probability because he said obtaining a CVA from the club’s creditors would be virtually impossible.

At this point, it would be useful to consider a particular fact.

Outside of the Big Tax Case, Rangers liabilities at that moment would have been very low, if there were any at all. Yet, if Whyte is telling the truth, he had already taken the decision to liquidate the club, and the SPL’s two principal officials were well aware of that fact.

They knew Whyte had decided not to pay his bills, and that all manner of creditors – including the tax payer – were going to be shafted.

They would also have left London knowing that the second biggest club in the country was on the verge of total collapse.

Not administration. According to Whyte, they were well aware that he was talking about a newco.

In his version, this club was going to the wall and there was no avoiding it, and he didn’t even intend to try. All he cared about was making sure the governing bodies were on board.

Whether Whyte’s precise version can be relied upon is not 100% clear, but there was something in the wind alright, and Doncaster was certainly in the know about the depth of Rangers’ predicament from, at least, 5 October.

The Charlotte Fakeovers twitter account has compellingly laid out the details of an email exchange between Collyer Bristow’s Gary Whitey, who was acting for Whyte, and Rangers, and the SPL’s lawyers at Harper MacLeod, where the various scenarios were discussed.

In those emails, the SPL’s “willingness” to play ball was confirmed.

So, whether Doncaster and Topping met Whyte in London – as he has suggested – or whether the dialogue was limited to emails and phone calls is unimportant. What is certainly hard to dispute is that the SPL’s chief executive knew, in early October, what the rest of Scottish football would not have confirmed for another four months; that Rangers was holed below the waterline and plans were afoot not only for an administration but for Whyte pulling the plug entirely.

The lawyers at Harper MacLeod made a strange suggestion during this exchange of emails; they proposed a “draft document” laying out the precise path the club and the governing bodies might take, in order to smooth Whyte, and Rangers’, path.

In those communications, it was made clear Doncaster had been briefed on the situation.

Futhermore, the suggestion for a roadmap document had been the CEO’s idea.

With all this going on, you’d have thought Doncaster might have briefed the other members of the SPL board, and the clubs themselves. He didn’t. Indeed, when the clubs attended a General Meeting on 31 October they were still none the wiser, and it appears that the SPL board was not any more informed.

In simple terms, Neil Doncaster had opened negotiations with Craig Whyte and Rangers over how best to “handle” an unprecedented scenario involving debt dumping on a grand scale via the liquidation of a major club, and their subsequent re-instatement in the league … and it appears as if he’d done this without bothering to notify the vast majority of his fellow board members or the clubs themselves.

At the 31 October meeting, plans were being discussed in relation to the existing TV contract, with Sky and ESPN.

At that time, that TV deal had three further years to run, but with one caveat; the league had an “opt out” which could be exercised in the summer of the following year.

That opt-out was being considered, as part of a proposal whereby the SPL would form its own television station, Fans TV, negating the requirement for further broadcasting agreements which would play second fiddle to the vast EPL deals, in which Sky and the other TV companies had placed greater import.

This would have been a radical, and potentially lucrative, step forward for the leagues, one that would have freed the organisation up to better consider the wishes of fans, in terms of match scheduling, and might have allowed some of the clubs to negotiate their own, separate, contracts for regional or transnational broadcasts.

At that point in time, anything, and everything, was possible.

The guy taking the lead in these proposals was Rob Petrie of Hibs, who was battling hard for Fans TV to be adopted, and it seems he was winning the argument. A resolution might even have been proposed at the 31 October meeting, but a follow up study had not yet been completed.

It was decided to put the discussion off until the first phase of that study had been given proper consideration by the clubs.

The meeting broke up without a decision on Fans TV, but Petrie and others had good reasons to feel optimistic about it. A new meeting was convened for 21 November.

Sometime after the 31 October meeting, the SPL board met, and it was at this meeting that “certain circumstances in Scottish football” had led them to recommend the signing of a brand new TV contract with Sky and EPSN, which had been proposed as the alternative to the Fans TV idea. These “certain circumstances” were said to be of the sort that might place the Sky/ESPN offers in some jeopardy, and that they ought to agree them “without delay.”

This new contract would extend the three remaining years of the existing Sky/ESPN TV agreement beyond 2014 and into the 2016/17 season. The total take, from that year onward, would be somewhere in the region of £50 million.

According to Doncaster, the facts that had emerged at that SPL board meeting had left its members with only one real choice, if they were to insulate themselves from potential trouble.

First, what were these new facts, and how did they come to light?

It is patently obvious to anyone with a fraction of intelligence that this new information could only have been related to the financial situation facing Rangers, and it does not take a genius to work out that there was only one way in which such sensitive information, relating to a member club, could have been divulged to the board and that was via Neil Doncaster himself, who had already been briefed by Whyte, and who had commissioned the roadmap document laying out the process by which the administration and liquidation of Rangers would be handled by the league.

In short, having already considered the scenarios and consulted Rangers, Doncaster then “filled in” his board. What did he tell them? One is tempted to suggest that his silence up until that point made it unlikely he’d have shared more with them than he thought they needed to know.

Regardless of that, in light of what came later, the one thing we can say with total certainty is that it is absolutely inconceivable that he told them Whyte’s club was actively laying the groundwork for a liquidation and NewCo, although he would certainly have known this to be the case.

It may even be that his telling them slotted nicely into his roadmap.

We know, for example, that discussions with SPL officials had already been “factored in” to Whyte’s plans. Indeed, he had already commissioned MCR to put those plans together, and that according to their draft document those meetings had been scheduled for 4 – 5 November.

Did they take place? Unknown. Were they before, or after, the SPL board meeting? Unknown. But at that meeting, Doncaster told his fellow officials – including Celtic’s Eric Riley – something, and it was sufficiently serious to spook them.

Was it a little or a lot? Did he fully put them in the picture, or did he obfuscate and tell them only what he wanted them to know? Unknown. But the result is certainly clear; the board decided that the Fans TV proposals represented too great a risk, and that Sky’s deal needed to be signed at once.

If we surmise that Doncaster told the clubs only that Rangers were in financial trouble, why was the Sky deal more attractive than Fans TV at that time?

There’s an easy answer to that.

Fans TV was going to be expensive to fund, and the clubs had already come to a provisional agreement about how much each would kick in.

We know that one club had already expressed reservations about the funds it was required to set aside towards them, and that had placed the proposals on a knife edge.

Was that club Rangers? Possibly. It might just be that Doncaster told the board only that Rangers was in grave financial difficulty and might be unable to pay its share at all.

As that club was one of the two lynchpins of the game here, and thereby mandated to pay a major part of the start-up costs, that, on its own, would certainly have been enough to wreck the prospects of a deal, without further disclosures being necessary.

Whatever he told them, the board decided to put its support behind Resolution 1, the renegotiation of the Sky/ESPN deal, and to recommend it to the clubs.

On 21 November, the clubs reconvened for the final discussion of, and decision on, the Fans TV deal.

Instead of being allowed to evaluate the merits of that proposal they were told that the board was not in favour of it and that a decision had been made to recommend proceeding along the lines of renegotiating with Sky.

Some of the clubs questioned the decision, and it was only then that they were told of these “certain circumstances” which had forced the change of tack. They were told that they, and their wishes, had simply been “overtaken by events.”

Their reaction was fury at not having been given this information sooner. Indeed, some at the meeting wanted to know why these “certain circumstances” had not been made known to them on 31 October, which suggests some awareness on their part that things had been happening behind the scenes prior to that date.

The deadline for renegotiating the Sky deal was 10 days later. That contract extension was agreed upon, and duly signed and sealed. The announcement was made to a frothing mouthed media following the meeting, and it seemed like a masterstroke of negotiation.

It committed Sky to Scottish football’s immediate future, and a renewed payment structure which would have been worth £80 million by the time it expired.

All seemed to be going well, except that whatever Whyte and his colleagues had planned to do with the club, they weren’t able to pull it together in November, as they’d intended. Their draft plan of 1 November was put on hold, but that didn’t faze Whyte that much. It worked to his advantage actually, assuring that the club’s debts would be even larger when he finally made his move.

The transfer window in December 2011 provides a nice insight into what was happening within Scottish football at that time. By then, there was not a single person in the game who was not aware, on some level, that Rangers were in serious trouble.

The SPL hierarchy certainly knew. The SFA were also in the loop by this time. Doncaster knew that an administration event was certain and that liquidation was probably going to be the end result. He, and Regan too, would have been well aware that creditors of all shapes and sizes were going to be stiffed royally in such an event.

Yet they put Rangers under no pressure to limit the scope of that scandal. The club sold Jelavic, but even with that money in the bank, the league’s governing body knew they were trading whilst insolvent and didn’t steer Whyte towards doing the right thing, and putting more aside for the inevitable victims.

They were under no obligation to do this, of course … but the moral bankruptcy of everyone involved can be laid bare when you consider how little effort the club made to soften the blow that was coming.

They knew that, in sporting terms, it wouldn’t matter, as there was going to be a hefty points penalty the moment the club confirmed what everyone by then knew … but to have done so little to minimise the damage to all the various public bodies and small traders and local companies that would later wind up being forgotten … that was lamentable.

More on that later.

We all know what happened next. Two days before Valentine’s Day, the roof well and truly fell in.

Whyte claimed to have done all he could to save the club, but that is patently false. Doncaster and Regan got in front of the cameras and said they’d consulted the Rangers chairman and were convinced that the club was in no danger of going to the wall.

They were bending the truth until the elastic snapped, because both men would have been well aware, by then, that liquidation was entirely possible, if not an outright certainty. Whyte had made that clear to them.

Almost immediately, we started to hear talk about how Rangers needed understanding, and even help, from the rest of Scottish football.

Some people think revelations about the “Old Firm clause” In the TV deal only surfaced after the club started to slip into the abyss, but in fact someone was briefing the press about that days before Whyte put the club into administration.

Ewan Murray, writing in The Guardian at the time, knew that little salient detail four days before that event as he wrote in his column on Friday 10 February, in an article entitled “Any Rangers financial meltdown could hurt the rest of the SPL as well.” The BBC were reporting the clause the day after administration, and by then it was no longer a secret.

In fact, it never was. As we’ll soon see, the briefing had been going on from the minute the new TV deal was agreed on 21 November 2011 …

The CelticResearch site has stated that “select journalists” were being briefed about the clause at an early stage, and that one of them, in particular, was pushing “the line” hard.

He was Jim Traynor, then Sports Editor at The Daily Record, who ended up working at Ibrox, for Charles Green, and who this week launched a PR company, with endorsements from Walter Smith, David Weir, Ally McCoist and other Ibrox figures.

The Record, of course, ended up leading the way in the campaign to have the club admitted to the SPL. They ran with a story on 14 June, which they claimed had come from Sky themselves, saying the company was ready to tear up its contract with Scottish football if Sevco were not granted access to the SPL, or the First Division at the very least.

The story said Sky would not tolerate Rangers’ absence from the top flight for longer than a year.

CelticResearch believes, with good cause, that, in fact, The Record was encouraged to put that spin on things by the man who, himself, gave them the story. CelticResearch has never believed that story came from Sky.

They think it came from Neil Doncaster himself.

CelticResearch are correct in their assertion that the notion of Sky themselves leaking such information is ridiculous. Apart from the lunacy of threatening their own paying customers with a “take or leave it” scandal that would have turned Scottish football into a wilderness, Sky has never interfered in the running of the game, save to change fixture dates for their audience.

The commercial consequences alone – tens of thousands of cancellations and the immense reputational damage, which would have impacted on their negotiations with the EPL and other leagues – would have laid a minefield impossible to navigate.

Indeed, one day later The Daily Record’s story had actually impacted negatively enough on Sky that the paper was running another one, saying how Sky sources were sweating at the outpouring of anger it had caused. Despite this, The Record stated, again, that Sky was ready to tear the contract up, doubtless encouraged to “hold the line” by its “fearless” sports editor. In fact, this was the article where they explicitly stated that the broadcaster had issued threats against the league.

Just two days later, Sky themselves flatly denied The Record’s stories, and re-affirmed their commitment to Scottish football. The “Old Firm” clause was not one they had even the remotest interest in enforcing. They made it clear that there would have to be some renegotiation of terms, should Sevco have to start at the bottom, but that the idea of pulling out of the game entirely was not being entertained.

The clause was a busted flush, then, something they never actually considered viable. CelticResearch and others go much further, and doubt that it would have been legally enforceable.

Which brings us to the most crucial question of all; why was that clause ever in the deal?

According to Neil Doncaster, it has been in every Sky deal with Scottish football for the last dozen years. But does that stand up to scrutiny?

In 2002, when the SPL rejected Sky’s offer of £45 million, to set up SPL TV, it was Celtic and Rangers who scuppered that proposal, by voting against the SPL TV proposals. The deal that followed was with the BBC, not with the satellite companies. It last until 2004, when Setanta came in with a hefty offer which the clubs voted to accept.

Celtic and Rangers voted against that deal too, believing the offer wasn’t enough.

The two Glasgow clubs fought side by side on the issue of TV contracts, for years. Every broadcasting company in the country was well aware of that, and therefore the commitment of both clubs, to staying in Scottish football, a commitment that was secure at the time those deals were signed.

The notion of either club being relegated, or running aground, was fantastical back then.

In short, there is no reason whatsoever for the inclusion of such a clause in any television deal in the ten years before November 2011.

On the day of the SPL meeting, 21 November 2011, where the SPL clubs were scared off Fans TV, and the agreement to accept Sky’s offer was struck, Ewing Grahame spoke to Neil Doncaster, and the Chief Executive specifically brought up the “Old Firm” clause, and was already pushing the idea that it was not a new addition.

Grahame, nevertheless, reported the story as if it was, with a headline suggesting that it “bound Celtic and Rangers to the league.”

Actually, it did no such thing as Doncaster and Grahame were well aware.

It’s an acknowledged fact in football that major changes only happen after lengthy negotiations and a long adjustment period. It is equally acknowledged that the only routes out of Scottish football for the two clubs were a move to England, or some form of European league.

In either of those circumstances, the groundwork would have been laid years in advance, with both clubs having to give “notice” before being allowed to go. It’s also an acknowledged fact that neither the EPL nor UEFA has any imperative to change things to that extent, except if it was proved that it could make more money.

In short, the accepted wisdom says that if Celtic or what was then Rangers were ever to leave Scotland behind that it would be the TV companies themselves driving the deal forward for marketing reasons and the promise of higher advertising.

With no chance of the clubs simply deciding to go one day without the TV companies approval and support, with relegation for either club considered virtually impossible and a liquidation event no more than a flight of fancy, what would have been the rationale behind the inclusion of such a bizarre clause in the first place?

It makes no sense. It fulfilled no purpose, because, as we’ve seen, even when such circumstances arose Sky didn’t seriously entertain activating it.

There are two other scenarios where the idea of the clause might have originated, and I think it’s safe to say that neither is likely at all, and we can rule them out.

The first is that the TV companies put the clause in the contracts to block league reconstruction. This is ludicrous, and doesn’t stand up to investigation.

For one thing, the broadcasters never interfere in internal governance issues, and even if they did, league reconstruction would not have happened overnight. The clause, if such existed, would not have bound the clubs for more than a year or two at best.

The only person who has ever used the TV contracts to block reconstruction on the grounds of a bigger league is Doncaster himself, when he invoked this rule and the “four Old Firm games” clause during the last round of talks that led to the creation of the SPFL.

Secondly, one only has to look at the number of times in which various clubs – including Celtic and Rangers themselves – were in favour of expanding the leagues.

Are we to believe that these clubs were willing to negate television deals, when the importance of those deals was of paramount importance to the game?

Let’s not forget that at no time during any discussions about league reconstruction, over the nine year period between 2002 and 2011, was there any suggestion that it would negate a broadcasting agreement depending on Celtic and Rangers playing each other four times.

Doncaster’s statement to that effect got headlines and had the bloggers reacting in shock because it was a bolt from the blue.

It was something that had never been considered before.

The other scenario where such a clause might have been inserted was to do with what would happen if one of the sides finished outside the top six with the SPL split, introduced in 2001 after the league went from 10 teams to 12.

This is where CelticResearch doubts that such a clause would have been legally enforceable, and therefore unlikely ever to have been put in a commercial contract. Note that it runs through the whole timeline, from the start of the 12 team SPL all the way up to the renegotiation on 21 November 2011, the ten years Doncaster spoke about at the time.

Such a rule would have been a blatant violation of sporting integrity, and a commercial interference in the running of football that no governing body would ever have allowed.

As unlikely as the scenario was, in the event that either Celtic or Rangers suffered a calamitous loss of form putting them outside of the top six – and therefore made four games between the teams impossible – it would have been ridiculous for Sky to threaten to with-hold payments or tear up a contract entirely on the basis of a sporting outcome like that, and once again there’s also the question of whether Sky would have bothered with such a clause to begin with when the likelihood of it was somewhere between slim and none.

I repeat, at no time between 2001 and 2011 was there any cause for Sky or other broadcasters to have insisted on an “Old Firm” clause in their commercial contracts with the SPL.

I have been told, futhermore, but cannot confirm, that the spin which many have put on this matter is deliberately misleading.

Doncaster and others claim that the TV deal revolved around “four Old Firm games”, and this has been used to justify everything from trying to lever Sevco into the SPL to, as I said above, actually blocking league reconstruction efforts.

This website, having spoken to sources we trust, believes that the wording of the “break clause”, which formed part of the deal memo the clubs voted on in November 2011 did not reference a specific number of Celtic – Rangers games at all, but that it was concerned only with scenarios where “either Celtic FC or Rangers FC do not participate in the SPL and/or cease to be members of the SPL.”

If we accept either club leaving was impossible without the TV companies consent and backing, what else? Relegation? Of course not.

This clause is specifically tailored to deal with an administration event. There’s no other way of looking at it. And as one of those was not going to happen at Celtic Park, what did that leave us with? A crisis at Rangers. What a coincidence.

If this is true, and documentary evidence of it ever emerges, it will be devastating for many people.

This website believes the clause was specifically inserted into the SPL TV contract in November of 2011.

We believe that if it happened, it must have happened in one of two ways;

1) Neil Doncaster himself informed Sky and ESPN of the Rangers’ financial plight, and made sure they put that clause in there so he could use it as leverage in the event the club was liquidated and had to go through a re-application process.

2) Neil Doncaster was asked, by the broadcasters, what Rangers financial position was, and he told them that it was serious but not critical, and they inserted the clause either with his support or simply to protect themselves just in case.

The latter part seems unlikely, for the reasons already stated.

Sky themselves never seriously entertained the idea of cancelling the SPL TV deal. Why would they have insisted on that clause if they had no intention of utilising it in the event worst came to worst?

We believe Doncaster, either along with other members of the SPL board, or acting on his own, insisted on the clause, in part for the purposes of leveraging the member clubs into accepting the Ibrox newco as a fait accompli.

We further believe that the nature of that clause is such that he could not have laid out the full facts as he knew them – namely that Craig Whyte’s team at Ibrox were actively considering liquidating the club and had been laying out a roadmap to that effect – either in his discussions with broadcasters or with the member clubs of the SPL.

To have told Sky or the clubs that Rangers’ position was likely to lead to the setting up of a newco would have been so damaging it would have rendered it unlikely at best that they would have extended the deal – which still had three years to run anyway – and it would have been equally unlikely that the clubs themselves would have opted to support signing it, knowing that the broadcasting companies could simply walk away.

Administration being possible, yes. I think he told them that, and offered the broadcasters the clause “just in case”, not for their benefit but so he could use it against the clubs. I doubt he ever believed this gambit would fail.

But we think it is absolutely inconceivable that Neil Doncaster gave either organisation the full picture, as he must have been aware of it at the time, which is that liquidation, and a newco, was the most likely outcome.

If this is true, then the implications are staggering.

Commercial contracts would have been signed by organisations who had no way of knowing that the ground beneath their feet could crumble to dust. I am sure I don’t have to explain what that means.

Furthermore, it suggests that the SPL and the SFA were not simply reacting to the crisis that engulfed them in the summer of 2012, but that the SPL at least had, in fact, helped bring that crisis about.

From the period of November 2011 until February 2012, Rangers was a club heading for the rocks, in a very deliberate manoeuvre executed by their chairman and members of his board, and one in which the SPL and the SFA were knowing participants.

The governing bodies failure to subject them to proper “due diligence” and scrutiny, when they knew full well that administration was coming, was inevitable, and that Whyte didn’t plan to stop there, indicates a knowledge that the club was engaged in wrongful trading from at least October the previous year, something that, could yet, open both of our governing bodies to legal action from creditors, including HMRC.

The revelations, last month, about Sevco having to borrow money to pay an overdue payable to the Treasury raises issues of its own, particularly as the governing bodies claim to have been unaware of this situation, despite HMRC’s well publicised “warning system” with the leagues … which would have been especially twitchy in the case of a club registered at Ibrox.

The truth, as we all know, is that if the club had been forced to start administration proceedings when the scale of their troubles became known in 2011 – from October onwards – and had the governing bodies treated them like any other team, tens of millions of pounds in losses would have been prevented and any number of creditors saved from the effects.

The moral scandal of this is damning, and the stains won’t wash off for a hundred years.

All of this, of course, is to say nothing for the way in which Doncaster and Regan talked the game down before and after the club’s voted, in language so flagrantly negative and incendiary that the SPL has yet to find a league sponsor, three years after the fact.

In the aftermath, Doncaster provided Sevco with a written guarantee that the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry would not strip the historical titles on which the Survival Myth depended – he even wrote them a “side letter”, as revealed by Paul Larkin’s site The Front of the Bus, in April 2014, where he reminded them that those guarantees should never be made public outside of an official legal proceeding – and he played a part in limiting the scope of that investigation so it didn’t touch on the Discounted Options Scheme, which itself is a key part in the scandal of Rangers being awarded a European License for season 2010-11 despite being in material breach of regulations governing “tax liabilities payable.”

Sometime after that, CelticResearch revealed the scandal of the “production cost subsidies” written in to the revised TV contract that Doncaster and Lawwell signed in London after the liquidation of Rangers and the decision to make the newco start in the bottom tier. This story was subsequently confirmed by STV, and created a mountain of negative publicity, leading Doncaster to write an open letter to fans.

That deal, signed in August 2012, included those subsidies, which amounted to a guarantee that the league itself would meet the extraneous costs relating to broadcasting requirements where matches were shown at grounds which lacked proper media facilities.

Doncaster claimed this was a necessary part of the agreement, without which Sky would not have signed a new deal, a claim which fell apart when a fan read over SPL guidelines and found that they placed the responsibility for meeting those costs on the host clubs, and not on the broadcasters. The media took up this story, and proved that Doncaster had given away £750,000 of the club’s money so that Sevco fans could watch their team play the likes of Brechin and East Stirling.

He has remained in post in spite of a catalogue of errors and worse.

The longer he stays the harder it is to believe that he acted alone. No club in the land should support this guy’s remaining in the job.

This, naturally, brings us to the question as to what Celtic’s involvement in the television deal scandal of 2011 might have been.

Eric Riley was on the SPL board at the time, and was the club’s representative at most of the meetings.

We said earlier in the piece that we thought it unlikely at best that the SPL board was fully aware of what was going on at Ibrox, and further, that we were sure the clubs were kept in the dark.

We stand by both those assertions, and we’ll go even further. Two clubs resisted, entirely, the pressure to drop Fans TV and to sign the SPL TV deal put in front of them on 21 November 2011.

One of those clubs was certainly Hibernian, as Rob Petrie had been the primary driving force behind the Fans TV proposals, and worked tirelessly to get them voted through.

We believe the other club was probably Celtic, operating, perhaps, for selfish reasons, in that they believed the deal did not represent as much potential upside as Fans TV, with its possible avenues for overseas agreements on a club by club basis.

Peter Lawwell has certainly helped keep Doncaster from the wolves. He was at his side in London when the TV deal was “saved”, and took much of the credit for doing it, whilst sparing the chief executive the certainty of the noose.

How much Celtic guess, far less know, about the events of November 2011 is hard to say, but the longer Peter Lawwell and others inside our walls stand beside this guy, and offer him the protection of credibility the more their own motives will be questioned, and the deeper will be the stink they get on themselves, because right now Doncaster is positively radioactive in the eyes of most fans.

Earlier this week, he sent an email answer to a Celtic supporter who requested an explanation for his comments on the “continuation of Rangers” with a bizarre answer that has been greeted with utter contempt; that he was neither speaking for himself or for the clubs, but simply stating the position that is written in the rulebook. It’s not a lawyer’s answer as much as it’s a stupid lawyer’s answer, and it has only increased the deep mistrust with which he’s viewed.

Yes, as we said at the end of the previous piece, in which we attempted to join the dots regarding the meeting in Doha at which Doncaster and Lawwell may have been engaged in efforts to organise a game abroad involving the two Glasgow clubs, in an effort to re-brand the “Old Firm” rivalry which the fans of Celtic wholeheartedly detest, we hope our CEO packed his long spoon.

We here at On Fields of Green reckon Doncaster’s time is up.

It ought to have been up following his shocking attempts to shoe-horn the Ibrox newco into the league, and for his participation in what followed and was so rancid Turnbull Hutton labelled it “corrupt.”

His departure cannot come soon enough, frankly.

We believe we’ve made a clear case for why that it is now essential for the good of the Scottish game.

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Five Ways To Hell

duff_2217501bToday’s news that four men have been detained by police for questioning, in connection with events at Ibrox, is something we’ve been expecting for a long time now.

This tangled web has strands going back a ways, but the main focus will be on things that happened from 2011 onwards, from the day Craig Whyte took over Rangers and past what happened when he placed it into administration and set in motion the chain of events leading to their destruction.

Wednesday next week will be the first anniversary of the untimely death of Paul McConville, a man who did as much to bring these events to the attention of the wider world as anyone.

His mind was capable of sifting through all the legalese and getting to the truth amidst the media spin and nonsense, on all sides, including a lot of wishful thinking amongst Celtic fans.

More than that though; he had a way of putting it all down in words that the layperson could grasp easily, and so he made accessible what was a minefield of heavy information, not something most people would have chosen to dig into.

God rest him, but oh how I wish he were here right now.

Thankfully, he was not then working alone and on The Scottish Football Monitor, itself having grown out of the Rangers Tax Case blog, that work continues, and it’s where the most in-depth examination of these events is still taking place.

This is the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport, and one of the biggest in the history of football itself.

There are many facets to this story, many different threads to follow, and it doesn’t just involve the financial affairs at Ibrox, although that’s clearly where the main focus has always been. This story has roots in football governance, in the banking scandal, in our politics and in social circles far outside the lives of ordinary people.

If this were a movie it would have scenes in places like Monaco and the financial district of London. Yet there would also be scenes in the grubby backstreet pubs where the standard tat on the walls vies for prominence with old photos of Rangers men and flags with the names of Loyalist paramilitary organisations emblazoned on them.

It would have moments in bank boardrooms and scenes in the Stock Exchange. Yet it would also feature men in dingy offices, crowded around phones, trying to bum up the price of valueless shares; think The Wolf of Wall Street with Motherwell accents, Buckfast on tap, and less visible wealth, and you’ll get the gist.

To tell it all would take a while, but I’ve long flirted with the idea of writing a book about it. Every time I think I could start the hole gets deeper and wider and I realise we’ve not seen the full story yet. To write one now would be to leave the job half done.

Today’s events are nothing I’ve not been expecting to see. I’ve written well over 100,000 words on this subject already –enough to fill a nice sized book on their own – and I expect to write another 200,000 before this is all wrapped up in a bow. I wholeheartedly believe people will go to jail in connection with it, on charges of fraud and other financial offences, but maybe not just that.

Without getting too far ahead of ourselves though, let’s have a look at today’s events, and how they tie into the bigger picture.

I think these are the most significant developments we’ve had in a while, and are the ones which could ultimately change the face of our sport.

Today four men have been “detained” by police, enquiring into “the fraudulent acquisition of assets”. There is some dubiety over which year this investigation centres on, but we can probably clear a few things up simply by looking at the names of those individuals.

At least two of them are definitively connected to the 2011 takeover by Craig Whyte, and one of those to the subsequent running of the club, events which are already the subject of a £25 million case which BDO have launched against the law firm Collyer Bristow.

The individual detained today, who’s name binds the takeover and the events leading up 14 February 2012, and who worked for Collyer at the time, and then as a director at Rangers during the Whyte era, is Gary Whitey. More on him later.

The other man we can categorically say was linked to the 2011 case is Duff & Phelps’ David Grier, the man who advised Craig Whyte during his takeover at Ibrox, and specifically on the Ticketus deal, and who Craig Whyte secretly tape-recording during one of their many meetings.

This story was raised by the BBC during the Rangers crisis post Whyte, where Duff & Phelps were running one of the oddest corporate administrations any of us has ever seen, and Grier’s involvement in those earlier events was the subject of a court hearing, where he and Duff & Phelps successfully defended themselves from “conflict of interest” accusations.

What makes the matter most interesting, of course, is that those accusations concerned events in 2012, when Grier was involved in the process by which the broken bits of the shattered club ended up in the hands of Charles Green and his people, who’s sudden appearance, out of nowhere, and purchase of everything at fire sale prices, has always seemed a little suspect.

The circle is completed when we consider the names of the two others who police have been talking to today, the men who served at the front of the house during the administration/liquidation/asset sale process, and who, until today, were not thought to have any involvement in the 2011 saga.

They are Paul Clark and David Whitehouse. They were the court appointed administrators of Rangers in 2012, working at Duff & Phelps, the company Whyte successfully lobbied for, over the objections of HMRC, who wanted their own guys, at BDO, running things from the start.

BDO are, of course, now handling the liquidation of the club, and independently investigating everything that took place from the day Craig Whyte took over and beyond, including the Charles Green affair, and probably subsequent events including the December 2012 share issue.

Duff & Phelps have responded this evening to today’s events, by claiming the investigation relates to work that “commenced while these employees were part of MCR Partners, prior to its acquisition by Duff & Phelps in October of 2011″.

Does this claim really stand up, though, and can a company as respected as Duff & Phelps really believe that’s all it’ll involve?

It was David Grier, and the claims about his involvement, at that time, in the Ticketus arrangement, that were the subject of the hearing before Lord Hodge into “conflict of interest” claims. During that time, Duff & Phelps defended themselves by saying his involvement at Ibrox was limited to that. Today they’ve intimated that the two men they appointed to run the administration of the club were involved in the same affair.

Did Duff & Phelps disclose this wider connection in court? It is hard to believe any judge would have allowed all three men to play a role in the administration in those circumstances.

If all three men were, in fact, involved in Whyte’s acquisition of Rangers, were they not the very worst people for the company to have appointed to oversee an investigation into his conduct afterwards?

Because even if Duff & Phelps are, in fact, correct, and not just indulging in a bit of positive PR, and the investigation centres on the actions of the three men in connection with Whyte’s takeover, it is difficult to see how the scope of this does not widen, automatically, to include the 2012 administration, as all three men were involved in that too and chosen, specifically, by Craig Whyte himself.

Duff & Phelps’ statement is a clear effort to distance one event from the other, but as we’ve already seen, and as I shall explore, those events are inextricably linked, and Craig Whyte’s involvement in the saga did not end the minute Duff & Phelps took everything over.

The Craig Whyte takeover scandal seems to revolve around who knew what with Ticketus, but it’s the other takeover which has long raised eyebrows, and in which the Duff & Phelps three were key players.

So let’s look at that affair for a moment.

When Duff & Phelps sold the assets of Rangers, they were originally supposed to be selling them to a company called Sevco 5088, a company set up by Charles Green, and, as we later found out, in an odd partnership with Craig Whyte himself.

We’ll get to Whyte in a while, but it’s his claims, never denied, that he was involved in the setup of Sevco 5088, which link the two takeovers, and the Duff & Phelps 3, making it impossible to separate the two affairs.

Paul McConville covered the Sevco 5088 issue on 27 June 2012, when he used his blog to ask the question no-one in the media wanted to ask.

The legal agreement of sale, which existing between Craig Whyte, Duff & Phelps and the Charles Green consortium, named Sevco 5088 as the company which would purchase the assets of Rangers Football Club in liquidation.

Yet, as we all know, the assets were, in fact, purchased by another company entirely; Sevco Scotland Ltd.

Let’s go over that one again, in light of Duff & Phelps claims today.

Three of their employees, who had, whilst at a firm Duff & Phelps later took over, assisted Craig Whyte in his initial takeover of the club, were appointed by Whyte, whilst at Duff & Phelps, to run the club in administration.

Whilst in that role they then agreed to sell the assets, in a fire-sale, to a company Whyte had helped to set up. He claims to have evidence to support this, and we will take a look at that a little later. Despite a legal contract to this effect, the administrators sold the company to Sevco Scotland Ltd instead.

The thread that connects both takeovers is clear. Investigate the conduct of those three men in one and you have to investigate their conduct in the other, particularly as Whyte is also involved. No matter what the media says, no matter what Duff & Phelps claim, any good and thorough examination of the first one inevitably results in a wider inquiry, involving the 2012 deal.

So, let’s focus on the 2012 deal again.

What really went on? Why did the sale to Sevco 5088 not happen?

We now know that Charles Green had been working alongside Craig Whyte, in setting up the company known as Sevco 5088; that they were, in fact, joint partners in that venture, as the Duff & Phelps 3 must have been aware.

Craig Whyte was the mystery man behind the enterprise and Charles Green was the guy who was at the front of the house. This was being done, at least on the surface of it, because Whyte knew he couldn’t be seen to have any public involvement in the NewCo.

But it also begs questions as to what Duff & Phelps were up to, or what those working under their flag were playing at. Whyte’s involvement would have made Sevco a phoenix company, but would not have been allowed by the football bodies. Did Duff & Phelps know at the time that he was using Green as a front man, so he could keep running things? Their prior working relationship suggests a deeper involvement with Whyte than we’re aware, so why wouldn’t they have been in on the arrangement?

Regardless of that, it’s what happened next that is really explosive, and we know that it happened because none of the parties involved has exactly kept it a secret.

Sometime shortly after Duff & Phelps signed that legal agreement to sell to Sevco 5088, they sold the assets to Sevco Scotland Limited instead.

Paul McConville was not the only person who was immediately alert to the issue, and he was asking questions about it a month before the SFA granted Green’s club a license, and before the ratification of the now notorious Five Way Agreement, which allowed them onto a pitch.

Looking back, we can confirm these facts, and keep in mind that Paul had identified problems with Sevco Scotland well in advance.

It was Sevco Scotland Limited who were given an SFA share, as the owners of the assets. This deal was completed, and announced, on the SFA website, on 27 July 2012.

It was Sevco Scotland Limited which signed the Five Way Agreement, allowing the club to take part in professional football. This deal was concluded after an SFA membership was granted.

We know this because the Five Way Agreement remained unsigned on 21 July, as the BBC and other news outlets reported at the time.

But we know that it was still not concluded on 29 July.

We know that because Sevco Scotland were only granted a temporary license to play their first match, against Brechin City, in the Ramsden’s Cup, on that date.

The SFA has no excuse for their failure to get answers on the Sevco ownership situation. Serious questions were being raised about Sevco Scotland Limited from the moment they took possession of the assets, and Paul McConville and others were already well versed on the main issues weeks before the SFA granted a license to the company.

This site, and others, have long argued that The Five Way Agreement is the deadliest document in the history of the Scottish game, and for many reasons.

Paramount amongst them is that it is the only document signed not only by Charles Green, on behalf of Sevco Scotland, and the governing bodies, but it also bears the signatures of the administrators at Duff & Phelps, the very people who have, today, been detained by police, in connection with the “alleged fraudulent acquisition of Rangers Football Club.”

Those accusations, whether about 2011 or not, can be directly linked to last year, by Craig Whyte’s re-emergence, when he made the claims about his involvement in the setting up of Sevco 5088.

Incredible as it seems, Charles Green made no attempt to deny any of Whyte’s claims, but actually mounted the most bizarre defence I have ever heard for what was really going on.

Yes, he said, I helped Craig Whyte set up that company, to acquire the assets of the former Rangers Football Club. But it was never my intention to honour that agreement, and when the time came I set up another company and transferred it all to them instead.

This is paraphrasing, but not by much. What he actually said is this:

“We told him what he wanted to hear. Imran told him because we needed to keep him sweet to prise the club away from him.”

By his own admission, undisguised and unrepentantly, Charles Green did, in fact, dupe Craig Whyte, using Sevco Scotland to complete the switcheroo.

In essence, he admits, freely, that the basis of what Whyte says is factual, which boils down to Sevco Scotland being the agency of a fraud.

The news today, about the detention of Duff & Phelps’ administrators, the very people who signed the binding agreement to sell the company to Sevco 5088, and who eventually sold it to another company entirely, is devastating for any number of reasons, because it casts the whole 2012 administration process into the darkest doubt, and it might even invalidate the 2012 share issue and that could have ramifications for everyone up to and including Mike Ashley.

If you accept that divorcing the 2011 takeover from the 2012 asset sale is impossible, because of those involved in both, you have to accept that every shareholder left from that time might be sitting on an unexploded bomb. If you accept that then the validity of every share is in debate, and is something the courts are probably going to have to decide.

All of this continues to make Sevco Rangers an absolutely toxic asset, one no ordinary businessman would touch with a 20 foot pole, unless it was to make a quick buck.

Yet what today does, above all else, is cast a dark shadow over the SFA and their administration of the Scottish game. In the inevitable event that this scandal spreads to encompass what happened from February 2012 onwards it will engulf them, and not just because of the Five Way Agreement, on which are the signatures of people who might yet find themselves in court.

From the moment Charles Green swept into town, there were serious issues with his conduct and with the manner of his takeover. Any number of these concerns were raised, in public forums, at the time, by the brilliant Paul McConville and others.

I can also state categorically that there were deep misgivings about all this within the ranks of the SFA itself; this is not speculation, it is fact.

These issues were raised in meetings, by representatives of some of the member clubs, and by officials who were deeply concerned that the Scottish game might be engulfed in a major scandal if the wrong decisions were made.

But those misgivings were ignored and those who raised them marginalised in the rush to get a club wearing the Rangers crest out on a football pitch.

The SFA’s insistence on allowing “self-policing” is the stuff of dreams for any con artist and crook who wants to acquire a club to hide the proceeds of criminal activity, knowing that regulations and licensing requirements are as lax as they could ever hope to find.

What’s more, those at the very top of our game know this, and they have long known it, as they know that what’s happened at Ibrox is a scandal without precedent, the sort that can send people to prison.

They are also fully aware of the ramifications of having granted a license to a company that had no legal basis on which to exist, when serious questions had already been raised on a widely respected public forum, by a legal expert, and they will know what it means for their standards of governance if it is later proved in court that Sevco Scotland was created to facilitate fraud.

Their knowledge of this can be easily inferred from their refusal to order a full investigation into these matters when they were raised in April last year, when Craig Whyte surfaced with his tape recordings and claims about Sevco 5088.

Those thermonuclear claims – which were the subject of a complaint to the Serious Fraud Office at the time – rocked Hampden to its foundations, and threatened to uncover their own complicity in all this, from a time when they were rushing to get a viable footballing operation licensed at Ibrox.

Their very real fears over what an independent investigation might discover were the reason they allowed the most farcical moment of this whole affair; the ludicrous internal investigation at Sevco Rangers, which ended in the Pinsent Mason Report.

In my piece last night, I talked about the insanity of conspiracy theorists demanding answers from the people they were accusing of taking part in the conspiracy.

You have to wonder what the SFA were afraid of finding out, or having found out, when they allowed the very people who were accused of being involved in a fraud to investigate those claims.

Not a single person, anywhere, believed that would produce anything less than a whitewash, and so it turned out; the scope of the investigation was narrow enough that it was never likely to find out anything important, and the SFA accepted it as if it had dug far and deep.

But they clearly didn’t want an investigation which might lead anywhere real, and every single one of us is fully entitled to speculate on what they were afraid of being found.

Today’s “detentions” might well end up going nowhere, but I seriously doubt that.

The full scandal at Ibrox, stretching from at least 2011, and actually from a long time before that, has victims numbered in the millions. It is a fraud against the UK Treasury which is breathtaking in size.

The scale of what BDO have uncovered in their own wide-ranging investigations is staggering. Whether the Big Tax Case is won or lost, it’s clear that the tax payer has been picking up the tab at Ibrox for many, many years. Rangers’ total tax liability, including the Big Tax Case, was estimated at more than £90 million when BDO started liquidation proceedings, and that didn’t end when Craig Whyte put the whole thing into administration in February 2012.

For that administration netted almost nothing for the Treasury or the other creditors.

The company that was sold for £5.5 million was partially floated on the AIM exchange a mere six months later for four times that sum, and has property assets which, alone, were valued at over ten times the purchase price.

Of the £5.5 million which was “recovered for the creditors” Duff & Phelps, fronted by three men who’ve spent today in police custody, netted £3.3 million.

The size of this is enormous. The consequences when it all ends will be colossal.

Tonight, as I prepare to post this, rumours continue to circulate about the imminent issuing of an arrest warrant for Craig Thomas Whyte, in connection with these affairs.

A lot of people have spent a long time hoping that day would never come to pass, and they will be praying that it is forestalled even now.

His penchant for keeping records, and taping his “partners” was not limited to a few dinners with Charles Green and others, but goes back to the days when he was still involved at Rangers, as the “Motherwell Born Billionaire.”

Who he taped, saying what, is the subject of much speculation but it will have sown seeds of fear far and wide.

Whyte has been slaughtered by everyone from the media to the governing bodies. He has seen his castle sold from under him. He is facing multi-million pound lawsuits from any number of avenues, and although few would take him at his word he’s not unaware of the fact, and has always made sure he’s got evidence to support his claims.

This is a man with a lot to disclose, and absolutely nothing to lose.

He’s not the only one in this saga who is sitting on a mountain of explosive information. David Grier’s role in the Whyte takeover carries on an involvement with the affairs of David Murray, and probably Rangers, that goes back even longer, for he was one of the men in Gavin Masterton’s circle of friends when he worked at the Bank of Scotland at a time when they were throwing money at MIH and the Ibrox operation … money they didn’t have and for which the taxpayer later picked up the tab, when the bank was nationalised in 2008.

This is a ticking time-bomb, and tonight a lot of people are preparing to go to ground.

This is a story with plenty mileage, and many more chapters to write, but today’s events have lit the fuse for an explosion that will stun people who’ve not been closely following this affair.

For the rest of us, well the questions will just keep on coming, but so too will some of the answers. There will be no hiding place for the officials who’ve looked the other way and allowed this developing scandal to go on right under their noses.

This scandal is their scandal, not just because it happened on their watch. They are either up their waists in it or they closed their eyes and turned their heads away in one of the most astonishing abrogation’s of responsibility in the history of sports governance.

Many of us have been waiting for this shoe to drop for a long time, arguing that it was too big to keep contained, that the window had too many cracks in it.

A cold wind now howls through that broken pane.

This is the beginning of the end.

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Unfit And Improper

167444-campbell-ogilvie-and-stewart-regan-sfaTonight, as we’re being told that another “battle for control at Ibrox” is heating up, I find myself forced to return to a familiar theme for this site, and it’s not the backgrounds of Ashley or King or Easdale or any of the other assorted spivs.

Ignore, for the moment, the battle lines that, according to some, are being drawn.

Focus on what we know for sure, what we can demonstrate as fact.

At the moment, the club is in the hands of an unscrupulous cabal. This has been a fairly constant state of affairs at Ibrox since David Murray took a Motherwell born billionaire’s shiny pound coin and sauntered into the sunset with it.

Craig Whyte, Charles Green, Brian Stockbridge, Imran Ahmad and a host of other chancers have gone in, and come out, of the Ibrox revolving door since then, and they’ve taken their share of the family silver with them.

The current state of the club can be described as “precarious” at best. They speed towards administration like a Mack Semi with the brakes cut.

Only an influx of money – big money, serious money, as opposed to the chump change they were able to raise by squeezing Ally and other “investors” until the pips squeaked – will stave off total disaster, and with what we know about this club and how it does its business I would not count on that being more than a very temporary state of affairs.

All of this could have been avoided, of course. Absolutely none of it need have happened at all. It was not simply a matter of forcing Sevco Rangers to live within its means – although that would have been a big help.

No, the more one looks at it, the more you have to conclude that none of the people who’ve played fast and loose with the clubs playing out of Ibrox should have been able to assume their positions in the first place. Not one of them should have qualified as “fit and proper persons.”

A lot of folk have been instrumental in bleeding first Rangers and now Sevco of everything they could. Those people are simply acting true to type. They’ve broken no laws. Indeed, this is their job. This is what they do for a living. Green, Whyte and others are sharks. They swim the seas looking for signs of wreckage, and then they feed.

No, as you cannot blame a buzzard for feeding on dead flesh – that’s what it’s in their nature to do, after all – you cannot blame a spiv for spotting an opportunity and ruthlessly taking it.

You want to blame someone; make sure you direct it where it belongs. The blame for all this lies in one place. It lies at Hampden. It lies with one group of people. It lies with those who run the Scottish Football Association.

Back when David Murray was looking for someone to sell Rangers to, amongst the names floated by the media included a Russian mafia boss, a “criminal” lawyer and a politician with links to the Loyalist paramilitaries.

I read those stories in incredulity, especially the media’s contention that the club’s supporters didn’t care who the money came from, as long as it allowed them to continue signing players and living beyond their means.

This might make you laugh – it certainly makes me laugh – but looking back, I remember thinking these stories were fanciful rubbish, but that even if they weren’t, there were safeguards in place which would not allow such disreputable characters to get their hands on a Scottish football club. In other words, I had faith in the governing bodies.

Yes, for someone so cynical my naivety has known no bounds at times.

The SFA has to be one of the most amateurish organisations on the planet at times. It’s fit and proper person criteria should be rock solid and written in stone, but it’s a bad joke which has allowed three years of chaos at a club they’ve gone out of their way to tell us the game cannot do without. If that’s true, then surely it is incumbent on them to make sure that the people in charge of it are the right sort. They’ve failed lamentably in that task.

Let’s start with Craig Whyte.

I was sitting in a pub having dinner when I heard he’d bought Rangers for £1. By the time they made the announcement myself and most of the guys on TSFM, CQN and elsewhere were already well in front of the media in our research on him, and we were far out in front of the SFA.

The news reports on Whyte’s earlier court cases, brought by former company employees, were available online for people who wanted to look. The trail of companies he’d been involved with, and liquidated, was available to anyone with an internet connection who wanted to find out.

There were few secrets.

The media talked about his wealth, and transfer war-chests, but I, myself, did a little bit of digging into his alleged fortune and found it was non-existent.

I didn’t go probing financial records or anything. I didn’t need to. The Sunday Times does all that, and every year they put together their Rich List from tax returns and other publicly available info.

The Rich List ranges from those at the top – with fortunes in the tens of billions – to those who’s wealth is in the tens of millions. It is extensive, and exhaustive, charting everyone from captains of industry to sports stars and minor celebrities.

On the year Whyte took over the club there were less than 100 billionaires in the UK and his name was not amongst them. From there, it went down to people with wealth below £20 million. Craig Whyte was not on the list. Anywhere.

All this, I’d already blogged on and published in various places, and I wasn’t alone. A lot of other folk were doing research of their own.

Some, like the TSFM boys, were developing information so mind-blowing that it amazes me even now, when the public image of this guy is in the toilet. Some of that stuff has only ever been published on that site – a site everyone should be reading, every day – and has never been viewed by a wider audience.

(The story about Whyte’s time as a gold trader is especially wonderful, and I am staggered that it’s not been publicised fully. He is some character. His story would make one Hell of a movie.)

The SFA fit and proper person rules do not involve the Association itself looking for facts. As incredible as it sounds, they call for something called “self-regulation.” They rely on the clubs, and those running them, to declare themselves fit and proper.

The only sanction they can realistically impose is to punish the club itself, which they did with Rangers – Sevco … and with a slap on the wrist that would not have deterred anyone.

Self-regulation is a joke. It’s an embarrassment that they allow it. It relies on the honesty of the people involved in running clubs, but if those people are dishonest in the first place they’re hardly going to declare that on the official return, are they?

Not all of the blame for Whyte’s disgraceful reign can be laid at the doors of Hampden, of course. Rangers’ own board of directors had formed an Independent Board Committee , comprised of Alastair Johnston, John Greig, Donald McIntyre and John McClelland, with the explicit purpose of scrutinising potential buyers.

By the time Whyte took over they already had, in their hands, a report by a private investigator they’d hired to check him out, and what was in it scared them half to death.

They didn’t disclose it to the SFA. (Or to the fans, either, it has to be said.) They kept it hidden, and in terms of what it detailed it still is. We only know of its existence because Johnston told the press about it in October 2011.

When the SFA commissioned a report into the Whyte era, in May 2012, they were highly critical of this decision and those who had taken it.

They were right to be. Under their rules, Rangers had a duty to report this … but reading back, it still reeks of the governing body passing the buck.

From Whyte, the club was passed on to Charles Green, and once again the Internet Bampots were all over the matter. They linked Whyte and Green right from the start, connecting the two regimes in a dozen places, through a dozen companies, and individuals who’s names popped up over and over again. Everyone now accepts that the two men formed part of the same circle, and that both were actively involved in the setting up of the NewCo.

The Internet Bampots knew it at the time. All the facts were published online. The SFA, again, washed its hands of responsibility and cobbled together the secretive and corrupt Five Way Agreement, based entirely on the First Lie, that Sevco Rangers is a direct continuation of Rangers Football Club, the one Whyte rode into the ground.

The Five Way Agreement set out a number of “conditions” regarding fit and proper persons. We still don’t know everything they tried to tweezer out of Green and his associates, but two of the key provisos we do know of – that Whyte have no involvement in Sevco at all, and that another individual, who we’ll discuss later, was not to have an interest in the club – were certainly completely ignored. Once again, the facts are freely available.

Yet when the Whyte story exploded into the press again last season, with the stunning news that he’d tape-recorded meetings with Green, the SFA abrogated their duty to get to the bottom of the shambles – a shambles they were largely responsible for – by allowing the club to do an “internal investigation”, which, shock horror, cleared them of any wrongdoing.

Shame on our association for taking such a blasé attitude towards this basket case organisation, and the people who were running it.

I said at the time that the SFA wanted nothing to do with investigating this because they were hip deep in it, and I say that again. If they followed every thread, all of them would have led straight back to the Five Way Agreement and their abject failure to put Green, his associates and their promises under the microscope as they should have done.

One of our biggest football clubs had just been liquidated at the whim of a transparent charlatan. He chose his own administrator, who handed the club over to Green and his cohorts very specifically. The SFA should have been wary of that, and accorded it the proper scrutiny.

When Green mounted his defence for involving Whyte – that, in fact, he was conning him out of something he owned – that, in itself, should have sparked a full SFA inquiry into just what the Hell was going on inside the walls of Ibrox Stadium.

This was an admission that a Scottish football club had been set up as a result of a fraud. That’s it pure and simple and without adornments. It should have been the moment the clock was stopped and this whole situation investigated, in full, with no stone unturned and consequences be damned.

The integrity of our sport had been corrupted.

SFA membership had been handed over to an organisation that hadn’t a legal foundation on which to exist

What happened instead? Well, we got the internal inquiry at Sevco, and the Pinset Mason report, which the SFA never even bothered to query.

Which brings us to the Easdale brothers, who Charles Green brought on board before he departed, with his pockets bulging.

I don’t think there is any person in the whole country who’s unaware that Sandy Easdale was imprisoned for VAT fraud. I keep reading the word “jailed” but somehow that doesn’t do this justice. Let’s skip all the niceties shall we, and use that larger word instead.

He was convicted of a serious, financially motivated crime against the exchequer, the very people who had liquidated the OldCo in the first place. He spent more than a year in the clink.

When asked about it at the time, Sevco Rangers issued a statement that said; “We are fully aware of Mr Easdale’s past and take the view that this was a long time ago.”

There was no attempt to hide the fact that a NewCo born of dodging tax liabilities was about to admit, to its board of directors, someone convicted of tax fraud. This was not hidden from a soul, far less from the SFA licensing board. They didn’t have to dig deep to find out who Sandy Easdale was. They only had to pick up a newspaper or call Sevco Rangers press office. No investigative muscle needed to be stretched.

SFA regulations specifically set down a timeframe of “the last 10 years” when deciding whether a person is fit and proper, and as Easdale’s conviction happened in 1997 he escapes that by several years.

You could, if you were being charitable, give them that one … although a bigger question is why a criminal fraud conviction for which you went to prison isn’t an automatic bar, regardless of how long ago it was.

I understand paying your debt to society … but I ask you, how many other such people, since the rule was written, have gone on to serve as directors of Scottish clubs? This isn’t a regulation that would disenfranchise whole swathes of the population here. What it would do is keep unprincipled fraudsters from using our football clubs for God knows what.

The same applies to the current touted Hero of Ibrox, about whom I’ve written a ton already and could write (and probably will write) a ton more.

The SFA has made no definitive statement on Dave King, himself convicted of hundreds of tax offences in South Africa. Again, this is not hidden information. There is not a soul in Scotland who does not know who King is and what happened with the tax authorities in the country where he now resides. If any are in doubt, the entire court judgement is available online for free, for all who might want to look at it.

King’s alleged consortium includes Paul Murray, a former Rangers director, who, therefore, according to SFA regulations, is ineligible to serve on the board of a football club in this country until 2017.

Which, in point of fact, also applies to King, a fact our media doesn’t like to discuss and which the SFA would rather we forgot.

King shouldn’t come close to qualifying as a fit and proper person. He fails on not one count but two under the SFA’s guidelines, and in the event the moon really is made of cheese and King has a serious plan for the club this time, and the SFA is willing to overlook his two violations in order to accept him on the board anyway, it would make them the first club in Britain to have not one, but two convicted fraudsters (and I say this again; tax fraudsters) on the same board of directors. That, in itself, would be inexcusable.

We shouldn’t count on those rules barring the way for King or anyone else going into Sevco though. The SFA’s propensity for ignoring regulations when it comes to them goes back a long time. It manifests itself in everything from the corruption that was the LNS verdict to match postponement criteria, and, of course includes twisting the regulations on dual ownership of clubs.

Sevco is in one Hell of a mess right now, and a political typhoon is brewing with Mike Ashley ready to stop a new share issue in its tracks, knowing that if he does he’ll be the last man who can keep the club alive, and will charge heavily for doing so.

Yet, once again, he should never have been near the building had the SFA followed its own rules and regulations. He should have been sent packing when he first expressed an interest in buying shares. The rules were waived, and a 10% ceiling was placed on him instead. Now, even that is up for debate and on this one the Sevco fans themselves are furiously demanding that the rules be followed.

This isn’t the first time the SFA has ignored that rule, of course, nor even the first time they’ve ignored it when it comes to Rangers.

Mr Conflicted himself, the SFA’s President, was in breach of those rules when he was on the board of Hearts whilst holding shares in their then SPL rival. That he later claimed he passed them on to his wife is no defence, as I’m sure he knows, as the regulations explicitly forbid that too.

His own list of offences, including signing off on the Discounted Options Scheme – a tax scam – whilst at Ibrox, is long and detailed and doesn’t need further examination.

None of these people should have been allowed, or should be allowed, near a Scottish football club, and so you cannot but look in awed disgust at the SFA bosses who have, for two years, been deaf, dumb and blind when it’s come to the evolution of the biggest scandal in the history of our national game, and one of the greatest in the annals of sport itself.

Yet, all of it pales into insignificance when we consider that in a week where the silence out of the SFA on Ashley and King has been deafening that there’s an even bigger story out there, and wrapped around all of this, and one only the bloggers seem keen to fully tackle.

Congratulations to The Rangers Standard for a stunning article yesterday on the links between the Green consortium and the international wanted man Rafat Rizvi. It really was, and is, a sensational scoop.

On 22 September, whilst most of Scotland was still licking its wounds from the independence referendum, the Indonesian government admitted that it had written to Sevco Rangers calling on them to end their business relationship with the man who Interpol wants to arrest because he has criminal convictions in that country – and a 15 year sentence waiting for him there – for corruption, money laundering and banking crimes.

Their attorney general stated that “We have filed a new request to Interpol to hunt down the fugitive Rafat Rizvi after reports he was involved in buying a Scottish football club, Rangers FC. We beg Interpol to look for him and bring him back to our homeland in order to accept his sentence.”

This “fugitive”, who remains in Britain because it has no extradition treaty with Indonesia, was, of course, spotted having a nice lunch with fellow fraudster Sandy Easdale earlier that month. The subject? Allegedly a potential “investment” in Sevco Rangers.

Yet, as The Rangers Standard has shown, his contacts with the club go back much, much further than that, and are much more detailed.

Their insistence that they have “smoking gun” emails are devastating, especially as they allege that his activities at Ibrox were drawing interest from the Scottish Organised Crime Agency … a quite staggering claim, and one that if true blows the lid of a real can of worms.

Because, of course, apart from the questions as to what SOCA were looking at, Rizvi is alleged to be the other name listed in the Five Way Agreement as someone who was to have no connection to Sevco Rangers at all.

It’s not only The Rangers Standard’s excellent scoop which reveals that, in fact, those connections were already there. The Scottish Football Monitor boys were, as usual, way ahead here. They might not have had the emails, but they had already successfully joined the dots, and given a very clear picture of what those links were.

I want to pay tribute to Barcabhoy here, who published what has rightly been called a “tour de force” piece on TSFM covering this very subject. I also want to give an honourable mention to Ecobhoy, who expanded on some of this, and has been digging into these links for a while.

On 9 September, Barcabhoy laid out all the evidence for everyone to see.

He starts with a man called Chan Fook Meng and a company called Orlit. Most of us will know them as the one which issued a winding up order to Sevco, which was settled before it went that far. Chan Fook Meng is connected to Green, as he was said to have owned a company called Nova Enterprises, of which Mr Charles Green was chairman.

Green later brought Brian Stockbridge to Sevco, and it just so happens that he was on the board of another Chan Fook Meng company, called Tembusu Investments.

One of his fellow board members at Tembusu was the Interpol fugitive, Rafat Rizvi. He, in fact, was the chairman of the board.

Tembusu’s NOMAD (their nominated advisor – bear in mind Sevco’s NOMAD has just had its shares suspended) resigned when Rizvi was found guilty by an Indonesian court and was thereby banned from running a company. The reason they resigned is that he’d transferred control to his wife, and was still, thereby, effectively running things behind the scenes.

The company they appointed as their new NOMAD was Allenby Capital, founded by a guy called Imran Ahmad, Charles Green’s “little paki friend.” On the board of Allenby with Ahmad was Tembusu’s boy wonder Brian Stockbridge.

Barcabhoy then goes on to show how Charlotte Fakeovers had produced emails confirming money traveling between Rizvi and Green, for the initial purchase of Sevco.

The piece then mentions a company called The Bunny Trust, set up by Rizvi’s family and administrated by Chan Fook Meng, which establishes a literal connection between those two and now completely links Green to the convicted fraudster.

The piece goes on to discuss the possible links between Rizvi and Blue Pitch Holdings, and from there joins the dots to the Easdale brothers, and all of this paints a ghastly enough picture without a grim addition which should make everyone who’s not read it yet go over and check it out; the links between these grim men and the crisis that almost resulted in Wallace Mercer closing down Hibs.

That story is like icing on the whole rotting cake, and the most incredible thing of it is that when Barcabhoy is making connections without full possession of facts, and thereby only speculating, as he does over the Rizvi – Blue Pitch section he says so clearly.

The rest is referenced and linked, and all 100% truth.

The picture it paints is one of an unfolding disaster, one that hasn’t come close to being explored in full. All the work done by the guys on TSFM could have been done by an investigative department inside the SFA, if they had a mind to put one in place.

It need not be an expensive undertaking either, and the SFA’s excuse that they don’t have the resources and time to investigate every club doesn’t stand up because no-one’s asking them to.

It’s the same argument that is used against introducing TV evidence, “Oh but we can’t afford to do that in every single game …” But not every game is potentially worth millions of pounds, or titles and cups.

Likewise, no-one is talking about imposing this scrutiny on every club. But there is demonstrable doubt surrounding not one person at Sevco Rangers but a whole host of them, going back three years now. If there was ever a need for the SFA to tighten its guidelines, enforce its rules with rigor and actually do real fit and proper person investigations instead of leaving it to the clubs this is surely it.

You know, I never accepted their view that Scottish football needs Rangers. But they made it with such conviction and force that you would swear they actually believed it.

What they have allowed to go on over there is unconscionable when viewed through that lens.

They have failed every single one of us.

They are the most unfit and improper of them all.

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Another Brick In The Wall

Neil Doncaster and Peter Lawwell Celtic FCLast night’s article, focussed as it was on two news reports, was fixated primarily on the first of the two rather than the second.

The first was on Colin Duncan’s piece in yesterday’s Daily Record, and it was an exploration of the idea that Sevco Rangers fans can save their club by starving it to death, which I believe is a case of twisted logic as bizarre as most I’ve ever seen.

Far more twisted was the second story, the one that got a few paragraphs at the bottom of the piece, following on from the Celtic Research team’s exclusive, which the media last night caught up with, about the SPFL subsidising the showing of Sevco matches.

People are urging caution here. They are suggesting we all relax and wait to find out what the precise details of the TV deals were. They suggest this as if we’ll ever know that, as if we’ll ever find out. The companies are already hiding behind “commercial confidentiality” and not even Freedom of Information requests will breach that particular wall. Bottom line … we’re never going to know exactly what the small print is.

Should we, therefore, be careful anyway?

I respect some of the people urging caution here. I respect, and I trust, their motives. But you know what? To actually back up here would be an egregious surrender of responsibility. These matters require scrutiny, because they suggest that the lessons of the inglorious past have not been learned, by anybody, and that we really are destined to repeat the cycle of uncertainty we fell into a couple of years ago, when Rangers entered its death spiral and Sevco was born.

The media aren’t going to do this job properly. They will be content with one day of headlines. No-one is going to dig deep for the truth. It’s possible there’ll be a wee sit down with some of the principal players, but they will layer on the spin and the story will be allowed to die. One of the Celtic Twitterati, SwedBhoy, summed up the media today for me as “turnaround of reality specialists”, and I wish I’d read that phrase last night, as it would have fitted nicely into my Age Of Unreality piece … but it’s an undeniable truth just the same.

This will come down to the Internet Bampots, as per usual.

So, stripped of all the shiny ad-on’s, what’s the truth?

The club playing out of Ibrox is already in existential crisis. There are doubts about their ability to make it through the coming season without an administration event, grave doubts (are there another kind?), because no less than the head of their football board has said that he doesn’t believe they could survive that process.

This isn’t a recent development. The seeds of this were inherent in the DNA of Sevco Rangers, on the day it was born. We could all see it at the time. We wrote about it at great length. I penned an article for The Scottish Football Monitor when Sevco was given its temporary licence, where I suggested that if the SFA hadn’t done its due diligence on who really had bought the assets of the DeadCo there would be Hell to pay for the whole game.

There was no coherent business plan, and no strategy. When the club started spending money again like they’d been given Kate Middleton’s credit card and told to go mad it was nothing we hadn’t expected, and predicted. Since then there have been boardroom meltdowns, ownership battles, court cases and the resurrection of Craig Whyte.

Despite all of it, our game’s leaders continue to promote the game in this country as if Sevco Rangers was a key component in it, something necessary for the game to survive. How many of Hearts’ games in the Championship next season will be shown live on TV do you think? I know four will anyway … and they will all involve a club from Glasgow. I’ll get back to this point in a moment.

Sevco Rangers would have been given a berth in our top division had the SPL board had its way. It would have destroyed the game in this country, but they were determined to do it regardless. The clubs said no. The governing bodies then leaned on the SFL clubs to accept the NewCo in the second tier. They, too, said no, and resoundingly. Doncaster and Regan were walking around predicting Armageddon and essentially threatening our teams.

Part of the strategy was to moot the collapse of the TV deal. There was a key meeting, at Hampden, to brief the teams on the potential consequences. The key word there is potential. The TV companies had already announced that they’d continue to support the game, but the ruling bodies ignored that, and called the meeting to lay out for the clubs what would happen if the NewCo wasn’t given its free ride.

Club chairman who were at the meeting said they frankly did not believe what they were being told. They knew the presentations from Doncaster and Regan were, essentially, extreme worse-case stuff which would have put the TV companies on the wrong side of public opinion, their own subscribers and possibly even the courts. How do you enforce a “4 Celtic – Rangers games” clause in the first place, without sporting integrity being utterly compromised? Was there no “Act of God” style provision in those deals?

It doesn’t matter anyway. Clubs didn’t believe the scare stories were genuine.

The clubs knew it was a bluff … and they called it. Sevco was told to start where all new clubs start, at the bottom, and sporting integrity was saved.

On 27 July 2012, Sevco Rangers were granted a “conditional membership”, a mere 48 hours before they were due to play their first game, a Ramsden’s Cup tie.  On 29 July, on the day of the game itself, Charles Green, playing to the gallery of the vilest of the vile amongst his fans when he said the other clubs had taken their decision based on “bigotry.”

On 31 July 2012, it was announced that Sky and ESPN had agreed a revised five-year contract to show Scottish football games. The exact figures weren’t disclosed, but it didn’t matter. Armageddon had been averted, with room to spare. The new TV deal had folded in coverage of Sevco Rangers games as part of the package, and that was mooted as the big change.

Regan gave an interview where he defended his handling of the whole affair, resisted calls to resign, and then was asked to explain why Sevco had only been granted a “conditional license.” As part of his answer, he said the following;

“There were negotiations taking place over media rights. There were negotiations taking place over sanctions. There were negotiations taking place over the practicalities of organising the match at the weekend.”

I believe the first two parts of that statement are highly revealing.

The TV deal that was announced on 31 July 2012 was between Sky/ESPN and the SPL. Understand that part first. The deal was with the SPL. As part of this deal, however, Sky/EPSN were contracted to show a number of Sevco Rangers games. They could have organised their own, separate, deal with the SFL for these matches, but they didn’t. Instead, the SPL themselves handled that part, giving over a chunk of the money to the SFL for the rights.

So we had the TV companies paying the SPL for the rights to a package of matches, and in turn the SPL were paying a cut of that money to the SFL, to purchase the rights to a bunch of Sevco Rangers games, which the TV companies then showed. Who else thinks this is bizarre?

We’ll be told the TV companies insisted on being able to show Sevco games.

Bear in mind, at this point there is no chance at all of there being four Celtic – Rangers games on the box. One of the biggest TV audience draws was gone. There was no Sevco Rangers in the top flight, so big, dramatic matches where the league title was up for grabs … they too were gone.

At the same time, Sky had spent fortunes securing English football, making the whole of the Scottish game an afterthought anyway. Many of those matches were on live in direct competition with Scottish games, as tends to be the case.

With this in mind, I come to my first question.

Did showing Sevco Rangers games in the lower league make any commercial sense for the broadcasters?

We’re talking about a club with a large support, yes, but a club almost universally reviled by every other team in the land. Most “neutrals” in Scotland would rather watch paint dry than watch Sevco Rangers beating cannon fodder teams in the lower leagues. What, exactly, did Sky and ESPN expect, in terms of audience share, for watching that? A few diehard Sevco fans in Scotland … and precisely who else? I ask again; did showing these games make any commercial sense for Sky and ESPN?

Hold that thought for a minute.

The TV contracts were signed on 31 July, and the guarantee of Sevco games was in there. I gave you a dateline, above, which you should go and study again for a second, and see if you spot the hole in it, if you haven’t already.

You see it? It kind of jumps out at you when you know to look for it.

On 31 July, when that deal was signed, a deal that must have been negotiated over weeks at least, it was a TV contract guaranteeing to show Rangers games when there was no club called Rangers officially licenced to play football in the professional game in this country. Dismiss this as being an irrelevance all you want, but it’s not. It is pretty damned far from being an irrelevance.

It brings us neatly back to the Five Way Agreement, the subject of one of the most widely read and circulated articles this website has ever posted, a piece called A Window On A Scandal.

I argued in that piece that the “accepted wisdom” has been that Sevco Rangers met all the criteria that was demanded of them, that it was Charles Green and his board of directors who “blinked”, and gave the governing bodies a number of guarantees about everything from EBT sanctions to paying football debts.

Yet what do we know, what do we now know for a fact, about those “agreements”?

They were supposed to give a full accounting of who owned the club, the procedure by which it was bought, who supplied the money and what the business plan was.

We now know the SFA has no idea who’s really running Sevco, that they don’t know where the money came from to purchase the assets and that there was no business plan to speak of. In fact, the SFA is so scared to admit they don’t know any of this, and equally terrified of what the answers are, that when Craig Whyte launched a legal case to prove he was part of it the SFA took the unprecedented step of letting the club investigate itself over allegations that could have seen their license suspended. What does that tell you?

This website, aided by the researchers at the Scottish Football Monitor, has already offered the proof that the Lord Nimmo Smith case was shackled from the start, not only by a scope that was deliberately narrowed to exclude the Discounted Options Scheme, but also by a secret guarantee given to the club that they would suffer no serious consequences.

Sevco Rangers was allowed to “negotiate” how much of its football debts its paid, in one instance taking advantage of the financial plight of Hearts to cut the fee they owed over Lee Wallace in exchange for a larger lump sum than would otherwise have been due.

The “transfer ban” that was imposed was actually a “registration embargo”, a distinction which most of us missed at the time, but was deliberately worded to give the club an “out” big enough for Godzilla to climb through. So transparent was that fraudulent “punishment” even looking back on it makes me reel. Ironic that it’s had dire financial consequences for them, isn’t it?

Whatever was in the Five Way Agreement, it’s perfectly clear to me that it was Sevco Rangers who got the better of the deal, and why not?

They went into those negotiations led by a man who held two thermonuclear threats. The first one was the possibility of going to the courts, which Green knew would cripple our national game … because the only sanction the SFA held in reserve when faced with that possibility was to stop Sevco playing football at all.

And that was the second of his nuclear threats, because Green was a man who didn’t care whether the club was playing, a man who didn’t care if it never again took the field. He had his assets, and for a nominal sum, and would have been content to lock them in a box and wait for a buyer. He was perfectly capable of telling the SFA that such a threat cut no ice with him.

Above all, he knew the SFA would never have uttered such a threat, because it would have been a transparent bluff. They had spent months telling the whole world that a Scottish game without Rangers was a wasteland. Regan had already used the term “civil disorder”, a scandalous over-exaggerated piece of scaremongering for which he ought to have been sacked. The governing bodies had fallen all over themselves to assure Sevco a soft landing … they would never have started down the path towards banning them entirely, and everyone knew it.

I said in the same lengthy piece that the moment Sevco Rangers were granted a “conditional license” and allowed to play one game it skewed any negotiations in favour of them, because once a team bearing that name took the field and played a match the onus left them to prove they’d complied with the terms of that agreement and fell on the authorities to prove they had not. That was the point where someone “blinked.”

Two days later, a TV deal was signed, guaranteeing games involving the club, the club that hadn’t yet fulfilled all its obligations. It was three days later that they were deemed to have done so, and the license to play granted.

Do you believe for one second that with a renegotiated TV deal now in the bag that there was any prospect at all of Sevco not being given its license? Whatever bargaining chips our governing bodies held had evaporated when that deal was done.

We know what the authorities wanted from the Five Way Agreement. We can say with some degree of certainty that they did not get it.

What did Sevco want from it?

Let’s revisit, for a moment, Stewart Regan’s comments regarding the “negotiations” that were on-going and which led to the granting of a temporary license.

“There were negotiations taking place over media rights. There were negotiations taking place over sanctions. There were negotiations taking place over the practicalities of organising the match at the weekend.”

I said I found the first two parts of that interesting. Let’s take the second of those parts, negotiations over sanctions. What were the results of those negotiations?

They were handed a transfer ban they found it simple to get around and they were offered a cast iron guarantee that they would not be stripped of trophies over EBT’s.

So, those “negotiations” ended in victory for Charles Green and Sevco, and were, essentially, a one-sided sham.

Which brings us to the first part; media rights, which presumably includes TV rights.

Sevco Rangers had risen from the DeadCo’s grave, financially hammered, commercially shattered, its reputation obliterated, its global brand damaged almost beyond repair. Part of the strategy being pursued by Green and his people was to assure that brand could be rebuilt, and he was sitting in the room with a group of people who were very sympathetic to that objective.

The club could not afford to be seen as reduced, in image terms. The newspapers in Scotland would have written fawning press, and the radio stations would have covered every match, if they’d been made to start life in the Northern Aberdeenshire Farmers Second Division … we all know this to be true. But netting a shirt sponsor, netting a kit manufacturer, getting any meaningful or worthwhile commercial partnerships at all depending on the Sevco Rangers brand being seen as valuable to more than just a Neanderthal audience from Larkhall.

That meant coverage outside this fair land … and that meant getting them on TV.

For Sevco to grow at all, for any share issue to have any prospect of success, for anyone outside Scotland to maintain even the slightest interest, this club needed to look like it was still important, and still relevant, and that meant they had to be on the telly a lot, and not just the odd game.

How fortunate for them, then, that the TV deal that was eventually signed committed the broadcaster to show fifteen of their league matches per year. Deep breath when you read that. Fifteen. Almost half of all the games they played in those competitions, starting with the third tier league in a country which isn’t exactly watched across the world at the best of times.

I ask again the most potent, and obvious, question that arises here:

Was there a commercial benefit to the broadcaster in showing Scottish lower league games?

Whilst we’re there; was there concern expressed, somewhere, anywhere, about showing so many?

Which brings us to the next question: was it the broadcaster, or our games governing bodies, who were so insistent on showing so many matches from those leagues, all with one thing in common; that they involved a club called Rangers?

We’re almost done with the questions Two more to go.

Did Sevco Rangers themselves get a cast iron guarantee from the governing bodies that a certain number of their games would, in fact, be shown on the telly?

Last, but definitely not least. This is the big one.

Was that guarantee part of the “media rights” section of the Five Way Agreement?

I don’t know if viewing number clauses are standard in television contracts involving football matches. I do know that where such clauses exist for advertisers that most of them would work on a sliding scale, which would reduce payments depending on the audience share.

I have never heard of a system whereby the company selling its rights to sports fixtures has to pay back some of that money depending on what the audience share is. That strikes me as being a most unusual clause, and it suggests that the broadcasting companies themselves were concerned with what they were being asked to broadcast. Think about that for a second, and let that one sink in too.

The only thing that makes any sense here is if the companies themselves had said to the governing bodies that, “yes, we’ll do it your way … we’ll screen those particular games …. But if this ends up costing us money in advertising … you will make up the shortfall.” What other explanation makes even the remotest sense? They could – easily – have taken £1 million off the top of the package they offered if they had “exceptional costs” to meet covering games in lower league grounds without TV broadcast facilities, so that argument is a non-starter.

Did I say I was done with the questions? Indulge me a little longer.

Why send outside broadcasting units to so many grounds without the capability to host them in the first place if you don’t have to? Why incur that extra cost, to show a game with a market share that scrapes the bottom of the barrel, when there are other games you could have chosen to screen? Since when do companies fret about the costs of erecting temporary TV gantries anyway? You’d think they’d have a certain level of expertise at it, because it’s not like it’s never been done. Cup ties have been shown at those grounds before.

If the broadcasters wanted so many Sevco games why didn’t they just negotiate them separately with the SFL? Why was it the SPL itself who wrote the cheque to the lower league body to purchase those matches?

What exactly was the chain of events that saw a TV contract like this negotiated in the first place before the various legalities and other issues surrounding OldCo Rangers had been resolved, when there was still material uncertainty about the NewCo?

Angela Haggerty coined a nice wee phrase the other day; Sevconomics. Is that, in fact, the economic theory that drives the entire game here now? One club, again, at the centre of it all, everything bending around them, to suit.

This whole affair reeks to high heaven. It’s apparent to me that Scottish football, all of it, is paying to subsidise the “global Rangers brand.” It makes no sense, commercially, for the TV companies to show so many of these matches, but that’s cool because they’re getting part of the money back from us anyway whenever the “audience share” drops below a certain point.

That’s the “Sevco subsidy” right there, and that comes from other clubs.

Not to worry though, because in the beginning it came only from the clubs in the SPL.

I find that amusing especially as when the league reconstruction talks wrapped up recently, and the SPFL was formed, all of these agreements were swallowed up by them, and continue with one governing body running the show.

There is a lovely wee postscript to all this … one last wee twist of the knife if you’ve not sufficiently steamed up by what you’ve already read.

As part of that reconstruction, there was a redrawing of how TV money was paid to clubs and to the respective leagues … a wee re-distribution of resources we were told. It all sounded altruistic and good, but in effect, it was, actually, the £800,000 Sevco subsidy, only done in a different way.

On top of that, the costs incurred for showing Sevco games falls to the whole league to pay … £250,000 to BT Sport if the audience share for their games isn’t up to par. All this, we covered above, in some detail.

At the same time, it was announced in a few outlets, and covered on a number of Celtic sites, that our club had “voluntarily” given up £1,000,000 in our own television revenues, as “an act of good faith”, to get the changes through.

I am not great at sums … but £800,000 plus £250,000 …. yeah, close enough.

Now you know where the money went. How do you feel now?

(You can support On Fields Of Green by making a donation. Thanks to everyone who’s done so already.)

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Justice Undone

article-2229687-15DD2FE7000005DC-956_468x286Early last week, I marvelled at the story of Crystal Palace and Cardiff battling it out over a leaked team sheet.

If you haven’t heard this one it’s a beauty.

Way back at the start of the month, on 5 April, Palace beat Cardiff by 3-0. Now the Welsh side wants the result set aside, because Palace engaged the dark arts to get their hands on their team selection in advance of the game.

It sounds barmy, and it will almost certainly never go anywhere, but it’s a clear demonstration of how seriously clubs in the English Premier League take even the appearance of cheating, or wrongdoing, or even unsporting behaviour.

I wish I could say they care about these things out of altruistic motives, or the love of the game. In fact, as we all know, it’s about money, and there’s so much of it as stake, especially at the bottom of the table, that no negative outcome can be allowed to stand if there is even the smallest hint that something isn’t kosher.

Even if I don’t entirely respect their motivation, I understand why some English clubs have made issues out of things such as this, and in the past even sued one another, as happened with Carlos Tevez’s spell at West Ham, which Sheffield United took them to court over. They won a settlement of £20 million. The numbers are huge, so these people don’t mess about.

This is why it’s all the more galling that, here in Scotland, we’ve allowed one of the greatest acts of cheating in the history of the game to, essentially, go unpunished and, furthermore, we’ve allowed the people who oversaw it to stay in post. For all the game is moving forward, it is still held back from real progress because so many things remain unresolved.

In no other corporate culture would a man like Campbell Ogilvie stay in his job. Even Fred Goodwin realised the gig was up eventually, and Maria Miller at least offered a half apology before she tried to cling on, prior to her own realisation that it was only going to end one way.

Has Ogilvie even offered that for the years he allowed Rangers to run rough-shod over the rules and regulations that govern the game? Since the Lord Nimmo Smith verdict, the supporters of this deceased club have claimed vindication, as if the findings exonerated them. They didn’t.

Rangers were found guilty of failure to properly register over 40 players. The perversity lies in how they were allowed to escape serious punishment for that scandalous list of offenses. The verdict in that case did not go in their favour. What did was that its conclusions were twisted into a shape, and a form, that still stinks to high heaven.

Scottish football needs to “move on” from this we’re told. Yes, like the country has to “move on” from the appalling economic damage done by our white collar criminals par excellence in the City of London. Because picking at this scab, what good could it possibly do?

How about delivering justice, at last? How about re-writing the historical narrative to more accurately reflect the truth?

What is the truth? That Scottish football needs Rangers? That the “punishments” already handed out to the club have damaged the game? Lies. What Scottish football really needs is a cleansing from top to bottom. What damaged the game was the way in which its entire structure was twisted out of shape to benefit just one of its teams.

Not content with excusing the industrial scale of the rule breaking inside Ibrox, Scottish football’s governing bodies ripped up and shredded the remainder of the rule book in a bid to assure that some version of that club could continue to play, and that it could continue to assume the identity of the old one even as it washed its hands of the debts.

God knows how many supporters have walked away from the game forever over this. Many are still contemplating it, because the reek of this continues to permeate the halls of power. Celtic’s place on the SPL Board of the time makes this harder, not easier, to understand for the Celtic supporters who know the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry was a despicable fraud, decided in advance, as is clearly spelled out in the Letter of Undertaking leaked by Charlotte Fakeovers, which reads:

“….. the SPL hereby undertakes solely and exclusively to Sevco and to no other Person (defined below), that notwithstanding clause 2.1 of the Agreement that the SPL shall not after Completion take or commence disciplinary proceedings against Sevco under and in terms of the SPL Rules (as defined in the Agreement) for an alleged breach of the SPL Articles (as defined in the Agreement) and/or the SPL Rules by RFC and/or Rangers FC (as defined in the Agreement) prior to Completion in respect of any EBT Payments and Arrangements (as defined below), except where any such EBT Payments and Arrangements shall constitute a CW Enduring Act or Acts (as defined in the Agreement) …”

Stripped of the legalese, this is an SPL guarantee of July 2012 , granted to Sevco Scotland Limited, that there would be no stripping of titles for 11 years of non-disclosure of contracts, and it was signed and sealed before the LNS inquiry had even sat.

Now as noted above, the guarantee was given to Sevco, which is understandable if the buyers of the assets wanted assurances that they would not be punished for any misdemeanours perpetrated by Rangers. However as it appears the football authorities see Sevco as a continuation of Rangers, then it looks like this guarantee applied to Rangers in liquidation as perpetrators, as well as the purchasers of the assets of the liquidation sale.

I say this is how it looks, but perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the guarantee was only given to the new club and if so no doubt the SPL successor organisation (SPFL)  will put us straight  on the their motives for granting it, but until they respond on this point and the others that follow, the appearance will exist, allowing us to conclude, that damage limitation was already the order of the day whilst the Lord Nimmo Smith investigation was being commissioned from April to August of 2012.

One day, books will be written that reflect the totality of what happened here, and I firmly believe that this will be recognised as one of the greatest scandals not just in the history of football but sport itself. No-one should be under any illusions about this going away. The wounds are too deep, the anger still raw. The people who did this are going to stand in judgement for it, whether that’s in the court of public opinion ten years down the road or in having to clear their desks long before that. It will happen, because justice will not quit digging until it does.

The best of that digging continues to go on over on The Scottish Football Monitor (TSFM), where they have laid out the sorry tale.

http://www.tsfm.net/an-honest-game-convince-us/#comments

Their contributors have been working on this for a long time. An exhaustive amount of research has been done by these guys, and in times to come the fans of every club in the land will owe them a debt of gratitude.

This doesn’t just affect Celtic supporters. It affects everyone who cares about the integrity of our sport. These offenses, their disclosure, and the subsequent efforts by the governing bodies to mitigate the damage to Rangers – and at all costs that was to be their aim – impact on us all. They cannot be allowed to stand, or our game is a corrupt joke.

The work these guys have done is as exhaustive as its findings are staggering. For it is clear from what they’ve produced that the LNS inquiry was prejudiced from the beginning and that it was designed to offer cover to the governing bodies whilst they essentially ignored a decade of financial doping and failure to properly register players. But there was more to it even than that.

The EBT case centres on the allegations made by former Rangers director Hugh Adam, that the club had with-held information from the tax man and the football authorities over how Rangers paid its players from the mid-nineties all the way through until the HMRC “big tax” bombshell hit a decade later. It was, and is, an awesome series of allegations.

The investigation was launched by the SPL, and the SFA made it clear from the start they wouldn’t be getting involved, far less starting their own.

They hid behind their role as the “court of appeal”, but this was only the first abrogation of responsibility so they wouldn’t have to do any serious digging of their own. In truth, they should have launched their own investigation a long time before.

Instead, they handed control to a league body which appears to have given  Rangers, if they and Sevco are the same in their eyes, a categorical assurance that the investigation would result in no serious consequences, and which, even then, was scrambling to find a way of limiting the scope to assure there wouldn’t have to be.

The SFA’s failure to investigate this matter themselves is a disgrace on its own. They were the body responsible for making sure the contracts of all the players were up to snuff. Their decision not to take this matter on was convenient in many ways, none the least of which is that if they’d ultimately been responsible for the inquiry and found, as Nimmo Smith did, that players had been wrongly registered they would have had to strip the club of Scottish Cup’s and, possibly even more alarmingly for them, hand the whole case over to UEFA, as wrongful registration of players would have had an impact on their competitions as well.

We can only speculate on the potential enormity of that, but it would certainly have been devastating. The damage done to clubs like Spartans, merely for wrongly dating a piece of paper, offer ample precedent for what the SFA would have been required to do.

As it is, Nimmo Smith’s verdict does make it clear that these offences took place, and the SFA’s failure to act in light of that speaks volumes for how little they actually want this matter resolved. They would rather it had never been raised, and they would definitely rather it just went away.

When the announcement about the inquiry was made the period under investigation was supposed to run from July 1998, from the formation of the SPL. However when the actual investigation was announced, following preliminary examination of the evidence provided to SPL lawyers Harper MacLeod, by Rangers administrators Duff & Phelps, the scope of the investigation was set to run from 23 November 2000 … for reasons that were not immediately clear.

This caused much confusion at the time. It’s only through the hard work from contributors to The Scottish Football Monitor that we can now see this in context, and understand the potential impact of the curtailment of the investigation.

The decision to limit the scope of the inquiry had eliminated an entire section of this case from being relevant. Why was it done and what was the effect?

Why it was done now requires further investigation by the SPFL, as successors to the SPL who commissioned the investigation. Someone steered the SPL towards this decision, and Scottish football’s fans need to know who that was. We cannot speak to the cause of this change, but we can see clearly that the effect was to omit the Discounted Options Scheme (DOS), better known as the Wee Tax Case, payments made to the Rangers Employee Benefit Trust (REBT), from the inquiry. There were two reasons why this was crucial to the direction of the investigation.

First, Rangers had admitted legal culpability in the case of the DOS REBTs, and had agreed to repay the money owed. Secondly, the Discounted Options Scheme had a certain set of fingerprints on it, and this made it … difficult for the SFA in particular.

Let’s start with the first point. The SFA and the SPL had a fear that if the club was found guilty of utilising a payment scheme that had been deemed illegal it would open doors best left closed, especially if there were “side letters” to that effect. The side letters, in fact, were the very reason HMRC believed this was an illegal tax avoidance scheme.

A letter the QC to the Murray Group, Andrew Thornhill, wrote to his clients, recommending they accept and settle the DOS REBT liability, as opposed to contesting it at the First Tier Tribunal alongside the later and much more extensive Murray Group Managements Remuneration Trust (MGMRT) EBTS    aka the Big Tax Case – is devastating in this regard. It reads

“The scheme was carried out in a way which suggests that arguing the case would be an uphill task. However, the deciding factor in favour of settling the matter is the existence of side letters in two instances demonstrating that there was a true intention of putting cash into the hands of players as part of their remuneration package. It does not help either that the existence of these letters has been denied or not revealed by the club.”

Thornhill is telling his clients that, in the case of the Discounted Options Scheme, they knowingly participated in a tax scam and then lied about it, not only to HMRC but to the footballing authorities. This is a step far beyond failure to disclose side contracts to the governing bodies. If a club was found to be paying its players in cash, from brown paper bags, from the proceeds of a robbery, the punishments would be so draconian the club would be as well to close shop entirely.

The Discounted Options Scheme was tax evasion, pure and simple, and tax evasion is a crime. The evidence that this was tax evasion is there in black and white, contained in one of the letters which can found on TSFM site, a letter from Rangers to HMRC explicitly denying that side letters existed. (The letters did. Copies of them are also on the TSFM site.)

This letter prompted a later response from HMRC which drew their attention to the seriousness of that denial in light of what had emerged in their own investigation. That reply is also available to view on the site. It, too, is devastating.

Which brings us neatly around to the individual who signed the contracts and initiated the Discounted Options Scheme in the first place. His name? Campbell Ogilvie.

Lord Nimmo Smith cleared him of any involvement in the EBT affair during the inquiry, based in no small part on Ogilvie’s own testimony to the inquiry, but, of course, his involvement in the Discounted Options Scheme was not disclosed to that Commission because it was not under investigation. We now know that not only did he know about it, but he was the one who instigated it having been a member of the internal Rangers Employee Remuneration group who set Rangers on the EBT road as a matter of club policy.

TSFM has the minutes of the meeting which set it up, and the letter which confirms the first two “shares” in the company which administered it. Ogilvie attended that meeting. It is his name, and his signature, on the document of ownership for the shares. That document is dated 3 September 1999.

That this man has never been held to account beggars belief. That he was re-elected SFA President, unopposed, is an outrageous stain on the reputation of our game. No explanation. No apology. No hint of contrition or personal doubt. It is disgusting.

A number of documents relating to the Discounted Options Scheme have been submitted from TSFM to Harper MacLeod the legal team who “prosecuted” the Lord Nimmo Smith case, and to the legal experts Nimmo Smith worked with on the matter. The same documents have been sent to all of the board members of the SPL. They demonstrate, clearly, that Rangers lied in their submissions to the inquiry, that they lied to the game’s heads and that some of those responsible for assuring good governance helped them do it. The Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, already a discredited joke in some circles, is now an evident extension of the unfolding scandal that was the conduct of Rangers Football Club, from at least 1998 to the moment it vanished in 2012.

The Discounted Options Scheme was excluded from the investigation because, in that matter, the documents show that Rangers are bang to rights, and because they show Ogilvie is involved in it up to his neck. The effect of narrowing the scope was to exclude a matter that, unlike the MGMRT EBT scheme which came after it, there is no doubt Rangers, effectively, paid two players with the proceeds of a scam, and they with-held that information from the governing bodies. The person who instigated that scam ended up President of one of those governing bodies, the one which would not conduct its own investigation into this affair.

Does anything stink more than this? Actually, yes, because the Discounted Options Scheme forms the basis of the Celtic shareholders resolution which relates to the SFA granting Rangers a European license in 2011. This was the very definition of “tax liabilities payable” as Rangers knew full well, and as Campbell Ogilvie was equally aware given his attendance, in December 2011, at a dinner along with SFA CEO Stewart Regan, where along with Rangers business managers, they discuss a draft statement the CEO had prepared, for clearance by Rangers, in order to answer questions on the granting of the UEFA licence to the club, in spite of their having a tax liability that remains unpaid to this day, and which should have barred them from getting one.

At the time this decision was made in March 2012, Rangers had, in their possession, the letter from their own lawyer, effectively pleading “no contest.” Campbell Ogilvie, who had taken part in setting this scheme up, and surely knew it had involved undisclosed “side letters”, was the head of the licensing organisation that granted one to that club, in those circumstances. The totality of this scandal can only be understood when you fully realise what that means.

The Lord Nimmo Smith verdict has been spun as a “victory for Rangers”. It wasn’t, but nor was it a victory for those who wanted to see the club properly punished for a decade of financial doping. The guilty verdict was supposed to end with restitution being made. Instead, the SPL seems to have already given the club, as Sevco, an assurance that no real punishment would come from it. Add to this the limited  scope of the investigation, which excluded an aspect where Rangers were manifestly guilty of more than just failure to register contracts, and which put Ogilvie himself in the frame, and it all supports the feeling that justice itself has been cheated.

There was never going to be a proper resolution here, because the obfuscations, denials and the concealment that had characterised the whole affair was still on-going, as a matter of policy, despite all that had happened. Even under new management, even with much of the secret history exposed, with lawyers picking over the bones, they were still hiding the full facts about what went on.

As a result, we were all lied to. The football authorities were probably lied to. Nimmo Smith himself was certainly misled as to who knew what and when, and he was kept from examining the full scope of the affair he was supposed to get to the bottom of. As such, when men like Ogilvie swore they were not involved, they were telling the truth only because the questions themselves had to be limited in their context. This is a fraud against the whole sport.

It is clear this was not about integrity, and it was not about getting to the truth.

Instead it was Justice Undone.

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