Author Archive Auldheid

ByAuldheid

In the Service of Fools

Given the recent heightened focus on the refereeing standards in Scotland, I was asked to update a previous blog from 2010 that included suggestions for changing the way refereeing is managed in Scotland .

Having had a look at original my thoughts are “ here we are again”, for the very same reasons the blog was penned in 2010.

Why?

Because the refereeing issue is in my view connected to a lack of proper financial controls that create moral hazard, where one party can act with reckless abandon (see Rangers latest accounts), but other parties, as happened in 2012 are left to face the consequences.

So I’ll just repeat the suggestions made then but with an added comment on the proposed use of VAR, and how that and proper financial controls can save Scottish football from itself. First the Referee Service

Note the word “service” for this is the way that much of what the SFA do should be viewed. The SFA provide a number of services to the clubs who play in Scotland. They should not be seen as their masters but their servants. Or in modern terms the clubs in their professional leagues are the customers and the SFA the service providers. This change of attitude would allow competition to provide such services to enter the scene and so improve them.

This would be a huge cultural change but it has to start somewhere and here we are again under starters orders IF supporters act to bring the change about by calling their clubs to account for allowing the past to repeat itself today  as a result of the notorious  sporting integrity breaking Five Way Agreement, that UEFA never clapped eyes on where our game became a franchise and clubs where stores that changed from Mr Noodles to Nachos but were still the same because they sold food. 

Anyway!

The Referee Service

This would be split with the SFA doing the recruitment, training and match appointments (having taken the nature of the game to be officiated into account). However the monitoring and evaluation would be the province of the customer, using referees or ex refs from anywhere to mark to a standard set by the customer. This spilt of responsibilities would prevent any one person being in a position to exert his own influence on referees as a result of being part of the appointment and evaluation process. It would safeguard the SFA from the kind of suspicion that led to the referees’ strike and lead to a higher standard of referee because the customer would be setting the standard not the supplier (as happens everywhere in business but football) If it did not, it would free the SPL/SL to hire their own referees from wherever they could get them. A bit of competition never did anybody any harm and that includes our referees who, if they reached higher standards, would be in more demand outside Scotland.

Here is the addition brought on by the introduction of VAR which is just another service. Use this “here we go again” opportunity to put the VAR service AND the refereeing it watches over out to tender. The VAR supplier is also the referee monitor service to the leagues and the SFA become trainers and developers at lower levels of professional referees and work with the VAR service under a contract that rewards both parties.  

The Licensing Service

This needs to be calibrated to meet the financial position of Scottish clubs.  The principles in UEFA FFP that stipulate what is to be treated as allowable income and allowable debt continue,  but regulating controls to prevent clubs going bust or acting in a reckless financial manner need introduced. Points deduction is no deterrent if such recklessness creates huge points gap at end of season when the CL money is at stake. Nor is the threat of losing all won by that recklessness a deterrent, when the nature of how it was won is downplayed then ignored and airbrushed from football history.

If survival depends on access to CL geld then referees , as matters continue to stand will come under the kind of scrutiny that unless addressed,  leads to an ever growing suspicion,  because here we bloody well are again,  that our game is bent .

Worse it leads to thinking that the clubs like it that way but ignore that their supporters do not and will continue to ignore until supporters vote with their feet.

In short the Licensing Service that is supposed to protect the financial well being of Scottish clubs has failed. It perpetuates a moral hazard almost by design that caused Rangers demise in 2012  and that failure and how it was dealt with under the 5 Way Agreement has undermined the integrity of our game, causing increased scrutiny of referee decisions and if not dealt with this time will eventually kill football in Scotland as a sport.

VAR however if introduced as a professional service on lines suggested should encourage more prudent financial behaviour in future by making reckless behaviour so risky it will stop and with it the moral hazard it creates.

ByAuldheid

Who Is Conning Whom?

What follows is a record of an exchange in October with David Conn of The Guardian in respect of an article written by him in August 2016 reporting the arrival of The Rangers FC in the top tier of the SPFL.

In that article David Conn suggests that there was no tax overdue in respect of “The Wee Tax Case” of 2011 because he was told by the SFA that agreement had been reached with HMRC to postpone payment until after the Takeover by Craig Whyte and on those grounds the SFA granted a licence. Read More

ByAuldheid

Fergus McCann v David Murray

How Celtic Turned the Tables on their Glasgow Rivals by Stephen O Donnell:
A Review by Auldheid.

Stephen’s previous publication, Tangled Up In Blue provided a detailed history of the rise and fall of Glasgow Rangers FC PLC from 1872 until their demise in 2012. Clearly a lot of research had been done to cover the period in such detail and his follow up publication Fergus McCann v David Murray etc carries on with that tradition. It is a smorgasbord of a book with many different issues succulently served up in its 350 pages.

It tells of events under David Murray’s tenure at Ibrox which began in November 1988 and ended in May 2011 when he left Craig Whyte holding the rope that became a noose just under a year later in April 2012 when Whyte was found guilty of bringing Scottish football into disrepute whilst Murray claimed he was duped.

Readers of the book will come to the conclusion that if anyone did the duping it was David Murray and it wasn’t just Craig Whyte he duped but Scotland’s national game. If ever Murray were to be tried for crimes against Scottish football then this book would be cited as evidence.

It was against the background of David Murray’s tenure at Rangers that Fergus McCann first arrived on the scene in April 1989 with proposals to inject £17M of New Capital into Celtic that the Celtic Board rejected as per minutes:

Proposals put forward by Fergus McCann to provide finance for various capital expenditures were unanimously rejected by the Directors’; and then again in August of the same year: ‘Mr McCann’s latest proposals were discussed and it was hoped that this was a final discussion on the subject. Latest proposals were rejected by Directors.
Fergus later returned to the fray and the chapter on how he was successful in ousting the Board in 1994 is an informative read, particularly if in that period single parenting cares took precedence over caring for Celtic.

I was amused reading the tale of discontent aimed at the old Board after a Ne’erday 4-2 defeat to Rangers in January 1994 when a bemused Walter Smith was watching the hostility aimed at the Celtic Directors box, one fan in the main stand screamed at him, ‘What are you looking at, it’s got fuck all to do with you.”

For me anyway there were a few “not a lot of people know that” moments like that in the book.
The contrast between Fergus McCann’s and David Murray’s style was immediately evident, but the impact of Fergus’s shorter tenure from 1994 to 1999 became more than evident after McCann left and the author does not miss the role servile journalists played and hit the wall for turning Celtic supporters against McCann during his tenure, whilst they dined on Murray’s succulent lamb. A role that in the end helped bring about Rangers end, but not the culture of servility when covering the activity of Rangers FC PLC successor club from 2012.

Sky TV get it in the neck too and if David Murray played the part of Colonel Mustard in killing Scottish football through his financial recklessness and duplicity, Sky are the lead pipe whose toxicity still dictates the nature of the current state of play.( I said it was a Smorgasbord)

Fergus kind of did what it said on the tin. In his case a tin of nippy sweeties, but it was interesting to read about his early years when even then he was described as “a cheeky upstart” but his “idiosyncrasies” and appearance under a bunnet, disguised a sharp if impatient business mind where for him getting straight to the point was akin to procrastination.

So too has Murray’s early years been covered including his rejected attempt to buy Ayr Utd, a rejection by Ayr Directors, who considered Murray was too hot headed and most volatile, that infuriated him.

Their conclusion that he was trying to get Ayr United on the cheap with only £125k of his own money involved was an indicator of his strategy of using other people’s money to invest and not his own. Other people including unsuspecting taxpayers to a tune of £50 million or so.

As you follow the narrative of both Fergus McCann and David Murray and the events that surrounded them, you end up wondering how so many could have been fooled for so long by one guy, but when you have the Scottish media in your pocket it was difficult to separate fact from fiction during the tenure of both. You also wonder how Murray remains a Knight of the Realm since.

Luckily for Celtic Fergus knew business fact from PR fiction and avoided the illusion in which Celtic’s main rivals continue to struggle to this day.

The great pity is that few, if any of the Scottish main stream media will even give this book a mention, because if you don’t write about it, it never happened, except it did and this book is proof.

I therefore recommend anyone interested in the future of our game buys it and asks, is it not now time to revisit the purpose of Scottish football?

Auldheid

ByAuldheid

Sweet Little Lies

Tell me all your sweet, sweet little lies
All about the dark places you hide
Tell me all your problems, make them mine
Tell me all your sweet, sweet little lies

The stridency of Scottish journalist/pundits, particularly coming from those on the BBC Sportsound platform from where they cry out for an investigation into what took place behind the scenes before and after the SPFL put forward a resolution to SPFL clubs, subsequently accepted by the majority, that allowed SPFL to pay out needed prize money to sides below the Premier level is, to quote an old saying, “the talk of the steamie”.

Whilst those cries are ostensibly in support of a demand led by The Rangers FC for a need to change the governance at the SPFL, it is not clear if they mean the way the SPFL conduct business or the way individuals inside the SPFL go about the conduct of that business.

During on-air interviews, questions are being put to clubs about the degree of confidence they have in individuals rather than the processes, systems and structures. This suggests it is individuals who are being placed under scrutiny, and not the dysfunctional processes and structures themselves. A pity, since there is little doubt the governance is dysfunctional.

SFM has long been asking questions about the system and processes of governance and in fact tried to elicit the help of a number of journalists (in 2014) after information which had not been made available to the then SPFL lawyers Harper MacLeod during or after the LNS inquiry had surfaced.

Information that had it been made available would have changed the charges of Old Rangers’ mis-registration of players contracts, and to the more recent and unresolved matter of their failing to act in good faith to fellow club members (which the SFA Compliance Officer made in June 2018 in respect of non-compliance with UEFA FFP regulations relating to tax overdue in 2011).

Following the last Celtic AGM a detailed independent investigation by an accountant was provided to Celtic who passed it to the SFA where the matter has been overtaken by world events but not forgotten. That report can be read here.
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1NeNzADsUAXkcFQ6QtehK5QqNsFa6he8V

It only adds to the mountain of evidence on https://www.res12.uk that suggests the need for reform of both governance bodies, their structures, systems and process.

Instead the media have given us a narrow head hunt to remove individuals for reasons that can only be guessed. This from individuals in the media whose motivations are as questionable now as they were in 2014, when they and their organisations ignored stronger evidence of greater wrong doing than has so far been presented by those currently advocating change.

The current media clamour for heads on a plate carries with it more than a whiff of hypocrisy.

During week commencing 22 September 2014, some volunteer SFM readers posted a bundle of documents that had surfaced to a number of journalists. SFM had previously sent these documents to Harper MacLeod, the then SPL lawyers. These were important documents pertinent to Lord Nimmo Smith’s inquiry into Rangers use of EBTs, documents which had not been made available to Harper MacLeod by Rangers Administrators Duff and Phelps despite being requested in March 2012 as part of the commissioning of LNS.

Earlier SFM blogs provide the details of communications with Harper MacLeod and can be read from the same link(s) provided to 12 Scottish media journalists in the draft below.

Some of the addresses may have received more than one copy but apart from one for whom only an e mail address was known, they should have received at least one hard copy of what Harper MacLeod/SPFL had been provided with which the latter passed to the SFA Compliance Officer in September 2014 according to their last reply to SFM. It is unlikely none were received by the organisations they were addressed to.

The draft to the journalist which the volunteers were at liberty to amend said:

I am a reader of The Scottish Football Monitor web site and attach for your information a set of documents that Duff and Phelps, acting as Rangers Administrators in April 2012, failed to provide to the then Scottish Premier League solicitors Harper MacLeod, who were charged with gathering evidence to investigate the matter of incorrect player registrations from July 1998 involving concealed side letters and employee benefit trusts by Rangers FC as defined in the eventual Lord Nimmo Smith Commission.

The failure to supply the requested information in the form of the attached documents as clearly instructed resulted in incorrect terms of reference being drawn up by Harper Macleod and a consequent serious error of judgement by Lords Nimmo Smith in his Decision as regards sporting advantage.

The information in the attached was provided to Harper MacLeod and the SPL Board in Feb 2014 and it was pointed out in subsequent correspondence that SFA President Campbell Ogilvie had failed to make a distinction in his testimony to Lord Nimmo Smith between the already confirmed as irregular Discount Option Scheme EBTs paid to Craig Moore, Tor Andre Flo and Ronald De Boer from 1999 to 2002/03 under Rangers Employee Benefit Trust (REBT) and the later loan EBTsfrom 2002/03 onwards under the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT), having initiated the first DOS EBT to Craig Moore (as shown in the attached) and being a beneficiary of a MGMRT EBT as widely reported in national press in March 2012 at the time investigations commenced.
The complete narrative was set out in a series of blogs on The Scottish Football Monitor Web Site that are accessible from

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6uWzxhblAt9dnVHSl9OU3RoWm8/view?usp=sharing
(Edit: The links to the original SFM blogs were listed but some have been lost but original sources have been uploaded to Google Drive accessible from the above link)

However in spite of the correspondence sent to Harper MacLeod, there has been no response from them or the SPFL, save their answer to the original letter. (Edit: There was subsequent correspondence with Harper Macleod after the package and this letter was sent to the journalists which can be read from the above index to the original blogs.)

These points suggests that the SPFL, Harper MacLeod and Lord Nimmo Smith were misled by Duff and Phelps failure to supply the attached documents as instructed as well as Campbell Ogilvie’s failure to correct Lord Nimmo Smiths decision to treat all EBTs as “regular” when the DOS EBTs are not, as the attached evidence clearly demonstrates.

You are one of a number of journalists to whom this letter and attachments is addressed either electronically or hard copy. We are hoping that some journalists will prove themselves worthy of the challenge and investigate the story, even if only to refute it and stop suspicion of a cover up.

A copy of this letter and responses from addressees (or failures) will be published on The Scottish Football Monitor web site for the Scottish football supporting public to note. The e mail address for your reply is press@sfm.scot and we hope that you will investigate what appears to have been the corruption of the very process set up to establish the truth or you will explain why you cannot.
Yours in Sport

Note: The letter above was drafted and distributed with the documentation before a reply from Harper MacLeod was received, but as the reply did not address the issue of the nature of the irregular DOS EBTs, the request to journalists to investigate was even more valid.
The following were the journalists to whom documentation was posted/delivered.

Mr Richard Gordon
Mr Richard Wilson
Mr Tom English all at the BBC.

Mr Grant Russell
Mr Peter A Smith. At STV

Mr Andrew Rennie Daily Record Sports Editor

Mr Paul Hutcheon
Mr Graham Speirs
Mr Gerry Braiden at The Herald

Mr Mathew Lindsay Evening Times (belatedly)

Mr Gerry McCulloch Radio Clyde

Ms Jane Hamilton Freelance ex-Sun Sunday Mail (by e mail)

Only three individuals showed an interest but it is inconceivable to think that the media outlets they worked for were ignorant of the information provided or that the Scottish media sports departments are unaware of the narrative and its implications which were subsequently picked up by The Offshore Game but drew no refuting comments with the exception of Tom English.

He opined that the TOG report was ‘flawed’ although he did not specify how he came to that conclusion.

Darren Cooney of the Daily Record did take an interest in November 2015 when he met an SFM representative, who explained the case then sent him a summary to give to his editor but The Daily Record did not publish the story nor give any reason why they didn’t.

Grant Russell was with STV at the time and a meeting with him was arranged with a fellow SFM contributor but he failed to show up.
He subsequently did show an interest when The Court of Session ruled the Big Tax Case unlawful in July 2017, when he was provided with the a note of the consequences for the LNS Commission. However Grant moved jobs to join Motherwell in late October 2017.

Why bring all this his up now?
Because currently, the existence of texts and e-mails and unsubstantiated claims of skullduggery appear to have energised a media (and BBC Sports Department in particular) that had ‘no appetite’ to investigate actual evidence presented to them in 2014. There seems to be little doubt that an agenda is being followed, but as the preceeding paragraphs demonstrate, it casts doubt that their motivation is reform of the governance of Scottish football, and raises a suspicion that replacement of individuals (whose steerage of the good ship Scottish Football into the RFC iceberg was deemed adequate a decade ago) is what is important. A meaningless powerplay. No more no less.

One may jump to the conclusion that the foregoing is a defence of the individuals at the centre of this controversy, and that it defends the SPFL position in respect of the requisitioners review of governance. That would be the wrong conclusion. The point is that a wide-ranging review of the SFA/SPFL governance is way overdue.

The time window covered by any review should the very least cover the tenure of those accused of malfeasance and mis-governance. The media, and the requisitioners are cherry-picking their poor governance. That is poor governance in itself.

ByAuldheid

Time to Make Things Happen

In the light of the SFA President’s unfortunate remarks in the MSM today, relegating every Scottish football club other than Celtic or Rangers to support role status, this blog by Auldheid on the need to have a conversation about the leadership and governance of the Scottish game is remarkably prescient. Read More

ByAuldheid

Launch of SFSA Fans’ Survey

LAUNCH OF THE FIRST INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OF SCOTTISH FOOTBALL GOVERNANCE BY THE SCOTTISH FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS ASSOCIATION (SFSA)

 

Representatives from various fan groups, including the Scottish Football Monitor took up the invitation to the above event which is largely self-explanatory. The scene was set with the following agenda

Read More

ByAuldheid

Towards a More Professional SFA

When the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football league (SFL) merged in 2013 to form The Scottish Professional Football League, the word “professional” has been accepted as applying only to the football side of the business.

However, should supporters, the ultimate paying customers, not expect the administration and governance of the game to be a lot more professional than is evident from the handling, by both the SPFL (SPL/SFL) and the Scottish Football Association (SFA), of the descent into liquidation of Rangers FC, which started in 2000, as well as the subsequent damage limitation attempts from March 2011, that  have had serious consequences for the reputation of  Scottish football of being a professionally managed business?

Most folk would not argue that there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance, but the question is how can that be achieved? One way towards   achieving that aim is the subject of what follows.

there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance

Back in the 90’s the Government embarked on yet another an exercise to modernise the Civil Service using a technique known then as Market Testing. The idea was that units, like Information Technology, Human Resource or Office Maintenance within large Civil Service Government Ministries, should be compared with what was available in the private sector to see if the service the internal units provided in a Ministry could be provided more efficiently from external sources.

At the time, internal units operated to their own standards and were answerable only to themselves for the level of service they provided to the users in other internal units.  As a consequence there were no defined levels of service, the users were largely dissatisfied with the service they were receiving, the perception of the IT or HR or OM units was poor damaging their moral and, unlike the private sector, the customer was not the king but the serf.

Before such internal units could be tested there was a lot of preparatory work needed, the most important of which was a change in the culture to one where the customer became king. This was done through the reluctant acceptance that change was necessary in order for those in internal units to hold on to their jobs, followed by the joint establishment in discussion with service users of the level of service that was acceptable to them and the cost in financial terms to the Ministry of that service.

It was a painful and effort intensive process of itself but it did result in a change in culture that not only helped internal staff hold on to their jobs but changed the perception of those both inside and outside the units for the better.

All very fine you say but why am I reading this on Scottish Football Monitor, what is the relevance to the lack of professional governance?

 

Well I think it fair to say that the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has never at any time in its history been held in such low regard by their ultimate customers, the football supporters, without whom there would be no SFA.

In the public perception, measuring both football and governance performance,  the SFA would be lucky to score 10 for incompetency rather than the more likely and damning similar score for  corruption, where 10 was the worst possible score.

In spite of this and protected by the inertia in SPFL clubs who should be voicing the concerns of their paying customers to the SFA, there appears no appetite or indeed mechanism for change.  This is where market testing comes in.

When viewed from a business perspective the SFA is a service provider to the customers via their clubs. In a sense the clubs act, or rather should act, as agents for their supporters and become the “customer” with whom the SFA provide a number of Services. These services should not be hard to identify, for example.

  • Refereeing Services
  • Disciplinary Services
  • Licensing Services
  • Auditing as in Policing Services.
  • Fit and Proper Person Services.

 

 

The Refereeing Service

Given the current, one might even say perpetual, dissatisfaction of refereeing standards, it, is one activity that could benefit from being treated as the kind of service the SFA might provide to the SPFL.

Under such an approach

  • Refereeing would be split into two parts.

 

  • The SFA would be responsible for the recruitment, wage structuring, training and match appointments as the service provider (having taken the nature of the game to be officiated into account and after discussion with SPFL).

 

 

  • Monitoring and evaluation of a referee’s performance would be the responsibility of the SPFL as the customer.

 

  • Referees or ex refs from anywhere (not just Scotland) hired by SPFL would evaluate performance to a standard set by the SPFL after agreement of standards with SFA.

 

 

  • Splitting the appointment and evaluation process. would prevent any one person being able to exert any undue individual influence on referees which protects the integrity of individuals, the service itself and referees appointed.

 

  • It would lead to a higher standard of referee because the customer would be setting the standard not the supplier (as happens everywhere in business but football)

 

  • If standards were not met over a period or a particular game required meeting a standard not possible at the time, the SPFL would be free to hire their own referees from wherever they could get them.

 

  • This freedom under a service approach would reduce, if not remove entirely, the burden of suspected allegiance that bedevils every decision made by match referees by supporters to the detriment of the referees and so of Scottish football.
  • The corollary is the SFA would also be free to offer their referees to other national associations encouraging the SFA to recruit and train to the highest level possible (and charge the other associations for the service).

 

  • Competition for appointments would raise standards and if Scottish referees consistently reached higher standards, they would be in more demand outside Scotland which gives them a financial incentive to be the best referee they can be.

 

  • Any national association could adopt this service provider approach leading to an international professional refereeing occupation in a world where football is almost a daily event somewhere requiring a steady supply of good referees.

 

Feedback

Refereeing as a service has been chosen as but one example of how to establish a customer/service provider relationship between the SFA and SPFL, but the principle would apply to the other services listed. SFM readers are invited to give their views not just on the potential hurdles, like inertia, no driving force etc, but also the benefits of overcoming such hurdles if the approach were applied to those services plus any not on the list that would lend themselves to the approach.

 

ByAuldheid

Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O’Donnell (Book Review)

Essential reading for supporters of all Scottish football Clubs

I was asked to review Tangled Up In Blue possibly because my on line offerings, oft-times with the assistance of crowd think, tend to be as evidenced based fact as possible, with an eye for detail that if missed can produce a narrative that deviates from the story the factual evidence tells.

Book coverIn that context what is very obvious from reading Tangled Up In Blue is that the author Stephen O Donnell has put a great deal of research into his book that covers the history of Rangers from its foundation in 1872, through its incorporation in 1899, when the club became the limited liability company called The Rangers Football Club Plc , (just as Celtic had two years earlier), to its liquidation in 2012 when it became RFC 2012 plc (in liquidation).

The “new club/company” replacing RFC 2012 Plc (quoting the words of Andre Traverso the then Head of UEFA Club Licensing to explain no sanctions possible against the new club/company now called The Rangers FC Ltd) had to wait three years from its acceptance into Scottish football in August 2012 before it was eligible to apply for a UEFA licence, having fulfilled the requirement under Article 12 of UEFA FFP to have held full membership of the Scottish Football Association for longer than three years, a requirement finally met at the start of the 2016/17 licencing cycle.

Tangled Up in Blue, to be published on 19th August , is not only a reminder of the events surrounding the demise of what was perceived by Scottish society as a great institution, but in devoting the early part of the book to Rangers footballing and managerial past, provides further insight into the mindset of the culture and it’s thinking , that inevitably led to the events of 2012 resulting in an attempt by Scottish Football Authorities to untangle.

An attempt which itself has subsequently entangled Scottish football in an ongoing web of deceit, caused by the 5 Way Agreement between the SFA, the then SPL and SFL, Sevco (who then became “The Rangers Football Club PLC”) and the failed insolvent “The Rangers Football Club Ltd” in late July 2012.

The passage of time since 2012 and what was not fully reported domestically (only the revelations in “Downfall – How Rangers FC Self Destructed” by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a journalist based in Ireland, introduced by Alex Thomson an English journalist, tell the tale) and what has happened in the disentangling years since 2012, allows a fresh perspective.

As we all know, if you stand too close to a painting you will miss the full picture and Tangled Up In Blue , with the perspective time provides, paints a clear picture, one where the curtains have not been drawn back because, frankly, it is not a pretty one. It does not reflect well on Rangers or a Scottish society that perceived Rangers FC Ltd as a great Scottish institution nor does it do the credibility of Scottish football journalism any credit whatsoever.

The role of the Scottish main stream media in keeping the curtain closed comes across in terms of non or restrained reporting of events, not just in our current lifetime, but during a past where a sectarian policy of not signing Catholics was pursued for decades with no comment and where full culpability was never accepted by or imposed on Rangers as a result of deserved critical media comment, when disasters either great in human terms, like the Ibrox staircase 13 disaster in 1971 or serious in PR terms, like the reporting of supporters behaviour in Manchester 2008 before and after the UEFA Cup Final, happened.

When reading Tangled Up In Blue I was reminded of this quote in bold from “Debt of Honour” by Tom Clancy, page 530: “You can’t trust your memory with things that affect live patients. One of the first things they teach you in medical school.’ Cathy shook her head as she finished up. ‘Not in this business. too many opportunities to screw up. “If you don’t write it down, then it never happened.

This has been the primary device used by the media in Scotland since 2012 where evidence of what really took place behind the scenes has either not been published or paid little heed to by our mainstream media when anything (like the Tax Justice Network report on the SFA handling of Rangers demise) has surfaced. Apart from the informative “Downfall”, were it not for social media and a host of intrepid bloggers, what did happen to “Rangers” in 2012 didn’t happen.

There are various reasons for not writing it down that might require a book on its own. Fear of the impact on a newspaper’s sales, and by extension a journalist’s job, is one. Fear of the consequences of committing the story to print is real, and very understandable – and it wasn’t only journalists who had reason to be fearful. Others who dared pass official SFA judgement on Rangers governance found themselves under threat too when, in answer to the question “who are these people”, their names were “written down”.

When it comes to writing it down or not, and the consequences of doing so, what happened after BBC’s Jim Spence, who lost his job after only verbally mentioning an issue very sensitive to Rangers fans, is interesting.

An idea using terminology from the secret 5 Way Agreement surreptitiously seeped its way into public consciousness, by being written about and took root by being adhered to by the media who, apart from Jim Spence, benefited from the consequence of doing so.
This idea once written allowed the introduction of a previously unheard of concept of the separation of a club from its owner when up until then all football supporters, including those of Rangers, only ever thought of The Rangers Football Club Ltd as Rangers – a football club effectively owned by itself.

This selective reporting/not reporting strongly suggests that apart from the fear aspects previously covered, some/many of the football journalists and media pundits were and continue to be Tangled Up In Blue themselves. This entanglement is one that serves no club in Scottish football well, but particularly the Rangers of today, where their debt driven/UEFA money dependency business model remains unwritten and so un-examined for impact on fellow member clubs.

This review is being published as a Scottish Football Monitor blog to reach a wider Scottish footballing supporter readership because all Scottish football clubs were affected by an entanglement in a web of deceit to some degree or another that continues still. In a world plagued by lies and liars, the truth has to prevail and where better to make that happen than in our own back yard where Scottish football is played?

Perhaps though supporters of one club more than any other who should read the book and benefit from so doing, are unlikely to because, as mentioned earlier, the picture it paints is not a pretty one.

Whilst they might see Tangled Up In Blue as a harsh judgement of a great Scottish Institution, it also provides an opportunity to think again about what they think, and the culture their thinking created that has led to nothing but the kind of woe the philosophy of the Pharisees attracted.  And that will persist until there is a change of minds and hearts about who they are, what they aren’t, and what they want to be.

In the spirit of encouraging a metanoia, Tangled Up In Blue might persuade any open minded Rangers supporting reader to consider the words of Rabbie Burns, a wise and respected Scottish Institution, of a way towards inner change. That may prove difficult given their fans’ response at Kilmarnock in the aftermath of their club’s recent announcement of a diversity and inclusion campaign to help tackle discrimination and promote positive fan behaviour. But here it is in hope;

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

The response by Rangers supporters to Tangled Up In Blue will be an indicator of the distance their diversity and inclusion journey has to travel.

Who knows, SFM might be a station on that journey depending on the nature of responses to this blog.

Tangled Up In Blue by Stephen O Donnell 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tangled-Up-Blue-Rise-Rangers/dp/1785315099 
from 19th August 2019.

ByAuldheid

One, er, Two Rules to Rule Them All

Why the SPFL Decision to Deduct Points from Clyde FC For An administrative Error is Raising Eyebrows In Social Media and Encouraging Dancing Around The Lord Nimmo Smith Elephant in the Main Stream.

It was reported in the news that Clyde have been deducted points for fielding an ineligible player in two matches, news that has raised supporter eyebrows when a comparison is made with SFA and the then SPL treatment of ten years of imperfect players registration by the then Rangers FC and caused a bit of dancing in main stream media around the LNS Elephant.

When the existence of side letters that formed part of a players remuneration contract was revealed in March 2012, it prompted an investigation by the SPL into the eligibility to play football of players who had been provided side letters by Rangers FC that indemnified them from any loss should the ebt schemes , through which their main remuneration flowed, be deemed unlawful by HMRC.

The issue for the SPL then was were those players properly registered under SPL rules?

The common belief held until then being that incorrect registration made a player ineligible to play and any game an incorrectly registered player played in was void:

  1. Presumably on the basis the errant club had gained an on field advantage from incorrect registration and/or
  2. to act as a deterrent to clubs to deliberately conceal full registration details from the football authorities.

The result of games in which such a player played was treated as a 0-3 defeat and the 4 points gained deducted and 3 points each granted to their opponents.

To get answers the SPL, after seeking evidence of side letters accompanying any type of EBT from Rangers FC, established the Lord Nimmo Smith (LNS) Commission to identify if a breach of registration rules had occurred and what were the consequences in sanction terms.

It is interesting therefore to compare the following from the LNS Commission in respect of sanctions against Rangers FC for a breach covering ten years of incorrect registration with the sanctions against both Clyde FC over 2 games and Hearts over one game, based on what Lord Nimmo Smith said in his findings at 107 and 108 of his Decision.
Findings that 7 years later have caused social media eyebrows to raise to Roger Moore levels because of apparent contradictions arising from the justifications given for a financial sanction only in the LNS Decision.

LNS Decision basis 107 /108

[107]
We nevertheless take a serious view of a breach of rules intended to promote sporting
integrity. Greater financial transparency serves to prevent financial irregularities. There is insufficient evidence before us to enable us to draw any conclusion as to exactly how the senior management of Oldco came to the conclusion that the EBT arrangements did not require to be disclosed to the SPL or the SFA. In our view, the apparent assumption both that the side-letter arrangements were entirely discretionary, and that they did not form part of any player’s contractual entitlement, was seriously misconceived. Over the years, the EBT payments disclosed in Oldco’s accounts were very substantial; at their height, during the year to 30 June2006, they amounted to more than £9 million, against £16.7 million being that year’s figure for wages and salaries. There is no evidence that the Board of Directors of Oldco took any steps to obtain proper external legal or accountancy advice to the Board as to the risks inherent in agreeing to pay players through the EBT arrangements without disclosure to the football authorities. The directors of Oldco must bear a heavy responsibility for this. While there is no question of dishonesty, individual or corporate, we nevertheless take the view that the nondisclosure must be regarded as deliberate, in the sense that a decision was taken that the sideletters need not be or should not be disclosed.

No steps were taken to check, even on a hypothetical basis, the validity of that assumption with the SPL or the SFA. The evidence of Mr Odam (cited at paragraph [43] above) clearly indicates a view amongst the management of Oldco that it might have been detrimental to the desired tax treatment of the payments being made by Oldco to have disclosed the existence of the side-letters to the football authorities.

[108] Given the seriousness, extent and duration of the non-disclosure, we have concluded that nothing less than a substantial financial penalty on Oldco will suffice. Although we are well aware that, as Oldco is in liquidation with an apparently massive deficiency for creditors (even leaving aside a possible reversal of the Tax Tribunal decision on appeal), in practice any fine is likely to be substantially irrecoverable and to the extent that it is recovered the cost will be borne by the creditors of Oldco, we nevertheless think it essential to mark the seriousness of the contraventions with a large financial penalty. Since Issues 1 to 3 relate to a single course of conduct, a single overall fine is appropriate. Taking into account these considerations, we have decided to impose a fine of £250,000 on Oldco.

Compare this with the Clyde FC case where ineligibility was admitted from the outset so there was no question of dishonesty yet they received a sporting sanction in form of a points deduction, whilst Rangers avoided such a fate on account of the Bryson interpretation that meant that a player whilst not fully and correctly registered was nevertheless eligible to play until the errors were discovered.

What Clyde FC said in their defence of their error was

“We are deeply disappointed with the outcome of yesterday’s hearing as, despite the fact that we admitted the breach of the SPFL rules, we feel that we put forward a robust and cogent case as part of our defence. The case concerned a player, Declan Fitzpatrick, who has been registered with Clyde since September 2018 and was recently on loan at Clydebank.
“The breach occurred as a result of a genuine oversight and a gap in the administrative procedures. This error was not the fault of any individual.
“We feel that the sanction imposed was unprecedentedly harsh.

The result of Clyde honestly admitting to an administrative error was a twin football and sporting sanction of £1500 and 4 points deduction for being honest.

Hearts had a similar administrative error defence when they said:

“ Due to an administrative error on the club’s part at the end of the January transfer window, Andrew Irving entered the field of play in the 65th minute as an unregistered player. Andrew was given an extension contract in January, 2018 and his extension paperwork was all properly completed and in order. However, it was not loaded onto the online SFA registration system at the time. His official registration, therefore, ran out on 9th June, 2018. Unfortunately, this was not picked up in advance of last night’s game.”

Hearts, as a result of their honesty, were deducted two points and fined £10k.

Yet in the case of Rangers FC, LNS judged the decision to withhold side letters was deliberate and because, as a result of non-disclosures of evidence to the contrary, he was able to decide there was no question of dishonesty.

The size of the penalty £250k recognised the longevity of what he was able to treat as an administrative error, but because LNS treated it as such and because the SFA advised that a flawed registration, apparently even if deliberate dishonesty was the reason for that flaw, was accepted by a blindsided SFA, then a player was eligible to play and so no points deduction sanction was applied.

The question of the validity of a deliberate and dishonest registration was never address by LNS although he did say in para 88 of his decision:

“There may be extreme cases in which there is such a fundamental defect that the registration of a player must be treated as having been invalid from the outset. But in the kind of situation that we are dealing with here we are satisfied that the registration of the Specified Players with the SPL was valid from the outset, and accordingly that they were eligible to play in official matches.”

What exactly constitutes an extreme case?

Had LNS seen the HMRC letter of 23 February 2011 or the HMRC letter of 20th May 2011 (that incidentally should have been in the SFA’s hands immediately on receipt under UEFA FFP rules before UEFA were notified of clubs granted a UEFA licence in 2011) would he have been duty bound to consider if a fundamental defect had taken place?

In those letters HMRC justified their pursuit of the wee tax case liability of £2.8M under their Extended Limit rules on basis that when they sought evidence of side letters for DOS ebts in April 2005, Rangers had responded dishonestly and that on sight of that response Rangers QC Andrew Thornhill advised them in early March 2011 not to appeal.

Does that evidence, which was not disclosed by Rangers Administrators Duff and Phelps to then SPL lawyers in April 2012, not point to such a fundamental defect in registration that a player’s registration should be regarded as being invalid from the outset?

However regardless of the rights or wrongs in the construction of the LNS Commission and subsequent Decision based on that construction, the salient point is that Clyde FC and Hearts were deducted 4 points and 2 points respectively, after both admitted to an honest mistake in their registration process and both received twin financial and sporting sanctions. Why Hearts were not deducted the 3 points gained as a consequence of beating Cove Rangers is unclear, although a 3 point reversal would have made qualification out of the group impossible.

Hearts were able to overcome the effect of the two-point deduction and still qualify for League Cup final stages so are unlikely to want to revisit the SPFL decision of points deducted.

However a £10k fine for an honest mistake in one game might be worth appealing on the basis that if a £250k fine for every match Rangers fielded incorrectly registered players was apt in the circumstances that LNS was led to believe existed that on a pro rate back of a fag packet basis this amounts to £695 per game over 10 seasons of 36 games a season, a £10k fine is excessive but would Anne Budge budge?

Anyhoo lets compare the three cases to highlight why eyebrows were raised.

Clyde FC

  • honest mistake admitted – financial sanction and points deduction

Hearts FC

  • honest mistake admitted – financial sanction and points deduction

Rangers FC 

  • Deliberate decision taken not to fully register a player’s details with SFA.
  • Evidence of dishonest motivation to not fully registering a player registration concealed by Rangers
  • financial penalty but no points deduction.

It was always going to be the case that what took place in 2012 under the cloak of the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission would unravel in time as it set a precedent that flew in the face of sporting integrity principles and a common held belief that incorrect registrations attracted a sporting sanction, a belief rekindled by the recent decision to deduct points from Clyde FC.

Perhaps there is a rules based difference that justifies the LNS Decision that can be used by the SFA to explain to the common man why no sporting sanction was applied, but what the common man will ask is it more or less likely that in light of the LNS Decision clubs will be honest with the SFA in future if a player falls foul of the registration process or will appeal on the basis that LNS set a precedent against which all clubs should be judged and then sanctioned.

In a nutshell if an honest mistake is admitted how can a points deduction be justified unless the SFA can show the mistake was a deliberate one carried out by a club to give them a sporting advantage.

The LNS Commission was always a can of worms waiting to be opened which is probably why the SFA rejected the SPFL’s request of September 2017 to revisit the SFA handing of Rangers use of ebts and side letters. Have the SFA introduced a moral hazard in the form of the LNS Decision that will continue to undermine the integrity of Scottish football as long as they allow it to?

Oh what a tangled web we weave eh?

ByAuldheid

We’re Gonny Need Another Baw.

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when we played football in the streets with lamp posts for goals. The “baw” in my day was a plastic “Hampden Frido” (with wee studs that left yer forehead looking like a golf ball when heading it – see picture) and a “Wembley Mettoy”.

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