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ByBig Pink

In Whose Interests

Any organisation’s plan for a top-down review of development would ordinarily be welcome news. Self evaluation, or even better independent evaluation is an ongoing process amongst professionals, individually and collectively alike. In the case of the SFA however a healthy scepticism is required. We are after all dealing with people who are the poster boys for self-interest and short-termism.

The SFA had previously commissioned a thorough review of the game (decades ago) by Rinus Michels, the inventor of “Total Football” and his report was largely ignored, partly because it implied criticism of the then current regime, and partly because it would cost money. A “Total Shambles”.

Henry McLeish also famously recommended (again after being commissioned to do so by the SFA) a more balanced approach to governance between the SFA and SPFL. This would have required a blazer or two having less say in the running of the game – and was therefore ignored.

Mark Wotte, the prominent Dutch coach hired as performance director at Hampden also suggested during his tenure that, in order to improve technique, more ball time should be provided for players in games.

He recommended seven a side competitions as the norm for u-15s (less players – more participation).

To accommodate this, club infrastructures would have required expensive upgrading, and coaches in clubs, not responsive to new ideas lobbied hard for the status quo.

The upshot is that we carried on with the same eleven-a-side games where many players hardly got a kick.
And in this classic Einsteinean definition of insanity, no overall improvements were to be found in the national team’s fortunes.

No wonder Wotte fled the scene in 2014 after three years.

Of course the details are debatable and subjective, but experience tells us;
Anything that
a) costs money or
b) upsets old boys’ networks
has a tendency to be hidden out of sight.

The recent “announcement” is merely a reaction to a couple of poor results, caused in part by inaction in the wake of previous reports’ recommendations.

An increasing number of observers of our game refer to an inferior mindset amongst players in Scotland, that we accept losing as the norm.

Hardly surprising that such a mindset is prevalent amongst professionals.
They must despair at the chronic self-interest, ineptitude and fecklessness of the “leaders” of our sport – an organisation that appointed Gordon Smith as CE (think about that for a minute) based on who his pals were, where McGregor and Petrie can become senior officers – “because it’s his turn!” – despite being unqualified squares in a round ball game, and where fairy-tales take precedence over reality.

As long as the blazers have a seat on the SFA bus, nothing will change.

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.

ByBig Pink

Bad Money?

It’s now seven years since the festering sore on the skin of Scottish Football became fully septic, causing the liquidation of Rangers Football Club. Many of us at that time felt that the environment which had enabled the systematic, industrial scale cheating by that club, having now been exposed as unfit to fulfil its purpose, would be dismantled and replaced by something more accountable, more transparent, more honest.

Many more of us thought that other clubs who were the victims of the cheating that had gone on would be seeking a clear-out and a rewrite of the rule book, if for no other purpose than to ensure that a repeat was not possible.

We were all mistaken.

Let’s be honest about this. Football, whether it is played in Scotland or Argentina, at the Maracana Stadium or at Fleshers Haugh, is a rules-based endeavour. The rules of the game – both on the field and in its administration – are there to ensure as level a playing field as possible, to ensure that the constraints put on one club are the same for the rest.

Referees are in place to ensure the rules are complied with on the pitch, albeit with varying degrees of success. No matter what you might think of the guys in black, their craft is carried out in full public gaze, and consequently they are accountable to public opinion.

Off the field though, things are rather more opaque. Without the revelations of Charlotte Fakes for instance, we would never have known that a club had applied for a licence with false information, to a committee partly comprised of two folk who were employees of that club, and by extension part of the deception. Nor would we have known that the Chief Executive of the SFA had written to the club in question looking for approval on how the controversy surrounding the issue of the licence could be managed in the media.

The detail of the crimes of the people in charge of our game are the domain of those who have relentlessly pursued the truth of these matters. The devil is always in the detail, and the real devil is concealed in the fact that many of us are forced to switch off when confronted by the daunting prospect of having to follow that multi-threaded narrative.

In that regard, we owe much to the likes of Auldheid and EasyJambo (and many others) who unravel those threads for us and present the facts in a way most of us can follow. By doing so, they have allowed us to keep our eye on the ball.

Despairingly though, the upshot is that no matter what the facts tell us, Scottish football, at boardroom level, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, has no interest in seeking justice, or more importantly, clearing house.

The sins of the past will be the sins of the future, because the authorities have learned no lessons in the wake of Rangers’ liquidation, and in fact have now enshrined Doublespeak as the official language of the game.
No sporting advantage is a curious phrase used to describe sporting advantage
Imperfectly registered in lieu of not registered
Same for Different

I could go on, but the sins of one club, whilst fundamentally undermining the integrity of the sport in this country, are not the real problem. The authorities who set out to distort, bend, break, and tear up the rule-book are.

So too are the clubs who have refused to back their fans’ demand for proper oversight of the game, who have stood back and said nothing (except: “nothing to do with us guv!”) whilst their Patsies at Hampden do their dirty work, refusing to engage with or explain themselves to fans. These are the real culprits, they who have betrayed the trust of their own supporters. And if we are looking for a reason, look no further than their bank balances.

The recent scandal where the SPFL shared the outcome of its Unacceptable Behaviour report with the Scottish Government on the basis that it would not be made public shines a harsh spotlight on this.

The football authorities currently receive public funds from government, but in a “have your cake and eat it” scenario, they are accountable to no-one but themselves – and that’s how they want to keep it.

Publication of the SPFL report would put them at risk of having the accountability that they fear thrust on them. No-one in football wants the sectarian blight on our game to be cast under the glare of public focus. Especially if it becomes apparent that the game itself is the medium in which sectarianism thrives best.

And they know that it does exactly that. The trouble is that the societal divisions caused by sectarianism is a money maker. The old adage sectarianism sells has never been truer. The divide and rule model of empire applied to football. It is good box office.

But making football accountable could force measures to be put in place to cut out sectarian behaviour – and the clubs do not want that. It’s not the fear of being held responsible for their own fans’ behaviour under Strict Liability that worries the CFOs of our clubs – it’s the fear of losing the hatred which sees the money – bad money if you will – roll in.

Why did the cover up take place? Because losing Rangers was just not acceptable to football. Removing one of the vital protagonists in a money making cartel that thrives on hatred was a greater fear than any altruistic notion of sporting integrity (also now Doublespeak for “lack of integrity”).

Who could have foreseen that amidst the chaos surrounding Rangers demise, that they were only a symptom of the greed and couldn’t care less attitude of the money-men in football, and that our eyes would eventually be opened to the possibility that the football industry in Scotland is itself the enemy of public harmony?

Ironic perhaps, that the beautiful game, born out of the sense of community felt by the founding fathers of all our clubs, would emerge as a major malign influence in those communities.

There is no doubt that football is not prepared to cede any of its sovereignty to its customer base. They will go on – as long as we continue to bankroll them – in exactly the same way, like their bedfellows in the media a self-regulating industry with little or no regard for the public.

I am a supporter of Strict Liability, and we have already had discussions on the pros and cons of such an intervention. It is also clear that there is no SFM consensus on that. I want to leave that aside for the moment, because we do have a consensus surrounding our desire to see greater accountability in the game, and it is clear that fans’ voices, however temperately and eloquently articulated, are falling on deaf ears at Hampden.

The women’s game at the World Cup has recently provided us a window into the past, of the origins of the sport in Scotland. That which is a celebration of each others endeavour, skill, excellence and culture. The spirit of our game nowadays is a million miles away from that, because the market has taken over. 

Taming the wild excesses of the market is the responsibility of government. It’s about time the Scottish Government did just that. It is certainly clear that the SFA or the SPFL have zero interest in reining themselves in.

We have suggestions if anyone is listening.

ByTrisidium

Accountability via Transparency.

Where transparency exists accountability inevitably follows.​

This is an extract from a post on SFM from 2015. The subject was Transparency and Slow Glass

The message then was that football governance has to catch up in realising that football has to become more transparent in its dealing with supporters and so more accountable to them.
That transparency is already here via social media because of the ability to share, but the light of truth is constrained by Slow Glass.
Slow Glass from a short story by Bob Shaw slows down the light passing through it.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_of_Other_Days
In the story and others, you have Slow Glass of different thickness in terms of the time it takes for the light to emerge.
You have Glass a day thick/long to Glass ten years thick/long and more.

Resolution 12, if measured from the Celtic AGM in 2013 when it was tabled and adjourned, has taken 6 years for the light of truth to emerge, although it could have happened sooner had main stream media removed the dust of PR that slows the light, but light is inexorable and it is emerging at an archive of events since 2011 that can be read at

https://www.res12.uk/ 

It is in two parts.

Part One
relates to events in 2011/12 including a very interesting link between UEFA Licence 2011 and the commissioning of Lord Nimmo Smith to investigate use of EBTs with side letters by Rangers FC where non-disclosure benefited Rangers FC in 2011 AND 2012.


Part Two
concentrates SFA activity (or lack of it) from 2014 to date as result of the adjournment of Resolution 12 in November 2013 that provided shareholders with the authority to seek answers.
The archive has been constructed in chronological sequence to help readers understand better the detail and separate what took place in 2011/12 which is in the past, from the SFA handling of shareholders legitimate enquiries from 2014/15 to date, which remains current and is a mirror of SFA performance in respect of the national football team.
Many narratives will emerge as a result of the transparency, some Celtic related, but a system of governance, that is accountable in some way to supporters as stakeholders in the game, can only benefit the supporters of all clubs and they are encouraged to read through the archive.

As Phil Mac Giolla Bhain has written here in respect of Celtic and the SFA

Resolution 12 information on new website

accountability has to be the outcome of transparency to wipe the face and soul of Scottish football clean.

How that is achieved will be up to Scottish football supporters everywhere to take forward via their Associations and Trusts, in collaboration with the clubs they support, but it does seem to me, and I know others with more legal experience, that the SFA would find it difficult to resist a challenge to their refusal to engage with people (in this case minority shareholders of member clubs) who are affected by decisions that they make.

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?

ByTommyB

Does Money Indeed Ruin Football?

For those following the games, rooting for their favourite teams and feverishly discussing their matches between two glasses of ale, football is a mix of entertainment and something to be excited about. These fans are, in turn, a massive customer base for those behind football as a business: their dedication and following is the driving force behind broadcast rights, merchandise, and ticket sales, all of which turn a wonderful sport into a cash cow for those pulling the strings. As long as the game is fair, both in the field and behind the scenes, it’s a win-win for all parties: the players get their salaries, the fans get their quality football, and the business entities behind them, ranging from football betting operators to the teams’ owners, advertisers, sponsors, and such, all get their money. Like in every business, though, there are parties in football that don’t exactly operate according to the rules. Of business, that is.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that football goes beyond being simply a game. As MEP Stelios Kouloglou pointed out in an op-ed published on Euractive this April, football can often flow into different areas like politics and racial bias, pointing out that the emergence of Pelé, one of the best football players ever, was instrumental to significantly reducing racism in Brazil. Yet the democratic nature of football is degraded today thanks to all the money flowing into it. And the best example of this, Kouloglou writes, is the UEFA Champions League.

As he points out, the only clubs that can reach the Champions League semi-finals are from the “big 5” countries – Spain, Italy, France, Germany and Great Britain. And this happens not because there aren’t any talented teams in other countries but because of all the money flowing into the clubs nowadays. After all, not all clubs can afford to pay almost £200 million for a single player, no matter how talented and marketable the player might be. These big clubs with big money behind them syphon all the most talented players from all over the world, offering amazing transfer fees and strengthening their ranks – investing in their future success with the goal of keeping their fans’ attention pointed on them, and making even more money in the process.

And where there’s money, there must be scandals related to money. Corruption and tax avoidance run rampant across football, from the top of organizations like FIFA and UEFA down to local clubs and players, working with financial advisors like Kingsbridge that allegedly help them invest in ways that will grant them tax relief, schemes that “don’t work”, according to HM Revenue and Customs.

A few years ago, an unpopular opinion emerged in the press stating that the influx of big money into football will ruin it forever by attracting the “wrong kind of owners” that see clubs as their “cash cow”, among others. MP Damian Collins went as far as saying that “Running a big football club now is like running a Hollywood studio – it’s a content business. The money goes to the stars”. And this is one of the biggest issues today’s football faces that can ruin it forever.

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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ByTrisidium

Dear Mr Bankier

Readers may be aware that the group Fans Without Scarves have written to Celtic urging them to seek a review of Scottish football (See here)
On the back of that laudible effort, I have been persuaded to publish a letter I sent to that same board over a week ago (on 8 November)
At the time of publication, I have received no acknowledgment.  Some organisations are like that, of course. (I put it down to the inferior quality of the social upbringing of their boards rather than concern for their postage bill)

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ByAuldheid

JPP: Perverting Justice?

The SFA’s Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal (JPDT) process itself  is now under scrutiny .

Aberdeen FC have asked for change and the Celtic Supporters Association  have written to Ian Maxwell SFA CEO expressing concerns about judgements reached concerning recent on field incidents that appear to herald in A Cloggers Charter.

However the whole Judicial Panel Protocol (JPP) on which the JPDT is based (and which was the brainchild of the discredited former SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan) has shown itself to be a means of perverting justice rather than providing it since it was introduced amidst a loud fanfare at the SFA AGM in June 2011 (the same one that saw Campbell Ogilvie elected SFA President)

To see how the JPP  has been misused  we need to start with a definition of  judicial which according to Websters dictionary is:

 of or relating to a judgment, the function of judging, the administration of justice

The latest Judicial Panel Protocol can be found on the SFA Web Site  .

One of its Founding Principles is:

2.2 Principle 1 – Economic and expeditious justice. The objective of the Protocol is to secure the Determination of disciplinary proceedings arising in respect of Association Football and that Decisions are made economically and expeditiously in a fair manner. Tribunals appointed from the Judicial Panel may impose reasonable procedural requirements on Parties to ensure that matters are dealt with economically and expeditiously.

The word justice actually appears nine times and injustice three times, so it would appear that whilst economy and speed are the means to the end, that end is justice, but how has that panned out since June 2011?

I am grateful here to Glasnostandtwostrickers  for three enlightening articles in Pie and Bovril in which he reviews the protocol a year later in 2012 with suggestions that with the passage of time have been shown to be prescient when made. They can be read at:

Of particular interest is the important view that the process is not independent of the SFA and the following is an extract from Pie and Bovril 3 covering that aspect which explains how the JPP has been used by the SFA to pervert rather than administer justice.

“So to what extent does the JPP system achieve that independence? We think that it does so to a far greater extent than the old system, but not nearly enough. Ensuring that the Tribunals are chaired by respected members of the legal profession was perhaps the single most important reform to make. But there remains a serious lack of independence in the JPP system. This centres on the roles of the SFA’s Compliance Officer (Vincent Lunny) and the SFA Secretary (Stewart Regan) in the process of bringing a case in front of a Tribunal.

The Compliance Officer’s task is to monitor what goes on in Scottish football, assess whether anyone has broken any rules, and – if so – to initiate the disciplinary process.  What happens if the Compliance Officer reviews a given event and decides that the conduct of the club, player or official in question doesn’t breach any rules? Well, that is the end of the matter. Neither the SFA executive nor the Judicial Panel can do anything about that decision. And, given that some SFA rules are very vague (e.g. ‘bringing the game into disrepute), the Compliance Officer wields a great deal of power. If the system is to be independent of the SFA, it the Compliance Officer must be independent of it. Yet, as things stand today, Vincent Lunny is an employee of the SFA.

The lack of independence associated with the SFA Secretary’s role is even more flagrant. Firstly, he can veto any decision of the Compliance Officer to mount a disciplinary case. Secondly, even if he allows a case to go ahead, he has the power to select (from the 100-strong Judicial Panel) the 3 individuals who will hear the case. The SFA claims that this takes place on a ‘cab rank’ basis (i.e. the Tribunal is formed of next 3 people in line), but no such rule is to be found in the JPP. On the contrary, it states that:

“Tribunals shall be appointed by the Secretary or his nominee from the Judicial Panel…The Secretary or his nominee may take such steps in respect of the appointment of Tribunals as he considers, in his sole discretion, to be appropriate.” (sections 7.2.1-2)

This applies equally to the Appellate Tribunals as it does to the first-instance Disciplinary Tribunals. So, in theory at least, the SFA Secretary gets two bites of the cherry. He may appoint to a Disciplinary Tribunal the individuals who he thinks are most likely to return the result that he desires. If they don’t, and there is an appeal, he also gets to choose the make-up of the Appellate Tribunal that will hear the appeal. And that’s only if he hasn’t blocked the case from happening in the first place. That is not to impugne Stewart Regan himself, but rather a system that allows him (and his successors) such great power.

The reasons why the JPP is structured in the way that it is are unclear. Despite the fact that it represents a great improvement over the system it replaced, more work must be done if we Scottish football is to have a genuinely independent – and therefore credible – system of footballing ‘justice’.


This  article however will let the readers decide if they impugn Stewart Regan and shows how he has used the Judicial Protocol not to deliver justice but to prevent such an outcome,  which might just clarify the reason  why the JPP was structured in the way that it was and why it absolutely must be replaced on the lines of the suggestions in the excellent Pie and Bovril articles.

Perverting the Course of Justice.

The Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal on Craig Whyte – Bringing The Game Into Disrepute.

The First instance can be found in  this E Tim’s article  where Regan and LNS met in February 2012 to set the terms of reference for the Judicial Panel that charged Craig Whyte with bringing the game into disrepute.(  Telegraph Report 21 Feb 2012 )

As the E Tim’s article shows, whilst Whyte was charged with non payment of PAYE and VAT no charges were made with regard to his failure to pay the £2.8m tax liability that CW undertook to pay in his statement to Rangers shareholders of June 2011. This omission prevented scrutiny of what lay behind that liability, what created it and why it was accepted by RFC in March 2011 and  how  the SFA were able to grant RFC a UEFA licence in April 2011.

Whatever information Regan had from his telephone conversation with Andrew Dickson  on 6th December 2011  and subsequent meeting at Hotel Du Vin with Craig Whyte along with Campbell Ogilvie and RFC CEO Ali Russell, appears not to have been passed to Lord Nimmo Smith in February 2012 when Regan and Nimmo Smith were drawing up the JPP Terms of Reference for the Craig Whyte Tribunal.

The Lord Nimmo Smith Commission

The second instance of Regan’s ability to shape outcomes  is in respect of the LNS Commission. Here the SFA stood aside on the grounds they were the Court of Appeal should RFC wish to appeal the eventual LNS Decision and let the then SPL take the running in March 2012. This was a convenient argument given that Regan knew by March 2012 that RFC had a £2.8m tax liability that Sherriff Officers had called to collect that prompted a number of enquiries asking how the SFA were able to grant a UEFA licence in March/April of 2011.

That event caused UEFA and the SFA in September 2011 to discuss the submission RFC made in June 2011 under Article 66 of UEFA FFP that described the status of the liability as postponed and awaiting scheduling of payments but more of this SFA/UEFA discussion later in the context of the current JPDT  charges of non compliance against Rangers FC.

It is inconceivable that by March 2012 when the investigation into ebts and side letters began that this  September 2011 discussion along with his conversations in December 2011 that  Regan was unaware that the tax owed was the result of RFC use of unlawful ebts nor the reasons why RFC had accepted liability for the sum owed arising from their use. However by standing aside there was no specific mention in  the SPL Lawyers letter of 15  March 2012   that began the investigation  of the by then clearly unlawful ebts that caused the £2.8m tax liability, although it did refer to all ebts with side letters from 1998.   All rather convenient for Regan under the powers the Judicial Panel  Protocol gave him.

The impact of this exclusion in skewing the LNS Terms of Reference and so the LNS Decision is now a matter of Social Media record that can be followed from beginning to end  HERE.

The E Tim’s article already mentioned covers how events from February to April 2012  allowed the exclusion from the Craig Whyte JPP and  The Reasons  given by Lord Nimmo Smith in September 2012 appear in a  follow up E Tim’s article   where LNS himself justifies  the exclusion of the £2.8m tax liability caused by RFC’s use of unlawful ebts in from 1999 to 2003 on what are less than convincing grounds unless he was kept in the dark by Regan.

 SFA JPP Charges In Respect of UEFA Licence in 2011

The final instance of the misuse of the JPP begins in September 2017 when after court testimony stating when the £2.8m tax liability was accepted, the SFA, whilst rejecting an investigation into the handling of RFC use of ebts with side letters (and the foregoing on LNS spells out why) Regan accepted that the granting  of the UEFA Licence by the SFA in 2011 should be subject to the Judicial Protocol process.

It took until mid-May 2018  for that process to come up with two charges of non compliance of SFA Articles by RFC that were put to TRFC presumably on the basis that they were responsible for the events in 2011, particularly when at least three current TRFC officials/Directors were in place in 2011, charges which TRFC said they would contest and subsequently in July wanted CAS involvement on grounds that the secret 5 Way Agreement requires it but on scope that that have still to be made known as the parties  negotiate the terms of reference to CAS.

Now seven plus months is a long time to finally arrive at charges that according to a TRFC statement in May 2018 in this BBC report excluded the very period at end of March 2011 stating accusations were groundless, that caused the SFA to invoke the JPP process, but what is interesting about those charges is the absence (and as Regan left in February he might not have had an influence or was his parting shot), of any charges against the SFA itself of aiding RFC noncompliance at end of March  in September 2011. The Compliance Officer himself resigned not long after the charges of non- compliance were made which raises eyebrows higher than Roger Moore level.

Perhaps it was because of possible SFA complicity in September 2011 that the Compliance Officer agreed to exclude this end March period although that exclusion was challenged by Resolution 12 lawyers just before the SFA Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal (JPDT) sat on 25th June. No answers to the evidence backed questions in that letter, copied to Celtic, have so far been provided.

So what are the SFA hiding from or behind the JPP process this time?

Here is a copy of the Good News  e mail of 19th September 2011 between Keith Sharp the UEFA FFP man at the SFA and Ken Olverman the Financial chap at RFC. In it Sharp tells Olverman that UEFA have verbally accepted the RFC submission of June 2011 under Article 66. (This admitted that the 2.8m EBT proposed settlement also required to be disclosed but is shown as a status of postponed (awaiting scheduling of payments)  but that a further declaration will be needed under Article 67. This can be read here but note the Comments were not part of original exchange.

Note the tone of the advice given about the Article 67 submission but the point is, either Sharp of the SFA told UEFA porkies to get the monitoring submission under Article 66, that itself was false at the time it was made, verbally accepted or told UEFA the truth and as RFC were out of Europe there was an agreement to bury it between SFA and UEFA.

That UEFA involvement if the latter instance, would explain Celtic’s reluctance to take Res12 to UEFA in 2013 especially as we don’t know UEFA’s response to Celtic’s earlier  letter  of May 2012 to SFA re ebt investigation copied to Infantino at UEFA.

If the former instance i.e. SFA told UEFA porkies it makes SFA complicit in covering up the non compliance they are charging Rangers with!

I mention this in the context of the SFA Judicial Process being totally  inappropriate in this case and why there should be  a speedy independent investigation because the charges of non-compliance that the JPDT are covering relate to RFC and NOT the SFA which is perhaps why the terms of reference to CAS are taking so long to emerge.

There is clearly a conflict of SFA self interest here.

It would be more than ironic if the organisation bringing charges against Rangers were in fact complicit in the non-compliance by Rangers after it became public HMRC were owed tax in August 2010!

Summary

The point of this long blog is that the Judicial Panel Protocol introduced by Regan in June 2011 with the flaws pointed out a year later in The Pie and Bovril articles has been used by the SFA under Regan not to produce justice but pervert it since 2011.

Only a truly independent investigation will provide the justice that the crimes perpetrated against Scottish Football and its supporters since 2000 by RFC under the dishonest leadership of Sir David Murray requires, an investigation that should recommend changes that make the JPP independent of the SFA..

Justice is there to uphold the rule of law, that applies to football law as much as natural law and without justice there can be no law. That is where Scottish football now exists, in outlaw territory with the bad guys still ruling as they please, not as justice demands.

Until justice is served and seen to be served there is no law in football and no fake Judicial Protocol Panel is ever going to provide it.

 The owners and Directors of all SPFL clubs need to revisit the scene of the crime, the 5 Way Agreement has done its  job, a form of Rangers drawing big crowds will continue to exist, but on it has to be on more honest grounds, where who knows, they might even earn redemption.

ByTrisidium

Fantastic Voyage ..

.. and why sites like SFM matter.

When SFM blasted off in 2012, we had a fair idea that Scottish Football had not only veered violently off the rails,but that it had done so deliberately.

Our intention was to try to help – in some small way – to steer it towards a straighter track, and to see it restored as a sporting institution and spectacle worthy of sporting principles. To see integrity restored to our national sport, to see honesty, fairness and adherence to both the laws of the game and land.

Of course we didn’t know what route our own journey would take, even although we were clear about the destination. What we did know about the journey was that no matter the route, the first leg started outside our own front door.

Who knew we would be taken on a magical mystery tour, blindfolded, spun around a few times, but still find ourselves at that front door. Via the road less traveled, the high road, low road and an endless series of shortcuts and wrong turns we hadn’t moved an inch.

On every stage of the “journey” the SFA, the SPL, and their quasi-legal tribunals & inquiries ducked and dived, twisted and bent the truth, and aided and abetted the greatest scam in the history of UK sport.

Newly coined idioms emerged; “Imperfect registrations”, “boiler-room subsidiary”, “emerged from liquidation”, “ethereal entity”, – and the real doozy; “other clubs could also have broken the tax laws had they wished” – all in an effort to;
1. pretend that what happened had not happened, that cheating was fair, that the rights of one football club were not enshrined in law but decreed by the heavens;
2. hope against hope that the rest of us had gone stark raving bonkers and would accept the “Santa is alive” fallacy as truth.

The facts were;

  • That Rangers, having been subjected to the ignominy of administration, had now entered liquidation, leaving behind a mountain of debts, the vast majority of which were underwritten by us, by the taxpaying public.
  • That almost £100m of funds was denied to the exchequer as the first ever nationalised football club, bought and paid for by the people of the UK, slid into oblivion, a trail of devastation in its wake.
  • That in the course of that calamitous conduct of business, the SFA and the SPL were given false and incomplete information about the nature of players’ contracts. This in order to cover up a tax scheme that was (according to the man who devised it) operated incorrectly and thus unawfully.

Every football club in Scotland and their fans were cheated by a club which quite simply refused to play by the rules – even as the noose around its neck was being pulled ever tighter due to HMRC and Lloyd’s Banking Group taking steps to erect buffers ahead of the onrushing gravy train.

The result was that 140 years of history came to an end; an insatiable hunger for success ironically bringing about the ultimate and irreversible failure of a Scottish institution.

Not for them though, the recognition that they had transgressed. “It wasn’t Rangers – it was Craig White” was the cry.

I’m sure Hearts supporters in 1965 might have said the same about Willie Wallace after he missed a sitter in the final league match against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle. Had he scored, Hearts would have won the league, so Hearts should, by the RFC logic, claim that title anyway. Likewise Celtic fans could have pointed a finger at Georgios Samaras when his penalty miss at Ibrox lost them the league.

More facts: every football club in the world is the sum of its parts, onfield and off. We take the good that people do for our clubs and celebrate them. We have no right to cherry pick and ignore the consequences when people screw up.

Footballers – and administrators – are often gifted individuals given to moments of blinding inspiration which benefits their clubs. They are also often prone to reckless behaviours, the consequences of which we all have to bear. Murray’s knack of talking money out of trees and his reckless and irresponsible practices gave Rangers huge success, but that behaviour also – perhaps inevitably – led to the appointment with the buffers mentioned above.

The good and the bad. Both sides of the same coin, inseparable, inevitable, and there is no choice but to accept the whole package, not just the good bits.

In the circumstances, the hostility towards the old club was understandable. It was always a given that Celtic fans were unlikely to cut them slack as they headed towards an ignominious end.

However, had there been contrition, an acknowledgement of wrongs and some humility in response to talk of consequences, fans of other clubs outside of the Old Firm bubble may have extended some sympathy. But there was none of this. Instead, denial, arrogance, blaming others (“kicking us when we are down”, “who are these people?”) and a pugilistic reaction to the very idea of punishment. The outcome was an absence of sympathy for the plight of RFC.

Let’s revisit this; on an industrial scale, Rangers misrepresented (accidentally if you believe that the board of a PLC was comprised exclusively of halfwits and individuals unable to bite their own fingers) crucial information regarding compliance with registration rules, They subsequently withheld evidence from multiple enquiries into their conduct over these registration rules.

As far back as 1996, Rangers PAYE affairs were being investigated by HMRC and incurring penalties (not a very well publicised event).

Then, for more than a decade, principally through the 2000s they failed to comply with taxation statutes and with crucially important (not merely bureaucratic) SFA rules designed to preserve the intergity of football as a sport. They cheated the revenue out of millions and the fans of every club in Scotland out of their aspirations for their own clubs.

Rangers however were still box-office, and there were 50,000 fans providing a market for the product the now extinct club had provided through the decades. Surely someone would step in and take up the Rangers cause? Surely those people would eschew the catastrophic errors of judgement that had resulted in the economic and existential demise of the original club? Surely they would also acknowledge those mistakes in an effort to convince the clubs and fans they had wronged that this was an organisation that recognised the interdependence of sporting activity?

Surely.

But no. Sadly, no.

Even then though, that matters little.

Why? Because the sins of the old Rangers cannot be visited on the new. The behavior of the new club is a matter for a different argument, but it isn’t relevant in a legal or regulatory sense to the old club. Legally or morally there is nothing you can do to them to ensure that a repeat of the same spivish behaviour does not occur.

So why the fuss? Why the six years of relentless campaigning by SFM and dozens of other football sites?

Because it does matter that the authorities themselves – including all the other clubs – and the MSM have gone out of their way to cover it all up.

No-one at the SFA will talk to fans who have provided them with evidence of wrongdoing in the matter of the 2011 Euro licence. No one will address the witholding of evidence from the LNS enquiry, nor the false premise upon which it arrived at some of its conclusions, nor the mysteriously shifting goalposts of the period investigated by the LNS enquiry, nor the acid-flashback consciousness of the newly arrived at – and totally irregular and unlawful – “imperfect registration” status.

What still requires to be done is to root out those who have enabled the big lie. We need to hold accountable those who have sought to bury evidence, to dispense with logic and to treat fans with contempt and ridicule when legitimate concerns are raised.

We need to replace those people with people of integrity, folk who love the game as much as we do, people who will not yield to intimidation or the dog-whistle.

There are foot thick rule-books in place in football, and the authorities have plummeted into the Asimovian depths of a regulatory Fantastic Voyage to circumvent those. The SFA Chief Executive even told our own John Clark that he would “do nothing” had he been presented with evidence of wrong doing (and he had been presented with such evidence).

Yet one simple rule would have saw the whole sorry escapade brought to a halt – the universal rule that requires people to show due respect and good faith to others.

As I said, we started this journey at our own front door. The authorities and their enablers in the media have been taking us on the Uber route for six years. But we still know the destination, and we will get there. The SFA, the SPFL and the MSM have been relentless in their dedication to half-truths and misdirection.

But the fans are even more relentless in their pursuit of truth and their determination to see our game returned to its status a a sport. That is why outlets like SFM are important. Not because we are any better than others, but because we give a voice to the people in the game who matter most – to the paying public of Scotland who turn up in numbers relatively greater than any other country in Europe. They need that voice. We are not going anywhere.