Gilt-Edged Justice

By

On the subject of Rangers gaining a sporting advantage or …

Comment on Gilt-Edged Justice by HirsutePursuit.

On the subject of Rangers gaining a sporting advantage or not…

Rangers were charged with fielding a number of ineligible players after 23rd May 2005 – however, this charge was dropped by the SPL and its “prosecutor” Mr McKenzie.

Rangers were never charged with gaining a sporting advantage by failing to fully disclose players’ contracts. The early SPL rules did not state that failure to disclose would result in the relevant players being deemed ineligible. That rule did not apply until 2005.

The guilty verdict they delivered was simply for failing to disclose all details of players contracts. The sanction – a fine – was deemed to be appropriate because the commission did not see anything in the rules or in the particular circumstances, that suggested a sporting sanction would be appropriate for a non-sporting offence. No evidence was provided by the SPL “prosecutor” to suggest that non-disclosure of parts of a player’s contract gave rise to any sporting advantage.

As it stands, the payments that were not disclosed are perfectly legal; therefore, if the affected players were not ineligible, it seems obvious that no sporting advantage was gained.

In the absence of a guilty verdict in the BTC, the SPL commission was certainly within its rights to apply a non-sporting sanction for non-disclosure prior to 2005. In fact, it is difficult to see how a sporting sanction could be applied.

The idea that LNS came to a perverse decision in relation to the £250k fine is simply sucking the lifeblood from this blog. I think the question over whether or not Rangers gained a sporting advantage is totally missing the point.

Let me explain.

In considering a potential Conflict of Interest, Lord Hodge has decided to await the result of the Insolvency Practitioners Association’s report on the conduct of Duff & Phelps in their administration of Rangers Football Club plc. I believe this is right and proper. Until he knows the outcome of the IPA’s investigation, Lord Hodge does not necessarily know all of the relevant facts, so cannot safely deliver a verdict and (if necessary) an appropriate sanction.

BDO, in turn, are unlikely to make any financial demands on the new Rangers, until Lord Hodge has made his ruling. For BDO the potentially, to claim that rangers’ assets were sold under value is much greater if the administrators are found to have had a conflict of interest.

If the SPL had been considering “sporting advantage” as part of charges of which they were found guilty- or even as an aggravating factor – the commission could not have begun before the UTT had completed its work and published its findings. Since the SPL decided to push ahead with the commission and have accepted the result of the FTT(T) (without the possibility that it could be overturned) we have to believe that the SPL did not – and never intended to – prove that Rangers gained a sporting advantage by failing to fully disclose its players’ contracts.

Pressing ahead with the LNS commission before the UTT has completely settled the legitimacy of Rangers’ EBT scheme, effectively ensured Rangers sporting achievements prior to 2005 would not be adjusted by this commission.

The point we need to focus on is not the correctness (or otherwise) of a £250k fine for non-disclosure. This sanction is demonstrably fair as far as I am concerned. There is no legitimate argument that I am aware of suggesting that the SPL rules – as they were written prior to May 2005 – demanded a sporting punishment for a non-sporting offence.

Non-disclosure only BECAME a sporting offence when contract disclosure became a condition of player eligibility in 2005. Therefore, I believe the only sporting sanctions the commission could ever have applied were in relation to the specific charge of fielding ineligible players after 23rd May of that year.

The commission (wrongly in my view) took this rule to take registration & eligibility to mean the same thing. They (wrongly in my view) took the view that improper player registration would not affect eligibility retrospectively.

If this site is to seek focus in relation to the commission, in my view we need to focus on:

1. Why the artificial fusion of registration and eligibility was left to go unchallenged.
2. Why the SPL – despite ostensibly laying the charges – did not provide sufficient effort to prove to the commission, that players whose contracts were not fully disclosed, were ineligible in accordance with the rules as they have existed from May 2005.

Recent Comments by HirsutePursuit

Who Is Conning Whom?
Auldheid
I am with you in most of what you say, but there are some important differences.

SFA Article 6.1 & 6.2 say:

Clubs or associations undertaking to promote Association Football according to the Laws of the Game and these Articles and other rules of the Scottish FA may be admitted as registered members, associate members or full members, subject to the provisions of Articles 6.2 to 6.7 (both inclusive).
6.2 A club or association shall be admitted as a registered member automatically by reason of its being admitted as a member of an Affiliated Association or an Affiliated National Association, or in the case of a club through membership of or participation in an association, league or other combination of clubs formed in terms of Article 18 and in the case of an association by being formed in terms of Article 18, provided it is not already an associate or full member. A registered member shall not be a member of more than one Affiliated Association or more than one Affiliated National Association. A registered member may apply at any time to become an associate member.

We are in complete agreement, I think, that SFA Article 6.2 made Sevco a registered member of the SFA from the date it was accepted by the SFL – 14th July 2012.

But, and I think this is important, the nearest the SFA get to insisting that a club has associate or full SFA membership is Article 6.2 which simply says, ‘A registered member may apply at any time to become an associate member.’
Note: no timescale applies… and no consequences (from an SFA perspective) if a club chooses to not make that application.

So I think we are on common ground that Article 6.2 was applicable as far as the registered membership was concerned – and Sevco did not take the opportunity to apply for associate membership by this method.

If we then go back to what the SFL Rules actually said:

6. REGISTRATION WITH SFA A CONDITION OF MEMBERSHIPA Member or Associate Member who is not already a full or associate member of the Scottish Football Association must make application to become a full or associate member of the Scottish Football Association (as the case may be) within fourteen (14) days of being admitted to membership of the League failing which its membership of the League will lapse, and in the event that the application is unsuccessful, its membership will lapse upon that decision being intimated to the League.

Now, if the SFL was being prescriptive about which SFA Article was to be used (to apply for full or associate membership), and that Article 6 was the only valid route, why mention full membership as an option. If ‘application’ is meant to mean only applications in terms of SFA Article 6, the only relevant option would be to apply as an associate SFA member.

No, the SFL rules are not prescriptive in the manner of that application. I think Rule 16 is clearly written to allow a transfer of associate or full membership from an existing club to a new club or entity under SFA Article 14. 

In fact the only method by which this could be achieved is SFA Article 14

14. Prohibition on Transfer of Membership14.1 It is not permissible for a member to transfer directly or indirectly its membership of the Scottish FA to another member or to any other entity, and any such transfer or attempt to effect such a transfer is prohibited, save as otherwise provided in this Article 14. Any member desirous of transferring its membership to another entity within its own administrative group for the purpose of internal solvent reconstruction must apply to the Board for permission to effect such transfer, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed. Any other application for transfer of membership will be reviewed by the Board, which will have complete discretion to reject or to grant such application on such terms and conditions as the Board may think fit.

…which allows the board to grant an application for transfer of an existing membership on such terms as it sees fit.

Importantly, the discretion only applies to which terms and conditions to a transfer of a membership that already exists.

Having complete  discretion on how or if that transfer (of full membership) took place is completely within the board’s power via Article 14.

What it doesn’t do is empower the board to create a new type of membership. 

And, even if it does claim to have done so, I still don’t understand how the SFA ‘conditional’ membership would satisfy the SFL requirement for an application for associate or full membership?

Remember, this transfer application was an SFL requirement. The SFA had no interest in whether or not Sevco applied for associate or full membership.

It seems to me that the SFA and SFL approached the Sevco scenario in a similar way as they did when Inverness Caledonian were admitted (as a new club) in 1994.

Difference is ICT, the SFL, SPL and SFA all recognise that that club was founded in 1994.

As I said earlier with regard to the birth of Sevco, the deceit is not so much in what they all did, but in what they said and continue to say.


Who Is Conning Whom?
The new club (Sevco) was issued with written permission to use the name of a club in full membership (Rangers).

This was necessary because both existed as SFA member clubs at the time.


Who Is Conning Whom?
This was the nub of the ‘conditional membership’

10.7 Each club in full membership or associate membership shall in its Official Return register its ground and playing field dimensions and no such club shall remove to another ground without first obtaining the consent of the Board. Any club in full membership or associate membership wishing to make any alteration to its name, its registered ground or its playing field dimensions must first obtain the prior written consent of the Board. No club in registered membership shall adopt in whole or in part the name of a club in full membership or associate membership without the prior written consent of the Board.


Who Is Conning Whom?
Auldheid
The 14 day application deadline was an SFL requirement – not something that the SFA had any locus in considering.

As long as Sevco was a member of the SFL it was a member of the SFA.

It would have been up to the SFL management committee to decide if the application for transfer (rather than application for a new associate membership) met its requirements. If it did not, it would have been within its powers to revoke Sevco’s league membership. It is an arguable point, but there is no suggestion, as far as I’m aware, that the SFL league management committee ever met to even discuss the matter.

Nevertheless, I think you are saying that Sevco was no longer a member of the SFL at the time of the SFA statement – therefore needed this ‘new’ SFA membership category to play Brechin.

But how would any type of membership of the SFA help if it was no longer a member of the SFL? If its membership of the league had already lapsed or been revoked, another SFL EGM would have been required to try and vote the club back in. I’m 100% sure that did not happen.

On 29th July, Sevco must still have been a member of the SFL as the Ramsden Cup was only open to members of that league.

There was simply no mechanism for the club to rejoin the league in the available time. If it did not rejoin (and I’m as certain as I can be that it did not) then it cannot ever have been removed as a member of the SFL.

And as I keep saying, as a member of the SFL, it was also a member of the SFA.

The SFA’s deceit was not in its actions – but was in its words.

Don’t forget that the SFA had to consider the use of the Rangers name. The ‘conditional’ membership squirrel has been particularly useful in covering up the SFA board’s approval for Sevco to play Brechin under the Rangers name.

That, in reality, was the big announcement on that day. The rest was sleight of hand.

Smoke and mirrors.


Who Is Conning Whom?
The golf club analogy has been used before.

Dear old dad is a member of St Andrews (other golf clubs are available). To make best use of the facilities new members must apply to a ‘house’ that will give access to their respective lounges and bars. After 15 years of continuous membership Mon pere was awarded the status of ‘Gold Member’.

Gold Members have their own lounge and gain a range of additional benefits. 

Recently poor old dad has become poorly and suggests that l join the golf club and take over his ‘Gold Membership’.

I join the club and, with a letter of agreement from sickly pater, apply for the transfer of his ‘Gold Membership’ status.

The committee meet and decide that I can only take on the enhanced membership status if old pop dies.

I tell them that father is on his last legs and won’t last the weekend.

As an existing member I can enter the club’s Saturday medal competition. On a conditional basis, they tell me I will be eligible to use the ‘Gold Members’ facilities. They issue me with a letter to confirm this arrangement.

They will reconvene in several weeks to confirm the transfer of membership status – assuming that by then papa will be gone. If he makes a miraculous recovery I must then apply to join one of the standard houses.


About the author