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.
For such an agreement to pass UEFA FFP rules muster it had to be in writing, signed by HMRC and dated 31st March 2011 or earlier. There were behind the scenes discussions on this point and attempts were made separately at the time to obtain such written unpublished documentation that complied with UEFA FFP regulations from Darryl Broadfoot the Head of SFA Communications, but in spite of promises it never arrived.
Not surprising as, had it existed, Celtic would certainly have been informed when they first wrote to the SFA in December 2011 – thereby rendering Resolution 12, placed at the 2013 Celtic AGM requesting UEFA to investigate the UEFA licensing process throughout 2011 as truly unnecessary.
The first e mail (edited with cosmetic changes to aid reading by a wider audience but no change of sense) made the following points to Mr Conn on 9th Oct 2017…..
Dear Mr Conn.
On 5th August 2016 you wrote an article about the arrival of “Rangers” into the top tier of the SPFL.
(* A relevant extract from that article – in italics – can be read separately at the end of this blog)
Given that the Craig Whyte trial in July 2017, revealed discrepancies (already known to the Celtic shareholders pursuing Res12) between what was stated at the trial and what was reported to the SFA and UEFA during 2011 in terms of the status of the wee tax case liability, then it would appear that your article:
- Does not fully reflect what took place, giving the impression over two paragraphs that a written agreement signed by HMRC to postpone payment had been reached between HMRC and RFC by 31st March 2011. Had this been so it would mean that there was no overdue tax payable at 31st March 2011 as UEFA define an overdue payable to tax authorities.
- However what was revealed in court in July 2017 was that RFC had accepted the liability before 31st March 2011 and so it was not “potential” with “discussions continuing with HMRC to establish a resolution to the assessments raised”, as reported in RFC Interim accounts on 1st April 2011. It was for this reason the SFA have asked their Compliance Officer to investigate what took place and had there been a written agreement to postpone prior to 31st March 2011, there would have been no need to describe the liability to the SFA in the way that it was.
- Further your article does not fully reflect the reason why “Rangers” had to wait three years before playing in European competition, which was that UEFA viewed “Rangers” as a NEW club/company. This was not mentioned although the SFA, who advised you they held an unpublished HMRC letter also held a copy of a letter dated 8th June 2016 from UEFA Head of Club Licensing Andrea Traverso (copy attached) to that effect.
Consequently will you be following the SFA Compliance Officer investigation, and indeed will you be telling him the basis on which you reported the SFA’s position in your article of August 2016 without revealing sources of course?
Importantly in terms of all your other investigatory work into skulduggery, are you also aware that despite what you may have been told by the SFA, Resolution 12 was and is ultimately about making the SFA more accountable and transparent to supporters, an aim which I think you would surely support and is there any chance of you helping with that aim by considering what has caused the SFA to finally capitulate and do what Res12 asked for in 2013, albeit domestically?
A national football association using the media to try to derail a genuine investigation into their behaviour is surely of national, never mind Scottish, interest?
In some ways it matters little now if Rangers gained and retained that licence by deception as the court statement indicates, with the result the SFA Compliance Officer is conducting an investigation.
What matters more is that the SFA have used the absence of accountability to cover up their part in the licensing process, not just from March through to September 2011 but to ignore genuine enquiries from supporter/shareholders of a member club from 2014 to July 2017. During which time their positions;
- that the bill had not crystallised, or
- was subject to dispute or
- was under appeal or
- that after 31st March, monitoring was not an SFA function, as stated by SFA CEO Stewart Regan,
were exposed (in court) as self-serving myths.
The SFA and how poorly they serve the game in Scotland because they are accountable to no one is THE story of Resolution 12 and you could help bring accountability about by reporting how you were duped by the SFA in August last year and report on what the Compliance Officer finds.
As it is your August article has undermined your reputation somewhat as someone whom I understand seeks better accountability and transparency from football authorities.
PS what Celtic shareholders lawyers reported to SFA, and when, is available if you decide to engage.
After a couple of reminders, one copied to The Guardian Sports Editor a reply was received dated 8th November 2017 in which Mr Conn said.
Thank you for your emails and apologies for not having replied sooner; I have been very busy recently. I have seen that some questions have been raised about the piece I wrote in relation to this. I understand that this issue has been of great interest to people; however, I do not currently have plans to revisit it.
Thank you for your interest and apologies again for not replying sooner.
As the SFA Head of Communications, Darryl Broadfoot, who departed from his post in January 2017, would most probably be the person to whom David Conn spoke. He is the same person who failed to clarify this article at:
by STV reporter Grant Russell, who also recently departed from his job at STV.
The STV article omitted certain references about UEFA treating The Rangers FC/The Rangers International FC as a NEW club/company, a piece of unsolicited information that was contained in a UEFA response to Celtic shareholders’ lawyer from Andrea Traverso, Head of UEFA Club Licensing) and which was copied to the SFA a week before STV published.
Some may also remember the strange episode where The Guardian accepted an advert from the Celtic AGM Resolution 12 requistitioners in 2016 attempting to draw the attention of Resolution 12 on a tax evasion aspect to the wider tax paying British pubic. Having accepted payment for a “Persistence Beats Res12tance” advert, The Guardian for some unexplained reason changed their mind and decided not to publish and refunded the payment.
They have been coy on answering who, what or why they changed their mind and as can be seen from the above reply from David Conn appear unwilling to pursue the UEFA 2011 Licencing issue further (at least for now). Hopefully those plans will change when the SFA investigation is complete, whatever the result.
Mr Broadfoot although no longer an SFA employee, appears to be continuing in some capacity as an SFA spokesman given his appearance on BBC Sportsound on 8th November along with Paul Goodwin of the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA) to discuss the findings of an SFSA survey involving over 16,000 supporters that highly criticised the SFA for their governance of Scottish football. The programme segment can be heard here:
The overriding point here though is not the credibility of main stream media outlets, which is at an all-time low, but the use of those outlets by the SFA officials using the media in an attempt to produce an outcome that suits them and a single SFA member club at the expense of the value of the shares held by shareholders in another SFA member club.
Awareness of the impact on shareholder value of member clubs by SFA decisions is yet another issue that an enquiry into SFA methods/processes should address, particularly since HMRC made the SFA aware in 2009 of their concerns about Rangers use of ebts in player contracts.
Until such an investigation takes place the SFA will be viewed as no longer fit to govern Scottish football in its present form.
Extract from Conn Article of 5th August.
Even now, an allegation persists the SFA was deficient in allowing Rangers a licence to compete in the Champions League during that season, 2011-12. The case, based on leaked documentation from the time and pressed by a group of Celtic supporters on their club to pursue as resolution 12 of the 2013 annual general meeting, was recently argued strongly in a report by the Tax Justice Network campaign.
The argument is that in breach of Uefa rules against clubs having overdue tax payable, Rangers owed £2.8m on a discounted options scheme following a successful HMRC challenge known as the “wee tax case”.
The SFA is adamant its committee which considered the licence dealt with the issue thoroughly and received the necessary evidence the tax was not overdue according to Uefa rules. One informed source involved with the issue at the time, who did not want to speak publicly owing to continuing criminal proceedings against Whyte arising out of his tenure at Rangers, said that at the initial deadline, 31 March 2011, HMRC had agreed that the £2.8m did not need to be paid until after his May 2011 takeover.
Before subsequent 30 June and 30 September deadlines, Rangers, by then owned by Whyte, are understood to have told the SFA they were in discussions with HMRC over the money owed. Uefa rules allow tax not to be treated as “overdue” where there is a written agreement with the tax authority for payment to be extended.
The SFA, although declining to disclose details of the documentation it received, citing confidentiality with its member clubs, told the Guardian via a spokesperson: “The Scottish FA has always been clear the licensing award issued to Rangers in 2011 by the licensing committee was correct. The process is audited on an annual basis by Uefa.”
Uefa, pressed on the issue again recently, said: “The licence for the 2011-12 season was granted by the SFA and there was no reason for Uefa to doubt this decision.”
Uefa has said it has no need to investigate further if the tax was in fact overdue according to its definition, because after that season, Rangers’ fate anyway equated to a sanction for breach of the rules: they could not play in European competition for the following three years. HMRC, taking a stern view of clubs defaulting on tax, declined to approve a company voluntary arrangement with creditors and Rangers went into liquidation.