Monthly Archives: May 2012
After coming a poor second to a newly resurgent Celtic side the season before, Rangers entered the following season (2001-2002) determined to make up the lost ground by fair means or foul. They illegally used EBTs to pay the wages of players whom they could not otherwise have afforded. The spent lavishly to acquire the services of players such as Shota Arveladze, Christian Nelinger, Claudio Cannigia and Michael Ball. I know. Stop tittering there at the back, please.
Neil Doncaster continues to pretend that this is not a matter of the greatest importance as he delays the release of the findings of the SPL investigation into the use of improperly registered players by Rangers. Here is a glimpse of what he is hiding.
The Rangers team which took part in the 2001-2002 season fielded ineligible players in all competitions. By the rules of the game, each of the results involving these players should be amended to a 0-3 Rangers defeat.
Yet Rangers official results in domestic competitions still stand in contravention of the rules of the game.
In the SPL, the other teams recorded these results in their games against Rangers.
Rangers’ score is given second in each case.
For comparison, results in parentheses have been adjusted to take integrity into account.
Aberdeen took zero points from 12 with a goal difference of -8:
GD . . . -8 (+12) Turnaround in the real world = 20 goals.
Pts . . . 0 (12) AFC should have had 12 more points according to the rules.
Celtic took 8/12:
GD . . . +3 (+12) Turnaround = 9 goals.
Pts . . . 8 (12) Should have had 4 more points.
GD . . . -9 (+12) Turnaround = 21 goals.
Pts . . . 1 (12) Should have had 11 more points.
GD . . . -6 (+12) Turnaround = 18 goals.
Pts . . . 1 (12) Should have had 11 more points.
GD . . . -4 (+12) Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . . 4 (12) Should have had 8 more points.
GD . . . -7 (+9) Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . . 1 (9) Should have had 8 more points.
Kilmarnock would have made the top six if Rangers’ improper registrations had come to light before the split.
Oh. And if any of the SPL office bearers had had the balls to apply the rules.
GD . . . -7 (+9) Turnaround = 16 goals.
Pts . . . 0 (9) Should have had 9 more points.
GD . . . -3 (+9) Turnaround = 12 goals.
Pts . . . 1 (9) Should have had 8 more points.
GD . . . -3 (+9) Turnaround = 12 goals.
Pts . . . 2 (9) Should have had 7 more points.
GD . . . -6 (+9) Turnaround = 15 goals.
Pts . . . 1 (9) Should have had 8 more points.
GD . . . -5 (+9) Turnaround = 14 goals.
Pts . . . 0 (9) Should have had 9 more points.
The final league table, adjusted for integrity, sees Rangers finishing in the relegation spot on zero points with a goal difference of -114.
Aberdeen would finish second instead of fourth. Every other club finishes one place higher except Livingstone who remain third. St. Johnstone would survive in the top flight for at least another season. Kilmarnock, as previously mentioned, would finish in the top half of the table.
Neil Doncaster ignores all of this and still peddles the preposterous notion that there is a place in the SPL for these cheats.
Let’s look at the cups. Rangers, through the efforts of their otherwise unaffordable players (who were not properly registered and therefore not eligible to play), ‘won’ both the League Cup and the Scottish Cup. Because of their rules breaches, they should have been disqualified after their first tie in each competition with their opponents being awarded a 3-0 win. So that’s a 3-0 win for Berwick Rangers in the Scottish Cup and 3-0 for the late Airdrieonians in the League Cup. As well as being eliminated from the cup competitions, Rangers would have missed out on their half of the gate receipts from the subsequent illegitimate ties. That’s just short of 100,000 paying customers for the League Cup and more than 130,000 for the Scottish Cup. Those tickets were sold on a fraudulent basis.
Rangers interest in the Champions League should have ended at the beginning of August with Maribor progressing at their expense. Chalk off one 50,000 home gate for Rangers bore draw a week later against Fenerbahce.
Another 144,000 people would not have been pouring money into David Murray’s crooked club if Rangers had been correctly disqualified from the UEFA Cup after fielding ineligible players against Anzhi Makhachkala in the first round. Nor would there have been any income from television coverage of matches which would not and should not have taken place.
Neil Doncaster is aware of all of this information but continues to be the poltroon for the cheats who put him in place to try to shield themselves from the consequences of their massive con trick.
Good news! Good news!
The liquidation of Rangers is no longer the probable outcome of their travails; it is absolutely inevitable.
It’s time for all of Scotland’s premier football clubs individually, and the SPL as a collective organisation, to recognise this and plan boldly for the new circumstances.
Those club chairmen who are still in fear of radical change have not left themselves much time to adjust to a situation which they had wrongly assumed could never come to pass. But there is no excuse now for delusions that somehow Rangers can avoid the worst.
There will be no Rangers of any kind, old or new, playing in the SPL next season. There is no guarantee that any form of Rangers will even be playing in the Third Division of the SFL either. Yet there is still uncertainty in some quarters about embracing the new reality.
The baleful effect of Rangers on the confidence of other Scottish clubs seems to have caused a kind of Stockholm syndrome where the victims paradoxically develop an emotional attachment to their abuser. Having spent so much of their existence trying not to challenge the malevolent power of the seemingly all-powerful Rangers, a number of clubs have lost the ability to think clearly for themselves and have lost sight of what is in their own best interests.
They have found ways to survive in the lair of the beast and can scarcely imagine what life will be like when the beast is slain.
“Things may never be the same again,” they whimper, as if that were a bad thing.
Why would any decent person want Scottish football to be the “same again”?
It has become clearer and clearer with each development that for many years Scottish football was trapped in a process of being devoured by an insatiable parasite called Rangers FC. Scottish football has been revealed to be merely a façade behind which the scandalous conduct of Rangers FC hid itself from scrutiny.
Rangers did not generate wealth; they misappropriated it.
They do not stimulate the Scottish economy; they are a drain on it.
They have not increased sporting competition; they have stifled and destroyed it.
In order to allay fears of what Scottish football will be like without Rangers it’s only necessary to consider what the damage will be if they continue in any form.
It is now apparent in the real world that the wealth and power of Rangers has been a myth for many years.
Therefore the sacred TV deals with Sky and others have always been negotiated on the basis of a falsehood.
The selling-point was that there were two major Scottish clubs – the so-called Old Firm – whose head-to-head matches could provide broadcasters with the commercially attractive spectacle of a pair of well-matched heavyweights locked in close competition.
But one of those clubs, Rangers, has clearly been spending money which it did not have in order to maintain the sham of its competitive status.
It has been living so far beyond its means that it is completely insolvent and facing oblivion.
Any attempt to restore the illusion that Rangers is a major club requires every other party to engage in a major deception.
Whatever damage the other clubs may sustain without Rangers is nothing in comparison to the self-harm that they’ll suffer from continuing to take their share of the proceeds of TV deal which requires a level of financial doping, shameful governance and fiscal irresponsibility which brings the entire game into disrepute.
Those clubs and broadcasters may have had some excuse when they could reasonably claim not to have known what Rangers tried so hard to conceal. They do not have that excuse now and they have even less reason to assume that Rangers have learned their lesson. Nobody has spoken on behalf of Rangers to suggest that they are determined to face up to the consequences of their past wrongdoing. There has not been a word of apology nor any hint of an acknowledgement that they alone have been the architects of their own misfortune.
If anything we have seen the reverse – the club seems to think that its best chance of riding through this crisis is to insist on its own indispensability, regardless of what it has done wrong, and to issue threats to other clubs that they’ll regret it later if they stand up to Rangers today.
That has always been The Rangers way.
The psychopathic inability to express or feel genuine remorse is a key characteristic of the club’s mentality.
Similarly, their arrogant sense of entitlement and the belief that the world revolves around their interests are defining traits.
They are no more capable of abandoning their bullying than a crocodile is capable of learning to walk to heel.
That psychological trauma is still having an effect on some minds but the fears are unfounded now.
A new day is about to dawn in which the creatures of the night will be hopelessly exposed and vulnerable.
By the end of this week even the most dedicated Rangers apologists will be left speechless in the face of damning evidence of the club’s indefensible conduct.
And those who have previously been indecisive when given the chance to point the finger of condemnation at Rangers will finally join the stampede to be at the front of the queue to sink the boot in.
There will be a brighter future as soon as the root cause of most of Scottish football’s ills is discredited and permanently removed.
That will go a long way to alleviating whatever pain accompanies the adjustment.
We should neither fear pain nor expect that we can get through our lives without experiencing it.
It’s an intrinsic part of the process of developing, growing, striving and achieving.
A period of pain for Scottish football doesn’t frighten me in the slightest if it leads to a fairer sport and a better society in the long run.
It’s time to get over the Stockholm syndrome.
Today at Hampden Park in Glasgow, the oldest national football trophy in the world will be presented to the victorious captain at the end of the final of the Scottish Football Association Challenge Cup. Eighty teams will have been eliminated over the course of eight rounds of the tournament by the time the winning team receives the prize and parades it to their rapturous supporters.
For reasons which have never been made clear to me, there is a mysterious requirement nowadays to distract attention from the presentation by means of a mass orgy of litter-dropping so millions of tiny pieces of foil are scattered over the playing field while the players are dwarfed by irrelevant, forty-feet-high inflatable figures, pumped full of hot gases.
Simultaneously, the stadium public address system attempts to overwhelm the spontaneous celebrations of the crowd by playing tedious recordings of generic team anthems. These are invariably far better and much more in keeping with the spirit of the occasion when they are sung unaccompanied by the crowd at the tempo and pitch of their own choosing. There is something distinctly sinister afoot when these control freaks can get away with drowning out the sound of a joyous football crowd at the climax of a major tournament.
I’m old school, I am.
It’s always a downer when your team gets knocked out of the Cup. The disappointment of losing a cup tie is compounded by the realisation that when the teams run out onto the park on the day of the final, with tens of thousands of supporters cheering in anticipation, your own team’s season will have already finished. For Kilmarnock there is some consolation today in that they can still savour the taste of their recent League Cup victory, which is the next best thing, so today’s Hampden occasion will be more likely to remind them of their finest achievement in many years. For Celtic, the league champions, the Scottish Cup would have been an extra treat but the return of the SPL trophy to Celtic Park was always a higher priority than a successful defence of the trophy. Everyone else will watch the game, wondering what might have been and hoping that next year it will be their team in the spotlight for the show-piece finale to the season. (Note to Rangers supporters: Not you lot. This time next year you’ll no longer have a team. Bad luck.)
Here it must be said that from the point of view of the neutral supporter, the 2012 Scottish Cup final is a rather appealing dish. Jam Tarts against Cabbage and Ribs. The Edinburgh Derby. Hearts versus Hibs. As the green and maroon hordes head west along the M8 today this is a prospect which many of us thought we would never live to see; for once, it might be possible to find a parking place in Edinburgh on a Saturday. For me, however, that’s still not a good enough reason to go to Auld Reekie.
For Hibs supporters, today’s final is probably a once in a lifetime occasion because the Hibees only win one Scottish Cup in each century. Those supporters who are under the age of one hundred and ten – which may well be the majority of them – missed the opportunity to be amongst the 16,000 crowd which saw Andy McGeachan score the only goal of the 1902 final. (A suspicion of offside, I thought, from where I was standing but it was a hard one to call.) Could this be the moment when the men from Leith finally equal Vale of Leven’s proud record of three (3) Scottish Cup successes? Or will they collect their tenth set of runners-up medals and keep the Scottish Cup interest alive for the rest of the century?
Hearts will obviously be hot favourites, having won all of their previous Scottish Cup finals against Hibs as well as every Edinburgh derby in the league since colour television was introduced. Even though Lee Wallace is still mysteriously unavailable, all they really have to do is turn up on the day, play their normal game and the Cup will be theirs for the taking. Therefore they will probably choke, throw away a couple of goals in the last few minutes and burst into tears when the final whistle blows.
I’m actually looking forward to watching this game. A Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Hearts in front of a capacity crowd is undoubtedly an attractive fixture and will make for very good television. Those who are unfortunate enough to have tickets for the game itself can tune in to the radio coverage to find out what is happening on the pitch or follow twitter for regular updates. One or two of the lucky ones might even have seats from which it is possible to see the game, especially if they can catch sight of one of the television monitors. Come what may, both teams will be relieved that they haven’t also made it to the final of the Champions League, with all the travel issues and logistical problems which that could have caused, especially if this afternoon’s game goes to extra time and penalties.
A very wise man recently pointed out how much money Scottish clubs have lost out on over the last decade and a half through the skulduggery with dual contracts over at Ibrox stadium. In Hibernian’s case, the figure is anywhere between a minimum of £3.6 million up to a potential sum of £34.8 million. Hearts have been even harder done by. They have lost out on a minimum of £6.2 million and a top figure of an eye-watering £72.3 million. If the two Edinburgh clubs had actually received the prize money which their own, honest efforts had entitled them to, the line-ups at Hampden Park today would probably look very different. Who can say that players such as Scott Brown, Craig Gordon, Gary Caldwell, Ricardo Fuller or Steven Whittaker would not be turning out today if £100 million had found its rightful home over the last few years? What other players might either side have signed with that kind of money? Is it out of the question that one of today’s finalists might have been taking to the field today with a chance of doing the Double? Answers on the back of a dual contract please.
I recently tried, unsuccessfully, to register on a Hibernian forum to invite their supporters to name a possible starting XI which Hibs might have fielded today if they’d had the benefit of a few tens of millions of pounds to strengthen their playing squad. If any of them read this blog, I’d ask them to speculate in the comments section below and I’m putting the same question to the Jambos with regard to their team. Mind you, I suspect I haven’t timed this request very well since they may have better things to attend to today.
Let’s hope for a splendid final which shows the Scottish game in a good light. Let’s all enjoy the occasion and hope for a memorable climax to a season in which the three major domestic trophies will find homes in the trophy rooms of three different clubs. Let us also take note of the fact that there will be a capacity crowd for a final which has caught the imagination of most of the Scottish football-following public. This will give us our first glimpse of the promising future of our domestic game, freed from the malign and corrupt influence of the tax-dodging, account-fiddling, dual-contract-peddling vampire club from Ibrox.
Today is a memorable day for the capital city’s clubs. I hope their supporters make the most of it and I hope all of us are treated to an excellent and exciting cup final.
An Appellate Tribunal has upheld sanctions which were imposed upon a tax-dodging football club by an SFA judicial panel last month.
Rangers (in administration) had appealed against the 12-month transfer embargo and £160,000 in fines imposed on the Ibrox club for a series of disciplinary rule breaches under Craig Whyte’s ownership. On 23 April, Rangers were found guilty of five disciplinary charges, including bringing the game into disrepute. The independent inquiry was chaired by Lord William Nimmo Smith (who is a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).
A three-man Appellate Tribunal, chaired by judge Lord Carloway (who is a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) announced their decision to uphold the original decision, despite a legal argument put forward on behalf of the notorious, tax-swindling, bill-dodging football club by leading QC Richard Keen. (Richard Keen QC is NOT a Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).
Rangers (in administration) had contested that Whyte’s actions should be treated separately to those of the arrogant, shameless, cheating, tax-dodging, football club. But the Appellate Tribunal ruled that the original decision was competent as the “conduct involved was attributable to the club as a member of the SFA”.
The tribunal will release a full report of its findings in due course but in the meantime it has revealed a few key points in a short summary.
“It was competent for the disciplinary tribunal to impose the additional sanction of prohibiting registrations of any new players of 18 years or older for a period of 12 months.
The disciplinary tribunal was correct to determine that the conduct involved – especially the deliberate non-payment of very large sums, estimated in excess of £13m of tax in the form of PAYE, NIC and VAT – was attributable to the club as a member of the Scottish FA.
Although the Appellate Tribunal has listened carefully to the representations from Rangers FC about the practical effects of the additional sanction, it has concluded that this sanction was proportionate to the breach, dissuasive to others and effective in the context of serious misconduct.”
Paul Clark, joint administrator (but NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session), said: “The decision by the appellate tribunal to uphold the sanction, namely the suspension of registration of players for one year, is not competent in the view of the Club and its legal advisers.” (Note: the club’s legal advisers are not Senators of the College of Justice, judges of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session).
“Such a sanction was not available to the tribunal,” in the opinion of Mr. Clark (who is NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) “and should not have been imposed and it is the intention of the Club to challenge the determination. The Club will consider seeking review of this most disappointing decision and it is a matter of regret that the certainty and finality Rangers sought on this matter has not been achieved.”
Charles ‘Emerald’ Green (who is NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session) said: “Our group went into the purchase of the Club with this sanction in place but we hoped the decision would at least be commuted. We fully support the Club as it considers an appeal against this latest decision.” The club to which ‘Emerald’ refers is, of course, the dishonest and disgraced Rangers FC (in administration) which has been found guilty by senior judges twice in the last month of bringing the game into disrepute through its deliberate non-payment of £13m of tax.
William Pullar “Sandy” Jardine, spokesman for the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (but NOT a former Senator of the College of Justice, a judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland, sitting in the High Court of Justiciary and the Inner House of the Court of Session), added: “Rangers supporters will be shocked and bitterly disappointed by this decision and will find it hard to take that the Club has been so heavily punished for the actions of individuals.” What Mr. Jardine means is that Rangers (in administration) should be allowed to spend millions of pounds on acquiring new players instead of paying their taxes. Even to the point of bringing the game into disrepute.
It is hard not to agree that the punishment which Rangers have been given is seriously wrong.
They are completely beyond redemption, incapable of recognising their guilt and determined to drag every standard of honesty and decency down to the level of shameless cynicism at which they themselves operate.
Rangers should have been expelled from Scottish football.
Sir David Murray
Mr. Craig Whyte
Mr. Paul Murray
Mr. Bill Ng
Mr. Bill Miller
Mr Charles Green,
c/o The Rangers*,
150 Edmiston Drive,
Glasgow G51 2XD
142 Copland Road,
Glasgow G51 2UB:
Dear Mr. Bhutta,
Permit me to introduce myself. My name is Charles Green. Some people call me ‘Emerald’.
I am a colourful businessman who has been a director of no fewer than fifteen companies which have gone into liquidation. My latest project is a football club called Rangers FC (in Administration) which I am hoping to gut and fillet in the coming weeks.
You may be aware that the Administrators of that football club, a firm called Duff and Phelps, are anxious to drag out the administration process for as long as possible because they are raking in a couple of hundred thousand pounds every week for as long as the money lasts. Who could blame them, eh? I’d do the same myself, given half a chance.
Speaking of me, it turns out that I am the latest one to have been offered the opportunity to buy Rangers FC (in Administration). My predecessor, an American chap called Mr. Bill ‘Liam’ Miller, had a quick look at the bookwork and, by all accounts, took suddenly ill. I, however, am made of sterner stuff, (not least because I’m English). Moreover, having been involved in fifteen liquidations myself, I can safely say that I’m quite an old hand at ignoring toxic debt. After the game against St. Johnstone on Sunday I had a quick butcher’s at the Orcs’ accounts and I have to say that of all the liquidations which I’ve been involved in, this one takes the biscuit! (As one businessman to another, let me just give you a quick tip – don’t give these people any credit or you’ll regret it. Make sure you get cash up front or no deal.)
Which brings me neatly, I feel, to the matter at hand. Looking at their accounts, I couldn’t help but notice a list of 277 creditors who are owed a total which is not far off £134,000,000. One of these creditors is your good self. You are still owed the sum of £567.45, although it’s so long overdue that you may well have forgotten all about it.
Incidentally, it did strike me that at the very least I might write a letter of apology to you expressing the club’s deep sorrow and acute embarrassment at this state of affairs. However, I was dissuaded from following this course of action by a geezer called Sandy Something-or-other. He seems to be well thought of in some quarters and he assures me that this is not the Rangers Way. Apparently it does not do for Rangers to show any signs of remorse or regret. I might say that this strikes me as odd but I must also concede that, as an Englishman, I am fairly unfamiliar with the customs and traditions of your fine country which I had rarely visited until this week. Indeed, I had never even heard of Rangers until they made the UK news headlines during their visit to Manchester in 2008. (Something to do with a broken television, was it? I think Chelsea were involved too? I can’t really remember the details.)
Anyway, Sandy says there’s to be no apology, that Rangers don’t show weakness, that you should consider yourself honoured to be a Rangers creditor and that you’ll be remembered as one of the bastards who stuck the boot in once the ‘Gers are back on top.
Would I dare to fly in the face of such sound advice on cultural manners from a local man? No chance. So. Up yours, it is, Mr. Bhutta.
That brings me to my next point. You’ve probably heard some talk about a CVA proposal. No doubt you will be too busy selling newspapers to have given the matter much thought. Let me give you a quick guide to what’s going to happen. If you saw the unfortunate headlines in some of today’s newspapers you may have gained the impression that I am spearheading a consortium of about twenty extremely wealthy partners who intend to pour vast sums of money into the club’s Warchest™ in the near future. This may have had the unintended side-effect of raising your hopes that you may finally see your £567.45 one day. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Those millions upon millions of pounds which my partners are going to invest are not for the likes of you, I’m afraid. That money is for Ally to spend on buying over-priced, over-paid, under-achieving no-marks for the Rangers first team of the future.
I may be new to this country but I’ve already done a bit of homework. Apparently, there is a newspaper called ‘The Scotsman’, which nobody ever reads these days. However, it was pointed out to me that its leader column just a few days ago stated that Scotland needs Rangers. I see no reason to doubt a newspaper which has been losing thousands of readers every month for many, many years now. It must know a thing or two about what Scotland needs. And it says that Scotland needs Rangers. Does it say that Scotland needs customers to pay their debts and settle their bills in full? No, it says that Scotland needs Rangers. So that settles that.
This means that instead of £567.45, the best you can hope for is £17.02, which is 3p in the pound. Frankly, I think you should be very grateful that you’re being offered that much.
Personally, I am tremendously excited about the future possibilities of this approach to business, if it succeeds. As a businessman yourself, I am sure you can appreciate the enormous cost-saving benefits of a scheme which reduces expenditure by 97%! Holy smoke, if I could have got away with only paying 3% of my bills in the past, I might never have had any liquidations at all, let alone fifteen of the buggers!
Now. In case you’re tempted not to accept this generous offer, let me just invite you to contemplate another very important consideration.
A man called Ally is thought to be very keen to have full transparency on the matter of the names and addresses of the creditors who endanger the future well-being of The Rangers (in Administration) by rejecting the CVA proposal.
Let’s look at it this way. That’s a nice business you’ve got there, Mr Bhutta. Sure would be a shame if anything were to happen to it, if you get my meaning. Of course, if you accept the CVA proposal of a measly three pence in the pound, you’ll probably not have to worry about that. You seem like a smart kind of guy. I really wouldn’t want to see you get on the wrong side of one of the notorious ‘small minorities’ who attach themselves in their thousands to Ally’s team. (No, not Chelsea; his other team.) You want to take my advice and do the sensible thing just in case things in the future get a little ‘transparent’. If you catch my drift.
If you bear in mind that the £550.43 which you’ll never see will play its part in encouraging almost two dozen multi-millionaires to pour millions of pounds into wages for Rangers bench-warmers next season then you will have some considerable consolation for having been ripped off. Alternatively, you should look at your £567.45 in a different perspective. Paul Clark makes more than that just by twiddling his thumbs for an hour. You’re in the wrong game, sunshine. Administration is where it’s at.
I have taken the liberty of enclosing a Rangers (in Administration) season ticket application form with this letter so that you can enjoy the Rangers experience next season. You may also want to be the first among your friends to buy the classic Sheffield United home kit from the 2006-2007 season so I’m sending you a catalogue for the Blades mail order service as well.
Sheffield United Rangers,
Charlie “Emerald” Green.
15 and counting.
P.S. These are very troubled times for The Rangers so I am sure you will understand why I found it necessary to send this letter to you without putting a stamp on the envelope.
THE Blue Knights have once again walked away from the bidding process, pausing only to call a surreal press conference in which they presented some sketchy details of their limping dog of a rescue proposal before issuing some veiled threats and indications of future reprisals. To put their risible proposal to rescue Rangers (in administration) in some context, let us remember that they must satisfy creditors who are owed up to £135,000,000 before they can even begin to finance a competitive team. The sum of money that they were prepared to put on the table was less than what Martin O’Neil paid to acquire Neil Lennon from Leicester City in 2000. Fergus McCann spent more in 1994 to save Celtic from a far less parlous condition.
As I see it, the Blue Knights knew themselves that they hadn’t a hope of succeeding. What they were doing instead was keeping themselves visible and attempting to appeal to the core Rangers support, knowing full well that these fans are incapable of understanding the administration procedures at even the most basic level. Using threatening language about Duff and Phelps having “blood on their hands” is designed to evoke a response at the most visceral level from Rangers supporters who are addicted to denial and impelled to blame everyone else for their problems.
The Blue Knights have merely added Duff & Phelps to a list of scapegoats which already includes Craig Whyte, David Murray, HMRC, the SFA, the SPL, Neil Lennon, the Bank of Scotland, Mark Daly, three formerly anonymous SPL judicial tribunal panel members, the Vatican, Alex Thomson, the Republic of Ireland, FC Maribor, Professor Tom Devine, the BBC, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, the White and Kelly families, UEFA, Jock Stein, the city of Manchester, Dick Advocaat, Chelsea supporters in disguise, Martin O’Neil, the Scottish newspaper industry, Hugh Adam, the Romanian Police Force, Fergus McCann, the RTC blog, faulty giant-screen televisions, Celtic supporters websites, Peter Lawwell, Lloyds Banking Group and Catholic schools.
The cynical nature of this tactic should surprise nobody. It’s the only thing they have to offer. Paul Murray’s record speaks for itself. He joined the Rangers board of directors in 2007. For five years he sat by and allowed the club to run up a level of debt which frightened Lloyds Banking Group into demanding seats on the board to protect itself from further damage. Like Martin Bain and other fellow directors, he was able to make money for himself out of the club while presiding over its terminal decline. That’s too good a gig to abandon without a fight, especially if there isn’t an alternative source of easy money.
Having steered their luxury liner at full speed into an iceberg and having recognised that it’s definitely going to go down, Paul Murray and his cohorts decided to stand on the bridge and curse the elements for a few minutes before leaping heroically into their reserved lifeboat and advising everyone else to follow their example.
Their bid was merely a pantomime which they knew had no chance of being accepted. But it’s given them a public platform to growl the kind of confrontational rhetoric which plays so well with the Rangers die-hards. They plan to be seen as the fans’ choice when the battle begins to claim ownership of Traditional Rangers FC (est. 2015) after all the post-liquidation litigation finally comes to an end. And they are sticking to what has always worked for them in the past – eliciting knee-jerk responses from the mob with defiant rhetoric and posturing rather than attending to the fundamentals of running a sustainable business.
The key to winning a battle is very often the ability to choose the weapons, the battleground and the timing. Winning a debate is much easier if you can choose the topic to be argued. Passing an exam is much easier if the candidate can choose the questions.
The debate about the fate of Rangers is currently being dictated to a large extent by bean-counters and their media apologists. They have chosen the weapons, selected the battleground, dictated the topic and are choosing the questions while the vast majority of Scottish football supporters want to conduct this debate on different grounds, with different priorities, addressing different questions and using different weapons.
This must not be allowed to continue.
There is one issue which should be the only show in town.
It is integrity.
There can be no escape from this. Without integrity, the game’s a bogey. Every commentator who so much as hesitates to evaluate every other aspect of the case from that viewpoint should be called to account immediately. Such people have abrogated their right to contribute to the discussion of what is best for the sport.
There is no business argument which takes precedence over sporting integrity. The entire point of the game is that players can get a fair test of their ability against opponents on a level playing field. If that fairness is corrupted, the game becomes pointless, irrelevant, redundant and a waste of everybody’s time, effort and money. The sooner a corrupt business dies, the better for every decent person. If football allows itself to be blackmailed by cheats because it isn’t prepared to defend its integrity then it fully deserves to perish.
In short, the essence of the football business is integrity. Everything else is secondary at best and irrelevant at the very least. The further the discussion moves away from the focal point of integrity, the more it threatens the well-being of the game. No journalist or broadcaster or football director or SPL functionary or SFA official should ever even contemplate denying that fair play is the be-all and end-all of professional sport.
Fairness is not about guaranteeing that one particular club will prosper in a competition just because it has more followers than other clubs. It is not about ensuring that, come what may, two clubs will always play in the top half of the top division because that’s what Rupert Murdoch’s shilling demands. Putting that another way, fairness does not permit decent professionals who have worked hard, tried their hardest and played the game to the best of their ability to accept that they are to be swindled out of their win bonuses and honours because they are plying their trade with a club which is held to be a less attractive commercial proposition than its rival. Unless there is fair play at every level of the competition, the entire exercise a complete waste of time and, worse still, a cynical fraud.
Let there be no respect for any argument which is ambivalent about the pre-eminence of the principle of integrity in professional football. To compromise that principle is the ultimate sell-out. There are few surer ways to bring about the ultimate destruction of the game than to let the customers realise that they are being completely conned and sold short. We must refuse to accept any terms of reference which relegate integrity to the sidelines or dismiss it as an impractical ideal which has no place in commercial activity.
Integrity belongs at very the core of football’s commercial activity and it has never been more important to defend it than at the present time when the Scottish game is facing its biggest test.
In the light of the most recent developments in the ongoing collapse of Rangers FC (in administration), Duff and Phelps have issued yet another statement. Sources in the real world suspect that the statement may have been written on the other side of the Looking Glass by Monty Python during an LSD trip. This suspicion can be neither confirmed of denied at the present moment.
Unless you look at it.
The latest evolution of the Cunning Plan involves the miraculous recent materialisation of three unknown bidders from an unknown planet in an unknown universe.
One of these beings knows a previously unknown method of persuading HMRC to accept a pennies in the pound settlement from a position where it is owed more than 25% of the total debt. That this has never, ever, ever happened before is an inconvenient fact which is completely disregarded.
The statement, in the words of Sarah Bell of Duff & Phelps, notes that “if it is a stand-alone CVA then that will take several weeks to do”.
Reassuringly, since one of the “three main factors is timing,” this is somehow entirely consistent with the Administrators’ hope that they will be “running with one of the parties in the next few days.”
It’s a simple matter of squeezing several weeks into the next few days.
A mere bagatelle.
The other two bids are, “following the same plan as Bill Miller, ie an asset sale to a newco with the old company exiting through CVA.”
Ah, of course! That will be the plan which Mr. Miller immediately abandoned as soon as he saw the figures.
Now there’s a reason to be cheerful!
A further boost to the morale is the fact that HMRC have not given an inch, are closely watching every move and are preparing to fire a fatal head-shot at the moment of their choosing. Or, as Sarah Bell expresses it, “HMRC are interested to see the merits of each one of the offers and they are open to further discussion with us.”
As further proof that everything is going to be just fine and will probably be sorted out by the end of next weekend, Duff & Phelps have revealed that Rangers(IA) is going to be the only club in Scotland which isn’t offering its supporters any opportunity to buy tickets for next season’s matches.
If that doesn’t inspire confidence, then nothing will.
It really has become pointless to look for any credibility in this increasingly ludicrous farce of a process. There are now fewer and fewer ways of looking at Clark and Whitehouse’s strategy which make any sense to me.
If we cut through the last few months with the aid of Occam’s razor, this outline fits pretty well;
Craig Whyte chose Duff & Phelps as administrators.
Duff & Phelps “ran the numbers”, and soon concluded that RFC was a hopeless, irredeemable basket case.
After all, it took Miller’s people less than four days to reach that conclusion.
It seems highly unlikely that Clark and Whitehouse still haven’t grasped it.
So. What to do?
The options available were;
Find a buyer for the club.
Problem: Minty had spent four or five years trying to offload it. He finally managed to collect one, single pound sterling.
Conclusion: No chance.
Arrange a CVA.
Problem: With HMRC already having more than 25% of the total debt, the odds that more than 75% of the creditors will accept the proposed CVA are about the same as the prospect of Fergus McCann bailing out Rangers in a sensational gesture of philanthropy.
Conclusion: No chance.
Sit tight, stonewall and collect £200,000 every week while going through the motions of trying to rescue the club for the benefit of the creditors. Leave Whyte, Ticketus, HMRC, the SPL, the SFA, the local newsagent and everybody else to sort out their problems amongst themselves in their own time, at their own expense. Repeat on a weekly basis until the money completely runs out. Finally, switch off the lights and go home.
Problem: What problem?
There’s a recurring myth which needs to be addressed, viz, the myth that Scottish football needs a “strong” Rangers.
Let us see first of all how this “strong” Rangers has worked in practice.
For the best part of the last quarter of a century, Rangers’ “strength” and apparent success lay in their ability and determination to outspend every other team in Scotland.
They fully played their part in contributing to the collapse of the Bank of Scotland in order to finance transfers and wages for players which no other Scottish team could even countenance.
Using tens of millions of pounds from a bank which would ultimately collapse and pass on its debts to every man, woman and child in the nation, “Strong” Rangers signed prominent internationalists from England, Holland, Denmark, France, Scotland and elsewhere to fill every place in their starting eleven.
After SDM took control of the club, Strong Rangers went on to win 16 titles. Five of these went to the last game of the season – strongly, I’m sure – even though Rangers, uniquely, were allowed to use fortunes of the doomed bank’s zombie assets to boost their “strength”.
And despite the media propaganda that tells us otherwise, Strong Rangers’ recent title successes were still claimed by the most expensively assembled squad in the country, underwritten by tax-payers who have been saddled with the tab for the reckless practices of the failed banks.
Question One: How many titles might Strong Aberdeen, Strong Dundee United, Strong Hibs or even Strong Partick Thistle win if a tax-payer owned bank now decided to give one of those clubs a credit line that would allow them to outspend their nearest challengers by a ratio of “ten pounds for every fiver”?
Strong Rangers, not content with having used everyone else’s money to buy their nine-in-a-row (which was obviously a Good Thing for Scottish football) then apparently decided that having to waste money paying the income tax of their expensively assembled international mercenaries was too much of a handicap to their future ambitions. So they strongly rejected this practice and availed themselves of more tens of millions of pounds which the rest of their competitors were too honest (“weak”) to steal from the nation.
Question Two: How many titles might Strong Aberdeen, Strong Dundee United, Strong Hibs or even Strong Partick Thistle win if any one of them was allowed to compete for the signings of top players without the inconvenience of having to give millions of pounds to the taxman each time they offered a contract to their potential employees?
If Scottish football needs this kind of “Strong” club, let’s be absolutely honest about it in unequivocal terms.
Let the government propose the formation of a new club for the good of Scottish football.
Its name doesn’t matter much but let’s not actually call it Strong State Supported Football Club For The Good Of Scottish Football.
Let it simply be called Babylon Establishment FC.
For the good of Scottish football, Babylon Establishment FC must have a line of credit with the nationalised bank of its choice.
The credit limit must be raised if Babylon Establishment FC struggle to dominate the Scottish league.
For the good of Scottish football, Babylon FC will not have to pay taxes on the wages which it offers to its players. Otherwise those players might choose to sign for another club.
For the good of Scottish football, there must also be some kind of constitutional arrangement in place which guarantees that Babylon FC will always play in the top division of the Scottish league, even if other clubs have to go to the wall as a consequence.
And for the good of Scottish football, the press must clear all of their copy about Babylon FC with the government before it is published.
The alternative is unthinkable; it might herald a return to the dark days when Weak Rangers languished in mid-table while Dundee Utd, Aberdeen, Hearts and Celtic were competing for the championship title. Clearly, that was a Bad Thing for Scottish football.
Who would want a return to the misery of watching Scottish clubs horsing Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Hamburg, Sporting Lisbon and others out of European tournaments, year after year. That was self-evidently a Bad Thing for Scottish football.
And heaven forbid that Scottish international teams might ever again go head to head with the likes of Brazil, Germany and Holland in the World Cup Finals or the Euro championships.
So let’s not accept the false paradigm of the need for a Strong Rangers. If there is to be a debate on the principle, let’s be clear and honest about the terms and parameters which pertain.
Let there simply be a Babylon Establishment FC which is exactly what it says it is on the tin instead of straining to maintain the pretence that Strong Rangers was anything other than Babylon FC by another name.
Michael Johnston, the boy who supported Rangers but grew up to be the chairman of Kilmarnock F.C., has told the BBC,
“Members (of the SPL) see the commercial benefits of having Rangers, even as a newco. The clubs are mindful of a sporting integrity aspect but the commercial benefits may outweigh that.”
In a few words, Mr. Johnston has now admitted a scandalous state of affairs which has been apparent for decades to anyone who chose not to ignore it. It is a poor consolation for those of us who have routinely been accused of paranoia that an insider has finally confirmed for us that the principle of rigging football matches and tournaments for commercial benefit™ would be accepted as decent business policy.
This should not come as the slightest surprise to anyone who has watched professional football objectively for any length of time. But it does rather let the cat out of the bag with regard to many of the stock replies to criticisms levelled against referees, to take but one example.
“Nobody should be questioning the integrity of the officials,” we are regularly told.
We now know from an official source, that commercial benefits™ can outweigh the integrity so why should we have any doubt that a controversial penalty could just as easily have been awarded for commercial reasons as for any sporting ones. If referees (or their bosses) believe that there will be more commercial benefit™ for the game – or themselves – if Rangers win the league rather than Aberdeen, it follows that Mark Hately won’t be penalised for fouling the Aberdeen goalkeeper to score in a game which Rangers absolutely need to win.
If the entire staff of (say) Kilmarnock F.C. are instructed by their chairman that their team must, yet again, lie down and accept a hammering in their upcoming fixture against (say) Rangers, it would be entirely reasonable for each of them to reap some commercial benefit™ by betting as much money as they could raise on a bet with a bookmaker. Sporting integrity probably wouldn’t make them nearly as much money as throwing the game, would it? And since we have their chairman’s own word for it that commercial benefits™ can take precedence, then it is entirely fair to suspect that this scenario is by no means unlikely. Indeed, is there any reason for the two teams not to collude in the process for even greater, mutual commercial benefit™? If you’re going to throw the game, why not get a better price from the bookies for a correct score? Why not identify the first scorer as well? And the half-time score. In effect, it’s free money.
Why not, Mr. Johnston?
There would be far greater commercial benefits™ all round in those circumstances and the only argument against it is that it would compromise sporting integrity. That’s no longer any argument at all when it has been openly conceded to be a secondary consideration to commercial benefits™. So why not go the whole hog? Why not rig every single game which is capable of being influenced by people who share Mr. Johnston’s priorities?
It’s easy! In fact, it’s much easier than running an honest game in which financial considerations don’t rule out the possibility of a smaller team vanquishing one with more money riding on a victory. An economic catastrophe such as an early European exit to Kaunus or Maribor or Malmo or AEK Athens is a huge blow to a club which has already seriously over-extended its credit with its bank. If that bank is not in control of the credit lines of the club’s opponents, then catastrophes such as the loss of Champions League money are very real dangers. It is less of a danger if the opponents are dependent upon the goodwill and understanding of the same bank and might be in danger of losing that goodwill if they perform in such a way that the prize money ends up going to one of the few clubs which has a different banker.
Sporting integrity might have excluded that possibility in the old days but now that commercial benefits™ hold sway, it would be naive to suggest that it could not happen. It would be just as naive to believe that it has not happened or that it does not happen regularly.
Most of those whose integrity cannot be compromised by commercial inducements will soon be squeezed out of the picture.
Is there an honest, ambitious manager who won’t follow the script? He can’t force players to play well if they are serving another master. There is also a limit to the number of bad refereeing performances which any manager can overcome. When he can’t get satisfactory results it won’t be long until he joins the countless others who are no longer involved in the game.
What of a player who infuriatingly insists on trying to give his all and is doggedly immune to any suggestions that he ought to “modify” his performance in certain circumstances? He has to get into the team first. Even if he is selected, he also needs his team-mates to give him the right ball or make themselves available for a pass or make the right runs to draw opponents out of position. Players are the easiest figures of all to marginalise. No player can win a game unaided or even force his way into the team if the manager dictates that he isn’t “worthy” of a place.
Ah! But they’d never get away with it, would they? The inherent corruption would soon be exposed by the press. What a scoop! Most pundits and commentators, having been involved in the game themselves, would instantly recognise the signs of . . . oh, dear.
Hold on, there could be a problem here.
Football referees have more discretion than the umpires in almost any other sport and their decisions can not be challenged by any appeal to technological assistance. If Andy Murray’s forehand is called long, he can ask to see the proof. A cricketer can question a run-out or an LBW decision and call for the evidence to be displayed. Rugby, American football, ice hockey, athletics, even horse-racing – horse-racing! – routinely use video technology to ensure that the correct decision is not only made but, even more importantly, it is seen to be made. Not so with football. If Dougie McDonald says it’s a penalty, it’s a penalty. If he says it’s not a penalty, it’s not a penalty. He can even employ the doublethink motif from Orwell’s 1984 and make both decisions for the same incident! History can be rewritten later as, “This is not a penalty. This has always not been a penalty.”
In any case, decisions on penalties and marginal offsides are not necessarily the most influential ones. A football referee, acting in the interests of the greatest commercial benefit™ as opposed to the principles of sporting integrity, has endless opportunities in the course of the match to swing the result one way rather than the other. His discretion constantly allows him to rule that a crude tackle from behind is a foul when one team does it but not a foul when it’s committed by the other team. One team’s defenders can hold on to their opponents without fear of conceding a penalty while the other one dare not give the ref a chance to point to the spot. One challenge merits a yellow or red card while another one isn’t even a foul, despite the fact that they appear to be identical incidents. This is ball-to-hand but that is hand-to ball. And so on.
By the time Robbie Keane has been kicked up in the air for the fifth or sixth time by his opponent, he won’t be capable of trapping a bag of cement even when he’s no longer being fouled. No defender was ever allowed to mete out the same treatment to a Rangers player such as Kris Boyd. In the course of a match between two teams which are relatively closely matched, this kind of refereeing is enough to frustrate one team while boosting the other. If commercial benefit™ is a consideration, then it’s precisely what we can expect to see. It’s precisely what we do see. Often.
All that then remains is for the media to defend the referee’s performance with the standard-issue platitudes with which we are all too familiar – “The refs have a difficult job; he got most of the big decisions right; he might be a bit disappointed with himself when he sees that one again; I’m sure he calls it as he sees it; he’s depending on his linesman on that one; it was a mistake but it was an honest mistake; nobody should question the referee’s integrity. . . blah, blah, blah.”
Job done, off to the bookies to cash in the bonus.
Fortunately, Michael Johnston has now cleared up the confusion which used to surround these apparent anomalies. The sacrifice of sporting integrity before the supreme consideration of commercial benefit™ explains it all. Nothing can be considered fair while people like Mr. Johnston and those who speak well of him are involved in running the game. Every match, every cup, every relegation and every championship title must be suspected of being no more than a meaningless, empty pretence which has been planned, scripted and presented by the game’s controllers for the commercial benefit™ of the self-selecting cheats who are in on the scam.
I’ve reckoned as much for years.
At least it’s now official.