Some things really are too big to be allowed to fail.
But Rangers Football Club isn’t one of them.
The principle that it is wrong to spend other people’s money, without their permission, in order to advance your own self-centred agenda is a big idea which is absolutely central to the core values of a civilised society. There’s a closely related idea that it’s not okay to exploit the good faith of service providers, businesses, emergency services and individual workers, then leave them whistling in the wind for the payment which they’ve earned.
Those are ideas which are too big to be allowed to fail.
There’s an enduring concept that trustworthiness is a virtue while cynical exploitation of people’s trust is reprehensible. Similarly, quality of life is generally enhanced when decent people can reap the just rewards of their honest labours without being robbed by scam merchants, fraudsters and sharks. And that principle, by extension, demands that those who insist on conducting their affairs in an exploitative, predatory fashion must face a level of punishment which is in proportion to the damage they do to their victims. The penalty for undermining essential foundations of social stability should reflect that selfish parasites and shameless free-loaders are unacceptable infestations which are unacceptable to decent society.
These principles are too big to be allowed to fail.
Vital ideas and fundamental principles such as these are constantly assailed and relentlessly undermined by the very last people for whom we should go out of our way to offer assistance or protection. Allowing these people to prosper from their malevolent, anti-social machinations not only encourages them to continue in the same selfish, destructive vein; it also sends out an intolerable and dangerous message to others that the most profitable way to operate is by abusing trust, practising deceit and exploiting vulnerability at every possible opportunity.
Why work for a living when you can steal someone else’s dues?
Why play fair when you can win more by cheating?
Why bother about doing the right thing when moral standards are merely obstacles in the way of your ambitions?
These are the traits of the psychopath. Psychopathic thinking infects every society where it is allowed to spread. Where it is not challenged, it takes an ever firmer hold until it ends up overwhelming the decent humanity of the overwhelming majority of the population. Academic study after academic study has shown that the prevalence of clinical psychopaths is in the region of 4% of our society. Most people are unaware that it is more common in the boardrooms than in the maximum security prisons; very, very few psychopaths are serial killers or axe-murderers but a hell of a lot of them are at the core of vast financial scams, vulture capitalism, national and international banking scandals, insider trading, fraudulent investment schemes, general corporate misgovernance and money-laundering.
Criminality on that scale adversely affects the 96% of us who, for the most part, just want to get on with our lives in peace with each other. It corrodes the most basic principles of our communities and sucks the vitality out of a society’s confidence in its own sense of justice, honour, purpose, fairness and integrity. In short, it attacks all of the most important values which give human beings their deepest, richest sense of well-being.
These are the values which really are too big to fail.
If we them, we lose everything that makes us decent. What price is worth paying to defend these values? Downsizing a few football operations, whose worth has been artificially inflated, to a scale that is a truer reflection of their genuine worth is well worth the longer term benefits. If the prestige of Scottish football depends upon its economy being regularly injected with huge streams of laundered cash; or relies upon unsustainable levels of borrowing from unreliable banks; or cannot function without tax-scams designed to protect some of the highest wage-earners in the country from the demands that apply to the rest of us; if this is what the prestige of Scottish professional football depends upon then that prestige is an illusion for the gratification of fools.
It’s only a bloody game of football. It is certainly not so important that we need to turn a blind eye to the fact that professional football in its current structure could have been specifically designed by money-launderers as a perfect conduit for cleaning up the proceeds of international drug running, illegal arms dealing, child prostitution and a plethora of other nefarious activities. The most cold-hearted gangsters on the planet clean up their money in collusion with their criminally-inclined (but ever-so-respectable) collaborators in the boardrooms of all of the major banks and financial institutions.
In other news, Liverpool FC paid £35 million pounds for Andy Carroll. That’s pretty close to the figure which Dick Advocaat spent in a single season when he was the manager of Rangers FC (now defunct) at around the same time that Dave King “invested” around £20,000,000 of “his own money” in the club.
Former CEO of JJB Sports, Chris Ronnie, has been charged with several counts of fraud and money-laundering. In 2006, JJB Sports entered into a ten-year sponsorship deal reportedly worth up to £48 million with the now defunct Rangers FC. By an amazing coincidence, the 322 charges which long-serving Rangers director Dave King faces in South African courts also include fraud and money-laundering.
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a bank formerly known as the Bank of Scotland/HBOS/Lloyds handled the accounts of every SPL club except Celtic. (Latterly, when Vlad took over Hearts, the Jambo’s account was transferred to Romanov’s own bank.) Every one of those clubs would have struggled desperately to survive if its credit facility had been called in by the bank. That remains true today. That left (and still leaves) all of those clubs very vulnerable to pressure from the bank in their handling of day to day business. Say, for example, that BOS’s successor, Lloyds TSB dearly hoped that enough directors would vote for a certain club to be parachuted straight into the SPL. They would be able to exert enormous pressure on any club which was not enthusiastic about following LTSB’s plan. Not that I would suggest for a moment that distinguished banking figures would even consider such a shameless piece of blackmail. Ian Fraser wrote a fine article which shows exactly how honourable and honest high-level bankers really are.
(Just thought I’d mention those few random facts there for no particular reason.)
There is a certain type of mindset which has been unstoppable in its insistence that a now-liquidated football club is too big to be allowed to fail and that the national sport will collapse without it. I’ve dismissed the stupidity of that position in previous blogs and I feel no need to go over the same ground again.
Instead, I’ll finish off by talking briefly about something completely different.
A mindset which carefully plans a corporate heist to shaft creditors to the tune of up to £150,000,000 before re-emerging on the other side of a long planned liquidation, ready to carry on as if nothing had happened; that is indistinguishable from the mindset of the psychopath.
A so-called businessman who acquires all of the assets of a failed business by effectively paying millions of pounds to the administrators in whose gift the assets lie – and leaving approximately zilch to the hundreds of legitimate creditors of that business – is operating in exactly the way that a corporate psychopath would be expected to.
Administrators who state, upon being appointed, that their responsibilities are to transform an ailing business into a going concern and also get the best possible outcome for its creditors; who charge millions of pounds for their work; who oversee the liquidation of the business; who salvage absolutely nothing at all for the creditors; and who strike an exclusive deal with a man who is willing to pay a sum of money which is almost exactly the same as their extortionate fees – in effect, a bribe – to acquire undervalued assets; such people are classic examples of the psychopathic consciousness at work in corporate life.
This is an evil which is too big to be allowed to succeed.
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.
Sir Isaac Newton told us why
An apple falls down from the sky
And from this fact it’s very plain
That other objects do the same…
If it was up to the courts to rule on the Laws of Gravity, we’d probably spend years hearing legal arguments that an apple falls from the ground up to the tree.
Up until recently I thought that I was more or less keeping in touch with the general shape of the developments as Rangers FC heads into perdition as a well-deserved consequence of the scandalous running of the club for at least the last twenty years. The charge sheet includes three separate instances of tax fraud which could total nearly one hundred million pounds in unpaid monies to the Treasury. It also includes routinely running up a preposterous level of debt with no serious prospects of repaying it other than by adding it to the already over-extended overdraft of Murray International Holdings, a liability which eventually exceeded one billion pounds and played its part in the collapse of the Bank of Scotland and its subsequent bail-out, funded by the UK tax-payers. We’re looking at one of the biggest corporate scandals in Scottish business history. One would be forgiven for expecting jail sentences to have been handed down to the guilty parties long before now.
And yet I’m beginning to feel that this whole case is becoming too Pythonesque to make any sense. The latest bizarre twist is the surreal sight of the Administrators of Rangers FC applying to the Court of Session to be appointed … the Administrators of Rangers!
It’s particularly frustrating to me that there seems to be very little overlap between easily understood, natural justice and the immensely complicated procedures of the Law.
Tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds have been ripped off by various parties involved with Rangers FC and MIH and it looks increasingly likely that those responsible for these scams are still in with a shout of getting something out of it, even if Rangers itself goes down the pan.
Every time that it looks as if anyone is going to get their comeuppance, another bizarre legal wheeze appears out of thin air, in defiance of all common sense, which muddies the waters and makes it appear that there is always a possible escape route for the shameless and the dishonourable. Amidst the carnage of the revelations about how Rangers FC has been conducting its business, one of the club’s former directors is still proposing that he will play a leading role in taking the wreckage for which he is partly responsible and turning it into a successful business after it has been liquidated. There has not been one word from Mr Paul Murray about his moral duty to repay the colossal debts which the club ran up under his stewardship; not a single syllable to suggest that he feels the slightest shame about his part in the reckless business practice of the directors’ board of which he was a member. No repentance, no remorse, no sign of a guilty conscience.
I have got more money than the likes of David Murray, who was knighted for services to business. Unlike Sir David, I am not in debt to the tune of six hundred million pounds. Yet he is the one who is still living like a king. An entire bank went to the wall to enable that man to enjoy the luxurious lifestyle to which he has accustomed himself. And he’s not even in the picture yet, as far as the Law is concerned!
The Law is taking an eternity to get its act together. Somehow, when tasked with a case in which somebody pursues his own objectives by spending hundreds of millions of pounds of other people’s money, m’learned friends spend months and years dragging out a tortuously slow series of procedures. They forensically examine every conceivable interpretation of every obscure contention. It is as if their primary objective is to find the route by which the most blatant wrongdoing can turn out to be perfectly legal. And to charge by the hour as they proceed at a glacial pace.
Now, for the first time, I’m genuinely beginning to fear that a fix is in whereby there will once again be no punishment for the villains of the piece while the decent, honest little guys will be the only victims (cf bonuses for bankers).
Something stinks very badly here. The media, on an industrial scale, have relentlessly covered up as much of the criminality as they possibly could, even after much of it was already public knowledge. They have weakly claimed in their defence that libel laws prevented them from publishing known facts about the affairs of Rangers and its various directors, even when these facts were already matters of public record.
To take but one example: it would clearly be in the public interest for journalists to regularly scrutinise the ongoing, chaotic tax affairs of Mr. Dave King, Rangers’ second largest shareholder and until very recently a member of the board of directors. The South African Revenue Service is pursuing literally hundreds of charges of tax irregularities against Mr. King and yet I can think of no example of a single journalist asking the obvious question: why has such a man been a senior director of what we are often told is Scotland’s second biggest institution?
This is not an unreasonable question for a decent investigative journalist to ask, nor would it require much research to pad out. Merely to copy half of what has already been published in South African newspapers would raise the question. What is it that prevents the editors of our national newspapers from pursuing this story? Could it be that their experience in their profession tells them that, no matter how grievous the fraud, the Law will usually find a way to give psychopathic predators a free pass so long as they wear suits and ties? And therefore, in their judgement, it is always safer to back rogues who have a place in the Establishment rather than trust in the Law’s ability to ensure that justice is done in major scandals?