Thirty-nine years ago time was running out for the thirty-seventh President of the United States of America. The perception was growing that Richard Nixon was in serious danger of being impeached and might even be removed from office before his presidency had run its course. Investigations into his part in the cover-up of the Watergate scandal were exposing the corruption that riddled his administration and as more and more damaging revelations continued to unfold, an unimaginable scenario was gradually turning into an inevitable reality.
It was becoming increasingly apparent that Auld Nick really was likely to get nailed, discredited and disgraced. The processes were gathering momentum, legal procedures were in motion, political resolve to remove him was strengthening and media which had previously supported him could no longer ignore the reality and scale of the crisis. Pro-Nixon apologists warned of dire consequences which the nation would inevitably suffer if it dared to bring the President to justice but they were misjudging the mood of a nation that had become increasingly sickened by what it was discovering about its government. The American people were not scared of facing up to the crisis, however unpleasant it was going to prove. They were determined to dig down all the way to the root of the problem in order to hold the guilty parties to account and also to send a clear, unequivocal message to future executives that a cynical betrayal of the standards expected of them would not be acceptable.
Nixon helpfully tried to reassure everyone and addressed the nation with a denial of any wrongdoing, introducing a legendary soundbite which spectacularly backfired. Overnight, “I am not a crook,” became a national joke which appeared on tee-shirts, coffee mugs, posters and bumper-stickers. By that time he was already sacrificing numerous key political allies, many of whom subsequently went to prison, and it was no longer preposterous to consider that Tricky Dicky himself might be sent down once he’d been brought down.
Finally, less than two years after winning re-election to the White House in one of the biggest landslides in American history, with impeachment now looming large on the horizon, Richard Milhous Nixon recognised that he no longer had sufficient political support in Congress to enable him to carry on effectively. He resigned and handed over the presidency to Vice-President Gerald Ford, who was sworn in within twenty-four hours. Although his resignation released him from the threat of impeachment, Nixon was now liable to face criminal charges from which he’d been immune while serving as the President.
Between 1974 and 1976, the government of the United States of America — the self-styled leader of the Free World and the greatest democracy in the history of the universe — was led by a head of state who was never elected to any office at the White House. He had become the Veep when the career of his predecessor, Spiro Agnew, crashed and burned in yet another scandal. Up to his ears in charges of fraud, bribery and tax evasion, Agnew cut a deal in which he resigned from the vice-presidency and pleaded No Contest to the charges in return for which he got to not go to jail. Nixon had a good feeling that Ford was the type of chap who might be able to bail him out if the worst came to the worst. Something of a Great Administrator who would never allow any matters of principle or integrity to stand in the way of his own personal advancement, Ford had served reliably and with complete discretion on the Warren Commission cover-up of the John F Kennedy hit. He had proven himself to be a man who could be depended upon to haul himself up the greasy pole by steadfastly not seeing the crime of the century even when it was presented to him in detail over the course of an entire year while he sat with one of its architects.
It should scarcely have been a surprise then when, within a month of becoming the unelected President of the U.S.A., Gerald Ford presented the man who gave him his job with a Get Out Of Jail Free card in the form of a “full, free and absolute pardon.” This instantly removed any possibility of Nixon being indicted for any criminal actions he had carried out when he’d occupied the White House.
The American public bitterly resented Ford’s flagrant insult to their decency and his shameless disregard for their sense of honour. They had endured years of humiliation and disgrace while exerting their best efforts to eradicate the sleazy culture of corruption in which their leaders were immersed. Now, at a stroke, every honourable judicial process, every honest endeavour to set the house in order had been contemptuously dismissed by a hopelessly compromised, spineless rogue, no better than the crooks who had preceded him. Ford’s Republican party was annihilated shortly afterwards in the mid-term elections and at the very first available opportunity, he himself was replaced by a peanut farmer.
But it mattered little to Ford. He had been appointed to the presidency to carry out one single task – to get his fellow crooks off the hook – and he accomplished that in jig time.
I can’t imagine why this widely known example of secretive, Establishment mutual back-scratching and gross abuse of power and position to thwart the pursuit of justice suddenly sprang into my mind. I had actually intended to write about what might happen should the SFA have to hear an appeal if Lord Nimmo Smith finds that Rangers were guilty of fielding improperly registered players for a period of many years during David Murray’s time in charge of the now extinct club. I’ve quite forgotten what I was going to say now.
Maybe next time.
There are occasional gremlins on the rangerstaxcase site which strike without warning and prevent posts from being uploaded. Earlier tonight, I posted some thoughts on RTC’s latest blog but my follow up, in reply to a query from another poster, refuses to upload. Rather than throw my computer out of the window, I’ve decided to post the exchange here.
Regarding the debate on what do about the championship titles which must be taken from Rangers, this is really not difficult.
Every game in which Rangers fielded ineligible players is recorded as a 3-0 victory for their opponents. The points are totalled up for the season. The team which has the most points is awarded the title.
I’ve paid tens of thousands of pounds over the years to see my team competing for the championship title and I’ll be damned if I’m going to settle for seeing an asterisk taking the place of a title which my team won fair and square.
The only reason that those titles weren’t awarded to the correct team at the end of each season is because the game was so riddled with corruption that nobody enforced rules that would have deprived Rangers of their unfair advantage.
Successive SFA and SPL officials came from Ibrox and allowed this cheating to go unchecked. Successive directors at Rangers FC, at best neglected their responsibilities to ensure that their business was on the straight and narrow. At worst, they actively perpetuated the cheating. The bank which happily turned a blind eye to Murray’s financial recklessness and – as is now becoming clearer and clearer – sheer criminality happily wiped other clubs off the face of the earth and threatened others, including mine, with winding up procedures.
And all this time, I was forking out over a thousand pounds per season to see my team competing in tournaments which were supposed to be fair. It was bad enough to be seething with frustration at what I knew at the time were biased refereeing performances; now that it is apparent that the beneficiaries of this bias were not even eligible to compete, never mind take the honours, the frustration has hardened into a righteous and completely justified anger.
This institutionalised fraud will not be rectified with an asterisk.
The very first principle of atonement is to make restitution as far as that is possible. The very minimum requirement is to return what has been stolen to its rightful owners. In the case of at least five titles, that means presenting those titles to the team which won the most points in accordance with the Laws of the Game of Association Football and in line with the rules and regulations of the SFA and SPL. Absolutely nothing less than that will do. And that should only be a starting point.
Taking away from Rangers anything which was never rightfully theirs in the first place is not a punishment. It’s merely the first step in undoing some of the damage. The next step is to restore to the rightful owners that which was stolen from them. The third step is to punish the guilty parties for their crimes. We’re not even close to that third stage yet so any hint of backsliding on the first two steps must not be tolerated.
There is no room for compromises here.
There is a constant creep in the mainstream media towards an assumption that Rangers have suffered enough and that those who want to see them pay in full for their colossal wrongdoing are being vindictive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The issue is purely about fairness. It is fundamentally unfair that hardened, habitual cheats should receive any leniency when those who did nothing wrong whatsoever were seriously disadvantaged, suffered considerable loss of prestige, were wrongly deprived of sporting honours and were financially damaged. In some cases, the financial damage was a mortal blow.
An asterisk won’t cut it.
Gully says: 19/07/2012 at 12:15 am
Henry, does your unwillingness to compromise mean that the Champions League competitions in the affected years will also have to be replayed?
An asterisk is the best compromise, for compromise is necessary.
Henry Clarson says:
This is utter foolishness.
Absolutely no compromise is either necessary or desirable in this case.
Anyone who cannot understand the fundamentals of fair play in sport is never going to be able to understand why the prizes should be awarded to the highest placed competitor who hasn’t cheated instead of to the cheat who wasn’t found out for a while.
For the purposes of this blog, we proceed on the assumption that Rangers did cheat. We have seen more than enough evidence to back up that assumption.
One single competitor stands accused of cheating and is almost certainly guilty.
That competitor must pay the penalty. Yes, even when it’s Rangers.
There is no case for allowing those guilty of breaking the rules to negotiate further breaches of the rules in order to spare themselves the punishment which they deserve. We are not yet so far through the looking glass that we are going to permit cheats to guide us about what is fair and what is unfair.
If you want to grab hold of an uninsulated electrical cable which is plugged into a live mains supply, by all means go ahead and try to negotiate a compromise about just how electrocuted you get. When Rangers decided to ignore the rules, they took the risk that they would get burned. Now they’re getting totally fried and it serves them right. They knew the danger, they took the risk, they lost out, they’re toast. All the blame is theirs and theirs alone.
The penalty for breaking the registration rules is perfectly clear. We have seen the precedents and we know that the punishment for fielding improperly registered players is a 3-0 defeat. Ask Spartans FC, who paid a severe penalty for a careless administrative error on a team-line. They did not complain, they did not whine. They took full responsibility for their own transgression, accepted the defeat and paid the whopping fine. Because those are the rules.
Even FC Sion had to accept the rules eventually.
Replaying competitions is clearly not an option, least of all for players who were already veterans ten years ago. That is an unfortunate physical fact which can not be changed although it weakens still further any case for leniency towards Rangers FC.
In cup competitions, any honours which went to Rangers – including runners-up medals – must be struck off. Since it is now impossible to determine what the ultimate outcome of the cup tournaments would have been if clubs, unfairly eliminated by Rangers, had instead advanced to the next round of the competition, it’s reasonable to consider various solutions on their merits. All of them must start from the point that Rangers have no right to retain honours which they were not eligible to compete for.
The ultimate solution is a matter of practicality, not a compromise of principles.
What can be done and must be done is that the record is at least set straight wherever possible. The records must show in perpetuity that all matches in which Rangers FC fielded ineligible players were 3-0 victories for their opponents. In league competitions, where the outcomes can be accurately recalculated, the medals and titles must be awarded to the correct winners.
This is as simple in the case of Rangers as it was in the case of Spartans or Sion.
The rules must be applied to the transgressions of Rangers just as strictly as they were to any other club.
Rangers have no right to be treated differently.
If anything, they should be hammered even harder because they have relentlessly puffed themselves up as the country’s greatest club, with a monopoly on dignity, the standard to which everyone else should aspire (“we welcome the chase”) and a giant of the global game. If any club should have taken extra care to ensure that it was playing the game by the rules, it was this one with its ludicrous sense of self-importance and its arrogant evaluation of its own stature.
But I’ll quite happily settle for seeing them treated like ordinary cheats rather than elite cheats.
This does not please blinkered supporters of the cheating club or their sympathisers; it does not please those who are too dull of wit to follow simple logic; it does not please people whose concept of sport doesn’t hold honesty, fairness or justice in high regard; it does not please those who are too cowardly to stand up to the myth of the mighty Rangers; it does not please those who are so corrupt that they are still trying to promote any argument for a perverse compromise.
But, by God, it will please anyone (including disillusioned former supporters of Rangers) who thinks sport should be built upon a foundation of fairness. It will satisfy those who believe that the sport is well rid of cheats who would bring football to its knees rather than miss out on prizes which they haven’t earned. And it will delight those who see unrepentant supporters of a rotten, disgraced club hoping and praying that half a dozen SPL clubs will go to the wall as a direct result of Rangers finally being held to account for corrupting Scottish football.
Asterisks be damned.