Where now for the Judicial Panel Protocol? (3)

Another excellent piece by Glasnost.

Glasnost (and a Pair of strikers)

As Ally McCoist today defends himself against a charge of  ‘bringing the game into disrepute’, for challenging the independence of the Disciplinary Tribunal and the ‘anonymity’ of its members, we ask: to what extent is he right?

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The Rangers saga as it happened…

The last 12 months has seen a lot of water pass under the bridge.  For a newcomer it is very hard to see past what the MSM are currently printing – I hope this article will go someway to rectifying that, and allow those who didn’t follow this story from the start to get a basic understanding of the views that have been formed on Rangerstaxcase.com and on TSFM.  Further, I hope it refreshes the memories of those of us who have followed the saga since the early days and focuses our attention on asking key questions that remain unasked or unanswered.

I have provided links where possible throughout the time line.  I have also highlighted in red where the story seems to end, a question remains unasked, or no answer has been forthcoming.  I may also have missed some critical points – feel free to mention these and we can add as we go.

The Rangers Saga as it happened…

June 2001: Christian Nerlinger joins Rangers.  Little be known to the rest of Scottish football he will be the first player paid by an EBT (an Employee Benefit Trust) which will later be declared illegal (as administered by Rangers) by HMRC.

Summer 2004: Jean Alain Boumsong rejects English Premier League sides to sign for Rangers on a free transfer.  Six months later he is sold (January of 2005) to Newcastle in an 8million deal .  This deal is later investigated by the City of London police who raided Newcastle and Rangers in June 2007.

A later report from Lord Steven remarked:

“There remains inconsistencies in evidence provided by Graeme Souness – a former manager of the club – and Freddy Shepherd – apparently acting in an undefined role but not as a club official – as to their respective roles in transfer negotiations.”

April 2010: HMRC hit Rangers with a tax bill of 24m before penalties for non payment of taxes  on monies remitted to players and staff via the EBT scheme.

27th March 2011: A new blog appears on wordpress named ‘Rangerstaxcase.com’.  Little did we know the impact it will have on Scottish Football.

6th of May 2011: Craig Whyte buys Rangers FC PLC for 1gbp from David Murray, with his holding company Wavetower taking over 85% of the Football club.

Mid-May 2011:  Craig Whyte renames Wavetower to the ‘Rangers Football Group Ltd’, the holding company for Rangers FC PLC.  He immediately claims he has cleared the Rangers debt to Lloyds Bank and is ready to invest in the team.  He quickly removes Alastair Johnston and Paul Murray from the Board and suspends  Martin Bain and Donald McIntyre.

5th June 2011: RTC uncovers a MG05 document filed at Companies House showing that Rangers have assigned 4 years of season ticket sales to another company.  This is later denied by Craig Whyte, but later on turns out to be the mechanism by which Whyte funded the takeover.

19th June 2011: Craig Whyte is asked about the RTC blog, remarking:

“I’m aware of a website that has dedicated itself to talking about our tax case, I’ve looked at it. What they’re saying is 99 per cent crap”

August 2011: Rangers are knocked out of Europe by Maribor.  A seemingly irrelevant event, but one that leaves a £15m hole in Craig Whytes budget.  One that he meets by not paying the tax man.  RTC questions in October where this money was coming from…

10th September 2011: Court papers from Martin Bain, related to his employment case against Rangers explode across the internet (papers in full here).  Within them there is a plea from Bain’s lawyers to freeze the claimed compensation as they feel there is a question mark over the clubs solvency.  Further it exposes the assignment of ticket sales to a 3rd party and shows that the debt owed to Lloyds Bank has not been discharged completely.  RTC analysis’ of these ‘Bain papers’ is concluded with the following:

While Rangers’ supporters might not be in any mood to thank anyone for helping shed light on this situation, it is good for their club (if not its current and previous owners) that this information is in the public domain. It is especially good for our national game as a whole that we discuss the problems of the last decade openly. Rangers supporters need to ask themselves why they have meekly stood by while the future of their club has been imperiled and whether their “friends” in the media have done them an injustice by becoming complicit in the cover-up of this story.

Unfortunately, despite the information being exposed to all, the Rangers fans failed to listen…

October 2011:  In the first mainstream feature on the case, the BBC air a documentary proving that Craig Whyte had been banned from holding a director position in UK companies for 7 years for ‘putting assets out of the reach of creditors’.  BBC are banned from Ibrox and Whyte claims he will sue the BBC for presenting false evidence – but later admits that he was disqualified.  Rather amusingly he admits this the same day he reveals Rangers have reduced their debt to 14m…. (they hadn’t)

The SFA stay silent on the matter and the writ received by the BBC in February 2012 has since vanished.

30th November 2011:  Rangers PLC release un-audited accounts for the year 2010/2011 revealing profits of 2 million pounds and NET Assets of 76m.  The accounts are NOT signed by an auditor leading to rumors all is not well in Ibrox.

January 2012: RTC explains in detail Succulent Lamb Journalism…  the phrase becomes a defining point of the story, along with ‘internet bampots’, coined by Hugh Keevins.

18th January 2012:  The ‘Big tax case’ concludes.  We still await the findings…

13th February: Rangers file papers at the Court of Session giving notice of their intention to enter administration within 7 days…

14th February:  HMRC petition the CoS to allow them to appoint administrators.  After a short hearing, HMRC withdraw the motion and Rangers PLC promptly appoints the now infamous Duff & Phelps as administrators.  On Valentines eve, Craig Whyte stands on the steps of Ibrox and announces to the angry mob the unthinkable… Rangers FC PLC is now in administration.

That evening it is confirmed that HMRC had pushed for administration over £9 million in unpaid VAT, PAYE and NI since the Whyte takeover.  This later rises to 18m.

99% what Craig?

15th February 2012: The SPL immediately deduct Rangers (IA) 10 points for entering administration, as per league rules.  Possibly the last time they follow their own rules throughout this saga.

Bizarrely, Rangers (IA) push ahead with the proposed signing of Daniel Cousin on wages of 7500GBP/week.  The SFA make no comment, despite this being against the rules for a club in administration.

David Murray, in typical fashion, professes surprise at events which RTC warned about 12 months earlier while Murray was still in charge.  Murray also says:

“Firstly, there has been no decision, and there is no present indication as to the timing of a decision, from the first-tier tax tribunal concerning the potential claim from HMRC of £36.5m excluding interest and penalties.

“Secondly, legal opinion on the strength of the club’s case remains favorable.”

21st February: Daily Mail confirm what RTC told us last year, by confirming that Ticketus bought 100,000 season tickets at Ibrox over the next 4 years.  It was this money that Whyte used to buy the club.  Rangers fans are up in arms.  Even though they ignored the warnings a year earlier.

The SFA announce that Lord Nimmo Smith will chair an inquiry into the circumstances leading to administration.

25th February 2012: The Sun on Sunday launches by printing what they claim is a ‘side letter’ given to Rangers players. A financial expert tells them:

“Number one, you are going to get £122,000 and number two you get £1,200 for a first-team game.

“It equates to salary as far as I am concerned. I would say this sort of letter will be a central thread in the big tax case.

RTC will later confirm they are correct.

27th February 2012:  The SFA confirm they will start an investigation into these ‘side letters’

3rd March 2012: D&P admit Rangers have no chance of making Europe next season, as they admit audited accounts by the 31st of March would be almost impossible.

However, in a baffling move, one month later D&P reveal they are ‘appealing’ the decision to ban Rangers from Europe.  UEFA respond by saying

“Licence applicants must demonstrate that as at March 31, 2012, they have no payables overdue towards their employees or social/tax authorities as a result of contractual/legal obligations to their employees that arose prior to December 31, 2011.”

8th March 2012:  Lord Nimmo Smith forwards his report to the SFA Judicial Panel.  The report contains prima facie evidence that Craig Whyte was not a ‘fit and proper person’.  A hearing is set for the 29th of March.  This is later postponed at the request of Whyte.  The full Nimmo Smith report has still not been released by the SFA.

9th March 2012: With no redundancies in sight, Rangers players agree to pay cuts, ranging from 75 – 25%.  It is later revealed that these are not ‘pay cuts’, but pay deferments which must be repaid in the summer, otherwise Rangers will be in breach of contract.  No info is forthcoming in the summer on whether this was paid or not.

5th April 2012: D&P reveal in their first creditors report that Rangers debts could top 134m, with HMRC claiming 93m of the total.

The report also details debts to football creditors of around 2.3m.  It also details debts of hundreds of creditors, such as that for Susie Thomson – a face-painter from Glasgow owed 40quid.  These were the real human losers in this story.

Interestingly, assets are valued at 116m, as per the 2011 accounts.

23rd April 2012: The SFA’s independent panel finds Rangers (IA) guilty of 5 different breaches of SFA rules relating to disrupte charges and are handed a 160,000GBP fine, the maximum available and a 12 month transfer embargo.  The judicial panel state that the offenses committed by Rangers were only one step “lower than match fixing”, and reveal that they considered the punishment of suspension of license or expulsion from the SFA.  They determine a fine would not be enough given the seriousness of the charges and thus impose a transfer embargo.

In the judgement, the panel make reference to evidence given by the Rangers Financial Controller who said invoices to Ticketus were such that they ” appeared as though Clip Art computer processes had been involved in their creation.” The FC tells the  panel he had never seen them.

24th April 2012:  The uproar from Ibrox is loud, with the Bears taking their anger out on the SFA.  McCoist makes a rallying call, demanding to know “who these people are”  He makes an ‘apology’ the next day for putting their lives in danger, but stops short of apologising for forcing names to be released, despite his club previously voting in a motion to keep names confidential.

As a result, a poor director at Raith Rovers takes his family into protective police custody, and Raith are forced to hire round the clock security after arson threats to their ground.  Finally, in August 2012, McCoist is charged by the SFA for his remarks.  He has decided to challenge the charge and the case is ongoing.

Rangers blame the SFA for not stopping Whyte earlier, despite warnings before he took over from RTC.

“Why did the SFA not investigate when they said they had suspicions before Christmas rather than wait until the club went into administration?

9th May 2012:  American tycoon Bill Miller walks away from a proposed offer for Rangers (IA) after being subjected to threats from the Ibrox crowd and discovering a “30 million black hole” in the Rangers accounts.

11th May 2012: Rangers reveal they will appeal the transfer embargo and fine imposed.  The SFA inexplicably name the 3 man panel that will oversee the decision, going against SFA rules agreed by ALL clubs, including Rangers (IA).

13th May 2012:  Reports suggest Charles Green, backed by a global consortium (still unknown!) has bought shares from Craig Whyte for 2quid.  He is given an exclusivity period to propose a CVA worth 8.5m.

17th May 2012: SFA uphold the transfer embargo against Rangers (IA) .  The SFA state that it was “proportionate to the breach, dissuasive to others and effective in the context of serious misconduct, bringing the game into disrepute.”

The Rangers Fighting Fund along with D&P announces they are paying a lawyer to challenge the SFA in the Court of Session.  SFA say nothing.

22nd May 2012:  It is now May, 3 months since the SFA/SPL announced an investigation into side letters and unauthorized payments to players from Rangers FC.  RTC once again provides evidence of a ‘prima facie’ case by revealing details of Christian Nerlinger’s EBT letters.

23rd May 2012: BBC air a damning documentary revealing details of EBT payments and side letters to Rangers players since 2001.  They also uncover emails showing that D&P’s David Grier seemed to have prior knowledge of the Ticketus deal.  D&P and Craig Whyte threaten legal action, but none is forthcoming.  The BBC also hint at payments made to managers not employed by Rangers at the time, including Graeme Souness.

29th of May 2012:  D&P reveal their ‘CVA’ proposal.  One that was doomed to fail, offering creditors little or nothing.  It also revealed if it was rejected then the ‘assets’ would automatically be sold to Charles Green and Sevco 5088 for just 5.5m (the ‘new’ value of the assets.  No evidence has yet been presented on how these ‘assets’ were valued.)

On the same day (seeing the pattern of bad news being overshadowed by good news yet?) Rangers ‘win’ at the Court of Session, with the court ruling that the SFA had no powers to give a transfer ban.  They decide to refer the decision back to the SFA judicial panel to decide on a new punishment.

Lawyer Gregory Ioannidis remarks:

“If the Scottish Football Association decides to not take action against Rangers, in relation to Rangers submitting the application to the Court of Session, then Fifa can actually penalise the SFA, and the individual club, and the national team of Scotland, and impose an international ban on all of them.”

No action is ever taken by the SFA or FIFA.

12th June 2012:  HMRC release a statement saying that they will reject the CVA.  Given that they have over 25% of the debt, it makes the creditors meeting scheduled for the 14th irrelevant.

“A CVA would restrict the scope of such action. Moreover, the liquidation route does not prejudice the proposed sale of the club. This sale can take place either through a CVA or a liquidation, so the sale is not being undermined, it simply takes a different route.

“Liquidation will enable a sale of the football assets to be made to a new company, thereby ensuring that football will continue at Ibrox. It also means that the new company will be free from claims or litigation in a way which would not be achievable with a CVA.

“Rangers can make a fresh start.”

14th June 2012: The CVA is formally rejected.  D&P immediately sell the assets to Sevco 5088 Ltd and Rangers FC PLC (IA) cease to operate as a football club.   The assets are later assigned to Sevco Scotland Ltd.  SPL rules state that a club that ceases to function as a football club should immediately relinquish its share and membership.  This does not happen.

15th June 2012:  Ian Hart denies being part of the Green consortium buying the Rangers assets.  Green had earlier named him when pushed to name his backers

So starts the misinformation campaign from Sevco.

17th June 2012: Rangers FC are excluded from the fixture list for the forthcoming SPL season, replaced instead by ‘Club 12’.  It is widely reported, that if Sevco Scotland are refused a place in the SPL, then Club 12 will be Dundee.  The SPL give no reasons why.

17th – 27th June 2012: Walter Smith, Allan Stewart and Stephen McKenna, and then John Brown all turn up in the papers making ‘bids’ for the assets which Green has already bought.

22nd June 2012 – Lord Hodge seeks report from D & P re: a potential “conflict of interest”, after information given to him by the BBC.

25th June 2012: The BBC reveal that Sevco Scotland will not be granted admission to the SPL, after 6 clubs publicly declare their opposition, after season ticket sales fail to materialize as fans make their views known.

27th June 2012:  John Brown stands on the steps of Ibrox and pleads with Rangers fans not to buy season tickets until Green reveals who are his backers and who owns Ibrox.  This question remains unanswered.  Brown is now silent.

4th July 2012:  Despite weeks of pressure from the SFA, SPL and MSM, the SPL clubs reject the application from Sevco Scotland to join the SPL.

Stewart Regan warns of Armageddon for Scottish Football if Sevco are not admitted to SFL1 instead.  We are still waiting.

5th July 2012Stenhousemuir reveal details of a talk given to them by Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan, where SFL clubs are threatened with bankruptcy if they don’t vote Sevco Scotland into Division 1.  Figures presented are ridiculed by the internet bampots.

Clyde and Raith Rovers emerge as the cheerleaders for sporting integrity in the lower leagues, with both clubs openly speaking out against what they describe as “irresponsible”.  Raith Chairman Turnbull Hutton suggests the SFL clubs send their mascots to vote on the proposal for Sevco to enter SFL1.

9th July 2012: the SFA refuse international clearance for players who decided to leave Rangers (IA) when the assets were sold, as were their rights under the TUPE laws.  This decision has yet to be explained, and is contrary to legal advice.

Meanwhile, Sevco director Imran Ahmad, when asked what he felt was the exit price to sell Rangers/Sevco was, replied:

“On a bad day the club is worth £50m.”

Of course, they had just bought the club for just 5.5m, and still had no league place for the forthcoming season.

13th July 2012:  Expiry of deadline for submission of report on D&P conflict of interest.  News suggests that Lord Hodge is on holiday.  No news has been heard since and the administration continues…

13th July 2012: Sevco Scotland are allowed to start life in the 3rd division, subject to gaining an SFA licence, after SFL clubs vote to reject the proposal to allow Sevco Scotland into the 1st division.   There is no sign of Armageddon.

15th July 2012FIFA write to the SFA asking for reasons why former Rangers IA players are having their registration transfer blocked.  The players claim their free agents and have rejected the TUPE arrangements with Green’s new club.  As of August Allan McGregor’s move to Turkey is still onhold as they wait on international clearance.  We await an answer, as we suspect FIFA do to.

24th July 2012: Ian Black signs a 3 year deal with Sevco Scotland.  It is unclear how he is registered or who he is contracted to.

9pm, 27th July 2012:  Just 48 hours before the first scheduled match for Sevco Scotland the SFA grant an unheard of ‘conditional’ membership to Sevco Scotland.  It is reported that Sevco Scotland have agreed to a 12 month transfer embargo, starting on the 1st of September 2012.  They also agree to pay all football debts of Rangers (IA).

Sevco, playing in strips of Rangers (IA) defeat Brechin City in extra time to record their first ever victory.  Ian Black plays as a trialist, despite signing a contract with Sevco Scotland earlier in the week.  It is further unclear whether players are registered to Rangers IA or Sevco Scotland, and if the former, how?

31st July 2012: At an EGM of Rangers FC PLC (IA) the directors change the company name to Rangers 2012 (IA).  At the same time Sevco Scotland pass a resolution to change their name to ‘The Rangers FC Ltd’.  Companies house data shows that Charles Green owns more than 10% of The Rangers FC Ltd, despite his claims that no one person would own more than this.  No one from the MSM thinks to ask this question.

3rd August 2012:  The Rangers FC Ltd are granted full SFA membership, after having the membership of Rangers 2012 (IA) transferred to them.  Under what rules this was possible is not clear.

ESPN follow SKY in agreeing a new deal with the SPL for TV rights.  No sign of Armageddon yet.

15th August 2012: Dundee Utd in a short statement reveal that they have not been paid by Sevco/TRFC for the unpaid debt relating to last season’s Scottish Cup with Rangers (IA).  Despite an agreement with the SFA to pay these debts, Charles Green blames the SPL for going back on a agreement made in May to pay this out of money owed to Rangers (IA).  Dundee Utd, and other European clubs remain unpaid, as does the poor face painter from Glasgow.

It is unclear how the ‘conditional’ membership works if the ‘conditions’ have not been met.  

STV further report that SPL clubs still do not know how much TV cash they are going to get from the new SPL SKY deal.  The SPL make no comment.

17th August 2012: Lord Nimmo Smith is appointed to chair an independent commission into Rangers (IA) making undeclared payments to players from 2001 onwards.  They are unlikely to sit before October.

22nd August 2012: ‘The Rangers’ announce they have signed a joint venture with Sports Direct for the merchandising rights.  Companies House shows that the new company, ‘Rangers Retail’, is owned 100% by SportsDirect.com

23rd August 2012: There is still no word on who are the investors in Sevco Scotland.  The SFA have not released any details to explain how Green passed the fit and proper person test.  No details of proof that Sevco Scotland have the finances to last the season.  The question of where are Ticketus is silent. Lord Hodge has still not returned his findings on a conflict of interest in the appointment of D&P.  The FTT result is still awaited, just like BDO await the liquidation of Rangers 2012 PLC.  Meanwhile, Stewart Regan resurfaces to announce details of league reorganization in time for next season, reducing Scotland to 3 leagues from 4.

Oh… and there is still no signs of Armageddon.

28th August 2012: Campbell Ogilvie finally breaks cover to talk about how league reconstruction was on the agenda long before Rangers ran into problems.  He managed however to proclaim;

To be fair, nobody really saw the situation coming

Yes Campbell… just like you didn’t see the side letters.

—-

StevensanPH is an exiled St.Johnstone fan living in the Philippines – he runs the SaintinAsia blog writing about all aspects of Scottish Football.  Thankfully the MSM don’t sell papers in the Philippines…”

Did the MSM learn anything from the Rangers saga?

Earlier this year, Rangerstaxcase.com explained the meaning of ‘Succulent Lamb’.  It was a phrase – referring to the art of journalists who accept what they are told (right or wrong) in return for privileged information – that became a well known euphemism for ‘bad journalism’.

Unfortunately, the death of Rangers FC has not changed the ‘bad journalism’ prevalent in the Scottish red top media.

The ‘code of practice’ for journalists states:

…public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.

The highlight in bold above is my emphasis.  Let us now apply this to a story which was published earlier this week, about the poor Falkirk Tannoy Announcer who was ‘suspended’ by Falkirk.  His crime?  Reading out the half time score as ‘The Sevco Franchise v East Stirling’

Let’s look at one example of the Succulent Lamb journalists in action:

The Herald:

FALKIRK have suspended their stadium announcer for referring to the newco Rangers as “The Sevco Franchise”.  Fans of club reacted angrily to the comment, made during Saturday’s game against Raith Rovers.  Dave McIntosh used the term to poke fun at Rangers’ financial troubles after they were liquidated. Falkirk have ordered him not to return until an internal investigation has been carried out.

Now, a reader of TSFM decided to do what all journalists should do… research.  How, by simply asking Falkirk why he was suspended.  Thanks to ‘Senior’, here is the email (all names removed to protect privacy):

Not only are the MSM failing to report the facts, they are failing to “seek truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.”  Surely the real story is why does a SFA member club feel the need to protect the safety of an employee from the actions of another member club.  Isn’t that the question that the MSM should be asking?

And why are credible threats from one new member to another older member being tolerated, without charge, by the very organization tasked with protecting OUR game.  Another in a long line of questions that the SFA need to be asked.

—-

StevensanPH is an exiled St.Johnstone fan living in the Philippines – he runs the SaintinAsia blog writing about all aspects of Scottish Football.  Thankfully the MSM don’t sell papers in the Philippines…”

Reforming Scottish football – some initial questions

This is a reblog of an excellent post by http://glasnostandapairofstrikers.wordpress.com.
TSFM will be posting a new blog tomorrow dealing with the continued intimidation and threats that seem to follow New Rangers everywhere.

Thanks to Glasnost and Pair of Strikers for their permission to reblog. I am sure we will be hearing from them for some time to come.

Glasnost (and a Pair of strikers)

Following the Scottish FA’s recent comments on league restructuring, we set out a programme of issues that we’ll seek to address over the coming months.

In the light of the reports of SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan’s comments reported in the Daily Mail today, and last week’s SFA Press Release , this morning’s launch of Glasnost could hardly be more timely. This post sets out some of the questions that may need to be addressed in the reform process that we think is both urgent and necessary to protect and improve our national game.

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The Continuing Voyage of Scottish Football – and the Wrath of Khan

Guest Post by Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan

Good Evening,

Last night, I found myself sitting at home when an e-mail arrived from the administrator of these pages suggesting that I write a guest article for all to consider. At that precise moment my television was full of the efforts of James T Kirk attempting to escape the Wrath of Khan, who blames old James T for all his ills and troubles including what he sees as his ridiculous and malicious banishment to a distant star in the middle of nowhere— amongst other things. He seeks vengeance, causes mayhem, and refuses to recognise the rule of law.

It may seem strange, but there is much to be learned from The Wrath of Khan. For example, in the midst of the action Admiral James T acknowledges that when he first faces what is at the time an unknown adversary, in most unusual and unknown circumstances, he ignores rules and regulation and as a result “gets caught with his pants down.”

That is the consequence of ignoring rules and regulation more often than not—even for the good guys.

This is also the movie where we are introduced to the Kobayashi Maru—the supposedly impossible test in which members of star fleet are asked to rescue a stricken ship and its crew without sacrificing themselves, their starship and all members of their crew. The test is meant to be impossible to solve as it cannot be achieved—unless you change the rules of the game!

Captain’s log:  Star date 2012; This is the voyage of the Starship Scottish Fitba—and we’re lost!

How can it come to be, that as we approach September 2012 the world of Scottish Football is in such a state of flux and disarray with an unbelievable amount of uncertainty and doubt about fundamental matters and principles, after months when we have seen the spiralling demise of one of our country’s biggest football clubs and the threatened disintegration of the entire system of football administration in Scotland as a result?

Surely after all that has happened in these past months the administrators would have learned to not only play by the rules, but be seen to be playing by the rules, insisting on the rules, and reinforcing the principles and platforms that those rules are based on?

Rangers PLC has ceased to be a part of Scottish football and the failure to deal with that simple fact, even more than the demise of what was regarded as an institution, is baffling in the extreme. The simple fact of the matter is this: There are rules and laws —regulations if you like —which were pre written to deal with such an event.  Apply the rules and everyone knows where they stand— ignore the rules and, as James T Kirk points out, you get caught with your pants down!

So far, the rules have been half implemented half ignored. Rangers were automatically deducted points for going into Administration and properly so. They were convicted, by a properly convened independent panel, of various rule breaches, and duly sentenced as a result—again properly so. Thereafter, the company was consigned to Liquidation because it could not pay its debts- with the result that it loses its SPL share and the right to participate in football altogether— and with the further result that it left a trail of unpaid debts to creditors, including football clubs, which ran to millions of pounds.

Further, let’s be clear, The SPL and the SFL only exist with the consent of the SFA. The SFA are the ultimate governing body in Scottish Football, with the two league associations merely management tools to achieve what is supposed to be the efficient management of the game in compliance with the pre agreed rules, procedures and principles that are meant to govern football and football administration. If you wish to play under this system, then you have to accept the very same rules procedures and principles, and there should be no contracting in or out of either membership, or the laws of the game.

Yet when Rangers went into Administration, and stared liquidation in the face, The Administrators, and subsequently everyone from Bill Miller through to Charles Green stated publicly that they, together with the SFA and all of Scottish Football, were facing the Kobayashi Maru whereby maintaining the rules and the principles of the game whilst at the same time saving Rangers FC could not be achieved!

The rules had to be ignored for the sake of expediency cried some press members. Whilst principles are all well and good, you can’t apply them if it means the death of Rangers—Rangers are too big  — cried others. If you apply the principles and the rules you will kill Rangers—and yourselves—said some.

It would appear that when it came to Rangers and their wellbeing, some took the view that principles were not quite so important and that, no matter what, Rangers FC had to be saved—- and there it was—the impossible task— The Kobayashi Maru!

I wonder if those who spouted that argument looked at The SFA website in any detail? Because there it states specifically that the SFA wants its coaches to educate all its young players, trainee managers and future coaches to “ Honour the game-respect your opponent- play to the rules–value sportsmanship–redefine winning- not just focusing on match results and league positions- and to help produce positive, respectful, and confident people with useful life skills“.  Presumably those life skills include playing by the rules, valuing integrity, behaving with honour and respecting the position of others and so on.

Yes—It is hard to believe—but all of those phrases are direct quotes from the Scottish Football Association webpages—they are the words of the SFA themselves. How could they be seen to abandon such principles—especially when they so publicly proclaim them?

What a choice then for the SFA—abandon your principles—or lose an institution—The Kobayashi Moru!  You just can’t win!

Except, Green & Co—and I include sections of the media in that phrase—clean forgot who was sitting the Kobayashi Moru test. The SFA were never faced with the test—if anything it was their rules that posed the test for whoever wanted to try and save Rangers. In the end, nobody was willing to attempt that task under the existing rules. No one was prepared to come along and pay the debts and so save the club—and at that stage it was Rangers and Rangers alone who faced the Kobayashi Moru.

Green, by way of his Servco company, then sought admission into the footballing world at a time and under circumstances which the rules dictated must result in failure. He had no accounts, no history in the game, effectively no players and nothing that would suggest that he could meet the criteria of the pre agreed rules for entry into the SFA.

It was at this juncture that the footballing executives made the error of ignoring the rules and principles that govern our game—the ones that the SFA espouse on their own website. They tried to shoe in Green against all the rules, with the result that supporters, fans, and club chairman voted them down and left them with their pants firmly glued to their ankles in Kirk speak.

The SFA, at the instigation of the member clubs from all leagues,  then played the Kirk role in attempting to solve The Ibrox Kobayashi Moru by changing those rules with the agreement of the majority,  so that Mr Green and his cohorts could gain membership, by effectively agreeing to allow Green’s Servco to obtain membership of the SFA on a conditional basis— with one of those conditions being that Mr Green’s company will pay ALL outstanding football debts—and make no mistake Captain Green accepted that he would play by those rules as otherwise he faced oblivion.

Here is what Green said as published on the SFA website following the signing of the 5 man agreement:

“The agreement signed today allows Rangers to be granted membership by the SFA and finally enables the Club to move forward.

“The Board, the Manager and senior executives have been working tirelessly over the last few weeks to secure the future of the Club and today is the start of that process.

“The Board has had to take some very difficult decisions to gain SFA membership, including accepting the delayed transfer ban and paying outstanding financial penalties. But we are now able to get back to playing football and plan for the new season, starting this Sunday with our match against Brechin.”

The website also reported that Servco had been granted conditional membership with one of the conditions being – “Sevco Scotland Ltd has agreed to settle all outstanding football debts to other members of the Scottish FA plus clubs under the jurisdiction of other Football Associations.”

You will note that nowhere does it state that the SFA or the SPL will pay any of the footballing debts out of any money supposedly due to the second place team in season 2011/2012 as Charles Green appears to claim – and besides it is obvious to everyone that Servco did not participate in the league during that season and so cannot be entitled to any such payment as they were not Registered with the league nor had membership of the SFA or SPL.

Rangers PLC were so registered, but if they were due any money that money would go to their Administrators. However, given that Rangers PLC were the Registered body and were convicted of offences which were described as only second to match fixing, then it follows that they should not be allowed to profit by so much as a penny in that season as a result of their rule breaking activity. Had they been expelled from the league they would have been entitled to nothing at all, and it should be remembered that it was the same Mr Green who took that situation to the Court of Session with the result that the court sent the case back to the panel with the clear instruction that such a penalty may well be appropriate and that in the circumstances the tribunal may have little alternative but to impose such a sanction.

Clearly, this is a scenario that Charles Green had to avoid. In this instance he ignored the footballing rules of not going to courts of law, and found himself with his pants down and facing the Wrath of The Court and the Kobayashi Moru whereby any technical success at the court was likely to result in certain extinction by way of expulsion from the league.

Now Captain Green seems intent on steering his starship into yet another dead end with fatal consequences. He claims that the Scottish Football debts are paid. If we ignore for the minute that he has never attempted to pay any footballing debts outwith Scotland – thus jeopradising his conditional acceptance into the SFA— his claim that it was agreed that these debts would be paid by the SPL or the SFA out of 2011/2012 prize money is derisory.

No fundamental principle of fair play, respect for opponents and attempt at honouring the game could allow for such a situation. Besides the SFA were quite clear in their statement and he has at no time demurred. From the date of the 5 man agreement onwards Captain Green undertook to pay all of the footballing debts— and if he doesn’t, then again he risks the withdrawal of his conditional membership. There is no other solution to the issue. Those are the rules he signed up to, and if you ignore the rules………….

However, this entire affair still has far to go. Where is the transparency and clarity championed by Henry Mcleish and oft promised by Stewart Regan and others? Why are the details of Green’s investors and his business plan, timescales for meeting obligations and everything else about his operation kept so secret? Given the history of those who have been in charge of Ibrox over the last twenty years, the complete failure of their administration and what is now known about their tenure there and in football generally,— and  given Green’s latest public statements—, does it not occur to the SFA that the rest of Scottish football has a right to know the details of what they have been told and what Green has promised?

He has promised to clear the footballing debts and appears to be making little attempt to do that whilst his manager hails as triumphs the signing of what he sees as the best players from other teams at relatively huge expense—whilst the debts remain, and the obligations are unfulfilled.

Again that cannot be right and goes against all principles of respecting opponents and honouring the game. It is a circumstance that amounts to the antithesis of the principles espoused by the SFA and appears to be completely contrary to the mandate given to Regan and the powers that be by the clubs and fans of all divisions. Further, the current position gives the impression that Mr Green believes that he can run his company and participate in football as and how he wants,  as and when he wants and under his terms and conditions.

This smacks of previous regimes that hovered around Ibrox for far too long with ultimately disastrous results particularly for Rangers fans, investors and creditors.

History cannot be allowed to repeat itself under these circumstances and the SFA must bring pressure on Green to pay the obligations that he undertook to meet within a publicly known timescale. Not only does he need to do that for the benefit of the clubs owed money—he needs to do it for the sake of the integrity of the whole of Scottish football, and he should not be allowed to build at team or field a team if he breaches the agreement. That should be the rule.

He should not be allowed to sacrifice publicly proclaimed and nationally accepted principles for the sake of his own financial expediency “for the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few—- or the one!”

Oh—and lest anyone think that it is mere trivia to link the current plight of Scottish Football with Star Trek and the Wrath of Khan, and that any such comparison is childish and of little consequence, that last quote was specifically relied upon, referred to and quoted in the Supreme Court of Texas in a decision issued on 22nd October 2010 in the case of Barbara Robinson, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of John Robinson, Deceased, Petitioner against Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc., Individually and as Successor to Mundet Cork Corporation, Respondent— thus bringing the undoubted logic and wisdom of Mr Spock well and truly into the Law of the United States of America!

Few would argue that Spock’s logic is not a sound legal principle!

It also seems to me that perhaps Spock had some solid business advice for those who choose to ignore the rules with a view to seeking short term gain or advantage—whether that be by way of trophies, money, position or what have you—but peril their entire existence by engaging in unlawful or illegal activity. It is advice which was ignored apparently by Sir David Murray and his board and by Craig Whyte and his entire cabal. We wait to see if Charles Green will have learned the lesson that they so clearly didn’t, or whether he believes in the potential rewards of the quick fix at any cost?

Live long…….. And prosper!

Whatever Happened to the Nimmo Smith Report?

I am privileged to have the chance to post a “guest” article on TSFM. As we get used to the lights being turned out, even temporarily, on RTC, we have a new forum for analysing the various issues which concern supporters of Scottish football.

It is undoubtedly the case that most of these issues involve the Rangers FC, either directly or indirectly, together with their interaction with the governing bodies of Scottish football.

One of the matters mentioned on “The List” page here is the Nimmo Smith report. I try to answer the question about what happened to it below, and note the relevance its apparent disappearance has for the soon to convene SPL Independent Commission.

I would encourage anyone who wants to do so to contribute posts for publication to TSFM.

RTC created from nothing a vibrant community looking at serious and complex issues of finance, law and corporate governance with a huge range of expertise, and not a little humour. TSFM can build on that legacy for the good of football in Scotland, and hopefully to the betterment of our media.

Whatever Happened to the Nimmo Smith Report?

On 21st February 2012 the SFA announced that it had appointed retired judge Lord Nimmo Smith to chair an independent inquiry into Rangers FC. His panel comprised Professor Niall Lothian, Past President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland; Bob Downes, former Director of BT and now Deputy Chairman of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, and Stewart Regan, CEO of the SFA.

The Inquiry was commissioned to investigate the potential breach of a number of SFA Articles of Association and to present its findings to the SFA Board within two weeks. Article 62.2 (q) of the SFA Articles of Association allows the SFA Board to appoint “a commission … to attend to and/or determine any matter(s) referred to it by the Board.”

Stewart Regan was quoted saying: “I am delighted Lord Nimmo Smith has agreed to Chair the Independent Inquiry. I am certain the experience contained within the panel will enable us to achieve more clarity on the situation regarding Rangers FC. There will be no further comment on the investigation until it is complete and its findings presented to the Board.”

One wonders about the use of the word “independent”, bearing in mind that one of the members was the CEO of the commissioning body, and on the Board which would consider it once prepared.

On 2nd March Mr Regan had more to say, although the investigation was not yet complete.

“We are now in the final stages of our independent inquiry into the situation concerning Rangers FC. The report by The Right Honourable Lord Nimmo Smith is expected to be completed next week and will go to a Special Board Meeting for consideration. It would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this stage in relation to the details gleaned from the inquiry, the potential contents of the report or any possible sanctions.

On 8th March the Special Board Meeting took place to consider the Nimmo Smith Report. Mr Regan commented:-

“I can confirm that the Scottish FA convened a Special Board Meeting at Hampden Park today to discuss the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Rangers FC, prepared by the Chair, The Right Honourable Lord William Nimmo Smith. 

“Principally, it is the belief of the Board, taking into account the prima facie evidence presented today, that Mr Craig Whyte is not considered to be a Fit and Proper person to hold a position within Association Football.

“The report submitted by Lord Nimmo Smith, having been considered fully by the Board, highlights a number of other potential rule breaches by the club and its owner. The report will now be used as evidence and forwarded to a Judicial Panel for consideration and determination as per the protocol.

As such, the report’s contents will not be published at this time. Nevertheless, I can confirm that the club is facing a charge of bringing the game into disrepute.”

On 24th April Mr Regan, following the verdict of the Judicial Panel, said the following:-

“It was entirely right that the original inquiry into Rangers FC and Craig Whyte was conducted independently and chaired by the Right Honourable Lord Nimmo Smith. These findings were presented to the Judicial Panel Tribunal, who returned their verdict last night.”

That all seems clear. Lord Nimmo Smith, with the help of distinguished people like Mr Regan, carried out a quick but thorough investigation, and the results were put to the Judicial Panel for consideration.

However Gary Allan QC, who chaired the Panel, made the following comment on page 59 of the Panel’s written decision.

“It is remarkable that throughout the Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal Process there has been repeated, and regrettably wholly misconceived reference to the Report of Lord Nimmo Smith. For the avoidance of any doubt, the Judicial Panel hearing this disciplinary matter was at no time presented with the report, as evidence or otherwise, nor was it presented with any of its findings. No member of the Tribunal has had sight of it. The report was not mentioned by any party at any time in the course of the proceedings. The determinations which were reached, therefore, were reached entirely independently of any view at which any other person, however senior or eminent, may have arrived in fulfilment of his remit prior to the disciplinary hearing.”

How can the Chair of the Panel deny having seen a document which, according to one of the people who sat on the independent committee, was presented to them?

The answer is two-fold.

Firstly, at pages 2 to 3 of the Judicial Panel decision, the procedural nuts and bolts of the case are discussed:-

“The Tribunal … directed that … it would proceed to hear the evidence and submissions and proceed to Determinations in relation to the complaints against both Rangers FC and Mr Whyte.

The Tribunal … noted that … it would proceed on the basis that there was an absolute denial on (Mr Whyte’s) part of each element of the alleged breach of the rules in all its particulars.

The Tribunal directed that accordingly, and notwithstanding the fact that in its written responses Rangers FC in substantial measure admitted the factual averments and a number of the alleged breaches of the rules, … the Tribunal would require to establish a clear factual basis for its Determination of both any alleged breaches and, if applicable, any sanction against either or both Rangers FC or Mr Whyte. … The commission and the circumstances of the alleged breaches would therefore require to be established by the leading of evidence before the Tribunal …

A discussion in relation to the procedure to be adopted took place. It was agreed that the Compliance Officer Mr Lunny would lead evidence ex parte by submission and reference to documentary material but would lead no witnesses, and would invite the Tribunal to accept the evidence in that form as provided in the Judicial Panel Protocol. Mr McLaughlin for Rangers FC, standing its position on the complaints contained in the written response previously submitted had neither issues with that proposal nor any other objection to the procedure which would be adopted. An opportunity would then be afforded to Rangers FC to lead evidence and make submissions as Mr McLaughlin on its behalf saw fit. Mr McLaughlin intimated that he would be likely to lead evidence from four witnesses previously intimated to the Compliance Officer and the Tribunal in terms of the Judicial Panel Protocol.”

At the hearing the positions of Rangers FC and of Mr Whyte were totally at odds. Mr Whyte did not appear nor lodge any substantive reply. He denied everything. On the other hand, Rangers FC “in substantial measure admitted the factual averments and a number of the alleged breaches of the rules”. As the Panel determined, they needed to be satisfied of the right verdict based on the evidence, but as the “prosecution case” was generally admitted, there was less rigour about this than if, for example, Mr Whyte had attended and denied the charges.

If Mr Whyte had appeared to deny the allegations, or if Rangers FC had disputed them, then evidence would have had to come from witnesses, who could have been cross-examined. In that event it would not have been sufficient to present the Nimmo Smith report, because, for all his experience, expertise and eminence, he is not guaranteed to be infallible.

One important principle in judicial and quasi-judicial procedure is the “Best Evidence rule”. If possible, original documents should be produced, rather than copies. Items of physical evidence should be brought to the court, rather than photographs of it. Witnesses should give evidence rather than having witness statements provided to the hearing.

This, I think, provides part of the explanation for the apparently mysterious absence of the Nimmo Smith Report.

The facts of the case had been admitted by the only party who attended the hearing, namely Rangers FC. Therefore Mr Lunny led “evidence ex parte by submission and reference to documentary material”. The Panel made 108 separate “findings in fact” derived from the evidence he put forward and that of Rangers FC.

Where Lord Nimmo Smith’s committee had, for example, analysed documents and offered a conclusion upon their import, the documents would be evidence but His Lordship’s conclusion would not. Similarly where a witness had been interviewed by the Nimmo Smith commission, or provided a statement, the former judge’s views on that would not be evidence, but the witness statement would be.

Mr Lunny, the Compliance Officer, was acting as prosecutor. Effectively Lord Nimmo Smith played the role of a senior detective co-ordinating an investigation, but not actually obtaining any evidence himself. In a criminal trial, where the officer in charge of the investigation has taken no part in the accumulation of the evidence, then their relevance as a witness is very small at best. It is up to the judge or the jury to decide what the totality of evidence means as far as guilt or innocence is concerned.

Therefore whilst I am sure that Lord Nimmo Smith’s report was on Mr Lunny’s table as he went through his presentation, ticking off the relevant parts as he led the primary evidence, the Report itself was not “relevant” evidence for the Panel. It is likely that, in discussion prior to the hearing, Mr Lunny and the solicitor for Rangers FC agreed whether the Nimmo Smith report would be used or not.

Mr Regan said prior to the Panel sitting The report will now be used as evidence and forwarded to a Judicial Panel for consideration and determination as per the protocol. The presentation of the case of course was independent of him, and whilst the Report would have formed the basis for the charges laid against Rangers FC and Mr Whyte, it was not evidence itself, as agreed between the parties.

The second aspect which accords with this explanation is the precise phrase used by Mr Regan. He said, after the decision, These findings were presented to the Judicial Panel Tribunal.”

He did not say that the report was presented, rather that the findings were. As the findings would form the basis for the “charges” admitted by Rangers FC, then to that extent the Nimmo Smith report played a part in the proceedings.

This issue has relevance now for the forthcoming SPL proceedings involving player payments and registrations which might have broken the rules. To great clamour and consternation from Ibrox direction, Harper MacLeod, the widely respected and highly rated form of solicitors, have carried out an investigation for the SPL into Rangers FC.

Mr Green has made clear that, as far as possible, the case will be fought, and no past titles will be stripped if he can do anything about it. Expect calls for the Harper MacLeod report to be produced.

However, it is in exactly the same position as the Nimmo Smith report was, except this time the accused is not accepting guilt. In that case, the relevant documents and witnesses will need to attend for scrutiny and examination.

On the basis that the First Tier Tax Tribunal, which looked at different but related issues, took many days to conclude, it is highly likely that the SPL case will not have a quick conclusion.

As a final aside, I must compliment Mr Green. All of the media speculation about punishment in the event that the independent commission find guilt on the part of Rangers repeats the mantra from Ibrox that the most severe penalty, namely stripping of titles, is the aim of the SPL.

I suspect that the SPL might believe that too now, on the basis that something which the club and the fans oppose so vigorously must be a draconian penalty.

But, of all of the various penalties listed, stripping titles would not cost the Rangers FC a single penny. The issue has already seen the supporters unite behind their team. Even if the commission finds the case proven, and as a result Rangers lose some of their historic titles, this will be seen by the Ibrox faithful as yet more treachery by the football authorities. Bearing in mind that the SPL rules allow various penalties, including the power to expel the club, impose unlimited fines and place a registration embargo on the club, altering the history books is the best thing for Rangers as a business, rather than a penalty which affects them just now.

Posted by Paul McConville – www.scotslawthoughts.wordpress.com

Digging The Hole Ever Deeper

Reblogged with kind permission of RTC as his blog is closed to posts. RTC will be writing a related blog for SFM in a day or so. Paul McConville has also prepared a new blog which will be posted in a day or so.

Our thanks to both RTC and Paul for their creative input.

Rangers Tax Case

This week has seen strident denials from David Murray that Rangers have done anything wrong in paying 83 employees  through the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT). According to Murray: “No rules were breached or circumvented, and I reject and resent any suggestion that anything was done which amounted to cheating.” This blog-post will provide an illustrative example that demonstrates just how absurdly untrue Murray’s claim really is.

First a quick recap of the rules. For the MGMRT, an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT), to be operated legally for tax purposes, money is deposited in the trust by the employer. Thereafter, the employer must have no control or involvement in the disbursement of funds. Employees can then apply to the trust for loans. The loans must be discretionary i.e. contractual obligations or wages (of any kind) cannot be paid tax-free through an EBT. Any payment through an EBT for wages or…

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