Scottish Football and the case for a Bismarck!

Good Evening.

When considering any type of protracted negotiation or discussion that seems to be going on too long, there is a story that is always worth remembering– whether it is actually a true story or not as the case may be.

It is said, that heads of state all met at a congress in what is now modern Germany sometime after the Franco Prussian war of 1870-1871.The entire congress was being run almost singlehandedly by the then Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismark and he was keen to get all the necessary signatures on paper to seal some deal or other.

However, others at the congress were not too keen to sign up to certain elements of the proposed deal and so they hithered and dithered and in the eyes of Bismark they simply waisted time by concentrating on the minutiae- the little matters, with a view to ensuring their own interests were best served in these small areas– and did not focus on the big issue.

Having tried to talk these others round and educate them in his own beliefs and point of view on the bigger picture without any success, Bismark grew weary of the continuing delay and the posturing of his colleagues. All attempts at reason and diplomacy had failed in his eyes and so he decided to take a different tack.

Accordingly, it is said that whilst others were still inside debating endlessly on this matter or that, Bismark left the building and began simply shooting the windows in with the aid of a riffle which he just happened to have handy.

Those inside were naturally alarmed at this turn of events. They soon forgot about the minutiae under debate, they abandoned the previously expressed self interest and simply signed up so that they could get away from the mad chancellor and his house.

Job done so to speak.

Whilst I do not in anyway condone the behaviour of Otto von Bismark in this instance, and have no doubt that he was an autocrat, what I will say is that he believed that there was too much time being spent on the unimportant stuff and not enough time recognising what really needed doing– from his point of view of course.

Today– and it seems every day for months— we have endless debate about the future of Scottish Football. League reconstruction and the redistribution of footballing wealth has become a marathon– even before it has started.

Yet I believe that at the moment all parties concerned are not focusing on the radical reform that is fundamentally needed which is the creation of one, strong, properly structured and constituted body which is capable of the proper and ethical governance of Scottish Football and the business that surrounds football.

No matter what system you try, or distribution you agree, without proper sensible strong governance you are wasting your time.

Further, whatever body is set up, and whoever is chosen to be its CEO (or whatever the head honcho is going to be called), they must tackle the issue of corporate and fiscal compliance and the proper administration of any body corporate which actively takes part in Scottish Football– and that includes any such body or person who is involved in the running of a member club.

In addition, in so dealing with any corporate malfeasance or chicanery or whatever, the rules have to be applied with a rod of iron by an iron body.

As we can now clearly see, Football clubs and football in general is not, and never will be, immune from the effects of bad corporate governance and on occasion downright manipulation of facts, figures and contracts.

Whilst great play has been made of the fact that Gavin Masterton has handed over his shares in Dunfermline FC ( or its holding company ) the fact of the matter is that this in no way solves the problem faced by the football club. Whoever gains control of that club will still have to rent the ground from Mr Masterton’s company– and it is a rent that the club may just not be able to afford.

Ever!

It is only my opinion of course, but I am of the view that Mr Masterton has sealed a loan deal with his bankers which is of a type and duration which could not normally be achieved by other borrowers. The Loan has a lengthy period during which no repayments are necessary and interest can continue to accrue.

All very good you may say, but the level of debt concerned is not one that appears to be sustainable by Dunfermline FC and so whoever buys the club as a going concern ( if anyone buys it at all ) will have to pay an agreed rental to Gavin Masterton– and if the rental is not sufficient to repay Mr Masterton’s lenders, then I suspect that the end game here will be a search to find a buyer for the ground at some point over the next twenty years or so, with the hope that as part of the deal a space will be found somewhere for a new ground like New St Mirren park– the difference being that in that instance St Mirren were in charge of their future whereas Dunfermline are not.

The Governance of that club and the financial arrangements behind the club should have been looked at and examined by the SFA long before now– and the Dunfermline fans warned about the dangers of any such arrangements. Effectively those finance arrangements, should they continue, will probably mean that the club will have no option but to move from its established home!

All to suit one man!

Thankfully Dundee were spared a full takeover by Giovanni Di Stefano, however is it not a bit worrying that this man who has been jailed for over 14 years for various fraudulent acts, was allowed to roam around Scottish Football for a prolonged period?

Not so long ago Di Stefano did play a part at Dens, was in line to buy almost 30% of the shareholding, and was oft quoted in the papers and so on. The thing is that there were those who were prepared to give him a place at the Dundee table and in so doing invited him into Scottish Football.

Surely the SFA, had they been inclined to, could quite easily have pointed out that many of the claims of Mr Di Stefano were at least dubious if not completely incorrect? Yet nothing was being said at the time and silence prevailed.

Whilst not in the same calibre as Di Dtefano, Vladimir Romanov has now been at Hearts for a prolonged period. While I have no quibbles about the legality of Romanov’s takeover of Hearts, any money of a sizeable size which is transferred into Scotland from a foreign country will be subject to scrutiny by the Crown office to ensure that it is clean. Lithuania in particular is said to have a banking system which is governed loosely and sometimes does not meet the compliance standards expected in this country.

With his bank having gone bust, Romanov still retains the majority shareholding at Tynecastle, but there are questions still to be answered about what has happened at Hearts but life will be very different for the Edinburgh club going forward.

Again– could the SFA have done more to monitor the situation and could they have demanded clarity and detail from the Hearts owner as to his business dealings and the detailed arrangements with his bank?

At Ibrox, well things just go from the weird and inexplicable to downright astonishing– and all through a tremendous amount of smoke and mirrors.

It is clear that the SFA have no idea what to believe from Charles Green or for that matter Craig Whyte. On the face of it, there are clear links between Whyte and Green with the former paying over a six figure sum in return for absolutely nothing it would appear– with similar transactions going between Whyte’s colleague, Aiden Early, and Charles Green.

What is clear is that Green gave a clear undertaking to the SFA that he had nothing whatsoever to do with Whyte and would have nothing to do with Whyte going forward. Now, at the very least he is admitting that he met Whyte on several occasions, and whilst he may have made representations to Craig Whyte— these were all lies designed only to get Whyte to where Green wanted him.

This is hardly the act of someone who has been bona fides in his business dealings either with Whyte or with the SFA as the licensing body.

It is against this background that the Scottish Football Agencies need to wake up before they find the fans of the game ( at least those who want to stay interested in the game ) doing a Bismarck and panning in the windows of this whole house of cards.

Football Clubs, football fans, and indeed football itself needs protected from the financial and corporate shenanigans, and the governing body must be much more active and permanently vigilant in watching out for and if necessary anticipating the people and the transactions which have and will jeopardise clubs and the game in general going forward.

It is clearly no longer acceptable to rely on self regulation or mere declarations and undertakings from the clubs themselves. The Administrators must be much more active and employ far greater professional expertise in carrying out an almost constant analytical and reporting function in relation to club finance and corporate regulation.

All and any changes in funding, boardroom changes, investor changes and anything else major should be the subject of immediate and proper scrutiny by the SFA and there should be fair, immediate and stiff sanctions for non compliance, and any type of dilatory behaviour on the part of club officials who would seek to conceal the truth or who fail to properly disclose vital matters which should be out in the open.

Further, the funding detail– such as the never ending loan re Dunfermline should be a matter of public record in all its detail so that fans and investors can make information based value judgements when dealing with any club.

Such stiffer regulation should not develop into anything like a corporate witch hunt or any kind of draconian big brother syndrome, however the need for change given all of the current troubles is obvious to one and all.

Further, the attempted fudge surrounding Rangers league status last summer and the ongoing disquiet surrounding the position of Campbell Ogilvie does nothing to boost faith in and the reputation of Football Administration in Scotland.

Things are far from clear and there appears to be continual dithering and fudging. No one has any idea where the Nimmo Smith Report has gone nor what import it is to have— if any. Why is that?

Dithering and bumbling over detail is no longer an option. Strong clear governance is required to protect the game from being hijacked by those who have their own corporate and financial agendas.

Such people cannot be allowed to determine the way Scottish Football runs  or to conduct themselves in a fashion that leaves football and everyone involved in limbo.

It is time for Scottish Football to find its own Iron Chancellor!  There is a need for someone who will, if necessary, come along and shoot the lights out of any club or Company Director who wishes to play fast and loose with the game of football.

Advertisements

A Roman God, a New Year, a Paycheque a Sports Jacket and that thing called football!

Guest Blog by Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan

Good Morning,

Can I start by wishing everyone who reads this blog a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2013.

In a few weeks’ time a couple of working class lads from Walsall and Wolverhampton will receive a reasonably sizeable cheque through the door. The money will be entirely expected and meticulously accounted for. A similar cheque will have arrived last year, and both will expect the process to repeat itself automatically this time next year.

The sum concerned will be sizeable—many thousands of pounds— and does not come from any insurance policy, institutional pension plan or other type of financially regulated investment. Further, in order to receive a similar amount next year, the two men will have to do precisely nothing! The money will simply come automatically!

Magic eh?

Well no—not really.

You see Neville and James ( for that is what they are called ) earned this money many years ago by completing a job of work, and they have been getting paid for the same job year in and year out ever since!

Except that you don’t know them as Nevile and James! No you may know them as Jim Lea ( who? you may say ) and Noddy Holder (aka Neville John Holder MBE ) the co author of that perennial Christmas classic “Merry Christmas Everybody”.

These two clever boys came up with their “pension” song by making a Christmas cracker out of tunes they had written and discarded in the past. Lea’s chords from years before provided the tune for the verses, while an earlier rejected composition of Holder’s became the chorus, and in this way it was the past work of both men that secured their future—even back in 1974!

As the song is played to death on Radio, in clubs, in pubs, in shops, on TV and everywhere else at Christmas, the New Year always brings a cheque of sizeable proportions for Messrs Lea and Holder.

However there were four members of Slade and not two, I hear you say!

Whilst that is correct, not every member of the band shares the royalties for ever more, with only the actual composers receiving the big bucks year on year — unless of course the gang of four agreed otherwise between themselves – as sometimes happens—but often doesn’t — in bands and other artistic collaborations!

And that, dear reader, neatly takes me to the current topic of the day on this here planet!!! The reconstruction, reorganisation and profit sharing in Scottish Fitba!!!

It strikes me that the SFA, SPL and SFL all want to come up with their own version of the pension song or product — Something that will make future performances interesting and lucrative for ever more without anyone having to put in too much effort in future.

Of course it is recognised that the clubs at the top of the financial tree have the greatest influence in composing this song, but there is an insistence, and so a desire, that even the minor band members should get a greater share of the royalties going forward.

All very honourable. All very interesting,— and all completely missing the point in my humble opinion.

Now, there is a clamour from the fans that the proposed structure of 12 – 12—18 is flawed and leads to daft consequences when worked through. We want 14- 14 – 14 say many fans or 16- 14 – 12 or some other composition altogether!!

Oh—and the fans want the chairmen to consult the fans before making a decision on anything, and they want Messrs Regan, Doncaster and Longmuir to stop telling fans that they need to be “educated” about what is best for the game!

All very noble! All very interesting, —and all completely missing the point once again in my humble opinion.

Jock Stein once famously proclaimed that football is nothing without fans— almost everyone knows that. Yet how many actually stop to consider those words and what he meant.

There is nothing without fans!!!!!

How many times have you heard commentators, journalists, ex players and even fans refer to the fans as “the paying customers” ?  This phrase has made its way into common parlance and is rarely- if ever- challenged or qualified.

So I will ask—is that what the football fan is prepared to be called—“The paying customer”?— is that it?

Are you, dear reader, a paying customer?—and nothing more?

Or is a football fan a “member of a club”—a “ supporter of a club” or even “part” of a club?

If you are just a paying customer does that mean that anyone who turns up at a ground and pays over some money on a solitary Saturday afternoon is to be seen in exactly the same way as the guy or gal who has been a season ticket holder for years and years?

Does the person who sits behind their keyboard and blogs and comments for Britain on matters football—but who never goes to a game or who does not spend a penny following or promoting their proclaimed club – have the same strength of voice as that season ticket holder—or even the guy who stumps up the cash to view a game once a year?

Not a chance in my view!!!

Equally though, if you have a Football Club Board who do nothing whatsoever to attract people into the club apart from throw out a team on a Saturday Afternoon with mixed degrees of success – are they worthy of support from the “paying customer” or anyone else for that matter?

In my view the answer is no— a very loud —NO!!!

If we are going to reconstruct Scottish Football then I am sorry you have to start by looking at exactly what it is you are trying to reconstruct—reconstruct being the appropriate and important word.

The job is to reconstruct—and regain— viable and important interest in Scottish Football and the teams—or clubs—who play in Scotland.

League reconstruction is only part of that process, and the redistribution of television money is only part of the league reconstruction part of the process!

The month of January is named after the Roman God Janus—who had two heads— one for looking forward and one for looking back. Janus was the God of transition—The God of change— and it was always clear that you could only have change going forward by casting an eye back to the past—to see what you wanted to keep from that past, to see what you wanted to jettison, and to see what could be learned from past times.

In the past , football crowds were far larger, revenues proportionally bigger and closer together when comparing clubs, and consequently it might be said that the football product was much better on the park—with various teams outwith the two big Glasgow teams—please do remember the Jags come from Glasgow too and that in the past Clyde and Third Lanark were also natives— competing for and winning trophies.

Nowadays, football clubs have lower attendances—unless of course one of the smaller teams ( I refuse to use the derogatory and well hackneyed phrase that is banded about re smaller Scottish Clubs ) gets to a Hampden final when low and behold anything between 20,000 and 30,000 lost football fans appear as if out of nowhere!!

And hey—if you happen to be a fan of the Ibrox Club or the Parkhead club—don’t go getting too comfy in your seat— where the hell were some of you before Seville or Manchester?

The point is that football is like politics — it all means nothing without participation— real participation. That means fans buying into, spending money on and in, and promoting their club at every opportunity. It means the clubs and their boards using every trick in the book to generate income away from the football pitch. A “Club” in law is no more than a collection of people coming together for a common purpose and a football club is perfectly capable of having genuine “club activity” which does not primarily involve football.

Where are the regional and local initiatives to promote the social aspects of football clubs? Do the facilities for women need upgrading to help persuade more mothers and girlfriends to come to the ground whether that be for games or other events or functions?

In a time of never ending football memorabilia, how many people went to their club shop this Christmas and bought merchandise for family and friends – even if the same family and friends support another club? How many people invite visitors or non football supporting friends to a game on a Saturday—even if it is only every now and then?

In short what do you do to support your club—and what can that club do to get more and more people involved in the club itself or its functions? And what functions could that club become involved in using existing facilities and resources?

Is there a kids club? A  weekday crèche? Are there facilities that are not used six days a week which could be used for community groups who have nothing to do with football—or even sport? Should the club hold daft things like race nights, bingo nights— functions that may well attract people who would no more likely  go to a football ground on a Saturday than suddenly develop Noddy Holder style sideburns?

How many people take an old shirt or T shirt or towel bearing the club colours on holiday to give to a waiter or a stranger or someone who has no connection with the club—with a view to creating a fan or someone with a bit of interest who might just one day become a season ticket holder or even an occasional “paying customer” at the door?

Further, are there folk out there who could actually go along and volunteer services for their club for nothing and so save the club from spending hard earned cash out of necessity? Could you be a gateman? Could you perform a task for your club on a voluntary basis?

You may think that a daft or utopian ideology but sports clubs traditionally always had a social purpose as well as a sporting one. Clubs were a focus for a locality, or a workforce, or a congregation or just about any group of people who want to come together for sporting or social purposes. Further those who volunteered their services for the common good often got great local recognition for their dedication and spirit.

Ask any Dons fan about Teddy Scott—who although a paid employee was Aberdeen FC through and through—pay or no pay!

The clamour for change in football should not be blinded by the words of the three official bodies and the more vocal chairmen of the clubs that want to play in the league – or not as the case may be. Change should come from the fans of the game up—but to be honest until the fans—or should I say the mysteriously disappearing armchair fans—actually come out and support their clubs a lot more often, then we are not going to see valuable and worthwhile change no matter what the league set up or composition.

On Saturday, I listened to Off The Ball on Radio Scotland where the contributors waxed lyrical about journalists of yesteryear who made the game and broadcasting interesting. Jimmy Sanderson, Bob Crampsey et al – they all got a mention.

The discussion sparked a memory for me when they came to discuss the legend that is Arthur Montford—famously referred to by Jock Stein as “ The Sportsjacket” with reference to his never ending collection of blazers.

Arthur was a journalist—both print and broadcast— with the BBC and then STV since 1957 in terms of television—and with the Evening Times and other papers in terms of the written press.

A lifelong follower of Morton and a keen Golfer and golf commentator, Arthur has been retired this many a year although he can still be seen walking up and down Byres Road occasionally. At one time he became Chairman of Morton and he used to write in the club programme on a regular basis—possibly still does! He is by all accounts a nice man—a good man— sufficiently good and of sufficient standing to have been elected as the Rector of Glasgow University in 1975—beating George Brown and Janey Buchan ( if you don’t know who they were then look them up! )— in the process.

He was the first sports journalist to hold that post.

In his Rectorial address Arthur went to great lengths to highlight what can be achieved if volunteers— individuals— club members if you like— put their shoulders to the wheel and strive for change, for a common purpose, and for society in general. He stressed that such communal effort brought about change—brought about improvement— brought about advancement in numerous situations. This was only three years after Jimmy Reid had used the same platform to denounce the “Rat Race” declaring “ I am not a rat!”.

For football to change in this country we need action—action by the fans—action by the clubs—action by the journalists and commentators to highlight initiatives and opportunities for our football clubs to play a greater part in our communities— from kids to pensioners, from toddlers to mums and dads, local residents to occasional visitors.

That is the way to make your voice heard and to make that voice count. That is the way to bring about the change that you want for the future.

There were four members of Slade—but only two wrote the words and music to Merry Christmas Everybody and it is they who earned the right to the pension royalties for ever more. The other two bit part players did not!

Janus was meant to oversee transition to the future by casting an eye on the past and learning from what went before—as should we when considering Scottish Football—and in that spirit you will find a link to the whole of Arthur Montford’s address below— there are things worth learning there.

Here’s to the future—-NOW—– its only just begun!

http://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/documents/UGSD00029.pdf

Commander Green, The FIFA man, and life after the Murray Empire

Good Morning,

A number of years ago I sat and watched while the late David Will, one time chairman of Brechin City, former President of the Scottish Football Association and Vice President of FIFA, peered over the upper rims of his glasses at the assembled board and management of St Johnstone Football Club and proceeded to brand them all as a “shower of thrawn buggers!”.

The reason for the tongue in cheek outburst from Scotland’s highest ranking official from the world of football was the organisation of the centenary dinner celebrating 100 years of the Perth Club— which the club saw fit to hold well outside the centenary year. Will had been invited to speak as a guest at the dinner ( yes Mr Cosgrove I was there ), along with then manager Alex Totten and Craigie Veitch the former sports editor of the Scotsman.

For those who are not familiar with old Scots words, Thrawn can have a couple of meanings which are very similar. If someone is being obstinate, stubborn, uncompromising, perverse or intractable then in auld Scots we say that he or she is being thrawn. Equally, the original meaning has been said to be crooked, twisted, misshapen or deformed. A tree could be thrawn, as could someone’s arm or other part of the body. To be thrawn-leggit was to have a crooked leg.

These meanings then sort of morphed into meanings like difficult or contrary, and so twisted and crooked in that sense, and when David Will called St Johnstone a shower of “thrawn Buggers” he meant that they were being awkward, contrary and perverse in holding a centenary dinner when it wasn’t actually the centenary. He was of course being lighthearted.

That episode came to mind this week when I read the latest statements from Alastair Johnston and Charles Green. Both set out an argument which suits their individual purposes and adopted perspectives, and both perhaps chose to ignore counter argument or salient facts which would obviously derail their logic and train of thought. With the greatest of respect to both men— what a pair of thrawn buggers!!!

In that vein let me recap as to where I think we stand on this September morn in relation to the EBT debate, the question of “Club” and the Independent enquiry into payment outwith contract.

Clearly, all of these issues are closely linked but each stands in its own wee pocket or chapter, and when taken together they serve to make  a whole book or paint an overall scene.

The EBT issue has been repeatedly explained on the RTC blog and elsewhere but at the risk of repeating what is already known the fundamentals are as follows:

Employee Benefits Trusts under certain circumstances are or were a perfectly legal business and accounting tool.

However, in order for the trusts to provide substantial tax advantages, any reward, remuneration or compensation they provide to a beneficiary must not form part of their contract of employment or work package. If this rule is not strictly adhered to, then tax is payable on the sums “given” to the employee, with the employer being liable for tax and national insurance contributions of any employee.

It is alleged by HMRC, that a number of persons who were at one time employed by Rangers PLC have received benefits by way of a specific EBT. Further, the benefits which these employees received were clearly related to their contracts of employment and so these payments are liable to tax, together with interest for late payment and penalties for non-declaration and so on.

This is denied by Rangers PLC and by Murray International Holdings, and MIH have instigated and conducted an appeal against the HMRC view, with that appeal being determined by an independent tax tribunal (The FTT). The basis of their argument appears to be that the benefits received by the beneficiaries were nothing to do with MIH or Rangers and that these payments were purely discretionary and at the instance of the trustees of the trusts concerned– none of whom have any connection with Rangers PLC or MIH. Therefore– there is no tax payable.

Against this there seems to be a plethora of evidence which contradicts this stance including a number of side letters or second contracts which show that any payments to these EBT’s were indeed contractual and part of an overall contract of employment “package”– and if that is deemed to be the case then tax, interest and penalties are indeed, and always were, due.

These contracts or side letters then seem to fly in the face of the documentation lodged with the SPL and later the SFA, as both bodies require sight of all contractual documentation relating to players remuneration and their terms and conditions of employment. Contracts have to be in standard form and lodged with the appropriate bodies to ensure that the player is in fact properly registered to play for the team.

Further, the rules of football prohibit any player being paid by a third party, and so payments made to a player by someone other than his employer is a breach of that rule.

It is this issue that the Nimmo Smith Tribunal is to investigate and rule upon.

For their part, Rangers PLC appear to argue that the existence of EBT’s were always declared in the notes of their accounts, and so the footballing authorities should have known that they were in use at the club. More recently, Alastair Johnston has stated that the club did receive a request for clarification from the SFA in 2011 to which the Rangers PLC board responded disclosing documents ( although he does not specify what documents ) over and above the normal documentation sent re player contracts. Johnston has gone on to state that there was no response or follow up whatsoever from the SFA, and the appropriate UEFA licence simply arrived in the post without further ado. He concludes that as a result of the documentation sent, the SFA must have known at that time that the EBT payments were being used for “player compensation” purposes.

Now, AJ argues that if any misdemeanour or breach of rules has occurred it does not merit the much discussed and publicised “stripping of titles” and that any failure on the part of the Rangers PLC board amounts to no more than an oversight or an administrative error which does not justify the ultimate penalty.

Let’s just pause there and remember who and what AJ actually is in life. Alastair Johnston holds the posts of vice-chairman and member of the board of directors of International Management Group, the leading international sports and entertainment group. Now everyone knows that IMG was formed by Mark McCormack and represents sports stars as their agent. However what is less well known is that the majority of IMG’s work comes from broadcasting – not necessarily mainstream broadcasting – but the broadcasting of certain events to mobile phones and so on and in this context the company works with the likes of Vodafone and other major service providers in the sector. Further the company has the rights to market and broadcast the sports activities of a huge number of schools and colleges in the US as well as music channels, entertainment and so on.

I raise this aspect for one very important reason.

That entire industry is based on one thing and one thing only and that is………… a Licensing system. Broadcasters of any sort obtain the rights to broadcast by way of a licence. They licence content, they licence by area and geographical location, they licence for set time periods,they share licences, sell licences, create licences and terminate licences. Without a licence, they can have all the technology in the world, all the necessary content and so on but they are not able to show it, sell it and profit from it. Proper licensing is vital!

Further, they are very precious about licences- and rightly so– because unless they have the licences tightly tied up, others in the same field can attempt to steal their content, their territory and their rights– all of which are valuable assets.

So go back again and look at all AJ’s comments about proper registration of contracts, about proper administration of documents and licence applications for players, UEFA competition and so against the background of him being a grand fromage in a major company whose absolute lifeblood depends upon proper licensing.

Do you remotely believe that the continual and prolonged inability to properly declare all relevent contracts and player documentation to a licensing body ( both SFA and SPL in this instance) can be merely an oversight or an administrative error?

Further, take a look at the accounts for Rangers PLC at least in the year ended 2005, where it is made very clear that the football management side of the business was working extremely closely with the board in all business and contract matters.

The SFA in particular fulfills a licencing function– a function which is so important that without passing the tests laid down, any club of no matter what size simply cannot play or participate in the sole sphere it is designed to participate and play in. There are strict rules about licences, and a duty on the SFA as well as Rangers PLC to make sure that all of the conditions that must be fulfilled in order to gain a licence have in fact been met. It is not a process that should be left to chance or a process that any major organisation would leave to a junior member of staff or without there being a company defined process and procedure to ensure that the applications and compliance issues are properly dealt with.

Further, if you think about how a footballer player signs for a club– the negotiations, the transfer fee, the personal terms, the contracts, the agents commission and so on, you will realise that a player signing and the terms of his contract – or contracts for that matter – cannot simply come about by accident and outwith the boards knowledge or consent.

In short, it is impossible. It is also impossible, in my respectful opinion, to proceed on a decade long process of administrative errors involving the repeated failure to disclose secondary contracts or side letters. As someone once said to me, there comes a point where a continued and continual series of repeated errors or omissions starts to look suspiciously like a plan!

However, if we were to take AJ’s comments at face value, and accept that there were repeated failures on the part of the Rangers Board by accident, then to be honest there would be every right for shareholders and investors to hold the Directors liable for such negligence. Directors regularly and properly insure themselves against such claims– so I wonder if AJ has paid his insurance premiums?

Further, if he as Chairman presided over such mismanagement, then no doubt his time at IMG is limited as I doubt such  an organisation could afford to have such a dunderheid permanently ensconced in a senior managerial position.

However, AJ appears to be a positively straightforward chap when compared to Mr Green.

He of course is on record as saying that if the proposed CVA were to be rejected and the club forced into liquidation then the club dies, the history dies, and so on and so forth– but of course that was yesterday or the week before or even the week or months before that. That was the message that Mr Green wanted to convey at that time in the hope that HMRC would buckle down and accept the proposals.

Now, Mr Green seeks to sing a different tune, and recently latched on to Lord Nimmo Smith’s comments about the “club” being a continuing entity and capable of transfer from one owner to the next. He muses that if that is the case then the “club” may well in fact still be a member of the SPL and the SFA  as no matter what happened to Rangers PLC, Rangers FC are ” a continuing entity” and therefore should not be forced to apply to rejoin any body which it was always a member of– such as the SPL and the SFA. Of course this then means that all the history and so on remains– despite what he himself said earlier!

Now of course, Charles makes for a good soundbite and is mad keen to ensure that as many Rangers fans as possible take up shares in “the club” when he offers them for sale.

Yet there is the problem,– shares in what are being offered for sale? According to Charles– and following his logic— he can offer as many shares in the Rangers Football Club Ltd for sale as he wants — but that company will not actually be Rangers FC– will it? If Rangers PLC was not actually Rangers FC– then what was it that David Murray was offering for sale all those years ago? Or could it be that Charles has just got it plain wrong?

You see for some reason he did not quote Lord Nimmo Smith in full– especially that part where the learned judge gave a brief description of his interpretation of the law of clubs.

For example Charles chooses not to comment on this sentence from the learned judge:

“This is not to say that a Club has legal personality, separate from and additional to the legal personality of its owner and operator.   We are satisfied that it does not, and Mr McKenzie did not seek to argue otherwise.   So a Club cannot, lacking legal personality, enter into a contract by itself.   But it can be affected by the contractual obligations of its owner and operator.”

Earlier, Nimmo Smith said this:

“While it no doubt depends on individual circumstances what exactly is comprised in the undertaking of any particular Club, it would at the least comprise its name, the contracts with its players, its manager and other staff, and its ground, even though these may change from time to time.”

So let’s pause there.

A club is an undertaking— in other words any type of loose arrangement involving a group of people with a common purpose. If a club is not an incorporated club ( a limited company ) then to be anything other than a loose idea of a few folk getting together for a common purpose such as a holiday or a meal or to read a book or anything else– then of course it should have a formal constitution and a set of rules for its members.

So– where is the constitution for Rangers Football Club? Where are its rules of admission which says who can join? Are there certain rules that preclude you from joining? Is there a set limit on how many members there can be at any one time? Who are the officers of this club?

At the current time, Mr Green seems to be very keen on everything British and everything of a loyal and royal nature. So here is a quote from the pages of the Royal Yachting Association of Great Britain on the legal status of unincorporated clubs and so on.

“Since an unincorporated club has no legal status, it is incapable itself of owning property or being party to a contract. It is therefore standard practice to appoint trustees, who are usually required in the rules to comply with committee instructions, to hold the property (whether freehold land and buildings, yachts or a long leasehold of a reservoir) on behalf of the club members.”

Eh going by that statement – Rangers FC never owned Ibrox or Murray Park– and indeed can never own Ibrox and Murray Park. Someone had to be the trustee.

Further, it can never have been granted a licence to play football— you can’t grant a right to a non legal entity or to a body which has no legal status. You cannot accept a licensing application from a body which has no legal status. You cannot be employed by a body with no legal status.

Rangers FC has no constitution, no legal persona, is not allowed to own property ( heritable, moveable or intellectual), can’t enter into contracts and so on.

In short, Rangers FC is a body with no legal status– it does not exist and has never existed— unless it is to be found within the confines of Rangers PLC which everyone now recognises is in Administration and will soon be liquidated.

Still don’t believe me?

Ok here is a recent release by the Scottish legal commission setting out changes that they want to make to the law so that “clubs” can gain some legal status:

“In Scotland, and indeed throughout the United Kingdom, unincorporated associations are not recognised as entities separate from their members. Consequently, such organisations cannot carry out acts such as entering into contracts, owning property or engaging employees. The lack of legal personality can also give rise to unfortunate, and perhaps unforeseen, repercussions for members. For example, it is possible that, under the current law, a member of an unincorporated association could, by virtue of that membership alone, find himself or herself personally liable in delict to a third party injured at an event organised by the association. Further difficulties relating to this area of the law are set out in our Discussion Paper on Unincorporated Associations (DP 140) which was published at the end of 2008.

Our Report recommends a simple regime, with the minimum of administrative burdens, to ensure that associations and clubs are recognised as legal entities. Separate legal personality will be accorded to associations which satisfy certain conditions. The main conditions are that the association has at least two members; that its objects do not include making a profit for its members; and that it has a constitution containing certain minimum specified provisions. These provisions are: the association’s name; its purpose; membership criteria; the procedure for the election or appointment of those managing it; the powers and duties of its office-bearers; the rules for distributing its assets if it is dissolved; and the procedure for amending its constitution. Many associations will already have constitutions which contain these provisions but, for those which do not, we anticipate that style constitutions will be made available, free of charge, on the websites of organisations such as the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations”

Maybe Charles should seek some advice from the Scottish Council on Voluntary organisations? And perhaps he should note that part about not making a profit for members too!

Then again, as Lord Nimmo Smith has said the actual status of a club and who or what a club is depends on individual circumstances. So with regard to Rangers, let’s look at who would know– for example, who did Charles get “Rangers” from? Duff and Phelps of course — so what do they say?

Well they have stuck to their guns because in each and every report that they have issued to the court, the shareholders and the creditors they have included the following definition:

Rangers / the Company / the Club The Rangers Football Club Plc (In Administration), Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, G51 2XD (Company number SC004276);

Now that doesn’t really help Charles does it.

Ok so, lets ignore Craig Whyte because everyone knows that he was a diddy— let’s go to folk that are far more sensible– how about the Board of Rangers PLC before Craig Whyte– what did they have to say:

Well, here is a statement from May 2011 which seems to set out who and what the then Directors thought amounted to the club– and let’s face it– they should know!

“Further to today’s statement from Wavetower Limited (“the acquirer”), the Independent Board Committee of The Rangers Football Club plc (“the club”), comprising Alastair Johnston, Martin Bain, John Greig, John McClelland and Donald McIntyre, (”IBC”) would like to make the following statement:

“In recent weeks the IBC has been engaged with the acquirer and has secured an enhanced financial commitment from Wavetower for future investment into the club. The decision on the sale and purchase of the majority shareholding in the club firmly and ultimately rests between Murray MHL Limited (“MHL”) and Lloyds Banking Group (“LBG”).

“Although the IBC has no power to block the transaction, following its enquiries, the IBC and Wavetower have differing views on the future revenue generation and cash requirements of the club and the IBC is concerned about a lack of clarity on how future cash requirements would be met, particularly any liability arising from the outstanding HMRC case.

“Wavetower is purchasing MHL’s 85% shareholding in the club for £1 and the club’s indebtedness with LBG is to be assigned to Wavetower. This share transaction would ordinarily trigger a requirement on Wavetower under Rule Nine of The Takeover Code for a mandatory offer to be made to the other shareholders.

“Given this transaction structure and following discussions with the Takeover Panel, the IBC considers there to be no purpose in the acquirer making such an offer to acquire all other shareholdings at effectively nil value per share. Accordingly the IBC has agreed that the offer period for the club will now end.

“In agreeing that no offer should be made to all shareholders the IBC has insisted that the acquirer issues a document to all shareholders setting out the full terms of the transaction, comprehensive details on the acquirer and the sources of its funding and giving firm commitments to agreed future investment in the club.

“The IBC is committed to ensure that the transaction and future investment and funding proposals should be transparent to all the shareholders and supporters of the club”

Ah— that doesn’t really help Charles Green’s current argument either does it?

So here we are, on the cusp of the FTT ruling, with a share offering in the offing, and SPL enquiry scheduled for November and no doubt Mark Daly and the Panorama team beavering away in the background getting ready for another documentary.

The decision of the FTT may reveal yet more of what the bold AJ describes as “Administrative errors” by way of failing to administer EBT’s properly so resulting in  a massive tax bill, and the SPL enquiry may reveal further “Administrative errors” in failing to properly record player contracts for a decade, with the result that players were never properly registered in the first place and so were illegal players during championship winning games.

Yet all that is history and in the past.

Today’s Rangers has a new hero, a new commander– even though who he works for is a closely guarded secret and remains a mystery to most of us who may be interested to find out who Charles Green really is and who he represents. He seems to attack certain quarters then retreat, antagonise and appease, and has a habit of constantly contradicting himself when it suits.

In the interim he reminds me of the most famous creation of the American writer Timothy Zahn who brought about a revival in the fortunes of the Star Wars franchise, bringing it widespread attention for the first time in years. He did this by creating a new villain to follow in the footsteps of the administratively challenged and ultimately vanquished Darth Vader.

Zahn describes this new villain’s command style as considerably different from that of Darth Vader  and other typical Imperial commanders; instead of punishing failure and dissent, he promotes creativity among his crew and accepts ideas from subordinates. He is a tactical genius who has made extensive study of military intelligence and art, and is willing to retreat instead of making a stand in a losing battle.

His full name and his true origins are only known to a few select individuals of the Empire and the New Republic.

To quote Wikipedia:

“His name is ………… reminiscent of the old Scots word meaning Twisted ot Crooked.

The character’s name is……….. Thrawn.

I suspect that we are about to see some pretty Thrawn statements from a shower of Thrawn buggers as the late David Will would have said!