17 July 2012

54 and counting....

by Andy McKellar | Contributor


Just as we were beginning to naively allow our minds to return to that long forgotten aspect of following Rangers – the football – the governing bodies of Scottish football have yet again dropped another bombshell on our front door.

Following the revelation that the SFA have not yet granted Rangers Football Club their requested membership transfer and do not intend to do so without a raft of sanctions being agreed, we today rose to the news that a ‘secret dossier’ contains plans to strip our Club of NINE trophies won between 2003 and 2011.

Stewart Regan swept into power in the corridors of Hampden, carried by a wind of optimism following the rather underwhelming reign of ex-Ranger Gordon Smith we were promised a modernisation of the old dinosaur that is known as the Scottish Football Association and that this new-look organisation would be characterised by openness and transparency. I’m sure I am not the only one who believes that we are due a refund.

As far as I can see Mr Regan has succeeded only in speeding up the disciplinary process, something that was certainly required after incidents like the almost never-ending Glenn Loovens trial a few years back. He has however made the decision-making process more erratic and there has certain been a curious choice of incidents chosen for review over the course of last season. Anyway, I digress, for it is abundantly clear for all to see, including I would imagine the vast majority of the 42 football clubs that comprise the top four tiers of our national game, that Regan is completely and utterly out of his depth.

Not only did the former Yorkshire County Cricket Club CEO arrogantly believe that he could bully and manipulate the SFL clubs into voting Rangers into Division One for the benefit of the crumbling SPL but now we have a man who is determined to impose as many sanctions as possible onto a football club that is attempting to recover and show contrition for the sins of its previous owners.

To the best of my knowledge, and presumably that of the mainstream media, the Scottish Premier League have not announced a verdict into their investigation of ‘dual contracts’, which is actually an inaccurate phrase being used to refer to the non-disclosure of payments. Both you will agree, are not one and the same thing.

The SFA previously indicated that they would await the outcome of the SPL investigation before taking whatever action they deem as being appropriate but today’s news however makes a complete mockery of that claim as Regan & Co attempt to strip our Club of the titles it has won without guilt ever having been officially established. It is the essentially treating Rangers FC as being guilty until proven innocent and whatever way you look at it, that just isn’t right.

Of course we may well be found guilty of not disclosing the discretionary EBT payments to the SFA or SPL over a period of years when the scheme was in operation. The SFA Articles of Association, Sec12.1 states:

“all payments, whether made by the club or otherwise, which are to be made to a player solely relating to his playing activities must be fully recorded within the relevant written agreement with the play prior to submission to this association and/or the recognised football body of which his club is in membership”

Just for clarity, again I emphasise that this is not about dual-contracts or third party payments, it is simply about non-disclosure of presumably just the Employee Benefit Trust payments received by individual players. It is certainly for more intelligent people than myself to discuss but as far as I can see the benefit of receiving payments through an EBT scheme is that the employee essentially receives a loan that is never repaid. Regardless of how strange a concept that may be, I wonder if Rangers have or can argue that loans given to players cannot be deemed as payments for their ‘playing activities’ as, in essence, these could theoretically be paid back. Anyway, that is certainly an issue for more high-flying legal minds to discuss and debate. What I do know is that in any walk of life you would expect the punishment to be proportionate to the crime and in my humble opinion, the stripping of titles seems majorly excessive.

The Daily Telegraph ran a story on 15th February claiming that as many as eight Premier League clubs operated similar EBT schemes to that implemented by David Murray at Rangers. In addition clubs were seemingly using ‘image-rights’ as an excuse to pay a proportion of players’ wages into companies, often offshore, which would avoid the higher rates of tax and National Insurance which would ordinarily result. Strangely however the English FA have never stepped in and placed sanctions on their member clubs for doing so, instead allowing the issues to be resolved with the relevant tax authorities. I certainly haven’t heard of any move to strip Chelsea of their league titles, despite having being one of the clubs that paid considerable sums for players’ image rights over the course of a number of years. So just why are the SFA taking action?

Well, assuming Rangers did not disclose certain payments, technically our clubs would be in breach of the rules. I would however like to ask you to consider just why such rules are in place. Had Rangers FC fully complied with said rules, it would have been to no benefit of the SFA and would only have succeeded in ensuring that Rangers EBT scheme was operated illegally due to written consent from each player being required as per section 12.1 quoted a few paragraphs above.

Furthermore I would like to point out that Rangers have submitted Annual Accounts to the football authorities each and every year as required and in each and every set of accounts the SFA and SPL would have found that all payments to the ‘The Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust’ were clearly disclosed. It is astounding that nobody at the SFA has even questioned this matter before now. Their duty is to govern Scottish football and if they can’t even be bothered to check the accounts that they ask to be lodged then I think that epitomised the negligence and incompetence of those in charge.

Regardless of the points above it does indeed appear that the Scottish Football Association, together with the Scottish Premier League, will do everything in their power to remove certain trophies and titles from Rangers Football Club. I think deep down we all knew this day was on the horizon as soon as the investigation was launched. That is not an admission of guilt, simply a recognition of the actions and motives of those running Scottish football.

Charles Green is still a man who is looking to find favour with the Rangers support and bowing down to the SFA is certainly not the way to achieve our trust. Our club has a proud and illustrious history and no fan will want that to be easily removed or blemished as part of secret discussions with Regan and his like. Mr Green must fight the authorities every step of the way with this. I look at Juventus as an example – they were found guilty of match-fixing, a much more serious offence than anything we have or ever will be charged with, but yet they still continue to dispute the charge, officially recognising the full 30 titles that they have won on the pitch. Certainly I am in no doubt that the Rangers fans, regardless of the outcome, will never forgive the football authorities for their actions in recent months and they certainly will not let go of the 9 glorious trophies that our team won during the period in question.

I largely suspect that we could find ourselves descending on the doorsteps of Hampden again in the not-too-distant future with a crowd even larger than the thousands who marched on 28th April following the decision to impose an unlawful registration embargo by the SFA Judicial Panel.

This time our message will be clear:

54 AND COUNTING

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Following the posting of this blog, STV provided some further clarity on matters.