06 August 2012

Kangaroo Court: Round II

by Andy McKellar | Contributor

While Rangers were still awaiting official confirmation that their full SFA membership had been processed, the Scottish Premier League had already set wheels in motion toward launching an investigation into Rangers' EBT payments made during the ultimately destructive tenure of David Murray’s ownership.

As seems fashionable nowadays the SPL have instructed an 'Independent Commission' to investigate the issue and deliver any sanctions they deem to be appropriate. Given that it has been previously mentioned, I don't think it is any secret that they will most certainly be targeting our titles. Needless to say this is a huge cause for concern. 

The investigation has been called on the advice of Harper MacLeod, the SPL’s lawyers, who have examined whatever evidence is currently held. Of course, the name may be familiar to some of you who are also aware of another firm who employ the same solicitors – none other than Celtic Football Club. 

Even to the most simple of minds it is clear that there is a significant conflict of interest there, especially considering that only one club can benefit from any stripping of Rangers' titles. It is a shame that the mainstream media however haven’t even deemed it worthy of being questioned.

We've already had Neil Lennon, who seems to be consulted on all things RFC these days, give his opinion on our Club’s alleged wrongdoings. Unsurprisingly he is advocating that our championship victories are erased from the history books, although he didn't quite go as far as saying that the runners-up (guess who?!) should be awarded the titles ... yet. 

Firstly, let me highlight that football matches are won on the park, not in the boardrooms. Jackie McNamara, the former Celtic player, has already stated that he would take no pleasure whatsoever from seeing Rangers stripped of titles or trophies and that, as a footballer, you simply have to beat what is put in front of you. It seems however that his view is perhaps only held by an extreme minority. Quell surprise!

It should also be noted that the First Tier Tax Tribunal has not yet delivered its verdict on the EBT payments made by The Rangers Football Club plc.That however isn't the issue at hand here, nor is it the widely and yet inaccurate accusation of so-called 'dual contracts' that seems to be worryingly over-reported. 

The issue at the heart of this investigation seems to be that all payments made to players for their footballing activities must be disclosed to the football authorities. I would assume that this rule is in place to help prevent contract disputes between players and their clubs or such likes and not as any form of financial control as some have suggested. 

Had the payments been fully disclosed, which I’ll assume for the moment that they were not, it would have made absolutely no difference to the SFA or SPL. The papers would simply have been filed away within the corridors of Hampden, unlikely ever to see the light of day again. 

But just why it has taken the SFA or SPL so long to query payments which were clearly disclosed in our financial statements which were lodged, as required, with the governing bodies each and every year, fully audited and signed off. If non-disclosure is indeed as serious as many want to make out then there is no doubt that the SFA and SPL have again been guilty of gross incompetence in their failure to look into this matter long before now. That of course is not to say that they are to blame if the rules indeed have been breached but they must at least accept that they have been a contributing factor in this current fiasco and the level it has been allowed to elevate to. 

As you would expect Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster will no doubt claim that they were not involved in Scottish football until very recently although somehow I suspect that they would have shared the same ignorance as their predecessors had the issue not blown up in front of their very eyes. Regardless, the Scottish Premier League will press ahead with their investigation, or at least their 'Independent' Commission will, and we’ll be forced to sit nervously and await their findings. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is suddenly overcome by a feeling of trepidation at such a thought. 

What is also worrying, despite Charles Green has preserving Rangers’ right of appeal, is the destination of such an objection. Should the SPL find against us and should the sanctions be deemed as unacceptable by Green and his fellow directors then our appeal will be heard by the SFA. I can’t imagine many will be jumping for joy at the prospects of a positive outcome. 

Given the recent performance of the Scottish Football Association, particularly in relation to our beloved Club, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for a successful appeal, or even a fair one. The previous kangaroo court which decided to impose the excessive, unprecedented and draconian sanctions following our unfortunate entry into administration hardly inspires confidence. 

In addition their grossly unfair blackmailing of Rangers FC in relation to their membership transfer request, including the upholding of a sanction deemed unlawful by the Court of Session, further adds to the growing list of reasons as to just why we should be worried about the upcoming investigation. 

For the conspiracy theorists among us, or perhaps even just the cynically-minded, the inexplicably close relationship between Neil Doncaster and Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell may also raise a few eyebrows. Having been photographed in a meeting together and subsequently been on the receiving end of questions from the press, the Scottish Premier League decided to inform us that they had set up a ‘steering group’ comprising of four men, in order to assist in securing the best possible broadcasting deal for the league.

It is indeed curious that only half of the group seem to have been involved in such meetings and trips to London to meet Sky representatives, and that Mr Doncaster thought it best too see such information was best kept out of the watchful eye of the public especially when the intentions seem rather honourable. 

Just as we thought we were in the clear and could allow ourselves to cast our minds towards the exciting new season ahead, inevitably another hurdle has been put in our path. Of course we can press on with supporting our team as they attempt to win the SFL Third Division but I rather fear this investigation will turn into a completely undesired sideshow that could rumble on for some time. Thankfully though, Charles Green has indicated his intentions to fight the SPL all the way on this issue and Ally McCoist has also stated that he simply won’t accept talk of stripping titles. 

The phrase ‘No Surrender’ has often echoed around our famous old Ibrox Stadium in years gone by and the Rangers board and indeed the wider Rangers family may have to put such sentiments into action if we are to emerge from this current and seemingly never-ending fiasco with our titles intact. 

Regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, and possibly months, history has and will always show – 54 titles on the pitch.