08 August 2012

SDM: Too little, far too late

by Andy McKellar | Contributor

During his tenure as owner of Rangers Football Club it was said by many that David Murray especially in the early years was in complete control of the Scottish media, commanding his army of lapdog journalists from the comfort of his Ibrox office. Whether this is accurate or not is certainly up for debate, but towards the end of his time there is little doubt that any perceived stronghold over the media had significantly waned as his ever more destructive reign carried on.

After selling his controlling stake in Rangers to Craig Whyte in May 2011, David Murray, not normally a man to shy away from the media limelight, was suddenly nowhere to be found. While many sat back in blissful ignorance, myself included I might add, there is no doubt that Minty would have known all too well that our Club was headed for disaster, be it sooner or later.

Indeed Murray only surfaced when the full scale of the mismanagement, both under himself and Whyte, became utterly unavoidable following our unfortunate entry into administration on 14th February 2012. Of course Whyte bore the brunt of the initial inquest. 

But soon thereafter accusations began to fly in the direction of our former chairman and owner, and only then did he deem it necessary to raise his head above the parapet. Many would call his behaviour shameless and disgraceful, and I would tend to agree. Frankly, when it comes to the sale of his shares and subsequent silence, ‘disgraceful’ perhaps doesn’t quite do it justice. 

Back then Murray claimed that he was ‘duped’ by Whyte, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first or last. Sadly, for Minty his claims carried little credibility. Someone with his resources and time for due diligence couldn’t have missed all the clues which would at least cast doubt over the suitability of the potential new owner. Suitability however was never a concern. 

While Murray was once hailed as a hero by the Rangers support, his reputation nowadays couldn’t be more contrasting. Whyte may undoubtedly have been the man who pushed our Club over the edge but it was David Murray who dragged us to the top of the cliff in the first place. His sins will never be forgotten I suspect. 

The latest revelation from the Scottish Premier League that they are going to investigate Rangers’ EBT payments has further threatened to tarnish the memory of David Murray’s reign at Ibrox. 

Following a review by Harper MacLeod, who also represent Celtic Football Club and have numerous ties to the East Glasgow company, the SPL have instructed an ‘Independent Commission’ to examine whatever evidence is currently held and impose whatever sanctions they deem appropriate. 

Of course the only sanction people want to discuss, at least in the media, is that of stripping titles. Who’d have guessed it?

Titles and trophies are the only thing that David Murray can desperately cling to as a redeeming feature of his disastrous time as owner of Rangers Football Club, even if that does seem a rather strange notion. The damage that Minty has done to our beloved Club is certainly beyond reprieve but the mere memories of our glorious successes will forever be cherished for what they were. The SPL however seem determined to remove our official claim to such silverware. 

But far removed from his directors' box at Ibrox, even Minty was capable of recognising the ‘sporting integrity’ sham for exactly what is was. He went as far to say that the current goings on have become a ‘farce’ and that the ‘kangaroo court’ set-up simply has to stop. 

While recognizing an overwhelming lack of faith in our previous owner by the support at-large, I think we would all concur with the sentiments expressed in this part of his statement. Credit where credit is due and all that malarkey. 

Despite inaccurate reporting of ‘dual contracts’ and such likes, the issue at hand for the Scottish Premier League is simply as to whether all relevant payments made to our players were disclosed  to the football authorities. 

SPL rules D9.3 and D1.13" impose a prohibition on players receiving payments for playing football or participating in an activity connected with football except where such payments are made in accordance with a form of contract approved by the SPL and require that all such contracts are submitted to the SPL within 14 days of being entered into”.  

On the face of it, given that EBT payments are required to be discretionary, it wouldn’t be too unreasonable to assume that such payments were not disclosed by RFC. David Murray yesterday however seemed to throw a spanner in the works. 

Regardless of the inevitable waffling that attempted to minimise the blame placed at his door, Murray did make one interesting claim that is worth considering: Amidst the ‘it wasn’t my fault’ nonsense, Minty claimed that previously “SPL rules variously required disclosure of all contract of service matters and all payments from a club to a player”. 

With regards to EBTs, there were no contracts with the players and any payments made did not come directly from the Club but instead by the Trust into which money was paid by Rangers FC. 

Indeed if Murray is right with these claims, and I do stress the need for him to be 100% correct with this, then suddenly the SPL investigation would appear a lot less threatening, although still a considerable concern given the people behind it. 

At the time of writing however I have been unable to obtain any confirmation as to whether Murray is correct in his claim, although one would like to think that at least one of our many journalists will be investigating the matter given its importance. I have personally contacted the Scottish Premier League to request clarification on the SPL rules however I suspect that no reply will be received, certainly not one that will be of any use anyway. 

Interestingly, and perhaps worryingly, SPL Rule D9.3 states, “No player may receive any payment of any description from or on behalf of a Club in respect of player’s participation in Association Football or in a connected activity… unless such payment is made in accordance with a Contract of Service between that Club and the Player concerned”. 

I largely suspect that the legal arguments will centre around the status or treatment of a ‘loan’ and also whether payments from a seemingly separate Trust can be deemed as making payments on behalf of Rangers Football Club. I’m certainly no legal expert and so I would hesitate to pre-judge the outcome of such arguments but perhaps some of you reading this will be able to shed some more light on the legal treatment of such things. Certainly I hope your interpretation is in line with David Murray’s. The SPL as stated were unavailable for comment. 

One thing that is also naturally concerning to all Rangers fans is the utilisation of yet another ‘independent’ committee who will carry out and administer sanctions. This concern was shared by Murray who referenced the previous embarrassment that was caused to the SFA when their Judicial Panel and Appelate Tribunal sanctioned and then upheld the ridiculous transfer embargo, something which the governing body would continue to impose as part of our membership transfer regardless of its legality. 

Minty also struggled to comprehend how he, someone who was owner and chairman for the best part of 23 years, was not questioned or consulted when certain aspects of his time, including the Craig Whyte takeover, came under scrutiny. 

Of course we the supporters who have suffered on account of his short sighted leadership would be right in asking why Minty never offered to share with us that the man at Lloyds' stepping on the neck of our club was also at the helm of the Celtic Trust.

However, in spite of being thoroughly discredited through his mismanagement of our Club, it seems that David Murray is only too well aware of what exactly is going on in Scottish football at present. I just wish he had been this vocal during the second half of his tenure at Ibrox. 

It remains to be seen as to whether Murray’s latest statement will have any effect on the ongoing investigation by the Scottish Premier League or as to whether it is simply inaccurate propaganda which shamelessly attempts to shift the blame from his own doorstep. The more cynical amongst us will perhaps lean towards the latter being the more likely but one can only hope that this latest fiasco is not simply another considerable blemish to be added to the failing report card of our disgraced former owner. 

Regardless of the outcome, David Murray will always be rightly demonised by the Rangers fans for his role in the downfall of our proud institution. Given the events that have subsequently followed and our current position in Scottish football, or at least within the Scottish leagues, I’m not sure anything that our former owner does can come near to compensating for his wayward stewardship at Ibrox.

What he can certainly do without however is another black mark against his name and he must therefore be sitting and praying fervently that the Independent Commission finds in our favour. I’m not sure his ego could handle another failure. 

Although it may perhaps be slightly optimistic, one can only hope that if any titles are to be stripped in the comings weeks, then the only one that is removed is David Murray’s knighthood. You are, afterall, meant to reap what you sow.