14 September 2012

The Work Goes On

by Bill McMurdo | CRO contributor | @williammcmurdo | bmcmurdo@coplandroad.org |

Previously CRO shone the spotlight on Celtic uberfan Manus Joseph Fullerton and questioned his involvement in the pressure applied by Lloyds TSB to Rangers, which forced David Murray to sell to Craig Whyte.

Mr Fullerton’s role at Lloyds TSB saw him having overall control and management of the prestigious Rangers account. However, if media accounts are anything to go by, under Fullerton’s oversight Rangers were treated more like toxic waste than a feather in the cap of the bank’s client portfolio, so relentlessly did the bank pressure Rangers into reducing its debt.

Manus J. Fullerton was a founding board member of the Celtic Trust and we at CRO rightly questioned whether this involvement at a strategic level with Rangers’ fiercest rivals in any way influenced his professional dealings with RFC.

A question I am sure most would agree is a legitimate one in the passionate world of Scottish football, where club allegiances are often thicker than blood!

However, it turns out that Manus Fullerton was not the only Celtic diehard with a powerful hand in the fiscal dealings at Rangers.

Step forward Archie Gerard Kane, the man who headed up Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland and who was once described as “arguably the most powerful man in the Scottish economy.”

Like his Lloyds TSB colleague, Manus Joseph Fullerton, Archie Kane is a fanatical Celtic supporter. Kane is a Hamilton native who rose up the ranks from humble beginnings to become a big player in the insurance field, firstly with TSB, then Lloyds TSB. When HBOS was taken over by Lloyds TSB in 2008, Kane headed up operations for the combined group and thus became the banker of his favourite team’s fierce rivals.

Rangers FC now found itself with two Celtic fans in control of its banking facilities. Not just any Celtic fans but one rewarded for his fanaticism in relation to Celtic by being appointed a board member of the Celtic Trust and the other one of Scotland’s most powerful businessmen.

While we are on the subject of the Celtic Trust, it should be pointed out that this is not an ordinary supporters association but a radical group which lobbies for the singing of Republican hate songs at football games involving Celtic FC.

You cannot fail to understand the concern of Rangers fans that this gruesome twosome of rabid Celtic men were thrust into positions of great trust in their oversight of Rangers’ banking. Subsequent events certainly have done nothing to allay the suspicion that these men were acting in the best interests of Rangers Football Club as the pressure Lloyds TSB applied to the club arguably forced what would be a disastrous decision – the selling of Rangers by David Murray to Craig Whyte.

For decades we have heard the tedious claims of Celtic fans that their team was the victim of a conspiracy, a claim Rangers fans sneered at. Yet now it is Rangers fans who are believers in a conspiracy and it is no theory. Evidence of an anti-Rangers bias and agenda is all around and is the subject of much media coverage virtually all the time.

The problem for both Manus J. Fullerton and Archie G. Kane is that, being men who hail from the west of Scotland and both being Celtic fanatics, they are both surely aware that their role at Lloyds TSB is guaranteed to have suspicious people include them as part of a conspiracy against Rangers, whether they acted in the utmost professional way or not as Rangers’ bankers.

Our responsibility at CRO is to probe and ask the hard questions that Rangers fans want answered. And Rangers fans certainly would like to know how much the footballing loyalties of both men impacted upon their ability to help Rangers FC as a client.

Despite claims to the contrary, Rangers were quite a successful and well managed business. Debts of nearly £80m in 2004 dropped to £6m by 2006, at which time the overseers of the RFC banking facility decided they could loosen the strings a bit. Debts climbed again to £33m by 2008 before the final squeeze was begun. At the time of Murray’s sale, under Fullerton and Kane’s ‘guidance’ - via the hand of Donald Muir in the board room - debts had been slashed to less than £18m in the midst of an unlikely 3IAR given the financial conditions Walter Smith had to work in. Seemingly not enough had been done to cut the legs out from under the club.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves. Scottish football is in the bitter throes of civil war and Rangers fans en masse believe their club is being targeted by a cabal of corruption in the Scottish game.

The EBT inquiry instigated by the SPL has been described by many as a kangaroo court intent on inflicting punishment on Rangers, with the club’s guilt presumed and prejudged before any real proceedings take place.

The role of legal firm Harper Macleod in these proceedings is highly controversial, with their connections to Celtic leading some to conclude they are compromised by conflict of interest issues.

One of those connections is a certain Manus Joseph Fullerton, Celtic Trust founder member – yes, the same Manus who had access to the sensitive inner financial workings at Rangers Football Club and who, along with Archie Gerard Kane, Rangers fans regard with more than a measure of suspicion.

Manus Fullerton has moved on from Lloyds TSB and is now a consultant for Harper Macleod, working alongside another Celtic superfan, top sports lawyer Rod McKenzie. Mr McKenzie’s opinion of Rangers’ guilt on the EBT matter is already well-known due to his own intemperance on one occasion.

It appears that Manus Fullerton likes working for organisations that are, shall we say, not working in Rangers’ best interests?

As for Archie Kane, he has gone on to grander things himself. After being ejected from Lloyds TSB and his fat cat bonus withheld, Archie “Gerry” Kane has found himself one of the cushiest jobs in banking – as Governor of the Bank of Ireland.

In this role he will be able to sign off on the funding of Dermot Desmond’s pet projects, including DD’s aggressive acquisition of radio stations such as the recently acquired Real Radio.

No-one could argue that both Manus Fullerton and Archie Kane, the Celtic diehards who were Rangers bankers, have landed on their feet after their time at Lloyds TSB.

Thankfully, Rangers has survived the fleeting involvement both men had with the club, though the company that previously ran RFC certainly didn’t.

Manus and Archie have moved on but there’s no doubt that other Celtic-minded people will try to have a say in Rangers’ future.

For them the work goes on.