02 September 2015

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

by Andy McKellar | Editor Emeritus

The calamitous turmoil of Rangers Football Club’s recent past will not quietly pass into distant memory it would appear. Arrests were made Tuesday in connection with the alleged fraudulent acquisition in 2012 and charges were filed against Craig Whyte, Charles Green – both of whom face organised crime charges – and David Whitehouse, joint-administrator for Duff & Phelps. His counterpart Paul Clark was added to the arrest roll Wednesday.

Given the nature of the case it would be wrong and dangerous to comment on the perceived events of the high-profile purchase of the Club, but it is worth remembering that all of the above men are in fact innocent until proven guilty. It’s just a shame that the same luxury wasn’t afforded to the Club itself in the aftermath of our plunge into administration and during the chaos that followed.

The narrative, if you remember correctly, quickly became about “financial doping”, “cheating” and tainted titles that were won using the taxpayers money. There was no consideration that Rangers could in fact win the Big Tax Case at the eagerly anticipated First-tier Tribunal. There was no consideration that in fact the Club had been found guilty of nothing.

Unfortunately such judgement wasn’t just being passed by journalists and the online mob that were baying for blood. The football authorities also did their fair share of pre-judging and were too quick and hasty to allocate blame when all of the facts were not yet apparent. The Scottish Football Association themselves acknowledged that Craig Whyte was the “directing mind and will of the company.”

This mattered not. Whyte escaped with a fine that was never to be paid and Rangers were hammered a financial penalty, one that would later be attributed to the new company, and with a transfer embargo which was later deemed unenforceable in a court of law. This was justice, apparently, Scottish football style.

Sadly, this isn’t where it ended. Rangers applied for membership of the Scottish Premier League, something which we were within our rights to do despite what others might tell you. But such was the portrayal of our Club’s supposed sins at that time, we were never likely to succeed. With the likes of Leeds United in England this was merely a formality–context was considered. But this is Scottish football, and common sense rarely prevails.

Supporters of the SPL member clubs were outraged at the thought of Rangers remaining in the top-tier. They cried and bawled and squawked until their chairmen could do nothing else but hide behind their pathetic excuses and misplaced notions of sporting integrity. Our success it would seem had produced tremendous jealousy and hatred.

What’s laughable, and indeed inexcusable, is that our governing bodied bowed to this petulance. They threw aside the rulebook and any notion of integrity or principles and began to give the mob the blood they craved. Rangers had to apply for membership, and that presented the perfect opportunity for pre-judgement and blackmail.

Rangers were asked to surrender our titles and trophies for crimes the Club never committed. This is how the SFA and the SPL treated one of their member clubs. This was their idea of justice and due process.

The Scottish Premier League’s independent commission later cleared Rangers of “cheating.” No sporting advantage was gained. No players were ineligible to play. And yet the SFA and SPL in their infinite wisdom had judged, weeks prior to this verdict, that Rangers should throw away these titles and silverware in order to be permitted entry into the Third Division. Talk about corruption.

The actions of the past deserve far more coverage and criticism than any single article could provide however even a summary as brief as above highlights the unjust and unfair treatment our Club has received during a dark and difficult period of its proud history.

Rangers Football Club has certainly been the victim of gross mismanagement and negligence in recent years, of that there is absolutely no doubt. It may well be hypothetical at the moment but what if – just what if – it was also the victim of fraud?

Where would that leave those who lined up to have a kick? Where would that leave those who found our Club guilty without even considering the possibility of its innocence? Where would it leave those who abandoned their duties to a member club and instead punished it for being the victim of a crime?

Regardless of what happens to Whyte, Green or any of the other gentlemen yet to face police involved in relation to our Club’s recent history, the past is the past. Nothing that happens is going to change the mess we became under their stewardship or alter the way our club was treated throughout the whole saga. Nothing will put us back into the SPL a few years ago and nothing will repair the damage caused in the meantime.

It would however be nice to establish the facts and to see justice served, in whatever form that may take. Some don’t wish to look back, and understandably so, but others will feel that we deserve to know the truth. 

It’s just a shame that we weren’t afforded the same luxury that the courts will grant Messrs Whyte, Green et al. Rangers were, and probably still are in the eyes of many, guilty until proven innocent.