Jun 282012
 

“The Pen is Mightier than the Sword”

Below is an open letter which I have written, addressed to four prominent individuals within the governing bodies of Scottish Football. I urge you all to do something which many people do not do very often nowadays, and send a simple letter. While those in the corridors of power can easily ignore thousands of emails or large scale petitions, letters, and their physical form, are harder to ignore. This is not just for Celtic fans, although this is a Celtic website. It is much, much more important than one club. This is about Scottish Football, and it’s future.

I ask you simply to buy an envelope, address it to “The Scottish Football Association, Sixth Floor, Hampden Park, Glasgow, G42 9AY”, put this open letter inside it, signed by yourself at the bottom, and post it off. If not, write your own letter. This is not about the things which divide us club to club, this is about the future of the game we all love.

All you would need to do is copy it into a word processor such as “Microsoft Word” and print it off. For the cost of a stamp and an envelope, have your voices heard. Print off copies for friends and relatives you may know too who may not have access to the internet. We may achieve nothing, but every letter will help.

 

Letter Begins Below:

 

Dear Mr S. Regan (SFA), Mr C. Ogilvie (SFA), Mr N. Doncaster (SPL), and Mr J. Ballantyne (SFL),

I write to you not as a supporter of one football club, but as a supporter of Scottish Football.

From our earliest days as children, we are taught how the most fundamental aspects of any sport are fairness and integrity. At present, I, and thousands like me, feel that your plans to allow a “Rangers NewCo” entry into the second tier of Scottish Football (whether this is in Division One of the SFL, or in a new SPL Two) directly contradicts these critical foundations on which sport itself is built.

In 2009, Livingston were rendered insolvent and were on the verge of liquidation, before being saved at the last minute. They were demoted to Division Three as they were deemed to have breached rules regarding insolvency. While Rangers Football Club PLC (1872) have yet to be officially liquidated, a newco is in the process of being set up, and you simply must treat them in the same manner as you would treat any other club. Any move to allow a club into a league other than the lowest division would be totally unprecedented in the Scottish game.

You cannot treat clubs differently dependent on who they are and expect to retain the respect of your average football fan. If you allow a newco Rangers into any league higher than the Third Division of the Scottish Football League, you will have been seen to show favouritism, and this, rather than the death of Rangers, will be what seriously damages the future of our country’s national game.

There are forty one teams in the professional leagues in Scotland other than Rangers, and you cannot be seen to put the future of one club before the future of the rest.

I urge you not to take any reckless decisions which will damage the future of the game in Scotland.

If you do allow a newco back into an upper league, you will forever be remembered as the men who ruined Scottish Football, and you will see the inevitable negative effects of your actions, as attendances plummet, protests gather pace, and our national game becomes a worldwide laughing stock.

Please, do the right thing.

 

Yours,

A Scottish Football Fan

Jun 282012
 

“All War is Deception”

Today, a story which had previously been described as “speculation and rumour” from “internet bampots”, was confirmed “to the masses” by the BBC, as they announced that “plans are being put into place that would allow Rangers to move directly into Scottish Division One in the new season”.

Now, although “Rangers” will be confined to the history books by next season (as Rangers Football Club PLC (1872) will officially cease to exist when liquidators BDO move in), this is, nevertheless, a potentially critical turn of events.

The plan itself is based around the following points:

  • Rangers are to be relegated with immediate effect and replaced in the SPL by Dundee.
  • Television rights for Rangers matches in Scottish Football League Division One are to be bought by the SPL for £1m.
  • The SPL and SFL will merge into one body at the start of season 2013-14.
  • Play-offs between the top two divisions will be introduced in time for the coming season with one team from the top flight and three from the second tier competing for a place in the following season’s SPL.
  • There will be an increase in the parachute payments made to clubs relegated from the SPL.
  • Changes will be made to the distribution model for clubs in the top two tiers with teams in the lower leagues earning a similar amount to the current set-up.
  • A new pyramid system will become effective from season 2014-15 that will allow a potential place in the new league format for a team from either the Highland league or newly-created ‘Lowland League’.
  • Rangers newco’s acceptance into the Scottish FA would only be approved if they accept responsibility for the football debts and fines incurred by the previous club along with their waiving of rights to a legal challenge.

 

Please bear with me as I point out a few difficulties with their plan of action.

1. Any newco will not be relegated anywhere. This is fact. A newco is a new club, and for this reason, it should start at the bottom, as every new club has to. If any newco is allowed access into a higher league than the bottom tier (in this case the third division) this will be totally unprecedented, and will be a show of biased. If you read the statement literally, it says “Rangers” will be relegated. If this is to be the case, the SPL will have to relegate Rangers before the meeting scheduled for the 4th July. This would also mean that the SPL would relegate two teams in one season, with two teams being promoted. This would be a clear example of bending the rules to favour one club.

2. The SPL plan to buy the television rights for Rangers matches whilst they play in a lower division. So they expect the clubs (and therefore the supporters) of SPL clubs, who all play by the rules and do not cheat (unlike the old company Rangers) to pay a newco money to cover their matches? I’m sure that will be a really popular idea.

3. I’m all for having larger divisions in Scottish Football, but reform and restructuring should be considered and introduced to help the game as a whole in this country, not simply when one team requires it to make their proverbial penance a little easier.

4. This idea of a potential place for a current non-league team through a new “pyramid system” stinks. Perhaps, and I am merely speculating here, one of the lower league teams weren’t too happen at the fact a newco Rangers would be allowed to immediately refill the gap left in the “professional leagues” after the liquidation of the old company. Perhaps they felt they had more right to that space than the descendants of a club found guilty of extensive, intentional cheating.

5. The club would be forced to waive it’s right to a legal challenge, hence keeping the matter strictly within football, meaning it would be up to the governing bodies to deal with any fallout. This means they could keep matters “in-house” and as far as they’d be concerned, I’m sure they’d say “the case is closed”. Unless, of course, FIFA or UEFA frowned upon the actions of Scotland’s governing bodies.

6. Stewart Regan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, recently departed on his summer holiday. However, he did so without telling the SFA’s appellate tribunal to meet whilst he was away. The tribunal, which the Scottish courts ordered to sit around a month ago, would have the capability to expel Rangers from the Scottish game entirely.

Twice today, I have tweeted the words of the ancient Chinese military general Sun Tzu, who said:

“All war is deception.”

Ironically, thousands of years after he said this, and thousands of miles from his homeland, his words are coming true, in a war for sporting integrity and fairness.

When Livingston liquidated in 2009, they were banished to division three within a single day.

If Scottish Football is fair, surely all clubs must have to play by the same rules, and hence the same punishment must be handed out to any newco.

However, when you look at some of the people who hold the offices of power in Scottish Football, then perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.

I have written at length about the conflicts of interest embodied in Campbell Ogilive, current President of the Scottish Football Association. He used to be a director at Ibrox, and not only did he start his tenure at the club when the “no Catholics” policy was still in full swing, he has also been shown to have been an EBT beneficiary (to the tune of £90,000 no less).

President of the Scottish Football Association, Campbell Ogilvie

As for the Scottish Football League, their President is a man named Jim Ballantyne. Mr Ballantyne is the chairman of Airdrie United, but have no doubt as to where his true allegiances lie, having been seen at the recent Linfield v Rangers match wearing a fighting fund rosette.

President of the Scottish Football League, Jim Ballantyne

In summary, nothing has changed for a newco as yet, but if this plan is allowed to go ahead, Scottish Football will never be the same again. Finances and spreadsheets may seem important at the moment, but without the fans, the lifeblood of the game, finances will become irrelevant. I just hope the governing bodies in this country aren’t so blinded by the apparent need for one club that they exile those who love all of the others.

These reforms were allegedly discussed at a meeting involving the so called “Gang of Ten” (i.e. the current SPL clubs excluding Celtic and Rangers) earlier in the year. If this is proven to be the case, the intentions of the games governing bodies in Scotland needs to be seriously questioned. Put simply, they are not impartial, they are not unbiased, and they are not fit for purpose. There needs to be a serious shake up in the corridors of footballing power.

In saying all of this, remember, “all war is deception”. What could they possibly be trying to cover up with this news?

 

UPDATE

Since the publication of this article earlier today, STV has uncovered a document sent to all Scottish Football League clubs. The document, which reads more like a propaganda leaflet for the newco Rangers, outlines the potential outcomes of this whole sorry mess, with each outcome depending on a different fate for the newco (ie division three etc).

This is astonishing enough by itself. However, it becomes truly staggering when it reveals that, if a newco is not voted into the SFL by the relevant clubs, the Scottish Premier League will form a break off league in the form of SPL 2 to accommodate the newco.

This is simply incredible. The old Rangers have been found guilty of prolonged, intentional cheating, and yet the governing bodies in Scotland are still flocking to the aid of their new form. The document (available here: http://sport.stv.tv/football/clubs/rangers/108463-in-full-document-sent-to-sfl-clubs-to-put-rangers-into-the-first-division/) even states “The Scottish Government remain committed to our community strategy”. The thoughts of a government are absolutely irrelevant here, and yet they are heard, whilst the thoughts of the fans, which are critical, are continually ignored.

Make no mistake, this sort of ridiculous action would only ever be considered in Scotland, and it would only be considered to benefit a particular football club (or at least it’s new form), let alone implemented.

We are now entering perhaps the most important era in the history of Scottish Football. I have faith the voices and actions of football fans in this country will, eventually, win through. However, if this sort of lunacy doesn’t highlight the biased and the incompetence which blights the governing bodies of our national game, nothing will.

Jun 272012
 
“Hail Hail The Celts Are Here”

Celtic will face three sides from the south of the country

It was announced earlier today that Celtic Football Club will soon be travelling to Germany for a pre-season tour of the country, featuring in three games during their stay.

The first match, against F.C. Augsburg, is now less than a fortnight away, with the Bhoys taking on the Bundesliga outfit on the 10th July. Augsburg finished a very respectable 14th in the Bundesliga last season, and their stadium, the SGL Arena, has a capacity of over 30,000. Having been promoted in 2010-2011, Augsburg have done well to keep themselves in the top flight of German football, alongside the likes of Champions League runners up Bayern Munich, and Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund (who successfully defended their title last season).

10th July, F.C. Augsburg

Fans of F.C. Augsburg will undoubtedly be looking forward to this match as much as the rest of us, as their new manager, German Markus Weinzierl, takes control of the team for the first time. This will be the first occasion on which the two clubs will have met, and I’m sure any Celtic supporters who travel to Germany will receive a warm welcome, from the fans of the club originally founded in 1907.

Only five days later, on the 15th July, Celtic will once again take to the field in Germany, as they take on third division side Stuttgart Kickers. Formed in 1899, the club was born as it’s founders decided to turn their backs on rugby and play only football (both games were still developing and vying for players at that time). This choice is reflected in the club’s name to this day.

The club, who have twice made forays into the Bundesliga, in both 1988-89 and 1991-92, were relegated after only one season on both occasions. They also made it to the German Cup Final in 1987, but were beaten 3-1 by Hamburg in front of over 75,000 people in Berlin. Nowadays, the Stuttgart Kickers play at a much lower level, but have seem some progress of late, and having won their regional division in the season just ended, they have been promoted back into the third division.

15th July, Stuttgart Kickers

Currently, the team play their football at the Gazi-Stadion auf der Waldau, the second largest stadium in Stuttgart, which is capable of holding more than 10,000 spectators (mostly on terracing).

Finally, Celtic will finish of their pre-season tour of Germany with a tie against VfR Aalen (on the 17th July), the side who finished second in the “3. Liga” (the third division) last season, winning promotion to the “2. Bundesliga” (the second division) for the first time in their history. Formed in 1921, the club has spent all of its life in the lower leagues of German football, but is now undoubtedly on the rise.

The club plays at the Scholz Arena, most commonly known as the Rohrwang, a stadium with a capacity of over 11,000. Boasting over 4,500 seats, the ground has recently undergone developments to make it fit for the second tier of German Football, including lighting upgrades, pitch improvements, and other work.

With a team featuring players from South America, Italy and (obviously) Germany, VfR Aalen will be one to watch in the coming years, and undoubtedly the friendly tie with Celtic will be enjoyed by all those involved.

17th July, VfR Aalen

Celtic will then continue their pre-season with an away match against Ajax (21st July, 6pm), a home match against Norwich City (24th July, 7.45pm) and a glamour tie in the United States against La Liga Champions Real Madrid (11th August, 6.30pm). There is also some speculation that more matches may be announced.

Celtic kick off their Scottish Premier League title defence on the 4th August (3pm), with a match against Aberdeen at Celtic Park. This match will also see the unfurling of the Championship flag by Celtic great, Sean Fallon.

And may I just say, after writing my first article about Celtic for a few weeks, I am thoroughly looking forward to another football season starting.

Jun 242012
 

Examining the Role of a Compliant Media in the Demise of Rangers F.C. (1872)

(with thanks to Shaun Gibson for his input)

Walter Smith never did see any "war chest"

“Walter Smith will be handed a massive January cheque book if Scots billionaire Craig Whyte succeeds in his £30million bid to buy Rangers” – Welcome to the past. The blissful, happy past. This is a quote from the Daily Record on the 18th  November, 2010. Craig Whyte, at this stage described as a “Scots Whizzkid” in the same article, was “on the brink of buying the club he loves”.

On the same day, the Scottish Sun published their own “Hail to the Chief” style article, as the paper declared “Rangers Sold By Christmas”. The article states: “A self made millionaire who lives in a castle is set to ride to the rescue of Rangers — after weeks of secret talks with Sir David Murray about taking over the club. Lifelong Gers fan Craig Whyte — who made a fortune nursing struggling firms back to health — is poised to sign a £32million deal for the debt-ridden Ibrox side.”

One famous back page headline from the Daily Record

Incredibly,  an insider even declared “David Murray has always said he would only sell Rangers to someone he could trust and who could take the club forward. Craig Whyte is that man. He is a Rangers fan with the club’s best interests at heart and the financial muscle to make this deal happen. The deal is in the early negotiation stages at the moment but I understand that David Murray has met Craig Whyte and been very impressed by his vision of the way ahead.”

Now, as the mainstream media fawned over this potential saviour of Rangers Football Club, the cracks in their story were already clear to see. In fact, these would be shown to be more like chasms and canyons in time.

Still on the 18th November 2010, “VideoCelts” released an article which stated (only hours after the newspaper reports were released): ” Behind the blazing headlines of the self made business success story from Motherwell a “Google” search of his actual business interests throws up a predictable can of worms. Whyte’s credentials appear every bit as dubious as those of Ellis or Duffy…”

Only the next day, on the 19th November 2010, on the BBC’s “606” football discussion forum, one Celtic fan posed a simple question. “Craig Whyte – Billionaire!! Really?? So why does this guy NOT show up on the list of Scotland’s richest people? Or on the list of Britain’s richest people? The person who’s number 100 has an estimated wealth of about 40 mil! He’s not even listed in the top 100, why is that?”

That’s probably because he simply isn’t, and never has been, a “billionaire”.

Whyte was hailed by many in the early days

You would imagine the claims regarding Mr Whyte’s wealth would have been thoroughly checked before any newspaper printed them? Right? Of course not.

Whilst the papers happily told of Whyte’s success regarding shares as a teenager (making £20,000 before he left school), they failed to mention that the first company he set up, “Whyte Hire” went bankrupt in the early nineties, with debts in the region of £300,000.

Only weeks later, on the 1st December 2010, the Daily Record proclaimed: “Craig Whyte is on his way to Scotland for D-Day talks with Sir David Murray on his plans to buy out Rangers. Record Sport has learned that the final round of discussions – which will make or break Whyte’s £32.5million bid – will take place within the next week.”

On the same day, “VideoCelts” once again hinted at the true state of affairs, stating: “The fact that Motherwell born billionaire Whyte has never appeared on the Sunday Times Rich List was probably the first sign that all wasn’t well with the deal. Billionaire’s don’t normally require consortiums to purchase £30m businesses…”

Joe McHugh, the owner and runner of “VideoCelts” then goes on to say “Between moving to Monaco in 1996 and buying Castle Grant in Grantown-on-Spey in 2008 next to nothing is known about Whyte.”

Nowadays, it is widely known that Whyte fled to Monaco for an extended period of time, and was banned from being the director of a U.K. company for seven years. Whilst this was yet to come out in early December 2010, it is clear that Scottish “mainstream” media outlets chose to ignore this fact. Let’s be honest, if Celtic fans sitting at laptops and desktop computers can find out this stuff, surely newspapers, with all of their staff and resources could do the same. Perhaps they already knew this, and simply chose to ignore it?

Ok, so fast forward a few months, till the end of March, 2011. Perhaps the mainstream media would have caught up by this stage in the game?

Nope, apparently not, as on the 31st March, 2011, the Scottish Sun had the headline “Buy Buy Rangers”, with the following picture underneath it. Now, ironic and laughable as that headline may seem to us all now, this is genuinely what was being reported less than a year before the administration of the Ibrox Club.

The story itself told how “Tycoon Craig Whyte is at last set to buy Rangers tomorrow in a cut-price £28million swoop”, before going onto state “Rangers are today expected to announce yearly figures showing they’ve slashed the club debt by £7 million to £20 million.”

Only days earlier, a blog appeared which would soon become synonymous with the demise of Rangers Football Club, the now famous “Rangers Tax Case”. It received more than ten thousand hits in the first few days of it’s existence, as it detailed the amounts Rangers F.C. had been placing into offshore accounts known as “Employee Benefit Trusts” (EBT’S).

On the 30th March 2011, the day before the Scottish Sun published the article above, Rangers Tax Case (RTC) said “Rangers fans should be wary of those purporting to represent their interests. While Celtic fans might enjoy a temporary giggle over the current situation, only journalists with decades worth of friendships to protect and those who have driven the club to the precipice can benefit from keeping this story quiet.”

Whilst RTC, the blog which would go on to win the “Orwell Prize” published an article entitled “Whispering the L-Word” (referring to the potential threat of liquidation) on the 22nd April 2011, the Daily Record was continuing in it’s apparent blindness to the reality of the situation. On the 5th May 2011, the paper published a story claiming the “Rangers takeover to go through within hours as Craig Whyte seals deal”. This in itself is not untrue, as the takeover did occur at this time. However, the first line of the article describes the deal as “Craig Whyte’s £50 million buy out”.

It also sites a “A lengthy period of due diligence and negotiation followed which culminated in an offer being made and accepted”, before stating “His interest in Rangers combines his passion for the club and its success on the domestic and European stages with a commitment to turn the business into a sound and profitable commercial enterprise.”

Funny that, as only weeks later Craig Whyte was interviewed by Scotland on Sunday, saying (with reference to RTC): “I’m aware of a website that has dedicated itself to talking about our tax case”, said Whyte of a site that claims to be in the know about Rangers’ financial affairs and regularly predicts a new kind of Armageddon for the club. “I’ve looked at it. What they’re saying is 99 per cent crap.”

In my mind, if RTC was talking “99 per cent crap”, I don’t know if numbers could go high enough to truly quantify the amount of “crap” that has been printed in the Scottish Press over the last couple of years.

As the financial net began to tighten around Rangers Football Club, there was soon to be a shift in attitudes in the media, from positive and complimentary to scathing and vindictive. However, before all of that, the sale of Nikica Jelavic came with the opportunity for a transfer rumour, as Rangers targetted Francisco Sandaza. In fact, the Daily Mail had the transfer down as a done deal on the 7th January 2012, stating ” Sportsmail understands the Ibrox club have met the Spanish striker’s wage demands and, as things stand, he will join Rangers in the summer. However, there is still a chance the player could arrive at Ibrox this month after manager Ally McCoist revealed on Friday that he does not have to sell before buying.”

Only a month later, in mid February, Rangers Football Club filed for administration. In a little over nine months, the man who could do no wrong in the eyes of the mainstream media had led Rangers Football Club into the control of administrators. Don’t get me wrong, Craig Whyte is not exclusively to blame for the woes of the old club, as Sir David Murray must shoulder vast amounts of this, but Mr Whyte has certainly not helped matters.

How attitudes changed in the media...

On the 14th of February, the Daily Record published an article entitled “Rangers In Crisis: Fury As Supremo Whyte Faces The Fans Outside Ibrox”. It began “A small but dedicated and extremely vocal band of supporters erupted in a cacophony of boos as their new hate figure appeared before them. The group of around 100 gave vent to their anger as a nervous Whyte, the colour drained from his face, hesitantly announced plans to move their beloved club towards administration. Guarded by police and reading from a piece of paper, he attempted to make his faltering voice heard over the crescendo of catcalls.”

The article then proceeded to say “Having rattled off the statement, Whyte turned and scuttled back inside the stadium with the verbal backlash ringing in his ears.” Less than a year beforehand, the same newspaper hailed the new Rangers owner, his “£50 million buy out” and his aim to invest his own money so the club could buy new players.

The article then stated the views of several Rangers supporters, one of which read “David Miller, 40, of Craigton, Glasgow, said: “It’s a sad day for Rangers. I thought Craig Whyte was the man to take us forward. He made so many promises and yet we find ourselves in this position now.””

My issue is this. It has been increasingly well known from day one of this affair that Craig Whyte simply did not have the money many claimed he had, and that he could not invest in Rangers Football Club as they claimed he would.

Authors, bloggers, and people simply airing views and opinions on internet forums have spoken extensively regarding matters that were ignored by sections of the mainstream media for very lengthy periods of time. If average Rangers supporters like Mr Miller, quoted above, had seen these facts written in their daily newspapers then it is unlikely Craig Whyte would have ever gained control of Rangers.

This mentality was encouraged by sections of the Scottish media

Whether or not the club would be any better off than it is now is very debatable, but sections of the media knowingly chose to both ignore the truth, and not to report it. Many of the Rangers supporters have been stunned by the events of the last six months and, when you consider the media many of them digest, can you really blame them for thinking “Celtic supporters on the internet are just talking nonsense”?

The “we are the people”, “Rangers cannot die” mentality has been engrained in them for years if not decades by sections of the Scottish press, and this propaganda meant they were shocked when the reality of the situation finally hit many of them. In fact, the reality has still to really hit some Rangers supporters, as journalists and newspapers far and wide tell them how “the club lives on in the fans” and “it is still the same club” when this is simply not the case.

Rangers Football Club (1872) will die, officially, when liquidators BDO move in at some point in the next few months. This is now an undeniable certainty. With this, the history of “Rangers” ceases to grow and “Rangers”, at least as we have known them, will cease to exist.

Along with the notable shift in the tone of many newspapers reporting with regards to Craig Whyte, there has also been an interesting shift in style of the images used to accompany the articles. Initially, when Whyte could do no wrong, and was hailed as a “billionaire”, images such as the one below were used, depicting a happy, relaxed, energetic looking Mr Whyte.

Whyte's face in the media in "happier times"

However, as the grim situation facing Rangers (and Whyte’s role in it) became increasingly apparent, the images of Craig Whyte seen in the media changed clearly, as the pictures of the fresh faced young businessman from Motherwell became pictures of a stressed, concerned man constantly being followed by the media (see below).

Whyte's depictions in more recent times

For the record, I am not trying to defend what Craig Whyte, Sir David Murray, or anyone else involved in the demise of Rangers has done. I am merely trying to highlight the ways in which certain sections of the media, particularly the tabloid press, have contributed to the circumstances surrounding the so called “end-game”.

For years, they have knowingly lied to both the Rangers supporters and the public as a whole, underplaying things and over-exaggerating things when it suited them, and when it suited those in control of the Ibrox club. The truth was out on the freely accessible internet long, long before it ever hit a newspaper which you are required to pay for the privilege of reading. The work of those behind the “Rangers Tax Case” blog, Phil MacGiollaBhain, Paul Brennan of CQN, and countless others has been critical in bringing this story to light, and in bringing those who have committed wrongdoing to justice.

This has been, and will continue to be, the biggest sporting story Scotland has seen for decades. I, for one, will confess to feeling a little bored of it at times. After all, this story has been dragging on for what seems like forever. However, this doesn’t mean the story itself is not important. In fact, it is incredibly important.

First, the mainstream media told us Rangers would never go into administration…and then they did.

Second, the mainstream media told us Rangers were “too big to go under” and would not liquidate…and they will.

Now, as the mainstream media try to tell us that “Scottish Football needs Rangers to survive”, they expect us to believe them?

Long live internet bampottery. Long live Scottish Football.

 

Jun 222012
 
Perhaps William Shakespeare knew all along…

Perhaps there is good reason they look concerned...

This is only a short blog, but nevertheless I felt it was worth writing with regards to recent developments.

Today, it has been announced that a judge, Lord Hodge, has ordered an enquiry into the appointment of Duff & Phelps as the administrators at Rangers Football Club (P.L.C. (1872)). The stark conflicts of interest revealed on a public level by the BBC’s documentary, “The Men Who Sold the Jerseys” is largely responsible for this.

Now, while this is undoubtedly bad for Duff & Phelps, as well individuals such as David Grier and Craig Whyte (also known as “Craigy Craigy Whyte” in some quarters), this is terrible news for Rangers, or well, for “Zombie” Rangers at least.

Lord Hodge has given three weeks for this enquiry to be completed, before it’s results are heard in court. While this happens, Rangers will be forced to keep Duff & Phelps in charge of the club, and thus will be unable to hand over control to liquidators BDO during this time. As I understand it, this means that they cannot complete any transfer of the assets of the old company over to any “newco” until this whole process is complete.

There is only a little over six weeks until the start of the new Scottish Premier League season, and for any “newco” to replace “Club 12″, they are dramatically running out of time (presuming they haven’t already).

Yesterday, Heart of Midlothian (through the unique style of Vladimir Romanov) and Dundee United (through the views of their supporters) announced they would both vote “no” to a “newco” in the Scottish Premier League on the 4th July.

For the first time, I genuinely agreed with what Mr Romanov had to say.

With clubs like Celtic and Aberdeen regarded as almost certain “no” votes, this leaves the chances of any “newco” being allowed back into the SPL looking very slim indeed. Motherwell and St Mirren will allow their supporters to vote on their decision, while other clubs such as Hibernian and St Johnstone have hinted strongly they too will vote no. It is not looking good for any “newco” in this regard, as five or more “no” votes will stop them from rejoining the SPL.

We all know Rangers F.C. (1872) will die, and it is only a matter of time until this happens when BDO are finally called in. In essence, they are already dead, and BDO will simply confirm this fact.

 

However, with third division football looming, we have a potentially financially stricken “new” club, who:

– will soon see a Biblical exodus of players leaving the old company for nothing (and hence will have no, or very few, senior players)

– are still awaiting the decision of the Scottish Football Association’s Appellate Tribunal

– would have to pay for the upkeep of an increasingly dilapidated stadium

– will not generate significant income through ticket sales with the inevitable fall in attendances

– and have a “tainted” reputation in the world of football, due to cheating, tax evasion and potentially to other crimes too

Who thinks that is an appealing prospect?

 

What Dave King said at Glasgow Airport only the other day was, at least in my mind, very telling; “I really don’t believe Rangers represents a financial opportunity for anyone other than an asset stripper.”

Now, a “newco” may yet survive, and may yet play football in the coming season. It may too eventually rise from the ashes to mimic the size of it’s predecessor.

However, I would say this in all seriousness. The chances of a “newco” Rangers surviving and prospering are looking increasingly unlikely. There are so many obstacles in their way, and whenever they manage to overcome one of them, it seems there is one twice the size of the previous one awaiting them.

We may very well be about to witness the extinction of what was Rangers altogether. Don’t rule out any “newco” suffering an insolvency event in the future, if they make it that far, that is. Even if they do survive and prosper, we may not see a “newco” playing football until the 2013-2014 season.

As William Shakespeare wrote in “The Merchant of Venice”:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

All of the old company’s sins are coming back to haunt them, and everyone they’ve wronged over the years may not hesitate when finally given the chance to have their revenge.

"Et tu, Brute?"

 

Jun 202012
 
“Let it never be forgotten that the Rangers supporters stoned women and children engaged in a work of charity…”

Is extinction really a possibility?

Over the past few months, the general public have been increasingly bombarded with the view that “Scottish Football needs Rangers to survive” from both the mainstream media and Rangers supporters. In fact, during an interview with the Herald on Sunday only last weekend, prospective chairman of a newco controlled by Charles Green, Malcolm Murray, likened the other clubs voting a newco out of the Scottish Premier League to a “suicide pact”. This was not a grotesque comparison constructed by the newspaper, but a direct quote from the man himself, with a clear message written into it.

Essentially, what Mr Murray means is “vote out our newco and we’ll all hope the game goes down the toilet”. Perhaps if the rest of Scottish Football had been inundated with apologies and signs of remorse from everyone involved in the old Rangers, then we would all be a little bit more sympathetic. Only then could we believe that they are really concerned about the potential future of Scottish Football when they discuss their potential demise.

However, without these apologies, and without even the slightest acknowledgement of any wrongdoing, forgive me if I read quotes like that from Mr Murray and read them as veiled threats. The “we are the people” mentality lends itself very easily to “If we’re going down, we’re going to try to take you all with us”, and this is exactly what many people are trying to do. If your average Rangers supporter truly cared for the state of Scottish Football then they would be apologetic and remorseful for ruining the game in this country for over a decade through tax evasion and financial doping, and yet the majority are simply not.

The people calling for a newco to be allowed straight back into the Scottish Premier League are only looking out for their own interests, and of the interests of the new club they support. Any claims that they have “the best interests of Scottish Football” at heart are simply false, and should be looked upon as such. In my mind, they should count themselves lucky if their new club find themselves in division three next season. After all, many of the non-league teams, such as Spartans and Edinburgh City (amongst many others), could very well put forward both valid and well reasoned arguments to suggest they are far more worthy of any open space in the professional leagues than a newco Rangers are. For one thing, they have not been proven to have had a long history of intentional cheating as the former Ibrox club have.

Figures released with regards to the 2011-2012 season show that Celtic were, by average attendances at least, the thirteenth best supported club in Europe, with an average of 50,904 supporters attending home league matches. The old Rangers, were by this same standard, the nineteenth most supported team, with an average of 46,324 supporters attending league ties at Ibrox.

Despite poor attendances on some occasions, this is still a significant statistic in terms of home crowds.

The main argument calling for a newco to remain in the Scottish Premier League surrounds the potential loss of revenue for other clubs through the income they would have received from travelling Rangers supporters.

Now, undoubtedly, the demotion of a newco would mean the loss of this revenue from away supporters. Most clubs will face Celtic and Rangers at home four times a season, with two visits from each side, almost or completely selling out their away sections on these occasions. This is seems like a valid argument, as no newco in the Scottish Premier League would mean the loss of this income.

However, what the same people who predict doom for Scottish Football without a newco will not tell you is that this lost income would easily be found somewhere else in S.F.A.R (Scottish Football after Rangers). At present, an average of over forty six thousand fans have been attending Ibrox stadium every fortnight or so. Now, whether a newco are in the third division, or lost from the leagues altogether, attendances would be no where near that figure in the medium to longer term.

While undoubtedly some of the “die-hard” Rangers fans would continue to follow a newco home and away, attendances would plummet, along with the standard of football and results on display in the lower leagues. The old Rangers support have a reputation for only turning up when things are going well, as attendances before the “glory days” under Sir David Murray show. I say “glory days” because even the earliest of these years may one day be proven to have involved some form of cheating, and this is now an issue which I feel needs to be seriously addressed.

Anyway, whilst some supporters may largely desert a newco and football for five or ten years while the new club gets off of it’s knees, I believe thousands upon thousands of old Rangers supporters would, in time, find themselves going to watch other Scottish clubs play their football. This may start when they decide to go and watch, for example, Kilmarnock take on Celtic at Rugby Park one week, but in time I don’t think people with a genuine love of football could stay away. In fact, the hatred of Celtic that some ex-Rangers supporters would possess may actually help to make other teams more competitive.

Consider a team like Kilmarnock, for argument’s sake, who last season had an average home attendance of 5,537. The highest attended match they had was the visit of Celtic on the day they won the Scottish Premier League title, with 15,926 almost filling Rugby Park to the brim. However, that was a special day and not your average travelling support.

But would it really?

If we look at the 1-0 victory for Kilmarnock over Rangers in November, 2011, we can see the attendance was 9,506. This means that there were probably soemwhere around 4,000 away supporters inside the ground. Presuming tickets cost an average of £25 each when taking into account reduced prices for certain individuals that leaves you Kilmarnock with, at an estimate of approximately £100,000 taken in from Rangers supporters. This doubled, for the expected two visits a season, would leave the Ayrshire club with £200,000. If we even include a theoretical tonne of programme and food sales, we could estimate a figure of £250,000 being lost if a newco were not in the Scottish Premier League.

Now, Kilmarnock play at home, in the league, nineteen times a season. I have been fairly liberal in my prices above in order to prove a point to you all. To recoup a potential loss of £250,000 a season, Kilmarnock would have to make an extra £13,157 per match over the course of their nineteen home league games. This means that, approximately, 658 more adults, paying a rate of £20 a time, would need to go and see Kilmarnock every week. Now, that may sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact that tens of thousands of “regular” football goers across Scotland would suddenly be looking for a team to watch, that number begins to look a lot smaller. It looks even smaller yet when you consider the fact that the figure of 658 doesn’t take into account the money these individuals would spend on food, drink, or merchandise at the club. It also does not include any revenue generated from away supporters of a “twelfth team”, such as the fans of Dundee, visiting Rugby Park once a season.

This small, and fairly rough example, shows clearly that the demise of Rangers and the demotion of a newco to the third division would really have a fairly small financial effect on other Scottish Premier League teams.

“Ah, but what about the television deals?” I hear some people ask. Well, Sky and ESPN have already confirmed that the lack of a newco will not affect their coverage of the Scottish Premier League, so this becomes a fairly fruitless argument.

The fact is that Scottish Football has been, largely, declining in quality over the course of many years. Before Sir David Murray took control of Rangers, several teams including Aberdeen, Dundee United, and Hearts, were often competing seriously for league titles and for silverware. Partially, as a result of old Rangers’ financial doping, the competitiveness of Scottish Football has plummeted, with only Celtic able to keep pace. This has not been entirely down to the actions of Rangers, but they have certainly not helped matters.

So all this begs the question, “Scottish Football with a newco looks like it will only continue on a downward spiral, so isn’t it time we all took a chance and tried to get the game moving in the right direction again?” I think this question answers itself.

I’ll begin to wind this article up with two quotes from a book entitled “Celtic’s Paranoia…all in the mind?” written by Tom Campbell. For those of you who have not read it, it is certainly worth a read, as while I may not agree with all of the author’s sentiments, it is an interesting book and it does make you think.

Well worth a read.

In one section of the book, which discusses Celtic’s relationship with the media, there are, amongst many others, three quotes that caught my eye. However, these are not quotes concerning Celtic, but old Rangers, and their supporters.

In 1924, the Glasgow Observer, a paper with well known leanings towards Celtic, described the away supporters in a Glasgow Derby match at Celtic Park as follows:

“On the terracing at the Dalmarnock End on Saturday there was congregated a gang, thousands strong, including the dregs and scourings of filthy slumdom, unwashed yahoos, jailbirds, night hawks, won’t works, “burroo” barnacles and pavement pirates, all, or nearly all, in the verminous stage of scarecrow trampdom. This ragged army of insanitary pests was lavishly provided with orange and blue remnants, and these were flaunted in challenge as the football tide flowed this way and that. Practically without cessation for ninety minutes or more, the vagabond scum kept up a strident howl of the “Boyne Water” chrous. Nothing so designedly provoking, so maliciously insulting or so bestially ignorant has ever been witnessed even in the wildest exhibitions of Glasgow Orange bigotry.” (1st November 1924)

Only years later, in 1927, the same paper published another report regarding the behaviour of Rangers supporters at Celtic Park:

“The blue bedecked crowd at the Dalmarnock end earned fame of a kind by actually pelting with stones and clinkers the collectors, ladies and young boys included, who were carrying round the sheets for the Dalbeth Convent collection. The Blue following have many misdeeds to their credit, but surely this was the dirtiest. Let it never be forgotten that the Rangers supporters stoned women and children engaged in a work of charity…when the game and the players are merely a shadowy memory, this shameful thing will be remembered.” (23rd April, 1927)

We’ve all seen the footage of Rangers supporters rampaging around Celtic Park, and destroying the toilets with a worrying degree of freedom, but here’s a clip for anyone who wants to see it again, posted after not only the final Celtic v Rangers game of the season, but the final one ever. Here is a modern display of both bigotry and violence, and you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to find more examples (see Manchester 2008 for argument’s sake).

While no set of football supporters are absolutely perfect, and I would include the Celtic support in that regard, there seems to have been a systemic acceptance and encouragement with regards to this sort of behaviour within the Rangers support for generations, and it leaves us again with the question, “Does Scottish Football really need Rangers?”

I’ll leave you with one final quote, taken from Gerry McNee, in the News of the World, 26 October, 2003:

“I sat at the back of Ibrox stadium’s main stand on Wednesday night and wondered what kind of person would want to own, be chairman, director or manager of Rangers Football Club in the 21st century…I was ashamed of my Scottish roots and being born and bred a Glasweigian…the sectarian singing intensified on a night the club introduced a supposed traditional Rangers song ‘The Blue Sea of Ibrox’…a couple of elderly fans told me it was an adaptation of an old Boys’ Brigade number…the minute the Three Stooges [three singers hired by the club to provide pre-match entertainment] began ‘Follow, Follow’, we were on a roller coaster as a frenzied crowd headed into the Billy Boys, Fenian blood, Celtic, the Pope, the IRA, Bobby Sands, Derry’s Walls, King James, the Queen and the rest of their bilious repertoire…at Ibrox stadium my stomach churned at the sight of a primeval gathering. It was pernicious, poisonous, virulent, evil…yet so many, including the media, accept it as the norm!”

Perhaps, as I have stated before, a newco would allow the sensible supporters of the old Rangers to drop the baggage of the old club, acknowledge it and apologise for their small part in it, and attempt to move on without it into the future, with a clean slate. Sadly however, I won’t hold my breath in this regard. Too often are the views of sensible Rangers supporters drowned out by the bigots, accusing them of being “Timmy in disguise”.

My thoughts? Scottish Football doesn’t need Rangers.
Say “No” to a Newco in the Scottish Premier League.
Jun 162012
 
Could Rangers Football Club (1872) Become “Fourth Lanark”?

As Celtic celebrated lifting the Championship trophy at the end of last season, and the players paraded around the field, a young woman took to the pitch and sang the famous Three Degrees hit, “When Will I See You Again?”. One line, which I feel is very relevant to the current situation in Scottish Football, can be found below:

“Is this my beginning or is this the end? When will I see you again?”

I was far from the first person to predict the demise of Rangers Football Club (1872); be on it online, or through any other form of media. For this reason, I must take my proverbial hat off to those who have been discussing this theory, which is soon to become reality, from it’s earliest days. I’ll be honest and say that if someone had said to me five years ago, “In five years, Rangers Football Club will go bust, liquidate and cease to exist” I would have thought they were talking pushing the boundaries of believability to say the least.

I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner, I only say it to help highlight the enormity of the days we are now living through. Days like these will become the stuff of history and legend. Rangers were, at least in Scottish terms, a very “big club”. While we all enjoyed slagging them off and talking them down, we all knew they were, like ourselves a “big club”. Granted, they were never to be a member of Europe’s elite as they never won Europe’s premier trophy, but nevertheless, the fact remains they were a “big club”.

And yet, despite this status, Rangers Football Club (1872) is soon to be no more. It has, of course, been announced that the old company will be liquidated in the coming weeks/months, and therefore, it is simply a matter of time until that form of the Ibrox club draws it’s last breath, before joining the likes of Renton, Vale of Leven, Gretna and, perhaps most famously, Third Lanark, in the pages of history.

The question on everyone’s lips is, obviously, “What will become of Rangers?”

Many Rangers supporters will argue that the “newco” club (any new form of “The Rangers”, also known as Sevco 5088) should be parachuted straight back into the Scottish Premier League, to prevent the “death of Scottish Football”. Many others, mostly non-Rangers supporters, will argue that any newco should be demoted to the third division, a level from which they would have to work their way back to the highest tier in time. Others still would argue that the club should lose their place in the “forty two team leagues” altogether, so that a team currently playing in the non-leagues could take the open place.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the structure of the Scottish game, the highest division is the Scottish Premier League, which consists of twelve sides. Below this, there are the Scottish Football Leagues, consisting of Division One, Division Two, and Division Three. Each of these leagues consist of ten teams, but no one can be relegated from, or promoted into, Division Three. This means the same forty two clubs make up “professional” Scottish football every season. The exception to this “professional” rule are, of course, Queen’s Park, who have always remained true to their amateur roots.

Anyway, below Division Three are the “non-leagues”, where amateur football clubs battle it out with no hope of progressing to the upper echelons of the game. Occasionally, a space opens up due to the bankruptcy of one of the forty two “professional” sides, as we saw  a few years ago when Gretna’s fairytale story came to a grisly end. This event saw several non-league teams battle to win the open spot, with Annan Athletic eventually overcoming it’s rivals and joining Division Three.

Now, this begs the question, “If the Scottish game is to be fair, and all teams are to be treated equally, should Rangers lose their place as a result of their imminent liquidation?” This is a very reasonable question. It may not be a terribly practical possibility in many people’s eyes, but it is, nevertheless, a fair question to ask.

It may be an unlikely outcome, but Rangers could simply vanish from “professional” Scottish football. At present, the club hold one of forty two places and, with their disappearance, there is an argument to say that someone else (who did not knowingly and purposefully cheat both the taxpayer and the average Scottish football fan for over a decade) deserves their place more than any newco.

Granted, any non-league team replacing Rangers would not bring with it the vast support that the Ibrox club possesses. However, some people would argue that most Rangers fans would simply go somewhere else to watch their football in time, and that Scottish Football would do what it has always done, survive. In fact, many would say the redistribution of the Rangers support to other clubs would actually help the overall state of the game in this country. Of course, Rangers fans would understandably debate this point, and will argue for their club to, at the very worst, remain members of the “professional” leagues. No one should begrudge them this argument either. After all, there is nothing wrong with them wanting to see the survival of their club, at least in some form.

Personally, I think a newco will, eventually, end up playing it’s football in Division Three. Whether or not that will be in the coming season is debatable due to increasingly obvious time restraints, but if I was to put money on one of the potential outcomes of this situation, I would back that one. In saying that, it is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen.

However, the potential for no “professional” newco remains a stark possibility, and that must send shivers down the spines of anyone who supported Rangers F.C. (1872). There is nothing to stop a current non-league team (if not several of them) from legally challenging any re-admittance of a newco into the “professional” league. This could rumble on, and on, and on.

As a Celtic fan, regardless of what happens, there will be some things I will miss about the presence of Rangers. I’ll miss certain aspects of the derby matches, and I’m sure we all will. The “buzz” before the games and the adrenaline rushes during them was “like a drug”. However, the same feelings come along with big European matches too, so they would not be lost forever without Rangers. I’d also miss the rivalry, but again, new rivals would emerge without a newco.

I certainly wouldn’t miss the less pleasant aspects of derby day, and of the rivalry. I hope the violence, the bigoted chants, the sectarian songs and the general hatred embodied by some of Rangers’ support dies with the old club. Any newco would have the chance, should they decide to take it, to acknowledge the sins of the past, apologise for them, and attempt to distance themselves from them before moving on with a clean slate. For example, they could sign a player from the Republic of Ireland, something every other professional team in the United Kingdom has done with the exception of Rangers Football Club (1872).

The survival of a newco would certainly mean the survival of the derby, and of the rivalry, but it would be a fantastic chance for the Ibrox faithful to shed some of the stuff that should have been left in the past long, long ago.

Fundamentally, for me, I do not mind hugely whether a newco goes to Division Three, or into the non-leagues. I would be outraged if a newco was allowed straight back into the Scottish Premier League, but that is another argument entirely. I support Celtic Football Club, and for that reason, regardless of the existence of a “professional” newco, I will be back to see Celtic next season, and I hope to continue to do so for many seasons to come.

In the coming weeks and months, the question that makes up the title of this article will likely be answered, at least to some degree. Will we see a newco in the SPL next season? Will we not see a newco for several years, unless we draw them in a cup competition? Or will we simply never see them again?

 

“When will I see you again? When will we share our precious moments? Will I have to wait forever?”

“When will I see you again?”

 

Jun 122012
 
“The Biggest Extinction Since that of the Dinosaurs”

Rangers Football Club were born in 1872, and have now died in 2012. Rather like Twitter, where users are limited to one hundred and forty characters per tweet, Rangers have been limited to one hundred and forty years in existence, largely due to the decisions of those in charge of the club in the past twenty years. Rangers Football Club are now dead. Whilst some of their supporters and some media outlets were still talking about potential new signings and magical loopholes, the BBC, to their immense credit, were seeking confirmation of something vital.

They have now published the fact that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will vote against any company voluntary agreement (CVA) proposal put forward by Rangers F.C., whom they currently owe £21,376,767. This figure excludes the potential £50 million extra they may owe the tax man with the result of the First Tier Tax Tribunal (also known as the “Big Tax Case”).

This, my friends, is the proverbial wooden stake being driven into the heart of the vampire. For the CVA to be successful, Rangers need more than 75% of the creditors (value wise) to vote for a CVA otherwise it will be rejected. HMRC hold more than 25% and thus, no CVA can be accepted.

This has been the plan all along. Liquidation has been the plan all along, and now, we’re going to see it.

However, while I’m sure many people across the globe will celebrate the demise of Rangers F.C., this may be only the beginning of another battle. For the sake of sporting integrity and fairness, no “Newco” Rangers can be allowed to be parachuted into the SPL. If a “Newco” is formed, regardless of what some “people” may try to tell you, it is not, and will never be, the old Rangers. With the liquidation of the old company ends the history of the original Rangers, and it will never be extended. It may be rewritten, with titles and trophies being stripped, but it will never grow a single day longer.

A Scottish footballing giant has taken it’s final breath, and it is now extinct.

However, I for one, will not shed a tear.

For all of those times you’ve cheated Scottish Football, for all of those times you’ve sang your songs of hatred and division, for all of those racist slurs and displays of violence, for all of those dodgy penalties and honest mistakes, for all of those years of “no Catholics allowed”, for all of those years of tax evasion, for all of those creditors you treated with such disdain, and for all of those years of “We Are the People” – that is what you will be remembered for.

Well, you were “the people”. Now, you are simply a person, just like everyone else on our little planet, and you’ll have to get used to that fact.

Rest In Peace Rangers Football Club (1872) – You won’t be missed.

Jun 112012
 

Recently, when the new “Pitch Black” strip was launched, there was a bit of a discussion/debate going on as to where people would be buying the strip from.

I also sensed a lot of anger from some fans, mainly parents who understand that the money going into the club is better than it is going into a sports shop, but who also feel like the club are taking advantage of them.

The obvious choice would be to buy any merchandise directly from the club, so that you know your money stays within the club. Surely that makes sense; if you buy from outside the club, then the profits or at least part of them will go to the outlet that the purchase is made from.

Money going into the club helps to pay for various things, such as players, wages, back room staff, catering and stadium maintenance, to name but a few. If you buy from a third party outlet, what percentage of the profit do the club receive as opposed to the percentage the club see when the same product is bought from the themselves directly ?

I have no idea what the percentage difference is. However, something that I do have an idea of is the fact that there is a ongoing recession, and the majority of people, including myself, have less disposable income than ever.

I don’t know who to contact or how to find out, but I would like to know why the club charge so much more than some other outlets? Is it the case that overheads, such as staff wages, shop maintenance etc, mean that they have no option but to charge more? Is it the case that some outlets buy such a large amount of Nike products that they pay less?

I feel that if the club were to tell us why the new kit is more expensive from them than from a lot of sports shops, then more people wouldn’t be so annoyed about the price difference, and would perhaps be more willing to pay it. When I was doing a bit of research, there seemed to be one outlet in particular that was the cheapest place to buy the Celtic kit from, so I’ve used them to compare prices.

Before I discuss these comparisons, I want to let you know that the reasons for buying from the club (that I opened this article with) are valid reasons and for me, and they are good enough reasons to get to go directly to the club. However, I am 29 years old and have no children so, if at all, I need to buy myself a grand total of one top. The chances are that one top for the season will be enough, if I get the away one then I wont bother with the home one and vice versa.

What if I was a 29 year old guy, or a person of any age for that matter, who has younger kids who like the football? Suddenly there is a pressure on parents to buy the newest kit, regardless of how many times there is one launched. I know it was a while ago now, but I happen to remember one of the things about being a child means that you have no real concept of money.

 

Now on to the comparisons:

– For me to buy a long sleeved version of the new away top from the club it will cost me £55. From Sports Direct, it’s £47, but I’m sure I could live with the £8 deficit.

– For a parent with two young kids to buy short sleeved versions, it’s going to set them back £140 for one adult and two kids tops. From the sports direct, it’s £107.

 

I think it’s perhaps time for the people who set prices at the Celtic superstore to understand that not everyone earns a massive wage and thinks nothing of £37. I’m not really sure who this would be but I can only assume that’s a highly paid marketing department who have lost touch with reality and have no idea what the average family has available to spend.

As much as I am happy with what’s happening on the football pitch, I do feel that the club are taking some fans for granted. I think that when there’s so much of a saving to be made from buying from a third party, the club may well have shot themselves in the foot to some degree.

Jun 072012
 

“The A-Z Of Why They’re Dead”

A is for…”Audited Accounts”

The rules state that all Scottish Premier League clubs must have fully audited accounts submitted to the Scottish Football Association no later than the 31st March 2012. All other clubs (SFL and below) had until the 30th April 2012 to do this. Rangers, despite being granted an unprecedented “period of grace” (extending their deadline to the 15th June), have yet to even begin this process. Without these accounts, Rangers cannot be granted a SFA licence for next season. Also, it is worthy of note that any accountancy firm who submits audited accounts on behalf of a company essentially “put their reputation on the line” in doing so, as they have to state that they are fully correct. With Rangers’ finances in tatters, and a lot of “To Be Confirmed (TBC)” amounts involved, this requirement looks less and less likely to be achieved by the deadline, if at all.

 

B is for…”BBC”

While the BBC may not have been the first media source to seriously investigate this story, they have undoubtedly brought the story to the proverbial masses. For those who take their daily news in, for example, the form of a newspaper, Mark Daly’s documentaries (particularly the second of the two), must have been a fairly loud wake up call. For those who have followed this story online, the BBC’s investigation merely confirmed many of the suspicions being reported, as well as revealing other interesting “tit-bits” of information. Duff and Phelps refusal to speak “on the record” to the BBC during their last documentary was, in my opinion at least, very telling.

C is for…”Creditors”

Rangers Football Club continue to owe money to over two hundred and fifty businesses or individuals known as “creditors”. The sums of money due to these “creditors” range from a mere £17.28 (owed to STRI Limited) to an astronomical £26,700,000 (owed to Ticketus, although the result of the “First Tier Tax Tribunal” could push HMRC into first place in this league table). In theory, when totalled up, Rangers could have debts of approximately £135,000,000. These creditors are incredibly important people, and Duff and Phelps would do well to remember that fact. After all, they’re meant to be acting in the best interests of their creditors, and in my mind they simply have not done this. They are also the individuals who will decide whether or not any CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement) proposal is accepted.

 

D is for…”Dual Contracts”

Yes, it’s easy to forget about them, and yes, it’s easy to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. However, it is now widely acknowledged that Rangers F.C. have been implementing the use of “Dual Contracts” for some years. During Mark Daly’s BBC documentary (the second one), the BBC stated that one football agent had essentially told them what he was told by Rangers; “your client can choose to either receive “X” part of his money this way and “Y” part of his money in another way, or else he will only receive the first part “X””. The legality of the EBT’S (more about them later) is irrelevant when it comes to the decision the SPL face when they finally address this issue mid-June. Rangers have been paying players and staff some wages which have been undeclared to the relevant football governing bodies. This means the SPL have to find them guilty, and will have to sanction them very heavily in accordance with this guilt. This makes Rangers F.C. (1872) an even more undesirable prospect to anyone interested in owning the club.

 

E is for…”Employee Benefit Trusts”

“Employee Benefit Trusts” (also known as EBT’s) have become a source of hilarity for many involved in Scottish Football, and a source of misery for many others. Put simply, these are the names of offshore accounts a company can set up in order to pay their staff. Money is put into the trust, and can be withdrawn by “trustees” (players and staff in this case) at some point in the future. These trusts are usually used for high earning individuals, as it is a slower way of paying people than normal. The schemes are designed to minimise the amount of tax the company and the trustees have to pay on the figures involved. EBT’s are legal if used correctly. However, there is a point at which “tax avoidance” becomes “tax evasion”, and if this line is crossed, the use of these schemes is illegal.

 

F is for…”FIFA”

Some time ago, Rangers Football Club were sanctioned with a twelve month transfer embargo by an independent panel assigned to look at their case on behalf of the Scottish Football Association. The club had been hit with the penalty after being found guilty of “bringing the game into disrepute” (through the non-payment of VAT, PAYE and NI). However, after an appeal failed, Rangers decided to take their case to a civil court, using the money donated by fans into the so called “Fighting Fund” to pay for their legal expenses. To the surprise of many, including myself, Rangers won the court case, as it was found that the transfer embargo wasn’t an applicable punishment in this situation. For a variety of reasons though, this could spell disaster for Rangers. While the SFA will face the decision of increasing or decreasing the severity of the club’s “new” punishment, world football governing body FIFA do not look kindly upon clubs choosing to go to civil court (as opposed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (C.A.S.)), and may demand that the club be punished for their actions.

 

 

G is for…”Grier”

The name of David Grier has become widely known across Glasgow and Scotland in recent months. Grier is a senior partner at Rangers’ administrators, Duff & Phelps. Whilst suspicions had been present for some time regarding this matter, the BBC have revealed that there is a tremendous conflict of interest embodied in Mr Grier and his involvement in this whole affair. Duff & Phelps were only appointed as the administrators of the Ibrox club in February 2012, and are meant to be wholly impartial. However, emails the BBC attained proved that Mr Grier had been in contact with Rangers owner Craig Whyte regarding the Ticketus deal as early as April 2011. Now, an administrator is meant to have no connections with any company they proceed to take control over, why was Mr Grier at a dinner in London with (amongst others) Craig Whyte months before Rangers even went into administration? There are certainly questions here which need to be answered.

 

 

H is for…”Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)”

Ironically, the largest creditor of them all could yet turn out to be HMRC. Whilst Rangers currently owe the tax man £14,372,042, the “loyal” club may yet have to dig deeper into it’s already emptying pockets if they are to appease Hector (please note, since this article was first published STV have released an article suggesting that this figure may now be around £18,000,000 due to penalties for non-payment) . With the verdict of the “First Tier Tax Tribunal” (also known as the “Big Tax Case”) due any day, this bill could rise to anywhere between £50,000,000 and £75,000,000. Whilst the vast majority of hard working individuals pay their taxes diligently, Rangers have instead been using the money that should have came into the public purse to buy players, and pay wages, which they could not have afforded otherwise. They have not only cheated Scottish Football fans it seems, but also the men, women and children of this country too. How many more teachers, nurses, and/or police could have been employed with the money they have withheld?

 

I is for…”Internet Bampots”

This phrase, first uttered in a derogatory manner by one Hugh Keevins, has now become a badge of honour on the internet for many individuals and websites. While there are too many “internet bampots” to name individually, the work that so many people have done in attempting to reveal this story for years has been astonishing. Whilst newspapers spoke of a man with “wealth off the radar” who was going to “invest £25 million for new players”, the internet was alive with the fact Craig Whyte was not all he was hyped up to be. Whilst Rangers “had a bright future”, the internet was alive with the fact a financial meltdown was heading their way. With regards to both of these examples, the “Internet Bampots” were proven to be correct. Now, as the club who are “too big to go under” teeter on the brink of the abyss, will these people be proven right one final time as Rangers plunge towards their final resting place?

 

 

J is for…”Jealousy”

On the 25th of May, 1967, Celtic Football Club became the first team in Britain to win the European Cup. Since then, Rangers, the team who consider us to be their greatest rivals, have never been able to replicate this feat. In truth, they will never replicate it, at least not in their current form. They have come closer in some seasons than others, but they have always been unsuccessful. This jealousy has, in truth, been partly responsible for their demise, as they chose to throw money they didn’t have at the problem, bringing in expensive players and paying extortionate wages, all with one goal. Jealousy, it’s a terrible thing…

 

K is for…”Kennedy”

Brian Kennedy, owner of the Sale Sharks, initially bid for Rangers alone, before joining forces with Paul Murray and the “Blue Knights” in an attempt to persuade Duff & Phelps to grant them the status of the “preferred bidder”. However, Duff & Phelps instead granted this to American trucking tycoon, Bill Miller, who proceeded to walk away after only a few days of looking at the club’s finances. Exasperated, the “Blue Knights” and Kennedy called a press conference on the 11th of May, where they announced they were withdrawing their bid for the club. Whilst highlighting “this is about the survival of Rangers Football Club”, Kennedy went onto say something very telling. He said, “We see the only way forward for the club is to effect a CVA. There is no time left to effect a successful CVA and to exit the club in a healthy capacity from that process.” Don’t worry though, Charles Green still hopes to achieve a successful CVA. It looks like you may need to keep hoping, Charles.

 

L is for…”Lies”

These have permeated this whole rotten affair since it’s earliest days. As long as the same “internet bampots” who were discussed earlier have been asking serious questions, responses have come from Rangers, Craig Whyte, and Duff and Phelps, amongst others. A significant number of these have been proven to be lies. These repetitive attempts to deceive both the Rangers support and the public as a whole has now led to a distinct lack of trust in what these outlets are saying. People now have to seriously question whether the truth is actually the whole truth, whether it is a half truth, or whether it is sheer fantasy. Importantly, with every lie, the individuals involved have been made to look more and more silly, and they have not helped Rangers situation in this regard. Lies are fine, providing they are kept secret. Largely, that is the purpose of a lie; to say one thing (which is false) to prevent the potential fallout the truth may bring with it. However, the caveat is that when a lie is discovered and proven to have been just that, a lie, the fallout is often worse than that which would have come with the truth itself.

 

M is for…”Murray”

Sir David Murray owned Rangers Football Club for twenty-three years, from 1988 to 2011, when he sold his shares to Craig Whyte for a single pound coin. However, simply because he has cut his ties with the club officially, do not be fooled into thinking we have heard the last of Mr Murray. For two decades, he ploughed money into Rangers and, while success came along with it for a time, it was his financial overloading and high risk strategies that have helped to cripple the Ibrox club. He made the decision to use EBT’s to pay players and staff, and has been shown to have taken loans from the Bank out against his personal business (Murray International Holdings), in order to pay off the money Rangers owed to, (yes you’ve guessed it), the Bank. Make no mistake, Mr Murray must shoulder a vast proportion of the blame for the mess Rangers are in, and for their potentially likely demise.

 

N is for…”Naivety”

There is no doubt in my mind that “naivety” has played a significant role in the saga of Rangers Football Club’s finances. Despite repeated warnings, not only from bloggers and websites on the internet, but even from items that did actually make it to the mainstream media, the Rangers support have done nothing (with the exception of their “fighting fund” at a very late stage in the game). Personally, I don’t think most Rangers fans conciously chose to ignore the warnings. I just think they were too naive to consider what they were saying.

The mentality which says “we are the people” and “no one likes us, but we don’t care”, goes hand in hand with “we’re too big to go under” and “Rangers cannot die”. Despite what some people will say this is not down to stupidity. I believe it’s down to the way different sets of supporters think, and the media they digest. When Celtic were in financial peril, a mass movement calling for the sacking of the then board became a force to be reckoned with. When Fergus McCann asked the fans to buy shares, the queue went far past Kerrydale Street and down London Road. Celtic fans have always had the “underdog”, “anti-establishment” mentality to some extent. However, Rangers fans largely possess the opposite. They have always been the “establishment” club, and the fact they believe themselves to be “superior” to everyone else may have helped allow the death of their club. In the middle of the last decade, with debts soaring, Rangers, under Sir David Murray, had a share issue hoping to raise £50 million. They raised a little over £1 million. Even the fighting fund has struggled to raise more than £1 million. Some of their supporters cannot get away from something summed up best by two little bears in the famous internet cartoon. One says to the other, “Rangers cannot die. We will be around for another one hundred and forty years”, to which his friend says, “Why?”. The response proceeds to be “because we are the people”. Quite.

 

O is for…Oligarch

Rangers fans should have been crying out for one of these for years, and there is a simple reason for this. The only person wealthy enough to save Rangers in their current form is likely to be a Russian Oligarch, or an Arab Sheikh. With the “Big Tax Case” verdict still waiting to fall, and potential sanctions from governing bodies, as well as a potential ban from European football, only someone so wealthy that they would be willing to throw, for argument’s sake, £100 million they never want to see again at the problem, can help them now. The club leaks money like a sieve, and has done so for many seasons. They have not been profitable, and will be even less so in the coming years. This is not an inviting sign for any potential buyer. It is also not encouraging that, despite being available to purchase for some time, no Oligarch has come forward, begging the question, “Will one ever come?” On the off chance any Oligarch did appear, they would only be purchasing the club as a play thing, and that could be very risky indeed in the long term.

 

P is for…Precendent

Rangers are not the only football club in Britain to have used EBT’s. In fact, Celtic even had one at one time, for Brazilian play-maker Juninho, but decided to discontinue the scheme as they doubted it’s legality. They also paid the tax due on it in full, hence HMRC are not at our door. Nonetheless, make no mistake, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have much bigger financial fish to fry. Football clubs have been known to “play the system” for decades, and perhaps without the global recession they would still be allowed to. However, as the State’s finances begin to become more stretched, they begin to look elsewhere for money. Whilst Rangers could owe HMRC, for example, £60 million, clubs in England, such as Liverpool, who pay much higher wages to both staff and players could owe the tax man hundreds of millions of pounds, if found guilty of misusing EBT schemes. This means that Rangers could very well be the proverbial “test case”. Due to the fact HMRC know this case will set a precedent, it is very unlikely that they would accept any minute pence on the pound deal. They also possess a high enough percentage of the debt (should the “Big Tax Case” go against the Ibrox club) owed to creditors by Rangers to be able to block any CVA should they choose to do so. After all, they say “there are only two things that are certain in life, death and taxes.” It looks like we may be about to see a football club experience the former.

 

Q is for…Quiet

Rangers appointed administrators in February of this year, almost four months ago now, and what has changed? Ok, we’ve all had a good laugh at their expense, and they were docked ten points, but at the club itself, what’s changed? The answer is very little. Both Gregg Wylde and Mervan Celik left voluntarily, and many of the other playing staff took temporary wage cuts after weeks of negotiation. Duff and Phelps simply have not done their jobs and acted in the best interests of the creditors. For example, when Dundee once went into administration, their manager was questioned about how his team were going to cope in the league, because almost the entire first eleven (i.e. the highest earners) were told they were no longer required by the club’s administrators on their first day at the football club. Very little of any great impact has happened, and very little cost cutting has gone on, while Duff and Phelps have made approximately £5.5 million from the affair so far. Now, let me ask you this. Put simply, if there was any positive news the administrators could publish at a time like this they would undoubtedly release it and show they were making progress, correct? Therefore the silence of late could be very telling.

 

R is for…Results

Rangers need one thing above all else as they look to any potential future in their current form. They need sustainable income. Rangers need to have as much money invested in the club as possible from people involved at every level. Obviously, a lot of this money would need to come through ticket sales. Even if Rangers can survive until next season, and even if they are allowed to remain in the SPL (lots of “even if’s” I know), they will likely have a significantly weaker squad than they do now. This means that both performances and results will continue to drop in terms of quality. However, Rangers will need to ask a lot of their fans financially because they need the money. However, this is a club renowned for lower attendances  accompanying lower quality, so attendances would only go one way in the long run, down. This lack of income, both from ticket sales and from poor league performances, presuming they could also not play in Europe, would undoubtedly harm the club’s chances of survival.

 

 

S is for…Sanctions

As previously discussed earlier, after Rangers’ trip to a civil court, the matter of deciding an applicable sanction for “bringing the game into disrepute” through the non-payment of VAT, PAYE and NI still lies with the SFA. They can either decrease the punishment to a fine, or increase it to a temporary ban from the Scottish Cup, suspension of the club’s SFA licence, or expulsion from the Football Association altogether. In the days after the initial appeal Rangers made to the SFA, they panel said they found suspension (etc.) to be too harsh, and a mere fine to be far too lenient, which leaves the SFA at a crossroads. Do they decrease the severity of the sanctions and look like gutless fools? Or do they increase the penalty and look like they are in control of the situation? I think the question answers itself. There is also the matter potential sanctions in the future if they are proven to be guilty of any more of their alleged crimes (eg dual contracts, tax evasion etc).

 

T is for…Time

“Tick Tock, Goes the Clock” is a phrase I have come to use fairly often. Interestingly though, it is actually a very apt description of the matter at hand. Rangers have been running out of time for months, if not years now, and the sands of time may already have run out. In May, Brian Kennedy said (as described in “section K”) that the best lawyers in Britain could not achieve a successful CVA in time for the start of the new season, and that was a month ago when he said that! There is also the question about whether it is now too late to resurrect and form a newco to be parachuted into the SPL (even if allowed to do so) in time? Time ticking away is one thing when everyone is running around crazy working hard to achieve a common goal, but it’s very different when very little progress is being made and there’s still the potential for incredibly long, drawn out arguments to come. While your average Rangers fan may think “no news is good news” because a vast proportion of the news about their club over the past few months has been bad, it may, in fact, be terrible that there has been no news (at least for them). The silence is deafening, and the clock continues to tick.

 

U is for…UEFA

Ah yes, UEFA, European football’s premier governing body. We all know that they’ve had their “run in’s” with Rangers in the past, having punished the club for it’s fans repeated sectarian singing, and having witnessed thousands of their supporters rampaging around Manchester after the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. Like their big brothers FIFA, UEFA do not tend to look too favourably upon clubs who decide to take footballing matters to a civil court, instead of dealing with them in what is considered to be the appropriate manner (just look at what they did to FC Sion). They especially don’t look too favourably upon it when it involves a club complaining about being punished for the deliberate non-payment of tax. Don’t count UEFA out of this whole scenario just yet…

 

V is for…Victory?

I use a question mark there for a reason. After all, undeniably, Rangers have enjoyed several victories, both domestic and European, since Sir David Murray took over the club. Everyone at Ibrox, from the directors to the average punter paying to go through the gates, will have enjoyed these victories. However, the question many may soon be asking themselves will be, “Was it worth it?”. They all had fun, of that there is no doubt, but in the same manner a bank robber can enjoy his money while he is free, he may soon regret his actions once he is confined to a prison cell. Rangers and their fans have loved their proverbial “swag”, but now they’ve been caught, those not involved in the decision making have to seriously question the actions of those who were, and if there isn’t some regret inside them somewhere, I’d be surprised. However, we still await any sort of apology for any wrongdoing at the stricken club.

 

W is for…Wages

Some time after entering administration, members of the playing staff were eventually persuaded to take temporary wage deductions, in order to help the club survive. These deductions only applied until the 31st of May. This means that late next week, when the Rangers players are due their wages, they will, once again, be owed the full amount’s written into their contracts (well, their first contracts at least). I seriously doubt the club have this sort of money, and the only way this matter will become clear to the public is with the imminent departures of big name players at Ibrox. How much, if any money, the club will receive for these individuals is up for debate, but without the money to continue to pay heavily inflated wages, players will likely leave in numbers.

 

X is for…Xenophobia

“Truck off Miller. Yanks no thanks!” – Just when everyone thought that some members of the Rangers support couldn’t act any more foolishly than they normally do, they proceed to hold up banners with that slogan written on them. This message was, of course, aimed at the potential new owner of the club, American businessman, Bill Miller. Mr Miller, a man with a reputation for turning around ailing companies was granted the “preferred bidder” status by Duff & Phelps, before a combination of Rangers woeful finances and woeful actions from some supporters became clear. When Mr Miller withdrew his interest, his company sited not only how difficult a job it would be to save the club, but also the hundreds of threatening phone calls and emails they had received since Mr Miller became the preferred bidder. Essentially, a foreigner was made to feel unwelcome at Ibrox. I’m sure that’s a first…

 

Y is for…”Yes Men”

As the perennial establishment club, Rangers have almost always had a bit of sway that other clubs have not had. This amount of sway only increased under the reign of Sir David Murray, as a line of “yes men” came and went, helping the club in one way or another. In the mid 1990’s, an obvious example of one of these individuals was the late Jim Farry, the man who intentionally delayed the registration of new Celtic striker Jorge Cadete so he would not be eligible to play for the Hoops in an upcoming match against rivals Rangers. This is not speculation either, this has been proven to be fact. It is debatable who the current “yes men” in Scottish Football are, but I’ll highlight the man whom I feel to be the most obvious one at this moment in time. Campbell Ogilvie is the current President of the SFA, and a powerful figure in Scottish Football. He was a director at Ibrox Park for more than two decades, a period that included years of the continuation of the “no Catholics” policy and the introduction and use of EBT’s. In fact, Mr Ogilvie even had his own EBT, into which £95,000 was paid into during part of his time there. “Yes men”? No thanks.

 

Z is for…Zero

This word sums up the chance of Rangers Football Club (1872) surviving (at least in my personal opinion) without a super-rich Oligarch or Sheikh saving the day. The obstacles which need to be overcome by the club (those current and those that may present themselves in the future) simply pose too great a challenge. Rangers are on the precipice of a football club sized grave, and when they do die, it’s likely it will not be pretty. Obviously, as a Celtic supporter, I do not like Rangers. I never have, but putting footballing rivalries to one side for a moment, surely we can all see that Rangers have cheated every football fan in Scotland for at least a decade, and this is a crime for which they must face adequate punishment.

One hundred and forty years of history is about to come to an end, right before our very eyes. One day, this saga will be confined to the history books, and yet we are living through it. I do not have all the answers, I can only highlight facts, and my own opinions.

Time is running out. One way or another, we are approaching the endgame…

 

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