Alex’s position however is actually in the minority. Most Rangers websites have resorted to taking an obtuse position on Rangers’ current troubles. In no particular order we have seen Rangers websites, and their contributors on arenas such as twitter for example, indulge in the following false positions:
there is a ‘witch-hunt against Campbell Ogilvie,
Rangers current troubles are lead by Peter Lawell’s ‘puppets’ in the SFA,
Ridiculous and made up comparisons with ‘tax avoidance’ by the Whytes and Kellys
Pundits and journalists lining up to take pleasure in Rangers’ predicament.
Rangers are currently under-represented in Scottish football.
Rangers supporters did nothing wrong so the club should not be punished for previous misdemeanours
Rangers could receive government support for their current situation.
This ‘anything/anyone but us guv’ position was recently highlighted in leading Rangers supporters website ‘Follow follow’ when they produced the article “An insight into the disturbing anti-Rangers Witch-hunt” on the 7th March 2012. This article was a ‘tour de force’ of paranoia, false positions, wrong positions, and anti-intellectualism.
Lets take each section and analyse key factors that need addressing:
1) Retrospective punishment and financial benefits from EBTs
The piece states: “Directly or indirectly, Rangers’ use of Employee Benefit Trusts has forced the club into administration and to the verge of liquidation. Nevertheless, the club’s enemies wish to inflict further damage by claiming Rangers gained an advantage from ‘financial doping’. Moreover, there are even demands that trophies won by the club over the past 12 or 13 years be stripped due to an alleged omission in the documentation pertaining to players’ registrations.”
From the very start of this piece, the tone is unmistakable. The writer wants the reader to believe that people are kicking Rangers when they are down. It also downplays significantly the alleged improper registration of players during Campbell Ogilvie’s tenure as Rangers secretary.
However, the piece also ignores a sporting reality i.e. that retrospective punishment is impossible. Recent examples of retrospective punishment in football are not hard to come by. Consider the example of Marseille below for instance:
In 1993 the European Cup became the Champions League and Marseille shocked AC Milan in the final to win the first title under the new format. They were the first French side to be crowned European champions, but the celebrations back home did not last long as allegations of match-fixing soon emerged.
It was discovered their president Bernard Tapie had bribed French club Valenciennes FC into throwing a league game, allowing Marseille to win the title and giving them more time to concentrate on the final against Milan. Marseille were stripped of the French title that season and later relegated to the second division over financial regularities.
They were also unable to defend their European crown the following season after being thrown out of the competition by Uefa. Former cabinet minister Tapie was heavily implicated in the scandal and was later imprisoned.
Marseille made it back into the top flight in 1996 but further allegations of match-fixing as well as doping accusations emerged. The club, who are one of the most successful in the history of French football, have failed to win a trophy since the scandal of 1993[ii].
Considering the lingering feelings of your average Rangers supporter toward Marseille that still harbour bitterness even nowadays, it appears that Follow Follow want Rangers and their alleged malpractice to be judged to a lower standard.
2) Status of EBT’s
The piece states: “Let’s deal with the registration issue first. Rangers’ position was that the EBTs were non-contractual and therefore should not be included in documents submitted to the SFA and SPL. This view is supported by experts in the field (see yesterday’s Herald article). There was no attempt to mislead or to keep the EBTs hidden. Section 6 of the annual accounts (‘Staff Costs’) explains the purpose of the trusts and enumerates the sums involved.
Therefore, the logic being used by the club’s antagonists is fatally flawed – it demands that sanctions be imposed because of judgments made many years after the EBT scheme was introduced. This is completely unacceptable in my view and contrary to natural justice. Any objections about the registration issue should have been raised at the time. The fact that complaints are being made officially only after a decade has elapsed and, indeed, only after the club entered administration and is consequently unable to defend itself, speaks volumes for the motives behind recent moves.
First of all, as outlined in CQN, it is impossible for Rangers to be completely ‘in the clear’ when the dust finally settles:
Could someone tell SDM [Sir David Murray] (and associated pressmen) that it is logically impossible for Rangers to have both:
A) Properly registered players with the SFA; and B) Made proper use of the EBT.
At best it is one or the other, although most likely neither.
To win the EBT case, the payments to players must be shown to be non-contractual, discretionary and made by a third party. If this is the case, these payments by definition must not have been declared by Rangers to the SFA.
If the payments were declared to the SFA then they were clearly contractual, non-discretionary and not from a third party.[iii]
The notion of EBTs being non-contractual, and therefore, unpunishable, is also completely false. According to SFA articles of association makes this quite clear:
Article 12.1 of the SFA’s Articles of Association states, “all payments, whether made by the club or otherwise, which are to be made to a player solely relating to his playing activities must be fully recorded”. The redacted EBT agreement published last month by The Sun suggested Rangers would pay the player £1200 appearance money.
The SFA should have no interest in whether tax is due on this money, which is a matter for HM Revenue and Customs, they should only be concerned as to whether Rangers submitted details to the SFA of any payments made in connection to football, including appearance money.[iv]
To spell things out even more clearly:
Sir Minty’s comments? “no dual contracts”? That’s ok then. Never mind the fact that the actual potential breach of SFA rules is expressly BECAUSE Rangers players were payed[sic] money for football activities which wasn’t included on the contract submitted to the SFA. Doesn’t matter if there was “another” contract or not – there were payments made for footballing activities to players which were not on the contract submitted to the SFA.[v]
It should also be noted that other clubs (in other countries) have fallen foul of breaching similar rules. The example of Derry City in the League of Ireland is a very good one of clubs paying players with two contracts and being punished accordingly:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/irish/8348690.stm – Saturday, 7 November 2009
Derry City have been sensationally put out of the League of Ireland. The club, which has been plagued by serious financial troubles, had its contract with the league terminated at a crisis meeting on Saturday. The league said Derry had broken regulations by holding secondary, unofficial contracts with players. It is understood the Candystripes are planning to fight the decision and are considering legal action in an attempt to regain their Premier Division place.
The club can reapply to get back into the league but would have to play in a lower division.
“The decision has devastating consequences for this club but we intend to address these urgently,” said a Derry statement. “We are exploring the possibility of any type of appeal procedure within the FAI or via a court of law in Dublin or Belfast. “We have not been presented with any evidence of any wrong doing.”
Derry have not received the 80,000 euro they would have got for finishing fourth in the Premier Division which concluded on Friday. According to the League of Ireland, Derry officials are to have talks with an FAI delegation to explore how they can play senior football outside the Premier Division.
Derry’s Setanta Cup match away to St Patrick’s Athletic on Tuesday has been postponed. The decision to dismiss Derry from the Premier Division means Galway United are safe from relegation. Bottom club Bray Wanderers have been thrown a lifeline as they will now face Drogheda in the play-off.[vi]
Italy in recent years have also spelled out in no certain terms that punishment will fit the crime.
Italian trio relegated to Serie B – Friday, 14 July 2006,
Serie A sides Juventus, Lazio and Fiorentina have been demoted to the second division for their involvement in Italy’s match-fixing scandal. Juventus were also stripped of their last two Serie A titles and had 30 points deducted, meaning they are likely to stay down for two seasons.
AC Milan will stay in Serie A but will start the season docked 15 points. All are barred from playing in Europe – Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina in the Champions League; Lazio the Uefa Cup.[vii]
3) Amount of money saved/used during the EBT era:
The piece states – “The ‘financial doping’ argument also borders on the absurd. Most accounts of the money Rangers FC saved over the course of a decade put the figure at £24 million. This represents less than 5% of turnover and equates to the sums flowing from the club to the Murray group over the same period. Indeed, Rangers FC actually paid the Murray group at least £6 million for the ‘privilege’ of the trusts being administered on its behalf!”
This section quite clearly indulges in economical accounting. By taking an approximate amount (possibly) saved in EBT’s, then belittling the amount as some sort of ‘chicken feed’ that should be ignored, consequently the reality of Rangers economic performance is sidelined. £24 million should not be ignored as any amount of money. This is a significant amount that enabled Rangers to acquire players that helped them secure prizes and all the added benefits that surround successful sporting achievement in a professional arena e.g. merchandising, prize-money, etc.
The reality of Rangers economic performance is somewhat different when analysed properly. The now esteemed ‘Battered bunnet’ – contributor to CQN – outlined quite succinctly how Rangers performed at the turn of the century:
Between 1997 and 2003 Rangers lost an eye watering £152.6 Million. Joe Lewis’ £40M was gobbled up in jig time, followed by £20M of Dave King’s tax efficient stash, plus a £32M investment by Murray’s business, £6M from smaller shareholders, and a further £15M of NTL’s investment in the hopeless Rangers Media venture. At its nadir in 2004, Rangers net debt was a staggering £83 Million, a monument to the ego of David Murray and his ‘dream’ for Rangers.[viii]
4) Financial Doping and levels of advantage:
The piece states – “Figures provided by Martin Bain in his case against the club indicate that the combination of interest charges and the penalties being sought by HMRC mean that the club is required to pay back approximately twice the sum of £24 million. How on earth can this situation be referred to as ‘financial doping’? My interpretation of the phrase would be a permanent advantage gained by underhand means or assistance from outside bodies.
Rangers escaped paying tax for nearly a decade (possibly longer if more allegations are proved to be correct). This was money they should have been able to spend on players that eventually won them competitions. If a decades worth of financial doping does not satisfy this particular Rangers’ fan’s definition of ‘financial doping’ then they should really consider reviewing that definition.”
To elaborate on this point, and as our rivals never tire of reminding us, Rangers FC are (statistically speaking) the most successful football club in the world (although notwithstanding the fact that Rangers FC have never won the highest club honour in Europe, the European Cup).
Rangers FC have won 53 titles since they were created in 1873. Since the inception of the SPL in 1998, Rangers FC have won 7 titles (including 3 in a row for the last 3 seasons) as well as 6 Scottish Cups and 7 League Cups in that time also. However, in that time, Rangers squandered 100s of millions of pounds of investment as well as possibly using 10s of millions of pounds to assist players avoid paying tax. Rangers could have chosen to follow proper procedure and act accordingly and fittingly within financial matters. They chose not to do this however.
Clubs that have chosen similar paths to Rangers, in the sense of ignoring financial protocol and convention, have suffered enormously. Motherwell and Dundee eventually left administration (in Dundee’s case twice) while Gretna eventually went into Liquidation and subsequently folded.
Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, Hearts and Dundee United have all had well documented financial problems to such an extent that none of these clubs have spent a significant transfer fee on players in well over half a decade.
Celtic themselves have only reached a position of financial security in the last 5 years. In 2005, Celtic’s debt actually peaked. According to The Scotsman:
“CELTIC revealed yesterday that their debt rose by almost £4million to £19.5million at the end of a year which, in the words of chairman Brian Quinn, saw the Premier league title “surrendered”. As the club prepare for a season without extended European participation, Quinn also stressed their determination to cut the size and scale of players’ contracts. The annual accounts for the year ended 30 June showed Celtic’s turnover was down for the first time in ten years, a drop of almost ten per cent to 62.17million”.[ix]
Indeed, such has been the close attention paid to finances the Celtic board announced that the club’s year-end net bank debt was £0.53m (2010: £5.85m).[x]
With regards to Rangers therefore, you should also bear in mind what a previous article on Celtic Underground had to say when Rangers first entered administration:
As it stands at the minute, Rangers have went into administration this week. They have not paid HMRC £9 million in PAYE since Craig Whyte took over[xi]. There is a potential £49 million (plus?) tax bill to be settled due to extra payments made to star players that were not taxed (as well as a smaller tax bill that has also not been settled)[xii]. There is also the case of a missing £24 million after the sale/mortgage/loan of future season ticket monies to the ‘Ticketibus’ organisation[xiii]. Rangers also owe Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle money for tickets[xiv]. On top of all this, strong rumours are circulating about potential problems at Rangers with regards to possible ‘third-party ownership’ of players, a situation that is completely illegal under FIFA regulations and would result in points deductions for every game that ‘illegal’ players took part in.[xv]
It should also be pointed out that Rangers have had the most expensively assembled side in the SPL for the last three years. Lee McCulloch, Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davis, Steven Naismith, Lee Wallace, Neil Alexander, Carlos Cuellar, Nacho Novo, Mahjid Bougherra, Sasa Papic, Nikita Jelavic, Kenny Miller were all expensively assembled at a time when Rangers refused stubbornly to address financial reality and this gave them a distinct advantage over clubs who had actually chosen to address their own economic state of affairs.
5) Lack of local Government assistance:
The piece states – Of course, this definition would encompass the support Celtic FC has received from the taxpayer and ratepayer in relation to the purchase of significant tracts of land in the vicinity of Celtic Park for the sum of £1 and the huge financial benefits that will accrue from the Commonwealth Games and associated redevelopment of the Parkhead area. As opposed to the obstacles the local council put in Rangers’ way, everything possible has been done to assist Celtic, even down to the gift of London Road Primary School and retention of the Barrowfield training pitches.
Spurious hearsay and rumour are presented as fact in this particular section. Ultimately, it is to the City Council’s discretion their own dealings with any organisation.
To say that Glasgow City Council have been unwilling to assist Rangers in developing the Ibrox area is not true however:
Rangers Football Club have been granted planning permission by the city council for a £120m casino and hotel complex beside their Ibrox ground in Glasgow. The club has predicted that it will create about 2,000 jobs and help to diversify the Rangers brand.
The UK Government plans to allow one regional or “super” casino, which can install Las Vegas-style machines with the potential for unlimited prizes. Glasgow council wants the regional casino to be built in the city.
The Rangers project, which includes flats, a community sports facility and a health care centre, has been given outline permission by the council’s planning committee.
A council spokesman stressed it did not automatically follow that if Glasgow won the right to host the regional casino, it would be located at Ibrox. Tuesday’s decision was made solely on planning grounds and gambling licence issues would be discussed later, he added. [xvi]
It is inconceivable that Glasgow City council would ignore any attempts and assistance to reinvigorate any deprived area of the city. However, it is not Glasgow City Council’s fault that applications did not succeed and that David Murray’s unrealistic plans did not have the required mileage within them to succeed.
Glasgow’s east end has been a long time location of poverty and decay for centuries and this remains the case to the present day (see Glasgow tops ‘most deprived’ list). Only in recent years, with the development of Celtic Park has this area been remotely transformed. With the Commonwealth games on the horizon, it appears that Glasgow City council have chosen this opportunity to deal with tackling problems in this part of Glasgow. It should also be noted that Celtic Park will not be the main focus for the games with events taking place right across the city and most taking place at Hampden Park.
6) Perceived Mass Media negative spin on Rangers’ troubles:
The piece states – Encouraged by a mass media which panders to their psychoses, the Celtic-minded hordes are whipping themselves into a frenzy of retribution and vindictiveness.
Have a look below at the major media outlets’ coverage of the Craig Whyte takeover of Rangers. Every single report is positive, non-intrusive, and optimistic:
Craig Whyte promises more money for Rangers team – www.news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/r/rangers/9388150.stm
7) Undue and suspicious levels of analysis by independents:
The piece states – Business professionals and lawyers spend hour after hour on websites and blogs scrutinising the minutiae of Rangers’ use of EBTs from every conceivable angle.
Linked to the points above, it should be noted that nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of proper reportage of the Rangers situation, it has been left to independents and London based outlets to engage in proper investigations especially when you consider the following revelation:
Apparently, when asked by the Record about Rangers’ owner Craig Whyte’s wealth, “PR gurus” said, “Describe him as a billionaire”. At that moment, the legend of the Motherwell born Billionaire took life. The claim was never interrogated by those present.[xvii]
Compare and contrast such an approach with Chief Correspondent for Channel 4 news Alex Thomson and his approach to interrogating those at the top of Scottish football:
On Twitter this morning he [Thomson] reported his experience in trying to get some sense out of the SFA, this is what he said:
“SFA say President Campbell Ogilvie is ‘distancing himself from the current Rangers investigation’ but did not explain how.
“Campbell Ogilvie ‘did not know’ about EBT contract when he was Rangers FC secretary?
“When we asked why not – that was his job – SFA said they didn’t know.
“SFA say their President and fmr Ranger secretary Campbell Ogilvie will not be interviewed by c4news about what he knew…
“SFA say their President Campbell Ogilvie ‘has no plans to stand aside from his job pending current Rangers probes…
“Interesting SFA have just accused me of ‘lying’, ‘pig-headedness’ and then put the phone down mid-conversation….
“all because I put their own statement back to them that Campbell Ogilvie denied knowing about EBTs at Rangers…
“And suggested there might be a perceived conflict of interest in his current position until the investigations are complete”.[xviii]
8) Punishment ‘fantasies’:
The piece states – The rank and file concoct evermore fanciful scenarios of punishments that should be meted out to Rangers FC.
The normally humble ‘accountancy age’ website has been drawn to Rangers’ financial problems lately and specified what problems Rangers could have:
Rangers FC warned of sanctions for unpaid tax – Read more: http://www.accountancyage.com/aa/news/2106200/rangers-fc-warned-sanctions-unpaid-tax#ixzz1p0Xww0Ey
It would also not be accurate to describe this website as Celtic supporting ‘rank and file’.
On the ‘opposite’ side, STV (who announced a media ‘tie-in’ agreement with Rangers weeks before the club went into administration) have been at the forefront of reporting on the Rangers situation:
SPL confirm sanctions against Rangers – The Scottish Premier League has confirmed a points deduction and hope to speak with Rangers’ administrators. – http://sport.stv.tv/football/scottish-premier/rangers/297567-spl-confirm-sanctions-against-rangers/
The piece ultimately comes to the conclusion on this point that anyone who writes a piece outlining possible punishments that Rangers could face are guilty of indulging their own personal dislike of Rangers. This immature position ill befits a school playground debate let alone more serious matters. Unfortunately, it also remains the ‘de facto’ position that Rangers web-sites and supporters groups have on anyone who dares criticise Rangers (see also False Rage and Confirmation Bias for more detailed analysis on this issue).
9) Celtic Hypocrisy:
The piece states – In stark contrast to the orgy of hatred accompanying Rangers’ current problems, it is worth noting that in 1952 the club defended Celtic when it was under threat of expulsion from the SFA due to its refusal to comply with an order from city magistrates to remove the Irish tricolour from the main stand.
In this particular instance, I will defer to the learned minds of the ‘Celtic Wiki’:
Several cases of misconduct involving Celtic supporters, culminating in disgraceful behaviour at the New Year’s Day 1952 clash with Rangers, had been concerning the authorities in Scotland. The Glasgow magistrates met to discuss the situation, and made several recommendations which they invited the SFA and the Scottish League to consider.
The most controversial was the the [sic] fourth: “…that the two clubs should avoid displaying flags which might incite feeling amongst the spectators”!
This vague statement was construed as a reference to the flag of Eire which flew over one end of the covered enclosure, and some football officials — undoubtedly with a history of coolness (sic!) towards Celtic — chose to use this recommendation as an excuse to threaten the club. After consideration, the Referee Committee of the SFA ruled “that Celtic be asked to refrain from displaying in its park any flag or emblem that had no association with the country or the sport” on match days.
When the full SFA council convened to consider the approval of the committee’s report, Bob Kelly of Celtic rose to defend the club’s traditions & heritage and to move the rejection of that part dealing with the banning of the flag. It all went down to a final vote, which ironically was Rangers (under John Wilson), and they actually voted for us! Before anyone begins to sense some bonhomie between the clubs, ultimately this was due to the financial aspect of losing Celtic as an opponent. Rangers needed Celtic financially for matches.[xix]
An even better piece of trivia was to be found in today’s The Scotsman through former Celtic Director Michael Kelly:
Here is a piece of that history which they do not know but which might convince them that the club should extend a helping hand to their great rivals. Rangers were once before in financial difficulty. It was in the 1920’s when my grandfather, James Kelly (a former Scotland centre-half), was chairman of Celtic. Rangers had a temporary cash flow problem and their board came out to his house in Blantyre to explain the problem and seek help. Celtic gave them an unconditional short-term loan. The fact that Rangers felt able to ask and that Celtic willingly responded indicates that both clubs were aware of their inter-dependence. Murray sought to supplant that symbiosis – possibly because he never came to Rangers as a supporter. He would have been the first to boast that Rangers could prosper outwith the Old Firm.[xx]
A more pertinent comparison would be when Celtic nearly went bust in 1993. Zero levels of sympathy or assistance emanated from any sources outside the Celtic family. Even then, some well known ‘Celtic minded’ journalists refused to submit to any other position than ‘it was all Celtic’s own fault’.
10) Irrationality of perceived Celtic position:
The piece states – From the Celtic boardroom to Baird’s Bar, all sense of perspective has been lost and the wider ramifications to Scottish football and, indeed, Scottish society, have been completely overlooked. This is not normal behaviour and these are not normal people.
This is where, as a writer with a grudge I could start throwing mud back. Below is an obvious example that took me seconds to find on google and would consequently be able to use in a ‘whataboutery’ contest:
Rangers could be in serious trouble over one hand salutes in Israel – http://sluggerotoole.com/2007/02/21/rangers-could-be-in-serious-trouble-over-one-hand-salutes-in-israel/ : Rangers could be in a lot of trouble with UEFA over one hand salutes made by a section of their fans during last week’s UEFA Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv in Israel.
Rangers chief executive Martin Bain has urged fans not to make any such gestures when the two sides meet Thursday in the return leg at Ibrox.[xxi]
However, the whataboutery road is a cul-de-sac that sees endless circular arguments that arrive at no conclusion.
Instead, take on board what one contributor to CQN had say:
The culture of Rangers is such that they don’t feel they’ve done anything wrong in cheating the tax authorities and cheating other Scottish clubs.
As far as they are concerned, they are The People.
Ask yourself how many Rangers fans were embarrassed by the sectarian signing policy, the Billy Boys song, the FTP chants, the vile slurs against Jock Stein, the famine song, the Manchester riots, or any of their violent rampages through Europe?
Damn few, because they are The People. Theirs is a supremacist culture that revels in hatred and anger. They don’t “do” introspection. They don’t “do” contrition.
What did Rangers say to its supporters when UEFA and the SFA belatedly asked them to stop the sectarian chants? Did they say “stop this guys, it’s wrong?”. No, they told their fans to stop it because their club would be punished otherwise.
From the illiterate ned in the stand waving his scarf bearing a slogan slandering the memory of Big Jock, to the shirt-and-tie-wearing ned enjoying his Eggs-Benedict -free corporate hospitality in the Ibrox Suite, to the Armani-clad wideboys drawing up dodgy deals and crooked contracts in the boardroom, they are united in the feeling that they are above rules, ethics, and even the law of the land.[xxii]
When one reads a piece like the one I have just analysed from Follow Follow, then alternative conclusions to the one outlined by the comments above, are difficult to arrive at.
Maybe Rangers will survive the current crisis. However, anyone associated with Rangers should be under no illusion that Scottish football and associates did not create their mess nor will they be paying for their mistakes also. It is time for less celebration at Ibrox and for more contrition. If we receive this then maybe we can close the book on this sorry chapter.
[i] When Saturday Comes, April 2012, Issue 302, p.15
[vi] http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/irish/8348690.stm – Saturday, 7 November 2009
[vii] http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/5164194.stm – Italian trio relegated to Serie B – Friday, 14 July 2006