We’re Gonnae Need Another Ba’

Auldheid with a timely reminder of what supporters are up against when it comes to how our game works and which Celtic does not appear to be challenging.

Some of us are old enough to remember the days when we played football in the streets with lampposts for goals. The “baw” in my day was a plastic “Frido” (with wee studs that left yer forehead looking like a golf ball when heading it) and a “Wembley”. Cue memories of MouldMasters and days of pain and glory

But I digress.

The plastic ball was prone to bursting and on a good day or evening a replacement was secured by the original version of crowd funding. However, the Calton then was a poor neighbourhood and sometimes the  provision of a “baw” depended on the generosity of a single donor.

This came with risks because generous folk can still be bad losers and if the donor’s team of rags, taigs and bluenoses (remember when that didn’t matter) was getting a drubbing; or a high shot was deemed a goal but he protested because he was only 4 feet 6 tall and, with no crossbar, height is but a subjective perspective, hence arguable; or perhaps the goal that created a 10 goal gap in the running score occasionally saw the baw – metaphorically if not physically – land on the slates, at which point the provider and now owner, out of his sense of entitlement as owner, would grab the baw and threaten to storm off in the huff.

As long as the game was everything – and in the Calton at that time EVERYTHING was fitbaw – the bawless plebs were only too willing to reduce the imaginary crossbar height or take their foot off the gas, hence the derogatory saying of those who capitulate too easily “they hivnae any baws”.

Memories! Whit are they like and what is the connection to modern day Scottish professional football?

I’m indebted to this article by The Battered Bunnet first posted on CQN on 30 June 2012 and since reproduced on other blogs including SFM but worth repeating here:

“Senior Hampden source tells Channel 4 he news he cannot see how RFC were allowed to play last season at all. Doesn’t believe they met finance criteria…”

Alex Thomson’s tweets yesterday re a ‘senior Hampden source’ casting doubt on Rangers’ eligibility to obtain a Club Licence last year were rather intriguing.

We have by now a clearer picture of the failure of governance at Rangers through the David Murray/ John McClelland/ Alastair Johnston/ Craig Whyte years, albeit we await further definitive details from the judgement of the Tax Tribunal. Essentially, over a period spanning 2 decades, the means that Rangers used to sustain its football operation utterly disregarded the requirements of both corporate governance and football regulation. While the scandal related solely to payments and procedures within Rangers, we could hope that it was contained internally.

However, the revelation that Rangers paid former manager Souness via EBT while he was manager at Blackburn Rovers confirmed for the first time that the scandal had become external. I understand that RangersTaxCase and Alex Thomson have further information on the extent of payments to Souness and also to Walter Smith, and look forward to the details being revealed, but it is now clear that the Rangers ‘toxin’ had leached out of the club by 2001.

The compelling question now is: How far did the toxin spread?

Was it contained within the ‘outer circle’ of former Rangers employees, however inexplicable such payments may appear? Or did it extend beyond that outer circle, and contaminate senior figures in the Game in Scotland. The contamination does not relate solely to payments from Rangers’ offshore trust, but more subtly perhaps, the behaviour of individuals in positions of influence.

We know that Rangers’ Executive Chairman John McClelland was an SPL Board member during the startling ramp up of EBT use from 2003 to 2005, and was himself a beneficiary of the scheme.

We know that Rangers’ Chief Executive Martin Bain was an SPL Board member 2008 to 2011, coinciding with the receipt by Rangers of the HMRC assessments on the EBT scheme, of which he was himself a beneficiary.

We know that current SFA President Campbell Ogilvie was simultaneously an SFA Director and Executive Director and 

Company Secretary of Rangers, and was a beneficiary of the scheme.

These parallel functions of course present a profound conflict of interest for each man, at once implementing a scam on the Game to disguise a fraud on the Revenue, while owing specific legal duties of care to the Game being scammed.

So far, so shabby.

Thomson’s tweets yesterday indicate a doubt on the part of a ‘senior Hampden source’ that Rangers were eligible to hold a Club Licence last season, thus disqualifying them from participating in European competition, and perhaps Scottish Football too. Is this doubt grounded in a retrospective review of the licence qualifying criteria given what has emerged recently? Or was there a ‘blind eye’ turned by the SFA’s Licensing Committee to information in the public domain at the time of the Licence application? In this respect the ‘Wee Tax Case’ represented a fundamental failure against at least one Licence criterion.

The proposals to the SFL clubs this week make it plain that should the SFA conclude the outstanding Disciplinary issues against Rangers with either suspension or expulsion of Rangers from the SFA (perhaps the only sanctions remaining available to the SFA following Lord Glennie’s Judicial Review) that the Game will face ‘financial meltdown’.

Concurrently, the SPL has adjudged Rangers to have a prima facie case to answer in respect of SPL rule breaches on player registration, the outcome of which will confirm that the club fielded ineligible players in upwards of 400 SPL matches. The only possible disciplinary outcome given such a sustained breach of SPL rules, corrupting the completion as it did from its inception in 1999 to 2011, is expulsion from the SPL.

As a consequence, the SFA, as the authority responsible for implementing FIFA’s Rules on the Registration of Players, will be required to act on these breaches of FIFA rules. Again, expulsion for what amounts to Championship fixing is inevitable.

Curiously, the SFL, this week asking its members to vote to admit the Sevco Rangers club into their top tier, has the same issue given that its League Cup competition featured dozens of ineligible Rangers players through the years, and further claims by Hugh Adam that its ‘Premier Division’ competition during the 1990s was similarly bent through the use of ‘off the books’ payments to players by Rangers.

The scale of it all is breath-taking and were the rules of the Game to be applied, Rangers FC would be expelled from each Governing body in turn, before we even consider the extraordinary breaches of faith and duties by co-serving Directors.

But according to the SFL/SFA/SPL circular to clubs, “Rangers Terminated or Suspended’ will cause “Financial Meltdown”.

To avoid this meltdown, it is proposed by the Executives of the combined SFL/SFA/SPL that the rules of the Game are not applied to Rangers, and that the clubs effectively rewrite the rule book to permit what remains of the club to compete at the top of the SFL.

In effect, according to the Governing Bodies, the Rules of the Game CANNOT be applied to Rangers or the Game’s finances will ‘meltdown’.

The corollary question this raises is: For how long have the Governing bodies been so unable to apply the Rules of the Game to Rangers? Is this a new epiphany, or a longer standing recognition?

When Rangers submitted their allegedly ineligible application for a Club Licence in 2011, did the SFA recognise that Rangers failing to participate in Europe would cause the club to fail, as it subsequently did? Were the Rules ignored to avoid ‘financial meltdown’ then?

How far did the toxin spread?

Did this recognition extend back to the period following the disintegration of Murray International, hitherto Rangers’ source of continuing funding? Was the season of ‘Honest Mistakes’ some absurd, dutiful reaction to the recognition that should Rangers fail, Scottish Football would melt down?

Was the ineligible status of so many of Rangers’ first team players noticed prior to the SPL’s Inquiry commencing on 5th March? Was it noticed in an Audit as part of the SFA’s Club Licensing process some years ago? Was it noticed by the recent SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith, who as an Agent had represented players on Rangers’ books through his Directorship of Prostar Management and other Agencies?

Beyond the duplicity of Ogilvie, McClelland and Bain, were Rangers’ irregular practices known to others at the SFA and SPL, others who chose not to address the matter, thus further contaminated the Governing Bodies with the Rangers toxin?

It is heartening that the Liquidators of Rangers plc will be instructed to examine all of the circumstances surrounding the failure of Rangers as a corporate entity. Equally, perhaps the detail contained in the Tax Tribunal judgement will reveal further connections, hitherto unknown.

What is likely to remain hidden from view though, is the full extent to which key influencers at the Governing Bodies were aware of Rangers’ conduct and circumstances, and how this affected their behaviour and their decision making in applying the rules of the Game to that club.

What we can say with certainty now though is that the people holding office at the Governing Bodies are unable or unwilling to apply the Rules of the Game to Rangers, despite the breaches being fundamentally and profoundly corrupt. The SFA and SPL, despite having outstanding disciplinary cases against Rangers that will, in all other circumstances see the 

club expelled from the Game, are intent to delete the cases provided the SFL clubs accept the Sevco Rangers into the SFL’s top division.

The Rules of the Game cannot be applied to Rangers.

When the rules cannot be applied, the Game itself is broken, and we can say now with some certainty that the Rangers toxin has spread beyond the club, its former employees and Directors of the Governing Bodies, and contaminated the very Game itself. The Office Bearers of the SFA, whose FIFA mandate requires them to “protect and foster the Game” in Scotland, and “protect it from abuses”, have contrived to do the contrary, to the point where the Game is stricken.

It is for this reason that a thorough clear out of the Office Bearers in the Governing Bodies is now a prerequisite to the Game recovering from the poison inflicted upon it by Rangers. The dissolution of the Governing Bodies is perhaps appropriate.

Clear your desk Gentlemen, the bus to ignominy departs shortly.

The position that the SFA and then SPL found themselves in is perfectly clear from the foregoing. Desperately keen for commercial reasons to hold onto the “baw” they changed the rules, but never took ownership of the baw from the owner and so are still beholden to him.

Hence the article title “We Are Going To Need Another Baw“ because the one currently in play is burst, stuffed with £14M worth of share vouchers.

What was done in 2012 was understandably commercially necessary, but the price to be paid was twofold:

1. Not just to the integrity of our game then but the ongoing price now, where all energies are directed at continuing to pretend that the rules are followed without fear of favour.

2. The idea that the Scottish game cannot survive without a “Rangers” is one that most folk would accept but the danger arising, which is unacceptable, is that because of it “Rangers” think they can do as they please as a result which requires rules to be reinforced. And seen to be reinforced.

They clearly aren’t under the SFA’s own rule enforcing process called the Judicial Panel Protocol https://www.sfm.scot/jpp-perverting-justice/ not to mention Club Licensing processes that have so far manged to avoid the scrutiny that, had Resolution 12 been acted upon in 2013, would have resulted in changes that would protect the game from all those who think it is still their baw.

The general perception of supporters is that lessons have not been learned from past behaviour.

Until there is evidence that they have, for example: the Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal investigating at snail’s pace the process followed in 2011 that allowed a UEFA licence to be

granted to Rangers FC without question, coming to conclusion or providing reasons why it cannot by the spring, the perception will continue to be “It’s all about Rangers” followed by what is the point?.

Is it not about time now that the fear that drove thinking in 2012 was faced and recognised by all clubs as unfounded and a new integrity filled baw was used?

What is there to fear now from restoring integrity to its rightful place, unless of course you were party to the thinking that kicked the integrity of our game to death in 2012 and are still in a position of influence?

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