Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Without fear or favour

Without fear or favour

There has been some soul searching in Scottish football following Ireland’s gutsy qualification win over Bosnia-Herzegovina this week. The game in Scotland seems mired in dispute and acrimony, much of it stemming from the fallout from the collapse of Rangers in 2012. The SFA and SPFL appear to be waiting for better days rather that showing decisive leadership as the war of words over the use of EBTs by Rangers for a decade rages on in the media and online.  Craig Burley, former Scotland and Celtic player stated on Twitter…

‘What a pitiful nation, still arguing about titles and all this tosh whilst the Irish put another nail in the coffin.’

Those in favour of declaring titles won during the EBT years null and void were on his case in a flash outlining the fact that they felt they had in effect watched a ‘rigged game’ for a decade. Burley seems to be unable to comprehend the fact that for many supporters of Scottish football this is an important issue of sporting integrity and not ‘tosh.’ Not everyone who wants titles expunged is a ‘Rangers hater.’ Many fair minded people point to clubs thrown out of the Scottish cup on technicalities or due to errors in paperwork and fail to see how a club can implement over £45m in undisclosed payments to players over a decade and the very authorities kept in the dark about it declare that ‘no sporting advantage accrued!’  To para-phrase Forrest Gump…

‘I’m not a smart man but even I know if you offer Peter Lovenkrands £902,000 tax free on top of his declared salary he is more likely to agree to play in the relative backwater of the Scottish League.’  

Lord Drummond Young appears to agree with me as he stated in his recent judgement…

‘If the club hadn’t operated the EBT scheme, some players might have taken their services elsewhere.’

There are currently two camps in Scottish football and they seem miles apart. One which argues we should put all these disputes about titles and EBT’s behind us and move forward for the good of the game. The other is adamant that there can be no moving forward without transparency and a full, open investigation into the EBT years. These two camps seem irreconcilable and their hostility to each other is growing. As always the more uncouth types spit their unhelpful venom from the relative anonymity of social media and add heat to an already difficult situation but the SFA and SPFL need to accept that decent and civilised fans from many clubs are deeply perturbed by what has gone on in recent years. This is a matter of natural justice, not a matter of hating Rangers. Indeed if any Rangers supporters are reading these words ask yourself, in all honesty what would your opinion be if Celtic had operated an EBT scheme in the manner Rangers did?

So what is to be done? I for one fall into the second camp and feel an independent inquiry should look into every aspect of the football authorities handling of the Rangers situation over the past few years. The paying public who are the life-blood of Scottish football deserve to know the truth. There are too many inconsistencies, secret agreements and conflicts of interests. The rules of the game have been ripped apart with little consequence. The SFA’s own rule book states (section 4)…

‘All payments being made to a player and relating to his playing activities must be clearly recorded upon the relevant contract or agreement. No payments for his playing activities may be made to a player via a third party.’

Are we really expected to believe that over 40 professional mercenaries would have showed up at Rangers in the first decade of the new century without the inducement of huge dollops of tax free cash?  Celtic FC, the leading club in the land, clearly isn’t buying it and issued a statement following the HMRC victory in the Court of Session which declared EBTs as taxable income. They stated on the official website…

“We are aware of last week’s Court of Session ruling, which we note is subject to potential appeal. Celtic’s position on this issue is consistent – that this remains a matter for the courts of law and also the Scottish football authorities whose rules are intended to uphold sporting integrity. In 2013, we expressed surprise – shared by many observers and supporters of the game - over the findings of the SPL Commission that no competitive or sporting advantage had resulted. That remains our view."

It also remains the view of sizable numbers of Scottish football supporters from Annan to Aberdeen. We now need some leadership from the hierarchy of Scottish Football to clear the poisonous atmosphere which currently pollutes our national sport. So far we’ve had the mythical ‘SFA insider’ being quoted in the press as saying no titles will be stripped. Often such ‘insiders’ are figments of the reporter's imagination as the PR battle rages in the media. Guff about ‘protecting our sources’ means they can invent such ‘insiders’ all day long. We hear astonishing utterings from ill-informed and inarticulate ‘pundits’ on radio phone in shows who say things such as, ‘You can’t strip the titles as Rangers might have won the games anyway.’ This utter incredulous nonsense is akin to saying: ‘Don’t strip drug cheat Lance Armstrong’s titles as he might have won anyway!’ We see EBT recipients like Alex Rae wheeled out to say, ‘I would have joined Rangers anyway!’ Yes, you might have but would Klos, Cappucho, Lovenkrands, Amoruso and all the others who weren’t brought up as Rangers supporters? They weren’t in Glasgow for the weather that’s for sure.

Scottish football is in a very difficult place at the moment. If the footballing authorities who warned us of ‘civil unrest’ if the new Rangers were denied entry to the top division in 2012 are to come through these times with any shred of credibility then they must apply the rules of the game without fear or favour. They should do the right thing and not the easy thing.

As for the mainstream media, with some honourable exceptions, they lost credibility a long time ago and most supporters treat their opinions with the contempt they deserve.  

Meanwhile some greedy former footballers may well be receiving a hefty tax bill in the future. Why is it that those who have the most in life are unwilling to pay their dues to a society which has given them so much? As the Police investigation into Charles Green's purchasing of the assets of the old company in 2012 continues, it is also possible that the creditors large and small who were royally shafted in 2012 may yet see some of their money. That may be the only good to come out of this sordid mess.



  1. Cheats and fraudsters then,now,and always.

  2. Couldn't have put it better myself. Only way to draw a line under it is to void the titles won. Don't award them to Celtic, void them. It's a no brainier. The case for the defence is weak and Craig burley is an arsehole. Can't understand his link to Ireland qualifying and how punishing Rangers would some how hinder Scottish football further.

    1. I think he was lamenting the fact Ireland made it to the Euros & Scotland didn't and somehow linking this to the on-going EBT issue. As if we're all full of hate while the game goes to hell. Most fans I meet don't hate anyone but they do see a huge issue with the EBT years & sporting integrity being compromised. HH