11 May 2012

‘It was the boss, not me…’

As the tribunal which punished Rangers FC for bringing the game into disrepute publishes the reasons for its findings, we gain an astounding insight into a major UK football club completely out of control.

Rangers under Craig Whyte, the Tribunal says , were ignoring all sense of reality in any kind of management on Planet Earth – let alone within Glasgow, also a part of the planet though in recent weeks you’d be forgiven for disputing that one.

Here goes…

Take the Craig Whyte take-over of the club. Yes, this was the one where the Glasgow tabloids trumpeted Mr Whyte’s ‘off the radar wealth’ – he was the ‘billionaire’ saviour of Ibrox, remember?. Well, in the real world,  nobody had a clue in Rangers about what his financial pedigree was and they couldn’t find out either. The tribunal records:

“A real and substantial concern existed as to the genuineness of his offer to purchase and as to his motives.

“A real and substantial concern existed as to the lack of information available about his history both personal and commercial and his apparent reluctance to divulge or provide any information which was requested.

“A real and substantial concern existed as to whether and from what source he could find and invest the very substantial funds which would be required in acquiring the majority shareholding,”

Yet astonishingly the whole thing went ahead and the Scottish FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan admitted to Channel 4 News last month that they – football’s governing body in Scotland -more or less took it on trust from Rangers that old Craigy was a good egg – when we now know nobody had a clue. And he wasn’t. The tribunal states:

“Mr Craig Whyte disclosed little or no information. Financial models for working capital requirements prepared by the finance officers and accountants of Rangers FC were repeatedly disputed and rejected by Mr Craig Whyte… Mr Craig Whyte produced his own working capital projections which were wholly at variance with those of Rangers FC…. despite their making all relevant confidential financial data available under secure conditions for the examination and scrutiny of Mr Craig Whyte and his advisers in a process of due diligence in their purchase consideration, almost no advantage was taken of this facility and hardly any enquiry or scrutiny of the detailed and confidential financial information about Rangers FC was carried out by or on behalf of Mr Craig Whyte or any of his companies. This failure to carry out ordinary “due diligence” enquiries served to increase the substantial concern felt… for the motives, the genuineness…”

So they knew little about Craig Whyte’s finances. And Craig Whyte made little or no effort to find out much about Rangers. At the time management there were concerned at Mr Whyte’s motives for buying the club at all…yet it all went ahead and nobody said boo. Incredible.

Think that’s weird? Well check out what happened – or didn’t  — once Craig Whyte was behind the chairman’s desk at Ibrox Park – on the odd occasions he actually went there, along with his lawyer Garry Withey:

“… in the course of the first few weeks of his chairmanship Mr Craig Whyte and Mr Garry Withey were in attendance at Rangers FC Headquarters at Argyle House, Ibrox on a frequent basis, but Mr Gary Withey then became an infrequent attender. Mr Craig Whyte’s attendance became irregular and increasingly infrequent. When he attended at Argyle House he spent little time speaking to any of the operational and administration managers and staff. He was difficult to access. He spent most of the time when he was in Argyle House closed in the Chairman’s room in meetings with persons unknown.”

Directors were left unsure what it even was they were supposed to direct – men like John McClelland and John Greig who had long association with Rangers. They were facing their biggest test in the club and – the Tribunal rules – they were about to fail it spectacularly:

“… as a result of the discussion and the perceptions of both Mr John McClelland and Mr John Greig arising from the absence of any management accounts or financial information about Rangers FC being provided to them, the failure to convene any Board meetings and Mr McClelland’s exclusion from the offices, they both arrived at the conclusion that they were now being so marginalised and excluded from the governance of Rangers that their position as directors was untenable.”

But did they do anything? Did they tell anyone? Did they inform the Scottish Football Association or the Scottish Premier League? Did they inform the media? No. no, no and no. The Tribunal damns them as individuals who could and should have acted but they did not act.

They walked away.

“Mr John McClelland and Mr John Greig resigned in October because they knew that they were being excluded and marginalised at the same time as they had great concerns for the governance of Rangers FC and were deeply suspicious of Mr Craig Whyte… Other than resignation there was no evidence that either of these directors took any steps with any person or authority to do anything about what they knew was happening.”

Paragraph by paragraph the age-old Rangers defence of ‘it was the boss not me’ it cut to shreds in the measured prose of deliberative , legal minds:

“… certain directors and / or senior managers were entirely aware that Mr Craig Whyte, a director of Rangers FC was engaged in a deliberate programme of non payment of taxes, non-cooperation with and frustration of the attempts of the auditors appointed by Rangers FC to carry out the annual inspection of the books of account and preparation of the statutory annual accounts…These matters all frustrated preparation of the annual accounts and prevented the holding of the annual general meeting which required to be held by 1 January 2012.

“From May 2011 Mr David King was aware that he was being excluded from the governance of the company and he appears to have done little about it except repeat his demands to Mr Olverman and Mr Craig Whyte for information. “

So too David King .What is that old saying, that for wrongdoing to triumph, all it takes is for good men to fail to act? As the Tribunal states itself, in a reflective moment:

“ …individual directors and employees must have known that what was happening within Rangers FC was entirely wrong and illegitimate but they chose to do nothing to bring it to the attention of the public. That may be matter for their long term reflection but it does reduce the mitigatory impact of the suggestion that Rangers FC were innocent victims. “

For anybody requiring this last bit in black and white – if anybody at Ibrox dares to whine that it’s wrong to blame Rangers FC for Craig Whyte’s craziness – they should be ashamed. Are you listening, Ally McCoist?

He engaged in a disingenuous correspondence in which he claimed to be anxious to put his case to the tribunal face to face but had singularly failed to do so, citing safety issues. This was the same man who was regularly spotted in public in Scotland and elsewhere.

He engaged in a campaign of derogatory, ill founded and ill judged criticism of the integrity of the Judicial Panel Protocol, its members and the Scottish FA itself. He alleged bias and a lack of fairness.

The tribunal could come to no other conclusion that his conduct was scandalous and disgraceful and in each case represented a contempt of the proceedings of the most serious kind.

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