Rangers: Confluence of interest
The night The Rangers began a new chapter in Division 3, I sat in a Glasgow restaurant eating (really) succulent lamb and pondered that my work on this long, strange saga was done. Justice had been administered at last. Despite the SPL bosses trying very hard to do anything but what everyone else in Scottish football demanded, justice had beaten money.
That was that.
And it still is. There are bigger, uglier, nastier and far more pressing things in this world to attend to. The Tax Tribunal and the EBT scam (or not scam) will eventually be sorted no matter how secretive and opaque the processes of both Tax Tribunal and SPL Independent Commission are.
But one thing I have attended to is the question of Harper MacLeod. I’ve done this whilst trying to take a holiday, on behalf of the people who have always mattered most in this, the trashed and sold-out army of Ibrox fans.
Many of them simply think I have some bizarre agenda against them and their club. Or that I am somehow in league with Celtic. How you get to this in a Hampshire-born, Newcastle United-supporting bloke of Scottish Presbyterian heritage beats me – but there it is.
Nonetheless, some of The Rangers fans quite genuinely believe that the law firm currently acting for the SPL have a massive conflict of interest because of work done for Celtic, and asked me to look into it, so I have.
What follows is based on detailed advice and conversations with the senior adviser from the Law Society of Scotland, who specialises in administering professional guidance on conflicts of interest to firms across Scotland.
Conflict of interest?
The first key thing to understand is that a conflict of interest is just what it says: two or more interests conflicting with each other.
So, the SFA President Campbell Ogilvie is in conflict as his own boss has recognised. He was at the heart of the Rangers management structure at the time when the EBT schemes are now under investigation. So his interest with Rangers then, clearly appears to conflict with his interest now in the body ultimately charged with overseeing that investigation in terms of appeal.
Geddit? Two bodies. Two interests in direct conflict.
So to HM. There is, says the Law Society, no conflict of interest at all. The interests of Celtic (for whom the firm has done work) do not conflict with the interests of the SPL (for whom the firm is now acting). Indeed far from conflicting, the interests may be said to coincide.
When I put it to the Law Society that in fact what’s happening here is a “confluence of interest” not a conflict, they emphatically agreed with me.
Clearly, had HM decided to act for The Rangers – given their extensive work for Celtic – there would be a clear potential conflict. Equally if the firm was in any way involved with the Independent Commission, that too would be questionable, to put it mildly.
But they are not acting for The Rangers at all here. So it is the precise opposite of a conflict of interest. It is a confluence of interest.
Law Society guidelines
Here’s what the Guidance from the Law Society says:
“There are three main elements that need to be considered.
“First, if you would give different advice to different clients about the same matter there is a conflict of interest between them…
“Second, if your actings on behalf of one client would have an adverse impact on a matter you are dealing with for another client, there is a conflict, even if on the face of it the matters are unrelated.
“Third, if you are unable to disclose relevant information to one client because of a duty of confidentiality to another clients there is a conflict of interest.”
And if you need more it is all here.
So people complaining about this have – in the Law Society’s view – got it completely the wrong way round. Perhaps a debate should be had about whether or not, given the clear confluence of interest, this firm was the best choice for the SPL to make to complete its investigation? But the Scottish legal world is small. The Scottish football law world is tiny. It’s a pretty small gene-pool in which to go trawling for choice.
That’s another debate. Equally all the hot air expended about top lawyers from HM being best pals with CFC people is, well, just hot air. It is not illegal (yet) for anybody to be friends with anyone else. It is unlikely in the extreme that one of the biggest specialist sports-law firms in Scotland would wander blithely into an investigation as high-profile as this without putting in place all the standard checks and balances compliant with any such investigation and there is no evidence that this has not happened here.
So if anybody is really complaining to the Scottish Law Society on this matter they would do well to spend their time instead reading up on the guidance which make it completely clear that Campbell Ogilvie is in one position, Harper MacLeod APPEARS to be in quite another.
Introducing a book
Many of the fans who politely asked me to look into the above are now unpolitely asking me why I have dared to write an introduction to a forthcoming book on the downfall of Rangers – or rebirth of Rangers might be a better way of putting it.
The answer’s simple. It is an incontestable fact that a small number of individuals writing online have shamed the Glasgow football MSM on this saga week in, week out, with a few notable exceptions. They continue to do so.
I’ve been struck as an outsider how this has been the case. I have received assistance from all of these individuals and was happy for instance, to write a citation for the RTC blogger for the Orwell Prize for Online Journalism which he/she subsequently won.
There you go – another crime against humanity exclusively revealed for you!
For the same reason I was happy to be asked by a publisher to write an introduction to Phil MacGiollabhain’s book on the subject.
Nobody can deny these bloggers have been ahead of most of the MSM; faster than most of the MSM and righter than most of the MSM for longer than most of the MSM. Every Ibrox fan owes them all a debt of gratitude for doing them the service the Glasgow football media lamentably failed to provide in all but a few cases.
These are the people who first asked the real questions of the Murrays, Whytes, Bains, McLellands, Greigs and so on who played their parts in destroying a once-great football club. And then all walked away.
These are the people who did not walk away. And the more they did to serve the interests of the club by exposing its catastrophic mismanagement, the more a section of the Ibox support hated them.
So it is, that another cascade of bile is unleashed at the news that I dare to endorse the work of these individuals. All the more amusing since not one of these people can have actually read the book.
And blundering into lit crit without bothering to read the lit bit is a pretty good definition of stupidity.
It is also a potent way of advertising the work in question.
Follow Alex on Twitter via @alextomo