24 Apr 2012

Rangers goes to the heart of how we want to live

In a moment some words from Craig Whyte, reacting to the news from Hampden Park and the Scottish Football Association.

But first, I hope to inject a little perspective into everything going on around Rangers and the latest sanctions to be passed against the club – though probably not the last.

First off, we need to say again this is not about football and not about Rangers Football Club either. It is first and foremost about nothing less than the way we want to govern the big institutions of our society.

Put bluntly, do we want our sport to carry on being some kind of athletic version of the sub-prime casino banking mess the UK’s already suffered from? Do we really want that – with everything it entails in terms of rich men walking away and the mortagees/fans getting screwed over yet again?

That’s the Craig Whyte lesson, and reality, clearly. It could turn out to be the David Murray lesson too, on a far grander scale.

Is this what we really want in sport, finance, business – our very culture?

Well, sport, of course, has been turned into a business almost completely. But not quite. It still exists with all the naked cynicism of big business, yet within a framework of external governance which should work or there is no point to it at all.

And say what you like about football’s governing bodies, in Scottish football nobody can deny that at least one has sought to govern in the past 24 hours.

The SFA and it Chief Executive Stewart Regan is a body and a man under pressure.

Under pressure from Holyrood. In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, it was Mr Regan who said he’d told the Scottish government to get its tanks off the SFA lawn in no uncertain terms and allow it to govern Scottish football, and not interfering politicians whose actions have been well documented by this programme in recent weeks.

Under pressure too from Uefa. We are told if there is one thing Michel Platini – the Uefa boss – really cares about, it is Financial Fair Play. Very much his project, so far as we can judge. The SFA HQ at Hampden Park knows it is being watched carefully by Uefa, as are Rangers FC in particular, as well they might be. Their imperative to act and seen to be acting, underlined then from Edinburgh and Switzerland.

Pressure too from within these islands but outside Scotland. For too long, to many it appears that the cosy old-boys’ networking and structure between the biggest clubs and the Scottish Premier League, on the one hand, and the Scottish FA on the other, has been allowed to go on unchecked and unremarked upon.

When this programme began questioning why, for example, the current SFA president Campbell Ogilvie did not step aside for form’s sake whilst all the current investigations into Rangers are going on and he was there at the time, our inquiries were met with near-bafflement by the SFA. They still didn’t quite seem to get it, with their own chief exec describing Mr Ogilvie as “heavily conflicted”.

So with all these pressures has come some meaningful action. Rangers supporters will hate it, of course – so would Celtic’s or Aberdeen’s, were this their club. Much of the Glasgow media will focus on whither Rangers? There will be a lot of hand-wringing and blaming, a lot of self-indulgent nonsense about fans being blamed for Craig Whyte’s mishandling of the club. You can see a lot of this out there already this morning – expect a hell of a lot more to come.

But somebody somewhere had to act. Somebody had to do something. Somebody had to send a message that simply allowing anybody to come into football and buy up our clubs just cannot be tolerated without sanction – and obviously that means hitting the clubs concerned. Tough for fans to accept – but impossible for them to deny if they care to pause for thought.

However, the SFA does not emerge with unalloyed glory. True, they have acted. True too that in a recent interview for Channel 4 News, SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan said they basically took it on trust from Rangers Football Club that Craig Whyte was the man to buy and rescue the club for a pound. We can but hope the SFA are dealing with their own internal mechanisms for dealing with this kind of thing in future whilst doling out punishment externally as appropriate.

Rangers then goes to the heart of how we wish to live and be governed in sport, culture, business and politics too. Do we want rules that are applied to governance? Or do we simply want to drift along in the casino world? Angry and sore though they are, I strongly suspect that Rangers fans will ultimately feel the same as Celtic’s currently smug support does on this key issue.

For this is what it is all really about. Against this, administrations… liquidations… voluntary arrangements… incubator companies… new companies… old companies… Employee Benefit Trusts… side contracts…

None of it really matters except insofar as Rangers’ personal pain, grief and general implosion serves as a clean-up call for football in general and perhaps our wider life beyond.

And whatever happens, in the end hundreds of thousands of folk will still want to support a team based in Govan, wearing blue. That is not going away. And one day they might find themselves playing in a far better-run game than they have known in the past. Today might just be Day One of setting off down this path. We can but hope.

And now for Craig Whyte in a moment or two…

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31 reader comments

  1. Jimbo says:

    I would argue that the non-payment of 800k for Lee Wallace has a much bigger effect on Hearts, than these sanctions do on Rangers.

    For someone who is not a fan of Rangers, Celtic or Hearts, it is hilarious to see Rangers fans trying to convince themselves that there is an SFA conspiracy against them.

    My first game at Hampden – ’89 League Cup final – non-existent penalty awarded to RFC. It hasn’t changed a lot since then (as supporters of the “smaller” teams in Scottish football will tell you)

    For a club that howls on about dignity, there ain’t a lot on show. They should take their punishment, and keep quiet.

  2. Philip says:

    I wonder whether Platini will be so gung ho about the financial fair play rules now Paris St Germain have a billionaire backer & once they start competing with the big boys in the European Champions League? His focus seems largely directed at UK clubs & conveniently away form Berlusconi’s AC Milan or the restrictive practices that allow Barcelona & Real Madrid to rule the roost virtually unchallenged in Spain.
    As far as Scotland are concerned, I hope those in charge eventually develop the guts to make the sort of wholesale changes in governance & audit that could be a model for the UK as a whole. Rangers are certainly not alone in how they have approached their finances.

  3. derek conway says:

    so rangers and their fans think they’ve been punished enough and start making threats against all and sundrie , get real , your club has been living a lie for years now and it’s time for the consequences or should it be a rule for you and a rule for others , stop your whingeing and take it on the chin !

  4. BankieJohn says:

    Well said Alex. That puts it in good context. Very few commentators see or acknowledge the connection between what’s happening to Rangers and the way our major institutions are also governed.
    We live in a democracy ie we can vote every 4 or 5 years for the puppet on the left or the one on the right, ut bmost people work in organisations more akin to a totalitarian dictatorship. The guy at the top – like Minty Murray – rules the empire without question. Is that the way people should spend the biggest chunk of their time? Is that how we should live together, under absolute rule? These empires as we know tend to rot from within and get very messy for everyone involved.

    On a lighter note – thank God eh,for the new technologies in public hands. Will quicken the march of freedom and democracy. More than the SFA’s rules are about to be rewritten by the looks of it.

    As a Clydebank fan, I look forward to meeting one of the Rangers’ newco teams in the junior league soon. You should see our park. We have a brilliant level playing field. Makes for good competitive football.

  5. John C says:

    Rangers breach of rule 14 brought a fine of £50000, judicial panel protocol dictates it should be £50000 And termination of membership.

  6. John says:

    “For too long, to many it appears that the cosy old-boys’ networking and structure between the biggest clubs and the Scottish Premier League, on the one hand, and the Scottish FA on the other, has been allowed to go on unchecked and unremarked upon.”

    Sorry Alex, as much as I’m relieved that you’re doing such a valuable and great job with this story, I can’t allow that bit to stand unchecked. This is not between “the biggest clubs” and the SFA, it’s just ONE club and all its “cosy old boys” who have consistently been given the most influential positions in the governance of the Scottish game. And that’s before we even get to the media.

    It’s those people who have enabled the last two decades of cheating to happen, solely to benefit their favourite football team. No other football clubs have been involved in this, so please don’t allow the laziness of the Glasgow sports media infect your perceptions.

    There are many, many reasons why that club and it’s followers are called Scotland’s Shame. Please keep looking for them

  7. scarlet says:

    The SFA have come out swinging, aiming for Craig Whyte and punching Rangers square in the face. For many Rangers supporters their club shouldn’t be punished for the actions of this man. But these fans have short memories and their heads in the sand. They’re the same fans who heralded his arrival like the second coming.

    Rangers have a huge support. Of that there can be no doubt. This is why they will be back as a major force in Scottish football. However, it might be a wee while before that day arrives. In the meantime they should show some dignity and stop trying to escape their punishments by blaming everyone else.

    Whether the SFA keep their nerve and turn down Rangers appeals remains to be seen.

    Next up is the SPL. What will they do to encourage fair play, financial or otherwise?

  8. Auldheid says:

    Right on the nail Alex, time to broaden the horizons.

    Lets hope the SFA also get the internal reform message too.

    You might want to listen to Talksport, very much into the commercial agenda. Do not seem to comprehend the integrity aspect.
    Mind you they do feed off it, maybe not succulent lamb, but they need a right hard look at themselves.

    1. jack says:

      They employ Keys Gray. ‘Nuff said’.

  9. Robert says:

    ank god there is one reporter in the UK who is prepared to call it as it is. Lord only knows there are none in Scotland. What football fans north of the border want is simply justice. For far to long has this unholy mess been allowed to fester but has been condoned by the deafening silence from the sport hacks in Scotland. Even now they still persist in the cover up that has not only ruined rangers (the one club being protected ) but has badly damaged Scottish football perhaps beyond repair. I do hope and pray that you sir focus your sights on the ones who are really complicit in all the blatant cheating that has gone on for a lot longer than a “billionaire from Motherwell” has been in charge of this truly pathetic excuse for a sporting establishment. We the true football supporters in Scotland are well aware that nothing will happen to make the changes to our corrupt association and league if it is left to people who were involved with ranges while all this prevailed and now sit in the highest positions of our footballs governing body. How can we really make sure that UEFA get involved in this sorry mess to stop the usual sweeping under the carpet? Something in the state of Scotland is ROTTEN. Please keep up the good work.

  10. patrick h says:

    SFA,S Regann, C Whyte, SPL, HMRC,Creditors & anyone else who dares to point out that they (RFCia) have cheated every honest club & fan in Scottish & european football for years.
    DEARY DEARY me why dont they turn their attention and anger to the one man who has put them in the position they find their self in today DAVID MURRAY are you listening rfc fans DAAAAAAAAAAVID MURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAY go ask him why he sold the club to CW for £1.SIMPLES yet they & the succulent lamb brigade continue to peddle the MYTH that big boys done it & ran away.
    Their fans reaction may be a shock to any outsiders looking in but to us or I should say me it does not, it is just their typical” we arraa peepl” it wisnae us attitude.
    Who will they blame if they lose the “big tax case” NO DOUBT IT WILL BE THE QUEENS FAULT because it could not have been DM & the previous board (every last one of them including PAUL MURRAY).So suck it up instead of blaming every man & his DUG.

  11. MerryPloughBhoy says:

    Another great piece Alex, Some very good points here, Surely there needs to be tougher sanctions put in place by UEFA to stop mismanagement on this scale, its theft ! You have grasped the situation at Rangers in a couple of months better than the lazy so called “journalists” up here who sit in their bubble.

  12. manandboy says:

    Alex, I’m a big fan of yours. You have done some great work recently, and, you have done a great service to Football in Scotland. Soon, you might even be made an honorary Scotsman!

    However, in this piece, ‘Rangers goes to the heart of how we want to live’, as well as so much that is very good, the idea of ‘governance’ being what really needs sorting, looks to me like another ball on the park – and in football you can only play with one. To my mind, when we’ve played the full 90 mins of the Rangers in administration game, then we can move on to the football/life governance game – and it’s not even half time in the first one yet. Or maybe you’re going a little too fast for me – that’s possible!

    Please keep on investigating and filming and blogging. I just love what you do.

    Bring on Craig Whyte . . . .

  13. brendan2k says:

    This is a well written piece that identifies the key issues and drivers. However I feel that it misses the point as regards Celtic supporters being ‘smug’. An important issues for Celtic for many years has been that Celtic had a ‘biscuit tin’ mentality and its board was constantly being shown to be weak in comparison to Rangers. They could bring in big players that we just could not afford despite the fact that our crowds averaged about 10,000 more per game than they did. Our own fans debated spending policy for years and our ‘saviour’ Fergus McCann was booed by some fans as he raised the championship flag at Celtic park. He was thought of as being mean and afraid to spend. What Fergus had and the board members since have had is integrity and year after year we were playing against cheats who had none. When cheats are caught it is a good thing and if Celtic fans are pleased about it that is natural for after all it was them more than any other groups who directly suffered.

    1. Football fan says:

      Excellent post and summarises what has taken place in Scottish football financially in past two decades succinctly. Thank you.

      Please read this post again each time Rangers are found guilty of financial wrongdoing in the coming weeks.

  14. greenginger says:

    There are 4 football clubs hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket because of Rangers transfer dealings when they must have known that they would not be able to pay the transfer fees agreed..That is why a transfer embargo is right and proper.

    Duff and Phelps as administrators should have as their main concern the welfare of Rangers creditors, instead their concern is solely about what sort of team they will have in a years time and how they might not be competitive in Europe.

  15. Clarkston Loyal says:

    Most decent Rangers fans simply accept that this is a fair punishment and much worse is to come. Quite frankly we’ll be staggered if we’re not in Division 3 next season having had any silverwear won over the last decade or so removed.
    David Murray the real villain of the peice here!

    1. Fine and Dandy says:

      Well said Clarkston. It’s a shame that there aren’t more like you who’re prepared to accept the punishment and get on with rebuilding. There have been some truly outrageous and arrogant comments coming out of the RST today with talk of boycotts of the SFA and their sponsors etc.
      My own opinion, as an Aberdeen and Elgin City fan, is that only by going down to the Third div and starting again. Imagine the good that clubs like Elgin City, Brechin, Arbroath etc could do with the extra gate money generated by the many coachloads of visiting Rangers (or whatever newco will be called) fans who will continue to follow (follow) their team. Add in the number of local supporters who’ll turn up at Burough Briggs to watch when the ‘big’ team are in town.
      Fair play to you man, it can’t be easy watching the team you love suffer, but at least you’re mature enough to realise that there’s only one honourable way to behave now that they’ve been caught with their hands in the sweetie jar as it were. Shame that the board and coaching staff at Ibrox can’t show the same level of maturity

  16. Peter Garland says:

    Celtic fans aren’t smug , they are enraged that their team has been the victim of widespread CHEATING.Sir David Murray bought Trophies with the taxpayers money,played teams with illegal double contracts year after year after year.The establishment has let them off light, and when they appeal, we all know what will happen.

  17. HJC says:

    Who on earth were Rangers going to buy over the coming twelve months and with what? Alex, you are beginning to tar all with the same brush, lazy journalism creeping in there. I do agree, this is a Scottish football problem but a problem created by Rangers and no one else, not Aberdeen, Hibs, Motherwell or anyone else but Rangers so please put the blame where it firmly belongs, Ibrox House. According to the Scottish media Celtic have had a “biscuit tin” mentality for years but in hindsight, it’s the Scottish media and Rangers who have had a corrupt mentality for years and Celtic like the vast majority of Scottish clubs have behaved with proper governance of their clubs. This is a Rangers problem.

  18. Scotty Thomson says:

    I genuinely feel sorry for the decent Rangers fans that don’t partake in the bigotry and sectarian nonsense. There was a statement by a Rangers supporters group that is blaming the SPL/SFA for Craig whyte buying the club. I could be wrong but it was David Murray that sold the club not the governing body.
    On some fan sites there are calls for causing riots, carrying firearms and even bombing the SFA headquarters.
    Also why are the political fraternity getting involved? This is one thing that UEFA takes a very dim view. They were not making such a fuss when it came to Dundee,Livingston,Gretna.

  19. Marty says:

    Rangers have already been penalised 10 points. They have been given a large fine. There may also be more to come. So be it. However, placing a transfer embargo on a club which is liable to lose numerous senior players in the summer and is at a crucial stage of trying to find a new owner to replace the execrable Whyte is an extremely harsh, perhaps even a reckless punishment. Naturally many fans of other clubs will cheer and rail against big bad Rangers but in reality it is little wonder that many people see this as an excessive and ill-judged sanction.

    1. Bruce says:

      Selective as ever, Marty. The large fine is essentially meaningless. The money will simply disappear in the morass of Rangers debts. If the SFA or SPL withold it from money they’re paying to Rangers then it effectively gets added to then CVA. It doesn’t mean Rangers have to find that money. One of the reasons they’ve been punished is down to their abuse of the transfer system – using PAYE to buy players and even then still stiffing clubs by being unable to make the full payments. So a 12 month transfer embargo is entirely appropriate and necessary – its the only way to make a meaningful punishment should Fourth Lanark survive in some form. UEFA will most likely do the same if St Etienne, Man City, Arsenal, Rapid Vienna, etc don’t get paid in full.

      Far from being draconian, its lenient. The SFA’s judicial panel appear to have held back from imposing the sanctions stated in the SFA’s rules.

  20. Burnside Bear says:

    I agree with Clarkston Loyal – it is time for the more enlightened Gers fans to wake up, smell the coffee, and show some humility. What, after all is the point of sport if cheating is tolerated. Golf, my new favourite sport, is imperious in that sense – where would the sport of golf be if we all acted like the current baying hoards?

  21. bobbiebhoy says:

    Well said Clarkston Loyal – I applaud your honesty – I know many like you who are disgusted by the actions of your club. Sadly not enough prepared to say it publicy. Murray is the real perp – and CW the patsy, Does anyone really believe he was duped ? He knew all along what the plan was and the board ? Honest men like Greig did not have the stomache for it.

  22. tambo says:

    If Craig can be banned for life and fined £160000 fpr 10 months worth of cheating, what is Sir David staring at ?

    5 consecutive life sentence ban and umpteen £millions by way of a sufficient fine to fit his crime(s) ?

  23. Paul K says:

    I have followed your reports in recent weeks on this subject matter and totally agree with your rhetoric on Governance v The Business of football.
    As an exiled scot and like a number of my countrymen we meet to follow our teams in far of distant parts of the world in the early hours to watch our national sport, Where Scottish Ex-Pats are trusted due to our honesty, integrity and work ethic .
    This shambles goes to disgrace us all wither we are Celtic, Rangers or the other 10 teams in the SPL the SFA and SPL have allowed this to drag on far too long and should follow the laws that have been agreed to within the various associations and constitution rules that everybody in Scottish Football agrees to wither you’re in the SPL or the Highland Football League.
    The issue here is that the fans of football who turn up week on week to play or support their club expect more from the officials that we trust with our national game / clubs to act in a professional and transparent manner which in your reporting and known by the majority of fans has been left up to the old boy network who have disgraced and tarnished our reputation.
    We know have the opportunity to change this old regime and rebuild our stature and improve our performances on and off the pitch by not standing for this mismanagement.
    As its being coming obvious that views of so few are being considered above the majority, the fans are suffering due to this mismanagement and reforms and fans representation are what is need not behind closed door reviews.
    Mr. Campbell Ogilivie President of the SFA your governance of association should end and you should be honest with the fans at Rangers that you and your co directors have cheated whilst being in a position of trust to the fans of Rangers this current denial and cover up is disrespectful to them and the fans of the Scottish game around the world.
    Alex please keep doing the good work and we never know one day in Scotland we might have Journalists like you who report facts and not fiction through rose tinted glasses

  24. Talk Jocky says:

    Why are Duff & Phelps concerning themselves with what team RFC are able to put out next year ? They seem to have caught the disease of the big hoose – getting involved in stuff they really should not concern themselves with. They should be concerned about how to pay the money owing to small businesses all around Scotland, football clubs all around Europe and HMRC.

  25. Censorship says:

    Even Alex Thomson is too scared to mention the elephant in the room.The RFC History of not signing Catholics and the Orange Order March ending with a rally at Ibrox. They should have been closed down years ago. Their’Up to our knees..’ and ‘die die die ‘bigoted chants are Scotland’s shame.

  26. Gaza says:

    The arguments in the article are very well put and the comparison with the banking industry is spot-on. Rangers have been found guilty of breaches of the SFA rules and have been appropriately punished. The primary complaint of Rangers fans that the club is being punished due to the actions of Craig Whyte beggars belief. While it would appear that Whyte hammered the final nails in the coffin, it was started and built during the reign of David Murray. Two decades of living beyond their means is the root cause of their problems.

    The rest of Scottish football deserves to feel aggrieved. Rangers bought their way to success but in the process built up huge debts and liabilities that are now resulting in their downfall. That cannot be allowed to go unpunished, and, should the SFA Appeal Board uphold the punishment, it appears that it won’t. Rangers fans and Administrators say they are being punished twice. Do they really believe that a 10 point deduction in the current season is sufficient for what amounts to nothing less than cheating their way to success over the last 20 years?

    Going forward the SFA need to have a robust set of sanctions in place for clubs who exhibit financial impropriety. A 10 point deduction in one season is too small a price to pay for wiping out of a clubs debts via a CVA.

  27. John W says:

    Who does Doncaster think he is when he implies that Rangers in some form will be in the SPL next season.
    Who does Doncaster think he is when he says that the current decisions especially on the SPL voting were delayed to “take the heat out of the situation”
    Is he worried about justice or about the Sky TV contract or about ensuring Rangers are spared further punishment.
    This is why a lot of supporters are wondering if it is worth bothering going to SPL games any more wnen the establishment are obviously batting for some other teams.

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