The Scottish FA has left the reputation of themselves and more importantly the Scottish game in tatters on Thursday night, writes Andy Muirhead, after they refused to participate in an independent review into the game’s response to Rangers’ use of EBTs.
Back in July, after they themselves ruled out any review and subsequent punishment, the SPFL called for a review following a Supreme Court ruling that found in favour of HMRC.
But despite the court ruling and a multitude of evidence and witness statements citing Rangers actively misled the game’s governing bodies to keep on level terms with rivals Celtic and to buy their way to glory, the Scottish FA have decided that this turkey will not be voting for Christmas after all.
Acted in the best interests of the game?
In a letter to member clubs, the SFA said it received correspondence from the SPFL on behalf of all 42 league clubs with “an invitation to participate in the proposed review” and that one unnamed club had also written individually to the governing body calling for a review to take place.
The letter read: “After careful consideration, the board of the Scottish FA has declined the invitation to participate in such a review.
“The image of the game in Scotland can only be damaged further by ‘raking over the coals’ of everything that has happened in the last six years for a further lengthy period of time.
“No-one is complacent or insensitive to the issues. It will be impossible to satisfy every supporter, every club official and every member club.
“Nevertheless, the board of the Scottish FA is resolute. It has acted with integrity and in the best interests of Scottish football at all times.”
Between an 11 year period, Rangers used the EBT scheme under David Murray’s ownership to dodge paying tax on monies paid to players, managers and directors of the club to the tune of £47 million.
Payments were also made to Graeme Souness and Walter Smith – who were managers at Blackburn Rovers and Everton respectively at the time they were given their payments for services that they have failed to fully explain and payments that the governing bodies of both Scotland and England have failed to question, especially given their close proximity to signing Rangers players. Why is that?
The image of our game is damaged. First of all in 2012, when Rangers were liquidated and the governing bodies tried to threaten and bully clubs to do their bidding and vote new Rangers into the top flight. When the threat of ‘Armageddon’ failed to scare the top flight clubs into action, their bully boy tactics were turned on the then-SFL clubs who stood against the continued threats and tactics, from SPL chief Neil Doncaster and Scottish FA chief Stewart Regan, led by the late Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton.
And now the Scottish FA has driven a nail through the integrity of our game for the benefit of one club, with their blatant disregard for the rules and the clear rigging of our game by Rangers and officials aligned to the club – including former Scottish FA chairman Campbell Ogilvie.
Incompetent & Complicit
The Scottish FA’s unwillingness to even review their own handling of the farcical proceedings since 2012 is tantamount to a dereliction of duty of all those who wield power in the offices at Hampden, and it is now imperative that the Scottish Government now gets involved and investigates the Scottish FA, its officials, all documentation and correspondences between the offices at the national stadium and everyone at Rangers Football Club in a public enquiry to save our game from these charlatans and snakes.
SPFL chief Neil Doncaster and his counterpart at the Scottish FA, Stewart Regan, must be stripped of their roles in our game and a total revamp of our governing bodies undertaken.
The decision to reject a review is not to safeguard our already tattered reputations in world football, but to safeguard one half of their cash cows that they rely on. Their integrity and credibility revolves around the amount of money they can grab their hands on and the plush five star hotels they stay in when our clubs and national team are playing at home or abroad.
The Scottish FA and the SPFL are complicit in Rangers’ tax dodging and rigging of our game, if this was a Livingston, a Spartans or an Albion Rovers who had rigged our game for 11 years so that they could buy their way to glory these clubs would have been hammered to hell and back by Regan and Doncaster.
Regan & co. do not want an independent review to take place as all their dirty laundry will be made public. All the dodgy deals behind closed doors to safeguard the pennies and titles won in a rigged game.
Lawwell letter leaked
Fate would have it, hours before the Scottish FA’s decision was announced, a letter which had been written before Rangers’ liquidation in 2012 surfaced and was printed today in The Times.
The letter, written by Celtic chief Peter Lawwell, read: “If the allegations of ‘double contracts’ for players are true, and a breach of SPL and/or SFA rules is established, the eligibility of those players to have competed in domestic league and cup competitions will be called into question.
“In turn, the integrity of the football results achieved by using those players would by necessity also fall into question.
“Any wrongdoing then established would have to be subject to fair and proportionate sanctions, including retrospectively, if appropriate.
“However, at a higher level, in our opinion this whole affair is causing lasting damage to the reputation and integrity of Scottish football. The interests of fairness and Scottish football now demand that the SFA act decisively.
“The initial inquiry should now be reconvened or a new independent panel led by a judge or senior lawyer should be formed to investigate and report upon the Rangers EBT issues and consider whether there has been any further breach of the Association’s rules, including those on disrepute.
“The roles of individuals (past and present) subject to the jurisdiction of the Association should also be examined. This should take place as quickly as possible, irrespective of the SPL’s own investigations.”
During the 11 years of Rangers using the EBT scheme, the Ibrox side owned by David Murray won 13 trophies and banked tens of millions in Champions League revenue.
But the recent court case heralded an amazing admittance from Murray, that the EBT scheme gave the club an advantage over the other clubs in the league.
Murray admitted: “It gave us [Rangers] an opportunity to get players that we perhaps would not be able to afford.”
That comment in itself should have been enough for a Scottish FA review into proceedings, but their reluctance to take any form of action when it comes to EBTs and Rangers stinks of not only a cover-up but also more worryingly the Scottish FA’s preferential treatment of one club who wilfully and happily broke tax laws and the laws of the game to win silverware.
Compliance Officer to look into Wee Tax Case
The letter from the Scottish FA also informed clubs that the court testimony of two former directors of Rangers regarding ‘overdue payables’ [Small Tax Case] might have serious implications in the context of the UEFA licence granted to the Ibrox side in 2011 – months before they entered administration and subsequently liquidation.
It added: “On the face of it, there seem to be contradictions between those statements and written representations made at the time.
“In 2011, Oldco indicated there was an ongoing dispute with HMRC, but the evidence in the Craig Whyte [former Rangers owner] trial suggests that Oldco knew by early 2011 that it had no defence to HMRC’s claim.
“This matter has been referred to the compliance officer for further investigation following receipt of information of a written opinion from senior counsel.”
It looks like the Scottish FA’s pussy footing around Rangers and their blatant disregard for rigging the game in their favour will only be held accountable if the Scottish Government get involved or if fans mobilise – as they did in 2012 – to force change and our game’s powerbrokers to do the right thing for the game rather than for their pockets.
One thing is for sure, the Scottish FA have left themselves in a state that is unfitting of our game’s governing body, all they have done is try to cover their own backs after their farcical attempts in 2012 and the fallout thereafter.
The Scottish FA is not fit for purpose, there is no confidence in Regan nor Doncaster [SPFL] and it is time that the corridors of power are bleach washed to rid our game of the stains.