New correspondence, obtained via the freedom of information act, in relation to allegations of State Aid collusion between Scottish champions Celtic Football Club and Glasgow City Council will put an end to the 'crusade' by some individuals who had hoped to cause Celtic damage financially and to their business reputation. Now their final claims have been debunked. Elements of the Rangers support had pursued claims against both parties over what they perceived to be State Aid collusion to aid the Scottish champions, but despite every claim being rebuffed by the European Commission as well as Audit Scotland the claims continued - fuelled by political point scoring by UKIP activists who saw the issue as a way of garnering votes from the loyalist areas of Scotland, in particular Glasgow.
But email seen by Last Ditch Tackle, from the Directorate for Economic Development within the Scottish Government, has blown out of the water any notion that the UK Government would get involved in the State Aid claims - despite claims from several pursuants that several MPs as well as themselves have already been in touch with Westminster, the UK Government were involved and aware of the initial process with the European Commission.
The correspondence highlighted the fact that the UK Government act as 'the representative for the UK with the EU member state' and that 'all official communications with the European Commission by the Scottish Government regarding State Aid is via the UK'.
It added: "Therefore all communication to and from the European Commission regarding the original Celtic/Glasgow City Council State aid case was with the full knowledge of the UK Government.
"At the time of the original complaints the European Commission assessed whether the measures in question were carried out in compliance with State aid rules. Based on the information they received, the competent services of the Director General for Competition in the European Commission have not pursued the matter further and we are not aware of any plans by the European Commission to reopen any investigation into this case."
This will almost certainly upset a few 'crusading' sadomasochists who have wasted the past 4 or 5 years on peddling their State Aid claims.
State Aid Allegations surface
Over four years ago when the claims first surfaced - covered by yours truly on Scotzine - the Scottish Government received a request from the European Commission [who regulate State aid] for further information for a preliminary look.
The EC [the body that deals with said State Aid complaints and only they have the power to open up a State Aid investigation] - despite allegedly being handed 'damning evidence' from the pursuants - dismissed the allegations.
A Commission spokesperson at the time, said: “Following complaints of citizens, the Commission carried out an informal, preliminary investigation into alleged aid provided by the City of Glasgow to the Celtic football club.
“Contacts with the UK authorities and information received from authorities however did not confirm that Celtic received any state aid, because the City did not grant any financial advantages to the club. Therefore, on the basis of the available information, the Commission’s services did not see a basis to investigate the matter further.”
Celtic and Glasgow City Council had always claimed that the allegations were 'preposterous' and 'unfounded', but despite the European Commission seeing no wrong doing, the pursuants continued with their 'crusade' to try to do harm to Celtic in their sadomasochist obsession.
A statement from the Parkhead club, said: “Celtic Football Club operates to the highest standards and with the utmost integrity. At a time when the Club is committed to investing in and improving areas around Celtic Park, not only for Celtic supporters but for the benefit of the local community, it is sad that these baseless accusations have been raised with the European Commission.
“Any suggestion that Celtic has been the beneficiary of state aid is preposterous – as ludicrous as any suggestion that we have benefited from soft loans from our bankers. The historic transactions referred to were negotiated with the Council on commercial terms at market rates.”
While their crusade was being rebuffed by the body with the only power to take action against Celtic and Glasgow City Council, partisan politicians were contacted to aid the pursuants' claims with the hope that political opportunism would aid the fight against both parties.
Rangers supporters had tried to get political help from Northern Irish MP Gregory Campbell as well as from UKIP, in their quest – for what was perceived by some as a ‘revenge mission’ – in the hope that the Scottish champions would be dragged over the coals by the authorities.
Despite the likes of UKIP's Caroline Santos, a colleague of disgraced sex offender and former UKIP Scotland chairman Misty Thackeray, actively canvasing and trying to secure political support from angry and disgruntled Rangers fans they failed in their attempts at winning votes necessary to shake the political establishment in the West of Scotland and failed in their ludicrous attempts to discredit Celtic Football Club and Glasgow City Council.
The DUP’s Gregory Campbell MP as more vocal at the time in his comments on allegations of State Aid involving Celtic FC and Glasgow City Council. Albeit to a Rangers group that has a history of racism, bigotry and threatening behaviour.
Speaking to the Vanguard Bears, Campbell said: “If there has been a competitive advantage offered by a Financial Institution or a Local Authority which was not available to others then this should be investigated. The European Commission have now been informed so we await their response.
“There needs to be a thorough investigation to establish if there were any breaches. The only way this will be cleared up is if there is a full and transparent account given of what happened, who was responsible and what the outcome was. If a financial advantage was accrued by Celtic FC then the public must be informed of the extent of the advantage, how long it continued and who were the people involved.
“I have been in touch with my colleague Diane Dodds MEP who has brought this issue up in Europe on a number of occasions. In 2011 Diane addressed this issue directly with UEFA following sectarian chanting from Celtic supporters during a match against Hearts. Despite assurances from UEFA that they would give an “unconditional commitment to eradicating this from the game of football” the issue has continued to fester.
“Late last year Diane also contacted UEFA, FARE and also wrote directly to the European Commission highlighting concerns about the lack of action being taken against Celtic Football Club to eradicate the elements of sectarianism that remain.”
When Campbell was asked why Scottish politicians and the media are staying well away from this subject, Campbell added: “Sometimes I think there is a small ‘p’ political issue with these matters in Scotland, with possibly some politicians relying on Celtic minded voters and media coverage to get re-elected. In Ulster this is less of an issue.”
Sadly for one of the founding members of the Westminster Rangers Supporters Club, his attempts at flagging up the issue at Westminster failed to muster the response he was praying for from the government other than to be shot down by a junior member of the Treasury when questioning Celtic's deals with the council and the Co-operative Bank - who stated: “Individual commercial loans are a matter for agreement between the parties concerned.”
Cost of State Aid 'Revenge' Mission
The sadomasochist obsession from certain elements of the Rangers support has cost the taxpayers over £280,000, money that could have went towards much more needy services than dealing with individuals whose hate has taken over their lives. The money wasted on this 'petted lip vendetta' could have went towards paying 10 classroom teachers a year's salary each.
The £280,000 cost relates to ‘hours spent responding to queries from the European Commission and dealing with Freedom Of Information requests from the public following the accusations’.
While Council officials were also required to travel to Brussels on more than one occasion – funded from the public purse – as part of preliminary inquiries into claims Celtic benefited from ‘state aid’.
On top of the cost to the Scottish taxpayer, it was announced by the EC that: 'The citizens [people who made the allegations] concerned do not qualify as formal complainants as defined by the Commission’s Procedural Regulation. Only ‘interested parties’ can submit formal complaints whose economic interests are affected by the issue.”
So not only did they fail in their attempts to discredit Celtic and cost Scotland over a quarter of a million in taxpayers money, they were not even qualified to be formal complainants. Yet after four years some are still pushing these claims to an ever shrinking band of lambs willing to believe anything they say and do.
What next for the obsessed sadomasochists?
I suspect that one or two of the more dedicated obsessives will continue to bang on about Celtic being involved in state aid until they are literally blue in the face, as they have nothing else to do with their lives.
Sadly they could have used all that pent up energy, wasted on a fruitless and pitiful vendetta, on supporting the club they profess to love and follow.
Maybe now that their claims of going to the Westminster Government have proven to be another avenue of failure for them, they can now pursue getting out of their cesspits and become an active member of society again.
I await hell freezing over.
Last Ditch Tackle is unashamedly passionate about Scottish football, with a heavy Celtic slant.