The Vice Closes

News in The Times of Celtic’s letter to Stewart Regan regarding that club’s wish for a Judicial Review into the SFA’s handing of the Rangers EBT crisis increases the pressure on Regan considerably.

The SFA Chief Executive’s ill-advised spat with Pie and Bovril editor David McDonald this week may even be a sign he is devolving, and at least it demonstrates that, despite Twitter disaster after Twitter disaster, Regan doesn’t learn readily from his mistakes.

Also, it appears from the contents of Celtic’s letter that their target in terms of a Judicial Review has been the SFA, and not the SPFL, all along. That chimes with developments as I understand them elsewhere in this process.

Even though it now appears that Celtic and a fan group are seeking a Judicial Review it is by no means certain that it will ever happen.

Having a sound legal basis for it, obtaining standing, and having a reasonable chance of victory are all variables in the equation, and each has to be weighed carefully before progress can be made.

Having said that, if the reason any Judicial Review fails is because of that lawyer-speak we have been subjected to of late, the SFA may yet come to believe that hiding behind legalese is neither in football’s best interests, nor in the interests of the individuals at the SFA who are under fire.

The bottom line as they, is this;

Rangers did acquire an unfair advantage over others by their use of EBTs. The SPL themselves were flabbergasted when Sandy Bryson proclaimed his eponymous ‘imperfectly registered’ doctrine. They all know – everyone in every board room in the country, in every SFA department, in every SPFL office – that cheating took place.

In fact and in spirit.

The jaws of the vice are tightening as we speak. The fans group who are building a case for a Judicial Review give its handle a wee turn every day, and the leak of the Celtic letter to Regan reduces his wiggle room even further.

It is surely now just a matter of time before this ridiculous and infamous chapter in Scotland’s football history is dealt with.

Of course people will accuse anyone who is a Celtic fan, or an Aberdeen fan, or a Dundee United fan (clubs whose rivalry with Rangers is keenest) of partisanship in this affair. That is mere deflection and bears no scrutiny whatsoever.

As a Celtic fan myself, I can’t deny that I am angry at what took place between (at least) 2000 and 2009, but does that mean that as a Celtic fan I have to recuse myself from having an opinion?

And as a former employee of the club, am I excluded from any conversation about the integrity of our game because the club at the centre of the scandal is Rangers? Pull the other one.

SFM, and the wider fans’ movement has been consistently appalled by this sorry chapter over the last six years, but is no kangaroo court. We are not asking for conclusions to be drawn without due process. We see unexplained regulatory anomalies in the processes at Ibrox and Hampden which have never to our knowledge been addressed. We simply wish that they should be.

Further, if my club was at the heart of this nonsense, I think I’d be incandescent with rage that they had allowed me to revel in the joy of winning all those trophies, only to have the achievements cheapened and nullified by their mismanagement. I would regard that as the ultimate betrayal (and Celtic fans can give you a list of club betrayals as long as Mao’s march).

I’d be thinking that those same business practices that apparently had given us so much, had actually caused to fail catastrophically. Having taken delight in the honours, I would have to accept the consequences too.

The SFA, by their corrupt approach to the demise of Rangers, have denied Rangers fans the catharsis that they could benefit from. In fact the authorities’ refusal to deal with the situation in terms of their own rules it has fostered a siege mentality to exist at Ibrox.

This in turn has enabled a series of charlatans, including the current board, to drive the bus in the direction of a brick wall for the last five years.

After the phenomenally successful share issue (something that can’t happen again whilst King is in charge for regulatory reasons), the new Rangers were given seed capital which should have flowered by now with the regular watering of their huge fan base. That £22m, which should have seen the club competing at the top by now has gone, and the potential which existed in 2012 has been diminished severely.

It’s no fun being a fan of Scottish football in the midst of this. But we make a fundamental error if we think that Rangers fans are enjoying it. They are victims in this too, and they have been defrauded by the Murray-era shenanigans, and the circus performers who have been on the scene since then – every bit as much as the rest of us.

The honourable thing (no laughing at the back) for the SFA to do would be to agree to Celtic’s request for a Judicial Review.

If the pressure is turned up another notch or three on the SFA, then maybe we will all get closure, and perhaps finally we can move on.

Celtic’s Champions League windfall is a bonus for Scottish football, not a handicap

 

It’s what everyone has been talking about of late, and it may well have a strong bearing on the headlines in Scottish football over the course of the season to come. Celtic are back amongst the big boys in the Champions League for the 2017/18 campaign. But opinions are divided on whether the implications of their qualification are positive or negative for the wider game in Scotland. Celtic’s coffers will be positively overflowing when the Champions League money comes in, but there are important financial considerations for the rest of the league too.

Cash coming in

The Hoops will bank €30million for their participation in Champions League Group B alongside Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht. Celtic receive a €12.7million bonus for qualification alone, which will be supplemented by €1.5million for each win they pick up and €500k for every draw. Should they match their best Champions League-era finish by reaching the last 16, which they are 10/1 to do with Betway Sports, they will receive an additional €6million. If Brendan Rodgers’ Invincibles go one better, they will see another €6.5million in revenue.

Fans of other clubs seem to be underestimating the benefits of the fact that every other team in the top flight will receive €401,000 (£365,000) to spend on youth development as a result of Celtic’s qualification – with the added bonus that the money is delivered in one lump sum. With unearthing and nurturing new talent to take Scottish football onto new heights being the expressed aim of the funds, it seems hard to argue that this is not a good thing. With Scottish football enjoying some much-needed financial positivity in light of Begbies Traynor’s April report revealing that only one of the country’s top 42 clubs is in financial distress, this is an extra boost to build on that buoyancy. With every football club in the Premiership benefiting financially as a result of Celtic’s success, there appears to be little room for bitterness.

Scotland in Europe’s premier competition

The likes of Gianluigi Buffon saying before the Group Stage draw that he wanted one final chance to experience the ‘electric’ atmosphere of Parkhead is also surely only a positive for the reputation of the league as a whole. Whatever your allegiances, a team representing Scotland in the continent’s premier competition is something to be supported rather than undermined. And Celtic being able to attract and indeed keep the calibre of player that demands to be playing at this very top level is no bad thing for Scottish football either.

On the pitch, there seems to be equally little reason to grumble. If Celtic are getting the chance to stretch themselves by doing battle with Europe’s elite, the quality of their football can only improve. They will bring their learnings back to the domestic scene and in turn, they will bring the standard up in the league as a whole.

The rivals’ view

Motherwell CEO Alan Burrows was fairly unequivocal in his assessment of the debate.

“Brendan Rodgers was right to say that every Scottish club should be behind them. People go on about how that will just widen the gap between Celtic and the rest but anyone who says that Celtic reaching the Champions League is bad for Scottish football is off their heads.

“It’s important for the prestige of our game that our teams are competing at the highest level and I just wish Aberdeen, Rangers and St Johnstone had done better in the Europa League,” he said.

Aberdeen could be forgiven for being fairly damning on the payments Celtic are to receive as it was they who came closest to knocking the Hoops off their perch in last season’s table, but in fact chairman Stewart Milne was positive about the whole affair.

“We all really want to see Celtic doing well and it would be fantastic if they could get beyond the group stage and hopefully they can if they get a decent group,” he said.

Scottish football has had its fair share of issues in recent times, but the success of one of its teams shouldn’t really be one. Thankfully the game is in the best place that it has been for a while on the pitch, and that’s something that should be celebrated.

 

On Grounds for Judicial Review

While the proposed Judicial Review of the LNS decision is to be welcomed it is a position that is fraught with legal difficulties such as the capacity to raise the proceedings, potential time bars and all sorts of other arguments.

It would be complete folly to base an argument here solely upon a judicial review of LNS as that would only leave one string to the bow.

Further, take the stated opinion or Mr Rod McKenzie that LNS only dealt with the issue of Player Registrations within the SPL/SPFL — and nothing else.

Any analysis of what is meant by that statement (and others made by Neil Doncaster) leads to the conclusion that there are other matters to be considered which were outwith the tight and narrow remit handed to LNS by the SPFL.

For me, the clearest consideration is this.

1. Craig Whyte has already been personally convicted by the SFA for deliberately failing to pay taxes as and when they fall due under article 5.1 of the SFA rules.

2. No such charge has ever been levied against RFC — just against their CEO.

3. Not only did RFC fail to pay taxes as and when they became due under Whyte’s watch, they deliberately failed to pay taxes for a 13 year period under the stewardship of Sir David Murray. They did this by deliberately entering into two unlawful tax aggressive tax avoidance schemes which even their advisers warned them could only be undertaken at considerable risk to the club as the schemes were never guaranteed to be successful.

4. Those schemes were entered into so that the club could buy players they would otherwise not have afforded.

5. In furtherance of those schemes, RFC chose to deliberately withhold the full details of their contractual arrangements with both players and managers from both the SFA and the SPL when submitting their applications to play under licence and in terms of the rules of both organisations.

6. In each of the years concerned, RFC had to apply for both domestic and European Licences to play football, and it is the granting of these licences which allows any football club to play in structured competition organised under the auspices of, or with the approval of, the SFA or UEFA.

7. Each and every licence application as submitted to the SFA in the knowledge that key financial and contractual information had been excluded in furtherance of tax avoidance purposes, and tax, which has since been declared to be legitimately due and payable from 1999 onwards, was unpaid and remains unpaid.

8. The above processes and procedures are no different, and indeed are considerably worse, breaches of article 5.1 under which Whyte was personally convicted and fined.

9. Further, as part of the HMRC investigations into the use of unlawful tax schemes, RFC deliberately lied to HMRC, SFA and SPL about the existence of side letters and other contractual documentation. This is particularly so in relation to the annual application for a playing licence.

On 20th May 2011, HMRC, in relation to one of the tax schemes, wrote to RFC and accused the club of “deliberate and fraudulent” behaviour in relation to the continued submission of false PAYE and NIC returns over a period of years.

10. It, therefore, follows that each and every application for a football licence made by RFC to the SFA from 2000 onwards (at least) was based on falsified financial, contractual and tax information and was designed to mislead the SFA with a view to persuading them to grant a licence on misrepresented grounds.

11. Not only is the above a breach of article 5.1 of the SFA handbook, but any licence obtained by misrepresentation has not been validly obtained as it has been obtained by way of false representation and deception.

12. It is a pre-requisite of entry into any league competition that the participating club holds a valid licence to play football.

13. In the event that a club did not or should not have held/hold a valid licence to play, that same club is not free to enter structured competition or register players to participate in such competition. It also follows that any declaration of a result of 0-3 in relation to any particular game as a result of a rule breach (such as fielding an ineligible player) is of no consequence because the club concerned was not eligible to participate at all.

14. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has already been invited by UEFA to hold that any application for a licence or any other compliance submission, which is devoid of all necessary financial and contractual information should be treated as null and void and as never having been received.

15. The same Court has also held that any title, championship, award, record, reward or other benefit which has been gained as a result of an improper or prohibited process should not be allowed to stand, the records of the award etc should be expunged and the sporting records corrected accordingly.

None of the above is dependent on a successful review of LNS but goes hand in hand with that process.

In the forthcoming review of Scottish Football recently announced by the SPFL, in conjunction with the SFA, all of the above should be under consideration.

LNS, under review, may determine that the players were in fact not eligible, but much more fundamental is the fact that there are clear facts and circumstances which should mean that the club itself was never eligible in terms of established legal jurisprudence.

As had been pointed out by Rod McKenzie, none of this has been considered by the SPFL as all matters concerning a licence are solely under the jurisdiction of the SFA.

Thus far, the SFA have taken no action against RFC or any of its officials as a result of the clubs involvement in, and cover up of, the Big Tax Case or the Wee Tax Case – both of which will be the subject of the forthcoming review demanded by Celtic and others.

Time to Make Things Happen

In the light of the SFA President’s unfortunate remarks in the MSM today, relegating every Scottish football club other than Celtic or Rangers to support role status, this blog by Auldheid on the need to have a conversation about the leadership and governance of the Scottish game is remarkably prescient.

It is also important in that it shows there are people out there (and not just us at SFM) who are engaged in finding workable solutions to our problems – solutions to which involve the major stakeholders in football, the fans (or customers as most boardrooms would have it).

The people involved in finding solutions are well-connected and not without influence, but most importantly they seek to give fans a greater voice in the game – and they do not represent a paid-for voice with a seat at the SFA table or a funding source that depends to a large extent on saying nothing when fan interests are damaged.

SFM is more than happy to endorse Auldheid’s sentiments. 

Tris

 

The following extracts have been taken from an earlier SFM Blog (The Lost Voice of the Armageddon Virus), to emphasise the fact, if any were needed, that something is rotten in the state of Scottish football. Continue reading Time to Make Things Happen

Launch of SFSA Fans’ Survey

LAUNCH OF THE FIRST INDEPENDENT EVALUATION OF SCOTTISH FOOTBALL GOVERNANCE BY THE SCOTTISH FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS ASSOCIATION (SFSA)

 

Representatives from various fan groups, including the Scottish Football Monitor took up the invitation to the above event which is largely self-explanatory. The scene was set with the following agenda

 

 

 

 

 

Media Briefing.

SURVEY TO SET BENCHMARK FOR FUTURE EVALUATION OF NATIONAL GAME

 WHEN:                             Thursday, 20TH July 2017 at 11AM

WHERE:                           Scottish Parliament – Committee Room 4

WHO                                Simon Barrow (Chair of the SFSA), Henry McLeish (Board member of the SFSA), Richard Leonard MSP (member of Scottish Parliament for Central Scotland and host of event) and Dr Joachim Lammert (The Department of Sports Economics and Sports Management at the University of Leipzig)

 

The first independent evaluation of Scottish football governance will be launched by The Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA).

 

The SFSA’s nationwide survey will assess, for the first time, supporters’ views on the current position of the game, including the performance of the game’s governing bodies in Scotland.  The research will become an annual benchmarking & reporting exercise looking at all aspects of the game.

 

The SFSA’s online survey has been created in partnership with Prof. Dr. Axel Faix and Dr. Joachim Lammert, two experienced German academics who have undertaken similar evaluations on a national level in Germany and on a European level on topics including 50+1 (German football’s rules that a parent club must own at least 50% plus one share of the football company) and Financial Fair Play.  Their research has been backed by Football Supporters Europe and by German fans organisation, Unsere Kurve.

 

Fans will also be able to provide comment on their own club’s performance.

 

The SFSA, whose board includes former First Minister Henry McLeish; former MP and MSP Cathy Jamieson and Maureen McGonigle, Founder of Scottish Women in Sport and first female Scottish FA Council Member, has over 67,000 members supporting clubs across Scotland.

 

The SFSA is Scotland’s fans’ representative in The Football Supporters Europe network (FSE), an independent, representative and democratically organised grass-roots network of football fans’ in Europe with members in currently 48 countries across the continent.

 

The SFSA might be best thought of as movement appearing at a time when Scottish Football supporters are desperately seeking an alternative to the attitudes and events that have seen our game at best stand still and at worst decline, as changes in the way football has grown as a global industry  have left us marooned on our own small patch of God’s earth.

 

If the two maxims that

  • a problem cannot be solved by the mind that created it and
  • if you cannot manage (and therefore improve) what you cannot measure

are true, then the SFSA professional idea to making change happen offers a different approach to the past by introducing new thinking and using tested scientific metrics on a survey model used successfully in Germany, where the game is light years ahead of Scotland’s by any measure.

The arrival of this movement is crucial, and in the words of SFSA Board member Henry McLeish, ex footballer and former First Minister of Scotland; “Scottish Football is at a Watershed”.

Few if any who love our game would argue with that. We love football because it is in our blood, it plays a key part in the social interplay of Scottish society and it is too important not to now say  “Enough!”

It is clear that the medicine of the past, an approach to the game which excludes it’s life blood, (no wonder it is ill) is no longer efficacious – if indeed it ever was.

To continue with that same prescription would fall foul of that other maxim; “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.

Thus the SFSA, who are independent of current Scottish football authorities (SFA/SFL), offer an opportunity to break that insane cycle by offering a new approach, which sees it’s first duty as asking the fans what they think, and they are seeking to do exactly that by enacting a comprehensive nationwide survey of fans’ views and attitudes. The survey, created by a team of research academics at Leipzig University will present, in a cohesive way, the views and thoughts of Scottish football fans concerning the health of the game in Scotland through their own own clubs, the SPFL, and the SFA .

The higher the number who complete the survey and articulating their views, the more weight and authority the survey’s outcomes will carry when the SFSA presents them to current authority and government.

 

SFM hopes that as many people as possible will take part in an exercise that offers real hope of change by clicking below

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/sfsa-benchmark-2017

and visit the SFSA page at

http://scottishfsa.org/have-your-say-now/

where the survey is explained and you can join the SFSA individually.

 

This may be our last chance as lovers of Scottish football to restore its integrity and trust in our football authorities who have lost sight of those values in pursuit of commercial concerns.

 

To the cynics whose past experience of calling for change discourages them (and who can blame them for it’s taken lifetimes) one last maxim.

 

If you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the lottery.

 

Roll Up, Roll Up https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/sfsa-benchmark-2017

Big Pink Comment:

Like Auldheid, I am encouraged by the birth of the SFSA and its determination to procure the views of supporters. There are enough people involved in the initiative with clear views about the harm that inherent self-interest on the part of the clubs has brought to our game.

I was less encouraged by the conciliatory tone of Henry McLeish, in public at least, towards those in power at Hampden. For example he said that Scottish football folk viewed outside bodies with suspicion, and that was often understandable.

My take is that they only view anyone wishing to become proactive with that suspicion (and fear). They have never viewed my cash with anything other than hungry eyes, far less suspicion.

The feeling in the room, when less formal discussion was taking place, was that the authorities and the clubs have refused to take fans’ views into account for too long.

Governance (particularly the lack of and the ‘making it up as we go’ varieties), FFP and Strict Liability were all subjects of those discussions. These are all nettles that MUST be grasped in public, and the sooner the better, if fans’ views are to be properly reflected.

I am hopeful that the weight of dissatisfaction I expect to see as a result of this ambitious survey will compel a change in tone by McLeish and his colleagues.

One final note of concern is that a group like SFSA, which after all hopes to represent fans at the top table, appears to have a board overly comprised of folk from the political, business and academic spheres. Some grass roots participation is vital moving forward. Hopefully that is also on the agenda.

The Lost Voice of the Armageddon Virus

Since I have lost my voice this week to the Armageddon virus, we decided to do a mini, written version of TWM for your pleasure….

 

 

 

In Armageddon Lala Land (© S. Regan), it’s all falling apart in a major borefest. Continue reading The Lost Voice of the Armageddon Virus

Time for Scots Government to Take Bull by the Horns

In the aftermath of the recent election and whilst those of us who voted one way are still hoping that our way continues to count, the horse trading has begun. No matter your politics, the fact that a party wholly representing one part of the United Kingdom is suddenly having such a massive influence, coupled with a lack of detail in the public domain over their negotiations, causes people some nervousness; because of the nature of the DUP, for some they claim it terrifies them.

Can we imagine if football was run that way? Can we imagine if it wasn’t?

Having people who have one focus deliberating and influencing your life has always been an issue at the core of the United Kingdom. Proud Scots do not like the power of the English, some English have begun to resent the growing independence of the Scots, the Welsh have turned out to have their own independence and as for the Irish; the Trouble has always never been far behind.

The recognised method of dealing with these issues has now become to allow, where possible, organisations within the domain of the domicile to grow on their own. For some it sows the seeds of an increasing independence as the locals realise they can do it for themselves. It also does, though ensure the organisation is close to its own people and is truly representative of them.

In Scotland, and throughout the last election, the big two – Conservative and Labour parties – have suffered under the accusations of being a “branch office” of their London centric big sister. It has led to people making choices based on the assumption that, at times, neither of the leaders up here have autonomy. When there are policies that will be unpopular in Scotland, they say, the high heid yins in Edinburgh have no choice but to toe the party line.

We do not like that thought.

Nor should we.

I suggested that football has a similar issue. And so. It does…

The views and opinions of the Scottish fans who last Saturday threw up their hands in joy and held their heads in despair all within 90 seconds or so suffer from that lack of representation. As deals are done in secret and “announcements” made over innovations and changes they are collectively silent through the funded organisation established to represent them; at best that organ is muted.

Never has it been more important for the Scottish football fan to feel the importance of their view being heard. Never has it been more important as Project Brave is being undertaken, chairmen are being fined £3,000 for having a bet, we look as though we are going to miss out on another World Cup, expansion of our cup competitions is growing apace, play offs and promotions have delivered their verdicts and handed their budgets to managers who bemoaned last year it was hard, that one of our two giant clubs seems unable to keep itself out of the court room whilst supplying the accused, the defence lawyer, the pantomime villain and a circus or at least two premiership clubs appear to be on the verge of administration.

Supporters Direct – Undemocratic?

The time has come to ensure that the voice of the footballing nation does not come from around the Isles but around the corner. Whilst the work of Supporters Direct has brought a great deal of support and aid to a number of clubs and supporters groups, the fans need something that is much more than a branch office of a bigger organisation.

In the recent past, SD have seemingly been forced to be more visible but let us not be fooled, if you are an ordinary fan, SD have no place for you. You cannot join, you cannot vote, and you cannot influence; so there is not much point. Building a democratic and fair vocal chord for Scottish football fans needs commitment from the bottom up to engage, enlist and enrich the chorus and chanting of disapproval or support for Scottish football.

That’s why I am in the SFSA – isn’t it time for the Scottish Government to take the bull, grasp the thistle and make the clear choice of removing money going all the way to London and giving it to a fans based organisation that represents them here in Scotland?

We think so… don’t you?

Join the SFSA today! It’s free

THAT Debate, and the Beauty of Hindsight

Acouple of weeks ago we revisited the OCNC debate. This is a useful exercise to turn to periodically, for I have noticed how, with the passage of time, new aspects have become clear as new information emerges, or some ridiculous claim is made and then debunked.

Continue reading THAT Debate, and the Beauty of Hindsight

Towards a More Professional SFA

When the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football league (SFL) merged in 2013 to form The Scottish Professional Football League, the word “professional” has been accepted as applying only to the football side of the business.

However, should supporters, the ultimate paying customers, not expect the administration and governance of the game to be a lot more professional than is evident from the handling, by both the SPFL (SPL/SFL) and the Scottish Football Association (SFA), of the descent into liquidation of Rangers FC, which started in 2000, as well as the subsequent damage limitation attempts from March 2011, that  have had serious consequences for the reputation of  Scottish football of being a professionally managed business?

Most folk would not argue that there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance, but the question is how can that be achieved? One way towards   achieving that aim is the subject of what follows.

there is a glaringly obvious need for a more professional form of football governance

Back in the 90’s the Government embarked on yet another an exercise to modernise the Civil Service using a technique known then as Market Testing. The idea was that units, like Information Technology, Human Resource or Office Maintenance within large Civil Service Government Ministries, should be compared with what was available in the private sector to see if the service the internal units provided in a Ministry could be provided more efficiently from external sources.

At the time, internal units operated to their own standards and were answerable only to themselves for the level of service they provided to the users in other internal units.  As a consequence there were no defined levels of service, the users were largely dissatisfied with the service they were receiving, the perception of the IT or HR or OM units was poor damaging their moral and, unlike the private sector, the customer was not the king but the serf.

Before such internal units could be tested there was a lot of preparatory work needed, the most important of which was a change in the culture to one where the customer became king. This was done through the reluctant acceptance that change was necessary in order for those in internal units to hold on to their jobs, followed by the joint establishment in discussion with service users of the level of service that was acceptable to them and the cost in financial terms to the Ministry of that service.

It was a painful and effort intensive process of itself but it did result in a change in culture that not only helped internal staff hold on to their jobs but changed the perception of those both inside and outside the units for the better.

All very fine you say but why am I reading this on Scottish Football Monitor, what is the relevance to the lack of professional governance?

 

Well I think it fair to say that the Scottish Football Association (SFA) has never at any time in its history been held in such low regard by their ultimate customers, the football supporters, without whom there would be no SFA.

In the public perception, measuring both football and governance performance,  the SFA would be lucky to score 10 for incompetency rather than the more likely and damning similar score for  corruption, where 10 was the worst possible score.

In spite of this and protected by the inertia in SPFL clubs who should be voicing the concerns of their paying customers to the SFA, there appears no appetite or indeed mechanism for change.  This is where market testing comes in.

When viewed from a business perspective the SFA is a service provider to the customers via their clubs. In a sense the clubs act, or rather should act, as agents for their supporters and become the “customer” with whom the SFA provide a number of Services. These services should not be hard to identify, for example.

  • Refereeing Services
  • Disciplinary Services
  • Licensing Services
  • Auditing as in Policing Services.
  • Fit and Proper Person Services.

 

 

The Refereeing Service

Given the current, one might even say perpetual, dissatisfaction of refereeing standards, it, is one activity that could benefit from being treated as the kind of service the SFA might provide to the SPFL.

Under such an approach

  • Refereeing would be split into two parts.

 

  • The SFA would be responsible for the recruitment, wage structuring, training and match appointments as the service provider (having taken the nature of the game to be officiated into account and after discussion with SPFL).

 

 

  • Monitoring and evaluation of a referee’s performance would be the responsibility of the SPFL as the customer.

 

  • Referees or ex refs from anywhere (not just Scotland) hired by SPFL would evaluate performance to a standard set by the SPFL after agreement of standards with SFA.

 

 

  • Splitting the appointment and evaluation process. would prevent any one person being able to exert any undue individual influence on referees which protects the integrity of individuals, the service itself and referees appointed.

 

  • It would lead to a higher standard of referee because the customer would be setting the standard not the supplier (as happens everywhere in business but football)

 

  • If standards were not met over a period or a particular game required meeting a standard not possible at the time, the SPFL would be free to hire their own referees from wherever they could get them.

 

  • This freedom under a service approach would reduce, if not remove entirely, the burden of suspected allegiance that bedevils every decision made by match referees by supporters to the detriment of the referees and so of Scottish football.
  • The corollary is the SFA would also be free to offer their referees to other national associations encouraging the SFA to recruit and train to the highest level possible (and charge the other associations for the service).

 

  • Competition for appointments would raise standards and if Scottish referees consistently reached higher standards, they would be in more demand outside Scotland which gives them a financial incentive to be the best referee they can be.

 

  • Any national association could adopt this service provider approach leading to an international professional refereeing occupation in a world where football is almost a daily event somewhere requiring a steady supply of good referees.

 

Feedback

Refereeing as a service has been chosen as but one example of how to establish a customer/service provider relationship between the SFA and SPFL, but the principle would apply to the other services listed. SFM readers are invited to give their views not just on the potential hurdles, like inertia, no driving force etc, but also the benefits of overcoming such hurdles if the approach were applied to those services plus any not on the list that would lend themselves to the approach.

 

Small Price to Pay?

I think there has been an appreciable shift of opinion amongst fans of TRFC recently.

 

Unlike the ‘invest: speculate to accumulate’ rhetoric featured in the press and by ex-players, the ordinary fans are coming to the realisation that there is no quick fix. There are even murmurings that there may never be a fix which involves their club becoming a competitive force.

 

Poor management of fan expectations has long been an accusation levelled at the TRFC board by SFM. It is possible though that many fans are beginning to manage their own expectations rather better. There are certainly justifiable criticisms of the manager, Mark Warburton, but alongside that is a realism about the limitations and constraints that he is working under.

 

There is a rather misguided, and possibly not accurate assumption that another liquidation for a team out of Ibrox would result in having to start ‘yet again’ in the bottom division; but in fact there is a growing acceptance that consolidation in the top league is a much better solution than gambling on huge borrowing simply to stop Celtic adding more notches to the goalpost.

 

Could it be that the fans are about to do the job that the board haven’t had the balls to do –accept the gap between themselves and (at least) Celtic, and settle for mediocrity on the field as a short term price to pay for continuity?

 

During the 1990s, in the middle of the Murray/BoS fuelled spending spree, and with Celtic in the doldrums, it seemed to many Celtic fans that their club would never be able to bridge that gap. Of course they did, but at the emotional cost of losing the exclusive 9IAR record.

 

TRFC now find themselves in pretty much the same position, but their road to bridging the current gap is a more difficult one.

 

There are similarities of course. Like the Celtic of the 90s, Rangers have major infrastructure challenges to meet. Celtic had a stadium to build, Rangers have Ibrox (and Auchenhowie) to fix and improve. Both required massive investment to improve the team, although I would argue that Rangers have a steeper hill to climb in that area.

 

Unlike RFC of the 90s, Celtic’s accrued wealth has nothing to do with an intravenous hook-up between their bank account and the chairman’s pals at the bank. Their baseline advantage over the current Rangers predicament is a combination of a stadium which holds 10,000 more fans than Ibrox, no debt, a burgeoning cash balance and the current inflow of European cash.

The Euro cash and the cash balance could be depleted, but the 10,000 extra seats won’t.

 

It also seems difficult to imagine how TRFC can obtain seed capital – even if they were inclined to gamble – given the combination of barriers to achieving that;

 

  • They have a PLC with no stock market listing
  • They have NO executive directors on the PLC board
  • The current chairman is a convicted criminal, convicted of offences involving money
  • The current chairman and vice-chairman are both directors of a previously liquidated club, and therefore associated with the financial mismanagement which brought that about.
  • In that climate, sponsorship deals are hard to come by. Major sponsors want to be associated with stability, success and integrity. TRFC don’t tick many boxes in that regard.
  • Banks do not lend to football clubs. Pre Murray/Masterton, football clubs were cash businesses with modest overdraft facilities to cover modest cash-flow peaks and troughs. The banks have returned to that model. 1987-2007 was the exception, not the norm.
  • They are at war with a powerful and substantial shareholder in Mike Ashley.
  • There is still litigation pending on more than one front which could even call into question the ownership of the club’s assets.
  • They are in debt already (estimated at around £15m).
  • The current onfield situation may require yet another write-off in terms of contracts.

Any one of those bullet points could be enough to derail any plan to get to the top. In combination, there may even be an existential question to answer.

That is why the fans are starting to look a lot smarter than the board, and ultimately the good sense of the fans may well help the board to find a way out of their current dilemma.

But even with realistic expectations from the supporters, is it possible that they can find a way? Is there for instance someone with a magic wand or bag of cash who could come in and turn it around? Perhaps, but who would risk money on a precarious venture like a football club when one of the most powerful businessmen in the country is in dispute with you?

 

In order for serious inward investment to happen;

  • Ashley has to be reconciled with the board (needs King and Murray to go).
  • The debt has to be written off .
  • The new investor(s) has to be given control of the club (and this would perhaps require another 75% special resolution where current shareholders would be asked to vote to dilute their own influence).
  • If they achieved that (and it is a pretty big if) the new investor cash would go into the club’s bank account – not used to pay off the debt –  and they would be free to pursue new and better sponsorship deals, improve the merchandising contract with an onside Ashley, and add new revenue streams.

Even then, any new board would need to see the infrastructure challenges as paramount. Having one eye squinting in the direction of Parkhead will blur the bigger picture.

Their priority should be to reduce the losses (whilst increasing wages for better players), fix the stadium and the training ground (both in need of repair and improvement), build a scouting and youth infrastructure, and free up a (relatively modest) wad of cash to improve the playing squad.

In defence of the current board, the challenges facing them are almost vertical in incline. No matter how skilful they are, nothing other than someone with a barrowload of cash and a very long term outlook can put any kind of fix in place.

£50m might buy the debt and equity, and repair the stadium, but progress requires on-field improvement. It also needs stability, and therefore Ashley’s cooperation. The price of that is the head of Dave King.

Rangers will bring in more at the gate than Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs, but they have a considerably higher cost base than those clubs. With better players, recurring costs will be even higher – much higher.

To square this circle, however unpalatable it appears to be, peace has to be made with Ashley. That is the key to being able to embark upon a journey that has any chance of success. Otherwise, the clocks will have to be reset to 2022, and the end of the SD contract, before progress can be made.

However there is no chance it can go on that long. Rangers fans may be increasingly less demanding in what they expect, but they will need to see some signs – and not just words – that a plan is in place.

The board are getting ready to throw Mark Warburton to the hounds (the MSM lapdogs have already been armed with poison pens to effect that). This will buy them some time, but not enough.

 

We’ve said it before, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll say it again;

 

For Rangers to have a fighting chance of competing at the top of football, King needs to be gone. If he does go, half of the barriers preventing the club raising cash are dismantled. 

So is King’s departure a price worth paying? If he really had Rangers in his heart, he would say ‘Yes’.

 

 

 

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