It is probably premature to suggest the dust has settled. As we stand Rangers as a club have survived though starting in SFL3 presents a long process of recovery. The challenge for our support is finding the strength to back up the words of defiance with action. In simple terms each and every Rangers fan needs to make a commitment to continue going to games and parting with their hard earned cash. Doubts remain regarding the new owners so that will not be easy, vigilance is necessary and I suppose individuals must make their own decisions. I for one will view holding a season ticket for SFL3 as a matter of personal pride. For good or ill I follow the club and they will always have my support regardless of corporate structure and ownership.
It is not just Rangers fans who need to act. We are already hearing rumours of SPL clubs facing administration within a matter of weeks. Indeed the SPL itself requires to pay £2m to the SFL shortly a payment normally deducted direct from TV/sponsorship funds prior to distribution to member clubs. After the recent grandstanding on proper behaviour I am sure there will be no question of any failure to make this payment.
It does strike me as somewhat perverse that the ultimate decision on Rangers fate should have rested on the shoulders of the chairmen of the likes of Elgin, Annan and Stirling Albion. Democracy and fan representation is to be welcomed but at points in recent weeks the SPL chairmen and football authorities (with the honourable exclusion of the SFL's Derek Longmuir) have been guilty of a complete dereliction of duty. Basic principles of innocence until proven guilty, proportionality and impartiality have withered with mob rule masquerading as "sporting integrity" being the only consideration. Ultimately we would appear to have achieved an equitable solution whereby Rangers will start over in Scotland's fourth tier. That this has been achieved is more accident than design.
I do not believe in any grand anti-Rangers conspiracy. I do not doubt though that the incompetence and self interest of those with influence in the process has added to Rangers problems. The failure to act with sufficient haste and with anything approaching logic or clarity of thought has created suspicion and allowed disinformation to become fact. This creates a legitimate sense of grievance amongst supporters of all clubs.
It is therefore not just Rangers' former owners we should be looking to see held to account. Whilst I believe we will see Whyte and Murray in court I do question who will hold the football authorities, HMRC and Lloyds bank to account? The only realistic avenue through which these issues will ever be honestly and frankly disclosed is through the forthcoming Parliamentary enquiry. To that end here is my own personal list of issues I'd like to see comprehensively addressed and placed on public record. I intend emailing these on to the MPs who will be part of this process so if anyone has any other comments please feel free to add below and I will send on the full list in due course.
The football authorities
- Why did the SPL suspend their investigation into Rangers use of EBTs/player registration?
- What responses were received regarding the request for all clubs to disclose any payments made not included in player contracts? Did any other clubs beyond Rangers and Celtic, both of whom have EBTS documented in their accounts, disclose any similar payments regarding either EBTs or image rights contracts?
- Was the use of EBTs questioned when Rangers or Celtic provided annual accounts showing their use? Was advice regarding their implications in relation to player registrations ever sought or given?
- Why did the SPL/SFA seek to apply new punishments or compromises rather than simply apply their existing rules and regulations?
- How long did it take the SPL/SFA to rule on punishments when other clubs underwent insolvency events (Motherwell, Livingston, Airdrie, Gretna, Dundee (twice))?
- How did Mr Regan and Mr Doncaster come to hold their current positions? Did they apply for vacancies or were they approached directly by the SPL/SFA or their agents? What if any relations did they have with existing member clubs and/or individuals at those clubs?
- What investigations were conducted into Craig Whyte's fit and proper status? Were these conducted/initiated before or after concerns were raised by the press and former directors of Rangers? What individuals raised concerns directly with the SFA and when?
- How many fit and proper investigations have been conducted since the introduction of the rule? Has anyone apart from Craig Whyte ever been ruled not to be fit and proper?
- How does the fit and proper investigation into Charles Green and his consortium differ to that undertaken previously?
- How did the SPL satisfy themselves that there was no conflict of interest in employing Harper Macleod to investigate player registrations? (The firm featured a testimonial from Peter Lawwell on behalf of Celtic Football Club plc on their website)
- Did Mr Regan state to the SFL member clubs he would refuse Rangers' SFA membership being transferred if they were allowed to play in the SPL? If so why did he then publicly contradict this the following day?
- When will the FTTT verdict be delivered? How long does a typical FTTT case take to be decided?
- How many other companies' use of EBTs have been investigated in the last five years?
- How many other British football clubs' use of EBTs are currently actively under investigation?
- What internal investigations have HMRC undertaken to ascertain why so many confidential documents regarding the Rangers case are now in the public domain?
- In the two years prior to the sale to Craig Whyte Rangers reduced their debt from £30m to £18m. This was an entirely manageable debt for a company with a £50m turnover. The EBT issue unquestionably had the potential to lead the company into administration but at that point the company was in no immediate danger. Rangers though were but a small part of the Murray Group which owed Lloyds over £700m. The decision to sell Rangers Football Club plc to Whyte is widely acknowledged to have been made at the insistence of Lloyds bank. Whyte's takeover is under police investigation and represents a straight forward case of financial assistance i.e. he purchased the company using the company's assets. Whyte then funded the working capital for a year through non-payment of taxes. Given the direct link between Lloyds' recovery of £18m and Craig Whyte's criminality is it not right and proper that the Government, the bank's largest investor in recent years on behalf of the tax payer, insist Lloyds repay this money to HMRC and Ticketus (the company defraud by Whyte via the season ticket deal)?
Most of us cannot wait until the start of the new season and some football. We all fell in love with the game not merely our club. The atmosphere at Ibrox for our first home game will be immense. Rangers as a club, and certainly we as a support, have done ourselves credit in accepting the need to take our place in SFL3. We cannot though allow the events of the last few months to be forgotten. We can never hide from our history and Rangers, and Scottish football generally, will only ultimately benefit from the whole truth coming out. Over the coming season our anger must be focused on questioning the events of the last few months whilst we resolve to devote our energies to being good members of the Scottish Football League and embracing the experience of three years as the world's biggest wee team.