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Posted by Douglas Cameron on 07/24/2012

This has been a traumatic summer for me. At times I wondered where I would be blogging this coming season. Would I be blogging at all? Would my blog be replaced by that of a Dunfermline fan or a Dundee fan? Turns out it was neither.

The attitude of the satellite TV channels to Scottish football will be central to the events of the coming week. It went almost unreported this weekend but the significance of SPL fixtures disappearing from Sky Sports’ listings should not be lost on anyone.

At present the discussions around Rangers’ SFA membership appear to have reached a stalemate. This relates to two critical issues. Firstly there are Rangers/the SFL’s media rights. At present the SPL are seeking to buy the rights to Rangers games in the SFL and include these within their existing deals with the TV companies. The previously quoted figure for the value of this deal was just £1m a year. I have no inside information but I think most people would conclude that is an unrealistically low amount and the other two bidders for the rights would be offering more.

It would be reasonable to conclude therefore that the SPL would need to increase the amount they pay. Instead the SPL have stated that unless they are able to include our games in their existing TV deal they will not be able to pay the £2m due to the SFL. I am struggling for a word which describes this course of action other than the rather emotive “blackmail”.

The loss of the TV contract would also have a significant knock on impact on other commercial arrangements. The current sponsorship deal with the Clydesdale Bank is due to end this year. I find it inconceivable that a worst case loss of satellite TV coverage would not permit a % reduction in the payment due given the marked reduction in exposure.

Few genuinely believe the TV deal will be lost entirely but I think it is abundantly clear the revenues generated by the SPL will be markedly reduced. The current deal is reportedly worth £16m a year. Less £2m for the SFL and that is £14m. Let us assume a best case scenario of a 25% reduction. This gives a deal worth £12m, less £2m for the SFL so a net £10m, meaning an overall reduction to the SPL of £4m. This of course is before consideration of any further sponsorship losses.

What the SPL appear to be trying to engineer is the continuation of their existing deal by paying the SFL a total of £3m (The agreed annual £2m payment plus £1m for the TV rights). This means they retain £13m a year, an overall reduction of £1m. This though is clearly at the SFL’s expense if you believe the TV rights to cover Rangers in the lower leagues is worth in excess of £3m a year.

A £3m swing based on a conservative 25% reduction in revenues illustrates the difficulties the SPL are facing. What if it is 50%? It also brings into question whether we are concerned purely with the solvency of member clubs relying on this money or are we talking about the solvency of the league given the apparent inability to meet the payment due to the SFL? Would one member club be required to help provide funds? Where would that leave the neutrality of the league? Sell Out Saturday looks like it has the potential to be a highly significant round of matches with the much hyped increase in season ticket sales as a consequence of the victory for “sporting integrity” apparently not having materialised to date.

The increasing sense of desperation from the SPL perhaps explains Rangers decision to throw the cessation of the investigation into dual contracts into the mix, the second key negotiating issue. Personally I feel Rangers have little to fear now from the truth. As a fan I feel this is the only way we can ever hope to see former owners and directors held accountable. The conclusion of the EBT case is the only means by which we will see HMRC go after the individuals involved (owners, directors, players, managers, agents, professional advisors) to recover monies due to the public purse. This after all is the source of much of the moral outcry of recent months.

As things stand Rangers are already guilty and our achievements will forever be deemed by others to be tarnished. The fans of other clubs saw it on the telly, they read it in what pass for newspapers and it has been pushed as fact on message boards for months now. Quaint notions of due process and a fair hearing tend to be cast aside when mob rule becomes the order of the day.

To this end we have already been punished for the EBT/dual contract issue. The demand from other clubs’ supporters was not simply about Rangers failing to pay HMRC and creditors. The constant cry was about “avoiding taxes”, “cheating” and the £135 million owed (this figure of course includes the full HMRC claim for the Big Tax Case). The allegations of decades of wrong doing were central to the justification for Rangers starting over in Scottish football's fourth tier. To claim otherwise now is revisionism. As Ally McCoist so succinctly and forcefully noted:

We’ve already had a 10-point deduction from the SPL, lost our Champions League place for finishing second last season, had a £160,000 fine, been refused entry to the SPL, been relegated to Division Three and lost most of our squad

To all this we now add the final phase which is the attempts to secure the striping of titles and cups. Where I have to ask is the proportionality? The season Marseille were found guilty of match fixing they were relegated one division, lost one title (not their Champions League as this was curiously never investigated), were banned from Europe for one season and were restricted to signing players who were out of contract. Again they were guilty of match fixing while Rangers wrong doing all stems from financial mismanagement that ultimately almost brought about the club’s demise and has left it in a cripple state for years to come.

I can understand Rangers seizing the opportunity that the SPL’s financial difficulties present even if I do not approve. We concede on the unjustifiable media rights issue if you concede on our unjustifiable demand the investigation is dropped. Why though should the SPL have to resort to negotiating with Rangers to agree to punishments? Why not simply proceed with the investigation? Can we infer there is some doubt as to guilt or the scale of the issue against what has been reported previously? Is there a doubt as regards the ability to remain impartial or provide a fair hearing given the amount of detail in the public domain? Are there doubts as to whether this would stand up to the scrutiny of an outside body such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a Scottish court or the Parliamentary Inquiry? Is there an unwillingness from any individuals or clubs to pursue the matter lest further investigations then be pursued against any other clubs who have utilised non contractual payments by way of EBTs, image rights or simply payments direct from the owner's back account? (As noted on my last blog the requirement for all clubs to make such disclosures and an investigation into the issue throughout the Scottish game seems to have disappeared).

Of course consideration of the SPL’s desires/needs/desperation (delete as you think applicable) regarding TV contracts and the negotiation on punishment without guilt fails to address a more fundamental question – why do the SPL have any say in the SFA permitting the transfer of Rangers Football Club’s SFA membership from oldco to newco?

When you strip it all down to the bare bones, even after what seems like an eternity of moralising, we are left with little more than self-interest, power grabs and self-aggrandisement. It is sporting politics pure and simple and as with any politics little thought is ever genuinely given to what is best for the wider community. “Sporting integrity” indeed. Not just Rangers but all of Scottish football has been sorely let down.

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell

p.s. As I write this, news is breaking of yet another Brian Kennedy bid. £5.6m for 51% is a fair deal given the recent investment of £1m for 10%. Now I will leave it to you dear reader to decide whether it is better Kennedy or Green's consortium control Rangers in the short term. What can't be doubted is this is possibly Kennedy's first sensible move. A 100% return on their investment with upside on the remaining 49% must be tempting. SFL3 and a 5 to 10 year recovery was never really part of Charlie's plan.

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Comments

Posted by John Makil on 07/23/2012

To be quite frank I'm sick of all this 'we've been punished enough' tripe .... McCoist has once again caused himself more embarrassment with his ill-timed and unintelligible statement.... there is a huge difference between consequence and punishment.. logical consequences are the natural result of behavior. For example, if one decides to rob a store, there are several logical consequences. One consequence is that one breaks the law, another is that the store is robbed. Punishment is outside of consequences. The robber who gets caught faces punishment for his actions. They are not the natural consequences of his actions, but instead are additional things, like prison time, that he may face as a result.

Regarding McCoists statement, the Euro spot was lost as a 'consequence' of not registering their accounts as per UEFA rules, the 10 point deduction was a consequence of not paying bills and going into administration.

Inaccurate at best by McCoist, inflammatory at worst.

Posted by Eric Gray on 07/23/2012

There is so much still up in the air on the eve of the season starting. Is there any possibility that the SFA could provide Rangers with provisional membership for the coming season in order to provide more time to settle the matters at hand? At present, there appears to be considerable risk of making hasty and ill-informed decisions.

Posted by Anonymous on 07/23/2012

Let's examine these "punishments.. one by one..

1. We’ve already had a 10-point deduction from the SPL.... this deduction was due to the club entering Administration. Has nothing to do with CHEATING.

2.lost our Champions League place for finishing second last season....... Again you can't get into Europe while in Administration.. and by creating a NewCo you are not the same club who finished second. Again not a punishment due to CHEATING.

3. had a £160,000 fine.... this was due to failing to complete a "Fit and Proper Person" test on Craig Whyte.. not for CHEATING

4. been refused entry to the SPL....by initiating the liquidation process a NewCo was created. Thus no audited accounts... new club - start at the bottom. NOT due to CHEATING.

5. been relegated to Division Three.....by initiating the liquidation process a NewCo was created. Thjus no audited accounts... new club - start at the bottom. NOT due to CHEATING.

6. lost most of our squad.... you get the picture

Posted by Sean on 07/23/2012

We’ve already had a 10-point deduction from the SPL, lost our Champions League place for finishing second last season, had a £160,000 fine, been refused entry to the SPL, been relegated to Division Three and lost most of our squad”

All of these punishments are due to going onto Administration then liquidation... the fine was due to the failure to conduct a "Fit and Proper Person" test on Craig Whyte.

NONE OF THESE PUNISHMENTS ARE DUE TO CHEATING.
TAINTED TITLES MUST GO. Sporting Integrity is not bollocks.. this article is.

Posted by Douglas Cameron on 07/24/2012

I think the points raised are more accurately considered as what should be consequences and what should be punishment. The transfer of the SPL share is the best example. Not being permitted to remain in the division should be a consequence of the newco route. However this was a decision that should have been taken by the SPL board and should have been straight forward. Opening it up to chairmen was the first mistake and allowing them to delegate the decision to their fans was the fatal mistake. As I said at this point fan groups, officials, pundits... everyone was talking about how refusing and Rangers ending up in SFL3 was a fair punishment. Saying otherwise now chaps is revisionism. The logic was not simply about the newco route they consistently referred to "cheating", to the amounts outstanding and in particular what was due to HMRC always including HMRC's full assessment regarding EBTs which is famously outstanding though "due imminently". The boundary between what should have been a proceedural matter (a consequence) and what was punishment (and for what crime?) was consistently blurred.

That is why McCoist and others are justified in contending we are heading towards double punishments for the same issues.

Allied to this you have what you would contend is the ony real punishment I date, the embargo, being ruled as beyond what is stipulated in the existing rule book.

Then there is the hypocrisy at every turn. Whether it is Yorkson outraged by Rangers going to court then consulting lawyers over the SPL Club 12 decision, Petrie demanding no Rangers in the SPL but squealing about the financial consequences of the SFL putting us in the fourth tier or Lennon party to a case to recover money from a tax avoidance scheme one week and moralising the next.

These failures make sporting integrity look for all the world a short hand with which to circumvent the rather tedious and complex old norm of due process. It looks like a means with which to arrive at a desired outcome. The authorities are supposed to be neutral and oversee the rules. They have abdicated responsibility, they have delayed, they have appointed firms perceived to be conflicted and they have turned regulations into points of negotiation as a matter of course. By any considered assessment they failed us all.

At the outset of all this I said if the rule book was applied then I as a Rangers fan would accept the punishments that followed. It was the only way the fall out from this could ever be resolved. That hasn't happened and Scottish football will remain more divided and bitter than I ever thought imaginable.

Seriously negotiating on dropping/imposing punishment without an investigation being concluded as part of a conversation on TV rights? Sporting integrity? Bollocks

Posted by Jim on 07/24/2012

We should probably thank Sean and Anonymous for clearing up the fact that Rangers have not been punished for cheating. What they may not have appreciated is that the reason for this is that they have not been found guilty of cheating.

The 2 cheating allegations against Rangers as far as I can tell is that players had dual contracts and that undeclared payments were made to players via EBTs. Either allegation if proven means the players were not properly registered.

The dual contracts allegation originates with Hugh Adams who has made these claims for more than 10 years but has still to provide any proof to substantiate his allegations.

The undeclared payments is based on the club's use of EBT's but as Douglas has repeatedly stated these were declared in the club's annual accounts submitted to the football authorities

I'm with Douglas on the EBT's, assuming we can get an independent panel, lets resolve this issue once and for all based on the facts not rumour and innueno.

Posted by john mcmanus on 07/24/2012

Some people here seem to be confused as to what punushment is so here is the description.
Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person, animal, organization or entity in response to behavior deemed unacceptable by an individual, group or other entity.
So the Rangers organizations financial "behavior"
was deemed unacceptable so the 10 point reduction
and ban from play in Europe for 3 years and demotion to 3rd Div are imposed for the organizations financial "behavior"that included "financial doping"by not paying taxes like PAYE and VAT an unfair advantage or "cheating" as many have called it.The EBT issue is the last issue left as the organization has also accepted the embargo as "punishment"recently as well as the 160,000 pound fines so what is it about punishment that people can't understand?Think of the opposite of being "rewarded"and maybe this will help you understand.

Posted by Douglas Cameron on 07/25/2012

By way of an update, I have since learned that an offer by Sky to continue covering a Rangers free SPL at a reduced price was roundly dismissed by the SPL a few weeks ago. The assumption was Sky would return with an improved offer. No such offer was made and panic has set in. The removal of fixtures from the schedules at the weekend can very much be viewed as fuel to the fire.

The only bargaining chip they have is delivering the rights to Rangers games. This is the reason behind the naked opportunism of Rangers request to have the dual contract investigation dropped.

The SPL chairmen voted not to allow Rangers into the SPL as they believed punishment was due. With the possibility of no TV deal becoming more realistic by the day the question for those same individuals is now whether they are prepared to put their own clubs into administration to aid others in their desire to further punish Rangers?

Doncaster and Lawwell are in London scrabbling to secure an acceptable deal (I'll let you conclude who is carrying whose bags). Failure will again leave the SPL chairmen with a very difficult decision.

Posted by Arthur on 07/26/2012

Agree wholeheartedly with Sean/Anonymous above re the "punishment" issue which is being used a lot at the moment. No "punishments" have been meted out yet, and are correctly simply "consequences".

If the final EBT decision and the dual contracts investigation go against Rangers then I would see any sanctions arising from these as the first punishments (albeit I agree that the SFA fines are in reality punishments rather than consequences).

The 10 point deduction, loss of SPL status, death of the club and lack of European football are all self-inflicted, rather than "punishments" meted out by anyone else. The loss of SPL status comes from a newco being set up which as a result of being a newco/new club had no real entitlement to SPL status.

Posted by Douglas Cameron on 07/26/2012

Oh well John looks like your splendid explanation was in vain.

Amused to see ESPN have censored this blog's heading. As every Pistols fan knows a court case regarding the album decided the title did not breach decency laws and could be legally displayed. Public perceptions and the technicalities of the existing rules not being one and the same seems an appropriate note with which to conclude my contributions this week.

Posted by The HAM on 07/27/2012

You seem to be saying match fixing is worse than what your club has done, with regards to the Marseille reference above? What your club done was gain an unfair advantage by paying players more than the club could afford if they had of been on the one contract and not have another “under the table” contract. If your club didn’t do this 2nd contract for players your club would not of been able to attract such a quality of player and thus might not of had the success that you had. Some people would argue that your club definitely would not of had the success. This was done over years by your club and not just to one player but to numerous players. Match fixing usually result in a team/players/club/individuals benefiting financially or benefiting by winning a competition, Your club may not have fixed individual matches per se, but I fail to see the difference in the outcome (between your club and Marseille) of what your club has done. Your club benefitted from this with winning title after title and cup after cup. Some people would argue Marseille only did this over the period of a year while your club done it for numerous years thus deserve a harsher punishment. The “punishments” your club has received already has not come as a result of this “mismanagement” so there should be more punishment put on your club for this.

Posted by Edwin Valero 24KOS on 07/27/2012

What was that noise?
Was that the sound of Lennon preaching to us about morality again?
No.
It was the sound of him falling off his high horse of morality and integrity.
No comment to make on your income tax avoidance scheme?
Why so quiet Neil?
Not got anymore grand stand speeches on morality and integrity to give us?
hhhhmmm didnt think so.

Posted by Ty Web on 07/28/2012

BOO HOO! This article should be titled "Feel bad for me". While reading, I couldnt help but notice the overwhelming sense of injustice felt by the above rangers correspondent. After reading this article I noticed that virtually no league sanction regarding the entirety of the club was "due to cheating". Really? One question: will this new football organization be referred to as Rangers FC; or does anyone actually care? All sympathy aside, if Ranger's demotion were to contribute to a decrease in SPL finances (hypothetically), you can bet your bottom dollar that those very same clubs wont grant rangers royalty checks because their ex-media contracts once helped the SPL's monetary stability. "We lost our champions league spot". Cry me a river. Better yet, learn your lesson and get some better book-keepers.

Posted by Greg B. on 07/29/2012

The "Marseille match fixing" argument represents the abounding sense of delusional injustice shared by desperate Rangers fans. So the entirety of fines, sanctions, and bans imposed on Rangers thus far should be reconsidered by those governing officials who've imposed them because Marseille experienced a more favorable outcome regarding an entirely different rule breaching behavior, at another point in time? Please. The lot of Rangers fans seem unable to even admit to the clubs wrongdoings, much less aspire to take responsibility for them. As the French would say, Taunt pis!

Posted by Jeffrey Boycott on 07/29/2012

Seems to be confusion here: "Rangers paid players more than they could afford"

Sorry, but the gross amount was the same...yes, it saved money on tax, but the gross amount would've been the same..

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