What should we do about the corruption in Scottish football? Part 1
When you see what can’t be helped go by
With bloody murder in its eye
And the mouth of a man put on the rack
The voice of a man about to crack
When you see the litter of their lives
The stupid children, bitter wives
Your self-esteem in disarray
You do your best to climb away
From the streaming traffic of decay
Believing if you will that all these sick hate days
Are just a kind of trick Fate plays
But still behind your shaded eyes
That mind-constricting thick weight stays” (James/Atkin)
When I started this article for Sentinel Celts, I wanted to submit a unified article but the issues have proved too large for that (or more likely my summarising abilities are too weak for it, or alternatively again, I’m just a windbag) so I have broken it down into two, still long, parts, This one is the easy one – naming those guilty who are clearly on the other side of my Celtic fence. Part 2 will be harder when I have to examine what the hell was my club thinking and doing?
By corruption, I am referring to the matters surrounding the liquidation of Rangers in 2012, the reaction of Scottish Football Authorities to this matter, the reaction of the Scottish media and establishment, and the reaction of our own club to these events.
I think the principles involved could equally apply to any proven collusion and links involved in the many child coaching sex abuse scandals and any money laundering or bribery events in Sport.
My first principle is that the principal punishment and opprobrium should be visited upon the prime perpetrators of the corrupt activities. The secondary and lesser punishment should be visited upon those who colluded actively to overlook the corrupt practice or to assist its passage with lenient and partial administration and justice.
Finally, we should strive hard to avoid punishment of those who were innocent of the offence.
Trying to balance all of these principles brings us into difficult areas, mostly because there are a lot of unknown factors out there. How can we know that anyone involved in football administration was totally innocent? If they looked on the events unfolding at Ibrox with incredulity and bewilderment, are they guilty of a naivety that is criminal in a so-called professional position, such as a Board member of a non-Ibrox-based club?
Are they even more guilty if they looked on with knowing connivance as they had long suspected this was going on but chose silence and did not blow any whistles?
The modern judgemental world would answer yes to most of those questions.
We live by trial by media. You have to say you’re sorry and take what’s coming to you even if you were just naive and unaware of what was going on. Very few people are allowed to profess pristine innocence in all of this.
So, in applying these principles, within what we know about Scottish football events, who are the clearly guilty parties, who are clearly innocent and who is in that vast middle area of murky collusion with varying degrees of forethought and knowledge?
For me, the primary rogues are David Murray and the Murray Group. They instituted a scheme, initially of legal tax avoidance measures via EBTs, but administered their version of the scheme without regard to the advice of their Porn actor turned Tax advisor who had told them there needed to be an “Invisible Hand” involved in Trust payments, thereby rendering their version of the scheme illegal from the off. Even if they had followed his advice, they would have to have dropped the scheme eventually when tax law and policy had caught up with this latest loophole, and they chose not to do so.
The clincher in the guilt of Murray Group and the now-dead Rangers club was its oft-overlooked history of using a similar illegal scheme, DOS (the one we know about), before transforming to EBTs.
There is no defence for The Murray Group or Rangers, despite the several red herrings they trailed- “It was not illegal/unlawful”- “it needed a change of Law to make it illegal”- or “it was a tax reduction scheme not tax avoidance”. None of these defences stand up to scrutiny.
They were found guilty- they could not pay back their tax debts and their club died, or so it would seem.
Just below them, in terms of responsibility are those charged with providing oversight on these practices. In order of responsibility, these are the Boards of Rangers and the Murray Group, who, in the very best interpretation of their actions, knowingly failed to ask the questions required of their position in order to ensure that they knew what they were doing was not illegal. No Board member can defend themselves by saying they left all that finance stuff to Sir David.
Below Murray, the Rangers club and the Murray Group, lie the Rangers Board of Directors, and below them are 2 groups, a) the EBT- recipient players and their agents and b) The football authorities with responsibility for implementing the administrative rules on player remuneration and taxes.
The players may not be intelligent enough to knowingly be guilty on their own accord of collusion but they are wealthy enough to be advised by competent agents with contract negotiation skills, including a knowledge of the relevant laws governing payment and taxes.
Every player who agreed to an EBT is guilty of this 3rd level of offence and each of their agents is even more guilty as this is their professional bread and butter. We may not expect them to be honest but we can and should expect them to be legal.
The b) group guilty at this level are the football administrators, primarily those in the SFA and Scottish League, who had set rules about receiving individual details of the total remuneration from football employment of every registered player and that these were compliant with tax law. When Rangers were supplying total group figures and liabilities but not presenting these individually, there should have been an immediate demand to get the individual details that their own regulations and rules required.
Peat, Regan, Sandy Bryson etc; all fall into this category of people who had to know that something was wrong but failed to act on it. Indeed, they wilfully looked away from a crime being committed. In turn, the SFA’s parochial partialities are supposed to be overseen by UEFA and FIFA. These latter groups have shown a strange reluctance to police these matters. Well, it would be strange unless you suspect that they are scared to look too closely for fear of finding out the depths of their own negligence, collusion or, indeed, responsibility.
The next level of culpability falls on the rest of Scottish football, including Celtic.
That issue and my view on who is innocent will follow shortly. I would then welcome suggestions on what we do about the judgements reached.
The above is by Setting Free The Bears.
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