Oh dear. Oh dear me.
Once in a while the Scottish media treats football fans to a ‘piece’ so lame that it actually hobbles before our eyes on crutches.
Veteran Bampots can smell a lamb dinner a mile off, but today the aroma of a five-course all-lamb feast was so pungent that it could be smelled right around the world.
That the embarrassing copy was featured in ‘The National’ was a particular surprise. You wouldn’t expect a paper that aims to be vibrant, fresh, forward-looking and most certainly not locked into the status quo to be so… old-school and ‘Establishment’.
So who was today’s Lambmeister? Step forward Martin Hannan…
Interestingly, Martin has previously produced this publication
So he can’t necessarily have the ‘usual’ accusation of ‘Sevco cheerleader’ thrown at him. In any case, his allegiances are irrelevant here. By any measure, his piece in The National today is utter pish…
Martin’s opening point is that it is not healthy for the game for one club to be so dominant. I agree with that in principle, but would point to the variety of clubs who have won cups in recent years as an at-least-partial counter-point. Celtic are not ‘cleaning up’ year after year…
But then we come to the first inevitable punchline:
“Celtic will march on, unless the only club comparable in size and resources can resurrect itself. Rangers need to get back into the Premiership before the destination of the league flag stops being inevitable into the 2020s”
What an insult to the other clubs! And how lame to rely on the old cliché (for that’s what it is), that the game needs a ‘strong Rangers’ in order to be interesting.
And then we arrive at the second inevitable punchline, about the possible SFA endorsement of Dave King as ‘Fit and Proper’:
“The fear is that if they don’t, then King will rein in his millions – and believe me, he has oodles of them – which will prolong Rangers’ woes and mean they won’t be able to challenge Celtic for, say, a decade or so. That would not be good for Scottish football, including the national squad”.
Really? Scotland will have a better chance of making World Cups and European Championships if Dave King is on the Sevco Board? Just like they did the last time he was on the board of a ‘Rangers’ entity, eh Martin?
What next, Martin? Reminiscing about how Walter Smith leaving the Scotland job to manage (and strengthen) Rangers was good for the national team…?!
I am not going to pore over the ins and outs of the Dave King ‘Fit and Proper’ issue. It has been done to death (brilliantly) elsewhere. I don’t think he should be nodded through by the SFA, but I suspect that he will be on the basis that he is cleared to be a Director in South Africa, did ‘some stuff’ in Rangers’ interests while Craig Whyte was in charge, and is “determined to learn from past mistakes” [The “Paul Murray Justification”].
However, Mr Hannan’s suggestion that that King might “rein in” his as-yet unseen millions, should he be turned down by the SFA is scaremongering of a particularly nonsensical kind…
The ‘Fit and Proper’ issue has absolutely no bearing on whether Dave King can invest or loan money to Sevco. He could do it now. Indeed he could have done it at any point. In fact, I am sure some Sevco fans were very surprised that a number of war chests were not air-dropped into Ibrox the moment he and his colleagues ‘won’ at the EGM…
King himself has already said the SFA’s decision won’t have a bearing on his investment into Sevco. The only barrier to him investing is his willingness to part with his own cash…
Mr Hannan questions whether the ‘Fit and Proper’ test is in any way sensible given some of the people that the SFA has allowed to operate in Scottish football in recent years:
“Craig Whyte was only found to be not a fit and proper person by an independent inquiry AFTER Rangers went into administration, even though there was plenty of evidence against him long before he drove the club to the brink of extinction”
[NB Martin – he also drove them all the way to Liquidationville…]
Martin suggests that “Dave King would be a certainty to be passed fit and proper if the SFA applied the old criteria to his application, but the Association is much more conscious of public opinion and at the very least will give King a severe grilling“.
Poor Dave! How unlucky can you be to encounter the governing body wanting to at least go through the motions of not messing up spectacularly this time?!
And then we come to the airbrushing of Mr King’s tax history…
“Since he has settled his tax debts in South Africa some time ago, and is allowed to be a company director there and in Britain, I think the SFA will give him the nod…”
Martin doesn’t go as far as saying King reached a “favourable settlement” [Copyright: Dave King, 2015], but he completely fails to mention the 41 convictions. This is utterly disingenuous on his part. Each of these merits consideration according to the SFA’s potential Fit and Proper ‘concerns’ which are listed at Article 10.2 of the Articles of Association [See p82]
The article concludes with a desperate plea:
“It’s time to stop giving Rangers a battering for the sins of past custodians. Let King and Rangers have a fresh start“.
There are important two points to make here.
Firstly, a ‘start’ doesn’t come any more fresh than a brand-new set-up and no debt following the liquidation of the entity you are now pretending to be. Charles Green bought Rangers’ assets and placed them on a clean slate. Dave King and the other ‘Real Rangers Men’ had the opportunity to beat him to the punch, but failed to do so.
That fresh start also came with the “oodles of cash” that Martin mentioned earlier in his piece. The IPO, season ticket sales and loans have allowed Sevco to burn through an astonishing amount of cash since 2012. Sums that almost every other club in Scotland could only dream of.
It is nobody’s fault other than Sevco’s if they didn’t use their money to build a sustainable, revenue-generating operation. Other clubs have to try and live within their means and there is absolutely no justification for nodding Dave King through purely to allow Sevco another ‘hit’ of money for ‘the greater good’ as Martin seems to suggest. He might like to reflect that the Rangers v Celtic paradigm he yearns for was ultimately a lie. The souped-up Rangers that blazed through until 2012 was burning cash that in large part ultimately belonged to others.
Secondly, Martin repeats the idea that there is somehow a clear split between the people that have run ‘Rangers’ entities, and the club itself. “Don’t punish us for the sins of past custodians” goes the argument.
Leaving aside the fact that past custodians of this ‘same club’ include a certain Dave King and Paul Murray, we should remember that a football club – like every other business – is the product of (and participant in) economic and administrative activity, and is accountable to the law. As a sporting entity, it also has a responsibility to its competitors to behave in a certain way. A football club does not exist in isolation in a moral vacuum where it can never be accountable for the things that occur in its name.
Yes of course, individuals can be guilty of misdeeds separately from the club. The SFA eventually saw fit to ban Craig Whyte from football, and the whole focus of the ‘Fit and Proper’ criteria is to try and ascertain whether individuals getting involved in the running of a club present a risk of harm.
However, clubs can and should be held corporately responsible for their misdeeds, particularly as they have the capacity to harm other clubs by distorting the operation of the fair and open competition which is the lifeblood of our game.
For example, the SFA Judicial Panel found Rangers guilty of an offence “just short of match fixing” when it did not pay social taxes in 2011-12, and initially imposed a transfer embargo as punishment. It would have been a nonsense to only punish those running the club when the non-payment of taxes clearly gave the club an advantage over its competitors.
In conclusion, I am almost tempted to thank The National for publishing such an unadulterated piece of tosh today. It serves as a welcome reminder of the handed-down narratives to which Scottish football fans are sometimes expected to bow by our mainstream media. It also reminds us that in spite of everything that has happened, and a lack of concrete evidence to support it, the fallacy that we ‘need’ a strong Rangers entity at the top of our game is alive and well.
I for one go forward with renewed determination to see our game administered and played on a level playing field.
So many thanks to The National, but they really should be feeling very embarrassed indeed…