Celtic, Media, Scottish Football

Sectarian Consequences?

Good Morning.

Just when you think you have seen it all, along comes something else which causes you to…errr… raise an eyebrow

Alex Mooney: Rangers use of EBTs is indefensible but end this hate fest before our game’s wounds are left so gaping they can never be healed

It always helps to know whose words you are reading and the Record kindly informs us that Mr Mooney is a freelance journalist. Presumably he is the same Alex Mooney who also writes for The Rangers Standard?

The central premise of Mr Mooney’s piece today is that it is time to ‘move on’. To be fair, he speaks at length about EBTs being “wrong and therefore immoral and indefensible. Created to deprive the exchequer”, and says “David Murray’s EBT era brought shame and embarrassment to the club and set off a disastrous chain of events in Govan that reverberates to this day.”

So well done Mr Mooney on being an all-too-rare voice speaking up about wrong-doing around Ibrox. 

However, it is the suggestion of ‘moving on’ and the manner in which the suggestion is made that I have a problem with.

The piece suggests that Rangers (IL)’s use of EBTs only conferred the type of advantage that all bigger-spending competitors enjoy over their less-affluent rivals.

“Advocates  [of title stripping] claim the Ibrox side had an unfair financial advantage which allowed them to buy better players and pay higher wages than their competitors. This is true. To deny it is silly.

But it’s also self-evidently true of all professional sport. Big clubs throughout the world have that unfair advantage – their financial muscle means they always have more money for better players.

Apart from international fixtures, there will hardly be a game anywhere on the planet where one side doesn’t have that edge. It is the bedrock of professional football. In Scotland, Celtic are in that position in every domestic game.

The level playing field that title-strippers insist Rangers violated simply doesn’t exist in professional sport. It never has.

I can’t see any court in the land agreeing that one side being richer than the other amounts to cheating. If it did, all professional sport would revert to amateur status.

Cheating in football is not about some clubs having more cash than others. It is about players using performance-enhancing drugs, corrupt referees, match-fixing.

Nor can cash saved from the taxman be called financial doping. Immoral as the EBT scheme may have been, and it was, it was not illegal and its use was clearly set out in Rangers’ annual accounts. Title-stripping is therefore something that should not happen.

So let’s cut through the conspiracy theories on this and find a logical conclusion – Rangers used an EBT scheme to avoid paying tax which was shameful but its use only gave them the same advantage on the field that all big clubs have.

I think most dispassionate and objective observers will accept this and use it as a fair agreement on which we can all move on.”

Well no, Mr Mooney. Fielding players that could only be afforded by the use of a scheme which wrongly did not pay tax has a distinct whiff of cheating about it to me. 

As does fielding players whose registration with the authorities may have had a fundamental defect from the outset* Namely dual contracts which should have been declared to the football authorities, and on which tax should have been paid. [*Copyright Lord Nimmo Smith Commission Report, Para 88].

And before anyone pipes up and says “Lord Nimmo Smith dealt with those issues”… as I (and others) have explained previously, NO he most certainly didn’t. He couldn’t possibly have dealt with them. Because he didn’t have all the relevant information available to him, and proceeded on the basis of the First Tier Tax Tribunal’s ruling on the Big Tax Case.

What is needed is for the heavily-flawed LNS Commisison to be set aside and for a fresh, holistic and independent look to be taken at all the relevant issues.

This is called ‘due process’ and would seek to establish the truth, and administer any appropriate punishment.

It is not a witch hunt. 

However, to read the remainder of Mr Mooney’s piece you would think that anything other than ‘moving on’ and leaving the issue of EBTs behind us would be to embark upon something quite sinister.

“Of course, this will infuriate the self-proclaimed, proud ‘bampots’ on social media toiling away 24/7 in pursuit of justice for Scottish football.

Their irreversibly entrenched view will always be that ‘the Protestant establishment club cheated on an industrial scale and the corrupt SFA and mainstream media were in cahoots in a whitewash’.

To them I ask this – what is it you want? Rangers have been ravaged in a way no one could have imagined five years ago. Whether you view their troubles as a self-inflicted consequence or a punishment is not important.

They have been badly wounded and who, other than a baying mob, would wish them and their fans to suffer more? Only Rangers being shut down and Ibrox demolished will satisfy those who want nothing less than to dance on the club’s grave.

That, though, won’t happen so I urge the SFA and all its member clubs to get round the table now and end this sorry episode. Strong leadership is needed to find a way forward and common sense must triumph over those who revel in agendas.

Celtic’s Peter Lawwell and Rangers’ Dave King could lead by example. In fact, would it be so outrageous for them to go out for dinner and mend fences over a decent bottle of red?

Each could show a lot of class by putting out a joint statement that accepts the clubs are big rivals but acknowledges sectarian hate has no part in that relationship. King could also apologise for the EBT years and Lawwell graciously accept it in his twin roles with Celtic and the SFA.

Is that really so difficult? Or too much to ask? Some might even say the custodians of these two massive clubs have a duty to start the healing process.

Yes, the Rangers takeover since Murray sold the club to Craig Whyte for a pound will play out in the courts for years to come but at least the EBT issue can, and should, be put to bed now.

And what decent person wouldn’t welcome an end to the hate-fest that has blighted us for far too long?”

I can take the ‘Bampot’ jibe on the chin. It is part of the game (and indeed a badge of honour) and won’t make a blind bit of difference to what I think, say or do.

However, I note with [*cough*] some interest the (unattributed) ‘quote’ which refers to Rangers (IL) being ‘Protestant’. I say ‘note with some interest’, but what I actually mean is that I laughed out loud for several minutes and then checked whether I wasn’t actually reading the Daily Mash!

Someone has no doubt said the words set out by Mr Mooney, but they in no way shape or form reflect the view of this ethereal entity or any other ‘Bampot’ I know.

Religion has absolutely nothing to do with a desire to see the truth about the EBT years uncovered and any appropriate sanctions imposed.

No ifs, no buts. No religious dimension at all.

The joy of living in a (still) liberal democracy is that we enjoy free speech, and I would staunchly(!) defend Mr Mooney’s right to set down his views. But I simply do not see what is to be gained by mentioning religion in a piece about issues of sporting integrity. [Ooh look! I said ‘sporting integrity!].

Nor do I see the value of Mr Mooney calling for a joint Lawwell-King statement which acknowledges “sectarian hate has no part in that relationship” between Celtic and either of the Ibrox clubs. Because the issues raised by EBTs and possible cheating have absolutely nothing to do with sectarianism! And I can’t for the life of me think why anyone would choose to link them.

Furthermore, why on earth would anyone want to have a situation where Celtic and an Ibrox club privately set the agenda for the rest of the Scottish game, or try to head off the possibility of due process taking effect?

To be fair, Mr Mooney also suggests that the SFA and all its member clubs get round the table now and end this sorry episode.”

But with all due (Warbo levels) of ‘respect’, this is not the time for backroom deals between the clubs. That would be an insult to fans who paid millions into a game which looks as though it may have been rigged for a decade. 

This is a time for openness, transparency and due process to take effect. Many of us who apparently “revel in an agenda” expect and will accept nothing less!

Here’s a thought Mr Mooney. If the ‘same club’ did nothing wrong and has nothing to fear, why doesn’t it pro-actively call for an independent enquiry to put all these issues to bed? Why doesn’t it show some leadership and build bridges by going to the SFA and clubs with a request for a ‘clear the air’ investigation?

As you yourself said on 3 January 2014

“There is a better approach – and it’s free. The greatest power you have to discredit your critics is transparency. Be honest and fans will respect you for that – and back you. But don’t just ask for their trust – earn it by not regarding them as outsiders.”

[Hat-tip to @RetroScot]

Perhaps Dave King could issue a statement to set the ball rolling?

I hear he likes to issue a statement from time to time.



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