If you only read one thing today (other than this blog…), make it this post on the Scottish Football Monitor by John Clark. Mr Clark attended an event at the University of Edinburgh which was graced by the presence of Stewart Regan who was giving a talk on International Football Governance.
Mr Regan is of course the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association. And the SFA is one of the privileged few to be a permanent member of the International Football Association Board, which makes the laws of the game around the world.
Yes, Mr Regan not only runs football in Scotland, he also has influence on the way the game is played across the globe. Bear that in mind when you read Mr Clark’s report of the event and his later conversation with Regan about Resolution 12.
Regular readers will be aware that The Clumpany recently wrote to Mr Regan about Resolution 12, and encouraged you to do likewise. Hopefully you will feel extremely motivated to do so by the end of this blog!
Clearly Mr Clark’s account is his personal recollection and cannot in isolation be taken as a definitive account of what was discussed. In an ideal world Mr Regan would go on the record about all the issues raised by Resolution 12 and put them to bed one way or another.
Nevertheless, bearing in mind the above caveats, Mr Clark’s account is truly extraordinary. Here is the key extract:
“I said I had sat listening to him talk about values , transparency and integrity and the FIFA and UEFA governance problems and I wanted to mention that the SFA had problems in its own governance.I said that UEFA had been misled, whether intentionally or through incompetence,about RFC’s state of social taxes indebtedness and as a result that club had been granted a European licence they were not entitled to.
The Grant guy said ‘Oh , there’s a bit of background there, Rangers/Celtic”I put my finger up, told him this wasn’t a Celtic-Rangers matter, and said that I wanted to hear Regan state categorically that RFC was not in debt to HMRC at the deadline date.
Regan said that the matter was complex, and explained to the class ( with a smile) that , as he had mentioned earlier, the West of Scotland threw up particular problems), and that this wasn’t really the place to discuss it, but he would see me after the meeting.
After the meeting, when only he and I and Harvey were present, (Harvey said he had seen me before at Hampden , but couldn’t say in what context) I again asked Regan whether he would categorically state as the official SFA position that RFC were not in debt to HMRC at the deadline. He said that the SFA had met the requirements of Art. 66 and that the club had been ‘in negotiation’ with HMRC. I said that , no, in fact the club was actually in debt in respect of social taxes, and the SFA were derelict in duty, intentionally or otherwise.
I said: if I were to provide incontrovertible evidence that the club was actually owing money to HMRC , and the debt collectors had been in, what would you do ? His reply was “Nothing”.
I said I would report that back to my people. He asked ‘and who are your people? People who don’t use their real names?
I said ‘I use my real name, and I have written to UEFA using my real name, so that there would be evidence that at least someone had raised the issue before any artificial deadline. I added that we, who pay our money, are the people.
His reply was “if you’ve made your mind up, and that’s your opinion,there’s no way I’m going to convince you’
I said it was not a matter of opinion but of fact, and it won’t go away.
And that was that. No great surprise, but at least the satisfaction of speaking face-to-face.
The business began at 12.30, and I left the building at around 2.30. ( I walked from the St Leonard’s Land building in the Cowgate to the Turkish barber at Nicholson Square and it was 2.45 when I sat down.Interesting experience: he used a kind of blow-torch on me. I never felt a thing, so maybe I’m fit and proper to become an SFA blazer or a RIFC director?)”
There are several points in that account which grate:
- The blithe dismissal of the issue by characterising it as a “West of Scotland” thing.
- The unwillingness to discuss the issue at hand and the reliance on simple assertion about what happened when Rangers were granted their UEFA licence for season 2011-12; and
- The use of the “people who don’t use their real names” deflection. This is a particularly spurious argument given the strenuous efforts of those pursuing Resolution 12 to confirm their bona fides to the SFA, and given Mr Clark’s use of his own name when meeting Mr Regan face-to-face!
But the most remarkable part of Mr Clark’s account was Regan’s apparent response when asked what he would do if provided with “incontrovertible evidence that the club was actually owing money to HMRC, and the debt collectors had been in”.
According to Clark (and as I said above, we only have his word to go on, although I have no reason to disbelieve him), Mr Regan said he would do “Nothing”.
If true, that really is extraordinary and someone in the media should be all over it. Did the Chief Executive of Scottish football’s governing body really suggest that if presented with evidence that one of his members wrongly gained access to club football’s premier (and most lucrative) competition at the expense of another he would do nothing?
Are rules, due process, and level playing fields of no concern to the people running our national sport?
Assuming that Mr Clark’s account is correct, it would be utterly shameful if Celtic FC failed to throw their weight behind Resolution 12. They must accost the SFA directly and pointedly, and if Regan won’t involve UEFA, the club must do it themselves, by writing in the strongest possible terms.
And let us not forget that if Rangers shouldn’t have been awarded a UEFA licence in 2011-12 it wasn’t only Celtic who were victims. An extra Europa League place would have been freed up for another club. Resolution 12 is therefore relevant to any Scottish fan who hopes to see their club play in Europe. Because it raises the crucial question of whether the SFA is an even-handed gatekeeper of the licensing process.
Resolution 12 should also concern fans of clubs who may never be in contention for a European place. Because it raises the fundamental issue of whether the SFA administers its (and UEFA’s) rules without fear or favour. In short, it questions whether Scottish football is a genuine sport, or a freakish sort of light entertainment. And if that doesn’t trouble you, then I politely suggest that you need to wake up and ‘smell the coffee’.
This particular ethereal entity is appalled by what was apparently said at the University of Edinburgh. If true, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that anyone who pays a single penny into Scottish football prior to fundamental change at Hampden is an absolute mug.
We all want to follow our club, but if that means funding the set-up that brought us the 5-Way Agreement, the Lord Nimmo-Smith Commission, and troubling questions about the awarding of UEFA licences, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is a waste of time.
I hope you enjoy subsidising our governing bodies. I won’t be joining you.