Media, Scottish Football, Sevco

Telling Tales On His Big Mikeness

HBM looks at unsold Sevco shirts…

Good Evening.

I can’t say that The National’s coverage of Scottish football has ever really impressed me. It tends to remind me of that offered by the Herald and Evening Shark-Jump. I can’t think why…

Ah, I see…

Although to be fair they did actually mention the Offshore Game report about the SFA, which is more that many MSM outlets have managed.

The Kicker: SFA can expect taxing questions from Private Eye

[Hi STV if you are looking in! And don’t forget to follow up your earlier Resolution 12 story with coverage of the UEFA ‘new club/ company’ letter… Folk are beginning to think that you are deliberately avoiding the issue].

The two blogs below give a flavour of how disappointedly I have generally viewed The National’s Sevco coverage:

Dear SFA: Please ‘Release the (Dave King) Pounds’…

A ‘National’ Joke

And unfortunately, today’s offering from the above-mentioned ‘The Kicker’ column is no better than them:

The Kicker: Let’s put Rangers saga under the microscope…

If The National really does think it is using a microscope to examine this saga, it may want to take it back to Argos for a refund. It appears to have bought a bullsh*t-finding telescope instead…

Here is how today’s piece begins:

“THE long-running saga of Mike Ashley’s running battle with Dave King and the board of Rangers FC would long ago have been deemed to be farcical if it were not so serious.

The billionaire owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United is a man who does not suffer fools gladly, if at all, and he is known to detest people who oppose his will – such as King.”

You will note that there is no immediate suggestion that the disputes between His Big Mikeness and Dave King/ RIFC might be over issues of substance rather than being a farce.

‘Ashley v King’ is the central theme of the piece. Such personal conflict might sound exciting, but it isn’t completely representative of the truth of the issues in play. The hint that Ashley might be taking on King because he “detests people who oppose his will” is nothing more than assertion. An assertion which ignores the possibility that ‘Mike Ashley’ (for which read ‘MASH Holdings’ and ‘Sports Direct) might have take action because ‘he’ feels genuine cause for grievance. 

These causes might have arisen from comments being made that a loan from one of HBM’s companies wasn’t really viewed as a loan, and was therefore not a priority for repayment. They might have emerged as a result of attempts being made to unpick a retail deal which Ashley may feel was entered into in good faith. And they might also have come about because of the possibility of RIFC Directors breaching the terms of confidentiality agreements with Sports Direct. A possibility for which an interim interdict and injunction are still in place.

Minor things like that….

Of course, HBM might simply be acting upon a grudge, but the list of potential grievances do constitute a plausible argument that he might be acting out of strong views on contracts and obligations, and out of a sense of right and wrong. However, The National chooses not to ponder this possibility.

The piece continues:

“Now we all know Dave King is no shining saint. His tax ‘affairs’ in South Africa have been the subject of much reportage and comment, and he himself was forced to prove his good offices when the Scottish Football Association queried his ‘fit and proper person’ status.”

“No shining saint”. 

“Tax ‘affairs'”. 

Why be so mealy-mouthed about 41 convictions and the payment of a whopping great fine rather than face jail time? Or about the fact that the South African judiciary called King a “mendacious witness”, “obstructive in every respect” and a “glib and shameless liar”?!

It seems to be a very curious approach for The National to be taking when putting the whole saga “under the microscope”

Having commendably mocked the idea of the SFA being in any position to judge the fitness of anyone, the piece then takes the extraordinary step of suggesting possible steps that Sevco-minded folk who want to cause Ashley problems might want to be aware of! The basis of such steps being that as ultimate owner of Newcastle United, HBM is subject to the jurisdiction of the FA. 

Incidentally, we don’t appear to have heard any more about the possibility of HBM being forced to sell his RIFC shares under the English Football League’s stricter ‘dual interest’ rules following Newcastle’s relegation from the Premier League last season. At one point parts of the Scottish sports media seemed quite excited about it…

However, I digress. Here is the relevant extract from The National piece:

“In all the brouhaha that has surrounded Ashley v King, one interesting approach to the matter has never been tried. Dave King himself might not want to try this, but surely someone interested in defending Rangers might want to have a word with the Football Association of England.

Rule E3(1) of the FA’s Rules of the Association states: “A participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute (my italics) or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.”

For the record, the Rules state that ‘Participant’ means an “Affiliated Association, Competition, Club, Club Official (my italics), Intermediary, Player, Official, Manager, Match Official, Management Committee Member, member or employee of a Club and all such persons who are from time to time participating in any activity sanctioned either directly or indirectly by The Association.”

Now this columnist is not going to accuse Ashley of anything untoward.”

I could have sworn that you were about to!

“It is in the public domain, however, and has never been questioned by Ashley, that his company’s deal with Rangers was very adverse for the Ibrox FOOTBALL club, and very profitable for him.

No doubt Ashley will argue that it was his company that made the deal and not him. This from a man who had to admit to a House of Commons committee that his company had paid workers less than the minimum wage.”

It would be interesting to see the author of this piece explain why the Sports Direct retail deal was adverse for Sevco. If it wasn’t something that was freely entered into by both sides when Sevco were starting life using leftover bits of Rangers and were a distinctly ‘unknown quantity’ to potential partners, then I would be fascinated to see how it came to pass.

The mention of the non-payment of the minimum wage by Sports Direct highlights a deplorable business practice but has no relevance to the Sevco issues under discussion. Unless of course the intention is to suggest that HBM might be ‘shady’ in some respect. In which case…

  1. I wouldn’t want to have to defend that assertion in court; and 
  2. why was the article possibly circumspect about providing balance by mentioning King’s convictions [something which HBM does not have]?

But the article isn’t finished there:

“Justice Peter Smith said in January when he threw out Ashley’s attempt to have Dave King jailed for contempt of court that the “whole proceedings from first to last were designed to intimidate rather than to seek proper sanctions for an alleged breach” adding: ‘These kind of muscular tactics of using a threat of committal is something which the courts should deplore.’

King is no innocent, but surely the question must be asked if Ashley’s dealings with Rangers and the club’s chairman are entirely of repute.”

Yes that Judge did indeed question Ashley’s approach to King, and the case was lost. Expensively. And on its merits. 

However, surely the only way to determine whether Ashley’s dealings with Sevco and the RIFC Chairman are reputable is through scrutiny of the terms of their contractual relationships and by testing them in the courts. That would seem a far more systematic and fair-minded approach than raising vague questions in a newspaper article and floating the idea of folk running to Soho Square to wail that HBM ‘isnae playing fair’.

Oh. And the The National might also like to reflect upon the the fact that Sports Direct gave Sevco interest-free loans which kept the lights on during tough times… 

I am not sure to whom The National’s article was designed to appeal (surely it wasn’t intended as fodder for disgruntled Sevco fans?!), but it was very odd indeed. HBM may not be a loveable character, but The National may well have done him a disservice in its rather unbalanced piece…