Oscar Wilde once said of the demise of one of the main characters in Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop, “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.” A friend of mine has cruelly suggested that the same Wildean aphorism can be applied to the piece by Billy Dodds today in the Sunday Herald.
Sadly he makes no comment on what he might have done if involved in a TUPE transfer as players are to Sevco Rangers just now.
Billy Dodds has chipped in again today in the Sunday Herald on the Rangers story, with particular regard to the possibility of removing titles. He previously contributed to the ongoing Rangers story by confirming that he was paid contractual sums due under an EBT, and that he was told by Rangers that the tax had been paid. He has not however produced anything, such as his P60 or tax return to confirm this. He is of course under no obligation to do so, except to HMRC if required, but as a paid writer on these matters, he is in position to furnish his newspaper with a scoop of its own.
I have commented on his piece today, and my thoughts are in bold.
I DON’T know for sure whether the 1999/2000 SPL title is one of those under investigation as part of the EBT inquiry, but I would be gutted if people were even thinking about taking that title away.
I have no doubt that Mr Dodds does not want to lose his status as a winner of the SPL. He mentions though that he does not know if it is a possibility. One thinks that he, or the Sunday Herald, could either have asked the SFA/SPL, or even referred to the public pronouncements regarding the EBT investigation. As it has been declared that the EBT tax case starts at the tax year 2000/2001, it is possible that this could have an effect on the 1999/2000 title. As I say, perhaps the Sunday Herald could have asked.
I don’t want this to sound like a sob story but I had never heard about EBTs then. That title was won with sweat, blood and guts.
Sorry Mr Dodds, it does sound like a sob story. Oscar Wilde would be on the attack! We have no reason to doubt you saying that you had never heard of EBT’s then. As mentioned above, possibly no-one at Ibrox had heard of EBT’s then. However, very shortly afterwards the people at the top, and the agents of the players, were fully aware of them.
My league winner’s medal is up at the house, along with the rest. I have a B&Q Cup medal, a First Division winners medal, two League Cup winners medals, a Scottish Cup winners medal and an SPL medal, which is my most treasured one, because it was my first and only SPL title. I had just gone to Ibrox from Dundee United halfway through the season and I gave everything. I remember we were seven points ahead going into an Old Firm match just before the winter break, and Mark Viduka scored at Parkhead. I equalised to keep it at seven, and we went on to win the title by 21 points. I don’t care what the SPL tell me, they can’t just decide all that is null and void.
Congratulations Mr Dodds. You are rightly proud of a haul of medals which exceeds that achieved by the vast majority of professional footballers. Even though your role in the SPL title that year was for part of a season, well done for winning a medal. However, the SPL can decide that the title was obtained through rule breaking and act accordingly. Those are the rules.
It looks as if that year’s title might miss any potential cull of honours, but as regards the wider point, think of the athletes who have had to return relay medals because a team mate, unknown to them, used performance enhancing drugs. Think about Spartans football club, kicked out of the Scottish Cup because a contract was incorrectly signed, and not because of anything done directly on the field of play.
At the end of the day if they want to take it away, they’ll take it away, but I will be devastated. There is no guarantee that any titles which are stripped will be awarded to somebody else and the matter may now be referred to an independent commission, after lawyers Harper Macleod decided there was a case to answer over the club’s use of EBTs from 1999 onwards. But there has to be a conflict of interest if other SPL clubs are playing a part in the decision.
Correct. There would be a conflict of interest if other SPL teams decided on guilt then penalties. But that is why the SPL would pass the matter to an independent commission. It also was the SPL that decided there was a case to answer, based upon the report presented to them by Harper MacLeod.
For all that Mr Dodds is devastated, can he empathise with players who were deprived during their careers of medals and honours because of alleged rule breaking and irregular registrations? What about players from some of the “wee” teams that made the Cup final only to lose to Rangers teams stuffed to the gunwales with EBT receiving players?
Think of athletes who failed to win medals because of doping, or who failed to reach finals because they were beating by cheating athletes. At least Mr Dodds had the chance to bask in the glory of a medal presentation. If any league titles are stripped from Rangers, can an award of a medal ten years later be the equivalent for the recipient? I do not know, but I suspect it would not be.
In any event Mr Dodds’ happiness is not a factor the SPL Independent Commission will consider.
With Rangers on 54 championships and Celtic on 43, a 10 or 14-title swing would change things dramatically in terms of who has historically been the most successful club in Scotland. Of course the clubs will be looking at overall totals and things like that, but the players won’t be.
It is fair to say, I think, that Rangers makes a big thing of its history and of its record breaking number of titles. Therefore any change in those numbers will affect the football organisation, if still extant, and the fans. As far as deciding who the most successful club is goes, that can only be decided by looking at the numbers, can’t it?
I don’t think players such as Viduka and Lubo Moravcik will be wanting a league winners medal for a season where they were beaten by 21 points. Individually I don’t think the players would want it. I am not just saying this but I wouldn’t want a winners medal 12 years later by default. I would be saying “forget about it”.
As I mentioned above, and agreeing with Mr Dodds, I suspect players won’t be bothered about such an after the fact presentation. However, it might be a gala occasion for the fans, and if, for example, Celtic were to receive “posthumous” honours years later, I suggest the atmosphere in Celtic Park would be exciting.
Of course, if it is proved that titles were won fraudulently, and the club gained an unfair advantage, then the authorities have to act, but they have to find the right punishment. This is new territory. If the EBT court case is lost, then it should be the club who are punished. It was nothing to do with the individual players. They went there in good faith to do a job of work.
No one is suggesting fraud. However the whole issue is one of unfair advantage. The tax scheme’s operation allowed Rangers to sign players they might not have been able to afford otherwise. The operation of the EBT scheme was not intended to create large sums of money for the Rangers executives to take out. Instead they allowed Rangers to make greater use of the same resources than an equivalent team. I do not think that the SPL would chase round the globe after ex-Rangers players, demanding return of their medals, although this has happened to athletes in the past.
It is gratifying to see a prominent person with connections to Rangers agree that, in principle, it should be the club that is punished. Many Rangers fans believe that punishment should only be visited on Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte. Mr Dodds sees that, subject to the findings, it was the club which benefited.
I said in last week’s column that this is the time to restructure the Scottish game and I stand by that. The proposed solution whereby the SPL and SFL merge, and Rangers end up in the second tier of the Scottish game, is a mechanism to try to keep everybody happy, because it could be the death knell of Scottish football if a newco Rangers are sent down to the Third Division.
The “death knell” (or in keeping with the theme of this post, death Nell) for Scottish football was going to be Rangers not in the SPL. Now the “death knell” would be Rangers in Division 3. I suggest that Mr Dodds is guilty of dreaming here. There will undoubtedly be effects if Rangers are in SFL 1, SFL 3 or not playing at all. However that should not be the primary reason for a decision on their next destination. In any event, in any normal business situation, the figures would be presented for assessment and review, rather than the simple bald assertion that so many tams will go bust in the event that Rangers are not in the SPL, or SFL 1 or wherever.
Many fans might not like it but at least this way people are trying to protect the integrity of the game by ensuring there is some kind of reasonable punishment while safeguarding Scottish football financially. The only problem is it seems to have taken a club going into crisis mode for people to do what is best for Scottish football.
Well said Mr Dodds. It has taken this crisis for people to look at what is best for Scottish football.
However, the majority opinion seems to be that Scottish football can take the risks, and at the end of the day, Rangers are the authors of their own misfortune.
As far as integrity goes, would granting privileged access to a club with an horrendous record satisfy that description? It is fair to say that views differ widely in that regard.
After this piece by Mr Dodds, one awaits with some trepidation the next pearls of wisdom he can offer on the ongoing situation at Ibrox. Roll on next Sunday!
Posted by Paul McConville