A piece dealing with Mr McCoist’s statement yesterday and the pressure his comments place on his Chairman and Board. Mr McCoist is positioning himself, it appears, as the One True Voice of Rangers, taking over from John Greig as the “Greatest Living Ranger”.
I take a good look at the “penalties” imposed so far, and point out a number of errors in his analysis of the situation.
Finally, it is remarkable that Rangers FC feel able to “demand” that matters are not investigated. Some one seems to have forgotten that Rangers FC is not a member of the SPL, and only an Associate Member of the SFL. In any event, when is it the prerogative of the accused to decide what will and will not be investigated?
I wrote earlier about what could have been a carefully crafted PR strategy between Sevco Scotland Ltd and the SFA, designed to appeal to and appease the Rangers FC support, and to put pressure on the SPL.
However, if that was the case this intricate and attractive strategy was then torpedoed by none other than Mr McCoist, and on the official Rangers FC website too!
In the days of Soviet Russia, experts known as Kremlinologists pored over the minute and apparently trivial details of who stood where on the podium at military ceremonies in Red Square. Did a move one step away from the President suggest that the Politburo member in charge of Tractor Production had blotted his copybook?
Was the fact the a speech by the Mayor of Moscow had been printed on the front page of Pravda, above that of the Deputy Premier, indicate his star was rising?
Maybe these experts, unemployed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism, can re-brand themselves as Ibroxologists now.
On Saturday, the following statement appeared on Rangers.co.uk:-
“ALLY McCOIST has come out strongly in relation to proposed sanctions against Rangers which are being demanded over the club’s membership of the SFA.The manager is unhappy that the SFA released a statement last night when an agreement had not been reached.
He contends that a signing ban is not an appropriate action and he has vowed that he will contest vigorously any attempt to strip Rangers of any titles. McCoist had hoped to lead his depleted squad into action in friendlies in the coming days but the lack of SFA membership has prevented him from doing so.
The manager said today: “I am extremely disappointed that the SFA chose to release a statement last night when the Club has not actually signed any agreement.
“The club is trying to get to a position where we can plan for the season, which starts in only eight days.
“We have had meetings with the SFA all week to discuss membership but I had to leave the final meeting as I could not support the sanctions they were trying to impose.
“The decision has already been taken to place Rangers in Division 3 and we have accepted that, along with many more punishments. However, operating with an embargo on an already depleted first team squad – even with a window to sign players – will make the task ahead an extremely difficult one.
“It is important to remember we have already had a 10 point deduction from the SPL, lost our Champions League place for finishing second last season, had a £160,000 fine, been refused entry to the SPL, been relegated to Division 3 and lost the majority of our first team squad – yet still the governing body has chosen to impose further sanctions.
“The transfer ban has been strongly resisted by me, the management team, the Directors and supporters. Indeed The Rangers Fans Fighting Fund appointed a QC to defend the Club’s position as the sanction was not available to the Appellate Tribunal.
“From a business point of view I can understand the position the Board has been placed in and ultimately they felt they had no choice but to accept some sanctions in order to move forward – as one of the alternatives could have led to the extinction of the Club.
“The Rangers fans have been magnificent throughout this entire process and on behalf of everyone at the Club I would like to thank them once again for their loyalty.
“I can also assure every Rangers fan I will not be accepting any talk of stripping the Club of titles. That is something we will never accept and everyone at the Club shares this view.
“We all need to get back to focusing on football but again my plans have been hampered as we have had to cancel a tour in the Highlands this weekend that would have helped us prepare for the season ahead.
“This is still Rangers Football Club and the supporters will continue to back us as they have always done. There will be difficult times ahead but I know with the support of our fans we can emerge stronger and rise to the challenge.
“Talks will continue next week and we all hope common sense will prevail to allow us to get back playing football.”
Here we have a statement by the Manager of Rangers FC, on the official Rangers FC website, where he impliedly (and in fact just about explicitly) criticises the decision of his Board. Bearing in mind his frank comments at the recent RFFF meeting that he did not yet trust Mr Green and his band, as a result of not having known them long, is Mr McCoist trying to distance himself from the negotiations ongoing?
Let’s take a closer look at what he had to say.
“I am extremely disappointed that the SFA chose to release a statement last night when the Club has not actually signed any agreement.”
Here he is “on-message” and in fact using the same phrase as his Chairman. He is not saying that there is no agreement, simply that it has not been signed.
“We have had meetings with the SFA all week to discuss membership but I had to leave the final meeting as I could not support the sanctions they were trying to impose.”
Mr McCoist walked away from the last meeting with the SFA as he could not support the sanctions the SFA wanted to impose! Bearing in mind that his Chairman stayed, was this a gesture by Mr McCoist directed at (a) the SFA (b) the Rangers FC fans or (c) Sevco Scotland Ltd?
It can do Mr McCoist’s reputation no harm if he is left looking like the one person inside Ibrox prepared to stand up and be counted.
On the other hand, if matters were still up for negotiation, why did he walk out? Was it because an impasse had been reached, and the SFA insisted that the sanctions and undertakings required of Sevco Scotland as far back as 22nd June or so were still being insisted on? In that event, one month of discussion had failed to shake the SFA’s resolve.
“The decision has already been taken to place Rangers in Division 3 and we have accepted that, along with many more punishments. However, operating with an embargo on an already depleted first team squad – even with a window to sign players – will make the task ahead an extremely difficult one. It is important to remember we have already had a 10 point deduction from the SPL, lost our Champions League place for finishing second last season, had a £160,000 fine, been refused entry to the SPL, been relegated to Division 3 and lost the majority of our first team squad – yet still the governing body has chosen to impose further sanctions.”
Let’s look at the punishments which Mr McCoist clearly believes are at best sufficient and at worst excessive and vengeful.
1 Ten point penalty in the SPL – an academic penalty to be frank. It made no difference to the outcome of the SPL as the chaos and mess surrounding Ibrox would almost certainly have taken its toll anyway. So this penalty was imposed in accordance with the rule book, but it was akin to giving penalty points to a driver who is at the same time being banned from driving for five years. It goes on the record, but makes not a jot of difference.
2 Lost the Champions League place for finishing second in the SPL – it might be semantics, but Rangers FC never had such a spot, for the simple reason that the absence of audited accounts and the existence of taxes owing meant that it was not entitled to a UEFA licence and therefore not qualified to play in Europe in 2012-2013. In addition, the fact that Sevco Scotland Ltd has taken over the assets and business of Rangers means that UEFA treat it as a new club, requiring three years accounts (unlike the SFA who see it as a continuation and are willing to accept the accounts of Rangers Football Club PLC as satisfying the requirements. The licence issue was entirely under the control of Mr Whyte and then of Duff and Phelps. Indeed Mr Whyte pointed out to D+P just before they stepped in that the licence needed to be applied for by 31st March. Even if it had, the tax owing meant that it would not have been issued anyway. Is this a punishment? It is a consequence of what happened but not a punishment. Rangers FC were not entitled, come 1st April, to take part in European football in the coming season – that is not a “penalty” imposed by the SFA.
3 £160,000 fine – correct. Although this was part of a penalty described as being for the worst offences apart from match fixing, and equal the sale proceeds of less than 10,000 tickets? One of the concerns of the Judicial Panel which imposed the registration embargo was that the fine seemed, even at the maximum amount, to be a drop in the ocean of Rangers finances and therefore a disproportionately light penalty. Has the fine been paid yet? When will it be paid?
4 Refused entry to the SPL – as with point 2 above this is a misconception. The SPL place was in the control of Rangers Football Club PLC. It was sold to Sevco Scotland Ltd. In terms of the SPL Articles, the SPL needed to consent to that transfer. The default position therefore was that the transfer would not be granted without a positive vote. Sevco’s application was refused. The effect is the same as what Mr McCoist describes, but the mechanism was not.
5 Relegated to SFL3 – again Mr McCoist is not quite right here, or indeed right at all. Rangers FC have never been relegated. What happened here was that, having had the application for transfer of the SPL share refused, Sevco Scotland Ltd asked the SFL to be allowed to play Rangers FC in the SFL. The clubs decided to have Rangers FC start at the bottom, as with any other new member who had not been relegated.
6 Lost the majority of the first team squad – that was not a sanction, penalty or punishment imposed. Was it so when Motherwell, or Dundee or Livingston, or Portsmouth or Leeds …. Went into administration and made players redundant straight away? No.
Mr McCoist seems to be confusing effects of the financial imbroglio at Ibrox with punishments for offences against football’s rules.
Bearing in mind the alternatives to a registration embargo, namely being suspended from Scottish football or expelled, it was to the Judicial Panel’s credit that they found a penalty which fell short of the “death sentence” but was serious enough to mark the gravity of the offences. The fact that, as the court decided, that was ultra vires was unfortunate. Ironically it might be one of the factors to doom Rangers FC playing this season, as it remains as a huge loose end flapping about. If it had been accepted at the start of the process, then at least that complication would have been disposed of.
So his “punishment” moan is without foundation.
“Operating with an embargo on an already depleted first team squad – even with a window to sign players – will make the task ahead an extremely difficult one”.
A cynic might say that that is designed (a) to emphasise how crippled Rangers FC are being by the unfair antics of the SFA and (b) to give an alibi for a failure to proceed through the SFL3 as predicted.
For all the talk about the hard bitten journeymen in SFL3, and the callow youths who might end up playing for Rangers FC, does anyone seriously think that, with the resources available to Rangers FC, restricted though they are now by SPL standards, or by historic Rangers standards, they will not sail through SFL3?
Mr McCoist should not need an alibi for potential failure.
“The transfer ban has been strongly resisted by me, the management team, the Directors and supporters. Indeed The Rangers Fans Fighting Fund appointed a QC to defend the Club’s position as the sanction was not available to the Appellate Tribunal.”
Strongly resisted, but ultimately accepted it would appear…
“From a business point of view I can understand the position the Board has been placed in and ultimately they felt they had no choice but to accept some sanctions in order to move forward – as one of the alternatives could have led to the extinction of the Club.”
Here I think Mr McCoist starts to diverge from his chairman. He could have said that he accepts the registration embargo. He could even have phrased that in the same terms as the Board’s acceptance of the position.
However his marker has been put down – he did not want the registration embargo – he did not accept it – he is the only man willing to stand up for Rangers.
The implication of the above quote is that he would, if the responsibility was his, have stared out the SFA and challenged them to prevent the team taking the field. He has the added advantage of having implied that would have been his position, but without actually having to risk the decision going against him.
I also think that his phrase “from a business point of view” is telling. The Board, he implies, might have to think about business, but true Rangers men, like him, know there is something more to football than mere “business”.
This makes matters problematic too for Sevco Scotland Ltd if it actually gets a team on the field. Mr McCoist will look above matters of “business” in running the team. If he insists on funds being released to buy players (as after all the players acquired now have to last until the winter break in 2013-2014 at the earliest) how will Mr Green and Mr Murray look if they refuse?
“I can also assure every Rangers fan I will not be accepting any talk of stripping the Club of titles. That is something we will never accept and everyone at the Club shares this view.”
Here we have the declaration which should worry Messrs Murray and Green. Mr McCoist makes it clear that he will not countenance “stripping of titles”. The addition of the comment that everyone at the club shares this view ties the Board to a commitment which clearly they do not want to make.
Of course, the SPL “dual contract” inquiry still has a long way to go. Once proceedings commence, as the SPL promised would happen before the season started, Rangers FC will contest the matter. It is possible that, as the matter overlaps to a certain extent with the “Big Tax Case” (remember that?) Rangers FC could ask the independent commission hearing the case to await the outcome of those proceedings. Whilst it is a red herring, and it does not follow that a finding against Rangers at the Tax Tribunal = guilt over “dual contracts” there is enough of a connection for it not to be unreasonable to seek a delay on that basis.
If guilt is established, then the sentence needs to be considered.
Few observers, other than Rangers FC partisans, seem to think that, if there has been widespread breach of registration regulations, the penalty should not involve losing titles, whether SPL or Scottish Cup.
Whether such stripped titles should be awarded to someone else is another question, for another day.
Bearing in mind how seriously football authorities treat the playing of ineligible players, it is hard to see how a guilty verdict could lead to less than that.
Alternatively, in the event of a guilty verdict, the commission could decide that, rather than interfere with history, the present Rangers FC should be expelled. On that basis I suspect even the most die-hard fan would accept loss of titles rather than loss of their team.
What Mr McCoist has done puts Murray and Green in a precarious position. If, as seems to be the case, the SFA are insisting that Rangers FC should accept any penalty and verdict assessed by the independent commission, and the Board “surrender” then what future would they have?
They would be seen as having betrayed their manager, and bearing in mind the problems they are having with getting fans to buy season tickets already, that could be a further nail in the Sevco coffin, and at the same time Mr McCoist is poised in pole position to remain as figurehead even should Sevco have to sell up.
What Happens Now?
“BBC Scotland understands two obstacles remain before a deal can be agreed.
Rangers want the Scottish Premier League to drop their investigation into dual contracts and the SPL wants the SFL to hand over Rangers’ media rights.
There must be a five-way agreement between the SFA, SPL, Scottish Football League, old Rangers and new Rangers before any deal is ratified.
The SPL want an independent commission to rule on whether Rangers broke the rules during previous campaigns by paying players with so-called side contracts. They are due to hand over their findings to that commission on 10 August.
But Rangers fear an independent commission could strip them of titles and believe they have already been sufficiently punished. It is understood the club will not sign up to the agreement with that threat hanging over them.
However, the SPL are digging their heels in over media rights. They (the SPL) say that without the broadcasting deal in place, they cannot pay the SFL their annual £2m settlement fee that was agreed back in 1999 when the top clubs split from the league to form the SPL.”
Almost universally there is astonishment at the suggestion Rangers FC are refusing to agree to the matter being investigated.
The SFA said at the end of its statement on Friday :-
“The imposition of conditions relating to transfer of membership was made on the basis that the Scottish FA, as the governing body, has an obligation to protect the integrity of the national game and to ensure that all member clubs operate within the Articles of Association.”
Therefore, in a situation where the SFA operates to “protect the integrity of the game” and to ensure that “all clubs operate within the Articles”, the party against whom there is a prima facie case is refusing to agree to there being proceedings!
There is a quick way that Sevco Scotland could have ended this saga – by explicitly stating that “Rangers FC” today was nothing to do with the old Rangers, and did not claim history. To use Mr McCoist’s example, that would make sense from a narrow business sense, but in fact would not even work there, as it would result in huge displeasure amongst Rangers fans, and possibly that would be the final straw for the support.
It makes no sense, nor is it consistent with integrity, to allow the party against whom there is a prima facie case to dictate whether or not it is subject to proceedings.
Why is there talk of a five way agreement? Any dispute over the price of SFL media rights between the SFL and SPL ought not to affect the rights of Rangers FC to play, or not, in SFL3.
What has oldco Rangers got to do with it either? Presumably there was a clause in the agreement selling the assets and business of Rangers obliging the administrators to proceed with a transfer of membership to Sevco.
There is a week to go before Rangers FC plays its first competitive match in the Ramsdens Cup.
As things stand Sevco Scotland Ltd does not have an SFA membership.
It has a wage bill to pay imminently.
Has it paid the insurance premiums for all of the matters required both by law and under rules of football?
What players are going to take the field for them?
With such a short time to go, can it realistically be resolved in that time?
Will we be talking next week about further disciplinary action against Rangers FC, this time for failing to fulfil its fixture?
Posted by Paul McConville