Daniel Cousin has become a metaphor for what seems to be a remarkably ham-fisted first week of Rangers’ administration. In only a couple of weeks he has gone from the man whom some Rangers fans thought would save their season to being a symbol of the confusion now reigning at Ibrox.
What has happened, and why?
The only sensible explanation for the events of last week about Mr Cousin is, as I spell out below, that he was paid his wages for the rest of the season “up front” prior to the administrators coming in, and that Rangers did not manage to get him signed and registered because administration came upon them on Tuesday, almost two weeks before their planned date.
Read on, and see if you agree.
Daniel Cousin’s Previous Time at Rangers
Cousin is a Gabonese international striker, who had a successful season at Ibrox in 2007-2008. Having been bought by Rangers for a reported fee of £750,000, his value increased though his first few months with the team, until he was sold to Fulham for £3 million in the winter transfer window. However, as a result of him already having played for two teams that season, he needed FIFA dispensation for the transfer to go through, and when this was refused, he returned to Ibrox.
It is ironic that having, on that occasion, remained a Rangers player through intervention by the football regulators, he is now barred from playing for Rangers by the football regulators!
He finally left for Hull at the end of the summer 2008 transfer window.
The Hero Returns, or Does He?
We now fast-forward to this year where, after being released by his club side on 31st January 2012, Cousin became a free agent. As Rangers forward line had been badly affected by injury and the transfer of Jelavic to Everton, good front men were very valuable to Rangers.
On 11th February the BBC reported that Cousin had agreed personal terms and was headed to Ibrox to sign. His agent, Willie McKay, was quoted by the BBC describing the deal:-
He said that Championship clubs in England and others in Qatar and Dubai were also interested in Cousin, but the striker’s preference was to rejoin Rangers.
“He can go elsewhere for three times the money, but he fancied having Rangers Football Club back on his CV in probably his last season in football,” said McKay.
“The boy is happy to come back, but they have offered him 25% of what he was on in his last contract at Ibrox. They offered £7,500 then they came back and said ‘we’ll give you five grand a week’. It’s only 10 weeks.”
Ally McCoist was quoted in the same piece saying that he had not yet registered as paperwork from the Gabon FA was awaited.
As we know, 13th February saw the intention to appoint an administrator signalled to the court, and on 14th February, administrators were installed.
Mr Cousin seemed to be in limbo.
The SPL Board Refuses to Register Cousin
On Friday 17th February, the SPL issued the following Press Statement:–
“The SPL was at 3.26pm today presented with a contract between Daniel Cousin (“the Player”) and Rangers FC dated 17 February 2012, signed by the Player and by Paul Clark, the Joint Administrator of The Rangers Football Club plc (in Administration). In terms of SPL Rule A6.20, the consent of the Board of the SPL was required for the Registration of the Player with the SPL. The Board of the SPL declined to give that consent. Accordingly the Player is not Registered with the SPL and is not eligible to Play in SPL Matches. Rangers FC have the right to appeal this decision to the Judicial Panel of the Scottish FA.
A6.20 Except with the consent of the Board and that only where (i) the term of a Player’s contract of service with his Club has expired and such contract has not been renewed or extended or such a contract has terminated with the mutual consent in writing of the Club and the Player concerned and, in either case, the registration of such Player with the League in terms of Section D of the Rules has been cancelled and a replacement Player is sought to be registered to replace the Player whose contract has so expired or been terminated; or, (ii) where the Player sought to be registered is a temporary replacement for a goalkeeper who is unable by reason of injury or illness to play and that only where written confirmation of such inability shall have been obtained by the Club from a qualified medical practitioner and submitted to the Board and the Board is satisfied that the Club concerned has no other goalkeeper who is registered and able to play, a Club that has taken, suffered or has been subject to an Insolvency Event or Events shall not be entitled or permitted to register any Player with the League and the League shall not register such a Player in terms of Section D of the Rules until such Insolvency Event or events shall no longer continue or subsist.”
The administrator has announced the intention to appeal this decision.
We shall look at that decision first, and then at the implications of the surrounding circumstances.
Can a Club in Administration Register New Players?
As we see from Rule A6.20, a Club in administration (being an Insolvency Event as per the Rules) cannot register new players unless with the consent of the SPL Board. There are two cases where the Board can consider such an application by a Club where there has been an Insolvency Event: (a) where the new player is to replace a player whose contract has been terminated by mutual consent, or which has come to its end and (b) where a temporary replacement for an injured goalkeeper is needed.
The former covers the situation where an administrator might agree with a number of highly paid players that their contracts are at an end, but the team still needs players (presumably cheaper) to play the games.
Other than those situations, a club in administration etc cannot register new players. The SPL Board authority to permit such registrations only extends to those two cases.
Was the attempt to register Daniel Cousin therefore done on the basis that he was replacing Jelavic? Did the administrator read the rules before applying?
If Rangers did not mention that Cousin was a replacement for Jelavic, but do so in their appeal, then it is possible that they would be successful. However, I cannot imagine that the SPL Board, in the interests of fair play, would allow an administrator to register a player on a £7,500 or £5,000 per week contract when many other SPL teams not in administration could not afford that!
This leads me to my wider point.
What Actually Happened?
The administrators’ primary role is to run the club with a view to rescuing it as a going concern, failing which to be able to generate as much as possible to pay off creditors. The duty is NOT to the Club.
However, as long as there are funds, the administrators can spend money, if it is in pursuit of their statutory goals, and if expenditure might bring more money back.
For example, Rangers may well have paid out the cost of policing the match yesterday in advance, knowing that failure to do so would have led to the game being cancelled, and therefore they expenditure permits larger income.
Why would an administrator want to register a player on a contract paying at least £5,000 per week? Surely there are cheaper free agents available?
I think, and this is speculation, but the time line makes sense, that what happened was this.
1 Cousin’s agent is contacted about coming to Rangers. An agreement is reached for a wage of at least £5,000 per week until the end of the season (10 weeks at £5,000 = £50,000).
2 Willie McKay is a very astute agent who will not act contrary to his client’s interests. Therefore he would not have signed his client up to a deal where (a) there was doubt about his being paid and (b) where, if Cousin had played for Rangers, and then the club folded, he would have had problems signing for someone else under the “more than two clubs in a season” rule.
3 How would Mr McKay have protected his client’s interests as he knows that being a creditor of Rangers is a worthless position if there is an Insolvency Event?
4 Craig Whyte and Rangers know that bringing back Cousin is a popular move with the fans, a reminder of happier times. It would take some of the heat off them for selling Jelavic without a replacement and indeed might be seen as good business as no transfer fee needed to be paid.
5 Mr McKay wants his client’s position guaranteed. A promise by Rangers to pay could be worthless. The one way to guarantee his client’s pay (and indeed his own) would be to be paid up front.
6 Rangers agree therefore to send Mr Cousin £50,000 or thereby to sign him until the end of the season, planning to meet with him and put pen to paper during the week just passed.
7 On Monday the SPL website reported Rangers’ announcement that Cousin had signed, subject to international clearance.
8 On Tuesday, after the HMRC dash to the Court of Session, administrators were appointed, triggering the Rule A6.20 restrictions.
9 By this stage Cousin was not registered, and it appears that a valid contract had not been signed. In that case (and even if a valid contract had been completed) the administrator could have told Cousin to head back home as they were not taking him on.
10 Instead, on 17th February, as noted above, the SPL was resented with a contract signed by Cousin and the administrator.
11 That can only, in my view, make sense if the administrator knows that the signing will cost Rangers Football Club PLC (in administration) nothing, because the player has already been paid in full!
In that event it would be wasteful of the administrator not to try to register Mr Cousin, as he effectively will play for the administrators for free.
If the player’s contract was conditional upon being registered, as I imagine must be standard practice, then the refusal of the SPL to do so would have allowed the contract to be torn up anyway. The only reason I can contemplate for the present position is therefore that, as the preparations for Monday’s announcement were being made, £50,000 or thereby left Ibrox for Mr Cousin’s account. The contract and subsequent registration application were caught up in Tuesday’s drama, and the administrators are trying simply to make the most of a bad job.
Any other explanation for their conduct would, I suspect, lead to Lord Menzies asking the some very serious questions.
As I said at the start, this whole mess is, in a nutshell, a sign of how the Craig Whyte administration operated. Last minute dashed with forms and money – moves made for PR purposes – failure to get the formalities right.
If my understanding of the position is correct, then there is a good chance that he will be registered as a Rangers player, but will there actually be any more Rangers games for him to play in?