Just in time for whatever new stories come from the Sunday papers, I can catch up with a couple of loose ends from Friday.
(Sunday Morning Edit – on the basis that the Sunday papers appear to have nothing else in them other than Rangers, I will follow the new developments up later – but I have typed this stuff, so it’s going in!)
Mr Whyte and the BBC
First of all, I noted a tweet from Chris McLaughlin of the BBC which quoted Craig Whyte. Could Mr Whyte have been speaking to the BBC?
If so, and if he regains control of Rangers from the administrators, then he will have to fire himself, as per his pledge in October to the BBC!
And talking of the BBC, it has now been confirmed that a writ has been served on it at the instance of Mr Whyte. It seems that the court action is against both the BBC and Robert Burns, Head of Investigations at the Insolvency Service.
I confidently predicted that this court action would never see the light of day. As is often the case, I was wrong!
Formal confirmation as to whether the action has been raised in England or Scotland is awaited. As I have said many times, any action should be raised in England as the financial pressures on the defender to settle are so much higher, and the “no win, no fee” provisions so much more favourable for claimants.
Now that an action has been raised, all I can say is that I am even more astonished.
There are two essential elements in a damages claim, whether for injury to person, reputation or business. There must be a legal wrong committed against the claimant and there must be injury.
In a defamation or libel case, the injury relates to damage to reputation. Has the repute of the person been lowered amongst right thinking people?
When Lord Archer, for example, was at the height of his fame and political prominence, the media was afraid to write about him in a less than positive fashion. He was known to be litigious, and had won a huge award from the Daily Star for libel in 1987. Lord Archer was a prominent and powerful man whose reputation, despite being chipped away at round the edges by Michael Crick and by Private Eye, was still very high.
However, once he was convicted in 2003 of perjury and perverting the course of justice, and gaoled for four years, things changed. The media could effectively write anything it wanted about Lord Archer because his reputation could hardly be lower. If he sued and won in a libel case, the defence would ask the jury to consider how much the reputation of a convicted perjurer was worth. It remains possible for a jury in such a case to find that a person has been libelled, and to award one penny by way of damages.
In October 2011, when the BBC programme was published, Mr Whyte’s reputation was still high. His team had won the league, and despite a looming tax decision, which was nothing to do with him (as far as causing it was concerned) and a couple of trivial disputes with lawyers and ex-employees, he would have been seen as a fine and upstanding member of Scottish society.
We move forward a mere four months and matters are so different.
Mr Whyte has been condemned by a Sheriff for giving evidence described as “wholly unreliable”. His company has been forced into administration. It appears that, since taking over less than one year ago, a further £15 million in outstanding tax liabilities has been accrued. He has been seen either to have been incorrect in statements he has made, or else has said things which turn out to be the opposite of the truth. He has been revealed as being listed under different names in the Companies House Register, and with differing dates of birth.
It is not easy to think of someone whose reputation in Scotland is now so poor.
Ands yet it is at this time that he raises court proceedings?
One wonders if, like the late Robert Maxwell, Mr Whyte viewed the court action as a way of gagging the media. If he did, he has found out that he required a much bigger gag, and many more of them!
Will this claim ever get to court for a full hearing? I don’t think so. He must be funding it privately (there is no way he can go with a no win, no fee deal here) and these cases are very expensive.
It would not surprise me if, in a few months, there is quiet word that the action has been dropped.
As I have said before, I did not see Mr Whyte winning. Now even if he wins, he will lose!
Duff and Phelps – Friday 24th February
David Whitehouse, joint administrator, said: “We have had a number of constructive and positive meetings with Strathclyde Police and we can assure fans that matches will continue to be played at Ibrox. Agreements have been reached regarding policing games at Ibrox and payment arrangements have been put in place.
It was reported that, as well as payment for last weekend’s game being late, Rangers owed Strathclyde Police around £50,000. Has this been paid by the administrators? Did the Chief Constable wonder about D&P almost boasting about having met payroll in full at the same time as not paying for the police presence to keep order?
Bearing in mind that the administrators do have access to funds, I expect that the outstanding bill has been paid, and that D&P have guaranteed the future payments to the police. Therefore, even if there are insufficient funds in Rangers to pay the police, D&P would need to settle the bill with the Bill.
D&P are in this role to make a profit, which is entirely legitimate.
Accepting personal liability for debts because there are insufficient funds in the company is not a long-term strategy for an administrator.
“We would like to thank Strathclyde Police for its continued assistance and co-operation. Matches will be played at Ibrox for the rest of the season so we urge all fans to keep coming along and continue their tremendous support for the Club at this difficult time.”
Yet again confirmation that the administrators plan to keep going to season’s end. How is this being funded?
Although there are still six weeks to go before D&P are required to make their proposals, they must by now have a good idea as to how they are to achieve their statutory goals, or if these are unattainable.
With every day which passes, it looks as if settling the secured creditor might be the only target achievable, and that depends on the validity of the floating charge and of any assignations, transfers or revisals thereto.
The SPL Investigation Into Singing at the Rangers v Kilmarnock Game
Following reports that the SPL is investigating Rangers regarding the behaviour of some fans at the Rangers v Kilmarnock match at Ibrox on 18th February, David Martin, Head of Safety and Security at Rangers Football Club issued a statement:
“We are disappointed the Club is now the subject of an investigation by the SPL regarding the behaviour of some fans at the match against Kilmarnock on Saturday.
“Our fans have made tremendous progress in eradicating offensive singing over the last few seasons and this has been widely acknowledged by members of the Joint Action Group set up by the Scottish Government last year, politicians and the police, to name a few.
“Last Saturday’s match was one of high emotion following an extremely difficult week for the Club and the fans representatives themselves approached the Club prior to Saturday’s match highlighting the raw emotion anticipated at the game on Saturday, the variety of protests being considered and their concern that many people attending may not have been to Ibrox for some time.
“The Club held a number of meetings and conversations with the football authorities, police and administrators prior to the match and everyone agreed that the priority on Saturday was to ensure there was no disorder around the match due to the highly charged atmosphere that was anticipated.
“This was achieved before, during and after the match with 50,000 fans safely attending the game.
“To be clear, I am not saying there was an excuse for any offensive behaviour but, overall, the fans gave very positive support to the team and this should not be overlooked.
“The Club has been consistent in its condemnation of such behaviour over many years and we are working with Strathclyde Police to identify individuals whom we know were engaged in offensive behaviour around the ground and we will take swift action against them, as we always do.
“No one is more disappointed than the fans themselves that some people’s behaviour seems to have marred the tremendous support of the fans last Saturday.”
I think Mr Martin deserves praise for what is a dignified response to an undignified situation. He does not attempt to deny there was a problem. Indeed, he quite clearly accepts that there was one.
The primary goal of preventing disorder, as opposed to “illicit” singing, was achieved.
The tactic described by him of the police taking action post-match is one which was identified by Assistant Chief Constable Corrigan at the Justice Committee last year as being better for the sake of escalating problems in the ground during a match.
Whereas under Mr Whyte the attitude seemed to be (a) Rangers fans had done nothing wrong (b) why can’t we sing our old songs anyway and (c) other people sing offensive songs too, this response by Mr Martin can only be seen as positive, and will be repeated, I am sure, by Rangers prior to any more home games they manage to play.
As D&P have asked for a full house for future games, there is clearly a danger of some groups performing the songs which the club has made clear are not acceptable.
It does appear that they are trying to do something to stop it.
Credit where credit is due, especially as Mr Martin’s post, like that of everyone at Ibrox, is under imminent threat.
Lots of news today – I plan to post more later today.
I suspect the Sun story today, being apparent proof of the “second contract” speculation, will turn out to be more significant for Scottish football than anything involving Mr Whyte.
And finally, if anyone wants to chip in with pieces for the blog, please feel free to click on the link in the heading.