Rangers’ Administration – Round Up Part 2 – Disrepute – No Case to Answer? + SPL Inquiry

The SFA, following upon the report compiled by Lord Nimmo Smith, has initiated disciplinary proceedings against RFC and Mr Whyte personally.

The Notices of Complaint run as follows:-

Issued to: Rangers FC
Dates: 6th May 2011 to 6th March 2012
Disciplinary Rule(s) allegedly breached: Rules 1, 2, 14, 66 and 71
Principal Hearing Date: Thursday, 29th March 2012

Issued to: Craig Whyte, Director, Rangers FC
Dates: 6th May 2011 to 6th March 2012
Disciplinary Rule(s) allegedly breached: Rules 66 and 71
Principal Hearing Date: Thursday, 29th March 2012
Rule 1 (b): All members shall:

(b) be subject to and comply with the Articles and any statutes, regulations, directives, codes, decisions and International Match Calendar promulgated by the Board, the Professional Game Board, the Non Professional Game Board, the Judicial Panel, a Committee or sub-committee, FIFA, UEFA or the Court of Arbitration for Sport;

Rule 2: Each member shall procure that its officials, its Team Staff and its players act in accordance with Rule 1.

Rule 14 (g): Full membership or associate membership may be suspended or terminated, or a fine may be issued, in any of the following circumstances:-

(g) where a full member or an associate member suffers or is subject to an insolvency event.

Rule 66: No recognised football body, club, official, Team Official or other member of Team Staff, player, referee, or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall bring the game into disrepute.

Rule 71: A recognised football body, club, official, Team Official, other member of Team Staff, player or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall, at all times, act in the best interests of Association Football and shall not act in any manner which is improper.

———–

As can be seen from the Notice, hearings have been set for 29th March. I suspect that matters would not conclude that day.

The SFA disciplinary processes have been under attack for some time, culminating in Neil Lennon’s consecutive touchline ban being overturned last year after the intervention of the late Paul McBride, QC.

If I was acting for either RFC or Mr Whyte, my first request to the Judicial Panel would be for specification of what my client was actually charged with! The generic “bringing the game into disrepute” charge is generally clearly understood, as is the Scottish “breach of the peace” criminal charge. Usually the disrepute charge follows a specific incident or refers to specific words.

Here it is very different. Frankly I am none the wiser as to precisely what RFC and Mr Whyte are accused of having read the Notice as I was beforehand.

The only specific “offence” charged relates to the Insolvency Event. Other than that, the charges lack any specification at all.

As regards Rule 14 (g) the SFA can terminate or suspend membership, or fine the club. Those penalties seem redundant though. The SPL has already penalised RFC by the 10-point deduction. RFC would have an argument that they are being punished twice, should the SFA take further action regarding the Insolvency Event. A fine being imposed simply adds to the list of creditors. Suspension or termination of membership might effectively shut the club down.

Other than that it is not clear what RFC and Mr Whyte are accused of. Is it delaying telling the authorities about the disqualification?

Is it the delay, apparently occasioned by Collyer Bristow per Mr Withey in answering queries about the disqualification? If so, how can RFC or Mr Whyte be penalised for the actions of their solicitors?

Is it being suggested by the SFA that Mr Whyte was not a “fit and proper person”, and as such RFC is in breach of the rules for allowing him to be Chairman?

After all, as Stewart Regan of the SFA said, the “fit and proper” person was a myth. Therefore the responsibility is Rangers’? Bearing in mind how long it took the SFA to look into the issue, it seems unfair to penalise the club for Mr Whyte’s alleged wrongdoing.

The problem is that we don’t know, and nor apparently do the parties complained of.

Basic principles of fairness require the accused to know what they are accused of! Those principles do not seem to be recognised or applied here.

Whilst Mr Regan has said, in a separate statement,  that the Judicial Panel will look at various areas of potential breach including (but not limited to, one imagines):-

·         Obligations and duties of members

·         Official return

·         Financial records

·         Division of receipts and payment of expenses (Scottish Cup)

Also due to call on 29th March is a separate Notice of Complaint against Rangers in connection with alleged non-payment by Rangers to Dundee Utd of the share of the gate for the Scottish Cup match between the teams. There is a clear statement as to what is alleged to have been the wrongful act.

Match: Rangers v Dundee United – 5th February 2012

Disciplinary Rule(s) allegedly breached:

(1) Disciplinary Rule 325 (By failing to pay Dundee United FC, on the day of the above match, monies due under Rule 46(c)(3) and (e) of the Scottish FA’s Competition Rules; being Dundee United FC’s share of receipts for the above match.)

and

(2) Disciplinary Rule 325 (By failing to pay the Scottish FA, within three days of the above match, monies due under Rule 46(c)(1) of the Scottish FA’s Cup Competition Rules; being the Scottish FA’s levy on admission charges for the above match.)

Principal Hearing Date: Thursday, 29th March 2012

Disciplinary Rule 325: Division of Receipts and Payment of Expenses – Clubs shall observe the terms of Scottish Cup Rule 46.

Cup Competition Rule 46: Division of Receipts and Payment of Expenses

(c) Except when a match is played on a neutral ground, the monies received from all admission charges to a match in any Round other than the Preliminary Round (if applicable), First, Second, Third, Semi-Final and Final Rounds, shall be divided as follows:-

(1) A levy of 5% of the monies received from all admission charges to the match shall be paid to the Scottish FA within three days of the date on which the match is played.

(3) When, after payment of the levy and of the deduction foresaid, half of the remainder of the receipts exceeds the guarantee, the said remainder of the receipts shall be divided, equally, between the two clubs.

(e) The share of the receipts, or the guarantee, shall be paid, in cash, on the day of the match, unless any agreement is made to the contrary.”

————–

Separately there is a Scottish Premier League inquiry into alleged “second contracts” and “illegal payments”. It is highly unlikely that these will make any progress until the outcome of the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) is made known.

Mr Regan commented on that investigation as follows:-

“I would like to clarify the situation relating to possible non-disclosure of payments to players, and in particular the Employee Benefit Trust. Having noted the Scottish Premier League’s intention to investigate this matter, the Board has decided to allow the SPL to complete this process, given our potential status as the appellate body. We retain our position until such time as the SPL’s investigation is concluded.”

I would imagine that the factual findings of the FTT will be adopted, whether pro or anti Rangers, by the SPL. As has been discussed on many occasions here and elsewhere, it is possible that the facts could exonerate RFC in terms of the tax case, but condemn them for SPL purposes. Of course the opposite is possible – a comprehensive victory for HMRC and clearance by the football authorities.

(And before anyone thinks I am pre-judging, it is of course possible that RFC could emerge triumphant from both cases…)

The danger for RFC in respect of the contracts/payments issue is that, traditionally, illegal registrations are treated in draconian fashion throughout world football. Teams have been removed from Cup competitions for playing one incorrectly registered player for just a few minutes. Points have been deducted for simple and slight registration errors.

If RFC is “convicted” in relation to this matter, then as this would date back over a number of years, it would be a very difficult decision for the football authorities. It would actually suit them, to be frank, if RFC was in liquidation by then.

The problematic question for the SPL/SFA then would be whether a “new” Rangers would be punished for the transgressions of the old.

Whilst in terms of company law, a newco could not be saddled with the debts of the old, in football the authorities could make the admission of a newco conditional on accepting penalties, especially if newco wanted to retain the “history” of the oldco.

Therefore, if there is a liquidation, and a newco emerges, the only way to avoid the problems of penalties passing on to the new body would be with a renunciation of oldco’s history.

For the long and medium term too this inquiry is more important than the “disrepute” case. After all, it could involve many people who have been involved with Rangers over the years, some of whom are still keen to play an active part in the game.

This includes Paul Murray, Campbell Ogilvie and Gordon Smith, and many more.

Even if Rangers were able to prove that they acted at all times “in good faith”, if convicted on the contracts/payments issue, substantial penalties would be inevitable.

Posted by Paul McConville

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Administration, Craig Whyte's Companies, Football, Rangers, SFA, SPL

8 responses to “Rangers’ Administration – Round Up Part 2 – Disrepute – No Case to Answer? + SPL Inquiry

  1. Geoff

    Paul – could you summarise for me why the dates are only from 6 May 2011?

    Are the EBTs not being investigated, no wrong doing was found, or are there other investigations ongoing that have still to be finalised/reported on?

    Surely other/same rules have been broken for a much longer period of time so why the limited scope of the current results.

  2. DAVAD00

    Thanks for the effort Paul…the usual informative read. Separates the facts from the ‘other stuff’. The legal facts make lurking worthwhile.

  3. Terry ONeill

    Paul I fail to see why the spl have to wait for the result of the FTT .

    The existence of ebt’s is not up for debate the question as far as spl/sfa compliance is simple were these additional payments included in the players contract ?

  4. dougie

    paul what if hearts were to claim that the money owed to them for lee wallace had a realistic chance of making them insolvent if it wasnt paid ,could the spl/sfa not suspend rangers then ? just something that crossed my mind reading the charges against them

  5. I know your no fan of brevity, but posting the whole thing twice is pushing it.

  6. joe

    I smell burning, is someone’s pants on fire??????????

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