A quick thought.
Have any other Scottish football clubs been involved with EBT schemes?
BBC Scotland Investigates wrote to all of the Scottish Premier League’s member clubs and asked whether they had ever operated an EBT scheme.
Celtic confirmed that it established one EBT scheme in April 2005, which BBC Scotland understands was for the benefit of the Brazilian midfielder Juninho Paulista. The scheme was worth £765,000 but the club did not declare the trust payment to the Scottish Football Association or the Scottish Premier League.
The payments made to the trust were declared in Celtic’s annual report for 2004/2005, but in 2008 the club became aware of an event giving rise to a potential tax liability which was subsequently paid after agreement with HMRC.
The remaining 10 SPL clubs replied and confirmed they had never set up an EBT scheme for any of their employees.
If it is the position that use of an EBT involved payments to a player, undeclared in the contract and therefore against football rules, even if legitimate for tax purposes, then the standard view is that each affected game should result in a 3-0 defeat for the team involved.
As the BBC suggested tonight, 40% of Rangers players from 2001 to 2010 benefited from an EBT. That probably means that every single game played b y Rangers since EBT’s started is affected.
Should Celtic take the moral high ground and, even though Brian Quinn called a halt to the EBT for Juninho at an early stage and accounted to HMRC for relevant tax, put its hands up and admit guilt? (On the hypothesis that the EBT payments for Juninho were not declared to the football authorities.)
In doing so, should Celtic admit that all the matches where Juninho played should be treated as 3-0 wins to the opposition (apart from the game against Rangers, where both teams would have lost 3-0!)?
In that case, if Celtic accepted the blame, my calculations are that the SPL in 2004-2005 would have looked like this.
Aberdeen 64 points
Hibs 63 points
Celtic 54 points
Hearts 53 points
and the bottom
Rangers 0 points.
Celtic should give up the Scottish Cup that year, to Dundee United. Aberdeen would of course be champions, rather than Rangers!
If Celtic took that stance, would that leave Rangers with any argument at all?
It would also leave the SPL and SFA with a problem. If, as some belive, they might seek to make some moral equivalence between Rangers EBT and Celtic’s use of it, a plea of “guilty” by Celtic would head that off. If Celtic accept that they are liable to lose all games 3-0, then Rangers would have to face the same penalties. Except that would result in them losing all trophies over the ten-year period covered.
It would, in my submission, be a moment which might help to clear the fog of mis-trust around Scottish football if a team came out and said that, whilst having no thought at the time that it was wrong, it now accepted that the rules were broken, albeit inadvertently. There was no mens rea, but we are not talking of a criminal offence, rather a football offence.
A football team voluntarily accepting a penalty, rather than dragging out every dispute with lawyers arguing about every dot and comma would be a good thing (In this specific case only, and not to be taken as a general principle!)
And, if it was simply viewed as a tactical step, it would say far more about the attitude of Celtic to a Rangers revival or resurrection than any leaked statement or rumour from the Parkhead boardroom would.
Will it happen? Probably not – it is what Sir Humphrey from “Yes, Minister” would class as a “brave” decision. It might lead to some calls for financial compensation from other clubs, although any claim would be long since time-barred. It would involve a principled stand being taken, which to some jaundiced eyes seems rare in football now.
Came on Mr Bankier and Mr Lawwell, let’s see you on the front steps at Celtic Park saying together “Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!”