Chris McLaughlin is the BBC Scotland Senior Football Reporter. This piece is not intended to be critical only of him, but of the wider issues known by the phrase “succulent lamb”.
It seems that the media are still willing to churn out stories about the Rangers Football Club, apparently without any checks at all as to whether the story makes any sense.
We can treat the following story from the BBC website yesterday as a case study.
The headline is “Rangers: Newcastle’s Mike Ashley ready to buy Ibrox share”.
The article itself reads, in part as follows:-
“Rangers will be able to borrow as many as nine Newcastle players in a deal that will see Magpies owner Mike Ashley buy a share in the Ibrox club.
The Scottish FA is set ratify the move on the condition Ashley owns no more than 10% of Rangers and has no personal role in running the club.
Ashley’s Sports Direct firm will then take over Rangers’ replica kit merchandising operation.
Negotiations are under way with JJB Sports to end their retailing contract.
JJB Sports and Rangers entered a 10-year merchandising contract in 2006, when the Glasgow club received an initial payment of £18m with a guaranteed minimum annual royalty of £3m.
Any Newcastle players switching to Rangers on loan would need to do so before the end of this month, when a year-long signing embargo comes into place for the Scottish Division Three club.”
Now, what could be wrong with that? One of the most powerful men in English football is prepared to come to the aid of the stricken Glasgow giant, to make an investment, to create commercial tie-ins and to provide them with players. As Mr McCoist has said, he is dreadfully short of players just now.
The Rangers FC Playing Squad
After all, as I pointed out yesterday, of the 16 players kitted out for the Peterhead match, only nine of them were full internationals, one had played at B international level, and two more had under-age caps. Four of the sixteen-man squad had never played an international match of any type!
Let’s ignore the fact that only two of the Peterhead squad had done so, for a combined total of five full, under 21 and under 20 appearances.
Clearly Mr McCoist feels that this squad, plus the seven other players listed on the official website as first team players, but who were not a part of the sixteen man group dressed to play at Peterhead, is not enough in terms of numbers and quality to cope with the rigours of this season in SFL3 and, one assumes, the period till January 2014 when the registration embargo comes to a close.
Mr McLaughlin’s piece does not include any quotes from Mr McCoist about the size of his squad, but I have seen little or no sign of any journalist questioning the view from Ibrox that the Rangers FC has been left bereft of players, with them being one injury away from Messrs McDowall, McCoist and possibly Mr Green having to don a strip to make up the numbers.
“Rangers will be able to borrow up to nine Newcastle players”
I will preface my comments here by saying that I am relying on the version of the SFL Rules available online, and it is possible that the relevant rule has been altered, perhaps at the SFL AGM in May 2012. I have seen no reference to such an alteration, but if it has, then I am sure the helpful lady at the SFL will let me know.
The relevant rules on “loans” or “temporary transfers” are as follows:-
“123.2 Temporary transfers of registration for players on loan from one club to another shall be subject to the following terms and conditions:
123.2.1 Temporary transfers shall not be permitted after the last day of January in each year.
123.2.4 Temporary transfers will only be for a defined period and subject to the condition of such transfer having the player’s consent, prior to the registration of such transfer with the League.
123.2.5 The Board shall not during a season approve more than four temporary transfers to any one club at any one time. Of these, no more than one such transfer at any one time shall involve a player who has reached the age of 21 years on 1st January of the appropriate year. The maximum number of temporary transfers allowed to any club in a season shall not exceed five, of which not more than two shall involve players who have reached the age of 21 years on 1st January of the appropriate year.
123.2.6 Temporary transfers will be for the full period from one Registration Window until up to and including the day prior to the commencement of the next Registration Window except in the case of a goalkeeper, whose agreement may contain a recall clause which may only be implemented in exceptional circumstances, and with the approval of the Board.
123.2.12 The Board shall determine the Rules concerning Emergency Temporary Transfers from time to time.”
Rule 123.2.5 seems important here. The power rests with the SFL Board. The rules permit no more than four loans at any one time. Of the four, only one can be of a player aged 21 or older.
In a season, the most loans a team can have is five.
The Rangers FC cannot register new players after the end of the present transfer window.
How therefore will they register “up to nine” players in the remaining period?
Rule 123.2.12 gives the SFL Board the right to make up the rules for “emergency temporary transfers” as it goes along. Is it an emergency where the reason their member is limited, as it claims, in the players it can sign is as a result of disciplinary measures?
If the SFL Board agrees to allow the Rangers FC to sign nine players on loan from an English Premier League club, how is that fair to the rest of the teams in SFL3?
“The SFA is set to Ratify the Move”
Presumably the move for Mr Ashley to acquire a shareholding in Rangers is what is being “ratified” by the SFA. After all, it is the SFL which deals with loans to SFL clubs.
Is it Mr Ashley who is buying the shares personally? Is it Sports Direct? Is it Newcastle United? Is it a holding company, parent company or newly formed subsidiary company?
In the spirit of clarity and transparency, perhaps we should be told. Maybe Mr Ashley’s sources refused to tell Mr McLaughlin, as I am sure he would have asked.
Rule 13.6 tells the SFA Board what it is to take into account in deciding whether or not to permit the rule against dual interests in clubs to be broken.
“In considering whether to give any such consent as may be required by this Article 13, the Board shall have regard to the need to promote and safeguard the interests and public profile of Association Football, its players, spectators and others concerned with the game and shall have regard also to these Articles, the rules and regulations of the Scottish FA and to the constitution and rules of those bodies of which the Scottish FA is in membership and, accordingly, any such consent shall be subject to such conditions as the Board shall consider appropriate in all the circumstances.”
Does permitting Mr Ashley to have a role in the Rangers FC “promote and safeguard the interests and public profile of Association Football, its players, spectators and others concerned with the game”? Or does it simply promote the business interests of both parties?
Has the SFA Board granted written permission prior to the transfer of shares?
Under Rule 21 of the SFL Rules, the SFL Board too needs to consent to a “dual interest”. Has that permission been sought and granted?
“Negotiations are under way with JJB Sports to end their retailing contract.”
JJB had a contract with the Rangers Football Club PLC (in administration) now RFC 2012 PLC (still in administration).
There are three main possibilities regarding the contract when all the assets and business of Rangers was sold to Sevco Scotland.
1 Sevco Scotland Ltd agreed to continue the JJB contract on the same terms as those in place between JJB and Rangers FC PLC.
2 Sevco Scotland agreed to conti9nue a business relationship with JJB but on new terms to be agreed.
3 Sevco Scotland pointed out to JJB that the party with which it had contracted was on its way to liquidation and that Sevco Scotland had nothing to do with JJB and it could sell Rangers FC jerseys and merchandise to anyone it wanted, and the only party against whom JJB had a remedy was RFC PLC (in administration).
Maybe this is in fact an example of Mr Green doing “the right thing” by trying to reach a financial accommodation with a creditor. It couldn’t be the case, could it, that Sevco Scotland agreed to take on the contract after their purchase and are now trying to get out of it as a result of Mr Ashley’s interest? That would be bad business indeed.
Sadly the BBC piece fails to mention what “contract” Rangers FC are trying to end with JJB.
As I said, I do not intend this piece to be a slight to Mr McLaughlin personally but rather as a critique of the unquestioning press coverage which has bedevilled this saga since long before the name “Craig Whyte” was ever mentioned at Ibrox.
The Rangers FC still retains the remarkable ability to have stories which, after a few minutes checking seem highly dubious at best, accepted and published with no questions asked.
Till that situation changes, there will still be scepticism about the bona fides of much of the press, and whether those doubts are well founded or not is not the issue. Does it matter if the media are incompetent, corrupt or, as I have heard from people in journalism, so pressed for time and to produce stories that it cannot research possible articles but forced into “churnalism”?
I do not believe that the media in Scotland is incompetent or corrupt. However it is clear that, when dealing with the national game, the standards of the product still leave a lot to be desired .
Posted by Paul McConville