You might recall that I commented on a story on the Rangers website in early January, which was headlined “Rangers Compensation Claim Boost”.
As Rangers .co.uk reported at the time:-
RANGERS have made a successful start to their bid to win compensation for the players who walked out on the club last summer.
The club is chasing Allan McGregor, Kyle Lafferty, Jamie Ness, Stevie Naismith, Steven Whittaker and Sone Aluko for breaching their contracts. Compensation is also being sought from their clubs – Besiktas, Sion, Stoke City, Everton, Norwich City and Hull City.
A meeting took place on Monday at Hampden to discuss jurisdiction on the case and Rangers prevailed.
Chief Executive Charles Green told RangersTV: “From our side it went as well as we could have expected. From the other side I’m sure they will be disappointed. Clearly they wanted they commission to throw it out and rule that the SFA had no jurisdiction because the whole process of the first meeting was about jurisdiction.
“What we stated at the meeting was that newco wants to continue where oldco was. We have this slight anomaly where for a period newco were not members of the SFA from June 14 until being granted membership on August 3.
“It was those technical issues which caused some consternation but I was very encouraged with the meeting. It is still my position that these players breached their contracts and we are going to pursue them. With newco taking over from oldco – and BDO were at the meeting and withdrew from the process – is a fundamental part of it.
“Both parties were asked to go away and discuss various issues. We have been given until January 21 by the chair of the commission to come back to him. In the absence that the parties can’t agree or cannot come up with a view, he will make a judgement.
“Hopefully, though the lawyers, we can come up with an agreement on these issues and at that point then the commission can start taking the thing forward. We are quite a way off from the position we want to achieve in terms of gaining compensation.
Yesterday saw another story on the club website. (To be fair they cannot be accused of “burying bad news”).
This one is more prosaic.
Under the headline “SFA Arbitration Statement” it reads:-
RANGERS Football Club today received notification of the SFA Arbitration Panel’s decision which ruled that the Club did not inherit the right to continue the arbitration process started by oldco.
This was always a possible outcome of what was purely a procedural hearing. Suspecting this would be the outcome, the Club had already filed a further Notice to Refer under SFA Article 99. This was done before the end of last year and that process will now continue.
The Club had argued that since oldco’s registration had been transferred to newco the right to continue the case would also have transferred.
Nothing has been won or lost at this stage and the Club will continue with its action.
From reading what Mr Green had to say early in the month one might have got the impression that the issue of jurisdiction had been resolved in his company’s favour at that stage. Now it appears not to be the case.
It is common for parties to court cases and similar disputes to think the best (or the worst) of the outcome, depending on their psychological makeup. Often these guesses are far off the mark.
Many years ago I represented a client at an appeal before the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. His claim had been rejected and he was challenging it. We attended at the hearing together. At one point one of the Board members popped his head out of the hearing room and asked the clerk to organise their mid-morning tea for five minutes hence. One minute later we were called in. I suspected that the Board did not envisage me being able to say very much! Put it this way – I suspected that we were unlikely to be successful, and so it proved, with the appeal being refused on every one of the six possible grounds for rejection. (To be frank, a victory would have been only losing on four!)
However, as we left the hearing room, my client turned to me and said, “I really thought we were winning that one!”
I commented that sometimes you hit the crossbar and sometimes it goes in.
Maybe Mr Green took a very positive outcome from the hearing, which sadly for him has proved to be less than accurate.
Or else he might have read the signals wrongly …
The story is told of a young lawyer (not me, I hasten to add) sent to a remote Sheriff Court to argue a complex and important case. As he started to make his way through his dense legal submissions, he glanced up at the bench to see the Sheriff winking at him. He took this as a good sign and ploughed on.
Looking up again, he caught another wink from the Sheriff. Believing that he was thus being told that he was on the right lines, he started to skip some of the more tedious sections of his brief. Each time he looked up, the Sheriff would wink in his direction.
Realising he was on a winner, he wound up his two hour submissions in around ten minutes, and returned happy to his Glasgow office to await the Sheriff’s written decision.
A couple of weeks later he was called into his Partner’s office. He could see that his boss had the judgement.
“What happened?” said the man behind the desk.
“I was on the Sheriff’s good side, and he agreed with everything I was saying, so I wound it up quickly so as not to annoy him.”
“And why did you think that?” asked the Partner.
“Because he kept winking at me”, came the reply. By this stage the young lawyer was starting to feel a little anxious.
“Sheriff (name redacted) was not winking at you! He has a twitch! And you lost the case because of what he described as your ‘cursory and unstructured argument, where none of your points were developed to the point of sense’!” bellowed the now angry solicitor.
“Can’t we appeal?” asked the young chap, seeing his great success, of which he had been boasting in the wine bars disappearing.
“On what grounds? That you thought the Sheriff was winking at you!”
Maybe the SFA Panel Chairman was winking at Mr Green during the hearing?
So maybe Mr Green, who is clearly a positive chap, thought that things had gone well, or maybe he picked up the wrong impression?
It would be inappropriate and wrong to speculate that he was trying to place a deliberate “spin” on the hearing for PR purposes, and I will not have that accusation made against him. The statement that Rangers “suspected” this might be the outcome does not accord with what Mr Green had to say. Maybe he was more optimistic than his legal team?
On a serious note, Rule 99 which deals with the SFA resolving disputes between members, players and clubs has been invoked.
However I suspect that there will have been an opinion or two voiced by some Rangers fans that this is simply part of the SFA “vendetta” against the Ibrox outfit.
However it does raise an interesting point in the oldco/newco debate.
If the case is, as it seems to be, a claim by Rangers for compensation from players and clubs for breach of contract, then how was this ever a claim by oldco?
Surely the argument of Mr Green and newco is that, under the TUPE regulations, the players’ contracts passed automatically to newco. What claim therefore would oldco have? The only way in which oldco could have a claim would be if oldco in fact considered that the players had NOT transferred to newco, and thus broke their contracts by signing elsewhere.
If that is the position, then that expressly contradicts Mr Green’s position.
If it was possible for things in this saga to get more confused, then it looks as if they have!
In the same way as it is never over till the fat lady sings, it is never over till the judge issues his decision, winks or not!
Posted by Paul McConville