A few weeks ago a Rangers employee made some ill-judged remarks in a conversation he thought was private, but in fact was with a well-known japester. This resulted in some amused press coverage and a bit of embarrassment for the employer. No regulatory body took action against the employee. He himself threatened legal action against the trickster. However the employee was suspended pending an investigation, and then dismissed without notice for “gross misconduct”.
More recently another Rangers employee made some ill-judged remarks. These were not made to someone drawing out confidences on a false premise. Instead they were made in a newspaper interview. The particular comments have resulted in some rather shocked press coverage, and now in disciplinary action by the regulatory body. It has also resulted, as I will detail below, in very strong words from one of the non-executive directors (effectively the employer’s representative). The employee finally responded with an apology, but only after the external disciplinary processes had started.
As well as that it transpired that the employee in question had been (I am sure for what he perceived as good reasons) far less than candid to his customers and apparently to his employers about dealings with the former owner, Craig Whyte.
So far that employee has not been suspended. Nor is there yet any indication of a formal investigation by his employer. This is despite a charge of bringing the sport of football into disrepute and by implication he has done the same to his employer, as well as having been seen to speak in a disparaging way about one of his key colleagues.
As readers will be aware the first employee, trapped by “Tommy the taxi driver” was Francisco Sandaza, whilst the second was the Rangers CEO, Charles Green.
Double standards at Ibrox?
The Scotsman yesterday had a piece where Walter Smith, former manager and all-round Rangers hero, said his piece about Mr Green’s verbal faux pas. I got the impression from reading the piece that Mr Smith felt rather out of the loop, despite being a director and, as a non-executive, with duties to the company over and above loyalties he might feel towards the CEO.
You can read the full piece here, but I have quoted some extracts below, with my comments beneath. In case anyone missed it, Mr Green referred to his colleague, Imran Ahmad, as his “little Paki friend”.
Walter Smith is quoted saying:-
“They [the comments] don’t sit that well with anyone who has been involved with Rangers over the years.
“You’ve got to remember, Charles has come in, this is his first year.
“He has come from England, where he might feel the situation is bigger and better than it is in Scotland and he has maybe forgotten that, in Scotland, Rangers, Celtic and the national team have massive coverage. In England, it’s mainly regional.
“I’m sure a lot of the statements he has made to the present moment he would far rather have kept to himself. That’s not his type, it doesn’t seem to be the way he goes about things. I’m sure he’ll be far more careful in future.”
He also said that Green’s recent alleged racist comment would be “one of the aspects we would expect to cover” when next the board convened.
Pressed on whether the Whyte revelations might be a resigning issue for Smith, he stressed that he would not be able to answer that question until he had the chance to ask some of his own. With several members of the Ibrox board currently unavailable to meet due to various commitments, Smith hoped they would have the chance to sit down together “shortly”.
Smith added: “You can only do that [scrutinise finances] with the amount of information that’s available to you. Like everybody else, that only became apparent to me a week ago. So for me – like every other person – the information was just thrust upon us a week ago.”
Asked whether Green had told him there was money from Whyte in a Rangers-related account, Smith said “no”. Again pressed about whether he felt he should have been informed of this, given his responsibilities as a non-executive director, Smith replied: “I think he possibly should have done, there’s a case, yes.”
Smith confirmed that he had not yet spoken with Green about it, and would do so at the appropriate time and place. “You have to give us the chance to ask the question. It takes a bit of time. I don’t represent the other directors; I represent myself. We have to be given a bit of time to make sure we ask the right questions and hopefully we can get the right answers.”
Walter Smith is one of the most successful and distinguished men in Scottish football. However he seems, based on the brief comments above, to have a misapprehension about his role as non-executive director. He does not “represent” himself, but instead the shareholders’ interests. (although, to be fair, I could be accused of over analysing his comment.)
It is on one hand good to see that Mr Smith is showing his loyalty to the man who brought him back to his first love in football, but this too, in seeming to try to explain away or excuse Mr Green’s comments, could also be problematic for his role as a director.
After all, if there were to be any disciplinary proceedings regarding Mr Green, it is likely that the non-executive directors would have a role to play, either in that procedure or else in any appeal which followed. Mr Smith, in offering a defence of Mr Green, might have prejudiced his ability to be seen to do his job fairly.
And as a defence it shows how clear Mr Green’s responsibility is. Mr Smith seems to be saying that, in Scotland, people pay attention to what people like Mr Green says. That is not really a defence, but mitigation, and a pretty thin one at that too. I believe that there are people of Asian origin in England, and that issues of racism have been mentioned there very occasionally.
It also seems rather odd, to say the least, that the directors cannot get together to discuss matters of such importance. After all, I understand that there are devices called telephones which permit conference calls, and the internet, as I believe it is called, allows face to face communication across the world via Skype and similar programs.
I suspect that, if the will was there, the directors could arrange to discuss things, even without the necessity of a formal meeting!
Tom English, in yesterday’s Scotsman, declared that, in the interests of Rangers, it was time for Mr Green to go.
As a CEO of a PLC he has responsibilities to his shareholders, his board and his employees. Is he fulfilling them by his behaviour, both as regards his comment on Mr Ahmad and his wider dealings, previously hidden indeed from his Board, it would appear, with Mr Whyte?
Or, in contrasting his treatment with that of Mr Sandaza, do we see proof that the Spaniard’s dismissal was only because it suited Rangers, and not because of the actual merits of his situation?
When comparing the two situations, taking account of what is known publicly, whilst I do not believe that Mr Green’s comment regarding Mr Ahmad deserves dismissal, I do not see how it is less of an offence than that of Mr Sandaza.
The mis-firing footballer however was suspended, underwent a disciplinary process, and was fired.
The loquacious CEO sails on regardless, even though he has the added queries hanging over him regarding Mr Whyte, and I have not even mentioned his car crash interview with STV this week.
Are the wheels coming off the Green wagon?
When Craig Whyte was in charge of the company, he is alleged to have cut out of the loop many of the former decision-makers, and even the directors. Therefore, when he proceeded to stop paying his company’s taxes, there was no one to take him in hand. Bearing in mind that this was a PLC, then corporate governance should have existed in some form or other, but Mr Whyte, as “the boss”, simply ignored that and did what he wanted.
Now Mr Green is in charge as CEO. He has a PLC Board to whom he is answerable, and non-executive directors. But is he not simply following Mr Whyte in his “bull in a china shop” attitude, answerable, in fact to nobody?
In a normal corporate environment this would affect share prices and investor confidence. Might it do the same here? After all, for all of the involvement of supporters in the share issue, the vast majority of the shares are in the hands of people and organisations that are in it for the money, not the love of the game!
Posted by Paul McConville