On Friday night I had the pleasure of being on a panel witrh Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and Paul Brennan, answering questions from the audience at a charity event at the Blantyre Columba Club.
Last year I took part in two such sessions there – one of which also had the great Archie MacPherson on the panel as well.
It was a full house, and raised over £2,000 for the Columba Club’s charitable activities. The event was a credit to Phil Agnew who organised it, and to John Fallon, the former Celtic goalie, who runs the Club so well. And after the variety of issues we discussed, there was even a comedian, the excellent Pat Rolink, to leave the audience splitting their sides with laughter.
I have seen mentions before the event which grossly misrepresent the nature of the evening, and what would be discussed at it.
To show the range of issues which were raised by the audience, I took note of what the questions were and I have summarised them below in this post, and in one or two to follow. (By the time you get to the end of this post, you will see that I have dealt with 4 of the 26 questions – so it might be more than two additional posts to come!)
Was there a lot of interest in “Rangers”, “Rangers Lite” or even “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rangers”? Yes. Of course there was.
Imagine the roles were reversed and it was Celtic undergoing such an experience. Would gatherings at Rangers-supporting clubs include discussion about what was going on at their main rival? Of course.
But there was lots of discussion of things which were more generally related to Scottish football as a whole, and indeed there were questions specifically about Celtic too!
What I can say is that the focus was very much on the state of Scottish football. Whilst there was discussion about Rangers and some of its present issues, the wider focus was on the present and future of Scottish football, which included reference to how the football authorities have handled the Rangers issues and whether this gives any confidence that the issues will be resolved in the future.
So, as a public information service for those who could not be there, or who were there for only part of the evening, I have summarised the questions below, with a brief note of the answers (what I think the answers are, rather than, necessarily, what was said on the night) or some comment on the question added.
It was a pleasure, I must say, to share the stage with Paul and Phil. I hope that we managed to provide the audience with a wide range of views, coming from our own perspectives and our own individual specialities.
The questions are below, with answers/comments in bold beneath each. As you will know, I have answered some of the questions here on the blog already, in which case I do not plan to repeat the answer in full. I should also say that the answers I am noting below will predominantly, but not exclusively, be mine. If I manage to misunderstand a response from one of the other panelists, then that is entirely my responsibility, and not theirs.
The night started off on an interesting note when Paul Brennan’s arrival was delayed by his being caught behind an Orange Walk as he made his way to the venue. However this turned out to be unconnected with our session, although I suspect Paul might have wondered if this was sceptical audience members making their way to the Club!
1 Who owns “Rangers”? (Otherwise known as the “Which Sevco” Question)
As I said, it is an easy question, but a complicated answer! Put very, very simply Ibrox and Murray Park are owned by Sevco Scotland Ltd, which is now The Rangers Football Club Ltd. That company is wholly owned by Rangers International Football Club PLC. Might litigation change this? Yes. But for now possession remains nine tenths of the law!
2 Should Celtic’s season tickets sales move to the European model?
As Paul and Phil explained, European teams can manage to sell tickets are much lower prices as generally they have far better TV deals than Scotland. But supply and demand necessitates that prices need to adjust due to circumstances. In addition there is the intangible factor of having a full stadium. If higher prices meant that more money came in, even with lots of empty seats, how does that affect the morale and performance of the team? It also affects, in a very tangible way, the income from catering etc on match days.
Looking at supply and demand, English teams have the highest season ticket prices in Europe. They also have the most lucrative TV deals. If people stop coming to Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge, then prices will have to drop.
3 Are Rangers breaching advertising rules if it is NOT the same entity?
This question by implication raised the “newco = new club” question. I plan a brief (ha) post about that and about the implications of the official Rangers position on it.
We know that a complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority about some of Rangers’ advertising. The ASA deals regularly with complaints relating to matters of opinion. The old mantra of “Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful” is key here.
Until there is a definitive declaration by a body with authority to do so that Rangers is NOT the old club continuing, then it would be legitimate to claim its history.
4 Are the rules of the Scottish football authorities fit for purpose, regarding the “fit and proper” test, club memberships and player registrations?
It is clear that they are most definitely not clear!
As Rod McKenzie of Harper MacLeod found out at the Nimmo Smith Commission, the view which he was putting across on registration rules turned out, to most people’s surprise, to be at variance from the view of the SFA, or at least of the SFA’s Registration Officer, Sandy Bryson. We were reminded, by the way, that Mr Bryson worked at the SFA at the time of the Jorge Cadete registration fiasco, which saw the departure of Jim Farry. It was alleged that Mr Bryson had been involved in the Cadete process (although no suggestion of impropriety was laid against him). That was probably the last time when the fine print of SFA registration rules made headline news.
As I have written often, the “fit and proper” person test is, as Stewart Regan said, a myth. It is a box-ticking exercise, dependent on self-reporting. The fact that Dave King was deemed fit and proper for the ten years during which he was under investigation and involved in court action concerning allegations of evading billions of rand in South African tax, including a court attendance where he was deemed by a judge to be a “glib and shameless liar”, seems ridiculous. That (my comment about the ten years, rather than the judge’s statement) is NOT a judgement on Mr King, but rather upon the apparent failure of the Scottish football authorities to consider the question in light of those circumstances.
Membership rules are opaque, at best. The SFA created a “conditional” membership to allow Rangers to play its first game this season. There seemed no basis in the rules for them doing so, but they did.
The requirements for a team to be allowed to play football also seem to be flexible, and the continued failure to produce the 5-way agreement gives observers little confidence that the authorities will deal with this matter in an open way.
More to follow…soon…here…
Posted by Paul McConville