The CEO of Rangers, Craig Mather, released the following statement yesterday. I thought it was worthy of some comment which might enlighten him.
It is good to see that the recent history of Rangers CEOs talking complete and utter nonsense in an effort to ingratiate themselves with the fans continues. It provides a continuing source of material for me to write about!
Mr Mather has a hard act to follow in that both Mr Whyte and Mr Green were not averse to bunkum and poppycock, but, perhaps with the help of Communications Director James Traynor, Mr Mather has leapt straight into the stratospheric heights of baloney attained by his predecessors.
The statement reads:
RANGERS Football Club notes today’s verdict by the Disciplinary Tribunal who ruled that Hearts cannot register any players over the age of 21 between now and February 1, 2014.
We also recall that Dunfermline were given a similar sanction in May.
But in particular, Rangers are aware of the glaring differences in the sanctions imposed on three clubs who entered administration.
Our club, Rangers, was hit with a £50,000 fine and given a 12 month registration embargo.
While no-one at this Club wishes to see others fall on hard times, questions must be asked about these anomalies and we fully understand the rising anger among our fans.
They are entitled to think there is one rule for our club and another for everyone else.
We will be seeking clarification for our fans.
As I mentioned above, I might be able to assist with clarification for Rangers fans.
Hearts faced a charge of breaching Disciplinary Rule 14(g) by “suffering an insolvency event by entering into administration on 19th June 2013.”
The outcome was that the complaint of breach of Disciplinary Rule 14(g) was admitted.
The sanction imposed? Prohibition up until 1st February 2014 of registration of new players aged 21 and over.
Dunfermline Athletic faced a charge of breaching Disciplinary Rule 14(g) by “suffering an insolvency event by entering into administration on 11th April 2013.”
The outcome was that the complaint of breach of Disciplinary Rule 14(g) was admitted.
The sanction imposed? Prohibition up until 31st December 2013 of registration of new players aged 21 and over.
So why, asks the highly qualified and extremely intelligent CEO of Rangers, was his team treated differently?
I detail why below, but first …
Imagine a person, let us call him Craig, who has been convicted of drunk driving, dangerous driving and speeding at 80mph on the M8. Craig (and this fictitious Craig is NOT a reference to Mr Mather – I am sure he is an excellent driver) is banned from driving for five years, has his car confiscated and is ordered to perform 200 hours of community work as part of a Community Payback Order.
At the same court Vladimir and John are both convicted of doing 80mph on the M8, that being the only charge they each faced. They are both fined £250 and receive 4 penalty points.
Would Craig be entitled to complain that there was one law for him and a different one for everyone else?
Would Craig be justified in demanding clarification of the sentence?
Would Craig have a case for pointing out that the sentences passed on the three fictitious men were “anomalous” and that there were “glaring inconsistencies”?
Of course not. Craig is lucky he is not off to Barlinnie as his offences are far more serious and not remotely comparable.
Maybe the passage of time has meant that people have forgotten what Rangers FC was penalised for last year? If so, I am here to help with a reminder.
I take the following from the decision issued by the SFA Judicial Panel which can be read in full here.
Rangers FC was found “guilty” of the following offences against the SFA and SPL Rules:-
- Rangers FC breached Disciplinary Rule 2 by failing to procure that Mr Craig Whyte acted in accordance with Disciplinary Rule 1 by failing to disclose his disqualification as a Company Director.
- On 14 February 2012 The Rangers Football Club plc entered into Administration pursuant to an order of the Court of Session. This constituted an insolvency event in terms of Disciplinary Rule 14 under reference to Article 15.1(g).
- An allegation was made of a breach of Disciplinary Rule 66 which provides that “No recognised football body, club, official, Team Official, or other member of Team Staff, player, referee, or other person under the jurisdiction of the Scottish FA shall bring the game into disrepute.” The five elements found proven by the Panel were
1 failing to procure the disclosure of his disqualification to the Scottish FA by Mr Craig Whyte.
2 failing to comply with the rules of the PLUS Stock Exchange rules by failing to disclose the disqualification of Mr Craig Whyte.
3 failing to lodge annual accounts by 31 December 2011 in terms of s447 of the Companies Act 2006.
4 failing to hold an annual general meeting by 1 January 2012 in terms of s336 of the Companies Act 2012.
5 non-payment of PAYE income tax, National Insurance Contributions and Value Added Tax to HMRC.
- Rangers FC were found not to have acted in the best interests of Association Football by failing to pay sums due to Dunfermline Athletic in respect of an SPL match on 11th February 2012.
- Rangers failed to pay sums due to Dundee United in respect of a Scottish Cup game, in breach of Disciplinary Rule 325.
- Rangers failed to pay sums due to the SFA in respect of a Scottish Cup game, in breach of Disciplinary Rule 325.
In relation to the disrepute charge, as the Judicial Panel said, “each (of the five elements) taken individually was of such gravity as to substantially lower the reputation of the game. Accordingly on that basis the Tribunal was satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the disciplinary charge of bringing the game into disrepute was proven. The cumulative effect of the five separate bases for such a finding served only to aggravate the breach.”
So were Rangers treated unfairly by comparison with Dunfermline and Hearts?
Those two were guilty of undergoing an insolvency event.
Rangers FC was guilty of:-
- Failing to ensure that its director obeyed the rules
- Undergoing an Insolvency event
- Bringing the game into disrepute under five separate headings, each of which on its own would have been enough for a guilty verdict
- Failing to pay Dunfermline money due to it
- Failing to pay Dundee United money due to it
- Failing to pay the SFA money due to it.
Perhaps that explains the different outcome?
But in case Mr Mather needs more “clarification”, shall we look at what the Judicial Panel had to say about the penalties to be imposed?
The Panel noted, in relation to a financial penalty, that, despite having been given the chance to do so, the lawyers for Rangers produced no information about the club’s finances. As the Panel stated:-
In the absence of accounts or bank information the Tribunal was under a duty to work with what evidence of financial matters it had. In identifying the available evidence the Tribunal was immediately aware that the wages and salaries and other taxes of Rangers FC gave rise to tax payment obligations of between £1,000,000 and £1,200,000 per month, and even the most generous rough calculation might suggest this meant that wages and salaries of twice that sum were paid by Rangers FC each month.
In respect that the maximum fines which could be imposed by the Tribunal were limited to £160,000, which appears but a small fraction of an ordinary month’s expenditure for Rangers FC, it appeared to the Tribunal that the circumstances of Rangers FC were not going to be significantly affected by any fine which the Tribunal could impose.
On any view the matters involved in this case are as serious offences against the ordinary standards of corporate governance as one could imagine. The Tribunal attempted in its exercise of fixing these matters on the scale of offences to identify a more serious offence than those on the complaints, and concluded that only match fixing in its various forms might be a more serious breach. It had no hesitation in concluding that the breaches struck at the heart of good corporate governance and social and financial probity and responsibility.
They brought the game into serious disrepute. As such, they required to be regarded as at the top of the scale of seriousness.
In the case of the non-payment of tax (which was possibly by the smallest margin the most serious breach) the massive extent of the failure and the intentional and calculated manner in which it was carried out aggravated the breach even further.
The failings as regards disclosure of a director’s disqualification struck at fair dealing and the protection of the public from persons who had a history of corporate misbehaviour.
The Tribunal took into account the extraordinary circumstances of the offences and the extent to which Rangers FC through its directors had been apparently misled and deceived by Mr Craig Whyte. Against that it took the view that whatever their position a number of individual directors and employees must have known that what was happening within Rangers FC was entirely wrong and illegitimate but they chose to do nothing to bring it to the attention of the public. That may be matter for their long term reflection but it does reduce the mitigatory impact of the suggestion that Rangers FC were innocent victims.
The Tribunal also took into account Rangers FC had no disciplinary record involving any similar matters. It also took into account the exemplary manner in which Rangers FC had conducted itself at the Disciplinary Hearing and in its related dealings.
Having regard to its view on the undoubted gravity of the breaches, the Tribunal considered whether it should terminate Rangers FC membership of the Scottish FA and concluded that punishment was too severe. It considered whether suspension of membership was a less serious but an appropriately severe punishment, but concluded that too was too severe. Having regard to the circumstances which led to the breaches by Rangers FC and the role of Mr Craig Whyte in their plight as their Chairman and director, it was concluded that a temporary prohibition on registering new players was appropriate. Twelve months was considered an appropriate period.
The Tribunal was dealing with a football club at the top of Scottish football who had a history of signing top flight players, who, logic demanded, commanded commensurate salaries. It appeared to the Tribunal that in a case such as this the punishment should relate in some meaningful way to the unpaid taxes arising from high wages and salaries amongst certain players. It appeared to the Tribunal that a temporary prohibition on registering any new players during a period of twelve months was a suitable, relevant and proportionate sanction. The Tribunal recognised that it would place pressures on Rangers FC and accordingly limited the period and specifically excluded from the prohibition the registration of persons under eighteen.
The Tribunal was of the view that whilst the sanction was severe it was not excessive and that the period covered only two signing windows. It was, of course, unknown what capacity Rangers FC may have during that twelve month period for signing and registering new players in any event. The registration prohibition struck a balance which was relevant to the mischief and proportionate to the breach.
Look at that again:-
- “as serious offences against the ordinary standards of corporate governance as one could imagine”.
- “The Tribunal … concluded that only match fixing in its various forms might be a more serious breach.
- “the breaches struck at the heart of good corporate governance and social and financial probity and responsibility.”
- “They brought the game into serious disrepute. As such, they required to be regarded as at the top of the scale of seriousness.”
- “In the case of the non-payment of tax (which was possibly by the smallest margin the most serious breach) the massive extent of the failure and the intentional and calculated manner in which it was carried out aggravated the breach even further.”
- The Panel considered expelling Rangers FC from Scottish football or suspending its membership, and only just decided those penalties were too severe!
Is Mr Mather (a) unaware of what happened last year; (b) so set on “inspiring” his team’s fans by speaking up for the team, even though he knows very well he is talking rubbish; or (c) stupid?
I am sure it is not answer (c) and I have my doubts that it is answer (a) either.
Posted by Paul McConville
Postscript – I am aware, before anyone rushes to point it out, that the Court of Session ruled that the registration embargo was “illegal”. (Well actually the Court decided that it was ultra vires of the Judicial Panel, which is different from “illegal” but nonetheless a revised embargo was accepted by Mr Green’s Rangers as a condition of membership of the SFA.) However it should be noted that the Court of Session did NOT find that any part of the verdict was wrong – it was only part of the “sentence” which was struck down.