The SFA has responded to the demands by Mr Mather and Mr McCoist for an explanation of the “anomalies” regarding the penalties for going into administration. The full statement can be read here.
The response seems to be a pro-active reply to the criticism and frankly is a damning critique of what the Rangers CEO and manager had said.
In fact it is so thorough, I could have written it!
The statement is below and I offer a few comments which are in bold.
In response to the recent public comments from Rangers FC, and in particular Craig Mather and Ally McCoist, the Scottish FA offers the clarification requested with regard to Insolvency Rules under the Judicial Panel Protocol.
As yet the Scottish FA has not received a formal, written request for clarification by Rangers.
So after all of the noise generated by Messrs Mather and McCoist, which resulted in a great outpouring of delight amongst online Rangers fans seeing their team “stand up to” the evil SFA, the Ibrox outfit had not actually managed to write, or email, or fax the SFA asking for an explanation.
It looks as if Mr Mather has been taken aback by the response on the basis that I am sure did not expect a reply!
Notwithstanding the fact that a full note of reasons was published by the Judicial Panel Chair, Gary Allan QC, at the time of the determination – disseminated to the club directly, and to the public via the media – we are happy to reiterate the salient points in the interests of clarity and transparency:
Clarity and transparency? Do you think someone at the SFA is having a chuckle (no pun intended) at Rangers?
• The Disciplinary Rules of the Judicial Panel Protocol provide a sliding scale of sanctions, with a suggested tariff of low-end, mid-range, top-end and maximum. This reflects the potential variations in seriousness of any breaches and any aggravating or mitigating factors.
• Rangers were fined £50,000 for a breach of Rule 14(g) based on the panel’s view that the evidence presented on both sides merited a sanction at the maximum end of the tariff. This was evidenced in the Note of Reasons:
Page 30 – “At the time of the first withheld payment in September 2011 Rangers FC’s financial situation was such that it could have made the payment due to HMRC.”
Page 33 – “The non-payment was a deliberate act in furtherance of a decision of the Chairman and director of Rangers FC not to make payment as a negotiating tactic in the resolution of ‘the Big Tax Case’.”
Page 56 – “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”.
So the non-payment was deemed to have been wilful, rather than forced by circumstances. In fact the Panel found that the non-payment was deliberate!
• Rangers were placed into administration following the deliberate non-payment of social taxes, despite – in the evidence provided – having the money to do so when the decision was first taken to withhold the money. This was not a feature in the Heart of Midlothian or Dunfermline Athletic cases.
That looks like a difference, doesn’t it? However it is possible that Mr Mather did not know about the distinctions – after all, he is only the CEO of one of the teams and was accusing the governing body of playing unfairly with his team.
• Contrary to Mr Mather’s statement, Rangers’ registration embargo was applied in a separate rule breach, Rule 66 – Bringing the Game into Disrepute.
• The administrators in the two other cases (Heart of Midlothian and Dunfermline Athletic) submitted that fines would be inappropriate as the clubs effectively had no money and any fine could jeopardise attempts to save the club. They made submissions on their clubs’ financial position to reinforce their view.
• Rangers’ lawyer, in contrast, specifically asked for the club to be fined in respect of Charge 3, or Rule 14(g). He did not lead evidence of Rangers’ financial position or ability to pay any fine.
• Rangers did not appeal the fine.
I noted when the Allan decision was given, that the lawyer for Rangers had not given the Panel any financial information and thus the Panel was left to pluck a figure from the air. Of course the Panel did say that, in the scale of Rangers wage bill etc, any financial penalty would be a token one, but if you do not give the judge information, he is entitled to take the worst from it.
The reference to Rangers lawyer asking for a fine is noteworthy too.
When this was mentioned by the Guardian’s Ewan Murray on the radio at the weekend, the reaction amongst Rangers fans was to demand apologies and that Mr Murray be sued for his vile calumnies. Which turned out to be true…
And as the SFA spokesperson concluded, there was no appeal against the fine. Rangers could have challenged it – after all the registration embargo was challenged at court, but nothing was said about the fine.
What do we learn from this unfortunate episode?
Well, first of all I have seen a Twitter reaction suggesting that, in some way, Rangers benefited by “choosing” its own punishment. That is nonsense. In a criminal or disciplinary case the defence lawyer, after conviction, will suggest possible disposals to the court or tribunal. Sometimes these are unrealistic, sometimes they are done simply to let the client see that an argument is being put up for them, and sometimes they are helpful in persuading the judge how to deal with the matter.
But here it is quite clear that there was consideration by the Panel given to expulsion or suspension, and that the penalties of a fine and registration embargo were seen as just short of that. Effectively the Panel imposed the maximum Community Service Order available on the accused, the next step being, figuratively, the “Barlinnie bus”.
Secondly, as I mentioned at the top, we seem to have the SFA being rather more active in responding to criticism than before.
Thirdly, we have Mr Mather and Mr McCoist’s outburst. When Mr McCoist demanded “transparency” in relation to the names of the Judicial Panel, it was in fact the case that his colleagues had been in the hearing room, and that he could have asked them, rather than making all the fuss he did.
In the same way, if Mr Mather did not know the score, he could have asked the lawyers (as oldco and newco are represented by the same firm). Could it be that the statement was simply a way of rallying the loyal fans to the Mather banner, and never mind that the premise of it was rubbish?
Fourthly, one wonders if the SFA Compliance Officer would give some consideration to a charge of bringing the game into disrepute against Mr Mather? I suspect not, but if so Mr Mather is a lucky man. He has effectively accused the SFA of bias.
(Mind you, maybe he did not know what happened because it affected a different football club from the one he now helps to ruin run.)
So, well done to the SFA.
Must try harder for Mr Mather.
Posted by Paul McConville