Back in the mists of time, when Duff and Phelps roamed the earth, and only investors in Middle Eastern construction firms and fans of Sheffield United had heard of Charles Green, there was a football match arranged to raise funds for the Rangers Charity Foundation and for the AC Milan charity.
However the nature of the match changed and, in some unexplained (until this week) way, it became a game to raise money for Rangers.
I was amongst the first folk (a month before the game was actually played!) to raise concerns about how a charity could effectively treat the football club with which it was closely connected, and whose Trustees were employees of the football club, as a case for charity despite the terms of its founding deed. You can read what I wrote here and here. The issue was also publicised on Scotzine.com. And I posed a couple of questions for the Trustees here.
The dogged pursuit of the issue however came from the person known as @corsica1968 on Twitter and through their blog which can be found here.
It was announced that the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) had started an investigation.
But, as the months dragged on, it seemed that the issue had been forgotten about.
There was from time to time an outburst of anger on Rangers supporting websites about (a) me for having the temerity to “attack Rangers Football Club by attacking a charity” and (b) all of the presumed Celtic fans driven like sheep to bombard the OSCR with complaints.
Just to get things clear – I made no complaint to the OSCR personally, nor did I encourage anyone else to do so, and anyone who read any of the pieces I wrote will see that, far from “attacking” the Rangers Charity Foundation (RCF), every piece I wrote praised it for the sterling work and excellent fund-raising it carried out since its formation.
The issues I raised were simply about the propriety of what took place, and the seeming failures by the Trustees to fulfil responsibilities.
Time continued to pass, and apart from @corsica1968, the issue seemed to have dropped off the table. But, behind the scenes, and I am sure motivated by @cosrica1968’s prompting, the OSCR continued its investigations until, this week, we saw the white smoke emerge from OSCR Towers.
I saw the first reports of the decision on the official Rangers website. I read the reports, which are reproduced below and took from them that the RCF had been exonerated.
The first statement, from the RCF, is shown below and can be seen on the Rangers site here:-
FOLLOWING the publication of a report by OSCR into an agreement regarding the proceeds of fundraising events (Rangers Legends v AC Milan Glorie match and dinner) involving the Rangers Charity Foundation and The Rangers Football Club plc (in Administration) the trustees of the Rangers Charity Foundation wish to make the following statement:
The trustees of the Rangers Charity Foundation have noted the findings of OSCR’s report and are pleased that OSCR has concluded that the decision to assign the rights of the fundraising event to the Club was done “in good faith and in the interests of the Charity given the risk that otherwise the event may not have taken place, in which case the Charity would have received no benefit at all” and their investigation is now at an end.
In the event, the Rangers Charity Foundation received £63,288 from the events in March 2012. If the events had been cancelled then the Foundation would have lost over £12,000 in pre-paid deposits and our ability to generously support worthy causes up and down the country would have undoubtedly suffered as a result.
The circumstances surrounding the period when the Club entered Administration were unprecedented for everyone connected to the Club, and the Rangers Charity Foundation was no exception.
Extensive legal advice has been sought by the Foundation during the last year in order to enable new trustees to be appointed and new aspects of governance to be established.
These actions, which are now concluded, were an inevitable consequence of the situation faced by the Foundation following the changed circumstances of the Club – whether or not an investigation by OSCR had been opened.
Whilst it is regrettable that the Foundation was never party to the premise or nature of the original complaints made to OSCR, and that this matter has taken such a long time to be concluded, the Foundation believes that supporters of the Foundation can be reassured that the Rangers Charity Foundation was and continues to be a force for good sustained in large part by the loyal support of the Rangers Family.
The generosity and charitable spirit of Rangers fans is second to none and the Foundation looks forward to further expanding its activities going forward – in Glasgow, across Scotland and throughout the world.
This was followed by a statement by the Rangers CEO, Mr Mather:-
FOLLOWING today’s report from OSCR Craig Mather, Chief Executive of Rangers Football Club said:
“This match took place during an unprecedented time for Rangers Football Club and we are delighted that OSCR concluded that the decision to assign proceeds to both the Club and the Charity Foundation was done ‘in good faith and in the interests of the Charity given the risk that otherwise the event may not have taken place, in which case the Charity would have received no benefit at all’.
“The Rangers Charity Foundation has and continues to do great work and with the support of the fans has donated over £1.1 million in cash awards to charity and over £1.9 million of in-kind support, making a combined total of over £3 million since it was set up in October 2002.”
I have repeated the statements in full so as not to be accused of selective editing.
Now, I like to think (although there are many who will disagree with me) that I am reasonably intelligent. Reading documents closely, and paying even ,more attention to what is between the lines is part of my daily work.
I read the above statements and was of the opinion that the OSCR had found nothing to criticise. Indeed, from the RCF statement in particular, it appeared that the Charity was being praised for achieving some return for the charitable causes.
This struck me as surprising. The English Charity Commission (which it is accepted works under different rules – although not substantially so) dealt with a similar case involving an effort by a charity linked with Plymouth Argyle Football Club to save Plymouth from insolvency by lending the football club money from the charity! All of the trustees were connected to the football club, whether as officials, employees, or shareholders. The Charity Commission made it very clear that there required to be proper separation between the limited company and the charity in situations like this, and that Trustees had to be very wary about acting, even for the best of motives, where there was a conflict of interest.
Reading the official Rangers reaction made me wonder how the OSCR had been able to find so differently from the Charity Commission determination in the Plymouth case. I had written about the Plymouth case here.
Then I read the OSCR website (and I will look at the full decision in the next post).
But the first parts of the Executive Summary were as follows:-
• OSCR found that the Charity’s decision-making process which allowed important decisions to be made by one trustee acting alone was in breach of trustees’ duties and constituted misconduct on the part of the charity trustees as a whole.
• OSCR also found that the way the decision regarding the fundraising event was taken did not comply with the requirements of the Charity’s Trust Deed.
• OSCR identified that issues of conflict of interest inherent in the Charity’s structure had not been appropriately dealt with.
So, we have:
- “breach of the trustees duties”
- “misconduct on the part of the charity trustees as a whole”
- decisions being taken in ways which “did not comply with the requirements of the Charity’s Trust Deed”
- “issues of conflict of interest inherent in the Charity’s structure had not been appropriately dealt with”
I thought that I must have clicked on the wrong link – the verdict of the OSCR had nothing to do with what Rangers had actually said!
Rangers fan websites rejoiced at the news. They had been cleared and the malicious complainers who wanted to destroy a charity had been thwarted.
Why, went up the cry, had people intent on hating Rangers been able to force the OSCR to spend public money investigating spurious allegations?
Here, went the victorious shout, was another victory for Rangers over the “haters” to go along with the victory in the Big Tax Case, and the victory in the Nimmo Smith tribunal.
(Of course, it was found that Rangers had broken tax law in relation to some of its players in the Big Tax Case, so at best it was a partial victory. The Nimmo Smith Tribunal found Rangers guilty!)
One must admire the bare-faced cheek of the statements. Clearly whoever drafted them worked on the basis that people would not actually read the full decision.
Sadly that plan did not work, although if it was intended to keep the Ibrox paying customers loyal fans happy, it seemed to have succeeded and was taken as one piece of good news in an otherwise bleak week.
The only problem, although it might only seem to some to be a slight one, if indeed a problem at all, was that the statements failed totally to reflect the actual decision!
Posted by Paul McConville
Next – the decision itself and what it means