Ten important considerations that are apparent in relation to the Rangers case that make the outcome open to scrutiny and challenge.
1. The mission statements of the Scottish Football Association, the SPL, and the SFL, as well as the Articles where they exist (SFA and SFL) mention the duty of these associations to protect the interests of their members. This relates to the collective interests of existing members and not all members minus one. Indeed no advocacy has been made by the Association on behalf of Rangers. Rangers in fact, should have been protected by the application of the “Fit and proper persons” rule, which should have been applied before Craig Whyte took control of the country’s premier sporting institution. The SFA failed in their duty to protect Rangers with respect to this, and the consequences it could be argued are as a result. There is evidence that the SFA were aware of Craig Whyte’s unfit status, while Rangers Football Club, and certainly its fans, were not.
2. The duty of the disciplinary committees and those making judgements on behalf of the governing bodies is to recognise the financial consequences on members and act accordingly. In Rangers case these people have acted in a way that exacerbates negative financial consequences for all members.
3. The difference between the football club and the company which manages the clubs financial affairs. In some cases, and it can be proved that Rangers is one of those instances, these two entities are distinct but that has not been recognised in the current circumstances. The forthcoming criminal case as instructed by the crown office and indeed the BDO liquidation investigation prior to the intended winding up of the PLC that could very well accommodate the view that Craig Whyte starved the PLC of all income during his tenure as he directed the football club’s incoming cash to Wavetower whilst leaving the PLC with all football club related outgoings creating the illusion that the PLC became so overwhelmed with debt that it became insolvent.
4. HMRC have publicly recognised that the “misdemeanours” relating to financial irregularities are the responsibility of the authorised persons and not the club itself, although the SFA and SPL, despite the fact that this pragmatism would be a more beneficial solution for all concerned, have ignored this common-sense approach in their blood-lust.
5. The very existence of the HMRC main judgement (or the “big tax case”) looming presents a prejudicial set of circumstances that could trigger “force majeure” as well as rendering any judgement invalid and inviting presupposition and assumptions which affect the outcome of both decisions.
6. It is quite apparent that the majority of people, in their hurry to punish Rangers, cannot fully verbalise what it is they are trying to remedy, and exactly what they believe Rangers are being punished for, with most reporting and comment relating to supposed crimes and misdemeanours completely unrelated to the act of administration and liquidation.
7. It is against the interests of justice, and the true principles of sporting integrity, as well as plain common sense, to have rivals, and especially the fans of the clubs who consider Rangers the enemy, determine the fate of the club, and they have no mandate to do so under any of the Association’s rules.
8. In all other cases of punishment, where it has been applied, there have been footballing irregularities as well as financial ones, i.e., not fulfilling fixtures, not paying player’s wages etc. There are from some football-related financial aspects – debts (and credits which amount to more) which Rangers have been trying to settle and are being prevented from doing so. Apart from this, Rangers have done as much as they possibly can to ensure that these are paid. The “judgements” of the SFA and other clubs has actually made this more difficult, and goes against the Articles of Association (as per points 1. and 2.).
9. Under the existing rules, the sanctions which are being proposed against Rangers are not permissible, and any changes to these will be applied retrospectively, which is not allowed because the retrospective criteria relates to when the breach took place and not the point of judgement.
10. The company running Rangers football club, the club itself, and the other clubs similarly affected for whom punishments have been invented, have had no awareness, in rule nor law, of these invented “consequences” when the circumstances themselves were unfolding. Therefore they were unable to mitigate themselves, and had no clear sense of doing anything wrong, which is against all the principles of law and the establishment of rules in particular on behalf of, and to protect, member clubs.
All of the current sanctions being made against Rangers Football Club, as well as being of dubious validity in relation to the above points, may also in future be determined to have been applied against the principles of the rules of the Association and in breach of the spirit or rules of a higher legal authority, making the Association in its rush to punish Rangers and remove them from their position in top flight football, something they may not be authorised to do, could have serious consequences for the SFA, and at the very least make them look like a complete laughing stock to the rest of the Football world.
It could provide Rangers with the moral justification needed to make an application to another football association for incorporation into their league structure and remove the requirement for them to apply to the SFA and/or wait two years which the other clubs must do. UEFA should intervene in this but I am also concerned that they may uncover a can of worms which shows that such actions as undertaken in Scotland in particular, have never actually been applied properly and do not relate to any footballing considerations whatsoever.
In fact, what the SFA have done in making their determinations, as well as acting outwith their own rules and by definition the rules of the game, as they are incorporated in UEFA and FIFA membership, is to make it possible for individuals to come in and manipulate football clubs ensuring that the club itself, and not these individuals, will be punished. This could precipitate rich individuals from rival clubs coming in and destroying football clubs and walking away without punishment. It has to be remembered that Rangers fans and staff have also been wronged by such individuals, but have been prevented from going after them, and also have been prevented during the process from making acts of reparation, establishing fan ownership and being determined the right to self-determination when it comes to which division we would like to play in next season.
The SFA have been shown to be fools here if not villains, and extremely narrow-minded. If ever there was evidence that the old FA/SFA distinction was completely outmoded, and that the SFA should be scrapped and Scottish football, at least in a professional sense, be incorporated in a British league set-up, then this is it. Perhaps the unfair and unlawful and plain morally wrong treatment of Rangers football club, its staff, players and its fans, will lead not only to financial compensation and an apology to the club and its fans, but also to two great outcomes – the dissolution of the outmoded and irrelevant, holding back progress institution that is the Scottish Football Association, and The Rangers FC being free to participate in a more competitive league more in keeping with its stature as a cub.
Few of the other clubs whom both of the Old Firm have kept alive for so long would have the resources to be able to join either of them and may be able stick to part-time football in future. This would be a win-win pragmatic solution for everyone and an outcome ironically more in keeping with the interests of members than the current shambles.
Maybe someone with authority and some common sense will act for the good of football, maintain the clubs in their current divisions and make a determination when the full extent of the facts are known and those individuals held responsible for this shameful episode, both in trying to wreck RFC and in inventing ludicrous rules and punishments, are brought to justice.