A Bridge Too Far

Perhaps there is something we as Rangers supporters can find universal agreement on – a shared hope that the most recent bout of boardroom musical chairs will result in a period of stability at our club, free from the culture of leaks which has angered so many of us.

I sat firmly on the fence over the boardroom changes as I did not feel I had enough information on the various issues to allow me to express support for one person or faction.

It was clear however, from the numerous online forum threads which I followed, that many bears did pledge their allegiance. Two topics seemed to reign over all others in the discussion stakes – that Walter must stay on the board and that Charles Green should return from ‘exile’.

What was of particular interest to me were some of the schools of thought which gave rise to these strong expressions of support. The pro-Green supporters almost unanimously cited Green’s combative style as necessary for the defence of our club. And whilst there were various reasons the pro Walter camp put forward, the most obvious being the trust the Rangers support had in him, one other one in particular caught my eye – which the esteem in which Walter was held within the Scottish game would be essential in any future bridge building with the SFA.

It’s perhaps worthy of looking at these two schools of thought further. Let’s start with Green and the belief that he will defend our club to the hilt. Is that assertion justified ? Before the pro Green supporters remind me that he said this or he said that – I’m not judging him on what he said but what he actually did. Big difference.

Our club has  been subjected to three instances of legal process in the course of this whole debacle. On every occasion our club has been vindicated by those processes. At this point it’s perhaps worthy reminding ourselves of some of the injustices wrought upon our club by the SFA.

1. Our right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty has been totally trampled over.

2. Despite being neither tried not convicted, the SFA, by a mechanism and system no-one appears to be privy to, declared us guilty of the allegations being levelled against us.

3. In declaring that guilt the SFA then drew up a list of punitive measures to be placed upon our club

4. Contained within those punitive measures was the stripping of trophies and titles which the club had won. Such a punishment is far more excessive to the clubs involved in the Italian match fixing scandal, who of course had found guilty of match fixing.

5. The granting of Rangers licence involved a process of extortion and blackmail which saw A previously declared unlawful transfer embargo imposed and The withholding of prize monies which were due to Rangers.

It’s been several years since I had occasion to open a law book (thankfully) but I think most of us would agree there is enough in 1-5 above which would have had law firms drooling at the mouth. Yet despite all this we still languish in the lowest tiers of Scottish football, and no-one inside our club, Charles Green included, appears to have the stomach to pursue this. For a club which appears to be continually on the back foot wouldn’t it be refreshing if a solicitor’s letter arrived on Stewart Regan’s desk informing him that the circumstances and treatment of Rangers FC were now being subject to legal examination ?

And of course Charles Green recruited that Rottweiler of the press and media – James Traynor who promptly warned the press to be very careful what you write and say about this club. To date that Rottweiler has yet to bite anyone, despite the ample opportunities which have presented themselves. An article so recent, that it is not even a chip wrapper, told how poor Pierre was cheated by Rangers by our use of EBT’s. What a pity someone at the Daily Record didn’t flag up the fact that Pierre was not at Celtic when Rangers were operating EBT’s and furthermore a tax tribunal had found Rangers not guilty of tax evasion in respect of their use.

For this Bear actions speak louder than words when it comes to the defence of this club.

Which brings us on to Walter. Now I’ve no doubt he probably has the tact, diplomacy and knowledge of the Scottish game to build bridges with the SFA.

But bridge building should not be on the agenda until the points 1-5 aforementioned, are addressed.

And by “addressed” I mean that there should be no attempts at bridge building until this football club and it’s support receive a full and very public apology for the injustices wrought upon it by the SFA, as well as the removal from their positions, of all those responsible for such injustice.

Not only should that be our default position – it should be non-negotiable.

Diamonds Are Forever

 

And so are Rangers. Allegedly.

Rangers, Now, Then & Forever.

But for the older Bears among us the thread title has a link to Bond. Not James Bond, but Ibrox Bond Holders. Who bought into our club with the promise of a seat for life.

Guys like Gary.

Only Gary received an e-mail informing him this will be the last season his seat would be guaranteed. Gary subsequently phoned the club today and pointed out that he had bought his seat for life. He was told by a staff member at our club that his seat had been bought from the oldco and the newco would not be honouring the agreement.

One wonders where to start with this. How about the thousands of Rangers fans who have to suffer daily taunts that “your club is dead”. Our support has laboured tirelessly to dispel this falsehood, quoting several objective official sources which confirm the continuity of our history and of course, our titles.

Of course there was considerable anger inside Ibrox when several players refused to TUPE over to the newco. In fact this very subject is currently the subject of litigation, drawing comments at the time from Charles Green “I’m very, very disappointed of course. “ and “I think this is just opportunism.”

Perhaps then those inside Ibrox will understand the “disappointment” of fans who see this latest dishonouring of an agreement with the support as just “opportunism”.

There was considerable mocking of the SFA/SPL when they continually moved the goalposts with regard to oldco and newco. When it suited their agenda we were oldco when it didn’t we were newco. It seems our club are as guilty of this practice as those they criticised for such very action.

I sure someone familiar with corporate or business law will point out what Rangers are doing is within the law. But that doesn’t make it right. Particular when it is to the detriment of supporters who by their loyalty have kept this club alive.

The club I supported has become a mere shadow of itself. And that is being generous.

Very generous.

A Deafening Silence

[98] Meanwhile, BBC Scotland came, by unknown means, into possession of what they described as “dozens of secret emails, letters and documents”, which we understand were the productions before the Tax Tribunal. These formed the basis of a programme entitled “Rangers – The Men Who Sold the Jerseys”, which was broadcast on 23 May 2012. BBC Scotland also published copious material on its website. The published material included a table containing the names of Rangers players, coaches and staff who were beneficiaries of the MGMRT, and how much they received through that trust. It also listed the names of people where the BBC had seen evidence that they received side-letters. This event appears to have been the trigger for more activity in response to the SPL’s request.

I’m sure many of you will recognise the above. It is an extract from Lord Nimmo Smith’s report into the findings of the SPL’s enquiry into Rangers. Section 98 of the report to be precise.

Please note the use of the use of the phrase “which we understand were productions in the Rangers tax case”. For those who are not familiar with legal jargon the term “productions” refers to evidential items.

No legal knowledge whatsoever is required however to understand the gravity of the criminal conduct which involves the theft of evidence and passing it on to other parties.

Though perhaps someone should explain that to the Scottish press.

For despite Lord Nimmo’s startling revelation in section 98, not one member of the Scottish press corps have followed up on this. The highest profile tax case ever in Scotland, which had our press salivating for months filling column after column. And even that was not enough to satisfy their appetite for they would visit on an almost daily basis, an untrustworthy website written by anonymous men. And despite the clear agenda of the Rangers tax case blog, despite the unknown extent of their qualifications to pass legal judgement, our press championed them, seduced by that websites ability day after day, to produce sensational revelations as a consequence of information passed onto them.

And yet when a source as credible and objective as one of this country’s most qualified legal brains, in the form of Lord Nimmo Smith, makes the startling revelation that the evidence in the case which they drooled over for so long had been stolen, suddenly those same journalistic keyboards fall silent. Suddenly there is no longer the thirst for answers, an appetite for the truth. The new mantra they churn out is “forgive, forget and move on”

Why are they not asking the most fundamental of questions regarding this revelation the who, what, where, when, why or how ?

Has the demonisation of our football club reached the stage where the investigation of the truth is abandoned if the revealing of such truth shines favourably on our club, or perhaps more significantly, exposes those who have conspired, lied or been negligent ?

And of course this is not the first time that observations of our senior law lords has been ignored. Lord Glennie of course ruled the transfer embargo imposed on our club was, for want of a better word, unlawful. And yet that embargo still stands. It doesn’t take much to read between the lines about what has happened behind closed doors. For those having difficulty doing so might I respectfully suggest you check the definition of blackmail in the dictionary. For any Rangers supporters still under the illusion that this was about justice, fairness and upholding the law, this incident should put any such notion firmly to bed.

But let us not just return to Lord Nimmo Smith’s revelations but actually move beyond them. For as we all know the BBC were not the only recipients of confidential information – The Rangers Tax Case blog were also beneficiaries. For several months this blog mesmerised many within the Scottish media with their continued expose of confidential documents. Were these items also productions in the Rangers tax case and were they obtained from the same theft which benefited the BBC ? Or did they receive them as a consequence of a separate act of criminality ?

Either way it appears that HMRC did not feel that such criminality warranted a criminal investigation – otherwise Sir David Murray would not have felt it necessary to initiate a criminal complaint into this matter post tax tribunal verdict. It is also worth remembering his complaint was lodged prior to Lord Nimmo Smith’s findings.

Of course the unanswered questions in this article could be replaced with certainty if 60,000 more Rangers supporters would sign the e-petition calling for a government enquiry into the conduct of HMRC.

But news reaches this blogger that the once talkative Mark Daly had become very tight lipped about discussing the Rangers tax case and his documentary, evading questions with a terse “No comment”. The wheels of justice in motion ?

Has a clock started ticking on those who have conspired against our club, acted in a manner which suggested they were above the laws of the land and been negligent in their duty ?

Let me answer that one for you.

Tick Tock.

Chasing The Dragon – Update

I today had a meeting with Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, where I highlighted my concerns regarding the conduct of HMRC in respect of The Rangers Tax Case.

In particular, during the course of that meeting, I made reference to Section 98 of Lord Nimmo Smith’s report where he appears to indicate that the material passed on to BBC Scotland and other parties, was in fact stolen evidence and thus the appropriation of this material as well as the receiving and retaining of same, constituted a number of criminal acts, which to date, no person appears to have been charged. Furthermore certain agencies appear to have failed in their public duty to report such crimes.

Mr Fitzpatrick promised to investigate the matter, and in particular look into the matters raised, and write to the authorities concerned.

I shall of course, keep you all updated on this progress.

If any of you are wondering why I pursued this via the Scottish Parliament Representative for my constituency rather than the Westminster one, the answer is quite simple. My Westminster representative is one of the few people who supported Galloway’s Early Day Motion 913 accusing our club of deliberately side stepping our tax liabilities.

Yours in Rangers

D’Artagnan

Lessons from Liverpool

Authors foreword

This article seeks to examine the incredible and traumatic journey undertaken by those seeking justice for the Hillsborough 96 and to see what lessons can be learned for us in the Rangers family. It in no way seeks to make comparisons between the loss of a loved one and what has happened to Rangers football club in the last couple of years. We in the Rangers community, know from personal experience, having suffered our own disaster, that no such comparison can ever be made. Why you may ask then is a Rangers blogger, seeking justice for his club, even mentioning the Hillsborough campaign for justice – the answer is quite simple – their story, their efforts, their determination, their ability to overcome considerable odds – should serve as an inspiration for people seeking justice everywhere.

I can remember every time I have been forced to stop reading , to stop and pause at the magnitude of what I was reading. The first time was the opening page of Solzhenitsyn’s “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich”. All my other stop and pause moments occurred during my research for this article, as I was forced to pause and reflect, often in wonderment , at the dogged determination, endurance, spirit, amongst other things, of those who campaigned for justice  in respect of  those who so tragically lost their lives at Hillsborough.

Every setback they suffered was put to down to experience, where one door closed they would, by dogged determination, force open another one. They were just ordinary people seeking justice, with no special qualifications or talents, united by a common purpose – the search for truth.

Of further inspiration to us all should be the incredible endurance and persistence they have displayed in their quest to obtain the truth . On the 20th anniversary of the tragedy , their continued lobbying and persistence caused government minister Andy Burnham to call on the emergency services to release papers and documents which had not been made available to the original Taylor report.

On 12th September, 2012, the Hillsborough independent Panel published its report into the findings, exonerating the Liverpool supporters completely and firmly laying the blame for the tragedy on a lack of Police Control.
As well as the many exemplary virtues, we the Rangers support can learn from their journey, there are also significant parallels in the lessons which had to be learned as well as the obstacles which had to be overcome in their quest for justice.

A prime example would be an unfavourable and unsympathetic press. Whilst many of us will be aware of the Scousers campaign against The Sun newspaper for their coverage of the tragedy,  that was not the limit of unsympathetic press coverage.

When some of the victims funerals were still taking place the following commentary appeared in The Sunday Times on 23rd April 1989.

“For the second time in half a decade a large body of Liverpool supporters has killed people …the shrine in the Anfield goalmouth, the cursing of the police, all the theatricals, come sweetly to a city which is already the world capital of self-pity. There are soapy politicians to make a pet of Liverpool, and Liverpool itself is always standing by to make a pet of itself. ‘Why us? Why are we treated like animals?’ To which the plain answer is that a good and sufficient minority of you behave like animals.”

To this day, the author of that revolting article, Edward Pearce has never apologised to the people of Liverpool.

An unsympathetic press is something the Rangers support are accustomed to.  “Cheats”, “Tax Dodgers”, “Financial Dopers”  were terms coined by the Scottish press, whilst some likened our club to something you would happily punch in the face until your hand hurt.

Whilst there is no comparison here there is however a lesson. Those whose vision for justice for the 96 did not allow an unfavourable perception or press to stifle their efforts or ambitions – they pressed on for justice regardless. And so should we.

Another parallel I would like to mention is the cover up by publicly accountable bodies in the case of Hillsborough – the Police and emergency services. It was a considerable obstacle to overcome,  and it took several years of campaigning and political lobbying and pressure, but as a consequence of their persistence the truth was finally uncovered. It is estimated that as many as 164 witness statements were altered, whilst a further 116 statements which portrayed the Police unfavourably, had been removed.

What is most worthy of note here is what was the primary reason for this conspiracy and cover up – negligence.

 
I appreciate with regard to our club there are factors at work which would suggest that there are far more forces at work than simply negligence,  I highlight it however to demonstrate that an unwillingness to accept blame for one’s own, or organisations failings, can itself be a catalyst to more sinister behaviour.

So did those campaigning for justice in Liverpool allow an unsympathetic press or conspiring publicly accountable bodies to stifle them in their quest for justice ?

No, with a unity of purpose they pressed on towards their vision. In the process they left egos, agendas, and divisions outside, and pressed on towards the greater goal. These ordinary people have brought institutions to their knees, forced them into public apologies, and brought the guilty to account.

We as a support would do well to emulate them in every sense.

To those who have conspired against our club, who have plotted and schemed behind closed doors, who have lied and cheated, stolen evidence and breached confidentiality, who have compromised their positions and their organisations integrity,  those who have been negligent in their duty and those who have covered up such negligence – be warned. Men like me are coming for you.

I doubt that last sentence will fill you with fear or trepidation.

But know this – in our pursuit of you we will draw our inspiration from the ordinary people of Liverpool who campaigned for the 96, we will emulate their determination, their single mindedness and their steadfast refusal to be deflected from their objective. For this, you should be afraid.

Very afraid.

The Right To Question

It’s good to know that SFA chief Stewart Regan is prepared to wait for the result of the Pinsent Mason investigation into alleged links between Charles Green and Craig Whyte. Perhaps after the last SPL enquiry into Rangers, which left a number of people with enough egg on their faces to make the mother of all omelettes (probably in a witches cauldron) lessons are being learned.

Of course there is a caveat to all this – Mr Regan reserves the right to ask further questions of Rangers should he not be satisfied with the Pinsent Mason report. I knew in time Mr Regan and I would find some common ground. You see I understand and empathise totally with the feeling of not being satisfied with answers.

Perhaps whilst he and Mr Doncaster are at a loose end, awaiting the aforementioned report, they could provide some answers to questions I have.

How did the SFA arrive at the decision to strip Rangers of various domestic honours when no trial or hearing had taken place and the allegations against the club were not proven ?

Who was present at that meeting and is there a recorded minute of that meeting ?

Was there a vote on the matter and if so who voted ?

The punitive measures contained in that 5 way agreement are far more draconian than the punishments meted out to the Italian clubs involved in the Italian match fixing scandal, why was it felt, the untried and unconvicted Rangers merited a more serious punishment than those involved in match fixing ?

Who proposed that the stripping of domestic honours be inserted into the agreement ? Was there a vote taken with regard to this motion ?

Given one of the fundamental precepts of the European Law on Human Rights is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, would the SFA concede that their handling of the Rangers situation constitutes a breach of those rights ?

In hindsight, irrespective of the arguments of conflicts of interests, was it wise to appoint Harper Macleod as “low level” intelligence gatherers in the SPL investigation given their long running association with Cetlic FC, a likely beneficiary should Rangers be stripped of those domestic honours ?

When one of Harper Macleod’s “low level intelligence gatherers”, who was present at a meeting involving Rangers, (I presume for the purpose of intelligence gathering) launched a verbal attack on the Rangers representatives, was this not an indication to the SPL that perhaps their “low level intelligence gatherers” were acting in manner which was neither objective or neutral not to mention unprofessional ? Why then were their services retained until the conclusion of the enquiry ?

Rangers had a transfer embargo imposed upon them which they successfully challenged at the Edinburgh Court of Session, Lord Glennie ruling in favour of Rangers. Why then does that transfer embargo still stand ?

What’s that Mr Regan ?

Who the hell do I think I am and why am I asking these questions of you, as opposed to our press corps or Rangers FC themselves ?

That sir, is perhaps the best question of them all.

For the love of club

Several years ago my wife and I discovered our teenage son was spending his school dinner money on cigarettes rather than buying himself food at lunchtime. Our response to this was twofold :-

  1. We withheld his dinner money

  2. My wife dispatched him to school daily with a suitable packed lunch in a Tupperware box.

Over the next few weeks I noticed two things. The first that my son’s general health and well being appeared to improve and secondly, the packed lunch box which he always hid for fear of his street credibility amongst his peers, would invariably return at the end of the day empty.

We took this course of action, not to be punitive, but we could not, sole in conscience, continue to fund our son damaging his own health.

I recite this story, not because I have signed up to some new health initiative, but because of the incredibly difficult waters I’m about to navigate – the rising groundswell of opinion amongst our support that they will be withhold buying season tickets whilst our boardroom continues to conduct itself like a runaway train being driven by George Michael.

Speaking to fellow Bears and reading forum posts, it’s clear the de-moralising affect this boardroom in-fighting is having on our support. Furthermore, the way this battle is being waged is particularly unedifying, and most certainly not the Rangers Way.

Inappropriate use of Rangers forums is bad enough, but equally so is reading some of the press hacks columns as they deliver the latest inside info courtesy of a briefing from someone on our board. One can almost sense their satisfaction as those hacks deliver yet another body blow to our great club. This time of course it is all self inflicted, emanating from the warring factions within our boardroom.

It is an utterly appalling way to treat a support who have stood by this club through thick and thin, who have financed its continuation and survival and ensured, by their loyalty and devotion, that it is a club worth investing in. Quite simply the members of our board should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

Have they any idea the emotional roller-coaster this support has been taken on over the last few years ? Do they understand the suffering we feel as daily we read about our club literally ripping itself apart ? What kind of model are they presenting for would be investors ?

Several years ago I was asked by a fellow Bear who I sided with in the Le Guen/Ferguson saga. My answer was simple – neither. Both had misled the Rangers support claiming all was well when behind closed doors they were actively engaged in a campaign against one another which caused our club considerable damage.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now – This support deserves better. Much better.

Honesty and integrity has always been a feature of the Rangers Way. Therefore I do not appreciate members of our board issuing the sound bites of the last few months, and let me paraphrase “we have have a great team in place who are all pulling together for the benefit of Rangers”. Not satisfied with embarrassing us with their conduct this board seem to be at ease with misleading this support as well.

Therefore you will not find me criticising any Bear who decides to withhold season ticket money whilst our current board behave in a manner befitting squabbling schoolgirls. There appears to me to be 2 casualties in this war – The Rangers Support and The Rangers Way.

I have been reliably informed that this current battle is about money and power, and the language of the Rangers Way is no competition for the language of pounds, shillings and pence.

Perhaps it time for the Rangers support, both by word and by deed, to speak to these money men in a language they will understand.