Friday, 13 April 2012

Light Touch Football Governence

Four years ago a Scottish Institution came close to going down the tubes thanks to the actions of businessmen who failed to act with “due diligence”.  Today a separate landmark on the Scottish landscape is also in danger of going down the tubes due to another failure to adhere to “due diligence”.  Of the cascade of stories reverberating about the fall of Rangers, there are a few things that caught the eye.
Firstly, anyone else think it was strange for David Murray to hold a press conference saying that he was "duped" over the sale of Rangers?  Sure the Scottish media did their lap-dog shtick all over again and printed most of everything that he said with the sense that this was the truth, well sort of.  Prehaps Murray should, instead of protesting too much, answer why he allegedly insisted (according to Blue Knight Paul Murray) on selling to someone willing to take on the contingent liability for the ongoing tax investigations, and who exactly took the decision to use Employee Benefit Trusts in the fashion that they were used?

Though the conduct of Murray and Whyte has been less than satisfactory, the conduct of the SFA and the SPL has not, how shall we say, inspired confidence in their ability to regulate the Scottish game.  The SFA ruled that Whyte was not a fit and proper person to run Rangers.  This pronouncement smacked of shutting the door once the horse had bolted.  Like Murray, the SFA did not do their homework on a guy who has been at the centre of several businesses collapsing.  Yet the SFA’s pronouncements raise a couple of questions.  Firstly, given that their verdict came after Rangers entered administration and a good 9 months after the first stories emerged about Whyte, why have they pronounced upon Whyte now?  Secondly, when and how did the SFA draw up their fit and proper person’s test and what criteria do they use to define a fit and proper person?  However, at least the SFA have made a judgement call on who is a fit and proper person, to date the English FA have not made any negative judgements on any owner (I think they were close to a decision on Thaksin Shinawatra, before he sold Manchester City to the Abu Dhabi Group Investment and Development Limited).

On the other hand, the SPL have only now launched proposals (as if the fates of Dundee and Gretna were not incentives enough to look at the financial regulation of football clubs) looking at reforming the playing punishments for sides who fall into administration and sides who re-form into new-co’s.  That the proposed punishments still smack of compromise is probably down to how similar financial transgressions are handled abroad – with sides instantly demoted.  There is already a school of though that points deductions would critically undermine the credibility of the SPL – yet it is possible that relegation (to the first division at least) would be a boost to Scottish Football, providing exposure and a financial boost to the First Division, and provide Rangers with a season to consolidate any financial foundations it would need to put down.

What has happened to Rangers over the past couple of months has not shown anyone involved with Scottish Football in a good light.  After the failures to act over what happened at Dundee and Gretna, the crisis surrounding Rangers looks to be too big to ignore.  Unfortunately the facts are still unclear, and conclusions are being taken far too early.  In the meantime we await the truth.

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