Monday, September 11, 2017

Five years on, the Rangers saga might yet do for Stewart Regan and his SFA cronies

It's been more than five years since liquidation, newco and all that.  But the whole Rangers thing just won't go away.  And this is becoming a problem for SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan.

Since 2012, Scottish football's powers that be have resisted any pressure for an enquiry into how the fiasco was managed, mostly by using the ongoing Big Tax Case as an excuse to repeatedly kick the can down the road.  Well, the Big Tax Case finally concluded at the end of the summer, with confirmation that EBTs really were unlawful.  That can has got stuck in a drain and ain't going no further.

The SFA still wants to hide behind the Nimmo Smith verdict - that Rangers were guilty of improperly registering players (and the newco fined as a result) but that they did not gain any sporting advantage as a result.  That bit, of course, is ludicrous; of course Rangers gained a sporting advantage as the use of EBTs meant they were able to pay higher wages and therefore attract better players.

That sticks in the craw with many fans - despite Regan's claim that "the final decision in the Big Tax Case signalled closure for many involved in the game", and is the reason for continued calls to strip titles.  This author couldn't give the tiniest damn about that; I'd love to believe the main motivation for doing so is justice and fairness, but I'm pretty certain its just so Celtic supporters can get it up their Rangers equivalents by overtaking them as the winners of the most league titles, and by smashing the nine-in-a-row record.

Of course, if titles were taken away then cups would be too, but what would retrospectively declaring Queen of the South as 2008 Scottish Cup winners do?  The players don't get to lift a trophy; the fans don't get to celebrate the greatest day of their football lives.  Nobody feels better...except those who get a rather unhealthy kick out of schadenfreude.

The matter of SFA governance, on the other hand, is a more significant issue and easily justifies calls for an enquiry.  After all, the organization was not completely oblivious to the existence of EBTs - Campbell Ogilvie, vice-president of the SFA from 2003 to 2011 and then president till 2015, was a secretary and director at Rangers during the EBT era.  Hell, he even had his own one!

We also know that, because of unpaid tax, Rangers should not have been granted a licence to play in Europe in 2011/12, but the SFA gave them one anyway.  Regan has tried to appease by detailing his Compliance Officer to look into this, but that has satisfied no-one.

Regan's big advantage is that his organization is not really accountable to anyone - fans, clubs or otherwise.  That's how he has managed to survive as Chief Executive for seven years despite a tenure known more for big dinners than big achievements.  And given that the leadership of SFA generally operates like an old boys' club, it suits those next in line for the status quo to remain.

Which is why Celtic's decision to throw a spanner in the works came as a bit of a surprise.  Their chief exec, Peter Lawwell, is on the SFA board (he was appointed in 2013).  And yet his club stuck the boot in on Saturday with a statement criticizing the SFA's decision not to commission an independent review.  Moreover, they said that failure to do so would "represent a failure in transparency, accountability and leadership".

This is surely not too far away from being a vote of no confidence.

It also puts Regan in a terrible bind now.  Agreeing to the enquiry now looks like capitulating to the thrall and influence of Scotland's biggest club; conversely, rejecting Celtic's demands makes it look like they have something to hide.  As much as we all love a good conspiracy, Duncan Mackay on Twitter made an excellent point:
But even if Regan and his cronies simply screwed up big-time, that would be a huge issue in itself, one that would make his position untenable.

That said, what is Celtic's motivation here?  They could simply be playing to the gallery, sating the appetites of their diehard supporters who demand Rangers be crushed for all time as punishment for their tax-avoiding sins.  Or this could be out of genuine concern regarding the governance of Scottish football (being a cynic, I couldn't stop myself from rolling my eyes as I typed that sentence).

A more likely reason may be that the club have scented the huge weakness in the SFA and see this as the perfect opportunity to try and elicit greater influence - whether that is for Celtic alone, or for all Scotland's clubs in general (after all, the SPFL have also agreed that a review is required), is unclear.

What is certain though is that, for the first time in his seven years in charge of the Scottish Football Association, incompetence may actually be close to costing Stewart Regan his job.  And it's difficult to see how he can wiggle his way out of this situation.


Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

1 comment:

Stuart McMillan said...

Good article. The problem - as always in Scottish football - is that impartiality is an impossibility given that the game up here is dominated by two vocal majorities. Any criticism (real or perceived) is taken as evidence of bias or an agenda and therefore those with the power to question or investigate shy away from so doing. By that, I don't just mean the authorities - SFA and SPFL - but referees, politicians and journalists too. Any questioning or criticism has by necessity to involve "both sides" or none at all, otherwise risking verbal abuse or worse, so we tend to therefore back away from looking at the hard issues and sweep matters under the carpet. Look at sectarian singing (both sides) - how often have points been deducted or fines handed out? Same with this call for a review. It's not going to happen as it will be seen as one side versus the other and no-one has the cojones in Scottish football to risk the wrath of either side of the "Old Firm". Plus ca change.......