Last night the BBC did a TV programme about Rangers. It was only shown on BBC Scotland, rather than nationally across the UK, perhaps on the basis that the BBC planner think that no on in the south is interested in Scotland.
And yet what is happening at Rangers is a warning to all of us – and the BBC programme made unhappy viewing for anyone who likes to think that football is doing ok generally.
What made matters difficult for Rangers is that they not only had to listen to the general background to their financial mess but also allegations that even the administrators are not all they might seem.
Of course everyone denied everything the moment the programme had run its course, but I was reminded of Sam Allardyce, now of WHU, who announced on 25 September 2006 that he was going to sue the BBC after Panorama did a piece on his bung-taking. I can’t find any report that he has ever done so.
It is a mucky business back at Rangers, made muckier by the fact that the administrators have launched a £25m legal claim against the former owner and indeed against his former solicitors regarding how the club purchase was funded by Ticketus (the company that has bought the rights to the next three years of season ticket sales). And the total lack of faith the supporters have in the administrators.
And there is more – something that has been bubbling under the surface for a while. The BBC gave detailed information on the recipients of employee benefit trust (EBT) schemes – citing the ex-owner Sir David Murray and players such as Barry Ferguson and Stefan Klos as multi-million pound beneficiaries.
That old dog Graeme Souness is also quoted as receiving £30,000 from an EBT in 2001, a decade after leaving Ibrox and at a time when he managed Blackburn Rovers.
Here’s another thing. The current president of the Scottish FA, Campbell Ogilvie, is alleged to have collected £95,000.
The legality of that scheme as operated by Rangers is subject to an as yet unresolved tax tribunal. If it is found illegal, then there is no way out for Rangers.
Worse, it is now said that the players held double or undisclosed contracts when collecting EBT payments. The SPL say that they are still waiting for the information they have sought from Rangers and the administrators over allegations of the illegal registering of players.
Since last March, the league’s lawyers have been looking back at every Rangers player contract for the last 14 years!!!
Now my point in all of this is that I simply do not believe Rangers exist on their own in this regard. They might be the only club in Scotland to have engaged in some of these dodgy practices, but I doubt that they are the only club in the UK, and certainly not in Europe.
If I had to pick just one other name to throw in the air it would be Birmingham City. They have utterly failed to file their accounts for 2010‑11, which were due on 31 December 2011. This is an offence under English law, and a fairly basic one. How can you not have your accounts ready on time – unless there is something profoundly wrong?
Meanwhile the owners of the club, Birmingham International Holdings, registered in Hong Kong, has not yet published its own accounts. You might see a pattern here.
And just to complete the picture Carson Yeung, who ran the takeover of the club in 2009, is now awaiting trial for money-laundering.
My point is that the accounts of lots of clubs don’t make sense. I can understand why a mega rich person might become involved in football for the reflected glory. But I can’t understand how someone can enter the arena and promise the world in terms of all the transfer money needed, only to discover it isn’t there.
In this regard Birmingham City again comes to mind (and was reported in this regard on this site) as does Portsmouth.
Rangers play in a two club league, as do Barca and Real Mad. Rangers accounts are odd, as are the two top clubs in Spain. Rangers seemed to carry on with their strange approach to contracts and payments on the grounds that no one would ever dare challenge the club – and in many ways they were right. As I noted before, the press in England take no notice and the press in Scotland take a Rangers press release and treat it like their own bit of insightful investigative reporting.
And what happened when Barca suddenly could not pay their players? Not a mention in the English press.
There is more and more odd stuff lurking in football – and there are plenty more stories to come.
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