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July 2021

How corrupt is football? From Rangers to Portsmouth, from Birmingham to Barca…

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.

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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.


24 comments to How corrupt is football? From Rangers to Portsmouth, from Birmingham to Barca…

  • Goona Gal

    The article makes some very good points, It’s so strange that the English sports press seems so reluctant to cover indepth what’s happening to Rangers, Portsmouth or the goings on at Birmingham.

    Another thing I have noticed is that Harry Houdini is very rarely mentioned in a Portsmouth FC article even though he was manager at the time of it’s demise. However Anelka, is still mentioned as an ex Arsenal player even though he subsequently played for many other clubs, for more than a season.

  • Footy fan

    You forgot to mention the classic George Graham bung some years back.
    That was nailed on but no investigation of he club was forthcoming.
    I think you will find its everywhere ans especially with the untouchable bigger clubs.

  • Footy fan

    Sorry I intended to say allegably.

  • Footy fan

    What I meant was could you add the word alleged to my comment regarding George Graham.

  • Anne

    I’m disappointed to see that this article didn’t get more comments, considering that the subject matter is SO important. I’m impressed with it in any case.

  • Anne

    @Goona Gal:

    Yes, Anelka and his amazing family of “agents.” Personally, I had very little doubt that Redknapp would not be the next England manager. After all, Tottenham isn’t bankrupt yet. If Harry’s track record is any indication, their CL woes this season are nothing compared to what’s heading down the tracks towards them at 100 mph…

    And I’m not saying that in any sort of gloating sense. I wouldn’t wish what we might call “the Redknapp treatment” on any club. I guess we can just keep our fingers crossed that he and his “friends” have changed their ways.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Nice article Tony on what appears to be the thin veneer of media-induced and supported respectability peeling back under the spotlight of HRM revenue services and other unbiased (aka non-British)reporting or from UA’s erudite questioning.
    Don’t forget that football clubs like Rangers and Manure are the sacred cows of their own Football Associations and Arry Redknappy is the head Bull.

  • Benglian

    What about corruption at Arsenal? As an Arsenal fan, I couldn’t help but wonder at the late replacement of Foster by Marton Fulop in the last game of the season. I mean, that guy was a perfect candidate to be bribed, only ever start, set to be released immediately after, in as a late replacement. WBA nothing to play for, and a big big payday for Arsenal. Thoughts on that?

  • Damien Luu

    “And what happened when Barca suddenly could not pay their players?” – But it could never happen! Because… well, it could never happen! 😀

    @Benglian: Yeah, very smart. We bribed WBA so they suddenly replaced their keeper, then played like mad, scored 2 goals even while they had nothing to play for, and then ordered their keeper to make some silly mistakes to let us win! Very very smart indeed. But tell you what, you still don’t know that we also bribed Bayern so they let Chelski win the CL, to kick our dear neighbours out of CL next year at once! Woohoohoo, are we scary?

  • Arun

    @Bengalian, what about Man C bribing QPR to win their last game and thus the title.
    The main aim of the media is now only to make more money. They will try to protect their cash cows in every possible way. The onny difference is that cash cow changes as the country being discussed changes. As Domhuaille pointed out that Rangers were the cash cows of the Scottish media, so is cricket in India. The Sunday Times claimed that the world cup semi final between India and Pakistan was fixed and as expected, except one or two newspapers, no one else published it. It’s just like that football can’t be fixed in UK and cricket can’t be fixed in India.

  • Timmy

    Interestingly eras come eras go, but whatever makes eras come and go. After the ending of the run of the Invincibles, I got that gut feeling it is the end of an era, right now that gut feeling is back: the beginning of an era at Arsenal, the end of an era at Old Toilet and Scaffold Bridge. I’m watching.

    @Anne, it’s quite a while. Nice to meet you here again

  • Anne


    Yes, what a lovely occasion for a meeting between two old friends… 🙂

  • There are always incidents which can be reported as being dubious – but what one looks for are trends – a single case of a player dropping out of a match because another is injured is hardly a trend.

    And as far as I know Graham admitted he took the money, repaid it in full, and lost his job, which is why we then had Rioch.

  • jaroda

    I can’t believe there hasn’t been more said about Marton Fulop.
    The third goal was incredible. He jumps past the ball to spoon it back wards towards his own net and Kos when he could have quite comfortably caught it.
    It’s a definite case of Roy being chummy with Wenger so he can have easy dibs of the english talent in the Arsenal side.
    Got to say that the Fulop bung nearly makes up for all the other anti Arsenal decisions through out the season! The Spuds must be double sick.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    fullop is a bung-er na na, na, na; fullop is a bung-er na na, na, na…

  • Prasanna Veeraraghavan

    I was always baffled with the British media. They are able to uncover so much in cricket and nothing in football. Seems like the journalists and the admin are hand in glove with the corruption. There exists a pattern here. This is the same case in my country with journos and politicians.

  • John L

    You make it sound all so simple, but it is a million miles from being simple.
    There is no pattern as you deceptively put it, BCFC cannot file accounts unless the owners BIHL allow / release them.
    BIHL shares are suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and until the accounts are released BIHL cannot be relisted on the HKSE and the transfer embargo (Football League rule) against BCFC cannot be lifted.
    I believe there is little the stock market can do except de-listing BIHL from the market so making them a private company rather than a listed public PLC.
    BIHL is a Cayman Islands company.
    Sing Pao Media Group which is 13.26% owned by Carson Yeung Blues media fronted owner ( who only owns about 23% of BCFC / BIHL shares ) has had its shares suspended since April 2005 and has been served with a notice to delist under Hong Kong Stock Exchange procedure.
    As the HKSE has taken this long to delist Sing Pao Media Group from the stock exchange despite a continued lack of information provided by the company to the HKSE, I cannot see this happening to BIHL anytime soon.
    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.
    Another deception of your article, as Carson promised £40 million over two years and he spent that amount over the two years INCLUDING WAGES.
    I think he spent more than that and even mortgaged his home when pumping in another £16 million. One thought is, that he keeps trying to get some of his assets unfrozen through the HK courts and this maybe why the accounts for BIHL are delayed because his assets unfrozen could change the outcome of the accounts or the outlook for all his businesses.

  • John L – many thanks. I apologise for not knowing the facts, and you’ve corrected me. At least one good thing out of this then – I’ve learned more.

  • Frank Rizzo

    If anyone has the time I recommend that you read the rangers tax case blog.

    This blog started well before the Whyte take over and it goes into detail on the illegal activities that have been going on at Rangers. It also highlights the “succulent lamb” reporting that went on at the time -succulent lamb journalism means a culture of sycophantic, unquestioning, puff journalism that went on around Rangers generally and Sir David Murray in particular. What are the chances that this kind of thing goes on with the reporting about clubs in the EPL?

  • bob

    Frank Rizzo, Tony,
    Thanks to rantetta’s good judgment, this link continues to stay in circulation. Perhaps this video – the crime scene at Old Toilet, 2004 – ought to be renamed “in the beginning: the succulent lamb” And lo, the press was put on notice “come and get some” And verily they did. And Micky R was elevated to positions of higher influence. Could it happen in the EPL? Behold:

  • Goona Gal

    @ Anne, I must admit that I thought the press really did have scoop on ‘arry becoming the next England manager, even though he didn’t really seem to be the ‘the people’s choice’ as it was often insisted by the press he was. Things might start to change at Tottenham soon though, now that ‘arry has been given a stronger contract. The manager in the absence of a sports director, has the right to have a greater say in the buying and selling of players. Otherwise it could be construed as undermining him and preventing him from doing his job properly. Up until now Daniel Levy has kept a very firm hand on the purse strings, which you can’t really blame for doing. Especially when ‘arry went with a pile of cash to Spain to buy Diego Forlan, he mugged…

  • Scott

    Only just found this article,and some good comments,mixed with some ridiculousl ones.
    On the last goal v WBA,anyone thats actually ever played the game,especially as a goalkeeper,would never be naive enough to blame the keeper for it.
    He comes out to punch the ball,cops a knock at the last instant from his own player,and his fist only needed to move a couple of inches off target to get he end result he did….the ball flying backwards.
    Seriously,I’m gobsmacked people actually think its his flat,and more amazed people thnk he meant it.
    There’s some vivid imaginations out there lol.

  • Oh lol scott lol… lol.

    You put it like that and it just all seems so silly!

  • rantetta

    I think the person who should take credit for the Old Toilet 2004 video being in circulation is Dave Right. Dave included the video in an Untold article, and Walter included the link in another.

    Dave Right’s piece: