Over the last couple of days, a number of Sevco sites have been particularly animated by the idea that the Scottish Cup might provide a direct route to European football next season.
One of the factually wrong claims going around on these forums is that the club might qualify to play on the European stage simply by reaching the final, providing their opponents have already won the SPL. That means us, of course.
The trouble is, it’s not true.
The rules on that one were changed a while ago. The Scottish Cup final no longer provides a route into Europe except for the winners, so simply getting there isn’t enough. To qualify for Europe Sevco would actually have to win the thing.
That’s the only route to Europe they have, because (and this might surprise some of their fans to learn this) in spite of all the media hype, backed by wild comments from their players and former players, the Championship isn’t the be all and end all of football in this country and the glittering prize of continental competition isn’t available to its winners. In addition, the Petrofac Cup doesn’t offer a European place either!
All King’s talk of rebuilding the club depends on European money.
It looks as if they are a long way from getting their hands on any, much further away than the media or their club is leading fans to think.
Back in 2012 – and Happy Anniversary friends – the media was at one of the view that Sevco should enter the SPL automatically.
Myself and others were adamant that this could not happen; in order to play in Scotland’s top flight every club requires a European Level 1 license. Exceptions could be made, but in the case of a collapse like theirs UEFA would have interceded because it was a “tax liabilities payable” collapse which killed Rangers.
In fact, some of us argued – and successfully as it turned out – even before the club collapsed that the failure to submit audited accounts for that season was a major violation of UEFA procedures and would have ruled them out of contention for European football.
Even before the club was struck by the hammer blow of HMRC refusing the CVA, UEFA and the SFA both confirmed that Rangers would not be eligible for the following season’s European campaign, which vindicated our early view.
No matter what had happened from that moment on, the club playing at Ibrox was facing a minimum of one year out of Europe and probably much, much longer.
At this moment, the club has an Entry Level license; they are way short of the numerous standards UEFA require in order to certify a team.
Hearts, too, could have serious difficulties getting a European license for next season, something no-one in the media seems to want to acknowledge, but if the SFA propose them for one UEFA are far more likely to accept that than they will be to accept an application with an Ibrox address on it.
By the way, this isn’t to say they will accept Hearts; UEFA are cracking down on this stuff, and you can’t predict how seriously they’ll treat Hearts’ failure to reach the proper level.
Sevco’s licence is currently limited because of their failure to submit a set of accounts without a “qualifier” in relation to their financial future. It is difficult to see how they get around that. One of the licensing requirements for UEFA competition is not only this set of unqualified, audited accounts but a series of “future projections”, for a period of 18 months, which is UEFA’s way of saying they have to spell out exactly where the money to keep the lights on is coming from.
This club cannot simply tell UEFA “Oh, un-named directors will loan us money and keep us going.”
That’s not going to fly especially when legal issues and other things cast doubts on their ability to raise external finance from a share issue.
There’s simply not a convincing case to be made for them getting through UEFA’s strict criteria.
No-one has mentioned it – because no-one wants to – but had they applied for a UEFA license in any other year they would have been flat-out refused it. This year will be no different, and there would need to be a radical turnaround in the way their club is run for them to be able to submit an application that ticks next years boxes.
Auldheid has long argued that UEFA ought not to allow clubs with only an Entry Level license – the lowest possible one on the grid – to play in the SPL, because like every other top league in Europe the SPL requires a UEFA class license.
But in yet another example of the SFA only following the rules that suit them, Hamilton were refused one for this season, and Hearts, like Sevco, only have the Entry level one.
Playing in the league is one thing; the SFA can make a case to UEFA that Hamilton and Hearts are in the league on merit, and that disenfranchising them on the basis of administrative matters and other non-playing related issues is unfair and counter to sporting integrity.
That argument has merit, but European licensing is a different game.
If either side wanted to play in Europe they’d need to be more convincing than they currently are; indeed Hamilton wouldn’t have been able to, or allowed to.
But neither Hearts nor Hamilton is in the dire position facing Sevco at the moment.
UEFA will simply not allow any club with a “going concern” warning into the ranks of one of their tournaments.
With Sevco facing multiple legal issues, including a claim on the assets, that’s a whole other level of uncertainty which no Scottish club has ever had to face before. As a NewCo they already face deep suspicion, and this is to say nothing of the background, and status, of their biggest shareholder and chairman.
All of this matters.
Because the whole notion of Sevco as a club that can challenge Celtic – the hypothesis on which the media and others depend – is built on their club reaching the promised land of European football, and using the monies from that to rebuild.
I’ve long argued that the idea is nonsensical. Apart from being that old “chicken and egg” debate – how do you rebuild without European money when reaching that level requires you to have rebuilt already – it depends on too many if’s but’s and maybe’s instead of being constructed around hard numbers. It’s fanciful garbage, to be blunt, like Vladimir Romanov predicting that Hearts would eventually win the Champions League.
Their entire business plan depends on spending money they don’t have to reach a place they might not get to, for rewards that probably won’t even cover what it costs them to get there. Even if it doesn’t violate UEFA Financial Fair Play (which it would) the whole “plan” is predicated on wishful thinking and the tolerance of an organisation who aren’t known for it.
The Sevco fans think winning the Scottish Cup this season – a tall order in itself – would put them into Europe for next season.
The regulations suggest otherwise and no-one in our media or in the governing bodies is willing to admit that yet.
It’s probably just as well for them that we’re still a ways from finding out.