When Stewart Regan spoke to the media at Hampden today he moved the ground just a little.
He’s now publicly acknowledged discussions with the Requisitioners and with Celtic on the matter at hand, and defended the SFA’s position.
But I found something odd in the way he did it, and the language he used.
He’s said the SFA followed the procedures as laid down by UEFA; I would dispute that, and the Requisitioners would certainly dispute it, but in attempting to clear the SFA and pass the buck and make UEFA themselves assume responsibility for part of the licensing process he left one organisation out.
He didn’t mention Rangers at all.
This is curious for two very important reasons.
First, Regan appears to suggest that although talks with Celtic and with the Requisitioners took place, that none took place between the SFA and Sevco over the matter. Is this because Sevco wasn’t involved? We all pretty much accept that they weren’t a party to any of this, but it would be strange if the SFA weren’t talking to them about it, especially as the “official line” from Hampden is that the two clubs are the same one.
Secondly, although he outlines the SFA’s responsibilities, and those of UEFA, when he talks about the regulations he’s not discussing those the club had.
Let’s look for a minute at the curiosity that is the SFA rule book.
In nearly every major regulation in there they allow just enough wiggle room so as to avoid taking any real responsibility themselves.
This is understandable to a certain degree.
If the SFA were to spend the time required looking into every club’s “official declaration” every year they wouldn’t be able to focus on anything else. Nowhere is this clearer than in what we call “fit and proper person” rules, where it’s the club’s own responsibility to tell the governing body of any issues which might violate those regulations.
So too it is here, because although the SFA has certain key tasks to complete in terms of club licensing it always comes back to what the club itself decides to disclose to them. The regulations make that pretty clear too, and although we all agree by this point that the SFA was extraordinarily lax at best, this might well be a clarifying moment as this moves towards an ending.
In my article over on Fields last week I said that the Resolution 12 campaign put Sevco in peril of being banned from Europe.
Some people disagree; John James thinks that would only become an issue if the SFA persisted with the Survival Myth when pressed by the game’s governing body. I see no sign whatsoever that they will back away from that now, especially after defending it so vigorously these last four years.
Both organisations have two much invested in that lie for either to backtrack on it.
They are locked in, whatever the risks.
But what becomes clear when you consider Regan’s statement today is that the SFA is not willing to carry the water here. He’s accentuated the point about the SFA’s responsibilities being fulfilled and that he’s drawn a clear line at 31 March (before which he claims the Requisitioners have no problems) is equally telling because that’s when the decision was made and it was made based on the information the SFA had to hand.
He’s essentially saying that it’s the moment his association’s real responsibility for this came to an end. Beyond that, the SFA was dependent on disclosures from Ibrox and if you read between the lines what Regan is telling us today is that he took the club at its word and therefore none of this is his association’s fault.
In doing so, Regan has thrown Sevco to the wolves.
At Ibrox they’re now caught in a vice which is going to be nearly impossible to escape.
They can ask that the SFA refute the Survival Myth in the event of UEFA finding against Rangers, but that would be a repudiation of the article of faith on which their whole club is built. Even if the SFA were of a mind to change its own story, I doubt it would negate the Five Way Agreement anyway, which drew a distinction between the two clubs but obliged Sevco to accept any football punishments which were handed down to the OldCo.
Which leaves only an appeal for clemency on the grounds that this was the work of Craig Whyte and no other.
That’s a non-starter because the OldCo board which took these decisions counted amongst its members Paul Murray and Dave King, who, of course, are currently at Sevco. I would expect that to be regarded as fairly damning, and it is another example of how a decision the SFA took in the hope of pacifying people at Ibrox has come back to bite everyone involved.
This whole thing is a shambles, but it’s a shambles from which Regan is trying to extricate the SFA by whatever means he can.
Today he said “don’t blame us” which left only the question of who we, and UEFA, should blame when the roof finally comes in.
It’s clear that if this matter ends the way we think it will that the hammer will fall hardest on the club that calls itself Rangers.
This has literally been four years in the making, and as we get nearer a place where we can close the book on it the noose is tightening.
There’s only one neck in it too.
What a mess these folks have gotten themselves into.