As Dodgy Dave King nears the end of his Ibrox tenure, it seems like a fitting time to look back a couple of years to the time of his takeover and the way it was handled.
Three things were influencial in persuading this guy to finally make his move and assume a controlling interest from which he could oust the board and take over for himself.
The first was a worthless sycophantic media who were his principal cheerleaders if they were not outright partners in the enterprise. He simply could not have managed it without them, and those of us who have thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for ushering a third base liar and charlatan through the doors and up the marble staircase. It really is quite the achievement.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
What’s fool me three times? A job with The Daily Record?
A lot us weren’t fooled and told their fans the horrible truth about Whyte and about Green.
We told them Ashley wasn’t to be trusted either.
But when it came to King, there was no need for us to have struck up the orchestra and played our song.
That guy, more than any of the others, arrived here a known quality. A South African judge made it about as clear anyone ever could, when he described King in the most savage terms. He was, the judge said, “not to be trusted on any subject” unless his claims were backed up by hard evidence.
The hacks loved this guy. Some of them still do although time has proven that his presence on the board has been like a toxic fume, spreading throughout the club. Sevco was not formed in shapely splendour; Charles Green and his embrace of the gutter, his heady dive into the swamp of West of Scotland slime and sectarianism took care of that, but the club’s current outlook is as aggressive, warped and delusional as I’ve ever seen it.
So much of their hatred spews from a South African address.
When it comes to this guy and the media, I am admittedly prejudiced.
I’ve been way ahead of my writing in hating their sycophantic slavering attitude towards this geezer. When he first appeared on the scene, giving David Murray £20 million back in the crazy days, I marvelled at the way they slurped at his feet. This was a guy from the south side of Glasgow who had somehow acquired a fortune in one of the most corrupt and ignorantly run countries on Earth, during international sanctions and universal odium, when doing so meant crawling into the bed with some of the most loathsome and reprehensible bigots on the planet … and not one question was ever raised in the MSM about how he had managed that spectacular feat.
We now know of course that it was by virtue of a fraud, the one for which he was later sanctioned by a South African court and for which he could have got 80 some years in prison over there. This “favourable settlement” kept him out of leg irons, but there’s no longer any dispute about how he made, and lost, that fortune. He was, and is, a criminal and everyone in Scotland, everyone who knows his name, is wholly aware of that fact.
The media did its job, on his behalf, admirably. Even those who weren’t taking PR low Level handouts were fully on board with plan. A case in point is Graham Spiers, who was one of the few who called King exactly what he was and said he ought not to have been allowed a role at the club. Even he could not bring himself to say that it would end in disaster and shame, “Whatever your view of this King decision – and I find it ridiculous – it is time now to let him get to work, and let him be judged by what he can or cannot do for Rangers,” he wrote at the time, as if the good of one club was all that mattered in a moment that shamed our sport.
Others were even more blatant about it. The general feeling appeared to be, “He has money, he says he will spend it, therefore to Hell with the regulations.”
And this, of course, was music to the ears of the fans too.
Imagine for a second that Celtic had been reduced to rubble by the actions of one man.
Imagine some version of our club was on the verge of being saved, but the guy who was stepping up to do it looked even dodgier at first glance than the one who’d wrecked it.
Can you imagine us letting him take control? Can you imagine his board being ousted by a third smirking wide-boy, this one with a history of fraud and deception behind him? We’d have burned down the ground before we let any of these people control our destiny in such a way.
Rangers’ fans cheered Whyte all the way down the Broomloan Road. As Sevco fans they hollered their approval for Charles “Chuckles” Green. Their breath-taking ignorance of the sort of man King is really takes the cake though. It wins the Grand Prize.
If this couldn’t have happened without the media, then how do you judge the role the fans played in all this? I still say this happened in the first place because they were already recognised as amongst the most gullible supporters in Europe.
Craig Whyte is a career man. What he did to Rangers was not unique. As some of his associates had already pointed out, in the famous BBC documentaries which took this story off the net and put it where the public at large could see it, this was his MO right from the start. This is what Craig Whyte did for a living, and perhaps what he still does.
But he had never dipped a toe in football. How did he decide that was an enterprise worth his time, his effort, and one that could net him a bag of money? Someone suggested it to him, for sure, but what made the decision for him? I’ve always thought it was the nature of the support, one that was ready to hear a message of hope no matter how ridiculous from any source no matter how incredible. When the News of the World wrote a story about the Russian gangster who was sniffing around the club their editorial piece made it clear most fans at other clubs would shirk such interest, but that at Rangers it would be acceptable if he brought money.
What chancer looking for the next big scheme could resist that?
Charles Green knew he could get the same fans onside simply by invoking the old supremacy nonsense, and tapping into the hate vein. They might as well have queued up to hand him their wallets there and then, because from that moment on it was a done deal that they would. The share issue was a sham the bloggers identified as one from the start, and we knew the money would soon be frittered away. They lined up to give it to him anyway.
A lot of people have made a lot of money at the expense of these folk, but their willingness to buy in to fantasy is bottomless. King clearly thinks their pockets are too, and he may be right because he was able to jack season ticket prices up at the start of this season on the “Going for 55” guff. Their tickets, for their first year in the top flight, are the most expensive in the country, costing, on average, 10% more than those of the champions.
They allowed him to recast the supporters’ organisations during the summer too, and made sure his own point-man was one of the leaders. Naturally, he wanted access to Rangers First’s fund-raising ability, and what they had in the bank, and he got it.
You can’t fault this guy for being able to play the game. He does it well. Sort of.
When he’s not dealing with idiots though he comes across like such an amateur, such a small time chancer of limited intelligence. He picks fights where they aren’t needed. He allows himself to be lulled into thinking winning minor skirmishes equates to winning the war.
His falling out with commercial partners, his inability to interest “outside investors”, his appalling relationship with the most important people at the club (outside of his pet directors) have led to set-backs, crisis and now erupt full-blown into scandal, and we’ve not seen anything yet.
If King stays, it’s entirely possible that even greater consequences are waiting for him.
The Financial Services Authority is already sitting on numerous complaints – including one from Ashley – that King was responsible for fraudulently manipulating the share price of the club so as to make his “concert party” takeover more manageable. That one carries a jail sentence, and if he lied to the South African Revenue Service about his shareholding in Sevco that might be waiting for him anyway, in the country he call home but feels not the least loyalty to.
And none of it would have been possible, and he would not have been allowed to place the club and himself in such a precarious position, if it wasn’t for the most gutless football association on the planet, which ought never to have let him near the board of a major club.
It is was, and it remains, a scandal that they went along with any of this.
If Dave King ends up subjected to criminal charges in relation to his time at the club, even after he has departed, the questions these people will have to answer will be the sort that end careers. It’s all well and good saying that, of course, because some of these people ought not to have careers anyway for the way they’ve acted throughout this, but this will be different. King’s background should have permanently barred him from the game here; at no other club but Sevco would they have blithely waived that through.
And it gets worse, because the suspicion remains that the money which paid off Ashley originated in South Africa and not in Asia as the Sevco board allege. The SFA may be unwitting parties to money laundering because they didn’t do due diligence and examine how the club was being funded. That’s massive, and they ignored it.
They can abrogate responsibility to the clubs themselves as much as they like in an effort to pass the buck but in seventeen days the deadline to meet UEFA licensing requirements on financial disclosure come into play and the SFA still has no basis on which to say Sevco is heading for “break even” or knows how they’ll get through next season. If they waive this one through, and Sevco is licensed, then the clubs which miss out, and have played by the rules, will be perfectly entitled to scream bloody murder about it.
Sevco will be shackled either way; the only way UEFA will grant them permission to play in Europe will be if they can guarantee to get their finances under control and that means the new boss will be preceding over a series of cuts rather than spending.
The vice they are in is tight and getting tighter and there are no quick fixes.
In many ways, this is the right time for King to go. He’s a busted flush and everyone knows it. His “leadership” of the club is nothing of the sort; he hides in South Africa whilst the decisions that matter, including appointing the new manager, are taken by those at the sharp end. They’re the ones who do the work and provide the money when it’s needed to keep the lights on. His chairmanship is a fraud like much else in his career.
If he hangs on it’s because he knows he’ll do so largely without scrutiny. Yesterday’s news got a few brief paragraphs in the papers, but as per usual the real analysis was left to the bloggers, who’ve done a sterling job of going through the verdict and its implications; few of us believe he can survive this, but as there are life forms that would survive a nuclear war it might be too early to dig this guy a limestone pit, at least as far as Sevco is concerned.
But to all intents and purposes, this is the end. The City of London authorities have already found against him in a major case, and there are others. They will be looking at the allegations outstanding with renewed interest and pursuing them with renewed vigour. South Africa’s tax authorities will also be watching him closely, and in particular if he suddenly pulls money out of the mattress to buy worthless shares at 20p a pop.
It might be the beginning of the end, but it’s no longer the end of the beginning. We’re in the final phase of Dave King’s “chairmanship” of Sevco and it comes amidst scandal and crisis, even as the newest inhabitant of the manager’s office warms his seat.
Three separate groupings have acted as his enablers and, if we’re being honest, have enabled each other all the way through this. The media has manipulated the fans and refused to ask questions of the governing bodies. Their fans have slammed the media whilst swallowing whole every positive story they wrote on the “saviours” who’ve bled the club dry and they’ve tried to silence criticism with intimidation and threats and those have cowed the SFA – “civil disorder, anyone? – into giving these people a free ride. And the SFA has bent regulations, disseminated propaganda and got the media on board with the idea that this club is “too big to fail.”
These incestuous relationships have wreaked havoc on the club they were designed to strengthen. It is the great irony of this affair that everything they’ve done to help has made matters worse and King is only the latest manifestation of what has been unleashed.
His departure won’t bring this to an end either. The Ibrox fans and their friends in the press offices and at Hampden have been on this merry-go-round too long to get off now. This sense that they are something special remains in spite of one club circling the drain and swirling down the plughole and the NewCo suffering humiliation on top of it all for five straight years now.
As Murray beget Whyte beget Green beget Ashley beget King we know not what the end of his regime will mean except that it will likely be more of the same. Because until this club gets over itself, until it realises how everything has changed, it will be easy prey for the next band of crooks and villains who come along.
And the media will cheer them through the front door and the SFA will rubber stamp the next fraud without any compunctions at all.
None of these people ever learn, and until they do they’ll never change.
“Past is prologue” said Shakespeare.
If you want to know what will be, you just look at what has come before.
Or to put it the way George Santayana did, “Those who will not learn from history are destined to repeat it.”