Date: 20th March 2017 at 7:25pm
Written by:

Today I’ve written two highly critical articles on the Scottish media; one on the report about a Belgian no-mark criticising the inclusion of Dedryck Boyata in the national team and the other about some French academic wading in to our business and urging our club to promote the ghastly and noxious Old Firm lie.

Neither of those was a news story; no-one in Scottish football gives a toss what a former footballer turned hack in a foreign land thinks of one of our players and we care even less what’s in some guys utterly useless research thesis.

I understand the media’s need to fill column inches, but they have an entire sport to cover and there are actual stories out there. That they would rather write this garbage makes you wonder what their priorities are, when those other issues go unexplored.

Sevco has just appointed a rookie manager, who appears to have had a single interview, and he has yet to exchange a single word with the guy who’s supposed to be running the club. A massive news story, and not a single article has explored it.

King himself is on the verge of leaving under an enormous black cloud with the Takeover Panel judgement last week which virtually annihilates his credibility and asks serious questions about not only his conduct but his ability to take the club forward in the future. Massive story. No-one’s gone near it. A single media report – two whole minutes worth on STV News – revealed that his South African company has just been fined for breaching stock market rules over there? Massive story. Do they care?

The UEFA licensing deadline is in eleven days. Do they qualify for a license, and will the SFA ask for special dispensation for them, or wave them through regardless? Massive story, with knock-on consequences for other clubs. Anyone interested, except for the bloggers? Nope.

Three directors have chucked it at the key Sevco fan organisation; this is amidst rumours of major fallings out, conflicts of interest and the compromising of their “independence” and ability to properly scrutinise what’s going on inside the club. Massive story, and one that confirms what this blog wrote when the amalgamation of the supporters groups took place; that it was recipe for disaster and one that would limit their ability to hold their board to account. Does anyone in the media want to properly look into it? Hell, no.

You’ll have noticed what these four enormous stories have in common. The silence over them is thus explained, as well as the media’s need to fill their publications with Anything But, especially when they can spin anti-Celtic angles out of it.

You know what? Aside from the issue with the licensing, none of those matters are really anybody else’s business. They are indicative of a club in crisis, run in secrecy and mired in scandal but they are for the people inside Ibrox to confront and resolve. The licensing story is different, for obvious reasons, and it’s shocking that the media hasn’t tackled that.

But they are all dwarfed by the story, which Rangers Tax Case broke this week on Twitter, about how the SFA was served with a “Schedule 36 notice” in relation to the tax case over there. That raises serious, damaging, dangerous questions … or it would if anyone was asking them.

The SFA will stonewall everything the bloggers bring up.

Regan’s disdain for us is legendary; he may well be the most arrogant individual ever to hold high office there and that’s saying something when you consider who some of his predecessors were. He has no respect whatsoever for any of us and doesn’t give a damn that we know it. He doesn’t recognise our role in covering the sport we love, and he doesn’t believe our voices are legitimate.

It cuts both ways. Regan is a contemptible individual, and I do not use those words lightly.

I absolutely believe it, knowing what I do.

He has presided over scandal and venality. If he’d simply done nothing about it that would be bad enough, considering that part of his job is to keep the game clean.

But Regan made a contribution to all of it.

He was involved in it. He knew what Whyte was up to and exactly what he intended to do at Ibrox at a time when the club was still doing business with a lot of people and companies who were under the impression they would get paid for providing goods and services. The SFA knew they were being conned, that none of them would ever see the money, and if Whyte is ever found guilty of defrauding those people then I regard Stewart Regan, personally, as an accessory after the fact at best, and at worst a co-conspirator.

His comments, on the eve of the SFL vote in 2012, about “social unrest” were absolutely appalling. It was a director of a member club who stood on the steps of Hampden and called the behaviour of the association – and by virtue of that Regan himself – corrupt.

This guy shouldn’t be near our game, and every now and again someone in the media steps up and writes that. But it doesn’t seem to do any good, because the issues they’ve chosen to focus on have been low-bar nonsense. Cancelling a meeting with Sevco? The way he voted in the UEFA Presidential election? These are the concerns over which he should resign?

Absolutely terrifying stuff.

Earth-shaking matters.

Thank God these people aren’t responsible for keeping Trump in line.

For those amongst their number who do believe this guy should be turned out his job and that he has been a disaster for the association, there are other issues they could examine. Amongst the matters outstanding, this Schedule 36 business looms large. Because if HMRC did, indeed, send a Schedule 36 warning to the SFA – and I’m sure they did exactly that – then Regan is one of only two guys who was in the frame for when that took place.

EBT’s were ruled as illegal in 2004, but HMRC had no reason to suspect that Rangers were involved in using them until 2007, when the club was raided as part of the Stevens Inquiry into bungs and dodgy transfer deals in England. Their reason for raiding Ibrox was that they were investigating the Jean Alain Boumsong transfer, where Souness had paid £8 million to the player after he’d spent only a few months at Ibrox after arriving on a free.

They found no evidence of that, but deep in the files they took out of Ibrox was one compromising link; Rangers had paid Souness an EBT years after he’d left the club. Not evidence of a bung … but of something else. Is that what started the ball rolling?

Whatever it was, the Fraud Office and the London Met turned the files they’d taken over to HMRC and that was when the tax man started looking at the club.

The Schedule 36 notice – informing the SFA that they were investigating the tax affairs of Rangers, asking them for information, and probably drawing their attention to the “side letters” – could not have been sent before then, so that absolves David Taylor of any responsibility in this as he left in 2007, before the investigation into Rangers tax affairs ever got underway.

George Peat was President then.

One of his Vice President’s was Campbell Ogilvie.

And who was Chief Executive from 2007 until Regan arrived?

It was Gordon Smith.

Which is where the first questions arise.

Smith was appointed with no experience whatsoever in such a role.

Regan’s own CV was unarguable in comparison.

Smith’s hiring was, and remains, a mystery to many people, as were the reasons for his eventual resignation. Whilst he was there, a book was published with a chapter he wrote, in which he alleged that the SFA was biased against his former club.

We’ve never known by what means Smith got that job, but he would have been the recipient of HMRC’s letter if they sent it between his appointment and departure in 2010.

It is not unreasonable to ponder what his response to a Section 30 warning regarding Rangers might have been, or to wonder what he’d have done about it, especially when you consider that he later went to work for Craig Whyte, and was there at Ibrox when the plug was pulled.

Regan would have known everything that had come over Smith’s desk within a very short time of his taking over the job, and he’ll have watched Whyte ascend the Marble Staircase, to be followed by Smith a short time later. Was the SFA in receipt of that letter then? Was Stewart Regan convinced that Smith’s tenure had been kosher? Did they discuss it?

If that letter arrived in 2008, the club was still paying EBT’s.

They would continue to until 2010.

Is it unreasonable to ask if the SFA itself co-operated fully with HMRC or did they plead ignorance?

They must have known rules were being broken, and had been being broken for years. Let’s not forget that they used the “ignorance excuse” to exonerate the club in front of the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry, when they said that because they hadn’t discovered the scheme until it was in the public domain that all the games played during it were valid … a rationale which still stands as the most absurd defence of wrong-doing ever offered in Scotland.

One of the issues that automatically arises here is that we still don’t know how “total” their ignorance of this scheme actually was.

Let’s not forget too that Regan and Smith will have shared a boss; Campbell Ogilvie, who had been at Ibrox in the EBT years and was the author of the Discounted Options Scheme which haunts Regan and his association to this day in the way it ties into the scandal we call Resolution 12.

He went on to become chairman of the SFA when Peat departed in 2011, just in time to catch the Craig Whyte show.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Regan and Smith will have worked together on Project Charlotte – Whyte’s plan to flush his club down the pan. It stretches credibility to the snapping point to think they hadn’t. Whyte planned that in detail and the document outlining it all laid out what the SFA’s role in it was to be.

Regan and his association are forever bound to all this, come what may, by the Gordon Smith connection.

It stands out a mile, and I am astonished that it’s been left to fester this long.

But if the Schedule 36 notice reached the offices at Hampden whilst Regan himself was in the post the questions he has to answer are even more threatening.

The SFA has dodged so many bullets over these issues that it might seem pointless to start picking over them now, but Regan’s career ought to be hanging by a thread.

The things that didn’t happen on his watch were a major contributory factor in what happened during it, and there ought to have been an inquiry – wide ranging, unfettered, truly independent, run by a judge, with the power to question people under oath – into all of it.

The issues outstanding over the tax case aren’t going away just because Rangers did.

Some of the people who were involved in that had their fingerprints all over later decisions and some of them are things our game still struggles with today.

If the Supreme Court finds in favour of HMRC then title stripping is the least of the issues the governing body will be confronted with; people will, rightly, want to know whether the association itself was complicit in hiding evidence from the tribunals and of burying the truth about Rangers’ non-disclosure years before it was public.

Those are questions that can’t simply be left unanswered; they are enormous.

Under normal circumstances myself and others would raise those questions and hammer them for a few days and see what developed.

There’s no point to that and I am not going to write this and then kid myself on about it.

Regan’s backside will not so much as quiver at the prospect of articles like this.

The Schedule 36 question has been hanging there for half a week and I’d be amazed if it caused him a moments concern far less a sleepless night. But it’s a killing weight above what’s left of his tenure because of where it might lead.

We, the bloggers, are not going to get this done.

Only the mainstream media stands a chance of getting to the bottom of this morass.

What did the SFA do on receipt of the Schedule 36 warning from HMRC that one of the member clubs in their association might be concealing a tax fraud, and withholding documents? What action did the SFA take? Did they get it whilst the club was still paying EBT’s and did they act immediately, or simply let it die? Did they co-operate with the tax man or were they obstructive? Was Regan told about this stuff upon taking his job, and if not why not? Or was he in the job himself when that letter arrived? What action did he subsequently take? If this preceded him and he knew of it, was he concerned when Smith went to work at Ibrox? Did no alarm bells ring when Whyte told him the club was circling the drain, but that any administration had to be planned in advance first? Was Gordon Smith the link-man between the two organisations?

These are some of the questions the media could be focussed on, if they cared enough to drag these issues into the light.

I know, and so do some of the hacks, that Regan’s hands were not clean in all this, and Gordon Smith’s sure as Hell weren’t.

If they need a proper motivation, let me give them this one;

Stewart Regan and Gordon Smith helped Craig Whyte destroy Rangers.

That’s not speculation, it is a statement of fact.

The media has always known this; for all some of them clearly have affection for the Ibrox club, they bottled it when it came to holding some of the guilty to account, and if they really wanted to blow Regan out they could do so, and probably easily, by going over that period and putting issues relating to in the public domain.

Once those issues are there, they could ask the chairmen of the member clubs, on the record, how they felt about these issues and whether they warrant investigation. That would start the ball rolling, although where it would end up is anybody’s guess.

That should not be a barrier to getting it done.

And I want them to take this up.

I want them to do the job that quite clearly needs to be done.

Because it’s not that none of us will do it, it’s that none of us really can.

For all they sneer at the guys in the blogosphere we know what it is we do, and we know what it is that we don’t do.

We don’t have the muscle for a task like this.

This is not about title-stripping or any of that stuff.

This isn’t a club specific issue.

This is about the conduct of the people who run the game here, and whether or not they were involved in something that goes beyond simply trying to protect a club from its own excessive behaviour. This isn’t about satisfying a blood-lust amongst rival fans or any of the other guff we bloggers stand accused of.

Are the people running Scottish football honest men, fit for purpose?

Were their predecessors?

How many decisions, whose consequences we live with today, were made in pursuit of concealment in matters far bigger than mere success or failure on the pitch?

These are issues of trust.

That used to be the media’s stock in trade.

There have to be people in the job here in Scotland who still get it, who understand that, who chafe at seeing their honourable profession turned into a repository for PR guff.

This is their chance to be heard, and if they ask the right questions and there’s nothing to see then none of us can have any cause for complaint, because that’s all we want to know and all we’ve ever wanted them to do.

Do any of them dare do it?

Because if not then they – all of them – are a waste of space and those offices they go to every day might as well house call centres.

If their role is no longer to find out things that the public needs to know then what the Hell is it they do, and what the Hell is their profession actually for?