Today, “a bank part owned by Dermott Desmond” is being linked to a tax scandal. The writer of this piece in The Herald has every single fact right on. It is a solid news story, a very good piece of journalism. And even the headline – “Bank linked to Celtic backer risks £80m tax evasion fine – and jail for its president” – is around 75% factually correct.
I’ll get to the 25% wrong part in a minute. It is important.
Sevco fans are, of course, over the moon about this. One of them sent me the piece in a gloating, sneering email, asking if I was going to do a story on it. “I will check the facts and get back to you,” I replied. I got back a single word, or phrase. Call it what you will. “LOL.”
I don’t think he believed me.
On the comments section of the piece, there was delight over the story. A quick check of the Sevco fan forums reveals even more happiness. There’s some suggestion that this is the “smoking gun” which will allow investigators to go after us, will open up SFA inquiries … you get the drift. It is the latest pitiful variation on this State Aid nonsense that comes up every now and again.
The need to believe in this stuff is strong amongst their support.
Fundamentally, our club is rock solid.
That’s bad news for them, so they seek out information that would cast doubt on it and send it hither, tither and yon. None of it progresses beyond the point where authorities are legally obligated to “examine” the claims, but it gets them all excited for a wee while. They can do this for all eternity as far as I’m concerned.
Here’s where today’s article doesn’t matter. It’s in that headline, calling Dermott Desmond a “Celtic backer.”
In a certain context that could be taken to mean that he is our financier, our sugar daddy, which of course he isn’t. At all. We are not dependent on the largesse of that man. He does not fund our club. His personal wealth is not used to prop us up.
Hey, some people wish it was. He’s loaded. He could turn us into a Manchester City style operation overnight, but that’s not his game. He knows all this talk of “investment” in Scottish football clubs is a pile of nonsense. He would never see a penny of that back, so it ceases to be investment and instead becomes charity. Using Celtic as his personal plaything.
None of us really wants that.
And it’s because of that fact Sevco fans shouldn’t get terribly worked up over this report today.
The journalist doesn’t sensationalise it; Dermott does, indeed, own 30% of a bank which is about to be fined £80 million for its role in a tax scam. The chairman of the bank is facing criminal charges. Dermott, in fact, sits on their board.
But that’s like saying George Osbourne plays a role in running one of the many organisations who have him as a director; Desmond has no involvement at all in the day to day business of this bank, or multiple other companies in which he’s a shareholder.
The guy must have a portfolio the size of a phone book and in between securing cheap land for Celtic, bribing public officials, working to get the next Pope elected and all the other nefarious activities a febrile section of the Sevco fans appears to link him to, where would he find the time?
The writer doesn’t even attempt to link him to this scandal.
The prosecutors, who you’d imagine to be very good, aren’t investigating any role he’s said to have played in it. He’s a board member and shareholder, and that’s enough for the headline and the article itself – which, as I said, is a solid piece of work – and that’s as far a claim as it makes.
I am grateful for stories like this. I like to know what our directors might be getting up to. That’s important stuff, and if one of them was responsible for doing something dodgy I’d want that fact in the public domain and that person removed from the board, whether through the SFA fit and proper person test or some other mechanism which got them as far away from Celtic Park as possible. You don’t need people like that at your club.
Most fans wouldn’t want them.
I don’t need some Sevconite to tell me the things that are wrong with tax evasion. If our esteemed majority shareholder wants to go toe to toe with the authorities on stuff like that I know who my money would be on over the long haul. He’d be in restraints and leg irons eventually and he would richly deserve that fate, as Murray deserves it, as Whyte and Green deserve it. As King most definitely deserves it.
Nobody has to educate me on the relative merits of our board either.
We ain’t perfect.
We have a guy on the board right now who voted, in the Lords, to take money away from some of the poorest people in our society. Nobody has to sell me on the idea that he’s not exactly the sort of guy a club founded for charity should have serving it.
We had a previous chairman who sat around the cabinet table when the UK decided to invade a country that hadn’t attacked us, posed no threat to us, and on the basis of manufactured evidence. Nobody has to sell me on the idea that he should never have been near the big seat at Celtic Park.
But none of that matters to the matter at hand, which is the wild fantasy that one day the trail from the Panama Papers will lead to the door of Celtic Park. It won’t. Because even if Dermott Desmond was caught, quite literally, with his pants down and his hand in the till … so what? Remove him and another largest shareholder will come along. We’re not paying our players out of brown paper bags here … Celtic is clean.
Rangers’ tax fraud actually benefited Rangers … I can’t believe I still have to explain the difference to these goons, or why that was a football matter and this isn’t.