Today, a sterling article on E-Tims has placed yet another question in the public domain, in relation to the Rangers European license of 2011. They are asking if the SFA lied to a national newspaper which was pursuing the issues brought up by Resolution 12.
This is a serious question, and it’s a serious charge. It could have real consequences.
On the surface of it, this may not appear to be all that important; after all, we know that the SFA frequently feeds reporters here utter tripe, and you only have to look at the way Dave King constantly runs rings round them to see how little they care about being taken for mugs.
But this one is a little different; the newspaper of record wasn’t one of the bog-roll tabloids here. It was The Guardian. And the writer was not one of our village idiots, the easily pliable and subservient barrel scrapers we have here, it was David Conn, one of their top guys.
And that makes it a little different.
If the basis of this story is true they lied to a serious journalist at a serious paper, and you don’t get to do that and get away with it.
Conn’s forte is football corruption and scandal; he wrote one of the definitive texts on the subject.
His recent book, The Fall Of The House Of FIFA, charts the sleaze at the heart of governance at the very top of the game. In a previous book, he wrote of how the soul of football has been lost; it’s something every fan of the game here in Scotland can easily relate to and not just about how money has changed the nature of it. David Conn knows his stuff. He was most definitely the wrong person to gild the lily with. Guys like him, they take it personally.
E-Tims quotes Conn’s 2016 article on the licensing issue, where the journalist (a word I do not hesitate to use in his case) discusses what he was personally told about that matter; “One informed source involved with the issue at the time, who did not want to speak publicly owing to continuing criminal proceedings against Whyte arising out of his tenure at Rangers, said that at the initial deadline, 31 March 2011, HMRC had agreed that the £2.8m did not need to be paid until after his May 2011 takeover.”
True? Perhaps. I am sure the “SFA source” told him something along those lines …
But the same source certainly seems to have suggested that the SFA had been shown a communique which backed that statement up.
And that’s where the trouble comes in.
He rightly points out that, “UEFA rules allow tax not to be treated as “overdue” where there is a written agreement with the tax authority for payment to be extended …” but he also makes it clear that he was never shown that documentation.
But someone clearly told him it existed, and that allowed him to write, with confidence, that the issue appeared to have been dealt with properly at the time and that the SFA were claiming to be essentially fireproof.
And why shouldn’t he believe that? After all, the only people raising a ruckus at the time appeared to be a group of shareholders …
Except we know now that neither of those things were true.
First, our club was more than just interested in this issue and it hadn’t taken the shareholders motion to spark that interest. Celtic had known very early in the day that something about that license was off. They had made their own inquiries.
They were already asking serious, searching, questions about the issue and not just to the SFA.
The SFA never gave Celtic satisfactory answers to those questions and it’s a known fact that the club still isn’t buying their explanations. There is an SFA disciplinary inquiry going on right now into whether or not Whyte’s board lied to get that license, or so the governing body tells us. Many suspect it’s a deflection tactic, throwing us a bone so the club doesn’t go forward with its calls for a wider inquiry into all the other things we know were going on at the time and which happened in the aftermath of it. Celtic does not believe that Whyte was a guy who could be trusted any more than anyone else does, but he didn’t act alone here.
Secondly, if such a communique from HMRC existed – if, in fact, Rangers had been granted some kind of absolution by the tax authority – then there’s already no case to answer and nothing that was subsequently uncovered by the tax case can have created one. The SFA’s investigation appears predicated on the club having lied to them … now either they are suggesting that Whyte’s people forged an agreement letter or they never got one.
And if they never got one they misled Conn at the very least, if they didn’t simply lie to him. E-Tims has asked whether or not he did his homework on this, but at the time he, like UEFA, would have had little reason to doubt the SFA or take their explanations at face value … it’s only when you put the Resolution 12 matter into its proper context, taken with what we know came later, that it looks more ominous and serious doubts start to creep in.
I have lamented the laziness or corruption of our local press corps more than once since this began. I have lauded the few who have dug into this, and it’s hardly a great shock that one of those is the Channel 4 journalist Alex Thomson, who, with the benefit of distance and an inquiring mind which won’t be distracted by fluff or evasions, has been able to look right to the heart of this matter and is vocal in his belief that Celtic’s call for an inquiry is just.
David Conn has not, to the best of my knowledge, looked at the full picture up here … but this is his way back to the matter and to the biggest sports story this island has ever seen. Celtic’s call for an inquiry is in the public domain and so is all the information he needs to start putting together the materials for the football story to end them all.
Because this has everything, and goes everywhere. From backroom boozers in Belfast to the Monaco beach-front. It has had court cases and death threats. It’s about the corruption of journalism and the arrogance of administrators who treat the fans like mugs. It’s about the collapse of a massive football institution and how that could have been averted … and about the complete absence of any reforms since to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This is the story he’s waited his whole career to write.
David Conn, these people used you to spread disinformation and to smear a group of ordinary football fans who were going where our own sports media wouldn’t dare to go … and if you want proof of that you only need to look at the SFA statement that announced the investigation into this affair, the one they told you was a non-issue.
They lied, right from the start, and if that doesn’t offend your professionalism it should at the very least tickle your interest.
Celtic has called for an inquiry into this and other issues.
The board of the SPFL agreed with Celtic’s call. The organisation that told you there was nothing to see basically blanked their demand and have spent the three weeks since we went public trying to make this into an issue about stripping of titles and other such nonsense when, in fact, it’s about much bigger things.
This is a FIFA type scandal, right here at home.
And all it will take is someone with the right skill-set to open the can of worms.