“Just when I thought I was out … they pull me back in ….”
Stewart Regan, you are entitled to feel bitter tonight. You, like the Rangers officials and players who took EBT’s in the full knowledge that those were bent instruments, must have thought you’d ridden out the storm and that from here on in everything would be plain sailing.
How wrong you were.
Trouble comes for you today out of the clear blue sky.
Down south, police have raided St James’ Park and confiscated computer files and paperwork which they claim will prove that Newcastle United have been engaged in an enormous tax scam, including paying players with side contracts.
The architect of this scam is none other than Mike Ashley. Talk about a thunderbolt.
Oh this could be bad in so many, many ways.
First, there was a period when Ashley had almost full control of the board at Ibrox. If he was doing this at Newcastle, systematically, for years, how are we to know his people weren’t doing exactly the same thing at the top of the marble staircase?
Nobody in Scottish football should dare to use that word after what’s happened these last few years.
So many things that seemed too crazy to be possible have come to pass.
I would not bet against any form of insanity here. It’s all too possible.
But far more likely is that the governing bodies down south are going to show you exactly how it’s done. Nobody who studies the English FA can be in the slightest doubt that they will act, because they always do. These people don’t mess about. They might not even wait for the tax man to start formal proceedings before they convene a panel to investigate this stuff. And if they find Newcastle guilty of paying players out of brown paper bags how’d you think that ends?
I’ll tell you right now; all eyes will be on Scotland and the pressure will be enormous for that inquiry everyone’s so keen to see go away. This stuff is rife in football; here in Scotland we’ve said that it’s all perfectly fine. Our governing bodies not only accept it, but if you’re at the right club well, Hell, they may even help you to get away with it.
But The English FA will hit Newcastle hard. The club has just been promoted back to the EPL … you wait to see how their association feels about the ridiculous notion of “no sporting advantage” if it’s proved that they did it by fraud. You wait and see how many national media commentators take Newcastle’s side and beg for mercy on their behalf.
“Oh the poor Geordies have suffered enough …”
Not many, I’m betting.
Scandals happen in football. Clubs get caught out doing things they shouldn’t. They are hardly alone in this. Corporations the world over have been involved in all manner of schemes and scams, and no-one should be surprised that Ashley isn’t so squeaky clean as he’s often been made out.
One of the things I always lauded him for was that he made his money clean … maybe he didn’t though. Maybe the reason he and King hated each other so much was that they were more alike than they knew. Would I be surprised? Of course not.
This could go somewhere, or it could go nowhere.
I think this is trouble. I think it’s trouble for the SFA.
I think it’s trouble for Ashley and Newcastle. I think that because it puts this issue front and centre again that it’s trouble for Sevco and the fans of the old Rangers. Newcastle are so deep in it here they’re not even arguing about the validity of what they did, only about whether the search warrant was valid.
And those of us who are kept endlessly entertained by this stuff will be watching what happens next and where the trail leads and what English football’s bosses do about it. I’m betting they put our own so-called administrators – and our clubs – to shame.
And shame is a weapon.
We can use that one.