I am big fan of Malcolm Tucker, the lead character in the BBC mockumentary show The Thick Of It. He also appears in a movie version called In The Loop, and there’s a scene from that film which, whilst shocking, always makes me laugh.
The movie is about a UK government minister who gets caught up in US war plans in an unspecified part of the world; Malcolm spends much of the movie trying to clean up the mess, and when he doesn’t manage to control the story he switches to making the best of a bad deal.
Near the end (spoiler alert!) he is smarting from the way he’s been treated by a high-ranking American.
To prove himself, he calls together his attack dogs and goes on the offensive.
What follows is a darkly funny scene where Malcolm and his team drum up a phony dossier lending weight to the case for war.
In that scene his right hand man stands, glowering, over the shoulder of one hapless official, forcing him to write what they tell him … even, at one moment, grabbing his hand and using his finger to delete inconvenient words.
I thought of that scene this morning when I read Gary Ralston’s piece in The Daily Record.
I could see it in my head, clearly, but with a different cast of characters.
This afternoon, shortly after I read Ralston’s laughable article on why everything in the Sevco garden is rosy in spite of the rumours of administration, Phil posted one of his most incendiary articles of recent years. In it, he told of how he had posed nine questions to the Sevco media office. I can tell you now that he sent those questions shortly after four o’clock yesterday afternoon, and he had given the club until close of business today to respond.
Phil had every intention of giving them up to the 5 o’clock deadline tonight before he posted those questions to the public.
When he read Gary Ralston’s article this morning he realised they already had.
My question to Ralston is this; did you write all the words of this morning’s article yourself, did Traynor actually lift your hand and tap some of it out for you, or did the bald, slouching ex-editor lose his mind halfway through and turf you out of the seat and do it himself, like an impatient Gordon Brown dealing with a too-slow typist?
That article was contemptible. No serious journalist would have written it. Ralston never pretended to be one of those, but even he should have balked before putting his name to something that read, to all the world, like he had a fat Level 5 hand shoved up his arse.
“King and the Three Bears – Douglas Park, George Letham and George Taylor – have invested heavily to wrestle control from the discredited former board and put their club on a firmer financial footing in the past three years,” it reads … ignoring millions in soft loans, debts which mount behind the scenes and have made affording the cheapest players impossible.
We’re only days from the Jamie Murphy transfer fiasco, and he’s writing shite like this?
I mean who can possibly take these people seriously?
Loaded down with crap attempts at humour – see Armando Iannucci for how it’s really done you twat – the piece contradicts itself at every turn.
Whilst admitting that King is deep in the brown stuff with the Takeover Panel, Ralston then acts as if the £7 million “pledge” the South African crook and serial liar has made is still valid … something made absolutely impossible by the City of London’s scrutiny.
He talks about the debt-to-equity switcheroo as if professional financial advisors, like David Low, have not already explained why it’s a bust.
He makes the utterly spurious claim that King will have “sunk £40 million of his fortune” into Ibrox as if documentary evidence that King was repaid his initial £20 million “investment” in Rangers didn’t exist – the South African government listed it as one of his assets in the court case – and as if there is documentary evidence that proves he’s spent the same sum on Sevco.
It used to be incredible to me how these people could swallow this stuff; now I realise they don’t, that they knowingly write lies.
The insult is that they expect us to swallow it instead.
On the Takeover Panel, Ralston wrote these gems of wisdom.
“King has launched an appeal, which will keep it kicking around the legal long grass for a few months to come. He’s confident of his position. If he loses? He’ll have to fork out around £300,000 for a prospectus knowing no-one will sell for the price he is legally bound to offer while his family trust fund, New Oasis Limited, ring fences £10m just in case.”
Let’s take it bit by bit.
Firstly, King’s so-called appeal will now be heard.
The date for it has been set; late February. So he’s bought himself a few weeks, not months. And calling it an appeal is, itself, a distortion of reality but one the media has no trouble doing time and again. The verdict is in on this one; the Takeover Panel itself found King guilty, gave him an appeal and found against him in that. The case that was recently in court was to seek an enforcement order … if King somehow manages a “win” here the Takeover Panel will impose immediate sanctions.
King is not “confident of his position” at all. In spite of all the bluster, he and his lawyers know where this ends.
All he’s doing is scrambling for time. He will have to comply sooner or later, and if he doesn’t comply then the hammer will fall. The Sevco board can’t afford that. King’s chairmanship is on life support. This guy has led the club to the brink.
The notion that a prospectus will cost £300,000 is grossly optimistic.
That seems to be the number of the week. In fact, a prospectus will cost almost £1 million to put together; it will need to be scrutinised by serious people, it will require full disclosure of the club’s financial position which means a forensic auditor will need to be brought in … none of that will be cheap and, as Phil’s “rugger guy” pointed out, one of the most dire effects of such an audit will be a radical re-calibration of what the club’s shares are actually worth … and when that happens the price he’s “legally bound to offer” will seem like free money, because that’s exactly what it will be.
You also have to love how Ralston does a volte-face on the source of King’s funds; in that paragraph NOAL has become “a family trust fund” and not Dodgy Dave’s personal piggy bank.
Like I said, Ralston’s article is contemptible.
But the paper he works for writes this kind of nonsense every single day.
Amongst their blinding insight today is a piece on the club being interested in Scott Arfield. They couldn’t afford his bus ticket, but The Record thinks this can come off. Their editorial panel is also discussing Steven Naismith and wondering why he’s not “on their radar”; it could be, possibly, something to do with Norwich asking for around £300,000 before letting him talk to clubs (told you, it’s the number of the week) which apparently Hearts can better afford.
Tonight there’s a truly mind-boggling piece where Herrera pledges his loyalty to the club; that’s their way of writing it up.
In truth, he’s on so much money there he knows he’ll not get remotely comparable wages anywhere else. His determination to “fight for his place” – which The Record finds commendable and good news for the club – is a consequence of that salary and the unalterable fact that they’ve tried to flog him to anyone who’ll take him in the last ten days … and have not have one sniff, not a scintilla, of interest … from anywhere, even as a loan.
Real journalists wouldn’t do this, wouldn’t put out this endless list of brain-numbing mush. Real journalists cultivate sources. Real journalists ask pointed questions, like the nine Phil sent to the Sevco media office yesterday.
In the article he posted tonight Phil actually went much further than before and named the companies he knows to have been involved not only in Sevco’s discussions with administrators but equally in their quest to find quick cash.
One of the companies he named – Bibby Financial – were asked on Twitter about the article tonight, and Sevconia was delighted when they appeared to deny it. Unfortunately, for them, the question they were asked was in relation to the administration element of Phil’s story and not the “invoice financing” part.
Bibby denied being administrators. Which is true. They never denied that they are a company which provides cash to other companies who need it. They said they were not involved with “Rangers.” True. But it just so happens that I know what happened there too.
When Phil broke the “invoice financing story” late last year, the Sevco high command were said to be furious that the story had gotten out.
There were a lot of heated arguments inside the club over that, and who leaked it.
The man Phil refers to as “the serious professional” – Stewart Robertson to us – was told to “reach out” for emergency finance … and at that point he phoned a friend. The same process – Robertson talking to his mates – was how Campbell Dallas got involved with the club, something they now seriously wish they could jump in a modified De Lorean and fix.
In that particular case, Stewart Robertson spoke to a local official at Bibby, because the two have a prior working relationship. This official kicked the substance of that discussion upstairs. It did not reach the point of getting to “the paperwork stage”.
It was dismissed before it even became a subject for formal discussion.
This is a fact.
Their “denial” tonight was right on the money, at least in relation to the question they were asked. They were not contacted in relation to the administration of the club; Phil’s article makes it clear that the Bibby approach was in relation to “invoice financing”.
Bibby’s tweet tonight, that they have no involvement with the Ibrox NewCo was spot on … because the proposal that was put to them didn’t pass muster in any way, shape or form.
Reports of Sevco’s board considering administration are not an invention of the Internet Bampots.
Ralston says these stories have been out there for months … those, presumably, would be the same months in which director’s loans have been keeping on the lights.
Sevco is, to quote Phil, “a loss making business without a credit line from a bank.”
Without director’s loans they would already be in administration … a company which cannot meet its debts as they come due is one in the direst peril. If it continues to operate past that point the legal definition is “trading whilst insolvent.”
At that point the directors become liable for the debts.
The only difference here is that at the moment that process is voluntary.
The minute those directors say “no more” the hammer comes down.
Tough for The Daily Record’s writers to understand, I know.
In Armando Iannucci’s hilarious In The Loop, Malcolm Tucker’s anger kicks in because a pompous US official is berating him for not being able to get an important job done. Just then, a staffer comes into the room brandishing a mobile phone. Tucker glares at him, to be told that the government minister he’s spent the film trying to dig out of a hole is facing complaints at home because a constituent’s backyard wall is coming down.
The US official, with a gleam in his eye, suggests it’s just the job for the angry spinmeister.
“My God, that sounds important! Take care of that, Mr Tucker. I think that’s more your speed. I can just see you now, with your shirt off, and your wheelbarrow, whistling a happy tune …”
I’d suggest a similar change of pace to Ralston, except I don’t want to spend an hour telling him how the wheelbarrow works.
All the “positive spin” in the world will not change the simple facts as outlined here.
Administration at Ibrox is not only possible.
The way that club is run, it is inevitable.