In Spite Of What Ann Budge Thinks Sevco And The SFA Do Have A UEFA Problem.

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If you read last night’s article on UEFA and Sevco’s impending problems with them then it’s quite possible that you were waiting on this piece, which is to say you were waiting to see if I would have the stones to actually write it and post it.

Well, of course I do.

And it’s not about having the stones; I hope it’s about having the integrity to hold up my hands and admit when I jumped the gun and got something wrong. See, I don’t pretend to be a journalist. I’m a humble blogger. But I cannot and will not take the media to task for screwing up and not hold my hands up myself. I respect all of you more than that.

On top of that, I don’t accept, and I never have, the assertion that bloggers should be exempt from the standards and scrutiny that cover the journalism profession and because I do care about getting stuff right I am never going to shy away from writing clearly about the times I get stuff wrong.

And last night, well that one was very wrong.

I wrote that Sevco’s accounts are not up to date, and that’s true, but I specifically referred to their annual accounts and I know as well as anyone that they are already released and online, and have been since November, when I wrote about them. They are, of course, horrendous as we all know. Why did I do that? To be misleading? No, I wrote last night’s article in a hurry and didn’t do the read through. It was lazy. It was, in fact, scandalously lax.

What I was referring to were the six month interims which Celtic has already published and which Sevco has not. That mistake is unacceptable though; let me apologise for it right now. I will take care never to make such a mistake again and want to thank the people who have pointed it out to me in private emails. If you thought I was ignoring you, I wasn’t.

But let’s be clear here; there is a deadline approaching and financial fair play is part of it and so too is financial disclosure. I didn’t just lie in front of the train tracks for nothing.

No, because today The Daily Record featured part of an interview with Ann Budge, which she did with a Hearts fan forum. The fact she was willing to talk to them so freely is telling on its own. I respect that, I respect her for doing it. But she was wrong on several points and because anyone can make a mistake and I made a shocker of my own last night I’m going to choose to believe that she is simply naïve and wasn’t setting out to mislead anyone.

Budge has said that UEFA decides who qualifies for a license. She has said that Financial Fair Play is only concerned with whether clubs can pay their debts. She has also said that there is no reason to believe that Sevco will not be treated just like any other club. She is wrong on all three counts, although if we’re being cruel we could say she’s bending the truth a little on the first, wilfully misinterpreting the second and denying reality and fact in the third.

But I will not be cruel. I will take her words as simple mistakes.

First, her claim that UEFA decides who gets a license is, technically, correct. But the SFA are the body who have responsibility for first examining compliance. If they believe a club is in violation of UEFA FFP guidelines it is their responsibility to refuse the license in the first instance. They can ask for special dispensation; it is UEFA who would grant that. But they cannot and should not be giving a license to a non-qualifying club without it.

Her assertion that FFP regulations exist to ensure clubs can pay their debts is spurious nonsense of the worst sort. The first clue is in the name; FAIR PLAY. It is about ensuring that clubs do not spend more than they earn, so that the game itself is not impacted by financial doping. If she doesn’t know that then she has no business in her current role, or she better learn fast. It is a ludicrous claim, one that bears not the faintest resemblance to reality.

Her assertion that there is no reason to believe that Sevco will be treated differently from any other club is absurd and insulting to those of us who know full well that Ibrox clubs have had preferential treatment again and again and again. If she doesn’t believe it, if she doesn’t know it, she’s setting herself and her club up for big, big bother.

Sevco’s problems with UEFA are very real and so are those of the SFA.

Tomorrow, a crucial deadline on FFP compliance will elapse without the club meeting the criteria. The audited mid-term accounts will not be delivered; why should they care about that though? They handed in unaudited figures last year and the SFA never blinked.

In addition to accounts, a club in violation of UEFA FFP has to submit detailed projections on future earnings, to show they are moving towards a break-even point … I looked at the projections in those November numbers and they are the stuff of fantasy and depend largely on European football itself; UEFA does not allow future earnings from their competitions to feature in such analysis.

The basis of last night’s article was right on, but that error I made doesn’t get to go unanswered and I wanted to clear it up. But this is a day of “errors” and some of them are bigger than mine. Ann Budge is making a mistake if she thinks the SFA plays no role in the licensing process, and an even bigger one if she really thinks Sevco don’t get special treatment.

I will do a longer piece on the UEFA regulations in the next couple of days; they are extensive, and I hope that I can distil them into a form that’s easy to understand. It seems I’m not the only one who should be booking up on this kind of research.

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