Four days ago, the Irish FA made a major decision, one that has repercussions for their clubs and for UEFA, but also for the SFA and for Celtic. The Irish FA announced that Waterford FC had been denied a European football license for next season, due to two violations of UEFA criteria.
The first was in relation to the ownership structure of the club and, specifically, an incorporation date.
The second, and the one which is most important, relates to “overdue payables.”
Overdue payables are at the heart of the Resolution 12 case, specifically monies which were owed to HMRC for the settlement of the Wee Tax Case.
The way the SFA handled that is revealed in the documents which are laid out on the Res12 campaign’s website.
One of the most basic measures they could have taken, to ensure that this matter did not put the Ibrox club in violation of the rules, would have been to ask HMRC for a letter laying out the facts of that case and confirming that they and Rangers had come to some kind of agreement on it.
Did they ever do this?
No, and we know that because from March 2011 onwards HMRC regarded it as settled, and were only interested in full repayment at the earliest time.
“HMRC will not allow the position of the £2.8 million to drift …” says one internal Rangers board document.
That HMRC eventually sent sherrif officers to Ibrox later that year shows clearly that there never was a repayment agreement, or anything like it. In fact, by the time of that visit HMRC had levied further penalties on the club as interest on the bill.
We know too that HMRC and the club regarded the matter as being settled beyond a reasonable doubt.
That ruled out any prospect of an appeal.
The club’s own lawyer had written a letter to the board recommending that they plead “no contest” and settle the bill at once.
As the previous link demonstrates clearly, everyone at Ibrox knew that bill was payable.
The SFA ought to have been all over this, and by August 2011 so too should Celtic.
It was, after all, our club which was denied access to millions in Champions League revenues by this decision.
By December, it was clear that the SFA and the club were working hand in hand to find a “line to take”, but the issue was so murky that Craig Whyte himself was horrified when the SFA offered to “clarify” the situation if asked about it by the media.
Why didn’t our club scream this from the rooftops at the time?
Why didn’t the SFA open an immediate investigation?
Was it incompetence and nothing more?
No, it couldn’t have been because they were already in talks with Whyte then about his plan to liquidate the club.
The Res12 guys have concluded that the SFA initially, at least, “acted in good faith” when they initially granted the license … but by August 2011 it was clear to everyone that something untoward had happened here, and whilst it was too late to change the licensing decision.
There are those who have defended the SFA over the way they handled this and other issues.
Some say that they don’t have the resources to comb through clubs official returns and get straight answers, but this is completely shot to pieces when you look at how the Irish FA has consistently handled matters like this.
Waterford is not the first team who have been denied a European license by their governing body for overdue payables and other breaches.
Derry City was denied a European license in 2012 when their club went NewCo.
In 2007, Shelbourne actually withdrew from European football after a board meeting decided their indebtedness meant applying for a licence would have been a non-starter. They knew that their league took this stuff seriously, and they didn’t even chance their arm.
But what sticks in the craw here isn’t even that the Irish FA takes this stuff far more seriously, and is far more professional, than the SFA it’s that the clubs themselves fight for their own rights over there, and without hesitating.
Waterford may well have gotten a license to play in the Europa League next season, but for the fact that St Patricks Athletic filed an official complaint with the Irish association saying that the European place should go to them instead.
And the Irish FA responded and made their announcement just days later.
They did so because the club stated its case publicly, and unreservedly and cited the precedent of Derry City as the foundation of their argument.
Celtic had similar precedents it could have cited from all over Europe, but it has never gone public with its stance on Resolution 12, and that has enabled the whole thing to be easily buried. Everyone who’s looked at the documents the Requisitioners have put together knows full well that the granting of the 2011-12 license to Rangers was a joke if not an absolute scandal.
The club has long known it. They just chose not to press the issue too much.
They chose to letter the SFA but without calling for a wider inquiry. They did things in a professional manner, yes, but some of us still believe they should have been more vocal and put the issue front and centre instead of leaving it to the fans to carry the water.
Efforts to get this onto the media’s radar failed because it was seen as a supporter initiative only.
Had the club made a public statement and laid out the case as it saw it, there would have been no avoiding this and we would have had it resolved already.
The Irish FA have shown our governing body how it is done, and how easy it is to do.
St Patricks Athletic has shown Celtic what could have been possible if we had been more vocal and more ready to fight instead of rolling over as we evidently did.
Resolution 12 remains a major issue at our club.
The Requisitioners have put all their information where people can see it, but the next step really is down to the fans and the shareholders in particular. It’s our job to move our own club towards some kind of meaningful stance on this and other issues.
We have been dreadful at holding people to account.