When Steven Gerrard sat in front of the media the other day, and was allowed to paint a picture of Sevco as the one club in world football which is somehow immune to the global financial crisis, I was flabbergasted that they let him away with it.
But I was also curious. Because his comments made so little sense to me that my immediately thought was that either he was lying to them or someone inside Ibrox was lying to him. Yet there’s a third option, albiet an unlikely one.
Perhaps he knows something that the rest of us don’t. Perhaps Sevco has somehow bridged its funding gap. I would find that astonishing. I would be highly suspicious about the means.
The longer Sevco persists in this fantasy that this crisis hasn’t touched them the more you wonder just what is actually going on over there, and how it’s being done. I think it is perfectly legitimate to ask searching questions about their club and the source of its funds.
Similar questions surround Hearts, of course, and their “benefactor” and exactly what he gets out of the deal. These questions go to the heart of why Scottish football needs financial fair play regulations and why it always has.
Sevco’s opaque funding must already have put them on the brink of UEFA investigations, unless the SPFL has been giving the European governing body information that is deliberately misleading. It is hard to believe that officials in Nyon have watched this club publish accounts showing rising levels of debt year on year without asking questions about it.
But what answers were they given, and by whom?
Sevco’s chairman claims that the club has secured “new investment.”
If that’s true, from where has it come? Who provided it?
Financial regulations in football aren’t just there to prevent financial doping, they are there to make sure that clubs aren’t being funded, amongst other things, by the proceeds of crime or anything like that. I’ve written here before that the SFA’s ridiculous fit and proper person regulations aren’t up to snuff and that it’s a matter of time before organised criminal gangs get their hands on a football club if they haven’t done so already.
The lax way we do things in Scotland, and the media’s complete inability to perform even the most basic functions of journalism, open the door wide to all manner of activities well capable of blighting our game.
Most robust regulations would go some way towards combating that, and it would start with clubs having to clearly show where the money comes from and also where it goes.
Before this crisis, Sevco’s funding gap was already around £10 million.
That number will only have gone up. Even sweeping wage cuts for lower level footballers like Halliday will not have reduced it in any significant way, and the global health crisis will have wrecked further havoc. In the absence of a magic money tree at Ibrox, I see only problems ahead.
With front-loaded income, from season tickets and their MyGers scam, along with wage deferments and an advance from Castore they can keep the wolf at bay for perhaps a few months … but long before December there will have to come a reckoning.
At this stage I don’t even see how they make it to the January transfer window unless something dramatic happens over the summer, like the selling of at least one key asset for the kind of money they won’t get.
Other than a major sale, I see no way for the books to balance.
Directors might be willing to keep the lights on if it’s settling the odd bill as it comes due, but we’re talking here about a multi-million-pound operation, and an open-ended funding crisis which will hurt like nothing ever has.
Even if they make Group Stage football there might be no full houses, which would knock millions more off what the club is able to bring in. Who in their right mind would “invest” in that? If Sevco is getting money from somewhere it’s not some “investor.”
It is not enough for people in the governing bodies and in the media to simply accept Sevco’s assertions that everything at their club is just fine.
The last time an Ibrox club entered administration the shockwaves were felt all over the game; we were told that they were “too big to fail” and that everything from the sponsorship to the TV deal would collapse if they did … imagine such a thing happening right now? It would be catastrophic.
And this is why we cannot just sit and let them squirm their way through this stuff. If Sevco is lying – and I believe they certainly are, whether Gerrard is in on it or one of the targets of the disinformation – then we need to ask exactly how bad things are over there.
If they are telling the truth we’re all entitled to know where they are getting the money.
As Scottish football goes through the current crisis it is important to keep up with developments and the key issues. We are determined to do so, and to keep you informed as well. Please subscribe to the blog.