Earlier on, I wrote a piece on why we should all support the team behind Resolution 12, and why it is just plain wrong for anyone in the Celtic family to be criticising these guys. Whether you believe in their cause or not, they are fellow supporters who have stuck their necks out to do the right thing and they already eat enough dirt from our enemies.
After I posted it I got an email from a friend of mine suggesting this article; he, like I do, believes that the issue of who pays the bills at Ibrox is one that should interest and intrigue our entire support. He cannot understand, as I cannot, anyone who thinks it’s not important.
So at his suggestion, I’m going to write briefly on why I think it is.
You don’t have to go back that far into the past to understand that essentially there are three issues here.
The first is, whether or not we’re being cheated.
The second is how deep the hole is over there and what another administration event could do to Scottish football.
The third is about how another meltdown over there would affect the relationship between our club and our fans.
All of those things are important to Celtic in their own way. All of those things have an impact not only on us in the here and now but into the future.
Let’s start with the first one. It’s the most obvious one.
All of us agree that the use of EBT’s in the 2000’s was not only wrong morally but that it violated football’s regulations. It’s not for nothing that we call it “financial doping.” In trying to hide what they were doing from the tax-man (the surest sign that they realised what they were doing was wrong) they broke football’s rules by hiding the contracts.
They used a tax scam to obtain a sporting advantage. It is the same as if they’d been paying their players in brown paper bags.
The question is, how do we know something similar isn’t going on right now?
How do we know that there aren’t dark forces at play here?
For all we know Ibrox might be paying its bills through the proceeds of crime; that’s an extreme example, but that’s precisely the point. Enough about their business practices is opaque to make it entirely feasible.
The regulations regarding this stuff are so weak as to be non-existent.
The whole auditing process depends on clubs honestly declaring their financial affairs. What the SFA system essentially does is asks legit people and crooks alike to swear on a stack of bibles that they are playing it straight. Previous boards out of Ibrox did it with a straight face for years.
And since the SFA neither knows nor cares to know what the true situation is over there, anything could be going on. That club could be on the brink of hitting the wall for all we know. Imagine that it is. We would celebrate that fact, but then the reckoning would start. Sponsors and advertisers would head for the hills. They might never return. The authorities would demand answers and explanations and heads would roll.
But the critical thing is what wouldn’t happen.
The current club at Ibrox would suffer an automatic points deduction for entering administration.
If administration proved too difficult to navigate – say some mystery hedge-fund had loaned them the money to survive last season and wasn’t interested in pennies in the pound – and liquidation followed; here’s what would not happen the same as last time.
The SFA regulations now allow clubs to die and be born again … with the NewCo assuming the OldCo’s place in the league. There would be no starting at the bottom this time. Having cheated, and been caught, Rangers 2 could morph into Rangers 3 and the only penalty they would suffer was that 15 point slap on the wrist.
Think about what the consequences of that sham would be.
Would the game here ever recover?
Its credibility would be essentially zero.
This is a debt dumpers charter; the only surprise is that since it was introduced post 2012 no club has taken advantage of the obvious benefits of it. But one will, at some point, and it might even be the current Ibrox one.
Lastly, think about what the impact of that would be on our fans.
Even if all that happens is that the second Ibrox club goes into administration and has to start cutting, a lot of our supporters – and I am very clear that I’d be one of them – would be furious with Celtic for allowing this situation to develop again.
Our failure to act to introduce FFP and other regulations cost us 10 in a row; they massively overspent their way to that title and I hold every single one of our directors personally accountable for allowing that to happen.
This wasn’t sleeping at the wheel; it was getting pissed, getting behind the wheel and driving whilst out of their nuts until the inevitable accident.
The people in charge of our club should be damned for all eternity for not being able to protect us from an Ibrox club which did this again. How many lessons do these people need? It’s already too late for the most important one to matter.
If you are attending the AGM it is far and away the most important question you can ask; “Why did our club not push for financial fair play regulations in 2012, when we still had a chance to make sure that a financial doped club never again took a title off us?”
Because mark my words, this has already affected the relationship many of our fans have with our own club. The implications of our failure to act on FFP have been clear to some of us all the way through the Ibrox NewCo’s steady climb through the leagues, a run built on debt right from the start. It has been readily apparent that they would not stop until either they ran into the wall or were made to by the regulations. But the regulations are weak and as long as they could utilise financial sleight of hand they were never going to have to worry.
This is important because it asks hard questions about the people running Celtic. Can you even imagine the consequences for the relationship between the club and the fans if the second Ibrox operation died the same as the first … and the third started in the top flight, as the regulations were hastily re-written to assure? Understand, the worst has already happened.
Not only did we fail to take the steps that would have stopped their title challenge in its tracks … but we helped them write the Get Out Of Jail Free Card if their over-spending has consequences. It does make even a cynic like me wonder if we see some necessary evil in having them alive. I don’t subscribe to that theory, as most people know, but I understand why some do.
This is why the issue matters. It’s why all the various strands of the battle for better governance over football in Scotland – part of which is Resolution 12 – matter. This affects our club in ways too numerous to count, and some of them count for a lot.
As I said the other day, this is the month when we’ll find out how deep the hole over there is. The size of it isn’t half as important as knowing just how Ibrox filled it. From the outside it seems like an impossible task … they should have to account for every penny, and Celtic should be at the front of the queue in demanding those answers.