Yesterday, a London based sports lawyer named Nii Anteson, who works for a firm call Sheridans, spoke to The Guardian about the Everton situation. His take on it was that the result has set a precedent and that two other clubs, in particular, should be very concerned by the verdict.
They are Chelsea and Manchester City.
He pointed to a section of the report which dealt with a claim by one of Everton’s financial controllers, who claimed that his responsibilities to his employer superseded those he and the club had to the league.
He told the inquiry it was his job not to blindly follow the FFP rules they have down there but to interpret them in such a way as benefited his club.
The EPL disagreed. The report fired back with the damning verdict that the impact to football and the spirit of the rules must be the primary consideration for anyone in such a position. That, said Anteson, crucially bleeds into the Chelsea and City cases.
Because Anteson generally accepts Everton’s claim that they did not knowingly, wilfully break disclosure rules.
They simply tried to find an avenue around them, which might sounds like semantics to you and I but is an important legal distinction.
“(Their) representative said his job is to creatively interpret the profitability and sustainability rules to benefit his employer – Everton,” Anteson said.
“But the commission in this case found that the general duty of good faith that clubs owe to the Premier League is a very high standard and trumps that, and frankly, because the Premier League is generally unsighted into the goings-on at a club, aside from these financial reports, which need to be submitted, it’s important that the clubs exercise the utmost care in providing those reports … the commission found that while Everton didn’t consciously intend to circumvent the rules it failed to discharge that duty of good faith and that was one of the aggravating factors.”
This, he said, would give problems to teams under the microscope but City and Chelsea are facing a far more detailed list of charges.
In the case of City those charges include “failing to give ‘a true and fair view of the club’s financial position’, failing to “include full details” of player and manager remuneration, failing to comply with fair play rules, and failing to cooperate in the Premier League’s investigation.” Does that remind you of another club?
Charges against Chelsea have been brought after their new owners complied with FFP rules and turned over a list of incriminating documents against the former owners, including claims that money was funnelled into the club through less than transparent means.
The most important development in the Everton case, and which should put both clubs on notice as to wide ranging consequences which might stretch out for years to come is that four clubs, Leeds, Leicester, Burnley and Southampton, have threatened to sue Everton’s owners, through the Premier League.
Their case is based on the fact that they were relegated when Everton was breaching those guidelines in order to stay in the top flight.
There hasn’t been a verdict in the City and Chelsea cases, of course, but it’s highly likely that they too will face not only the league’s severest sanctions but that they’ll face litigation from the other clubs as well, for loss of earnings .
There are a lot of us who feel that similar actions should have been launched here in Scotland.
There is the obvious problem, of course, that the club which was responsible for that cheating went out of business and was liquidated.
But one of the conditions on which The Lie is based is that the owners of Rangers’ assets were responsible for paying that club’s football debts. The moment the authorities declared that they would endorse The Lie, Celtic and others should have tested their resolve by filing immediate actions against Sevco’s owners.
Why didn’t they?
And there’s a better question of course.
In the Everton case, Anteson has pointed out the “duty of care” clubs owe to the league, but there’s another duty of care too of course and it is the one that the league owes to the clubs, and there is ample evidence in the public domain and in the court transcripts which proves that the SFA Chairman Campbell Ogilvie knew exactly what Rangers were up to, including the hiding of side-contracts.
He knew that because his signature was on the very first of the EBT’s, the Discounted Options Scheme – the Wee Tax Case – in which HMRC had already obtained the “side letters”, which Ogilvie must have known were being concealed from the SFA, where he was steadily climbing the ladder, and where he was in the President’s office when the EBT storm broke.
His denials of the time that he was involved in the drafting of contracts is as slippery as it is laughable. Even if he wasn’t in charge of drafting those contracts, nobody really believes that he didn’t know they were being with-held from the association.
Because the whole purpose of the EBT scheme was to be able to pay players more without declaring it … this oft-stated nonsense about the EBT’s being “in the company accounts” has never been more than window dressing. Crucial details were being with-held both from the tax man and from football.
Ogilvie knew what Rangers was up to.
He had a duty to the sport to inform the SFA of that.
As SFA President he had an obligation to the rest of the clubs to make sure they were all playing by the same rules.
That he did not do so violated the SFA’s own duty of care towards Celtic and other clubs … and we could have, and we should have, sued the SFA for that or threatened to do so to bring all this into the open.
Clubs in England are not prepared to accept what their fellow clubs have been up to. They lost a lot of money out of the actions of those clubs, and beyond whatever silverware they might at one point lay claim to.
Our own club didn’t do nearly enough … it will damn the people in charge at Celtic forevermore and in particular Lawwell and Desmond who as far as I’m concerned allowed our club to be cheated in their failure to pursue these matters as aggressively as they could, and should, have.
In addition to our own club’s failure, I have always been amazed that no other club stepped up to act.
There were sides who got to finals in that time against Rangers, teams who were denied Europe and even the chance to play in the Champions League who let it all pass without opening proceedings against the people who let that happen.
Part of that is fear.
Nobody wanted to stand up and take the flak from the crazies in the Ibrox support – not that it’s stopped the bloggers from writing about this stuff for years and demanding justice – but it’s still difficult to understand why they let so much money slip through their fingers.
What’s worse is that they squandered a clear opportunity to gut Hampden out and rebuild the entire structure. They surely had to know that was needed.
The Everton case has cast a dark shadow over clubs in their own league, but it’s also casting a dark shadow over people and events up here.
The Celtic AGM is next week, and whilst The Trust intends to push them on UEFA and Financial Sustainability, the people at the top of our club have gotten off light in relation to the scandal of 2012.
The injustice of that is their legacy.
They didn’t fight hard enough for us, that’s always been my view on it, a view that is shared by other people.
We couldn’t prevent a club calling itself Rangers from being constructed out of the broken bits, but aside from making sure it started in the bottom tier it’s almost as if we were happy to let them climb through the leagues unimpeded, and by following the same strategy which broke Rangers in the first place.
But we never took on the SFA.
We never tried to reform it, nor to secure compensation for years of cheating.
We rolled over and pitifully accepted first the SFA’s self-serving remit for the LNS inquiry which explicitly ruled out any investigation of Ogilvie’s role, and responded with meek acceptance when its sham findings and scandalously lax sanctions were announced.
We couldn’t even get the full, independent inquiry into those events which they more than merited and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is where some of us have always believed we should have pursued justice instead of leaving it up to the same corrupt cabal which had allowed the cheating to happen, was a path we never pursued at all.
I’m past caring whether Ibrox is ever held to account for this stuff; we’re way too late in the day for that, I think, although we haven’t even seen the start of the books covering this scandal in detail, and they are going to paint a damning picture for history.
We’ll make damned sure that asterisk is there, and it’s visible, for all time.
No, I am now more interested in seeing those inside our walls and who failed our club held to account instead … or at the very least to explain exactly why they failed to get the justice we deserved.
The more we hear from England the more obvious it is that the way things are done up here is just wrong.
Celtic is at least partially responsible for this continuing disgrace.