Ewing Grahame, The Times, September 7, 2017
“Celtic have not given up hope of the Scottish Football Association agreeing to a judicial inquiry which would examine fully the roles played by the game’s ruling bodies before, during and after the financial implosion of Rangers in 2012.
It is understood that, while the SFA have yet to respond to a call from the Ladbrokes Premiership champions for such a forensic investigation some two months ago, Celtic believe that more stringent rules, checks and balances ought to be in place in order to restore confidence in the SFA while simultaneously ensuring that Rangers or any other club are not allowed to run up such unsustainable debts in future.
The Times can also reveal that, in an letter sent by Peter Lawwell to Stewart Regan, the SFA’s chief executive, immediately prior to Rangers descending from administration into liquidation five years ago, the Celtic chief executive not only demanded a judicial review of the scandal which rocked the national sport but also insisted that title-stripping and the removal of national cup competitions won by the fallen Glasgow club between 1999 and 2010 should form part of the sanctions open to that panel.”
“During those years, Sir David Murray had employed tax avoidance policies: firstly, the Discounted Option Scheme, for which they admitted liability, and secondly, the Employee Benefit , for which they did not. The deployment of these complex plans allowed Rangers to make tax-free payments to players, managers, staff and former employees in the shape of “loans” or discretionary bonuses from the Trust.
Murray took £6.3 million worth of net payments in EBTs while other major beneficiaries included Barry Ferguson (£2.5 million), Stefan Klos (£2 million), Dado Prso (£1.9 million), Christian Nerlinger (£1.8 million), Michael Ball (£1.4 million), Tore André Flo (£1.3 million), Ronald de Boer and Thomas Buffel (£1.2 million each), Claudio Caniggia and Pedro Mendes (£1 million each) and managers Alex McLeish (£1.7 million) and Dick Advocaat (£1.5 million).
Celtic believed then that the involvement of the aforementioned players, along with 46 others, in league and cup matches during that 11-year span should make all their results null and void, should it be proved that the tax avoidance schemes had been misused.
“If the allegations of ‘double contracts’ for players are true, and a breach of SPL and/or SFA rules is established, the eligibility of those players to have competed in domestic league and cup competitions will be called into question,” Lawwell wrote in his letter, sent on May 25, 2012, the 45th anniversary of Celtic’s European Cup triumph.
“In turn, the integrity of the football results achieved by using those players would by necessity also fall into question. Any wrongdoing then established would have to be subject to fair and proportionate sanctions, including retrospectively, if appropriate. However, at a higher level, in our opinion this whole affair is causing lasting damage to the reputation and integrity of Scottish football.”
It adds: “The interests of fairness and Scottish football now demand that the SFA act decisively. The initial inquiry should now be reconvened or a new independent panel led by a judge or senior lawyer should be formed to investigate and report upon the Rangers EBT issues and consider whether there has been any further breach of the Association’s rules, including those on disrepute.
“The roles of individuals (past and present) subject to the jurisdiction of the Association should also be examined. This should take place as quickly as possible, irrespective of the SPL’s own investigations.”
Five Supreme Court judges decided unanimously on July 5 that EBT payments were liable for tax. Rangers had denied the existence of side letters to players guaranteeing their extra payments — most of them were performance-related — to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the footballing authorities but they were uncovered during a police raid on Ibrox.
Murray confessed in court earlier this year that EBTs “gave us [Rangers] an opportunity to get players that we perhaps would not be able to afford [otherwise]”. When the Supreme Court verdict was announced, the SFA issued a statement which said they would do nothing, on legal advice.
The SPFL board — it includes Rangers’ Stewart Robertson — also asked the SFA more than six weeks ago to consent to an impartial probe into how the governing bodies dealt with Rangers’ financial meltdown. It too has been met with silence.”
This piece does not go far enough. I managed to source the letter. I have also seen some of the side contracts. How Grahame can claim that the majority of the side contracts were performance related is materially wrong.
Lawwell’s letter will be on file at UEFA. A follow-up letter to Andrea Traverso should be Lawwell’s next step. Regan is severely compromised. If the SFA Chief Executive, who has begun his ascent of UEFA’s greasy pole, continues to hide behind the amateur-hour advice of a conveyancing consigliere, then hell mend him.
Celtic are wise to Regan and his cronies. His position is untenable.
At the next Professional Game Board meeting, Lawwell should table a motion of no confidence in Regan. This corrupt little runt of a man is not fit for purpose.