A Proposal from the SPFL

I am sure most of you read over the weekend that the ‘SPFL are making an attempt to seize power from the SFA’.

When first read I am sure it made many of us laugh.  How can anyone in the non-sponsored SPFL be in a position to tell the SFA how to run the game?  That’s like two bald men fighting over a comb!

It is essentially about plans from the SPFL to make 4 proposals in next months AGM.  I have listed them here and thoughts are in italics.

1. The SPFL to have two out of eight SFA board members instead of one out of seven.

My first thought, like many other fans, would be which two teams will have representation on the board?

How often will these positions be changed and what criteria will be needed for the individuals to be voted onto the board?   

I believe it would be pro-active to have representation on the board from the member clubs but I’d demand greater transparency to ensure that they would be acting on the best interest of all clubs.

2. A change to the rule requiring SFA committee members to sit for at least four years before being considered for an executive position.

Anything taking the ‘Old Boys Club’ or ‘Jobs for the boys’ Stigma away from the SFA can only be a good thing.

Why should we settle for a role where its a matter of queuing up to take your turn.  Many are astounded, just as many find it laughable, that Mr Ogilvie is still in his position, running unchallenged, after having to step aside from meetings and having clearly mislead the LNS enquiry.
 
To be humoured with “It’s alright he will be leaving next year” is also an insult to any football fan bemused at how he has lasted this long.

Furthermore, as we know who he is being replaced by as well makes me wonder what process there was?  Is it just a case of who has been waiting the longest?

3. For the Professional Game Board (PGB) to take charge of the football youth development.

A few years ago the SPL agreed a deal with the SFA to organise the current grass roots development.  It appears to be working well as the kids seem to be progressing well at several levels.  The question needs to be asked ‘What would they do differently with the money?’ One of the main reasons Scottish Football has got itself into this mess is the avarice of the owners/operators going for the quick buck instead of looking to development.

4. The clubs, rather than the SFA, to decide whether or not a new club should have full SFA membership.

I would want to see what criteria the member clubs would have for issuing membership.  I certainly think that more stringent rules need to be applied but simply removing the parts of rules that mention ‘..At the boards discretion..’ would be a start.
What is the point of having a rule, in black & white, only to go against it, not adhere to it, whenever it suits them.  If clubs and players know the rules then there are no excuses when they are broken.

 

Like most fans of Scottish football we would like to see much needed change being made in the game.  We will have to wait and see what materialises and  what difference the changes will make.  At least we know that all the clubs will have a vote so at least there is a sliver of democracy.

The SFA & SPFL are due to meet today (22/04) to discuss these proposals.  According to Mike Mulraney (Alloa Chairman) early talks were positive on some of these proposals and things are still in the discussion phase.  With that in mind we would like to add our own proposal…

How about a vote of no confidence?

Who are our masters?

Congratulations to all the clubs who have made it this far into the Scottish Cup. You will all be rewarded so long as you continue to eat from the hands that feed you.

After seeing the fixtures the SFA have released for the Scottish Cup we felt it would be a miss if we never put our feelings across.

First we have the replay, Albion Rovers v Rangers. The tie will take place at New Douglas Park on Monday 17th March 19:45. Considering both teams have games 2 days prior wouldn’t it make sense to have the match midweek? Allowing for both teams to ensure match fitness, after all this is the world-famous Scottish Cup!

No.

Due to European games begin played that week it would mean the game would not be televised if played on Tue, Wed or Thur.  We all know how much more important it is to televise the game, whatever the cost, than giving both teams a chance to field their strongest eleven.

Then we have the Semi-finals.

They have already announced the St Johnstone v Aberdeen game will be a 12:45 kick off on Sunday 13th April. According to the SFA official twitter feed both teams had agreed to the date and time of kick off with the broadcaster. We don’t want our game clashing with any of the Super Sunday games obviously. I always wonder just how much say the teams get at these ‘negotiations’.

You notice they haven’t even gave a kick off time for the other Semi? Do you think the broadcaster is waiting to see which team gets through?  Are these games already within the contract of the broadcaster or do they have to pay extra for the cup games? Will the SFA be looking to sell it to the highest bidder?

Take a look at the English FA cup Semi Final games, both on the Saturday and both kicking off at 15:00. What a novel idea!

At what point do you think that our FA stopped thinking about the fans? The ones that follow their teams blindly wherever they go. The ones who have to earn the money to pay the high ticket prices. The ones who have to arrange all their own transport, at times to get games moved due to broadcasters. When did it stop being about the fans and start becoming about the money?

It seems that TV is taking more out of Scottish football than it is putting in. Apart from making our league uncompetitive in wage terms TV fills pubs and sofas and must be having an impact on the Scottish football culture of going to a match on a Saturday, if matches are not on a Saturday. The following from Soccernomics published in 2009 so drawing on data from previous season says this about us.

“The Scots are among the European spectating elite, if not at the very top. Fig 9.3 shows the European countries whose inhabitants , according to www.european-football-statistics.co.uk are most inclined to watch professional soccer.

Total spectator average as percentage of population.

1.      Cyprus  4.8%

2.      Iceland 4.4%

3.      Scotland 3.9%

4.      Norway 3.7%”

It goes on to say “People in these countries watch in astonishing numbers given how poor their leagues are.”

Remember the end game on The Crystal Maze? Whenever I hear about the SFA, and you can include the SPFL, talking about TV deals and sponsorships I just imagine them in their little bubble grasping for any scrap of money that these companies will feed them, ignorant of the possibility they are assisting a cultural suicide . Not even willing to promote the product they are trying to sell, just happy to sit back and take whatever they can get and on whatever terms these ‘sponsors’ want. Us fans, on the other hand, are expected to sit down, shut up and be thankful that they are running our game.

What did Ogilvie know?

Our aim here in asking the question what did Ogilvie know about EBTs is not to try and prove either way if EBT’s, either the initial DOS or later BTC (Big Tax Case) EBTs were setup to gain an unsporting advantage. All we want to do is provide information about the background to EBTs and Campbell Ogilvie’s known role in them using layman terms as far as is possible.

In this piece we set out the information we have and the questions we feel that Mr Ogilvie should be answering. Whilst reading this please remember the Honesty, Transparency & Accountability post that we published and ask yourself, Should this man be the President of the body running Scottish Football?

Things we do know

  1. He set up first Rangers venture into questionable tax schemes on 3 Sept 1999 (Discount Option Scheme) for “a valuable Rangers employee” when he subscribed to two £1 share premiums in Montreal Limited at a subscription price of £2 and a share premium of £149,998.
  2. He attended a meeting as General Secretary of Rangers on 16 September to discuss remuneration planning of Rangers employees at which it was confirmed Craig Moore was to be offered beneficial ownership of the Company’s shareholding in Montreal Limited as a constituent part of the remuneration package to Craig Moore.
  3. He knew that Craig Moore was the valued employee at para 1 & from para 2 what the Discount Option Scheme consisted of and that it was now part of Rangers employee remuneration planning.
  4. He was employed by Rangers, in various capacities until around September 2005 and was there at the time in March/April 2005 when HMRC had made enquiries about side letters re Flo and De Boer.
  5. He was a beneficiary of a payment of £95,000 from MGMRT (Employee Benefit Trust) but claimed no knowledge of details of it.
  6. He denied any role in administering player contracts (see [1]) and assumed all contributions to the trust were being made legally and relevant football regulations were being complied with. (In spite of para 1 to para 3 and implications from para 4)
  7. He gave testimony to Lord Nimmo Smith in the enquiry into player registration and non-reporting of EBT side letters.
  8. He did not provide any testimony or clarification to LNS on players named in the Commission List who were in receipt of trust payments (See [2])  with side letters withheld that were paid via the DOS in spite of his knowledge at 1 to 3 and possible knowledge of their illegality stemming from 4 or subsequent public knowledge of the existence of the by then unpaid tax bill resulting from the DOS based Trust.
  9. Whilst his role in introducing ebts justified the SFA excusing itself as the commissioning authority, it also meant the SPL and their solicitors were unsighted on paras 1, 2 and 3 during their commissioning of LNS (whilst the SFA subsequently still provided key influencing testimony during the enquiry itself.  An alternative to the SFA was The Court Of Arbitration on Sport or even an independent Appeal body could have been set up to carry out the Appellant Role in order for the LNS Commission to be fully informed.
  10. He did not correct or comment on LNS’s decision to treat the early DOS Trust and EBT Trusts as continuous in spite of being the creator of the scheme he was instrumental in establishing in Sept 1999. (see 1 to 3).  Nor comment on his presence at Rangers when they switched from the DOS arrangement (to be accepted as irregular in 2011) to the loan MGMRT arrangement subject to UTT appeal. 
  11. He did not comment on or correct the LNS decision arising as a result of the continuous decision at 10 that said “Although the payments in this case were not themselves irregular and were not in breach of SPL or SFA Rules, the scale and extent of the proven contraventions of the disclosure rules require a substantial penalty to be imposed;” This calls into question Lord Nimmo Smith’s overall ruling, which is based on all payments being regular (“not themselves irregular”) when at least two were not regular and also the appropriateness of the penalty imposed and possibly even more fundamental aspects of the LNS commissioning itself.

Questions for Campbell Ogilvie

Employee Remuneration Policy

Campbell Ogilvie sat as Secretary to the committee in 1999 that decided to adopt employee benefit trusts as a matter of Rangers employee remuneration policy:

  • Were you aware from prior briefings what might invalidate the use of EBT’s as a means of remunerating employers, particularly players?
  • If not, did you seek clarification? and if not why not?
  • With your experience in football administration did you advise others at Rangers in your role as Secretary of what might invalidate the protection from tax that EBT’s offered?
  • If it was not your responsibility to brief others, whose was it and was it agreed that a briefing should be provided to contract writers?
  • If not, given the disastrous consequences of not complying, why not?

You said in 2012

“It is also worth noting that, since the mid-90s, I was not responsible for the drafting or administering of player contracts.

  • Given that you set up the first EBT payment under the above policy in 1999 does that not suggest that you played a part in the administration of a contract to pay a player?
  • What was the reason for the payment in question to Craig Moore and was the payment registered with the SFA as part of the player’s contract?
  • Given that the signings in 2000 of De Boer and Flo were the first time EBT’s were used in the recruitment of new players under the policy you were party to introducing, were you not involved at any stage administrative or advisory or any other capacity?
  • Had you at any time between 2000 and 2005 in your role as Secretary or any other role received any indication that HMRC were asking question s about the contracts to these players awarded in 2000?
  • Given that the side letters for these two existed, at what point did you become aware of their existence?
  • Given the potential consequences arising from their existence being hidden from HMRC did you advise anyone at Rangers in 2005 or at the SFA at any time after you joined them on those potential consequences?
  • If not why not, if yes whom did you advise?

Lord Nimmo Smith Enquiry.

You stated

“In relation to the recent investigation, I can confirm that I asked to be excluded from the Scottish FA’s independent inquiry into Rangers.

“In the interests of good governance it was absolutely right that this was the case.”

  • What was the basis for deciding it was in the interests of good governance given your knowledge of the introduction of EBT’s at Rangers?
  • Was it your decision alone or did you discuss it with anyone?
  • If yes with whom?
  • Did you reveal then your early involvement from 1999 in EBT’s, in particular your role in the remuneration policy committee?

In 2012 you said

“I was aware of the EBT scheme in operation at Rangers during my time at the club and, indeed, was a member. The existence of the scheme was published in Rangers’ annual accounts.

  • Why did you not clarify that there were in fact two distinct EBT schemes in operation during your time at Rangers, the one that paid you £95K and the one that paid Moore, De Boer and Flo?
  • Why, given that the SFA took on role of appellants but you had excluded yourself from an SFA enquiry did you then not exclude yourself from the SPL independent enquiry under LNS in the same interests of good governance grounds?
  • Why when giving testimony to LNS during that enquiry did you not make a distinction between the early EBT’s arising from the DOS and the later EBTs as LNS was treating them as continuous when in tax avoidance and tax evasion terms they clearly were not at the time of enquiry?
  • Are you aware that failure to make the distinction caused LNS to treat all payments as “not themselves irregular” when in fact at least the two to De Boer and Flo were?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2116686/Rangers-crisis-Campbell-Ogilvie-received-95k-EBT-cash.html

Comment – Given that side letters were hidden in the De Boer and Flo cases for sure and both related to payments under the irregular Discount Option Scheme and that Campbell Ogilvie was aware of the distinction between DOS and loan EBTs from his experience in 1999, did he tell the full story in his statements then and does he not now have a responsibility to explain:

  • The absence of any reference to the distinction that may have informed both the SPL when commissioning and LNS when ruling on side letters unsighted as they were of documentation D&P failed to supply for which they were found guilty by LNS?
  • Whether the DOS payment to Craig Moore was reported to the SFA as part of Moore’s remuneration package and if the matter of side letters and reporting them was discussed during any remuneration planning meetings he presumably attended as Company Secretary?

Rangers said no side letters could be found in players personal files casting doubts on the full veracity of Sir David Murray’s statement on 6 Aug 2012 following Hugh Adams accusations of prior use of trusts to avoid tax when SDM said:

“All football rules were complied with. All enquiries from entitled parties or organisations were answered.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/19300338

Comment – Answered yes, but truthfully no.

Notes

[1]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/rangers/9144140/Campbell-Ogilvie-admits-he-was-aware-of-Rangers-EBT-scheme-but-had-no-role-in-player-contracts.html

[2]

Defintion of “EBT Payments and Arrangements”.  This expression is given the following definition: “Payments made by or for Rangers PLC into an employee benefit trust or trusts for the benefit of Players, including the Specified Players, employed by Rangers PLC as Professional Players, Registered and/or to be Registered as Professional Players with the Scottish Premier League and Playing and/or to Play for Rangers FC in the Scottish Premier League and payments made by or for Rangers PLC into a sub-trust or sub-trusts of such trust or trusts of which such Players were beneficiaries, payments by such trust or trusts and/or sub-trust or sub-trusts to such Players and/or for the benefit of such Players and any and all arrangements, agreements and/or undertakings and the like or similar relating to or concerning any of such Players and payments.”

Comment – The above does not limit Trusts to the loan based Employee Benefit Trusts which are the basis of the big tax case under review by the UTT, but covers all payments made via a Trust to benefit players.

We need a Culture change at The SFA

Honesty

Refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc.

Transparency

It implies openness, communication, and accountability.  Transparency is operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. For example, a cashier making change at a point of sale by segregating a customer’s large bill, counting up from the sale amount, and placing the change on the counter in such a way as to invite the customer to verify the amount of change demonstrates transparency.

Accountability

In governance, accountability has expanded beyond the basic definition of “being called to account for one’s actions”.It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between individuals, e.g. “A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct”. 

Should it be too much to ask that the associations that run our national sport sign up to the above attributes?

Should we have anyone currently involved, either employed or owning shares, with any of its members working in a capacity of influence at the SFA?  What message does that send out to supporters of other clubs? 

Taken from the SFA website:-

 “…a move towards an independent Judicial Panel has enhanced the efficiency and transparency of the disciplinary process”

Has it though? Regardless if you agree with either punishment met down to Ian Black or Michael Moffit the fact that when the Ayr chairman Lachlan Cameron gets a reply of ‘They did tell me that if Ian Black hadn’t received his lenient sentence, Michael would actually have been suspended until the end of the season.’ You know that the panel has then been compromised and is no longer independent.

I need not remind you that even though the SFA have a blanket ban on any of their members betting on football that one of their main sponsors, including that of the Scottish Cup, is William Hill.

There should be no grey areas when it comes to the SFA Rules of Association, no discretionary powers to bypass or overrule an article that has been set.

What changes would you like to see?

Get involved

It’s YOUR game! The SFA should be providing a service, not dictating it.

For The Good of Our Game

I was asked by Scottish Fans for Change, as someone who has written previously on matters of the loss of trust in SFA governance, to contribute to their cause with a blog around which a force for change might gather momentum. There are other forums with this aim, notably Scottish Football Monitor, which succeeded the Rangers Tax Case blog, but what is interesting about the arrival of Scottish Fans for Change on the scene is a growing awareness amongst supporters of all clubs that Scottish football has suffered from the now discredited two club business model and the commercial thinking driving it, that never foresaw the inevitable outcome when football forgets it is first a sport then a business.

Hopefully, as RIFC lurch from one crisis to another, this perception of being asked to support a failed model will occur to their supporters too, because as losers in the two club commercial race, they have suffered the consequences of failure as much as, if not more than, most.

In sport, particularly football, you can lose but continue to participate because sport depends on having competition and supporters stay faithful, win lose or draw. In business if you fail another business takes your customers away and the business closes.

Those in charge of our game and those reporting on it, who advocate the two club commercial model have replaced the natural state of sporting affairs, where you lose but carry on taking the sporting consequences, with a commercial conundrum in which football is whatever those in charge wish it to be to suit their particular purpose.

The problem with this attitude is that sport, whilst interdependent by nature, is totally rules dependent i.e. narrow rules govern how a game is played and are there to see that a game is played fairly, ideally without fear or favour, not to fit the wider circumstances of the time.

However the Scottish Football Association as governors of Scottish Football have played fast and loose with own their rules to an almost bizarre degree and have failed miserably in a number of areas not just since it was announced that Rangers were entering administration in February 2012, but in allowing that once proud club to deteriorate ever since it embarked on seeking to use financial advantage to provide sporting advantage. They did so with the help of a friendly national bank and a dubious tax efficiency policy that began in 1999 at Campbell Ogilvie’s hand with the irregular Discount Option Scheme ebts that produced the Wee Tax Case bill and morphed into the yet to be decided in regularity and amount terms, Big Tax Case ebts that has still to leave the stage on which Rangers history is being performed.

Examples of playing fast and loose with the rules for commercial purposes can be found in the 5 way agreement where the concept of the transfer of a clubs SFA share was used rather than the normal process of a new club joining the SFL applying for and being granted an Associate Membership of the SFA.

Why the contortion? Why use a rule intended to prohibit the transfer of a share (Article 14.1 of SFA Handbook 2001/12) rather than the rules actually designed to allow membership at that time?

Then there is the bizarre “Bryson ruling” from the SFA in evidence to Lord Nimmo Smith on player eligibility, where a player is still eligible to play where a club has failed to disclose all financial details at registration. Quite how the SFA and SPFL meet the challenge of changing or even removing the very rules designed to stop clubs making under the counter payments without upsetting FIFA will be interesting to observe (if they do anything of course).

These are just two of the reasons why the SFA no longer enjoys the trust, such as it ever was, of the Scottish footballing public. There are more if further evidence is required, but there is enough to justify asking what can be done to restore trust in those charged with governing Scottish football.

In Feb 2012 the issue of lost trust was addressed in this article at http://celticunderground.net/in-whom-do-we-trust/ ironically just 9 days before Rangers entered administration.

There are a number of trust restoring measures advocated there that two years later are perhaps worth having another look at given the passage of time.

Measure One is the first and most important. It is reproduced here as a key step that needs to be undertaken as a matter of some urgency and something that Scottish Fans for Change might want to consider pursuing as their prime goal.

Measure One: A thorough independent enquiry into how under the SFA’s governance one club managed to severely damage themselves and our game in the pursuit of European “glory” and the tempting financial rewards participation attracts. Over and above the “skew” effect of the latter, where winner takes all, the following three areas need urgent investigation.

• Club Licensing
• Fit and proper ownership.
• The referee service

Ideas for tackling these three areas have been proposed previously at

http://celticunderground.net/sfa-reform-one-down-three-to-go/

They are not the only solutions but these areas and the problems caused to Scottish football by the distribution of UEFA CL money need to be explored in a Lessons Learned Enquiry.
The terms of reference need to contain input from supporters’ representatives (Trusts and or Associations) in order to direct it and further input to determine what will work and what will not. The required changes would be implemented by the SFA Professional Game board who would be responsible for dealing with the findings/recommendations.

Measure Two. The SFA have insisted (rightly) that the UEFA license in 2011 was correctly granted at 31st March 2011, but following Resolution 12 being tabled at Celtic’s 2013 AGM, have been more evasive on their monitoring responsibilities thereafter, stating on BBC Sportsound that monitoring was UEFA’s responsibility. This evasiveness represents a lost opportunity to restore trust, but one the SFA might wish to remedy as shareholders continue to seek answers.

Measure Three. What follows is almost as true now as it was two years ago although social media has given supporters a voice but not an official platform from which to speak. Accordingly it is repeated here with minor changes:

“In all the talk about what is good for Scottish football the debate is being led by the media who have a commercial interest in perpetuating the status quo, as do the SP(F)L and SFA. Nowhere is the voice of the paying customer, the football supporters who hands over good money to watch football being fairly played, being heard.”

Hopefully, as Rangers future becomes clearer the voice of supporters of all clubs will be heard via their trusts/associations on what is and is not acceptable in the governance of our game.

In that sense Recommendation 13 of the Henry McLeish Review of Scottish Football (Part Two Page 71) that states:

National organisations representing fans and supporters require greater respect and acknowledgement from within the game and this should be reflected in the work of football organisations including the SFA Council.

Opens the way for supporter groups to become more involved as stakeholders in the future of our game. The chosen vehicle for involvement appears to be Supporters Direct . This is a welcome start, but stakeholder involvement has to be done in a way that is not just paying lip service to the McLeish recommendation, but engages meaningfully with all supporter trusts/associations on matters that really matter.

Movements like Scottish Fans for Change and Scottish Football Monitor exist because for them restoring trust in Scottish football matters above all else.

Consequently an SFA statement recognizing that trust has been lost and providing an update on progress on establishing the necessary mechanisms to enable this particular McLeish recommendation to be implemented in a way that meets THE major concern of trust facing our game
would form part of trust and integrity restoring measure for all supporters.

Finally: Whenever a supporter of any club voices their concerns about the game’s integrity and how poor governance undermines it, because the catalyst for those concerns was Rangers failing, they are met with the charge of vindictiveness and this charge is used by those who would rather not see any change to prevent such change.

Some supporters may very well hold that view, but the majority who form Scottish Fans for Change simply want fair play, a concept that rampant commercialism still pays lip service to.

One response to this charge of vindictiveness is if you were bitten by a neighbor’s dog that was a danger to all, and chose to have him muzzled and so controlled rather than put down, would you be acting vindictively or showing generosity to your neighbor whilst protecting yourself and him from possible future harm?

It is in this spirit of keeping the game alive and well that this is written.