Why I Can't Move On

‘SPL chiefs won’t appeal Lord Nimmo Smith’s verdict on Rangers’ use of EBT’s’. Well, that’s it then, its official – Stephen Thompson says so – it’s straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Thompson insists that the case is now CLOSED following a recent meeting of ‘league bosses’ who ‘simply want to draw a line under the bitter battle’. A ‘bitter battle’ it must be said, that was wholly created by Thompson, Petrie et al, and ruthlessly pursued for the past twelve months by the culpable, kow-towing chief executives of the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League.

We’re not, of course, informed by Thompson who these peace-loving ‘SPL chiefs’ actually are or, indeed, if the Machiavellian Peter Lawwell is one of those currently using his razor sharp filleting knife for the more desirable purpose of drawing the ubiquitous line in the sand. Nor are we advised if these same SPL chiefs consulted Neil Doncaster, their conveniently absent chief executive, who is allegedly ‘on holiday’ in France –on permanent ‘gardening I hope!

You’ll forgive me if I appear a little cynical, but didn’t Mr. Lawwell’s Celtic issue a statement, just a few days ago, decrying the ‘deliberate non-disclosure of £47 million in payments to players and staff’, and expressing surprise and dismay that anyone - no matter how independent, how learned or how ennobled - could possibly conclude that no competitive advantage was gained from these heinous EBT arrangements – EBT arrangements used by the very club of which he is currently the Chief Executive.

But maybe I’m being unfair. It may be that Peter has undergone a Damascene conversion; perhaps he has, at last, seen the error of his ways? Or, perhaps, he simply wasn’t invited to the meeting of league bosses that purportedly ‘closed the curtain’ on the Independent Commission. Perhaps, Thompson & Co. have frozen him out? Perhaps the ‘league bosses’ have amazingly ‘grown a set’ overnight, and decided that it’s time to put Mr. Lawwell in his place? No, I don’t believe it either! Which, of course, begs the question; just how much credence can we place in Stephen Thompson’s statement?

So can we safely assume that he has left his bitterness behind, and buried the proverbial hatchet? I think not. I, for one, will take some convincing that Stephen Thompson, Rod Petrie, Peter Lawwell and their not so merry band of SPL sycophants and supplicants have suddenly had a remarkable change of heart. Are we to believe that, suddenly, after 12 months of unrelenting attacks and vindictiveness, that they’re all now committed to moving on? Sorry, but I’m just not that gullible. How can we move on in the atmosphere of mistrust, dishonesty and deceit that you have created and nurtured for over two years now? I simply don’t believe you, and nor will the vast majority of Rangers fans.

But some may disagree; maybe you think I’m being a tad unreasonable. If so, please don’t take my word for it; simply ask any of the member clubs of the Scottish Football League what they think. Lied to, bullied and deceived is how they describe their treatment during the whole sordid SFA/SPL ‘plot’ of June/July 2012. A ‘corrupt’ regime was how the SFA/SPL was characterised by some of their more outspoken, and less intimidated, representatives. Call me an old cynic if you wish, but I can’t help but conclude that it’s time to ‘move on’ simply because the First Tier Tax Tribunal didn’t produce the guilty verdict that Thompson, Petrie and others had so fervently hoped for; and to add insult to injury, Lord Nimmo Smith’s refusal to underwrite their nefarious agenda has exploded, for ever more, the myth perpetuated by the likes of Lawwell and Lennon that Rangers cheated and gained an unfair sporting advantage.

But let’s be brutally honest, we were declared guilty of ‘financial doping’ long before the FTTT ever delivered its verdict, and our, so-called, SPL colleagues had long since concluded that we were ‘cheats’ when they took the fateful decision to appoint Lord Nimmo Smith to chair its Independent Commission confident in the knowledge that a favourable outcome was inevitable, and title stripping a foregone conclusion. As Charles Green forcefully stated, "People within the SPL wanted me, at first, to surrender titles as part of a deal to enable Rangers to play again as a member of the SFA’. In exchange for our SFA ticket and a speedy return to the top flight, we would be required to sacrifice our league titles from 2002/3, 2004/5, 2008/9, 2009/10 and 2010/11; have our Scottish Cup triumphs of 2001/2, 2002/3, 2007/8 and 2008/9 wiped out and the unlawful transfer embargo that was overturned by the Court of Session re-imposed. But it now seems we must forget that the SFA and the SPL sought to pre-empt the outcome of both tribunals by blackmailing Rangers to accept one of the most reprehensible arrangements ever forced on any football club anywhere in the world.

Well, I’m sorry folks, but I can’t forgive or forget. Perhaps, you think me unreasonable, and utterly unforgiving, but I need something more than fine words and fancy flourishes to restore the trust and confidence that these people have so callously destroyed. I consider it utterly cynical and entirely contrived, that their exhortations to ‘move on’ were not heard prior to the First Tier Tax Tribunal. Had the outcome of that questionable tribunal not been favorable to Rangers, would our enemies now be advocating that we all ‘move on’ for the good of the game; or as I, and many others suspect, would they now be insisting on the most punitive and excessive sanctions that their malleable rules would permit? I think you know the answer.

Had Lord Nimmo Smith castigated Rangers for gaining the unfair sporting advantage that our enemies so passionately craved, would they be willing to draw the ‘line in the sand’ that they now so readily advocate? I doubt it and I firmly believe that every decent football fan, right thinking person and impartial observer will agree with me.

However, in the past few days so many olive branches have been offered that I think whole orchards must have been stripped bare to accommodate them! Peace pipes are abundant, and I doubt if we could smoke them without asphyxiating on the clouds of cant and hypocrisy they would produce. Peace has broken out they say – but I simply don’t believe it. I want to believe it - I really do - but actions speak louder than words.

Our detractors have consistently demanded that we show contrition for offences that we have not committed, yet in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they have brazenly asserted that they have always acted appropriately and proportionately and, always, in the interests of ‘sporting integrity’. Even in circumstances where their dishonesty and deceit was exposed for all to see, and roundly condemned by their own constituents and many impartial observers, they continued to perpetuate the myth of sporting integrity – they still do!

Indeed, even after the favourable verdict of the FTTT, and the recent vindication served up by the SPL’s own Independent Commission, no one at the SFA or the SPL has anything to apologise for. Apparently, they have been paragons of virtue, acting always from the highest motives whilst the ‘evil empire’ that is Rangers has been motivated solely by the basest instincts and motives. I will never accept that, and I will never accept a Scottish Football Association and a Scottish Premier League that continues to harbour those opinions and the people who continue to promote them.

I have long since concluded there will be no apologies from Thompson, Petrie and Lawwell, and none from Stewart Regan or Neil Doncaster. I expected no less when we went into administration in February last year, and I have seen and heard nothing in the last 12 months to make me change my mind. We may reconstruct our leagues, but we can never reconstruct the people who so consciously and callously sought our destruction. Yet, the movers and shakers in Scottish football now have a unique opportunity to do something meaningful – something constructive – something that may provide the vital stimulus we all need to ‘move on’ – we can use Reconstruction as the vehicle for fundamental changes to the administration of our game and those that run it.

We can’t reconstruct Regan and Doncaster, but we can replace them!

It is indeed a ‘red letter day’ when I can cite an article from the Daily Record in support of any contention of mine, so I suspect that the rare demonstration of sanity and common sense in Keith Jackson’s article of 1 March is a very temporary phenomenon. However, his candour is nevertheless refreshing, and his disdain for, and withering criticism of, Messrs Regan and Doncaster is a welcome change from the slavish support his employers have offered to both over the last 12 months. He said:

‘Ultimately, this abdication of responsibility has shown him to be a weak leader and one of flawed judgment. Never more so than yesterday, in fact, when Doncaster was high-tailing it over the border, evacuating the scene before the bombshell went off. Potentially, the delivery of this judgment (Lord Nimmo’s) could have brought about the single most significant act in the history of football administration. Had Rangers been hammered by the ultimate sporting sanction, the game’s entire history would have had to be rewritten. But Doncaster would not have been present. He’d already got the hell out of Dodge, leaving our crisis-ravaged game behind in a cloud of dust.
This surely amounts to one abdication too many. I’m sorry, Neil, but please don’t rush back. Our sport may be broken but it is better off without such lame leadership. We’ll fix it on our own. And the same rule must apply to Regan who, at critical moments in this saga, has shown all the composure of a suburban fox at the moment it realises those onrushing headlights are just a yard or two away. Time after time he has been frozen by his own panic. Now, in the cold light of day, some of the decisions he made in the heated frenzy of it all appear to be quite shameful. Like when he, as head of the big house, endorsed strong arm tactics in an attempt to force Rangers to accept the stripping of titles as part of a ham-fisted five way agreement that would have seen Ally McCoist’s side shoehorned into the First Division.’

What a pity those criticisms weren’t articulated as forcefully last July when the ‘shameful’ behaviour of Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster was at its peak, and all but ignored by the Scottish media, including a hostile Keith Jackson and the Daily Record.

I want to move on, but I can’t while Regan and Doncaster remain in charge of the game I love. The wounds are still fresh, the scars clearly visible and the memories of the last 12 months still vivid. I have no confidence in Regan and Doncaster; the SFL has no confidence in them; the Scottish media has no confidence in them and, if recent polls are anything to go by, nor does the ordinary, decent football fan.

I say ‘ordinary, decent football fan’ because we are now witnessing the birth of a new and, perhaps, more sinister group than the bitter and twisted team that produced the now infamous Rangers Tax Case blog. The recently established, SPL Fans United, believes that the Scottish Football Association is not fit for purpose (I think we can agree on that one), and that ‘those in charge at Hampden handled the Rangers situation appallingly last summer’ and, revealingly, they go on to point out that, ‘Now it appears that the association’s registration criteria for players are rather different to anything that would be found anywhere else’.

Whilst this ‘room full of Arabs, Caley Thistle, Dons, Hibbees, Hoops and Jambos’ continues to orchestrate further attacks on our club under a different guise, there can be no moving on. Maybe they think we have been cowed; perhaps they really believe that we will roll over and let them do their worst yet again. You’re wrong guys – dead wrong!

But the last word must go to our Chief of men, Oliver Cromwell; he might almost have had a presentiment about the formation of SPL Fans United or, indeed, been speaking about the duplicity of Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster, when he said of the Rump Parliament in April 1653,


Calvin Spence (aka) JCS is a frequent contributor to Rangers Media as a Site Writer and occasional contributor to Gersnet. He has supported Rangers since 1974 and his career has focused on industrial relations, employment law and contracts of employment. He lives just outside Belfast.

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