The never-ending story

The news BDO will seek leave to appeal the “Big Tax Case” (or the “so-called Big Tax Case” as many like to call it”) means this saga may yet have some twists and turns to it. Like many I yearn for the end of this process, but BDO do need to be seen to have exhausted all avenues to show an even handed approach to the interests of all creditors. Therefore news that they will seek leave to appeal is understandable. However, there are still many people who seem confused by what this was about. Myths have developed. Confusion reigns over whether Rangers’ conduct of the relevant tax cases is currently considered legal or illegal. Was it was tax avoidance or tax evasion, and so on. Most significantly, the campaign to have the farcical Nimmo Smith Commission findings set aside must be put on ice. However, the context of the tax cases and what effect they had on the demise of Rangers can, and should be, discussed.

To really understand this tale, and its impact on Rangers FC, we need to take another look at the ‘side-letter’ issue. For it was the decision to use, and then hide, these documents that lit the match that lead to Rangers’ self-immolation.

Between 1999-2003, faced with a resurgent and share-issue funded Celtic, Rangers started seeking an edge by lowering the taxes it had to pay on players’ wages. This began with the operation of a Discounted Options Scheme for players. In essence this was a ‘money box’ operation and Rangers began what would become a pattern of lying/forgetfulness (delete as you think applicable) towards HMRC and violating the rules of the Scottish football authorities. Reducing wages in a player’s official contract would result in reduced PAYE and NIC taxes. The rest of his promised wage would be paid with little or nothing deducted for tax through an elaborate ruse intended to disguise the fact that employment-related pay was being channeled to players. Football had become a cut-throat business and an out-of-form or injured player could not rely on a handshake to ensure that he got his full promised pay. So Rangers provided players using this scheme with secret ‘side-letters’ that promised additional payment.

Denying the existence of the side-letters was key to making the “Wee Tax Case” scheme appear to work. Lying/forgetting (delete whichever one you think is implausible) about the ‘side-letters’ was also key to the story of the “Big Tax Case”. It was this fundamental deceit/omission (delete as you see fit) regarding the ‘side-letters’ that would seal Rangers’ fate.

The ‘Big Tax Case’ dealt with Rangers’ part of the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT) that used Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) from 2001 – 2011. A Mr. Black, an important and influential figure at Rangers during the period when the EBT scheme operated, was reported as saying at the First Tier Tax Tribunal “So far as Rangers was concerned it enabled the Club to attract players who would not otherwise have been obtainable”. His reasoning seems pretty straightforward to everyone except the Scottish media and a cabal who appear to have been assembled by the SPL in 2012 to try kill off the idea of removing Rangers’ ill-gotten titles. Establishing Mr. Black’s identity and role in all of this would have been both important and trivially easy for the SPL’s Nimmo Smith Commission. Yet its findings overlooked Mr. Black’s submission. Some might believe this was regrettable.

Like with the ‘Wee Tax Case’, the ‘Big Tax Case’ relied upon the use of secret ‘side-letters’ in a laughable attempt to create a “non-contractual” promise, in writing, of money in exchange for services. It would have required a revolution in legal thinking to have the ‘side-letters’ considered as being anything other than binding contracts. Therefore, their existence had to remain a secret from both HMRC and the football authorities. The ‘side-letters’ promised- often specifying appearance pay and win bonuses- money that would be paid into an offshore trust. From their sub-trusts, players could “borrow” money but, in reality, never repay it.

With Rangers already ringing alarm bells for their debt levels and staggering losses during much of the affected period, the idea that more money would have been found to pay these players legally at the same level is just fatuous. There is no serious argument to be made that Rangers’ team would have been the same had they reduced the net paid to players by about 30% in some years.

On multiple occasions after 2004, HMRC asked Rangers if such side contracts existed. The denials from the club were forthright and frequent. No such ‘side-letters’ existed. Accordingly, these binding contractual documents were not sent to the SPL despite player registration and eligibility to play in league games being conditional upon all documentation related to all forms of payment to players- including even legitimate loans- being submitted for each player. (SPL rule D1.13). The existence of the ‘side-letters’ would not be exposed until the City of London police raided Ibrox in July 2007 as part of an unrelated suspected fraud investigation that did not result in any charges. Heel-dragging and evasive responses on how Rangers were operating the scheme continued.

For all the fuss and ink spilled discussing these subjects in the media, ‘the debate’ has always missed the significance of this issue.

What would have happened if…

To understand the importance of hiding the ‘side-letters’, let us look at the counter-factual case of what would have happened if directors of The Rangers Football Club plc (as it was then known) had fulfilled their statutory duties to ensure that the club was compliant with its tax and regulatory obligations. We can start by looking at the “Big Tax Case” in isolation and consider that HMRC explicitly asked for an explanation of how the EBT scheme operated at the start of 2004. This was the first of several points where Rangers’ representatives missed a golden chance to remove any doubt over the legality of the way they were operating the scheme. Instead, they dissembled, misled, and withheld. Had they answered honestly and in full, Rangers would have been presented with a tax demand immediately. Certainly Rangers would have appealed the bill and a tax tribunal would have been scheduled. With fewer participants, and much less documentation, such a tribunal would have been conducted quickly. Even allowing for appeals, had Rangers not misled HMRC and the Scottish football authorities, the nature of Rangers’ use of EBTs and ‘side-letters’ would have been a matter of public record by late 2004. Whether the scheme would have been determined to be legal or illegal at that time is beside the point. If ruled to be legal, every other club in Scotland would have been free to copy the scheme and the sporting advantage would then have been lost in 2004. Any investigation of these matters by footballing authorities that ignored the difference in available information resulting from deliberately breaking the rules versus complying with them was not fit for purpose.

Had  Rangers’ use of EBTs been ruled to be illegal in 2004, the club would then have faced a tax bill of about £12m. While not trivial, this amount would likely have been found at the time from the club’s or the Murray Group’s then substantial credit lines.  In 2004, such an amount would not have presented much of a threat to the club’s existence. More significantly the £35m that would be later paid in net wages by Rangers through the EBT scheme from 2004-2011 would have been either been cut roughly in half or the club would have gone into insolvency much earlier than it did. Rangers were straining financial credulity as things were. Paying the money owed and then grossing-up the EBT wages for every player was not an option. Better players would have had to have been sold to reduce the wage bill and to cover costs for those who could not be moved on.

On 22nd May 2005, Rangers defeated Hibs at Easter Road to win the SPL by a solitary point with Nacho Novo scoring the only goal of the game. Every single Rangers player who participated in the game would receive payment through an EBT. Three transfer windows had closed since HMRC’s initial enquiries about the workings of the scheme. It is just blind denial to suggest that the same team would have been on that pitch that day had Rangers provided honest and complete answers to the initial information requests. Game after game. Season after season. The results were driven by the players on the pitch who in turn were induced to be there, despite some hollow claims to the contrary today, by the their total net earnings.

What is absolutely clear is that the denial of the existence of the ‘side-letters’ gained Rangers a massive sporting advantage. Violating the SFA & SPL rules delayed the normal processes for determining the legality of the scheme. Violating SFA & SPL rules prevented other clubs from learning about the scheme through the normal tribunal process. However, the delay in revealing to HMRC how the scheme worked also set the financial trap that would make Rangers unworthy of investment. Additionally, the ‘Wee Tax Case’ would have been resolved over decade earlier had the workings of the scheme been revealed to HMRC on cue.

In the spleen venting and venom spitting that accompanied Rangers’ collapse, anger and rage has been sprayed in every direction except where it properly belongs. Boards of directors are formed explicitly to provide oversight over those with their hands on cash register. A good seat for the game and a chance to network in the Blue Room are not good reasons to accept a directorship at any company. Yet Rangers fans, and a lapdog media, have not held a single director of the now in-liquidation Rangers to account for their actions or inaction related to these tax schemes. Two of them have been handed the keys to Ibrox again. It must surely have taken extraordinary circumstances for Dave King and Paul Murray to have been given so much trust on so little basis. Time will tell if the current wave of sycophancy towards a Rangers board is again ill-considered.

One of the few mistakes we made in analysing Rangers during the last four and a half years was in over-stating the role of the “Big Tax Case”. During David Murray’s tenure as effective owner of Rangers, the club lost a sum in excess of £140m. (depending on whether you want to include accounting tricks for asset revaluation or not).  None of it came from David Murray personally.  He organised the finest Tom Sawyer “painting the fence” trick in Scottish business history and convinced many fools to pay for his bombast. The biggest fool of all was the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS). About £70m of this incredible loss would be taken up by the bank directly or indirectly through Murray Group debt. (Though they would recover £18m of this through the sale of Rangers in 2011). The reality borne out of such horrendous losses is that Rangers were poised for collapse. After Lloyds effectively pulled the plug on the Murray Group credit lines on taking over HBOS in late 2008, it was just a question of when. The last years of automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stages in 2009/10 and 2010/11 by virtue of being Scottish Premier League champions provided enough cash to stave off insolvency in those years. At the time Rangers’ Chief Executive Martin Bain warned “We must however take cognisance of the fact that Scotland’s diminishing European co-efficient means that there is no longer automatic qualification to the Champions League from the SPL or the significant revenues participation brings.” Defeat to Malmo in the qualifying rounds for the 2011/12 tournament meant no Champions League group cash would be heading to Ibrox that season. (We do not have time here to go into the many questions as to whether Rangers should even have been granted a UEFA license by the SFA to play in European competitions in 2011/12). The die was cast on the 3rd of August 2011. Craig Whyte’s tenure had barely begun, but insolvency was already guaranteed before the end of the 2011/12 season. With more than a hint of irony, Rangers FC were able to complete the 2011/12 season for a single reason: money destined for HMRC as PAYE, NIC, and VAT was used as working capital to pay wages and other bills that could not be delayed. Had the club paid its way on-time, insolvency would have occurred around late October 2011. It is highly doubtful that the club could have completed almost an entire season in administration. Certainly, it would not have been possible to liquidate Rangers and form a new club mid-season and pretend it was the same club. Selling Nikica Jelavic for £5m in January 2012 provided the money to fund administration and complete the 2011/12 season. It seems improbable that we would be having the ‘same-club’ debate today other than for Craig Whyte’s diversion of taxes to keep the show on the road.

What role did the tax case(s) play in all of this? The most important point in this entire affair is that Rangers’ failure to disclose the ‘side-letters’ allowed the situation to build to a point where there would be no escape from the inevitable insolvency. The evasiveness over ‘side-letters’ meant that a CVA was always unlikely. The use of taxes collected in season 2011/12 as working capital just banged down the lid on the coffin and made liquidation a certainty.  The window for saving Rangers was in 2004. With every passing season, David Murray’s reckless spending and his board’s failure to implement spending cuts, the tar pit that was waiting for Rangers just got deeper and stickier. Only in the past few weeks have we seen the emergence of a most gentle repudiation of the disastrous David Murray years in the Scottish press. Scottish football has been slowly recovering from the effects of trying to compete with Murray’s ways. Yet there are some in positions of supposed influence at Hampden who seem to be actively trying to recreate this period rather than ensure it can never happen again.

This project began out of incredulity that the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport, the impending insolvency of Rangers FC, was not getting press coverage. This blog had one primary objective- stimulate a mainstream media discussion of what was really happening. That objective was achieved, briefly, in the summer of 2012. I thank all of you who contributed and assisted with making this possible. Sadly, any hope that the Scottish mainstream media would find redemption is long gone. Faced with crashing circulations and declining radio advertising rates, they have retreated to the comfort of familiar ways. If anything the press have become even more uni-polar and afraid to speak truth to Rangers’ often bellicose fans. It is perhaps unfair to criticise them on this last point from the comfort of anonymity.

This is not a subject where people will be swayed by persuasive argument. Almost anyone who cares about these matters will already have a fully formed opinion that will now be closed to reasoning. So the arguments will continue to rage on into futile infinity. However, anyone who can still be objective would be able to see that Rangers died by its own hand. What should have been a moderately important tussle with HMRC in 2004 festered into a calamity by the actions and inaction of those who ran the club.


Tax Case Result

The tax case result released yesterday afternoon was obviously a surprise.  After reading the findings, it is still difficult to understand how  two of the three judges arrived at such a decision. The third dissenting judge’s opinion was clearly more in line with expectations. However, in the First Tier Tribunal it is a case of majority rule.

If an appeal is launched, it will take several more months before we get the next level of decision. Appeals are not automatically granted, but in this case- with a dissenting judge and where a dispute over legal interpretation exists already- it seems certain. At the Upper Tribunal, new evidence is not introduced and the case is not re-argued. The judges at the Upper Tribunal will hear legal arguments over whether the First Tier Tribunal judges made an error in interpreting the law and will rule accordingly.

This blog brought light to a matter of public interest.  This blog has been accurate on all of the major points of the case except the one that matters most to date- the FTT outcome.

We thank everyone who has participated. Hopefully, we will see the result reversed on appeal.

Digging The Hole Ever Deeper

This week has seen strident denials from David Murray that Rangers have done anything wrong in paying 83 employees  through the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT). According to Murray: “No rules were breached or circumvented, and I reject and resent any suggestion that anything was done which amounted to cheating.” This blog-post will provide an illustrative example that demonstrates just how absurdly untrue Murray’s claim really is.

First a quick recap of the rules. For the MGMRT, an Employee Benefit Trust (EBT), to be operated legally for tax purposes, money is deposited in the trust by the employer. Thereafter, the employer must have no control or involvement in the disbursement of funds. Employees can then apply to the trust for loans. The loans must be discretionary i.e. contractual obligations or wages (of any kind) cannot be paid tax-free through an EBT. Any payment through an EBT for wages or other contractual obligations would be liable to tax. Paying wages or other obligations through an EBT without deducting PAYE & National Insurance is a breach of UK tax law and is illegal. HMRC has investigated Rangers’ use of the MGMRT EBT and found it to be a sham designed to avoid due PAYE & NIC. The Rangers FC plc (In Administration) appealed this determination and this appeal was heard by the now infamous First Tier Tribunal (Tax). Rangers FC (the oldco) was able to pay higher wages to sign and retain better quality players during the decade in which the scheme operated. In fact, had Rangers paid staff the same take home wage, the club would have had to find an extra £49m to pay tax on these wages legally. This much we have discussed many times.

The next rule in question is that of the Scottish Premier League (SPL). The SPL requires that all payments to registered players are declared in the contractual documents submitted to the league (and to the SFA). The combination of illegally using an EBT scheme to obtain a £49m advantage in paying for players and violating SPL rules on declaring payments to players is premeditated financial doping. The reason for not declaring the EBT payments in player contracts is that doing so would have caused the EBT scheme to fail immediately. Players and their agents are no fools and wisely would not trust the nods and winks of the shifty wide-boy types attracted to football club ownership. They insisted that promised payments were documented. These additional documents- side-letters, second-contracts… call them what you will- blow Rangers’ and Murray’s claims of innocence out of the water.

In a previous post, this blog attempted to help the SPL’s investigation team to establish a prima facie case against Rangers. Obviously, we have no way of knowing if this was helpful in moving this case along, but it might help the media and anyone investigating the case against Rangers if we provide a road-map to just one example of what really happened. Please note that this example has been selected for its clarity rather than the importance of the player. Many of the cases, especially the earlier ones when Rangers tended to be more concerned with obscuring their actions, are quite complex. The SPL’s investigators should ensure that they see the documentation referenced below.

Gavin Rae signed a three and a half-year contract with Rangers on 1 January 2004. This contract- the official one filed with the SFA & SPL- lists an annual wage of £260,000. Curiously, the contract does not mention appearance money or bonuses. On the very same day, 1 January 2004, Rangers provided Gavin Rae with a letter that said that money would be deposited in a sub-trust of the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust on his behalf. These amounts total £336,000. The letter also said that Rae would receive £1,000 as an appearance fee for every competitive first-team game played. From February 2004 to July 2007, Rae received five payments totalling £336,000. He also received the following amounts through the EBT for appearances: £11,000 (2003/04); £8,000 (2005/06); £20,000 (2006/07). The appearance money matches his first team appearances for Rangers.

This side letter torpedoes the argument that these payments were not contractual. (A simple guide to contract formation under Scots Law can be found here. Short version: these letters constitute a contract under Scots Law). This letter, and the others like it, demonstrate that Rangers used the EBT scheme to pay wages (appearance money) and contractual obligations related to employment. This is just one fragment of the masses of evidence that demonstrate that Rangers were “at it”.

The task for the SPL’s investigators is simple in this case. Obtain Gavin Rae’s contract as submitted to the SFA & SPL. Next, they should demand to see Gavin Rae’s side letter. After that, the task is to review the actual payments. There will be a match between promises and payments. Repeat for each of the 82 other employees of Rangers FC (now In Administration) who used the trust scheme.

The current PR campaign from Murray, and other senior Rangers’ personnel who were beneficiaries of the EBT scheme, is designed to reverse any sense of inevitability regarding amending the sporting record to reflect the cheating that took place between 2001-2011. All Scottish football fans- Rangers fans included- were cheated during these years. Do not believe the spin and dissembling from those who did most to damage Rangers FC and Scottish football.

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Wrapping It All Up

On 27th March 2011, this blog started what was to become a remarkable odyssey. Attracting a range of very well qualified contributors from across the Scottish professional world, this blog quickly grew to become the place for informed debate on the subject of the disintegration of Rangers.  It was also behind the vast majority of the factual revelations on this sorry story until it went mainstream with the broadcast of the BBC Scotland documentary “Rangers- The Men Who Sold The Jerseys” in late May 2012.

The motivation to write this blog was fired by a fear that backroom deals would allow Rangers to escape responsibility for its actions. After Darrell King (Evening Times & The Herald) rushed to get the first stories with specifics about Rangers’ tax problems into print in April 2010, the Scottish media (including King) implemented a policy of black-out and denial. In the silence of the first few months of 2011, it was feared that this entire story might run its course and never be reported. Indeed, the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) managed to complete two weeks of sitting in October / November 2010 without meriting a mention in the mainstream media.

Looking back, the idea of a deal or that Rangers could escape the consequences of their actions seems hard to believe. We can debate the probability that the required series of dark fixes could ever have happened, but in early 2011, it was an unacceptable possibility. The goal of this blog was simply to reveal the facts of the situation- no more and no less. The reputation of this blog grew because it was obvious that it contained facts, interpretations, and explanations not available elsewhere.  Although in more recent months the replies  began to look increasingly like a Celtic messageboard, the quality of discussion has always been of a high standard. (Sincere thanks to all contributors- and a special thanks to a few people who came forward with much more than just taxi driver tales and brother-in-law rumours. You know who you are!)

In starting this blog, armed with most of the facts that are now in the public domain, Rangers’ insolvency at some point in the near future was a certainty. What could not be predicted at that time was the meltdown that followed: liquidation and a new club forced to start in Division 3. Especially pleasing was the way supporters of every remaining club in Scotland came together to demand fairness and justice. Institutional efforts to forget 11 years of cheating met with a furious reaction from the most important people in the game- the fans. The availability of the facts helped everyone involved in this saga to make informed decisions.

That Rangers were forced to liquidate, form a new club, and restart in SFL Division 3 is a fair outcome. The last remaining task is to ensure that the sporting records are adjusted to account for the 5 SPL titles, 4 Scottish Cups, and 6 Scottish League Cups won during the 11 years of paying players with money they did not have. Drastic player cuts, or insolvency, sometime in the 2006-08 period would have been a virtual certainty if Rangers had not been avoiding tax. It is worth emphasising that had Rangers paid these players the same net salaries during the EBT period of 2001-2011, their wage bill would have been almost £50m higher (unadjusted for inflation). That extra £50m would have had to have been paid by Lloyds / HBOS or a chainsaw taken to the playing squad. This is the value of the financial advantage gained prior to Craig Whyte taking over at Ibrox.

Once the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) finally rules, the SFA will have to act. If, as I expect, that the FTT finds that Rangers had been knowingly operating an illegal implementation of the EBT scheme, it would discredit every trophy ever won in Scottish football if the honours acquired by Rangers during this time are not withdrawn. It is for others to decide if new winners should be appointed, but trophies gained through illegal means cannot be allowed to stand. Please do not believe the rubbish that somehow Rangers declared what they were doing to the SFA. You can see a typical “declaration” here. It does not even say that players were using the scheme. It does not say that any payments were made outside of contracts given to the SFA or SPL. It does not provide anything that would have let a tax expert know that something was amiss let alone football administrators- who are simply not qualified to do any kind of forensic accounting analysis. So let us stop with this “it was in the annual accounts” nonsense!

Short of assisting with interpreting the FTT findings (if necessary), the work of this blog is now complete. I urge you all to keep the pressure on the SFA to ensure that the last chapter of this story sees that justice is done.

The Last Drink In The Last Chance Saloon

It is roughly seventeen months since this project started. Despite all of the revelations from this blog, and from other ‘new media’ outlets, little has changed in the world of Scottish football. This might seem a strange claim given that the largest football club in the country has become insolvent and now sits on corporate death-row awaiting its execution. However, the major institutions that feed on the blood of Scottish football fans: the SFA; the SPL; and the newspapers- appear to have learned little from events in this time.

They still believe that the people who pay their wages are imbeciles. They still dish out fatuous lies and peddle disinformation as if Sir David Murray was still in his heyday. The hysterical exaggerations and tales of impending financial doom should be transparent to the businessmen who fill most of the Chairman roles at Scottish football clubs. Anyone with even a few minutes of business experience will see through the lies of the Scottish football establishment. These scare stories are not the issue. It is the dangling of long requested changes in the structure of the Scottish game that will present clubs from both the Scottish Premier League and the Scottish Football League with a dilemma.

From their public statements, it is clear that the driving forces behind this attempt at league-rigging are SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan and SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster. Despite being paid to promote the Scottish game, they have spent recent weeks trying to convince advertisers and TV companies that their product is worthless without someone representing Rangers’ legacy playing in the SFL1 next season. It is as if Sevco Ltd was a panacea and that this new club will be guaranteed promotion to the SPL within a single season.

Let us be in no doubt. Scottish football faces a period of turmoil and some financial belt-tightening regardless of what happens in any of the upcoming votes. (If Servco Ltd are forced to start in SFL3, the nattering nabobs of the mainstream Scottish sports press will doubtless blame every player transfer and setback on ‘internet bampots’ and shortsighted fans of so-called ‘diddy teams’). The Scottish game became unsustainable and unhealthily unbalanced towards just two clubs. In an era when it is easy to watch the best football from every country all week long, we need to extract the cancers that have been devouring our game for over twenty years rather than battling to preserve them. Among the assorted symptoms of the illness facing our game are:

  • Scottish football has failed to develop a single stand-out talent since the early 1980s
  • Scottish football has been spending more than it takes in for far too long
  • Scottish football has fallen far behind global standards in the quality of entertainment it offers

Scottish football had become dull and uninteresting for all but the fans of the two clubs that could entertain thoughts of ever winning the league.

There is a now a golden opportunity for creative minds to remake the game. Instead, we have intellectual pygmies telling us that everything in Scottish football is fantastic and must be saved at all costs. What is worth saving? Declining attendances? A terrible set of TV contracts that do not realise the full value of the Scottish game? A national team that cannot qualify for any international competitions? We have a game that is viewed with universal contempt for both its lack of technical quality and the lopsidedness of its top division. This is where our game finds itself almost three decades after the “Souness Revolution” started at Rangers. The false economies started by David Holmes, and placed on steroids by David Murray, eventually devastated all around it. Rangers embodied the ideas that financial might made right and reckless spending was the key to success. Their demise should be a cautionary tale to others to get their house in order. Instead, the Scottish football establishment wants to send the signal that if you are going to fail, make sure you do it on a spectacular scale: we will make everyone else carry you if it goes wrong.

Mr. Doncaster trained as a lawyer and has an MBA. If Scottish football was a case study at a business school, anyone submitting a paper that recommended crushing the last remnants of fairness in the game to prop up a failed old-order would not get a passing mark. Doncaster in particular is failing. (Funny that Messers Doncaster & Regan find it so easy to predict the effects of Sevco Ltd playing in SFL3, but could not use these same skills to anticipate Rangers’ implosion. Even when the aforementioned ‘internet bampots’ had warned years earlier of a crisis brewing at Ibrox, the men with the crystal ball today were unable to see something that was so obvious). When the dust settles on this disaster one way or another, one can only hope that Doncaster and Regan have absented themselves. It is clear that they lack the imaginations required to improve our game. Our hopes for restoring the thrill of Scottish football now rests on the men who run the clubs in the SPL and the SFL. We must hope that they have the backbone to stand-up to being bullied and the foresight to realise that all that is being dangled by Regan & Doncaster can be obtained anyway- without sacrificing the game and without the hired hands for whom this all appears to be just a job.

If fairness fails and Sevco Ltd is able to field a team in the SFL1 next season, it is for each fan to make an individual decision on whether it is worth returning to watch a game played with loaded dice. For those who do decide to go back (I am still undecided), something will still be missing in the game. An unfillable void will have opened. The men who will vote on this decision have to realise that they are not just voting on short-term revenues. They are going to irreparably alter the Scottish game whatever happens. Money will ebb and flow in football in proportion to the excitement and quality of the competition. If fans believe that there is no competition because a winner is preordained, money will leave and it will stay gone.



Trying something new. Bear with me if this turns out to be a bridge too far for my technical skills.