14/04/2011 254 Comments
Campbell Ogilvie is already a man of quite some distinction. However, his list of accomplishments might be about to become a bit longer. It appears that he has sat on the board of directors of not just one SPL club entangled in highly dubious tax schemes, but two. Heart of Midlothian FC look likely to be the next shoe to drop as football’s culture of thinking that it is above paying taxes starts to unwind.
Ogilvie, the current SFA Vice-President and heir apparent to George Peat’s job of President, is going to have quite the CV by the time he hangs up his pinstripes. Not only was he a director of Rangers FC when the EBT scheme was first introduced, but he was also the company secretary. This latter role gave him additional responsibility for ensuring statutory compliance for The Rangers Football Club plc. So while some Rangers directors, like John Greig, might have a claim that their position was symbolic, and they did not understand what was happening or what their responsibilities as a director are, it will be difficult for Mr. Ogilvie to do likewise. As a man with substantial experience and training, he will find it difficult to claim that he did not know or understand what was happening. (He may try anyway).
However, Ogilvie seems likely to find himself in the unique position of being at the center of yet another tax avoidance/evasion storm. On leaving Rangers in 2005, Ogilvie joined the board of Heart of Midlothian FC, and in 2008 became managing director of the Edinburgh club. A source has contacted me with the story that the Scottish Professional Footballers Association (SPFA) has made a complaint about employment practices at Hearts. This came to light when a Hearts player applied for a mortgage. When presenting his salary advice, it was clear that he was on a rate close to the UK minimum wage. The player naively explained that he had lots of money, but that it was all paid overseas. The SPFA would obviously have concerns that Scottish players will appear expensive in an era of 50% marginal tax rates compared to low-tax (or no-tax?) foreign players. This raises a few questions: How many players are involved? How long have such practices been in effect? Are there players who have not been registered for tax at all in the UK? The scale of the Hearts problem is not yet fully known. If this has been standard practice over an extended number of years, then the bills, interest, and penalties could also be of a magnitude that could put the existence of Hearts at risk unless Mr. Romanov decides to dig deep into his personal reserves.
Once could be just a mistake. Twice looks very careless.
Scottish football supporters, as well as SFA member clubs, have a right to know “what did Campbell Ogilvie know, and when did he know it?”
It appears that one of two situations must exist: either Campbell Ogilvie knew of, and approved of, two high-risk / illegal tax strategies or he has failed in his responsibilities as a company director at two major Scottish football clubs. Does Mr. Ogilvie have a casual disregard for the law or is he just an ignorant puppet dancing on the strings of charismatic impresarios? Either way, it would be a matter of major concern to all those with an interest in Scottish football if either is true. If there is another explanation for why he has had such a knack of being on the wrong boards at the wrong times, then Scottish football supporters need to be told.
Did Ogilvie bring dubious practices to Hearts from Rangers or was he an innocent bystander at both clubs?
Did Rangers register all of their overseas players for UK tax?
In light of his unique experience with two of the three largest football clubs in Scotland sliding to the edge of darkness, perhaps Celtic supporters should not be so concerned about Ogilvie inheriting the job of SFA President. Given recent statements about the need to ‘pull down the walls’ and to rebuild the SFA from the ground up, who would be better qualified to at least bring about the first part?