‘But they won them on the pitch’ is about the strongest argument being put up by those attempting to defend the use of side contracts, closely followed by explaining that nothing has yet been proved.
There are two very obvious recent transfer sagas that prove why it is wrong to reward teams/supporters/players/directors of clubs who operated outwith the rules that apply to their competitors.
In January 2009 Celtic were very keen on signing Steven Fletcher from Hibs. An initial bid of £1.5m was turned down, Celtic increased the bid but as the transfer window closed they hadn’t matched Hibs valuation of the striker.
Celtic lost the 2009 SPL title to Rangers.
In July 2010 Rangers were very keen on signing Nicika Jelavic from Rapid Vienna. The Austrian club quickly dismissed a bid of £2m, eventually a deal was done for a fee reported to be in the region of £4m. Rapid haven’t received the full transfer fee and were included in the list of creditors owed money when Rangers were into administration in February.
Rangers won the 2011 SPL title with Jelavic scoring 16 goals.
Without going into the gory details it seems very obvious that operating side contracts gives you an advantage on the football pitch.
Perhaps if Celtic had been operating an EBT scheme for most players they would have been able to go the extra mile to buy Fletcher. He could have helped Gordon Strachan win the league or broke his leg in a training session, we’ll never know.
Perhaps if Rangers had been offering players salaries that they could afford they’d not have picked up the £30m they received from UEFA for playing in the 2009 and 2010 Champions League? Without that money it’s highly unlikely that they’d have been able to bid for Jelavic never mind sign the player then default on the payments to Rapid.
How much blame the Scottish footbal authorities must shoulder is another question. Did anyone question the figures declared on the contracts submitted for high profile players?
Some of the defences put up so far have been laughable, especially from former Rangers chairman Al Johnston.
Despite being listed as a company director Johnston likes to hide behind the excuse that David Murray looked after everything. As he demonstrated with his opposition to the sale of shares to Craig Whyte Johnston was capable of speaking up for thousands of minority shareholders when it suited him.
As a company director it was his duty to understand the company accounts and how ‘discretionary’ EBT payments were being made and recorded.
Johnston recently suggested that there was no financial doping involved in the issue as Murray would simply have increased the club debt to bring in the players that benefitted from EBT payments.
Unfortunately the transfer of the Rangers account from the friendly Bank of Scotland initially to Halifax then onto Lloyds TSB meant that the old favourable overdraft terms were no longer available.
Just like Celtic, Rangers would have to live within their means and the terms of their overdraft- or find an alternative means of paying employees.
As everyone knows players no longer play for the jersey. Gary Hooper, Joe Ledley and Kris Commons certainly give the impression of enjoying playing for Celtic but it was the contract on offer that brought them to Glasgow- very little else.
Dado Prso, Nacho Novo and Alex Rae may love Rangers to bits but if the right money wasn’t on the table they wouldn’t have signed for the club and played their part in trophy successes.
Very soon Lord Nimmo Smith will give his judgement on the dual contracts issue, probably after the verdict is given on how EBT’s were operated.
There’s no need for dramatic title stripping, registration failures should be treated in the same way that the SFA often discipline clubs who field ineligible players in the Scottish Cup.
In January 2011 East Stirling were thrown out of the Scottish Cup with the SFA explaining: “Following a breach of Cup Competition rule 39.1b, East Stirlingshire have been expelled from the Scottish Cup competition.
“The club were found to have fielded an ineligible player, Michael Andrews. The club will also lose any fourth round sponsorship monies owed.”
Two months earlier Spartans suffered a similar fate and missed out on a lucrative home tie with Partick Thistle.
The SFA stated: “Spartans FC have been expelled from the William Hill Scottish Cup competition.
“In addition, the club have received a fine to the value of their bonus payment for the second round of the competition (£4000), suspended for 12 months.”
Lord Nimmo Smith’s commission won’t involve Neil Doncaster or Stewart Regan which should rule out any back street lobbying.
Once they have passed judgement on Rangers they should turn their attention to any failure from the SFA to administer their licensing procedures- before UEFA and FIFA step in.
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