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‘Disappointed and Surprised’ Celtic board respond to UEFA licence decision but back SFA

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The Celtic board are disappointed and surprised by the SFA’s decision not to examine the 2011 UEFA licence issued to the old Rangers club despite the club owing HMRC £2.8m from the ‘Wee Tax Case’.

Any doubts about the existance of what is termed an ‘overdue payable’ were wiped away when it was openly discussed during the Craig Whyte trial in 2017. Everyone negotiating the sale of the club in May 2011 for £1 was aware that the sale came accompanied with an outstanding tax bill.

With an overdue tax bill the club failed UEFA licence criteria. Although they did take part in the 2011/12 Champions League the decision was initially denied by the SFA. After correspondence was leaked in September 2017 former SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan refereed the matter to the Compliance Officer who resigned before any decision was taken.

Finally, in May 2020, shortly after Celtic were confirmed as SPFL champions for season 2019/20 the SFA decided to bury bad news, they stated:

A Judicial Panel convened to consider a Notice of Complaint raised against Rangers FC in 2018 – in relation to alleged new evidence regarding representations received prior to the awarding of a European licence for season 2011/12 – determined at a preliminary hearing that it did not have jurisdiction to determine the matter.

Instead, it concluded that jurisdiction lay with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Following consideration of the implications of such a referral, including legal opinion, it was the board’s unanimous position that this matter should not be referred to CAS. The Scottish FA now considers the matter to be closed.

Had the licence criteria been met Celtic would have been given a place in the 2011/12 Champions League qualifiers opening up a potential windfall of £20m.

Predictably, having been reluctant to push the issue for nine years there was no reply from Celtic at the time, not even their traditional ‘surprised and disappointed’ comment.

Shareholders revived the issue with a Resolution for this years AGM. Forced into commenting the board have now claimed that they are disappointed and surprised rather than the traditional surprised and disappointed comment.

On page 9 of the Club Report which was published last night they explain:

The Board of Celtic will continue to seek to ensure that these principles are safeguarded and shall continue in constructive engagement with the Scottish FA, the SPFL and UEFA to that end. The Board has taken, and will continue to take, appropriate steps to protect and promote the interests of the Company.

The football governance environment has developed substantially over the past 10 years and the Company will continue to monitor the application and effectiveness of these systems of governance. The Company was disappointed when the Scottish FA declined to investigate the issues referred to and was surprised when the Scottish FA determined not to continue with proceedings, which it had itself opened. In respect of the particular issues now raised, the Board has engaged with the requisitioning shareholders and will engage with the relevant authorities as appropriate in the interests of the Company, providing an update when possible. In the circumstances, therefore, the Board considers the resolution to be unnecessary and recommends that you vote against it.

Rather than take the 2011 issue directly to UEFA to clear the SFA the Celtic board are placing their trust in the SFA that had Rod Petrie and Andrew Dickson on their Licence Committee in 2011. The heavily conflicted Campbell Ogilvie was President of the SFA at the time. No form of Financial Fair Play has been brought in by the SFA, Petrie is now President of the SFA.

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