The SPL Commission today ruled that Rangers EBT payments in connection with side-letters should have been disclosed to the SPL and SFA as financial entitlements, that senior management of Rangers (in liquidation) decided these side-letters should not be disclosed to the football authorities, and that the old board of Rangers made such payments without taking legal or accountancy advice.
This is the result we expected, Rangers (now in liquidation) were guilty of invalidly registering players for a period of 11 years, but it was not the outcome expected. The Commission decided against imposing sporting sanctions, based on the evidence of Alexander Bryson, Head of Registrations at the SFA.
His evidence stated that “once a player had been registered with the SFA, he remained registered unless and until his registration was revoked. Accordingly, even if there had been a breach of the SFA registration procedures, such as a breach of SFA Article 12.3, the registration of a player was not treated as being invalid from the outset, and stood unless and until it was revoked”.
So Rangers failed to properly register players, withheld information which allowed this to be discovered, but as the information was not discovered, the Mr Bryson regards the registrations to be valid. With this evidence from the SFA, the Commission were unlikely to come to any other conclusion.
Mr Bryson’s evidence directly contradicts Uefa’s ruling from 2011 in relation to Sion, who registered players with the Swiss FA. The Swiss FA and Uefa subsequently ruled that these registrations were made incorrectly, and that registrations were invalid from when they were submitted, not when they were discovered.
The Commission can only rule on evidence before it and the entire outcome turns on Mr Bryson’s evidence. Mr Bryson’s evidence is also inconsistent with all previous SFA player registration errors, but led to the Commission delivering the outcome the Armageddon-merchants wanted.
We did not get the punishment some of us hoped for, but the verdict established that for 11 years Rangers were playing to a different set of rules than the rest of us.
While some disputable SFA evidence was crucial in protecting Rangers from most harm, the Commission left no doubt about the Association’s president’s responsibility.
“Mr Ogilvie dealt with all aspects of football administration at Rangers until late 2002 or early 2003”, and “assumed that these (payments) were made in respect of the players’ playing football”.
“…it should be noted that Mr Ogilvie was a member of the board of directors who approved the statutory accounts of Oldco which disclosed very substantial payments made under EBT arrangements”.
“There is insufficient evidence before us to enable us to draw any conclusion as to exactly how the senior management of Oldco came to the conclusion that the EBT arrangements did not require to be disclosed to the SPL or the SFA. In our view, the apparent assumption both that the side-letter
arrangements were entirely discretionary, and that they did not form part of any player’s contractual entitlement, was seriously misconceived.”
“There is no evidence that the Board of Directors of Oldco took any steps to obtain proper external legal or accountancy advice to the Board as to the risks inherent in agreeing to pay players through the EBT arrangements without disclosure to the football authorities.
“The directors of Oldco must bear a heavy responsibility for this. While there is no question of dishonesty, individual or corporate, we nevertheless take the view that the nondisclosure must be regarded as deliberate, in the sense that a decision was taken that the side-letters need not be or should not be disclosed.
“No steps were taken to check, even on a hypothetical basis, the validity of that assumption with the SPL or the SFA.”
“It is the board of directors of Oldco as a company, as distinct from the football management or players of Rangers FC as a club, which appears to us to bear the responsibility for the breaches of the relevant rules.”
Mr Ogilvie, “the board of directors of Oldco (that’s you).. appears to us to bear the responsibility for the breaches of the relevant rules.”
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