Since Stewart Regan’s letter to the 93 SFA member clubs was uncovered by STV yesterday evening I’ve read what feels to me like unfounded concern at the news. Regan asked clubs to declare “any written agreement(s) falling within the scope of Article 12.3 which has/have not previously been lodged with the Scottish FA in the previous ten years, in respect of any current or former players of your club.”
The most pleasing point is that the letter was dated 9 March. A look at the chronology of events is perhaps useful.
Rangers troubles with HMRC have been public knowledge since 2010 but it was only on 22 February this year that questions were first raised (here, of course) as to whether the club registered the Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) payments with the SFA. Everyone knew Rangers players had EBTs, we knew HMRC were contesting that these should be taxed, but there was no reason to believe Rangers did not to declare them to the SFA (unless you count the “sniff test” on Sir David…).
The EBTs were noted in Rangers audited accounts so it appears clear that Rangers at least notionally believed they were both legal (which they were) and legally executed (which we will soon find out). When we took a shot in the dark on 22 February and posed the registration question, there was no reason to assume the SFA board had even considered the issue. I’m sure they hadn’t and like the rest of us, were caught cold by the question.
Earlier that day the SFA announced an inquiry into Rangers headed by Lord Nimmo Smith. His report was considered by the board on 8 March, when they presumably decided to send letters out to the member clubs the next day. In short, this issue has been active at the SFA every day since it was first raised.
Had we known this at the time I suspect our view of the (apparent) SFA inactivity would have been different. Maybe a PR lesson there.
Several friends and one brother have suggested that Stewart Regan’s letter is a prelude to an amnesty. I doubt this. The SFA chief exec does not have the authority to offer an amnesty and in his letter Regan says, “the Scottish FA reserves the right to refer any Club to the Compliance Officer, which might result in proceedings before the Judicial Panel”.
The letter is an attempt to establish if the problem is prevalent in one, or more than one club, a perfectly reasonable step at this stage. I’m guessing around 90 clubs will be able to respond within minutes.
As a result of this letter, the phoney war is over. Comments like “there were no double contracts” can no longer be reported as though they have some validity to questions over unregistered payments to players. Even those reporting from the back of the class will now have to recognise the validity of the questions we have been asking for weeks.
More on the nature of these questions later, specifically, is it cheating?
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