As regular readers here will know I have been working on the story of whether or not Rangers (1872-2012) should have been granted a UEFA licence in season 2011-2012.
What follows here is a series of detailed questions I put to the SFA via their press office on August 18th 2013:
I am trying to get a greater understanding of the circumstances surrounding the SFA decision in 2011 to grant Rangers a club licence that gave them access to UEFA competition in season 2011/201.
In December 2011 on Twitter, in response to questions being raised in light of public evidence that HMRC had sent Sherriff Officers in August 2011 to collect on an overdue tax bill for £2.8m (commonly called The Wee Tax case), first reported in Rangers 2010 Accounts published on 1st April 2011, Stewart Regan wrote:
“the licence was granted in line with SFA and UEFA guidelines. The tax matters had not crystallised at the point it was granted.”
He also made a statement in September 2011 similar to the first part of above statement:
“Whilst I cannot be any more specific regarding any individual case, I can point out that our licensing system does undergo rigorous quality control checks. The system is ISO9001 registered and was recently audited by UEFA directly. Whilst the UEFA audit referred to decisions for last season. I can highlight that no material variances have been identified in the processes or the decisions that have been taken for clubs.”
I would like to take the latter part of that Twitter statement first to ask
1. When Mr Regan said “tax matters” was he referring to the undisputed wee tax bill that arose from the use of a Discount Option Scheme using share options to pay Ronald De Boer, Tore Andre Flo and Craig Moore from 2000 to 2003?
2. Was he also including in the term “tax matters” the EBT tax case that is still under dispute in the more widely known Big Tax case that used loans, as opposed to share options, to pay many Rangers players from 2003 onwards when the Discount Option Scheme was discontinued (to be subsequently confirmed a tax evasion sham by an FTT in 2010 and a later UTT on appeal in 2011, investigating a case by Aberdeen Asset Management that became a precedent of similar usage.)
3. Was he aware at the time of processing the licensing application that there was a basic difference between both schemes and that Rangers had been advised to accept responsibility and culpability on QC advice in early March 2011 for the wee tax case and the core amount of £2.8m was not (and never has been) disputed after a settlement agreement on the sums due was reached between Rangers and HMRC before 31st March 2011?
4. Did he or any of the licensing officers, as part of the licensing process, seek clarification from anyone available inside the SFA with experience of Rangers administration methods in 2000 to 2003 to get advice on treating the issue of the tax bill due arising from the Discount Options Scheme?
5. If clarification was sought what approach was advised and by whom?
6. Did the SFA at any time from 1st April 2011 and before granting a licence explore the history of the wee tax bill with Rangers and/or at any point ask HMRC how they viewed the immediacy of payment, given a settlement agreement had been reached in second half of March 2011?
7. If not why not?
8. Did and does the SFA not have a responsibility to the UK taxpayer, who have now lost £2.8m excluding penalties, to make such enquiries?
9. Did the SFA in granting the licence ignore the standards and principles contained in UEFA Financial Fair Play 2010 designed to protect tax payers that as a national association and member of UEFA they had signed up to in 2010?
10. Should the SFA in adhering to and applying UEFA principles not have insisted that the tax bill be paid as a pre-condition of granting any licence?
11. Did the purchaser not agree to pay the bill as part of the purchasing agreement and was it ever suggested by SFA he must settle?
12. Setting aside the above questions on SFA understanding of the issues and their policy on unpaid tax and accepting that the Big Tax case was under dispute and still has not crystallised, the term “not crystallised” can only have applied to the wee tax bill for £2.8M. In that respect can Mr Regan clarify?
• At what date the licence was actually granted by the SFA?
• What he meant when he used the term “not crystallised” in December 2011 to justify granting a licence and exactly what he meant the term to apply to and what he meant by it?
• Was he aware by December 2011 of the differences between both tax cases and that by conflating them he was making an incorrect or misleading statement on Twitter?
• Did he know at granting time that Rangers had accepted responsibility and culpability for the wee tax bill before the 31st March, the effective date under which it became subject to UEFA FFP Article 50 considerations as a possible/potential overdue payable?
• Was he also aware at the point of granting that the tax determination in respect of the £2.8m had arrived at Rangers before 31st May when the first part of the licensing cycle ends and soon after Craig Whyte had taken over Rangers?
• In light of the foregoing does Mr Regan still stand by the latter part of the Twitter statement re crystallisation not occurring at the point the licence was granted?
13. In respect of Mr Regan’s other statements re properly following UEFA guidelines
• Did he at any point clarify that the guidelines cover overdue payables to tax authorities not only at 31st March under Article 50, but also 30th June under Article 66 and 30th September under Article 67?
• When following Article 66 of UEFA FFP guidance after 30th June 2011, were UEFA told the tax bill in question had still not crystallised by 30 June 2011 (by which time it clearly had) or that it had, but was not considered an overdue payable because it was exempt under Annex VIII of UEFA FFP criteria?
• If the latter, which of the four criteria a) b) c) or d) of Annex VIII of UEFA FFP 2011 was deemed to apply in order to exempt the tax bill from being considered an overdue payable at 30th June under Article 66 provisions?
• How did Rangers prove to the SFA, as required by the rules, that HMRC did not view the tax bill as an overdue and payable by 30 June 2011 under provisions of Article 66?
• What evidence did the SFA seek or were supplied by Rangers or HMRC that the payment was not now overdue by 30th June 2011?
• What were UEFA told by the SFA that let them view the bill in question as not being an overdue payable, removing the need to put the matter before the Club Financial Control Body or supply future financial forecasts from a club that just over 7 months later was to enter administration?
Finally when Sherriff Officers called at Rangers to collect payment of the tax bill in early August 2011,
• Did this not cause alarm bells to ring at the SFA?
• Did they convey their concerns to UEFA under the requirements of Article 67 of UEFA FFP 2010 leading up to 30 September (Duty to report subsequent events)?
• If not, why not and
• What advice were Rangers given by SFA re compliance with Article 67 requirements?
I then put supplementary question to the SFA on 26th August 2013 (yesterday):
“Did Rangers in 2011 when applying for their UEFA Licence, provide a legally valid declaration that met the stipulations of Article 43 of UEFA FFP 2010?”
The response from an SFA spokesperson this morning was:
“We are bound by confidentiality and cannot comment on individual clubs”.
What even dead ones?
The SFA wants Planet Fitba to believe that the SFA genuinely thought that was all was ok with the granting of the UEFA licence to the Ibrox club.
However, as more and more leaked documents circulate in the internet it becomes clearer by the day the Rangers (1872-2012) should not have been granted a licence to pay in UEFA competitions in season 2011-2012.
What is rather striking is that the main victim of this…err…oversight, Celtic Football Club, has been remarkably silent on the matter.
As the Parkhead club today considers the possibility of being without Champions League football this season then perhaps their supporters may wish to ask why the people in charge at Kerrydale Street seem to meekly accept this huge financial hit without complaint or question.
I understand the stonewalling from the SFA on this matter-that is what I would do in their position.
They want this one to do walking away even as they probably know that I almost certainly won’t.
However, I cannot fathom why Celtic are utterly silent on an apparent failure of football governance that cost them millions.