The theatre of dreams and a toxic brand

I am writing this in a building that is a testament to the marketing power of the beautiful game.

Hotel Football, adjacent to Old Trafford, is wall to wall Man United.

The business brain child of the Class of ’92 the flat screen TV automatically switches on with a short video of ‘Giggsy’ and ‘Scholesy’ having a kick about with the building workers on the site of the hotel.

It is toe-curlingly cheesy, but for a Manchester United fan it probably hits the spot.

No one in English football doubts the financial power of the first English club to win the European Cup.

When the new manager Louis Van Gaal was appointed one of the board room chaps when asked about the budget for buying players simply stated “there is no budget”.

Essentially the new coach could spend what he wanted to put Manchester United back on top.

I was told last year by the in-house lawyer for another top flight English club that he had on his desk a piece of research on the importance of the wage budget in the English Premier League(EPL) rankings.

Essentially after a decade of number crunching the researchers had found that there was a direct correlation between the size of the wage budget and the ranking at the end of each season in the EPL.

It was depressing to hear this, but it didn’t surprise me.

He also said that there were two clubs who had bucked this trend by a couple of league placing over that ten year period under study.

Newcastle United consistently was a couple of notches below where they should have been, and Everton were a one or two slots above where their wage budget suggested they should have ended up.

Perhaps this is why the Manchester United board chose David Moyes I thought.

Of course, that did not work out as they planned.

However, they are on firmer ground when it come to the money they spend on players.

These two exceptions, he told me, still proved that in the EPL what you pay in wages pretty much guarantees where you will be in the league at the end of each season.

Therefore, if you can pay more to players you usually do better on the field.

Interestingly the transfer spend did not similarly correlate; wages were the key.

If the Old Trafford outfit plays a smaller club they do, of course, have a sporting advantage over their financially poorer opponents.

That is in the nature of professional sport.

Perhaps on the day Van Gall’s stars might not prevail, but the research shows that his team of highly paid stars will amass more points for United over the campaign than a club with a much smaller wage budget.

However, if United were scamming the tax man in some secret way that allowed them a greater wage budget for players, then that WOULD be an unfair sporting advantage over all the other clubs.

Moreover, if that scam required them to conceal registration information from the FA and the EPL, then I do not think there would be a debate here in England.

The opinion would be that the mighty Man United cheated the country and cheated sport.

Any trophies that their illegally remunerated stars had delivered to Old Trafford during that period would be considered, to use the term favoured by Alex Thomson of Channel 4, “fraudulent”.

The elephant in the room for Planet Fitba throughout the death of Rangers and the calamitous goings on at Sevco has been the cultural power of the Ibrox brand.

To control the home dressing room at Edmiston Drive is to have a craven media simpering for your approval.

At times, their knicker wetting obedience is Off The Radar.

Moreover, the chaps on the 6th Floor at Hampden are horribly conflicted should the Ibrox chaps break the laws of the game.

Should the current Court of Session ruling on the use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBT) by Rangers Football Club (1873-2012) go unchallenged then it is an appalling vista for those entrusted with the governance of the National Game.

Of course, should there be an appeal then it is, once more, in abeyance until the UK Supreme Court rules.

However, as it stands at present, the old Ibrox club were guilty of not paying what was due to their Majesty’s tax collectors.

In doing so, they concealed what they were doing from the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Premier League.

When HMRC started to investigate Rangers a decade ago the Ibrox club lied to their Majesty’s tax inspectors; they were evasive, and they destroyed incriminating documents.

None of this is contested.

If all of this happened at Manchester United or any other English Club, then I doubt they would be toughing it out through their shills in the media or issuing belligerent statements on the new club’s website.

None of that would be happening because, rightly in my view, they would be sick with shame.

Of course in Planet Fitba things are different for those who run the game and those who write about it as only one brand matters and the other 41 clubs are mere extras in the Ibrox movie.

The same film production company wanted to drop ‘NewCo’ into the SPL in 2012 after Rangers were liquidated.

Only fan power and the plain speaking courage of Turnbull Hutton (RIP) prevented this crime against sport.

Should the current Court of Session Ruling stand then it will, once more, be time for the good guys to galvanise and organise against those who put one toxic brand over the health of the National Game in Scotland.

Those thirteen trophies are the sporting equivalent of the proceeds of crime, and they should be impounded if the Court of Session ruling stands.

Anything less will be an insult to the tens of thousands of fans of all the other clubs who paid millions into the game over a decade believing, stupidly, that they were watching an honest sport.

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