Part Two Shareholders Independent Engagement with SFA/UEFA via a Law Firm.
- 23 July 2015. Consequently, and after difficulty finding a solicitor not already conflicted on Rangers and legal issues, the SFA were written to on 23th July 2015 repeating the questions the SFA would not address on 20th April 2015 all at a cost to shareholders in Celtic, a full member of the SFA who should expect reciprocal good faith in terms of fair treatment from the national association..
- 10 August 2015. The SFA responded on this day stating the SFA would only correspond with Celtic, which was surprising as they had been told to expect a communication from the shareholders after the SFA met Celtic in August 2014. They also asked for the identities of the solicitor’s clients which again was a surprise as they were aware that this was an approach from legitimate Celtic shareholders in pursuit of settlement of the adjourned Resolution 12 from 2013 Celtic AGM. This prevarication is not the behaviour of an organisation who claim to be trusted and transparent.
- November 2015. In response to a reminder 13 November 2015 the SFA replied 30 November 2015 under Scottish Football Licensing Procedures and UEFA Monitoring and Compliance Procedures 2011/2012 ” Further to the above and your letter of 13 November there appears to have been a breakdown in communications as our position remains as set out in my letter of 10th August. I have had recent discussions with our member club Celtic FC in relation to this matter and am happy to continue to do so.” Comment: As long as it did not mean responding to questions posed in our letter of 23 July.
- NB: The questions posed in the shareholders legal representative’s letter of 23 July were not addressed
- 14 March 2016. On this day after further informal requests to Celtic for a response, the SFA finally after 8 months, responded to July 2015 letter. This bore no relation to the questions asked in the solicitor’s letter and stated that external advice had been obtained that confirmed licence grant (and monitoring) had been properly conducted.
- This response has since become unreliable and indeed questionable when SFA Compliance Officer began an investigation into the granting in April 2011 following statements at the Craig Whyte trial in June 2017 confirming the £2.8m liability had been accepted before the end of March 2011. This key information was specifically mentioned in the July 2015 letter to SFA, so on what basis was that external advice (which also covered the monitoring in June and September 2011) obtained and who was it obtained from following what enquiries?
- 20 April 2016. On this day the SFA were written to including a list of shareholders who had mandated the author of the letter to let them be identified to the SFA to circumvent the anonymity excuse previously used by SFA to avoid answering fully.
- (At this point the focus was not on the granting but monitoring period. However this subsequently changed two months later because of a CAS Ruling on Gianinna FC tax overdue payables that clearly set out the intent of UEFA FFP Article 50).
On April 2016 the SFA were asked if the UEFA Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) had been informed of arrival at Rangers of 20th May 2011 HMRC letter as required by UEFA FFP Article 55(e). SFA told that if no reply received the matter would be taken up with UEFA direct.
- 26 April 2016. Response from SFA on this day in which the SFA state what UEFA later confirmed, which is that the monitoring process starts on submission by the licensor of the list of licenses granted. The SFA as licensor did not submit the list until 26th May 2011 which strongly suggests anything before then was a granting responsibility of the SFA and adds to the impression the SFA were deliberately misleading in responses to enquiries thereafter in relation to their licensing responsibilities. The SFA also pointed out it was the responsibility of Rangers FC to inform them of the 20th May letter for SFA to then pass to UEFA, but are fuzzy on whether RFC did so and when.
- With reference to the earlier Timeline entry starting 15 March 2012 relating to the Lord Nimmo Smith commissioning – Celtic had reported verbally to requistitioners in August 2014 that SFA did not have the letter of 20th May 2011 in SFA files, however the SFA appear to be backtracking in the 26th April letter saying “ Even if the information that your clients have brought to our attention was not before us, AND WE DO NOT ACCEPT THAT, it is arguable “ etc.
- Are SFA saying they did have the 20th May letter in their files and if so when, and if before March 2012 why was it not shared with Harper MacLeod acting on behalf of the SPL in establishing the Lord Nimmo Smith Commission? Or did the SFA provide misleading information in terms of what was in their files to the Celtic Company Secretary who reported so to bemused shareholders in Aug 2014? If the SFA did have that 20thMay 2011 letter, why was it not given to the SPL given the serious impact its absence has had on the credibility of the Lord Nimmo Smith Decision that states no question of dishonesty? This is a crucial question for any investigation into the 2011 licence but is perhaps why SFA reluctant to rake over coals.
- Even allowing for the 20th May letter not being provided immediately to the SFA did the SFA have no checking responsibilities whatsoever to confirm the true status of the liability as reported to them in June 2011 given statements made in the press on 1st April 2011and in RFC Interim Accounts where what had been a potential liability had become a postponed one by 30 June 2011? ?
- 27 May 2016. After an agreement was reached with Celtic and SFA on involving UEFA Club Licensing Department rather than UEFA CFCB, the Res12 solicitor wrote to Andrea Traverso UEFA Head of Club Licensing. seeking clarification in terms of
- when SFA and UEFA monitoring responsibilities start and end:
- when SFA have to act when informed of possible failings in the process:
- repeating earlier unanswered questions about the license granted to Rangers and subsequent monitoring. [27th May Solicitors Letter ]
- 1 June 2016. Interestingly the SFA made an unexpected public announcement at their AGM concerning UEFA involvement in Resolution 12 saying SFA were satisfied they had granted licence properly and would comply with any requests for information from UEFA.
- 8 June 2016. Letter 8th June received from UEFA by Res12 Solicitor [ Source ] where UEFA state that UEFA licence was granted on 19th April and list submitted to them on 26th May, 5 days after the tax bill arrived at Ibrox and 20 days after the Takeover of RFC by when the Takeover undertaking to pay HMRC the overdue £2.8m liability should have been met.
- UEFA explain that any sanction for having an overdue payable at the monitoring stage would apply in 2012/13 (so no loss to Celtic shareholders in 2011.)
- They further offered, unsolicited, but to justify not investigating, that no sanctions could now apply to Rangers FC because UEFA view The Rangers FC/Rangers International FC) and current SFA member, as a new club/company, who were ineligible to apply for a UEFA licence (from 2012 until 2015 when a 3 years’ membership period of the SFA would have been reached) and so who as far as UEFA were concerned could not be sanctioned for behaviour of RFC as TRFC/RIFC are a different football club/company from Rangers Football Club whose name appeared on the last application made by Rangers FC for a UEFA Licence made to SFA in March 2012 which was refused prior to their liquidation in October 2012 and where it is clear under “Timing” that the relevant date for reporting tax overdue under Article 50 of UEFA FFP is 31st March.)
- Finally, UEFA pointed out that as the event in question was over 5 years old they would not investigate under a UEFA time bar although this is not so if corruption is involved.
- The UEFA reply of 8th June 2016 (summarised above) along with the CAS Decision on Giannina FC mentioned earlier raised a number of points that led to a change of focus from the monitoring period based on 30th June under Article 66 to also include the granting period based on 31st March 2011 under UEFA FFP Article 50
- After weeks of deliberation both on the dates provided in the UEFA response, the earlier responses by SFA and how the Greek FA and UEFA dealt with a similar case in 2013 involving Giannina FC focus moved to end of March /Mid April 2011 when the licence was granted by the SFA.
- The Giannina case went to the Court of Arbitration on Sport (CAS), where the outcome suggests that in the Greek club’s case acceptance of a tax liability from a previous year and not paid by 31st March without a written agreement with the Greek tax authority being in place by then to postpone/ schedule payments, that an overdue payable as UEFA define one did exist at Rangers FC before and at 31st March 2011.
- Readers of The Tax Justice Network/ The Offshore Game Report (TJN/TOG) will know that this was their stance in terms of the overdue aspect of the wee tax liability and The Giannina case suggests, not surprisingly, TJN/TOG knew their tax business.
- Perhaps of greater significance in terms of the SFA and UEFA’s reluctance to investigate as justified in their 8th June letter, is the avoidance of answering questions posed on 27th May 2016 re the impact of side letters.
- The UEFA investigation of Giannina FC identified their use of private agreements as another reason for a UEFA licence to be refused. (Private agreements have it in common with the side letters issued with EBTs by RFC that they were kept private from the national association and in UEFA’s view in respect of Giannina were not fairly presented in the club accounts in breach of Article 47 of UEFA FFP.) This requirement also existed in the earlier UEFA licensing regulations effective from 2005.
- The deliberations and research into the above issues on dates, time bar and Giannina eventually produced a draft where issues were identified and documented at some length.
- Following discussions these issues coalesced into a solicitor’s letter that drew on material available in public to avoid any risk of prejudicing upcoming court cases, pointing out why the UEFA response of 8th June 2016 failed not only to understand the issue, but address the possible regulatory failings in their process.
- 29 September 2016. This letter was sent on 29 September 2016 not only to Mr A Traverso UEFA’s Head of Club Licensing, but also Mr Leterme Head of UEFA’s Club Financial Control Body (CFCB).
- 12 October 2016. UEFA Club Licensing Department replied on 12 October 2016 essentially saying they will not deal directly with our solicitor as he is not representing the SFA or Celtic and cannot add to what they provided already. No answer was received from the CFCB and it is likely they would take the same stance.
- 15 December 2016. Following the AGM of Nov 2016 shareholder representatives met with Celtic to discuss the way forward. Celtic were provided with copies of the information gleaned from the following two sources:
- As result of Shareholders lawyer’s correspondence with SFA and UEFA and
- The above enhanced by information published online in 2013 which at that point could not be used because of the trial of Craig Whyte.
Celtic were advised to wait on the outcome of both the final Supreme Court decision on Rangers use of EBTS and the outcome of the Craig Whyte trial expected during 2017 as both should have strengthened the case for investigation, hence Part Three begins six months later on 6 June 2017.
(Comment on the 8h June response from Andre Traverso UEFA Head of Club Licensing in respect of the new club/company information: .
How this new club/company information in the Traverso letter copied to the SFA was dealt with by SFA Head of Communications and his other interactions with the Guardian and STV can be read at Who Is Conning Whom. It suggests a story of the SFA using the media to misinform supporters.)