Many Scottish football fans will by now be aware of an ongoing campaign by a small group of Celtic shareholders alleging that Rangers were incorrectly awarded a licence to play in European competition in the 2011/12 season. Informally this was known as 'Resolution 12' and these Celtic fans - encouraged and aided by various journalists in the mainstream British media - have been working for several years to apply pressure to their own club, the SFA and UEFA in relation to this licence.
Yesterday, STV News reported that UEFA will not investigate the issue any further and that they had no further comment to make. In light of this development, it's perhaps prudent to detail why they've come to this decision - in addition to the quotes they gave to STV's journalists. A few of us with relevant professional backgrounds have thus put together the following summary. Please also note, we've also been in contact with two different Football Associations, UEFA, the ECA and a few journalists. As a result of these exchanges, there's no doubt in our mind that this was a misunderstanding of process and rules on a grand scale.
First of all, the claims made by the recent 'Offshore Game' report and many of the people obsessed by this issue was that the SFA were not playing "a fair game". The allegation was they did not follow the rules and that as a result of their incompetence, Rangers obtained a licence when it should have gone to another club in Scotland.
With that in mind, I want to reconfirm the importance of three key dates and the roles played by the main parties in each of them:
This is where the SFA have most control of the situation. They have to gather information from member clubs and make a decision to put forward these clubs to UEFA for a stamp of approval and an issuance of a licence. There are lots of tasks to be carried out such as checking overdue payables, financials and Youth Academy status. This is called "The Licencing Process".
In season 2011/12, the SFA carried out these checks on Rangers and submitted the licence request which was granted. Celtic FC have asked the SFA for information on behalf of their shareholders and the Resolution 12 group about this process, and the SFA within the rules, satisfied both Celtic directors and Resolution 12 group that everything was done properly.
We must remember that if an overdue payable existed at this point then, in principal, the club should not be put forward for a licence at all.
Nevertheless, there is confusion online that Rangers owed the taxman £2.8m and accepted this in various emails prior to 31st March. However a final determination on the amount outstanding was not delivered until 20th May 2011 and did not become an overdue payable until 19th June 2011. This again has been fully accepted and agreed by the relevant parties.
As such, the 31st March process is dead. The SFA carried out their duties and there is no case to answer.
Once the "licensing process" finishes, the "monitoring process" kicks in ; meaning the baton was passed to UEFA and, in particular, their Club Financial Control Body (hereinafter: CFCB). The SFA function in this part of the process is to get all their member clubs to complete another control document which again asks the question around overdue payables. They have to ensure all questions are completed in full and that all the relevant information is passed to UEFA and CFCB. However, the SFA at this point have no say or control over "licensing" as their pass/fail duty ended at 31st March.
At this point, where there is now an overdue payable, this does not mean that UEFA revoke a licence. In 2011/12 as at 30th June, 32 clubs had overdue payables and went on to play in Europe that season. Any declared overdue payables at this date are looked at by CFCB and potentially they can ask for more information, a full audit or simply for an updated position as at 30th September. In Rangers' case, the CFCB said they were happy with the explanation provided at the time and for an update later that year.
There are claims that Rangers lied at 30th June however we need to be clear in understanding the process. The process is that you have to declare and overdue payable or not. We know Rangers declared an overdue payable as there is an alleged email from the SFA confirming this. Once declared, you have to tell UEFA, whom you owe the money to (HMRC), when it became overdue (19th June), how much (£2.8m) and a "brief statement" (for example: "Contacted HMRC requesting a payment schedule - waiting on their reply").
No-one has seen this submission. No-one will ever see this submission. But the most important part is the disclosure. There is no need to lie. Why lie when it doesn't matter? The licence was fine and it was not going to be removed at this point. Why? Because having an overdue payable was permitted.
Therefore, the 30th June process is also dead. The SFA had no say in this and again carried out their duties.
If a club makes a disclosure of overdue payable on 30th June then it must give an update on the 30th September. In season 2011/12 there was an apparent flaw in the rules (later corrected in 2015) in that the update only needed to reiterate the position as at 30th June again. (The rules were worded incorrectly and referred back to June and not September).
However, the reason for this checkpoint is to ascertain the current position of the club with a view of future participation in Europe: e.g. the following season. No action can be taken against the club in relation to the existing season at this point. It is looking to the future.
Again, no-one is aware of what Rangers said by way of an update but it is a complete red herring.
1) We were already out of Europe.
2) We were not granted a licence for the following season and for three seasons thereafter.
The final 30th September argument is now also dead. It was never in Resolution 12's original scope but became a last bastion for some people when they realised the other two dates were compliant.
To conclude, UEFA have confirmed to STV what I have argued all along. There is nothing to see. We know the licence was granted correctly in late March because the SFA, Celtic FC, Resolution 12 and others involved have confirmed so. Any action or issues thereafter would be solely looking at what potential action could be taken the following season if overdue payables were not paid on time or to CFCB's satisfaction.
In essence, Rangers licence to play in European competition that season was 100% correctly granted and administered.
It should also be noted that neither the SFA, UEFA or CFCB can show nor discuss any details of any disclosures made by any member club. To do so would be a fundamental rule breach of Financial Fair Play rules under articles Article 5.4(f) Article 11 and Article 53 of the UEFA Club Licensing and FFP regulations.
You can follow @Jas72Boyd on Twitter or check his posts under the user-name TheLawMan on RangersMedia.
Below you can also find some FAQs about the above
Q: As Rangers owed HMRC on the 31st March, should they have got a license?
A: As the club had not received the final determination from HMRC (according to Annex VIII of the regulations) a due date had not been set and therefore it was not considered as an 'overdue payable' as at 31/3. No disclosure was required.
Q: As Rangers released their interim accounts on the 1st April, was this a deliberate ploy to circumvent the rules in order to get a license?
A: No. Even on the 1st April, it was not considered as an 'overdue payable' so there would have been no need to hold anything back.
Q: The bill was overdue on the 19th June and Rangers didn’t have a written agreement from HMRC. Should they have had the license revoked?
A: No. The requirement was for the club to disclose that they owed money to HMRC, that it was overdue as at 19th June and also to explain the current situation at that given date. Having an overdue payable does not stop you from having a licence.
Q: Could Rangers have declared the tax as being deferred which would be against the rules?
A: No. The tax had to be disclosed or undisclosed. If a club chooses to treat an overdue tax bill as deferred and therefore not disclose it (absence of), then this would be breaking the rules. If a club declares the (existence of) under article 66 section 2 then confirms they are awaiting a payment schedule under article 66 section 5 then this meets the regulated requirements. UEFA are entitled to audit the said statement made in section 5 by contacting the tax authority to confirm.
Q: The rules state you must have a written agreement or that you don’t get a license. How did Rangers get around that?
A: This is wholly incorrect. The rules state that if you have a written agreement, then you do not need to disclose anything. In the absence of a written agreement, then a club must follow the rules outlined in Article 66 sections 2, 4 and 5.
Q: How do we know they disclosed the debt owed as at 30th June.
A: There is an alleged email from the SFA to Rangers confirming there was a disclosure and that UEFA were happy with the contents of the disclosure.
Q: The sheriff officers were investigating the club in August, should they have lost the license then?
A: No. Under the rules, the club had a further responsibility to confirm if the amount was still overdue on 30th September. An apparent glitch in the rules muddies the waters, however at this date the courts had ring-fenced the tax debt due to HMRC subject to a legal challenge. This would have also have allowed the club to not disclose it as an 'overdue payable' at that date according to the rules in Annex VIII. The only duty on any club on the 30th September was to send the exact same information as 30th June due to an error in UEFA rules (later rectified in 2015).
Q: Why have UEFA not investigated this further and taken retrospective action.
A: It would be remiss of anyone to take the Celtic shareholder group position that UEFA have not had a look at this case. They have been inundated with emails and letters, full page newspaper adverts and phone calls on a daily basis about this. Given STV's report of 20th June, 2016, they seem to be comfortable the correct procedures were followed.
Q: Why don't the SFA or UEFA show us the disclosure(s)?
A: Football clubs are commercial entities and as members of Football Associations across Europe, they are entitled to commercial data protection. Releasing sensitive data on any member club would be subject to a potential lawsuit and a loss of confidence of other member clubs.
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