Imagine you are the financial controller of a multi-million pound corporation. You discover that your new boss might have forged tax invoices for payments that were never made. What do you do?

I’d like to think I’d call the cops. But if you’re Ken Olverman, the man in charge of counting the diminished pile of pennies at Ibrox, you’d do what your coffee mug says: Keep Calm and Carry On.

Olverman’s oversight is just one of many astonishing failures of leadership documented in the Scottish Football Association’s “Note of Reasons” – the report produced by the disciplinary tribunal which handed Rangers multiple fines and a 12-month transfer ban.

The sixty pages of the report (http://tinyurl.com/7wx7dp2) detail how Sir David Murray was desperate to sell the club, how the entire board knew Whyte wasn’t the man to sell to, and how they were proven right by his actions post-takeover.

But not one of these experienced and highly-compensated executives spoke out. Some even encouraged the sale. So in no particular order, here is your parcel o’ rogues, bought and sold not with English gold, but with four years’ worth of season tickets, courtesy of Ticketus Ltd.

Rogue one: Donald Muir, Director.

Prior to the takeover, there was a “marked division of opinion” on the board about Whyte: “A number of directors remained extremely concerned and extremely sceptical about his good faith, status and standing… They had no evidence that he had sufficient funds to buy or run a football club such as Rangers FC.”

Crucially, “other directors took a less critical view.” Which other directors? Donald Muir, for one, who was on the board at the request of Lloyds Bank. ”Through Mr Muir, the Board of Directors had been made aware that Lloyds were extremely enthusiastic about the potential purchase by Mr Craig Whyte of the MIHL majority shareholding.”

Donald Muir was a director of Rangers, yet he was acting in the best interests of another company: Lloyds Bank. I’m a Rangers shareholder. I wonder if I can sue him?

Rogue two: Martin Bain, Director and Chief Operating Officer.

Bain commissioned a private investigation into Whyte and was “very concerned” at the findings: Whyte had a history of liquidating firms, though strangely it didn’t uncover Whyte’s seven-year director’s ban. So what did he do with this dynamite report? He showed it to his boss, despite “knowing Sir David Murray’s personal and individual approach to business matters he was apprehensive about raising his concerns with him and considered that there might be personal repercussions”. That’s a healthy relationship there, eh?

Murray told Bain to shut up and back the Whyte bid. Bain, in his one display of spine, declined to do so, and “from the time of that meeting … Mr Bain’s hitherto close relationship with Sir David Murray was damaged.”

But did he go public with his report, either directly or discreetly? No.

Rogue three: Alistair Johnston, Chairman.

Despite being “strongly opposed” to the Whyte sale – because he didn’t believe Whyte had any cash – what did the chairman of the board do? He “continued to engage in discussions with Mr Craig Whyte aimed at enhancing the terms of the share purchase agreement.” What he did NOT do was “raise or successfully maintain any substantial level of resistance nor public awareness of their very real concerns.”

Sure, when the BBC cameras were rolling months after the takeover, Johnston was happy to talk. Too little, too late.

Rogue four: Ken Olverman, Financial Controller of Rangers FC plc.

In August 2011, Olverman was contacted by HMRC, who were verifying invoices provided to them by Ticketus showing large amounts of VAT paid by Rangers. Olverman had no knowledge of these VAT payments, and when he saw the invoices “he was of the view that it appeared as though ‘Clip Art’ computer processes had been involved in their creation… Having sight of the invoices confirmed his view even further that they had not been created within the finance office of Rangers FC.”

That would worry me, untrained in the arts of financial control. So what did Olverman, a member of the august Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland do? Nothing: “He did not inform any of the current directors of Rangers FC of the matter.”

The rogues register is longer still, and of course Sir David Murray and Craig Whyte are the prime scoundrels in this sorry tale.

But reading through the tribunal’s report, seeing that even Greatest Living Ranger John Greig could and should have done so much more to raise the alarm, it’s clear that one group that could have made a difference were kept in the dark about all the dirty details. A group of people who do have the club’s best interests at heart: the fans.

You might not care about Rangers, and that’s fair enough. But if nothing changes, next time the rogues might ruin your club.

Billy

Comments

  1. The fans are way down anyone’s list of priorities – even the fans’. No doubt VERY difficult to put together a fans’ buyout of the club, but that never even seemed to be on the agenda. People too busy waiting for a rich bloke (or twenty) to come in and ‘save’ the club. Allowing everyone to retain their God-given ability to criticize the owner for not pumping enough millions into buying players etc. etc.

    Nobody wanted to look that hard at Craig Whyte when he showed up. Folk now only seem concerned if the Green party have the cash to splash, so we can get on with forgetting the whole unhappy episode as quickly as possible. The choice of the Blue Knights (riding to the rescue) name speaks volumes.

    Don’t know the answer to all this, but being rich man’s plaything (even from the Lawrence days?) doesn’t seem like a bright future.

    Strangely, all clubs seemed to manage without them when they started up.

    Am I just being naive?

    Jim

  2. Sadly, I think you’re being very realistic.

    One of the goals of the Rangers Supporters Trust was to put together a “sharesave” scheme – this was long before Murray’s empire collapsed into the arms of a bank which itself collapsed into the arms of the government. It took a long time to get off the ground because of the legal complications and it’s moot now anyway.

    Was the appetite ever there? Add up all the cash spent in, and to get to, Manchester by the thousands of fans who went there and the club would be out of administration soon enough.

    In Germany, clubs *have* to be majority-owned by fans, and I’d love to see similar legislation hit the Scottish parliament – but I doubt it will happen in the next decade.

    Good luck to St Mirren with their Community Interest Corporation aiming for 52% supporter ownership (bit.ly/MCKfKi). Maybe they’ll be a model for the rest of the country.