Sweet Little Lies

Tell me all your sweet, sweet little lies
All about the dark places you hide
Tell me all your problems, make them mine
Tell me all your sweet, sweet little lies

The stridency of Scottish journalist/pundits, particularly coming from those on the BBC Sportsound platform from where they cry out for an investigation into what took place behind the scenes before and after the SPFL put forward a resolution to SPFL clubs, subsequently accepted by the majority, that allowed SPFL to pay out needed prize money to sides below the Premier level is, to quote an old saying, “the talk of the steamie”.

Whilst those cries are ostensibly in support of a demand led by The Rangers FC for a need to change the governance at the SPFL, it is not clear if they mean the way the SPFL conduct business or the way individuals inside the SPFL go about the conduct of that business.

During on-air interviews, questions are being put to clubs about the degree of confidence they have in individuals rather than the processes, systems and structures. This suggests it is individuals who are being placed under scrutiny, and not the dysfunctional processes and structures themselves. A pity, since there is little doubt the governance is dysfunctional.

SFM has long been asking questions about the system and processes of governance and in fact tried to elicit the help of a number of journalists (in 2014) after information which had not been made available to the then SPFL lawyers Harper MacLeod during or after the LNS inquiry had surfaced.

Information that had it been made available would have changed the charges of Old Rangers’ mis-registration of players contracts, and to the more recent and unresolved matter of their failing to act in good faith to fellow club members (which the SFA Compliance Officer made in June 2018 in respect of non-compliance with UEFA FFP regulations relating to tax overdue in 2011).

Following the last Celtic AGM a detailed independent investigation by an accountant was provided to Celtic who passed it to the SFA where the matter has been overtaken by world events but not forgotten. That report can be read here.

It only adds to the mountain of evidence on https://www.res12.uk that suggests the need for reform of both governance bodies, their structures, systems and process.

Instead the media have given us a narrow head hunt to remove individuals for reasons that can only be guessed. This from individuals in the media whose motivations are as questionable now as they were in 2014, when they and their organisations ignored stronger evidence of greater wrong doing than has so far been presented by those currently advocating change.

The current media clamour for heads on a plate carries with it more than a whiff of hypocrisy.

During week commencing 22 September 2014, some volunteer SFM readers posted a bundle of documents that had surfaced to a number of journalists. SFM had previously sent these documents to Harper MacLeod, the then SPL lawyers. These were important documents pertinent to Lord Nimmo Smith’s inquiry into Rangers use of EBTs, documents which had not been made available to Harper MacLeod by Rangers Administrators Duff and Phelps despite being requested in March 2012 as part of the commissioning of LNS.

Earlier SFM blogs provide the details of communications with Harper MacLeod and can be read from the same link(s) provided to 12 Scottish media journalists in the draft below.

Some of the addresses may have received more than one copy but apart from one for whom only an e mail address was known, they should have received at least one hard copy of what Harper MacLeod/SPFL had been provided with which the latter passed to the SFA Compliance Officer in September 2014 according to their last reply to SFM. It is unlikely none were received by the organisations they were addressed to.

The draft to the journalist which the volunteers were at liberty to amend said:

I am a reader of The Scottish Football Monitor web site and attach for your information a set of documents that Duff and Phelps, acting as Rangers Administrators in April 2012, failed to provide to the then Scottish Premier League solicitors Harper MacLeod, who were charged with gathering evidence to investigate the matter of incorrect player registrations from July 1998 involving concealed side letters and employee benefit trusts by Rangers FC as defined in the eventual Lord Nimmo Smith Commission.

The failure to supply the requested information in the form of the attached documents as clearly instructed resulted in incorrect terms of reference being drawn up by Harper Macleod and a consequent serious error of judgement by Lords Nimmo Smith in his Decision as regards sporting advantage.

The information in the attached was provided to Harper MacLeod and the SPL Board in Feb 2014 and it was pointed out in subsequent correspondence that SFA President Campbell Ogilvie had failed to make a distinction in his testimony to Lord Nimmo Smith between the already confirmed as irregular Discount Option Scheme EBTs paid to Craig Moore, Tor Andre Flo and Ronald De Boer from 1999 to 2002/03 under Rangers Employee Benefit Trust (REBT) and the later loan EBTsfrom 2002/03 onwards under the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT), having initiated the first DOS EBT to Craig Moore (as shown in the attached) and being a beneficiary of a MGMRT EBT as widely reported in national press in March 2012 at the time investigations commenced.
The complete narrative was set out in a series of blogs on The Scottish Football Monitor Web Site that are accessible from

(Edit: The links to the original SFM blogs were listed but some have been lost but original sources have been uploaded to Google Drive accessible from the above link)

However in spite of the correspondence sent to Harper MacLeod, there has been no response from them or the SPFL, save their answer to the original letter. (Edit: There was subsequent correspondence with Harper Macleod after the package and this letter was sent to the journalists which can be read from the above index to the original blogs.)

These points suggests that the SPFL, Harper MacLeod and Lord Nimmo Smith were misled by Duff and Phelps failure to supply the attached documents as instructed as well as Campbell Ogilvie’s failure to correct Lord Nimmo Smiths decision to treat all EBTs as “regular” when the DOS EBTs are not, as the attached evidence clearly demonstrates.

You are one of a number of journalists to whom this letter and attachments is addressed either electronically or hard copy. We are hoping that some journalists will prove themselves worthy of the challenge and investigate the story, even if only to refute it and stop suspicion of a cover up.

A copy of this letter and responses from addressees (or failures) will be published on The Scottish Football Monitor web site for the Scottish football supporting public to note. The e mail address for your reply is press@sfm.scot and we hope that you will investigate what appears to have been the corruption of the very process set up to establish the truth or you will explain why you cannot.
Yours in Sport

Note: The letter above was drafted and distributed with the documentation before a reply from Harper MacLeod was received, but as the reply did not address the issue of the nature of the irregular DOS EBTs, the request to journalists to investigate was even more valid.
The following were the journalists to whom documentation was posted/delivered.

Mr Richard Gordon
Mr Richard Wilson
Mr Tom English all at the BBC.

Mr Grant Russell
Mr Peter A Smith. At STV

Mr Andrew Rennie Daily Record Sports Editor

Mr Paul Hutcheon
Mr Graham Speirs
Mr Gerry Braiden at The Herald

Mr Mathew Lindsay Evening Times (belatedly)

Mr Gerry McCulloch Radio Clyde

Ms Jane Hamilton Freelance ex-Sun Sunday Mail (by e mail)

Only three individuals showed an interest but it is inconceivable to think that the media outlets they worked for were ignorant of the information provided or that the Scottish media sports departments are unaware of the narrative and its implications which were subsequently picked up by The Offshore Game but drew no refuting comments with the exception of Tom English.

He opined that the TOG report was ‘flawed’ although he did not specify how he came to that conclusion.

Darren Cooney of the Daily Record did take an interest in November 2015 when he met an SFM representative, who explained the case then sent him a summary to give to his editor but The Daily Record did not publish the story nor give any reason why they didn’t.

Grant Russell was with STV at the time and a meeting with him was arranged with a fellow SFM contributor but he failed to show up.
He subsequently did show an interest when The Court of Session ruled the Big Tax Case unlawful in July 2017, when he was provided with the a note of the consequences for the LNS Commission. However Grant moved jobs to join Motherwell in late October 2017.

Why bring all this his up now?
Because currently, the existence of texts and e-mails and unsubstantiated claims of skullduggery appear to have energised a media (and BBC Sports Department in particular) that had ‘no appetite’ to investigate actual evidence presented to them in 2014. There seems to be little doubt that an agenda is being followed, but as the preceeding paragraphs demonstrate, it casts doubt that their motivation is reform of the governance of Scottish football, and raises a suspicion that replacement of individuals (whose steerage of the good ship Scottish Football into the RFC iceberg was deemed adequate a decade ago) is what is important. A meaningless powerplay. No more no less.

One may jump to the conclusion that the foregoing is a defence of the individuals at the centre of this controversy, and that it defends the SPFL position in respect of the requisitioners review of governance. That would be the wrong conclusion. The point is that a wide-ranging review of the SFA/SPFL governance is way overdue.

The time window covered by any review should the very least cover the tenure of those accused of malfeasance and mis-governance. The media, and the requisitioners are cherry-picking their poor governance. That is poor governance in itself.

1,118 thoughts on “Sweet Little Lies”

  1. wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 15:15

    There appeared to be mention of the possibility of being able to return to court after arbitration in the deliberations but I'd be more comfortable on JC or EJ possibly covering that as I may have misheard / misinterpreted.


    I haven't looked at the Arbitration rules, but I suspect that the decision will be binding on both parties.

    I'm unsure whether or not the Arbitration panel has the power to impose any remedies sought, e.g. reinstatement or the level of damages claimed, should Hearts and Partick be successful.  The CoS case remains open with the CoS, although sisted, so I presume could be restarted to make such determinations.

  2. Cluster One 3rd July 2020 at 15:38

    Not sure what was on the list but from the arguments put forward by the SPFL and the other clubs they seemed worried. The Three clubs more due to concerns of commercial confidentiality etc but I assume the SPFL more concerned that Hearts & Partick would have full view of everything that went on. I'd assume the Deloitte report would be in there as there was much talk of the Dundee vote situation these past three days.


    Regards your earlier question Lord Clark said he was ruling on the petition being 'sisted pending the outcome arbitration'. So I think the petition still stands but nothing further happens until we see what the arbitration brings. That being said I think the matter can only go back to the court if the arbitration is in someway failing or incompetent in some major way.



  3. When the SFA put forward an independent panel. Will there be a call of “who are these people”?

  4. wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 15:15Finloch 3rd July 2020 at 15:02

    Please remember its four not three. 

    They want this to be seen seen a club v club but its not really as they were the ones who put the clubs in this stupid position in the first place.


    Agreed wottpi and well clarified.  I just think after arbitration if Hearts and Thistle don't win that it will head for the next option.

    Anyone know where that will be?

  5. Just my personal view on the proceedings. 

    I felt that Lord Clark was sympathetic to the Hearts/Partick pleadings in the substantive case, but was legally obliged to direct that the dispute should go through the arbitration process by dint of the provisions within the articles and rules of the SFA and SPFL. 

    It will be interesting to see who are appointed to the arbitration panel, and how quickly they meet.  Gerry Moynihan suggested that it should be possible for the panel to adjudicate within the same time scales as the court (proof before answer hearing provisionally scheduled for 14-16 July). We will find out soon enough if he was good to his words.

  6. wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 16:00
    Thanks for reply
    I believe like the (Flawed independent)LNS inquiry. findings will be final. All that will be left is what punishment will be delt for going down the court route.
    Transfer ban anyone.

  7. Cluster One 3rd July 2020 at 16:00

    One side picks one arbitrator from the list,  the other side pick the second.

    Then the two chosen pick the third. If I heard correctly the third arbitrator takes the chair and should always be a person with at least 10 years relevant standing in the legal community. Retired sheriffs Judges etc.

    Could be another LNS situation but it really depends on how matters are argued. 

    I suppose as the petition is only sisted, there is more pressure on the process being pristine as,  per EJ’s confirmation, there is an outside possibility of it going back to court if any hanky panky is at play or the process if seen as being flawed by one side or the other.

    In relation to the potential fines for taking a football matter to court  Lord Clark seemed very interested in that. He seemed to suggest they were totally within their rights to do what they were doing. I suspect if Hearts/PT were punished in a major way by the footballing authorities it would be challenged as being overly malicious.

    Again like EJ, from the bits I heard I thought Lord Clark would have been keen to preside over the case (maybe that’s my maroon tinted specs) but the interpretation of the law means it has to go to arbitration.

  8. As a footnote the footballing authorities have to get this arbitration right and started quickly because Lord Clark ends his ruling with the following offer:- 


    If for any reason, difficulties arise with whether the arbitration tribunal is able to deal with the issues in the time available and the parties change their minds and wish the court to deal with, time will be made available for that to happen.

  9. A 3-person arbitral tribunal is now likely to resolve the Scottish football dispute; from the existing @ScottishFA
    Tribunal Candidate List, the @spfl
    nominate an arbitrator; @JamTarts
    & @PartickThistle
    nominate an arbitrator; the 2 arbitrators then nominate a 3rd to act as chair
    It’s also possible within the rules that both parties agree to the appointment of a single arbitrator. Either way , the findings of the tribunal “shall be final and binding on the parties”.
    From twitter.
    Findings shall be final, that is what i thought earlier but happy to be corrected
    Edit. just read your post.wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 16:31

  10. wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 16:31
    In relation to the potential fines for taking a football matter to court Lord Clark seemed very interested in that. He seemed to suggest they were totally within their rights to do what they were doing. I suspect if Hearts/PT were punished in a major way by the footballing authorities it would be challenged as being overly malicious.
    ……………Felt sorry for them, but football rules are football rules.
    I suspect if Hearts/PT were punished in a major way by the footballing authorities it would be challenged as being overly malicious.
    Transfer ban anyone.
    That is why i said that earlier. if Hearts/PT were punished in a major way, all they have to do is bring into focus the ibrox case and a transfer ban for years of cheating.

  11. wottpi 3rd July 2020 at 16:31

    '….. any hanky panky is at play'


    Surely there won't be another person in the ranks of the SFA who will give us an opportunity to create a new  'ism' to describe a piece of fatuous nonsense, or Arbitration Panel chair and members ready to accept any nonsense argument from an 'expert' SFA witness? heart 

    I know that the  SFA is not a party in the dispute, but it is the body that has to give permission to approach the Courts. It cannot be right that a  board member of the SPFL which is party to the dispute sits on the SFA.

    In that arrangement  there is theoretical scope for hanky- panky influence to be brought when leave is applied for.

    Who can accept that state of affairs?


  12. Am I correct in saying, in simple terms, that basically the Judge said


    "You have signed up to the SFA rules, and this should be settled via arbitration. So you need to do that. However if that cannot be done in a reasonable time then I will deal with the matter"

  13. Homunculus3rd July 2020 at 18:47

    Yup that's a nice summation.

    I think Lord Clark was keen to get involved but president etc dictated arbitration.

    You still have to ask what kind of matter would actually allows clubs to go to the courts!?

  14. Homunculus 3rd July 2020 at 18:47

    '…Am I correct in saying, in simple terms, that basically the Judge said


    The Judge's very words would say you are indeed correct:

    '.If for any reason, difficulties arise with whether the arbitration tribunal is able to deal with the issues in the time available and the parties change their minds and wish the court to deal with, time will be made available for that to happen.' (para 28 of the judgment)

  15. Homunculus 3rd July 2020 at 18:47

    Am I correct in saying, in simple terms, that basically the Judge said

    “You have signed up to the SFA rules, and this should be settled via arbitration. So you need to do that. However if that cannot be done in a reasonable time then I will deal with the matter”
    The way i read it also.
    Meaning if the have no time to get a panel together or can’t agree on who to sit on the panel or if you get a panel together and someone falls ill or anything like that, the judge would be happy to step in.

  16. On the subject of Arbitration agreements which deny the right of access to the Courts in matters where huge punishments for going to court are able to be meted out for so doing , Lord Clark clearly sees the danger that that presents of unscrupulous majority shareholders  (God forbid that there should be any such!) screwing minority shareholders, who must surely be intimidated by such threat if they try to take on a corrupt board, and may therefore be reluctant to do so and thereby suffer loss.

    I make this observation on the basis of what he says in Para 7 of his judgment. 

    ‘In my opinion, questions may arise as to whether in that context a bar on raising legal proceedings without the permission of the Board of the SFA, subjecting a club which does so to the potentially extreme sanctions mentioned by senior counsel for the SPFL, can be viewed as contrary to public policy and hence unlawful. ‘

    To be refused permission to go to Court by the very people whom you believe to have shafted you  and who have power to hammer you for going to court without their permission is just plain nonsense, in my opinion.

    Good heavens, that means that if there were ever to be [God forbid!]a majority shareholder of a company who was a crook who disregarded the provisions of the Companies Act and acted with unfair prejudice against minority shareholders he would be free to do so with impunity if the Company’s articles of association had an Arbitration clause that forbade recourse to the Courts under severe penalty.

    That is the ‘public interest’ point. The law ought not to allow that kind of scenario where access to the courts is denied because you’ve signed up to an arbitration clause in good faith that the company will be run in good faith by people of integrity.
    I would have wished that Lord Clark had found a way to use his misgivings in order to get an appeal to the Inner House to try to get the nonsense of the present law addressed.

  17. Sorry JC but your “major shareholder of a company” analogy is not quite correct.  The SPFL is indeed a limited company.  They do have shareholders, 42 in fact, and all pretty normal up to that point.  The 42 shareholders hold an equal share; getting a bit unusual now, that are not available on the market and are not freely transferrable. They are completely interdependent with the other members and in their agreement to operate and compete within rules of an association; otherwise they are merely a group of clubs, companies or just people.    They all sign up to participating in a commercial and sporting enterprise within the rules of the limited company and, more importantly, the national and global associations of their sport. The rules of their particular association must be within the rules of the global (Europe and the world in our case) associations otherwise the whole thing doesn’t work.

    So if, for example, a member/shareholder club decides to pay separate remuneration to players under an undisclosed side contract it may be perfectly legal but it breaks the rules of the association and therefore the limited company League and they can be duly punished.  Relating that to the current situation, the side contract paying club could, of course, take it to court as they could with any issue.  Player tapping, transfers outwith window, playing a banned player, playing a ringer, slagging off the ref prior to a game etc etc.  None of which is illegal.

    Hearts (and Thistle) are in a bloody awful situation.  I have no time for Neil Doncaster.  The SPFL have been complicit with some of the worst crap I’ve seen in Scottish fitba since 2012.  But Hearts/PT needed to fail in the court.  We may disagree with any or all of the SPFL/SFA/UEFA/FIFA rules but not just when it suits us to do so or because we dinna like Doncaster.  Like the laws of the land there are ways to change the SPFL rules and it’s a helluva lot easier for an equal shareholder to get changes through, by dint of approval of resolution, especially when 42 shareholder voting is at the core of it.  Hearts and PT are actually founder members of the SPFL and have had the opportunity to propose resolutions and to vote on all the resolutions to date. They have had the protection of those rules to date.



  18. ernie 4th July 2020 at 09:50

    ‘.Sorry JC but your “major shareholder of a company” analogy is not quite correct.  The SPFL is indeed a limited company…..’


    Yes, ernie, thank you, but I was not referring so much to the SPFL but to any plc, to which the Companies Act applies in respect of shareholders’ rights vis-a-vis the company. I should have made it clearer that my belief is that Lord Clark’s interest in the ‘public interest’ aspect was not  particularly in respect of the case in front of him, but more generally.


  19. ernie 4th July 2020 at 09:50

    I largely agree with your analysis of the interdependencies of regulations.

    The issue for the clubs seeking to avoid the governing bodies protocols is, and remains, one of trust. There is an inbuilt fear of bias in favour of the governing bodies, that a tribunal, panel, commission or other body will look at the issues from the viewpoint of footballing regulations, outcomes and expectations, rather than rely on legal aspects or natural justice arguments that might be heard in court.

    SFA/SPFL processes have moved on over the years, primarily due to clubs engaging QCs or other legal representatives to argue their case. It has forced the processes to be conducted on much more of a legal footing.  Arbitration is one such process, with at least the semblance of impartiality, although with each of the parties nominating a representative, their remains a risk of at least a perception of bias.  Neither party is able to set a Terms of Reference, as such, as the case should be arbitrated on the basis of the complaint made. It has to include consideration of matters of law as well as football rules and regulations. Confidentiality of proceedings also remains a concern.

    In contrast, the football authorities continue to be able to initiate (or decline) their own “internal” investigations or appoint commissions, inquiries, set terms of reference etc. There have been a couple of instances in the dispute about the “written resolution” and its aftermath, e.g, the internal Deloitte investigation and the rejection of the TRFC request for an independent inquiry.  We are all familliar with the LNS Commission as another example of poor governance that has generated so much distrust in the processes to this day.

    The invocation and independence of those discretionary investigations remain in need of revision.  



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