I was ready for Easter when Rangers International Football Club (RIFC) released their interim financial results for the six months to December 2014. And by the end of this week in this story, I was ready to retire. The accounts were bog-standard RIFC stuff, although seeing the whole corporate clusterf*ck spread out on-screen still retained powers to amaze. Multi-million pound losses? £2.89m. Check. Barmy payments to external bodies? Half-a-million to Newcastle United if Rangers win promotion. Check. Rangers challenging in Scotland and Europe? By 2022. Check. Traditions and values? Traditional values and traditions (traditional traditions?). Check.
Contingent liabilities? Craig bloody Whyte. Check. Going concern? Material uncertainty…significant doubt…blah…. Check. RIFC’s auditors resigning? Deloitte told the previous Board last summer and the Board didn’t tell us. Check. RIFC’s auditors re-elected at December’s AGM with 98.81% of the vote… Chec…er…no…wait…what? Wait…what? indeed. Rangers’ interim chairman Paul Murray reported: “I have been informed by Deloitte the existing auditor that they informed the previous Board of their intention to resign following the June 2014 audit. The previous Board chose not to announce this nor did they find a replacement for Deloitte.”
Another example, then, of the previous board’s appalling financial mismanagement. Murray appeared to be implying that the previous board went NINE months without an auditor. AND kept it quiet. Tsk. However, Deloitte did not resign in June. Nor, it seems, did they maintain their “intention” so to do. On November 27 2014, shareholders were given notice of RIFC’S AGM, including the resolutions for debate. Resolution 6 read: “That Deloitte LLP be re-appointed as auditors of the Company to hold office until the conclusion of the next AGM of the Company before which audited financial statements of the Company are laid.” On December 22nd, shareholders were told that 98.81% of those who voted agreed to re-appoint Deloitte. And from that day to this week, nothing more was heard of Deloitte’s intentions.
It would be safe, then, to assume, that either (a) Deloitte changed their mind between the aftermath of the June audit and November 27th and had it changed back by some post-AGM event(s); or (b) They were readied for re-election by the old board without permission or knowledge and were re-elected without permission or knowledge. But unless all staff were on a winter-long Caribbean cruise, with all communication devices lobbed into the Atlantic at the first opportunity, it seems beyond reason to suggest that no-one at Deloitte spotted this. Either way, it’s a story, and you would expect journalists to ask whether (a) or (b) was true and to have a raft of supplementary questions. Such expectations were not met.
The BBC published contradictory and puzzling takes on Deloitte. Under the arguably ironic sub-heading The Revealing Details BBC Sport’s Richard Wilson said Deloitte’s “final involvement” with Rangers “was to audit the annual results published last November.” Meanwhile, the Beeb’s “Business/Economy Editor, Scotland” Douglas Fraser, wrote that “Deloitte’s (sic) quit last summer.” The Daily Record’s Scott McCulloch reported that “no official announcement has been made to the Stock Exchange on Deloitte’s intention to step down” and quoted Murray as saying that the auditors were still “officially in place.” This begged, but didn’t inspire, the question “so, what’s all the fuss about?” And it contradicted Gregor Kyle’s assertion, published on the Record’s website 90 minutes previously, that Deloitte “resigned following the June 2014 audit.”
Maybe Record readers will have to wait for Keith “at the heart of the Rangers story since day one” Jackson to reveal the truth. The rest of us had to look away from Scotland’s mainstream media (SMSM), as is too often the case with the Rangers tale(s). Donegal-based blogger Phil Mac Giolla Bhain is as respected by Rangers fans as their sobriquet for him, “Mad Phil,” suggests. But much as they hate to admit it, Mac Giolla Bhain has more often been right than wrong on the Rangers story when others have been following the PR narrative of the day. It proved up to him to ask Deloitte, did they resign, when and why? Deloitte answered soon enough, the process wasn’t that difficult. They said that they told the board IN November that they “would not be seeking to be the group’s auditors” for the next financial year, the precise role to which they were re-elected one month later.
Mac Giolla Bhain’s supplementary questions were: did they not intend to audit the just-published interims, did they tell the board and should their November decision have been announced to the December AGM? Deloitte’s answers are still awaited at the time of typing. RIFC’s de-listing has now taken centre stage. But even as the Deloitte story emerged, it was soon submerged under piles of indignation at Rangers having to pay Newcastle United £500,000 if they win promotion and piles of s…omething else about Rangers “2022 vision” and their return to the peak of their powers by their tenth or 150th anniversary, depending on your view of the finality of death for football clubs.
Aside from the glaring factual errors to which SMSM observers have become sadly accustomed, such a collective amnesia about Deloitte’s December re-election as auditors makes no sense. The Newcastle payment story has a certain “wow” factor (as in “wow, that Mike Ashley’s got a ******* nerve”) and relative simplicity for journalists and readers alike. And there may be a logical, sensible explanation for the anomalies in the Deloitte chronology. But the only way to discover that is to ask. And the SMSM aren’t asking. The story fits the current narrative of “new board, good, old board, bad.” So it is difficult to lay any “bias” charge against particular journalists. The general treatment of the new Ibrox regime has exposed certain preferences, though none as explicit as the Glasgow Evening Times’ Chris Jack’s “personal opinion”: “The King has returned. A ‘landslide’ victory…a momentous day for Rangers and the fans. The war is over, the Rangers men have won.”
The “Rangers men”, Murray and Dave King have frequently contradicted themselves, most notably about RIFC’s nominated adviser (nomad) and King’s current ability to “invest.” On March 4th, King expressed his disappointment that RIFC nomad WH Ireland resigned before the EGM because he believed they had “agreed to remain in place to effect a proper handover to the incoming nomad.” And he added: “I co-ordinated a call between both parties for this afternoon to effect the initial introduction.” At Glasgow Airport, the day before the EGM, King confirmed that “I have a nomad lined up who has done due diligence.” Immediately after the EGM, King said: “I had off-the-record discussions with the nomad…if we are successful they will start formally engaging on Monday (March 9th).” Yet in the subsequent nomad-free weeks there was no indication that any mainstream journalist asked to whom WH Ireland’s representative would have been talking had the March 4th call happened, who had done due diligence or with whom King had been off-the-record.
So, either (a) King’s nomad had a dramatic (Deloitte-esque?) change of heart, or (b) King had co-ordinated no such call, there had been no such due diligence and no such off-the-record discussions. RIFC’s de-listing announcement, and Murray’s claim that four weeks of “working hard” with “a prospective new nomad” failed to secure an appointment, suggests either could be true. However, the truth of this matter may have to wait for threatened legal processes to take their course, if any of them ever do. On March 24th, Murray claimed King was not yet investing in RIFC because “we respect the processes of the SFA and must wait until they have completed their review of Dave’s status before he can fully participate in the future of the Club.” However, on March 6th, immediately after the EGM, King said: “If I’m not found fit and proper then I won’t sit on the board (but) I’ll still invest.”
On February 4th, in front of the whole sports press pack he stressed that if the SFA “blocked” him “it wouldn’t change anything” and “it…makes no difference.” And King was right. His fitness and propriety to be a director does not need declaring before he can invest. So, did Murray mean something different by “fully participate?” Was King “respecting” the SFA’s “processes” voluntarily? Again, no indication that the SMSM has even asked. And it isn’t as if they are shy types who “don’t like to pry.” On March 5th, Celtic CEO Peter Lawwell was interrogated by STV’s Peter Smith on Irish Republicanism links to Celtic, on supporters’ behaviour and all sorts of non-kit issues at the launch of their new kit deal with sportswear firm New Balance.
Smith, very far from the worst that Scotland’s mainstream has to offer, claimed it was “a rare opportunity to quiz Celtic’s CEO on a variety of subjects.” And one would appreciate such opportunism if he or any of his colleagues were prepared to show a shred of it in front of King or Murray. As with the SFA, outside observers of the SMSM’s attitude to the new Rangers regime have two options while they wait for rational explanation. Either the SMSM are sufficiently incompetent to miss a story entirely, or they are minded to deliberately ignore it, either by instinct or PR “guidance.” Grim, either way.
How Scottish journalism works, part two
Regular readers will remember the shameful misrepresentation on the STV and Evening Times (ET) websites of a charity fundraising trip to Glasgow by 120 Feyenoord fans five weekends ago. The event, organised by “Together in Friendship” (TIF), was shamefully heralded as a potential hooligan problem. And the articles were based entirely on ironically-entitled Police Scotland “intelligence” briefings, with no mention of the charity work. Indeed, the ET article was attributed to its crime correspondent Rebecca Gray. After complaints from the @celticresearch twitter account, STV radically re-wrote their story to include the charity angle. And on March 12th they apologised and posted a prominent correction underneath a re-headlined, properly-contextualised story. The ET, part of the Herald newspaper group has, as I type, yet to follow suit.
The original articles cooled support for the fundraising and a “music night” on the Friday had to be re-arranged twice, with one original venue withholding a £250 deposit, claiming that TIF had misled them over the true nature of their visit. The detrimental effect of the cooled support was difficult to quantify. It was at least partly offset when current Celtic and ex-Feyenoord striker John Guidetti’s actual match shirt, with authentic “great baw imprint”, from the Hoops’ four-nil win over Aberdeen that weekend was raffled. However, the £250 deposit remains lost to the charities. On March 27th, the @TIF_2015 twitter account reported on their efforts to recover it: “We are still trying to get our £250 back from (the venue) who promised us the money a number of times. We have been very polite and treated them better than we were treated but now we have to look at legal action.”
It is unclear why the venue have yet to repay the money after their promises (which is why I have not named it) and this update is a comment on the Herald newspaper group’s (in)actions. As @TIF_2015 tweeted yesterday: “We have made a complaint in writing about (the) article by Rebecca Gray which still has the lies and no correction. “We complained to the Evening Times and Herald editors about the damage the lies…did to our fundraising and reputation. We have offered to meet the editors if necessary. We regret that it has come to this point but no correction has been made in one month. “Our complaint is based on the IPSO Editors Code of Practice – Clause 1 and the need not to publish inaccurate or misleading information. We have also formally requested a right of reply in both publications which would conform to Clause 2…”
I cannot begin to understand the Herald Group’s inactivity, especially after STV’s actions three weeks ago, which should be instructive. I can only hope they do the right thing by TIF 2015 and the beneficiary charities…and quick.
You can follow Mark on Twitter by clicking here.
You can follow Twohundredpercent on Twitter by clicking here.
You can accuse Twohundredpercent of anything you like on Facebook by clicking here.