Scottish football is now entering into another important chapter in its modern history, as it attempts to investigate the allegations of non-disclosed player payments. Although the rules are clear on this point, it is the application of such rules that would determine the observance of natural justice and due process. The latter is, perhaps, the most important element in the determination of a fair and transparent process.
We would not attempt to determine the outcome of the investigation and/or any possible decision-making on the matter. In any event, there are only two possible determinations, which, of course, would have to be based on the evaluation and critical examination of the evidence. One determination may produce no results whatsoever, in which case, no sanctions could be applied to perpetrators, whether they are private individuals and/or corporate entities.
The second determination, may indicate possible breaches of the relevant rules. In this scenario, the relevant Commission would have to apply sanctions on the perpetrators. But here we would have to face serious questions as to whom the sanctions are going to be applied against. In terms of corporate responsibility, the entity which may be responsible for such non-disclosed player payments schemes, no longer exists in terms of football, or at least, it no longer possesses a membership for the purposes of participation and, therefore, acceptance of the rules.
Even if we accept that the membership of the old entity has now passed to the new entity, does this mean that the new entity has accepted liability for the improprieties of its predecessor? If the answer is yes, then we would have to respond to further questions in relation to the corporate structure of new Rangers. There may be a situation where the limited liability company is different to the sporting club, which could operate in a 'subsidiary' form, for the purposes of participation in Scottish football. Does punishment apply to the corporate entity or to the sporting entity, or to both? Rangers fans, of course, would ask the reasonable question as to the possible justification for 'punishing' a new entity for 'sins' unrelated to it.
Further, we have to express serious concerns if punishment is to be applied on the new sporting entity of Rangers. If the sanction relates to participation in the league [and the rules certainly include such sanction], are we facing, yet again, another aspect of sporting uncertainty? What would happen to the other clubs in the league and how would the sporting integrity of the competition be protected?
Finally, the selection of the members of the SFA's Independent Commission clearly demonstrates the quality of the investigation and any possible decision-making in the matter. Given, however, that the Chairman of the Commission has already ruled on a previous Rangers matter, it may be argued that the present Independent Commission may be better served by a different Chairman. Although there may be similarities between the present matter and the previous one, we are of the view that the merits of the non-disclosure player payments scheme are different to any other previous considerations.
Whatever the final conclusion of this bitter story may be, it is important that fairness, equality and transparency are observed and sporting stability is maintained. Scottish football has suffered enough already and it is important that the integrity of the competition is restored back into the minds of the fans.
Dr Gregory Ioannidis
18 August 2012