Wednesday, 4 March 2015


It looks like Mike Ashley is going to have to tighten his belt. That £7500 fine is bound to hurt; about as much as you or I being fined 20p for a late library book. The difference is that, after fining you the librarian is not going to tell you to just keep the book. Ashley, on the other hand, has been fined for breaking the rules and then just left to carry on breaking the rules as he sees fit. Probably the SFA are convinced, just like everyone else, that Honest Dave is going to win the day on Friday so Ashley will no longer be in a position to break any rules.

The Daily Record are claiming that Llambias and Leach are clinging onto their positions, demanding some sort of pay-off. Their only evidence for this is the word of Honest Dave and an e-mail he says he sent to the pair. What was it that South African judge called him again? Meanwhile the two men are saying that they need to hold on to follow Stock Exchange rules. Ashley himself is saying nothing. It is noticeable that Sandy Easdale is not doing walking away either. It makes me suspect that some plan is in the offing.

Unlike Rangers, the club and the company are now two different entities. There's RIFC, the super-dooper intergalactic company, and then there's its only asset, TRFC, Bisto FC itself. I'm beginning to wonder if another Duff and Phelps juggling act is coming up. The board, the RIFC board that is, has informed the Stock Exchange of its intention to draw down the second tranche of Ashley's loan; a cool £5m. This, of course, comes with conditions attached, although none of us are privy to what those conditions actually are. If King & Co do take over on Friday then they'll have to decide whether to take this money, with its contracted terms, or risk not being able to afford the bills at the end of the month. So either they swallow their pride and accept Ashley's conditions or it's going to be administration possibly followed by liquidation.

Liquidation might get rid of the onerous contracts; unfortunately it'll get rid of a lot more than that. Ashley is not going to go for the pretendy liquidation that happened with Rangers; he'll want his pound of flesh. He is the biggest creditor and he'll want a real liquidation of the assets, which he, himself, can pick up for a song. And what's the only asset owned by RIFC? Why the club, of course. And who sits conveniently on his lonesome on the club board? Our old friend, Sandy! It's all set up nicely.

But what if Honest Dave decides to drink the cup of hemlock and accept Ashley's loan? Well, that's when the terms and conditions come into play. Wouldn't it be funny if those terms tie up the club so that the RIFC board can't run it? It sounds unlikely; about as unlikely as administrators getting away with defrauding creditors by illegally splitting up a company or somebody snapping up the assets and being allowed to pretend that his new club is actually the old one! Just imagine Honest Dave, Paul Murray and the rest, sitting in the Blue Room making decisions that amount to nothing. And all their shares would be worth as much as their old shares in Rangers!

Whatever happens it looks as if Friday is going to be one of the most entertaining days Ibrox has seen in years. It'll certainly be more entertaining than what passes for football there these days! No matter what the outcome I'm willing to bet that it's a win-win for Ashley. It'll also be a win-win for the rest of us as the comedy seems set to continue.

As well as sycophantically talking up Honest Dave as they excitedly wait for him to 'slam in the lamb', the Daily Record also had a story about some 'expert' claiming that the SPFL had undersold the TV rights to showing matches. This character, called Charles Barnett, offers a rather simplistic explanation for his claims:

"Simple arithmetic indicates that if Sky and BT are happy to pay £1.712billion a year for English football the comparable figure for Scotland should be £142million (Scotland has 8.3 per cent of the population of the UK). To be getting just over one 10th of that at £15m is unfair and unsustainable."

This is nonsense. It's all about the product and, unfortunately, England has a better product to sell. It's a vicious circle: the clubs in England, Germany, Spain, Italy etc. can afford big-name players, making them more saleable globally, which means bigger TV money, which, in turn, means they can keep affording those big names. Scotland is just not in the same league, if you'll pardon the pun, and has never been able to attract any superstars to our clubs. Yes, there was Gascoigne, Laudrup etc. but who wants to watch one team steamroller all the other teams that can't afford to match that one team financially? As far as the TV rights to Scottish football goes, it's a buyer's market and it's hard to see how Scottish football can escape from being a virtual backwater. And, remember, we're not the only country in this position. How many games from the Swedish, Norwegian or Austrian leagues do we see on TV?

And there's no point kidding ourselves about 'global fan-bases'. There might be folk in the U.S, Canada and Australia that claim to be Celtic fans but they're not going to throng the pubs in the wee, small hours to see Celtic play against Ross County, are they? As for the team playing out of Ibrox, they might claim to be still Rangers and to have a global fan-base, but the fact is that the SPFL actually had to pay for Bisto FC's matches to be shown on TV. It hardly suggests that our football authorities are in any position to play hardball with the television companies, does it?

Finally, we've managed to raise £90 already for the fund to get 'Fear and Smear' advertised in The National. We've still got a way to go so, remember, every donation counts, large or small. Just click the button on the bottom right of the page to pledge what you can. Thanks.

"D'yer mind if I ask a question? What the hell's a thousand?"

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