Andy’s Sting In The Tale (28/12/23) “Secrecy, Deals, Wee Favours and Decline”

Date: 29th December 2023

Secrecy, Deals, Wee Favours and Decline Management  

Why Scottish Football Needs a Regulator

In Andy’s Sting in the Tale, we talked last week about Ian Maxwell’s performance at the Holyrood Committee Meeting when he answered questions with what might be seen as misleading responses when read in the world of factual daylight.

My own opinion is MSP’s and the game deserved and deserve more.

The committee need to dig deeper, and facilitate a new Holyrood approach to dealing with Scottish football.

Two starting points that MSPs I have spoken with agree with are there needs to be a new policy of openness when they deal with football and public records of all dealings plus there has to be a public running total of how much Scottish Football gets from our governments, and how it is used.


Not surprisingly my mailbox was unusually busy and this week’s Sting will address some of the stuff you sent and asked me to comment on about things that a regulator could have investigated and changed for the benefit of the game or even better have prevented with better governance.


This Week’s Sting

1. Who Will Regulate the Proposed Scottish Football Regulator?

2. Dealing With Football’s Addiction to Victorian Secrecy in 2024 and Beyond

3. The Particularly (and still) Very Very Secret ‘5 Way Agreement’ from 2012

4. Grass Roots and Schools

5. Kids Welfare


1. Who and How?

Most fans, especially from our two biggest clubs on either side of our particularly toxic divide don’t want a placeman or placewoman with strong affiliation to either of our dominant clubs.
Or even a name that sounds like he or she might be!
Maybe it was always going to be thus, but it’s good to listen, air and discuss the issues, real and imaginary.

When you speak to the clubs they are more pragmatic or long suffering and want to know it will not just be the usual carve-up of favours.

Anyway, clubs fears, and fans concerns, will both have to be thought through and addressed fairly and openly.
That’s normal in any business or governing process.

The starting point is transparency.
(Yes, that’s a hackneyed word in Scottish Football.
Stewart Regan nearly wore it out one day in 2012 in a display of impressive Bravado but never did anyt
hing much about doing anything about it.
Being kind to him, the internal SFA and SPL constraints and enmities were too powerful).



The ending point is also transparency.
And there is a need for a lot of good faith and fairness in between.
And open vision.


2. Blowing Away ‘Deals in Dark Rooms’ for Ever

Fan research we have done from day 1 shows almost none of us fans trust the hidden, unseen and labyrinthine decision-making processes in our game.
And that includes club chairmen who often get told about ‘stuff’ affecting their clubs after the deals have been done.
And that happens in both the SFA and SPFL and to their employees too.

“I left the SFA because it is run in a way that leaves common sense outside the committee rooms. They don’t welcome executives who can think”.

“We were sitting around the board table when Neil and Club A and Club B came in late through a side door and instead of the discussion we were scheduled to have, it was a briefing on what they’d decided in their pre-meeting”.

“I’ve stopped being sensible or even caring in these meetings, kept my mouth shut, kept below the parapet and voted the way we had pre-agreed after discussing it as a league group. Usually a waste of everybody’s’ time”.

3. The Most Secret (and Toxic) Deal of All?
Believe it or not, it’s coming up for 12 years when Rangers went into the administration and then liquidation processes.

After Sir David Murray is said to have ‘gambled’ on his chosen EBT variant tax scheme, and certainly as far as he thought he could take the club, we had the £1 sale, and Craig Whyte optimistically saw it as an opportunity to make some easy and quick money with whatever financial flipping was in his head.
He was practiced at financial flipping, did not ever have ‘wealth off the radar’ and history shows failed both the club and the fans.

We no
all know the club hit the stocks with a mighty crash.

A catastrophic team failure in Malmo brought Craig’s plan B (whatever it was) to a sudden halt, a deal with creditors was not agreeable or agreed and administration brought in names like Duff and Phelps, Charles Green and a host of others, all looking for money(s).
A horrible business.

At the time Rod Petrie, Neil Doncaster and others rightly foresaw that a Scottish Football business model sans Rangers contained a huge commercial hole and particularly panicked about their new tv deal.
I’ve been told they first tried to hide what they had been pre-warned about in a dinner in Glasgow’s West End, and to run with Craig’s limping carcass, and some think they may even have ‘helped it on the quiet’, but when the stocks were hit hard in a very slow motion final crash, Rod, Neil and maybe some others had the bones of a cunning plan ‘Baldrick Style’ ready.

And very, very secret to this very, very day.

Even if it broke their own and possibly Uefa regulations because as was quoted, there was no technical (legal) way to achieve what they wanted to do.

Their very, very secret 5 Way Agreement went through many drafts, some of which were later leaked to the usual subjects, and was eventually signed by the SFA, SFL, SPL, and Rangers as was.
Charles Green’s Rangers who were meant to be one of the secret signatories I have been told failed to sign the final document.

Yes, ask yourself about ‘two ‘Rangers’ signatures’ and for some that brings issues about club and company and new and old, and receivership and new.

Maybe someone will tell me and send me a copy of the final signed agreement).

It should be published and openly so.

We all watched the concurrent soap opera where at first Rangers were to start again in the SPL, then this relaunch became the Championship and then the very real threat to make the minnows vote it through for the SPL and SFA was- “Vote it through or else Neil is going open up a New SPL2 and you will be cut adrift. i.e.”We need Rangers but don’t need you”!

An amazing way to treat members.
From 12 years back, clubs were being treated badly by those paid to run football for them, mostly because of the secrecy and the massive SFA/SPL  miscalculations and inherent alliances.

It all sparked a righteous rebellion and still deep arguments today.

Here is some of the feedback I’ve been sent in response to last week’s Sting.

Some of you will agree with some of it.
Some will agree with all of it.
Some will just want to move on.

But be mindful that the 5 Way Agreement wasn’t our finest day, and if we had had a game managed for the game under the control of a regulator the outcome would have been softer and less expensive to the taxpayer.

Here are some views from fans.

“They mishandled the whole thing with the clubs”, Andy, said a journalist friend, “and the then Raith Chairman, the clever experienced and feisty Turnbull Hutton rightly used the word “Corrupt” as and when he started a justifiable proletarian rebellion from the steps of Hampden.
Eventually Charles Green’s club were somehow offered a place in the SFL2 when there was somehow a convenient vacancy”.
(And we all now know that was a place  that somehow, for the record was never available to other aspirant Scottish clubs at the time, like Cove or Edinburgh City.
And I also know they were told to keep quiet and not make a fuss).

Journo pal again, “Rangers had effectively been shafted by their old and new owners and the joint establishment’s incompetence just made it all worse. Their first game came eventually after many weeks of ifs and buts for their fans, and a late cancelled match with Kelty Hearts, because of something like their players were not properly registered or insured. Indeed a few had not tuped and simply walked away to bigger wages elsewhere.

Anyway, ‘the Rangers’, to quote the new owner Charles Green eventually played Brechin in front of their famous hedge as an unseeded team in the 2012-2013 Ramsden’s Cup.
Team lines, as far as I know, were never made available after the match.
We all felt sorry, all along for the Rangers supporting fans because their club had been hung out to dry in full view by ego, financial bad practice, greed and then ineptitude from Hampden, all exacerbated by secrecy and time pressure.

 “So unfair on the Rangers fans and powerful stuff that doesn’t read any better after 11 years”.


I called Pete, an old Uni friend with long family ties to Ibrox and who took me to my first Rangers v Celtic game a long time ago in the late 70s.
He told me how painful it had been and that looking back he sees things a little clearer because at the time there was so much smoke and mirrors and anger.

“Andy, we now know we were shafted by the previous two regimes and left with nowhere to go and nobody in charge. It was a deadly vacuum and our club was stolen.
That Herald front page was the worst ever. Most fans would now agree there was fault at the club right at the top but the SFA and SPFL handled it all so badly and just made it worse. They should just have been honest with the fans, the other clubs and society. They werent and I blame them for the series of get-rich-quickers that followed as Rangers became a very giving carcass and they used any means possible to ramp up revenues along the way. Thank God for John Bennet. He came in, saw the long game, and outlasted the charlatans. I hope someone writes this all up one day and identifies the villains, one by one.”

A not unsurprising emotional response from a true blue fan looking back 

In last week’s Sting I wrote, “The same establishment (SFA/SPL, whose gross mishandling of the Rangers 2012 financial crash set up a series of nightmarish future scenarios that will cost Scottish Taxpayers over an estimated £100 Million

(Some think even more and it should be added up openly).

This para came from an email from a member from the other side of the Glasgow divide who asked for anonymity.
“Andy, that same establishment whose secret 5 Way Agreement undermines the integrity that football claims to be a sport.
A secret agreement that Uefa never saw, and conflicts with Uefa rules designed to protect the integrity of Uefa competitions.

The same establishment who in May 2020 abandoned their own ‘Judicial Panel Disciplinary Tribunal’ looking at a possible breach of Uefa Rules in 2011 in respect of overdue payables to HMRC.

Serious stuff that our administrators just want buried and forgotten.

Would it All Have Been Different With a Regulator?

Yes, I think so.

It should all have been out in the open.
There would have been less subsequent carpet bagging of resources from the club and our game.

The Scottish and UK taxpayers would have saved substantially.
Imagine if the Regulator had declared the Tax Wheeze as disallowed like other clubs did off their own bat?

Anyway the past is the past and we are where we are.

Secret deals are cancerous.

The still Secret 5 Way Agreement is Still Cancerous.

I agree with big Peter and hope one day someone writes up all the factors and facts.
11 years later the gross incompetence of our football organisers has hurt every taxpayer in Scotland yet it has never been openly annotated and discussed in Holyrood.
Why not?
Why has it never become a real issue?
Think what £100M would do for our under-pressure Scottish budget?


And how can, in any world, Ian, the SFA CEO tell the parliament committee like last week,Nothing to see here”? 

And when will the Holyrood  Committee not just ask for the secret 5 Way Agreement to be published, but to be annotated, and justified?

Looking back, I am amazed Rangers somehow united and got through the abuse they suffered along the way. Their fans have been the difference.
And their recent performances in Europe have been exemplary and great for our coefficient.


  1. The Easiest Open-Goal Ever

    AKA the Lowest Hanging Fruit for everyone in the game.
    It doesn’t take rocket science to see that the more kids who play, the bigger the game becomes and the better the supply of elite kids to our clubs and the more fans in the future.
    That means a new vision is needed for Schools, Community clubs and all SPFL clubs who have youth wings.
    Immediate fodder for any regulator.
    In the meantime it’s not a priority on the 6th floor.
    Not part of any regenerative plan.
    Why the hell not? 

Trouble at the SYFA?

A wee bird told me the CEO and 2 directors have just left. 

Wee bird didn’t know why. 

I’d love to know if you do.


5. The Kids Aren’t Allright

In the rush to sign up as many kids to feed the numbers needed in their youth structures football clubs are ‘selling’ hard to youngsters and their parents using  the rosy future of first team football and the fame and benefits that go with it.
It is big-picture nonsense with little realism.

The down side is kids stop playing for fun and many start playing ‘in their heads’ to ‘full Edinburgh derbies’ when they have already made it. A pal of mine, a teacher in a secondary school in East Lothian sees boys signed up at 13 and younger and how it affects them.

Andy, “They think they are there, strut around as minor celebrities for a while and yes the numbers are against them and when they get inevitably dropped, probably because the club has stolen a bigger player from someone else, they become failures”.

(By the way, size and nothing much else, matters in elite football in Scotland, but that is a different discussion for a different day).

Sadly, though, many stop playing football altogether and mental health issues are common.



That’s it for this week.   

Feedback input and wee stories welcome as always. 



Andy’s New Year Trax
After my Xmas suggestion I started off thinking about another Andy ‘Compilation’ of peace songs for a very troubled world and first track was ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ by the Eagles, followed by Elvis Costello and ‘Peace Love and Understanding’.
But writing about the secret 5 Way Agreements hijacked me away from my ‘Peace’ thematic to an album I bought in the early ‘70s.

‘No Secrets’ by Carly Simon, with the classic single ‘You’re So Vain’.
Both titles relevant to today’s Sting.

I haven’t played it for a long time and the way my mind works it took me on to ‘Sweet Baby James’ by her then boyfriend, soon to be husband James Taylor whose Taylor family originally came from Montrose, where I go fishing sometimes and will again if the salmon ever come back.
But don’t blame the SFA for that!


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