Rangers, Sevco, Oldco, Newco
Five years since Rangers slipped into liquidation, Doc looks at a precedent that the SMSM seem to have missed….
Preamble: I’ve written a few things before as very long comments which Etims have made into articles and seeing as I’ve been less drunk than usual recently, I thought I would write this as a proper article to complete my very challenging Etims quota of one per year. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it then I can only apologise.
When they went into administration on St Valentine’s Day and then slipped into the death throes of liquidation we all felt absolutely nothing but sympathy.
What we should have been the final say on Rangers has, in time, raised a lot of talking points.
Are they the same club? Does it matter if they are considered a new club? Is it just a bit of banter between fans? What harm is there in letting fans believe the club never died? Is it just about past titles and bragging rights?
The fans, the media, the SFA and some clubs have all weighed into this debate, both in statement and in suggestion. They are far from unanimous and even further from definitive so I’m going to add my own tuppence worth by looking at it from a different angle but first, I will start with a question.
Can you name the first football club that was spending money it didn’t have then the stadium and trademarks were sold to a dodgy businessman who, aided by footballing authorities, pretended it was the original club was still going so he could profit from the fans?
If your answer was Rangers then you are wrong, for the answer to have been Rangers then Charles Green’s big hands would have to be used for something creative as opposed to taking fans money.
The answer I was looking for was FC Politechnica Timisoara from Romania, some of you may remember they beat us on away goals in the early eighties. Those European adventures couldn’t last and they spent the rest of the decade struggling with relegation/promotion.
In the late eighties, they were taken over by a wealthy businessman and they club started doing well again and had some decent games in Europe but they were living out with their means. Remind you of anyone?
Whereas Rangers had no one who could match their financial clout, the banks in Romania weren’t as generous/stupid/suicidal (delete as appropriate) as the Bank of Scotland and FC Politechnica Timisoara’s cash dried up then, in the mid-nineties, it was back to skirting relegation/promotion once again. After two relegations and faced with the prospect of playing in a regional league, in 2002, FC Politechnica Timisoara were removed.
That wasn’t the end of it as a businessman bought the stadium, rights, trademarks, etc and a football club was created with the same badge, playing in the same colours, at the same ground and supported by the same fans as the original FC Politechnica Timisoara. The new club would call itself FCU Politechnica Timisoara and it claimed the history and titles of the old club, all allowed by the national football authorities.
That is where the similarities with Rangers end, for example, FCU Politechnica Timisoara started the next season in the top flight. The chairman of the original FC Politechnica Timisoara took action, he complained to the Romanian football authorities but was left unsatisfied by their response so he then took the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Just as you can’t put on your dead granny’s dress to draw her pension, one football club can’t assume the identity and history of another football club. The CAS handed down its decision in 2006.
The CAS ruled on four things: the misuse of a club’s name and colours by another club, distinction between name and trademarked name, the competence of the national association and the sanction. It’s a fifteen page judgement and mostly in legalise, whilst I’m not a lawyer, my translated bits are in square brackets, e.g. i’ll refer to the new club as [Newco]. So here are some the meatier excerpts from the judgement, the juicy bits:
1. “It is a necessary element of the process of admission of members to such a sports federation to also decide on the differentiability of the name of a new member… the Romanian Football Federation must guarantee to its other members and to FIFA that the new member does not set out to imitate the colours of an old or existing member.”
2. “the Commission forbade [Newco] to use the sports records of [FC Politechnica Timisoara] in official communications of the club, in reviews, presentations – written or electronic, as well as in any communications, documents issued by the club or other persons controlled by the club, and to use [FC Politechnica Timisoara]’s logo.”
3. “it was not allowed to use the track record, history and logo of [FC Politechnica Timisoara], the Panel wishes to emphasize that the [Newco] is also not allowed to imitate the colours of [FC Politechnica Timisoara] in conjunction with the above-mentioned usage of the track record, history and logo of [FC Politechnica Timisoara].”
4. “The Panel, therefore, orders the [Newco] to continue to use its earlier name … or to adopt another name, approved by the Romanian Football Federation, that does not include the risk of confusion with the name of [FC Politechnica Timisoara].”
5. “The Commission ordered the [Newco] not to use the sports records of [FC Politechnica Timisoara] in official communications of the club, in reviews, written or electronic presentations, as well as in any communications, documents issued by the club or other persons controlled by the club, and not to use the logo. For every future infringement of this decision, the [Newco] is held to pay an amount of € 5,000. The Panel has added to this any use of the name and colours of [FC Politechnica Timisoara].”
6. “For the purposes of calculation of the entire amount of compensation to be paid to [FC Politechnica Timisoara] by the [Newco], a usage shall be defined as an official match played by the Respondent whilst using [FC Politechnica Timisoara]’s name, track record, history and logo and colours.”
Payments were also charged from when the chairman first complained and the newco were given one month to pay, after that 5% interest would be applied.
So how does this fit in with Scotland? While there are parts of the case that are similar to Wimbledon/MK Dons but claiming the name, colours and history of a former club is what has happened with Rangers/Sevco and those parts of the case are clearly similar to what has went on in Scotland. Under FIFA statute 14.1.a, the SFA are obliged to fully comply with CAS decisions and, in this case, the CAS decided that;
1. A new club’s name and colours must be different from another club, even a dead club.
2. A new club is forbidden to use another club’s records or logo in any communication.
3. A new club cannot claim the track record, history or sporting achievements of another club.
4. The newco must change its name so it cannot be confused with another club.
5. The penalty for breaking these rules is at least €5000.
6 The financial penalty is per official match played.
This is imposed by the CAS and their authority trumps any Nimmo Smith enquiry or any five-way agreement. The CAS is the final decision and they have decided it is against the rules to use the name, colours and history of a former club.
The SFA should know about this CAS decision and how its findings apply to Scotland, after all, it is their job to do so. By allowing Sevco to imitate Rangers and by being a party to this deception the SFA show that it is not a body fit for purpose and that they cannot or will not apply the laws without fear or favour.
A similar action in Scotland would have to be started by those involved at Rangers, such as Craig Whyte or the liquidators but one thing to note is that the penalty is not a fine paid to the football authorities, it is a compensation payment to the club whose identity has been stolen so, in this case, the penalty would go into the pot for the creditors.
We shouldn’t need to take things to the courts for the rules to be upheld, the SFA should be doing it as a matter of course. It’s a sad state of affairs that what we want, the rules followed and a level playing field, requires court action or judicial review. The SFA, through Stewart Regan were very vocal when the FIFA scandal was in full flow two years ago. He spoke of transparency, integrity and protecting the games image but the SFA appear to have forgotten all this in how they operate.
To end, we go back to Romania. The large penalty imposed by the CAS led FCU Politechnica Timisoara into financial distress and contributed to them going to the wall in 2012, their chairman decided to do to the same again and started another club, ACS Poli Timisoara. The fans had enough and, like FC United of Manchester, they decided they would start their own club. The fan’s club, SS Politechnica Timisoara , were founded in 2012 and began life playing in the Romanian amateur leagues. Over the last five years they have grown, developed and been promoted. This season, they are in the second tier of Romanian football.
We wish them well.