The Scottish Football Association will not arrive at a decision as to whether or not controversial entrepreneur Dave King is a fit and proper person to hold office at Ibrox until next month at the earliest.
Should King’s motion to remove Derek Llambias and Barry Leach from the Rangers board (and have them replaced by Paul Murray, John Gilligan and himself) succeed at today’s general meeting, then those appointments will not be immediately ratified by the SFA.
Rangers would first need to submit the names of the nominated officials to Hampden, where the SFA board will then rule on the suitability of the applicants.
The board, which is not due to meet again until early April, consists of four office bearers – chief executive Stewart Regan, president Campbell Ogilvie, vice-president Alan McRae and second vice-president Rod Petrie – plus Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell, SPFL chairman Ralph Topping, Scottish Junior FA secretary Tom Johnston and former drinks industry high flier Barrie Jackson.
It is also understood that King, in spite of previous claims to the contrary, has been given no comfort by the SFA that he will be allowed to take his place on the board of Rangers or, indeed, of any other Scottish club.
Assuming King’s motion is voted through at Ibrox today, the club must then appoint a Nomad (nominated adviser) within 28 days or face being de-listed from the AIM Stock Exchange.
It’s believed that, before accepting that post, any company would first seek confirmation from the SFA that there were no problems concerning the suitability of individuals to hold office and that similar assurances would be sought by the footballing authorities.
While there is no fit and proper person test as such which King and Murray must pass, there are obstacles in their path before they can be included on Rangers’ official return, not least the SFA’s rule book.
In particular, King may struggle with 10.2 (h) in the articles of association, which states that an individual may not be considered to be fit and proper if “he has been convicted within the last 10 years of (i) an offence liable to imprisonment of two years or over, (ii) corruption or (iii) fraud”.
In August, 2013, following a protracted legal battle in his adopted homeland of South Africa, King pled guilty to 41 counts of various contraventions of the Income Tax Act 58 of 1962.
He was then offered the choice to pay a fine of £206,000 or accept the sentence of two years’ imprisonment for each offence. He was also ordered to pay just under £550,000 towards the Criminal Asset Recovery Fund and agreed to pay over £44 million in back taxes.
King was also a non-executive director of the Rangers board under the stewardship of Craig Whyte when the old club was plunged into administration and then liquidation.
That period could pose problems under rule 10.2 (j) “he has been a director of a club in membership of any National Association within the five-year period preceding such club having undergone an insolvency event”.
In May 2012 an SFA Judiciary Panel criticised the conduct of King leading up to Rangers’ implosion. “From May 2011 Mr David King was aware that he was being excluded from the governance of the company and he appears to have done little about it except repeat his demands to Mr [Ken] Olverman and Mr Craig Whyte for information,” it found.
“There was no information about any other steps he took as director when matters were plainly out of the control of the Board and information and accounts were kept secret from the Board.”
The panel concluded: “[He and his fellow directors] could have made public the activities of Mr Craig Whyte of which they were aware or ought to have been aware.”
Paul Murray, for his part, was removed as a director when Whyte completed his purchase of the club for £1 from Sir David Murray in May, 2011. Paul Murray can at least claim to have been an outspoken critic of Whyte at that time.
However, SFA chief Regan was at pains to stress that any applications will not be pre-judged. “It’s a process that is ongoing,” he said. “Rangers are a plc and have processes in place that will play out in the next day or two I guess.
“As far as the Scottish FA are concerned we will get involved as soon as the process allows us to get involved.”
He also maintained that what Rangers require, above all, is a period of stability after the constant boardroom changes and haemorrhaging of money at the club since it was reformed under the auspices of Charles Green and his colleagues in the summer of 2012.
“I think, for Rangers fans in particular, it’s important there is harmony and stability,” he said.
“We’ve had several years of uncertainty, changes of leadership and financial challenges.
“I think it’s important for everybody’s sake – particularly the fans’ – that some stability is restored and that whoever leads Rangers can set about rebuilding to get the club back in good shape again.”
Regan also defended the SFA’s decision to fine Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley £7,500 for his thinly-disguised attempt at dual ownership through his influence at boardroom level at Rangers.
“Back in 2011 we moved to set up an independent process with a tariff of sanctions for rule breaches,” he said.
“It would be hypocritical that because he is a billionaire we are going to have a huge sanction for him.
“The rule is the rule. The sanction is the sanction whether you have hundreds of millions or not. We followed the process.”
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