The fiasco at Rangers offers an interesting insight into just how lucky Wrexham are to have such a set of fans. They were fined £50,000 for not divulging to PLUS stock exchange that their previous owner, Crag Whyte, had been disqualified as a company director for seven years. The offence was seen as particularly serious one cause they did not notify the Takeover Panel or the SFA either.
Hold on a minute, how does that work? To describe Rangers as a huge institution would be to seriously understate the case; there are few organisations in Scotland -no, Britain- that carry as much weight or evoke so much passionate devotion or strong feeling as they do. And you’re telling me that nobody bothered to check their owner’s background?
What does this tell us? Well firstly, and fascinatingly, it makes the back office set-up at The Conference look a darn sight more professional than the Scottish football authorities. They might have some idiosyncratic notions, but at least they try to impose a financial structure on their clubs and seek to make them stick to it.
And although you could drive a coach and horses through the Fit and Proper Person Test (actually, make that a coach and elephants. Several coaches and elephants, riding shoulder-to-shoulder, in fact) even that might pick up such a basic piece of information on the man undertaking control of a multi-million pound concern.
Incredibly, the Scottish FA monitor the suitability of a prospective club owner by asking him to be honest when he fills in a form! What crook, conman or criminal could think of a way of fooling such a cunning system? The SFA issued a strongly-worded statement defending themselves, claiming that to apply more rigorous checks means they “would have to employ a cast of thousands to research every potential takeover, every potential change of director, across the entire game.” Thousands? No wonder Scottish football’s in financial trouble; it sounds like their governing body would employ twenty people to make a cup of tea.
But more interestingly, didn’t Rangers’ fans spot this? Didn’t one of them think to look into this guy and reveal his past? I’m no expert, but it seems it isn’t too difficult to obtain such information on an individual’s business past. And how do I know? Because Wrexham’s fans do it all the time!
We know the background of every person who has expressed an interest in buying or investing in the club, nefarious or otherwise. The denizens of Red Passion wouldn’t allow anyone to come sniffing around without establishing their bona fides. We’ve been saved from a lot of dubious characters by the vigilance of Red Passion’s members; is there a club anywhere which has been so successful at deterring unsuitable buyers from getting involved?
So where were their counterparts in Glasgow? I can’t believe that such a huge club hasn’t got such protection from its fans. I assume it did, but the wise voices were drowned out by the majority, too busy basking in the complacency of being in a permanent two-horse race to listen to those who feared their place in the comfort zone could be under threat. That’s not a problem at Wrexham. There’s only one serious, vibrant place where fans can express themselves, and that has given it a power which has created the environment in which the club can be owned by the fans. The trust often spoke, in looking to sell the idea of a fan-run club, of the wisdom of crowds. Red Passion is that concept in action, and the lack of competition ensures that it drives the club’s agenda.
I guess sometimes it’s good to be a small fish. Especially if you’re in a good shoal.