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When conflict left the football pitch

Hindsight provides new perspective but can be deeply agonising.

For Sir David Murray, the revelations about Craig Whyte, the man to whom he transferred ownership of Rangers Football Club for the sum of £1 last May, have clearly been painful.

His deep regret and assertion that he would not have sold the club to Mr Whyte had he known at the time that he had been disqualified from being a company director is no doubt genuine.

But his statement yesterday that "there's only so much information and after someone has been disqualified for seven years it's not that easy to check", must raise questions about the responsibilities on sellers of football clubs as well as on the game's governing bodies to carry out due diligence to satisfy themselves that potential owners meet the criteria of being fit and proper persons.

Sir David put his trust in legal documents giving proof of funds and confirming Mr Whyte was to spend money on players once the bank loan had been repaid but, as a highly experienced business owner with a team of advisers, he should have been able to investigate Mr Whyte's record.

As Friday's deadline for offers for the club approaches, with a number of bids expected, interest has been concentrated on the consortium of Blue Knights led by the former Rangers director Paul Murray, backed by Ticketus, the company which advanced Mr Whyte £24.4 million for future season ticket sales which he then used to pay off £18m Rangers owed to Lloyds Bank. The involvement of Ticketus has naturally evoked some surprise, prompting Paul Murray to declare the consortium members will provide the fans with "absolute transparency".

That may prove a problem given uncertainty over whether Paul Murray can return to the Ibrox board having previously been a director of the club now in administration.

The murky revelations of Mr Whyte's financial dealings would be cause for shame and despair in relation to any business. But, when a football club with a proud sporting history and a deeply rooted fan base goes into administration, the repercussions go beyond the players and staff whose jobs are at risk to the supporters who feel loyalty has been betrayed.

The launch of the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund demonstrates how much the club means to ordinary fans. It is for the sake of the fans, regardless of which team they support, that football authorities have more power to insist on financial transparency on the part of club owners.

The Bill attempting to do just that, introduced in the House of Commons yesterday, will not succeed without Government backing but the need for tighter oversight and greater transparency is lamentably clear.

Steps must be taken to achieve this if football and the community of fans to whom it means so much is to have a sporting chance.

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