A Never Considered Outcome


So there we have it, the sting in the tail to end all sting in the tails. After years of presumed guilt on the issue of EBTs and claims of financial doping, it turns out the scheme we were operating was perfectly legal – if morally questionable. Who would have thought it?

Well certainly not the journalists like Graham Speirs, Hugh Keevins, Jim Spence and Brian McNally, all of whom have written on this subject with more than a whiff of ‘they’re guilty’ in their tone and content.

Not the chairmen of the SPL clubs who behaved like a pack of ravenous dogs when presented with the opportunity to banish Rangers from the top tier of Scottish football.

Not the BBC or Mark Daly, who seem quite happy to keep their BAFTA for The Men Who Sold the Jerseys, despite it being exposed as little more than a work of fiction.

Not Alex Thomson who, for reasons unknown, turned up to cover this story and happily compared Rangers with war mongers during his crusade to expose mass corruption on an industrial scale.

Not the Rangers Tax Case blogger who, anonymously and without any responsibility, blackened the name of a Scottish sporting institution and then fled to the hills – still anonymously – when his ramblings were exposed as utter pap.

Not HMRC, who, strangely for an organisation that I know takes data security very seriously, never questioned the data and material that appeared on the Rangers Tax Case blog, or conducted an investigation as to where the mysterious blogger was sourcing his information.

Not Phil, but his reputation is now so tarnished that I don’t see the point of mentioning his name again for the rest the article.

Not Lloyds, who adopted a very aggressive attitude towards Rangers and a sustainable £18 million debt, because they feared the roof would collapse and they’d lose their money if HMRC won the case against Rangers. This aggressive stance led to the club falling into the hands of Craig Whyte and the insolvency event that floored the club.  

None of these people or organisations gave Rangers a chance of being found innocent of any wrong doing in this case and acted on presumed guilt. All of them should now be feeling very sheepish as their actions have contributed to a horrible landmark period in the history of Scottish football. Make no mistake, this was an act of corporate vandalism by the key parties involved.

Firstly we must examine the roll of HMRC. This is an institution now utterly bereft of credibility. An organisation which hunts down plumbers and joiners for ‘cash in hand’ payments, but allows corporate behemoths like Vodafone, Starbucks and Amazon to trade on these shores without liability. Going after Rangers was motivated by an attempt to improve its public image after revelations about huge companies dodging their tax liability. It needed a high profile example to reassure the public and Rangers fitted the bill perfectly: huge in terms of name and prestige, guaranteeing a lot of publicity and kudos, but not so huge in terms of the turnover generated thus avoiding potential upset to any CEO’s who are members of the same polo club as cabinet members. Perfect!

However, due to the findings of the First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTTT), HMRC’s actions and complete unwillingness to negotiate on the issue have actually cost the tax payer. They turned down £10 million from Murray International Holdings to ‘settle’ the case, lost an estimated £9 million in lost PAYE and NI payments when Whyte took control of the club and are rumoured to have spent an estimated £3 million in pursuing the case. That amounts to a £22 million loss to the tax payer. They’ll have to uncover a lot of cash payments to plumbers and joiners to recoup that figure.

The BBC and Mark Daly don’t come out of this very well either. The Quayside broadcaster has had a rather venomous tone towards Rangers for some time now but Daly’s programme was the jewel in the crown. It presented a lot of facts, especially regarding the beneficiaries of the EBT scheme, but it presented these facts with an air of presumed guilt, even down to the title. The men who sold Rangers down the river were Murray, Ogilvie, Ferguson, Klos, de Boer, Souness…these were the men who destroyed a 140 year old institution according to Daly. It was purely an inside job.

Not once in the programme was it suggested that Rangers might be innocent in all of this and that the EBT scheme had been operated legally. The programme might have been award winning material if broadcast after the findings of the FTTT and if Rangers were found to be guilty. Now it looks more than a tad vindictive and presumptuous, and the top men at BBC Scotland should be issuing an apology post-haste.  

Then there is the SPL. Their actions are also looking a tad spiteful on the back of the result of the FTTT. They got the scent of blood in their nostrils when the administrators were called in at Ibrox and went for Rangers like a pack of dogs that had not seen a tin of Pedigree Chum in a long time. At no point was there a call for patience to see the outcome of the tribunal. No. Rangers were guilty, and they were not shy in saying so. Even Celtic captain, Scott Brown, felt confident enough to pass comment. He said, ‘Whatever they’ve been up to in the past, it’s finally caught up with them’-hardly words of wisdom on the subject. It’s safe to assume he made such comments with the blessing of the club’s hierarchy.

When faced with the choice of either keeping Rangers in the SPL or casting them into the footballing wilderness, not one SPL club felt that maybe, just maybe, Rangers were innocent of any wrongdoing. Guilt was a given for the SPL and justice had to be delivered. Their actions, and those of their supporters, with their ‘no to newco’ nonsense, reek of bitterness and have now been exposed as such.

Even now, after Rangers are exonerated of any wrongdoing, there remains a swathe of ‘they’re still guilty’ sentiment amongst supporters of SPL clubs and the SPL is continuing with its attempt to strip honours from Rangers. At a time when these people should be taking a step back and questioning the zeal with which they came after Rangers, they remain firmly on their preferred course which is presumed guilt. Their stance says more about them and their motives than it does about the actions and conduct of Rangers Football Club.

All in all, it has been a strange week; one of celebration, anger, vindication and relief. We, as a club, have been shown to be free from the charges of financial doping and cheating that were aimed at us. We have nothing to be ashamed of and it has been proved we are actually the victims in all this. We lost our dignity, our standing in the game and our corporate identity on the back of this utter sham. We deserve far better than to be able to claim just one of those back.

But I wouldn’t expect a queue outside the main entrance at Ibrox, made up of the people and organisations I’ve mentioned above, looking to apologise. Contrition, which was demanded from us when we were assumed to have wronged, does not appear to be an abundant virtue in those who pointed the finger, labelled the club as purveyors of “financial doping” and sought to destroy it. Their past and continued actions should be remembered for what they are: the most disgraceful in the history of Scottish football.

Colin Armstrong has written previously for The Rangers Standard.He is a former columnist for the Rangers News and match-day programme and he contributed a chpater to the book 'Ten Days tat Shook Rangers'. He has also written for When Saturday Comes.

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