Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

It seemed all was settled in the long running Rangers Tax Case saga. Yet after the Scottish press’ latest embarrassment, we can look forward to months and years of continued arguing over my favourite subject.

The Supreme Court ruled on 5th July 2017 that Rangers’ efforts to “pay for players we could not otherwise afford” had failed. Their disguised remuneration scheme was so badly implemented the court had no hesitation in dismissing this wheeze. When you are trying to pull a disguised remuneration scam, a key component is that the payments are actually disguised. Detailed notes and side-letters explaining what is going on should not fall into the hands of investigators.  Just like with Al Capone, suspicions that a criminal network was operating out of Ibrox led to evidence of deliberate and concealed non-payment of tax being uncovered.

It should have been all over with the Supreme Court decision. Rangers had been liquidated. A new club had been formed to take its place. Most of Scottish football, including the press, had agreed to pretend that nothing had happened. This same rogues gallery locked arms to block any meaningful punishment for the years of blatant cheating. Incriminated by their knowledge and involvement in Rangers’ various violations of the rules, there cannot be an investigation into the events surrounding the last years of that club’s existence.

Such has been the determination to sweep over the past and pretend that nothing traumatic happened, today’s The Times gets tax story wrong tale really took me by surprise.

On one level (or maybe a 5th level?) you have to stand back and admire the artfulness of the spin-doctoring behind this story. Twitter and Rangers’ fansites are ablaze with fantasies: the old club is coming out of liquidation; HMRC made a mistake; or that Rangers have somehow been victims of this process. With Magnus Llewellin’s Scottish version of The Times playing the role of duped conduit or willing participant in a lie, the way this story has been crafted is worthy of a round of applause. In these days of Brexit and Trump propaganda, we see it quite often.  Yet this “Rangers died for nothing” narrative stands out. Devoid of factual references or checkable sources, it is a golden example of the power of the press to inflame and deflect on command.

 

What really happened?

As laid out in the @rangerstaxcase twitter feed last night, HMRC have decided that it is not worth to keep fighting for two side-show elements of the Big Tax Case. The first part was the “net or gross?” question.  There was no dispute that Rangers paid about £49m to players through the EBT scheme. However, was that amount net of tax? i.e. the real taxable wage was about £100m and the tax owed would be about £48m.  Or was that the gross wage? i.e. the taxable wages were £49m and the tax due only about £24m. HMRC had submitted assessments to Rangers over the years on the basis that the amounts were “net”.  However, this was always going to be a contentious issue. My post of 11th November 2011 predicted that HMRC would be forced to back down on this point and to accept the lower number. It is always nice to be proven correct in the course of time.

11-Nov-2011

As none of the courts or tribunals that had looked at the Big Tax Case had ever decided on “Net v Gross”, Rangers’ liquidators argued that the issue remained unresolved. For HMRC to pursue the argument that they were entitled to the higher numbers, they would have had to have initiated a new FTT case. With only a tiny amount of money at stake for HMRC (they will only get a very small percentage regardless of the amount owed), they dropped the claim for the higher amount.  No “shock! horror! error!” involved here.  It was simply not worth HMRC’s time to pursue the higher amounts as there isn’t enough cash in the kitty to pay for more than a few percent of what is due anyway.

Similarly with the penalty amount.  On 10th June of 2019, Rangers’ liquidators, BDO, confirmed that HMRC had been asking for a penalty amount of 65% of the amount of tax underpaid (excluding interest). This too required a new FTT case to confirm as HMRC had agreed to a Rangers’ request back in 2010 to separate the tribunals for underpayment and penalty.  BDO correctly pointed out that the penalty amounts had not been confirmed by any legal process.  HMRC would have to relitigate the whole issue again if they wanted to score a point on Rangers’ fraudulent conduct. However, with no prospect of yielding a worthwhile increase in payment for their efforts, HMRC agreed to drop the claim for penalties.

This was all simply a cost-benefit expediency. There was nothing behind the decisions to drop the claims for net-of-tax payments or the penalties that indicated that HMRC was admitting to any error.  Yet that is how this event has been masterfully spun by the usual Ibrox lackeys in the press.

If RFC 2012 plc had survived and was a going-concern with assets and revenues to be claimed, HMRC would not have given up the claim on the penalties. (Possibly not on the gross v net either- but it is quite likely they would have lost this point). BDO list the revised HMRC tax claim as being £68.3m now.  There was not- and is not- a chance in hell that Rangers could have found the funds to avoid administration. This “sensational” story is creating a false narrative from nothing. Old original Rangers is not coming out of liquidation!

The story of Rangers’ descent into collapse is characterised by fans amassing around polar extremes. There is little rational discussion.  Almost to a man, Rangers fans have shown no interest is learning what was being done in their name. If a Celtic supporter said it, it must be disputed and scorned. Similarly, most Celtic fans have enjoyed this adventure for the many months and years of unrivalled entertainment. In many corners of the Scottish football interwebs there is little concern for accuracy in any story.

Therefore, I write this blog mainly for the record. The facts as currently stated by BDO are here if you want them. I doubt reality will cause many who follow the tribulations of the Ibrox clubs to sway their view much at all.  There are flame wars to fight.  In the press, there are agendas to push and newspapers to sell.

 

To the real story: why now?

BDO have been discussing the debate with HMRC on the two points of contention for over a year. It has been over five months since BDO revealed that HMRC had capitulated and couldn’t be bothered chasing these issues any longer. So why would the Ibrox PR machine suddenly fire up this story now?

It all looks like a well-planned, well-executed distortion of the truth. This far after the events it seems unlikely that the Sevco PR machine would waste such capital without a compelling reason. With going-concern warnings, cash requirements gaps for the coming year, a lawsuit lost over retail, and one more in the works for an Ibrox Disaster memorial plan abandoned, plus massive dilution of supporters’ share investments- there are a lot of issues that could be about to erupt for the seven year old club.

Whatever is going on, the “taxman killed my club by mistake” narrative has to be a distraction from something.  Time will tell us what it is exactly, but with so many loyal and true bluenoses working in the press, this could simply be an in-house hack trying to clear the name of his now departed club.

 

FTT transcript for Andrew Dickson

It was more than just tax that was being evaded as the man who administered Rangers’ infamous EBT scheme was on the ropes while HMRC’s brief tried to hit him hard.

It is easy to make seemingly outlandish claims about the years of wrong-doing by Rangers’ management while sitting on a stack of documentation. After all this time- and so many official claims of blissful ignorance- it is only fair to let you see for yourself.

There are legal and tactical reasons for not just dumping everything for public consumption. However, ex-Rangers administrator and current TRFC Ltd Director, Andrew Dickson’s appearance before the First Tier Tribunal (Tax) on 18 April 2011 provides an opportunity for anyone with an interest in this story to get a cross-sectional view of the rot that rampaged through one of Scotland’s biggest football clubs in the first decade of this millennium. The document attached below is a verbatim copy- without editing or alteration- of the official transcript of Mr Dickson’s submission and cross-examination that day.

It provides a quite detailed description of the how the trust scheme was supposed to work in theory. It lays bare the manner in which the sloppy implementation of the scheme by Mr. Dickson and his colleagues’ created gaping holes even in their “we-think-you-are-all-stupid” strategy. Just some of the evidence of deliberate concealment is in open view.

It is interesting to see Mr. Dickson try to duck questions around player registration and the requirement to declare of all payments related to playing football. In defiance of logic, Mr. Dickson just sticks doggedly to his (presumably coached) lines of “we didn’t think we had to”.  Had he endlessly answered “because We Are The People?” for a whole day under oath it would have made as much sense.

It is quite a long read but worth the effort for anyone who wants to understand how the ailing mammoth that was Rangers ended up dying in a tar-pit of its own creation. It seems incredible to me that anyone aware of the facts would deem Mr. Dickson fit and proper for any current role in Scottish football let alone allow him to sit on SFA and SPFL committees. Mr. Dickson’s submission starts at the foot of the second page of the file.

11-mur180411 – Copy

I have no copyright on this document. I note the document contains no claim of copyright. This document is provided here under reporting of current events provisions of fair dealing. Citing your source would be polite if you want to reference this content in any of your own reporting.

A history of unusual payments at Ibrox

This blog spent its first phase in 2011 and 2012 trying to draw attention to payments made to footballers by Rangers FC. All of those payments, Wee Tax case and Big Tax Case, have now been established to have involved the deliberate non-payment of taxes and lying to HMRC & the Scottish football authorities about the existence of side-contracts detailing those payments. However, these were not the only irregular-looking payments made by Rangers through the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT).

If you will indulge me, and follow along closely, you will see that a clear pattern of behaviour emerges. This is yet another case where the devil is in the details. So forgive me for a long and very detailed post, but I hope it will be worth your time.

The following table shows the first five MGMRT sub-trust recipients, the number of their sub-trust, and the date the sub-trust was first used.

SmithSouness_1

(I have chosen to obscure the name of the recipient of trust number 3 as he has no relevance to the Rangers story).

The sharp-eyed amongst you will notice something odd in the dates of first use for Messrs. Souness and Smith. At the First Tier Tribunal (FTT) in 2010-2012 the process of creating sub-trusts and allocating numbers was described in quite some depth. As an example, the following is an extract from Murray Group’s Ian MacMillan’s cross-examination on 26th October 2010:

Numbers-subtrusts

This establishes the point that sub-trust numbers were allocated in time-sequenced order, one after the other as needed. Indeed, of the 111 sub-trusts created for the MGMRT all of the other 109 sub-trusts follow this format i.e. the order of sub-trust numbers lines up with the order of creation and first use i.e. sub-trust 5 was created before sub-trust 6 and so on. The only sub-trusts that do not appear to follow this pattern were those created for Souness and Smith.

Are you still with me? Hold on- we are about to get to the point. (A pen and paper to track the timeline might be useful!)

Why does Mr. Souness have sub-trust number 2 when his loan request was made on 13th June 2001- which is after the first use of sub-trust number 3 on 31st May 2001? Mr. Souness has said this payment was for scouting work performed for Rangers. Of course this was an odd response given that he was the manager of Blackburn Rovers at the time. Some cynics have suggested that the transfer of Tugay Kerimoğlu from Rangers to Mr. Souness’ Blackburn Rovers on 17th of May 2001 might be a related factor. A decision to open a sub-trust for Mr. Souness on or around the 17th of May 2001 would explain why he would be allocated sub-trust number 2. (Of course, there may be other explanations). Whatever the truth behind this payment to Souness, I think we can all agree that it is highly unusual for one club to make payments to a ‘long-since’ ex-employee who was working for another football club at the time.

Walter Smith’s sub-trust number 4 is even more perplexing. Funding of this trust took place in September 2002 based on a “loan request” letter submitted in early August 2002. This is unusual because we would expect, naturally, that sub-trust number 4 would be opened after sub-trust number 3 and before sub-trust number 5. Therefore, we would expect that the decision to open Mr. Smith’s sub-trust number 4 would have taken place between 31st May and the 5th of November 2001. This apparent delay in funding the sub-trust for Mr. Smith after having a number allocated is highly unusual in the context of the timeliness for the other Rangers sub-trusts. Those cynics might again wonder aloud if there was a connection between Michael Ball’s transfer from Everton to Rangers on 2nd August 2001 or Walter Smith’s termination as manager of Everton on 13th March 2002. A decision to open sub-trust number 4 for Walter Smith on or around 2nd August 2001 for Ball’s transfer would certainly fit the numbering of the sub-trusts perfectly.  If this was the case, we would have a second case of Rangers making a payment to a ‘long-since’ former employee who was then the manager of a different club. (As background colour we might want to recall that in August 2001 Michael Ball was a rising star who had just received his first England cap. That his career did not take off at Ibrox was not something anyone would have anticipated in 2001).

Should we start to think once was a mistake, twice is just careless? Was funding delayed to wait until Smith was no longer the manager of another club? Of course, there may be many other explanations for this sequence of events. This blog post makes no accusations. It merely posits questions against data that comes from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

For the record, I am not aware of anyone asking Mr. Smith about his EBT. As mentioned above, tribunal documentation indicates that a “loan request” was made in Walter Smith’s name in August 2002 for £80,000 and the sub-trust was funded with this amount by Rangers on 24th September 2002. At the FTT Smith’s sub-trust was reported just like any other with no mention made of him not being paid. The submission excerpt above was originally interpreted by me as implying Smith did not withdraw the money, but I have received other information along the years that indicates that he did. I do not know for certain that he did. Someone should ask him. I will be pleased to provide any updates or corrections to this posting if Mr. Smith would like to provide more information.

However, it is not really important whether Walter Smith transferred this money or not. It is far more important that the many questions surrounding why Rangers were making payments to ex-employees get answered.

Could someone ask the SFA’s Andrew Dickson, who administered Rangers’ payments to sub-trusts, to explain the many questions raised by the timeline of these events? After all Mr. Dickson received an email from Ian MacMillan on 16th July 2002 asking him to look into why Smith had not had not been paid the agreed £80,000 by then. See excerpt from FTT submission below:

Capture

This reads like the agreement to pay Walter Smith this was made much earlier than 16 July 2002. Obviously, Mr. Smith will know what happened, but it is especially important that a man still involved in the administration of Scottish football for the SFA should explain what did he know about the Smith payment and what did he do with that information. “Mr. Dickson, did you ask anyone at Rangers or the Murray Group why the club was making payments to coach(es) of other club(s)? If not, why not? You were certainly aware that such payments had been made.”

When we add these events to the Wee Tax Case, the Big Tax Case, lying for years about the existence of side-letters, shredding of evidence of a contractual obligation, bilking Everton out of at least part of the transfer fee for the re-sale of Michael Ball, lying about the date of crystallisation of the Wee Tax Case bill- there is a pattern that emerges. There are prima facie fraud cases awaiting at least some of these events. It is blindingly obvious. Yet neither the Scottish Football Association nor the Scottish Professional Football League appear to “have any appetite” for investigating let alone addressing what was very clearly a major problem in the Scottish game. Many of the people who have serious questions to answer about this pattern are still in positions of authority within the Scottish game. What else did the men who ruined Rangers get up to? There can be no sense that Scottish football is fairly or competently administered while this pattern of unusual activity over many years goes uninvestigated.

The never-ending story

The news BDO will seek leave to appeal the “Big Tax Case” (or the “so-called Big Tax Case” as many like to call it”) means this saga may yet have some twists and turns to it. Like many I yearn for the end of this process, but BDO do need to be seen to have exhausted all avenues to show an even handed approach to the interests of all creditors. Therefore news that they will seek leave to appeal is understandable. However, there are still many people who seem confused by what this was about. Myths have developed. Confusion reigns over whether Rangers’ conduct of the relevant tax cases is currently considered legal or illegal. Was it was tax avoidance or tax evasion, and so on. Most significantly, the campaign to have the farcical Nimmo Smith Commission findings set aside must be put on ice. However, the context of the tax cases and what effect they had on the demise of Rangers can, and should be, discussed.

To really understand this tale, and its impact on Rangers FC, we need to take another look at the ‘side-letter’ issue. For it was the decision to use, and then hide, these documents that lit the match that lead to Rangers’ self-immolation.

Between 1999-2003, faced with a resurgent and share-issue funded Celtic, Rangers started seeking an edge by lowering the taxes it had to pay on players’ wages. This began with the operation of a Discounted Options Scheme for players. In essence this was a ‘money box’ operation and Rangers began what would become a pattern of lying/forgetfulness (delete as you think applicable) towards HMRC and violating the rules of the Scottish football authorities. Reducing wages in a player’s official contract would result in reduced PAYE and NIC taxes. The rest of his promised wage would be paid with little or nothing deducted for tax through an elaborate ruse intended to disguise the fact that employment-related pay was being channeled to players. Football had become a cut-throat business and an out-of-form or injured player could not rely on a handshake to ensure that he got his full promised pay. So Rangers provided players using this scheme with secret ‘side-letters’ that promised additional payment.

Denying the existence of the side-letters was key to making the “Wee Tax Case” scheme appear to work. Lying/forgetting (delete whichever one you think is implausible) about the ‘side-letters’ was also key to the story of the “Big Tax Case”. It was this fundamental deceit/omission (delete as you see fit) regarding the ‘side-letters’ that would seal Rangers’ fate.

The ‘Big Tax Case’ dealt with Rangers’ part of the Murray Group Management Remuneration Trust (MGMRT) that used Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) from 2001 – 2011. A Mr. Black, an important and influential figure at Rangers during the period when the EBT scheme operated, was reported as saying at the First Tier Tax Tribunal “So far as Rangers was concerned it enabled the Club to attract players who would not otherwise have been obtainable”. His reasoning seems pretty straightforward to everyone except the Scottish media and a cabal who appear to have been assembled by the SPL in 2012 to try kill off the idea of removing Rangers’ ill-gotten titles. Establishing Mr. Black’s identity and role in all of this would have been both important and trivially easy for the SPL’s Nimmo Smith Commission. Yet its findings overlooked Mr. Black’s submission. Some might believe this was regrettable.

Like with the ‘Wee Tax Case’, the ‘Big Tax Case’ relied upon the use of secret ‘side-letters’ in a laughable attempt to create a “non-contractual” promise, in writing, of money in exchange for services. It would have required a revolution in legal thinking to have the ‘side-letters’ considered as being anything other than binding contracts. Therefore, their existence had to remain a secret from both HMRC and the football authorities. The ‘side-letters’ promised- often specifying appearance pay and win bonuses- money that would be paid into an offshore trust. From their sub-trusts, players could “borrow” money but, in reality, never repay it.

With Rangers already ringing alarm bells for their debt levels and staggering losses during much of the affected period, the idea that more money would have been found to pay these players legally at the same level is just fatuous. There is no serious argument to be made that Rangers’ team would have been the same had they reduced the net paid to players by about 30% in some years.

On multiple occasions after 2004, HMRC asked Rangers if such side contracts existed. The denials from the club were forthright and frequent. No such ‘side-letters’ existed. Accordingly, these binding contractual documents were not sent to the SPL despite player registration and eligibility to play in league games being conditional upon all documentation related to all forms of payment to players- including even legitimate loans- being submitted for each player. (SPL rule D1.13). The existence of the ‘side-letters’ would not be exposed until the City of London police raided Ibrox in July 2007 as part of an unrelated suspected fraud investigation that did not result in any charges. Heel-dragging and evasive responses on how Rangers were operating the scheme continued.

For all the fuss and ink spilled discussing these subjects in the media, ‘the debate’ has always missed the significance of this issue.

What would have happened if…

To understand the importance of hiding the ‘side-letters’, let us look at the counter-factual case of what would have happened if directors of The Rangers Football Club plc (as it was then known) had fulfilled their statutory duties to ensure that the club was compliant with its tax and regulatory obligations. We can start by looking at the “Big Tax Case” in isolation and consider that HMRC explicitly asked for an explanation of how the EBT scheme operated at the start of 2004. This was the first of several points where Rangers’ representatives missed a golden chance to remove any doubt over the legality of the way they were operating the scheme. Instead, they dissembled, misled, and withheld. Had they answered honestly and in full, Rangers would have been presented with a tax demand immediately. Certainly Rangers would have appealed the bill and a tax tribunal would have been scheduled. With fewer participants, and much less documentation, such a tribunal would have been conducted quickly. Even allowing for appeals, had Rangers not misled HMRC and the Scottish football authorities, the nature of Rangers’ use of EBTs and ‘side-letters’ would have been a matter of public record by late 2004. Whether the scheme would have been determined to be legal or illegal at that time is beside the point. If ruled to be legal, every other club in Scotland would have been free to copy the scheme and the sporting advantage would then have been lost in 2004. Any investigation of these matters by footballing authorities that ignored the difference in available information resulting from deliberately breaking the rules versus complying with them was not fit for purpose.

Had  Rangers’ use of EBTs been ruled to be illegal in 2004, the club would then have faced a tax bill of about £12m. While not trivial, this amount would likely have been found at the time from the club’s or the Murray Group’s then substantial credit lines.  In 2004, such an amount would not have presented much of a threat to the club’s existence. More significantly the £35m that would be later paid in net wages by Rangers through the EBT scheme from 2004-2011 would have been either been cut roughly in half or the club would have gone into insolvency much earlier than it did. Rangers were straining financial credulity as things were. Paying the money owed and then grossing-up the EBT wages for every player was not an option. Better players would have had to have been sold to reduce the wage bill and to cover costs for those who could not be moved on.

On 22nd May 2005, Rangers defeated Hibs at Easter Road to win the SPL by a solitary point with Nacho Novo scoring the only goal of the game. Every single Rangers player who participated in the game would receive payment through an EBT. Three transfer windows had closed since HMRC’s initial enquiries about the workings of the scheme. It is just blind denial to suggest that the same team would have been on that pitch that day had Rangers provided honest and complete answers to the initial information requests. Game after game. Season after season. The results were driven by the players on the pitch who in turn were induced to be there, despite some hollow claims to the contrary today, by the their total net earnings.

What is absolutely clear is that the denial of the existence of the ‘side-letters’ gained Rangers a massive sporting advantage. Violating the SFA & SPL rules delayed the normal processes for determining the legality of the scheme. Violating SFA & SPL rules prevented other clubs from learning about the scheme through the normal tribunal process. However, the delay in revealing to HMRC how the scheme worked also set the financial trap that would make Rangers unworthy of investment. Additionally, the ‘Wee Tax Case’ would have been resolved over decade earlier had the workings of the scheme been revealed to HMRC on cue.

In the spleen venting and venom spitting that accompanied Rangers’ collapse, anger and rage has been sprayed in every direction except where it properly belongs. Boards of directors are formed explicitly to provide oversight over those with their hands on cash register. A good seat for the game and a chance to network in the Blue Room are not good reasons to accept a directorship at any company. Yet Rangers fans, and a lapdog media, have not held a single director of the now in-liquidation Rangers to account for their actions or inaction related to these tax schemes. Two of them have been handed the keys to Ibrox again. It must surely have taken extraordinary circumstances for Dave King and Paul Murray to have been given so much trust on so little basis. Time will tell if the current wave of sycophancy towards a Rangers board is again ill-considered.

One of the few mistakes we made in analysing Rangers during the last four and a half years was in over-stating the role of the “Big Tax Case”. During David Murray’s tenure as effective owner of Rangers, the club lost a sum in excess of £140m. (depending on whether you want to include accounting tricks for asset revaluation or not).  None of it came from David Murray personally.  He organised the finest Tom Sawyer “painting the fence” trick in Scottish business history and convinced many fools to pay for his bombast. The biggest fool of all was the Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS). About £70m of this incredible loss would be taken up by the bank directly or indirectly through Murray Group debt. (Though they would recover £18m of this through the sale of Rangers in 2011). The reality borne out of such horrendous losses is that Rangers were poised for collapse. After Lloyds effectively pulled the plug on the Murray Group credit lines on taking over HBOS in late 2008, it was just a question of when. The last years of automatic qualification for the UEFA Champions League group stages in 2009/10 and 2010/11 by virtue of being Scottish Premier League champions provided enough cash to stave off insolvency in those years. At the time Rangers’ Chief Executive Martin Bain warned “We must however take cognisance of the fact that Scotland’s diminishing European co-efficient means that there is no longer automatic qualification to the Champions League from the SPL or the significant revenues participation brings.” Defeat to Malmo in the qualifying rounds for the 2011/12 tournament meant no Champions League group cash would be heading to Ibrox that season. (We do not have time here to go into the many questions as to whether Rangers should even have been granted a UEFA license by the SFA to play in European competitions in 2011/12). The die was cast on the 3rd of August 2011. Craig Whyte’s tenure had barely begun, but insolvency was already guaranteed before the end of the 2011/12 season. With more than a hint of irony, Rangers FC were able to complete the 2011/12 season for a single reason: money destined for HMRC as PAYE, NIC, and VAT was used as working capital to pay wages and other bills that could not be delayed. Had the club paid its way on-time, insolvency would have occurred around late October 2011. It is highly doubtful that the club could have completed almost an entire season in administration. Certainly, it would not have been possible to liquidate Rangers and form a new club mid-season and pretend it was the same club. Selling Nikica Jelavic for £5m in January 2012 provided the money to fund administration and complete the 2011/12 season. It seems improbable that we would be having the ‘same-club’ debate today other than for Craig Whyte’s diversion of taxes to keep the show on the road.

What role did the tax case(s) play in all of this? The most important point in this entire affair is that Rangers’ failure to disclose the ‘side-letters’ allowed the situation to build to a point where there would be no escape from the inevitable insolvency. The evasiveness over ‘side-letters’ meant that a CVA was always unlikely. The use of taxes collected in season 2011/12 as working capital just banged down the lid on the coffin and made liquidation a certainty.  The window for saving Rangers was in 2004. With every passing season, David Murray’s reckless spending and his board’s failure to implement spending cuts, the tar pit that was waiting for Rangers just got deeper and stickier. Only in the past few weeks have we seen the emergence of a most gentle repudiation of the disastrous David Murray years in the Scottish press. Scottish football has been slowly recovering from the effects of trying to compete with Murray’s ways. Yet there are some in positions of supposed influence at Hampden who seem to be actively trying to recreate this period rather than ensure it can never happen again.

This project began out of incredulity that the biggest story in the history of Scottish sport, the impending insolvency of Rangers FC, was not getting press coverage. This blog had one primary objective- stimulate a mainstream media discussion of what was really happening. That objective was achieved, briefly, in the summer of 2012. I thank all of you who contributed and assisted with making this possible. Sadly, any hope that the Scottish mainstream media would find redemption is long gone. Faced with crashing circulations and declining radio advertising rates, they have retreated to the comfort of familiar ways. If anything the press have become even more uni-polar and afraid to speak truth to Rangers’ often bellicose fans. It is perhaps unfair to criticise them on this last point from the comfort of anonymity.

This is not a subject where people will be swayed by persuasive argument. Almost anyone who cares about these matters will already have a fully formed opinion that will now be closed to reasoning. So the arguments will continue to rage on into futile infinity. However, anyone who can still be objective would be able to see that Rangers died by its own hand. What should have been a moderately important tussle with HMRC in 2004 festered into a calamity by the actions and inaction of those who ran the club.

 

Tax Case Result

The tax case result released yesterday afternoon was obviously a surprise.  After reading the findings, it is still difficult to understand how  two of the three judges arrived at such a decision. The third dissenting judge’s opinion was clearly more in line with expectations. However, in the First Tier Tribunal it is a case of majority rule.

If an appeal is launched, it will take several more months before we get the next level of decision. Appeals are not automatically granted, but in this case- with a dissenting judge and where a dispute over legal interpretation exists already- it seems certain. At the Upper Tribunal, new evidence is not introduced and the case is not re-argued. The judges at the Upper Tribunal will hear legal arguments over whether the First Tier Tribunal judges made an error in interpreting the law and will rule accordingly.

This blog brought light to a matter of public interest.  This blog has been accurate on all of the major points of the case except the one that matters most to date- the FTT outcome.

We thank everyone who has participated. Hopefully, we will see the result reversed on appeal.