McCoist sounds the alarm?
12/04/2011 72 Comments
“I’m sometimes not sure the supporters realise just how serious our situation will be if we are not taken over. Some of them do but I honestly believe the vast majority don’t.” Alistair McCoist quoted in yesterday’s Scottish media.
When the history of these tumultuous days is written, I hope that mention is made of the efforts by both Walter Smith and Ally McCoist to signal to the club’s supporters about the dangers that lie ahead. Not everyone is reading the signals well. The usual head-in-the-sand brigade who dominate Rangers supporter websites see these words as playing some role in a fanciful pincer-movement designed to get Craig Whyte to sign on the dotted line. We are all entitled to opinions, but it seems quite obvious to me that this is a sincere attempt to warn fans without upsetting his employers: the Rangers board of directors.
Both McCoist and Smith have to walk a thin line in what they say. Their bosses on the board, and the nominal owner in Edinburgh, have all signed off on the scams that place Rangers in mortal jeopardy. They are all as guilty as Sir David Murray in that they failed to fulfil their fiduciary responsibilities as directors. They have mismanaged Rangers FC and most of them will understand their culpability. I suspect that Alastair Johnston’s frank comments and head-nod were an attempt to insulate himself from both blame and liability. He does now have a defence of “Well I did tell you!” The subsequent restatement of the boilerplate about legal opinion and optimism will not be mentioned if the worst-case scenario kicks in. He has his excuse at the ready.
The other directors have not been at all forthright. Their failure to level with Rangers fans, and to have participated in the deception that anyone would buy Rangers before the tax case is settled, is a betrayal. They will feel that they have no choice but to follow the road they have chosen regardless of its destination. After all, each director “signed off” on Rangers’ tax strategies in each of the last ten years.
On seeing what was at best a high-risk venture, and at worst a criminal enterprise, someone should have had the courage to speak up on behalf of the club and its fans. John Greig might have been one, but as a lifelong football man, it is questionable whether he would have understood what was was going on. As an aside, Greig’s seeming inability to act reflects on the unsuitability of purely football men for seats on any board of directors. Directorships are not sinecures or retirement watches. Directors have a broad range of legal responsibilities and need to have the education and experience to do the job.
The failure of Rangers fans to heed the many warnings means that time may not be available to act. The most prominent internet supporters have gone to great exertions to stifle any discussion of the tax case over the last year. Feeding a constant stream of soothing disinformation under the guise of being ‘in the know’, they have built hope and faith in the idea of imminent rescue and that the tax case is not a problem anyway.
How else can Rangers fans explain the current restrictions on how their club operates?
With funds from two consecutive Champions’ League group qualifications and debt that is moving in the right direction, why else would no one be rushing to buy one of the premium brands in the world of football? Do you really believe that Lloyds are singling Rangers FC out for special treatment? (Yes, I have read the ‘stab in the back’ theories propounded by bloggers. When the truth is awkward, find a scapegoat. It is not a new idea.)
Will Rangers fans accept reality in time to organise some form of rescue? Or will the fate of their team be left in the hands of vulture capitalists who specialise in picking over the bones of companies in administration?
It is very unlikely that HMRC will use its option to file criminal charges in this case, but that is at its own discretion. A bigger danger for anyone who served on Rangers board since 2001 is that the fallout from losing the tax case might bring lawsuits for failing to do their jobs. There is no guaranteed result in the First Tier Tribunal, but the evidence is stacked against the club. Unless the three judges sitting on the tribunal are as sympathetic to their plight as an SFA Disciplinary Panel, the coming weeks will involve many sleepless nights for Rangers’ board of directors.