30/04/2012 2,200 Comments
“There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.”
Rarely has the rumour mill surrounding our national game been churning at this speed for this long. In the information gap created by a lack of real news about the Big Tax Case and the daily dollops of PR exaggerations about Rangers’ next saviour being smeared across the print media, something has to feed the insatiable demand for information. Scottish football, especially in its Glaswegian form, has long been a fertile breeding ground for rumours. There has always been a sense that fans were not getting the whole story through the mainstream press and the dramatic events of the last year have done nothing to slow the production of the finely milled football myth.
One legend that keeps coming back around on radio call in shows is the one that says HMRC has recently acquired some kind of legal power to apply the unpaid tax bills of liquidated firms to their “phoenix” successor companies. This is just not true. (If the people claiming it to be true could also please stop citing this blog a source I would be eternally grateful! :-)) What is true is that HMRC now has the ability to demand a deposit from high-risk companies where it is believed that there is a high risk of non-remittance of withheld PAYE and national insurance. That is a wildly different proposition from actually being able to force a new legal entity to pay the tax bills of an old company- and if a newco-Rangers board does not contain Craig Whyte there is no reason to think that a newco-Rangers would be considered high risk.
Another rumour getting a lot of air play yesterday was that Rangers might go into liquidation this week. In the bizarre world of Rangers at the moment it would be a fool who dismisses any rumour out of hand, but I must confess to thinking that this is highly unlikely. (For the avoidance of doubt, I have no behind the scenes information on what is being said in the private conversations of the joint administrators). It would be a major embarrassment for Duff & Phelps if they were unable to keep Rangers FC trading until the end of the season. With all of the legal powers to cut costs available to them, this should, and would, have been priority number one. As pointed out by the excellent @tonymckelvie on Twitter, there is almost £2m available (11% of the total) from the SPL cash pot for the team that finishes 2nd in the league. (Another 4% is given to each team in the league just for participating. I am assuming that this is distributed earlier in the season). Given the size of offers being reported for Rangers, an extra £2m for the creditors is not to be discounted lightly. So, I am sceptical. If Rangers were to collapse entirely before the season ended, it would be a disaster on such a scale that it would presumably cause even SPL chief Neil Doncaster to roll up the red carpet that is currently waiting to welcome a newco-Rangers back into the fold without questioning.
Rumours develop where our demand for the information we want to hear exceeds the supply. Even if I get 20 extra tweets a day asking “when will we know the tax case result?”, I will still not know. It could be today. It will likely be within the next month. However, in theory, we could be waiting for months. Rumours of a 90-day deadline for a First Tier Tribunal (Tax) to publish its findings were simply not true.
Until the crisis affecting Rangers (and the Scottish game more generally) finds some form of resolution and the situation stabilises, we can expect every casual remark and poorly chosen word to spark a frenzy of analysis and fresh innuendo. As tiring as it has been, I see no let up in the drama in the coming weeks. I do hope that I am wrong. One way or another, I just want this story to come to a conclusion.