“The A-Z Of Why They’re Dead”
A is for…”Audited Accounts”
The rules state that all Scottish Premier League clubs must have fully audited accounts submitted to the Scottish Football Association no later than the 31st March 2012. All other clubs (SFL and below) had until the 30th April 2012 to do this. Rangers, despite being granted an unprecedented “period of grace” (extending their deadline to the 15th June), have yet to even begin this process. Without these accounts, Rangers cannot be granted a SFA licence for next season. Also, it is worthy of note that any accountancy firm who submits audited accounts on behalf of a company essentially “put their reputation on the line” in doing so, as they have to state that they are fully correct. With Rangers’ finances in tatters, and a lot of “To Be Confirmed (TBC)” amounts involved, this requirement looks less and less likely to be achieved by the deadline, if at all.
B is for…”BBC”
While the BBC may not have been the first media source to seriously investigate this story, they have undoubtedly brought the story to the proverbial masses. For those who take their daily news in, for example, the form of a newspaper, Mark Daly’s documentaries (particularly the second of the two), must have been a fairly loud wake up call. For those who have followed this story online, the BBC’s investigation merely confirmed many of the suspicions being reported, as well as revealing other interesting “tit-bits” of information. Duff and Phelps refusal to speak “on the record” to the BBC during their last documentary was, in my opinion at least, very telling.
C is for…”Creditors”
Rangers Football Club continue to owe money to over two hundred and fifty businesses or individuals known as “creditors”. The sums of money due to these “creditors” range from a mere £17.28 (owed to STRI Limited) to an astronomical £26,700,000 (owed to Ticketus, although the result of the “First Tier Tax Tribunal” could push HMRC into first place in this league table). In theory, when totalled up, Rangers could have debts of approximately £135,000,000. These creditors are incredibly important people, and Duff and Phelps would do well to remember that fact. After all, they’re meant to be acting in the best interests of their creditors, and in my mind they simply have not done this. They are also the individuals who will decide whether or not any CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement) proposal is accepted.
D is for…”Dual Contracts”
Yes, it’s easy to forget about them, and yes, it’s easy to ignore them and pretend they don’t exist. However, it is now widely acknowledged that Rangers F.C. have been implementing the use of “Dual Contracts” for some years. During Mark Daly’s BBC documentary (the second one), the BBC stated that one football agent had essentially told them what he was told by Rangers; “your client can choose to either receive “X” part of his money this way and “Y” part of his money in another way, or else he will only receive the first part “X””. The legality of the EBT’S (more about them later) is irrelevant when it comes to the decision the SPL face when they finally address this issue mid-June. Rangers have been paying players and staff some wages which have been undeclared to the relevant football governing bodies. This means the SPL have to find them guilty, and will have to sanction them very heavily in accordance with this guilt. This makes Rangers F.C. (1872) an even more undesirable prospect to anyone interested in owning the club.
E is for…”Employee Benefit Trusts”
“Employee Benefit Trusts” (also known as EBT’s) have become a source of hilarity for many involved in Scottish Football, and a source of misery for many others. Put simply, these are the names of offshore accounts a company can set up in order to pay their staff. Money is put into the trust, and can be withdrawn by “trustees” (players and staff in this case) at some point in the future. These trusts are usually used for high earning individuals, as it is a slower way of paying people than normal. The schemes are designed to minimise the amount of tax the company and the trustees have to pay on the figures involved. EBT’s are legal if used correctly. However, there is a point at which “tax avoidance” becomes “tax evasion”, and if this line is crossed, the use of these schemes is illegal.
F is for…”FIFA”
Some time ago, Rangers Football Club were sanctioned with a twelve month transfer embargo by an independent panel assigned to look at their case on behalf of the Scottish Football Association. The club had been hit with the penalty after being found guilty of “bringing the game into disrepute” (through the non-payment of VAT, PAYE and NI). However, after an appeal failed, Rangers decided to take their case to a civil court, using the money donated by fans into the so called “Fighting Fund” to pay for their legal expenses. To the surprise of many, including myself, Rangers won the court case, as it was found that the transfer embargo wasn’t an applicable punishment in this situation. For a variety of reasons though, this could spell disaster for Rangers. While the SFA will face the decision of increasing or decreasing the severity of the club’s “new” punishment, world football governing body FIFA do not look kindly upon clubs choosing to go to civil court (as opposed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (C.A.S.)), and may demand that the club be punished for their actions.
G is for…”Grier”
The name of David Grier has become widely known across Glasgow and Scotland in recent months. Grier is a senior partner at Rangers’ administrators, Duff & Phelps. Whilst suspicions had been present for some time regarding this matter, the BBC have revealed that there is a tremendous conflict of interest embodied in Mr Grier and his involvement in this whole affair. Duff & Phelps were only appointed as the administrators of the Ibrox club in February 2012, and are meant to be wholly impartial. However, emails the BBC attained proved that Mr Grier had been in contact with Rangers owner Craig Whyte regarding the Ticketus deal as early as April 2011. Now, an administrator is meant to have no connections with any company they proceed to take control over, why was Mr Grier at a dinner in London with (amongst others) Craig Whyte months before Rangers even went into administration? There are certainly questions here which need to be answered.
H is for…”Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC)”
Ironically, the largest creditor of them all could yet turn out to be HMRC. Whilst Rangers currently owe the tax man £14,372,042, the “loyal” club may yet have to dig deeper into it’s already emptying pockets if they are to appease Hector (please note, since this article was first published STV have released an article suggesting that this figure may now be around £18,000,000 due to penalties for non-payment) . With the verdict of the “First Tier Tax Tribunal” (also known as the “Big Tax Case”) due any day, this bill could rise to anywhere between £50,000,000 and £75,000,000. Whilst the vast majority of hard working individuals pay their taxes diligently, Rangers have instead been using the money that should have came into the public purse to buy players, and pay wages, which they could not have afforded otherwise. They have not only cheated Scottish Football fans it seems, but also the men, women and children of this country too. How many more teachers, nurses, and/or police could have been employed with the money they have withheld?
I is for…”Internet Bampots”
This phrase, first uttered in a derogatory manner by one Hugh Keevins, has now become a badge of honour on the internet for many individuals and websites. While there are too many “internet bampots” to name individually, the work that so many people have done in attempting to reveal this story for years has been astonishing. Whilst newspapers spoke of a man with “wealth off the radar” who was going to “invest £25 million for new players”, the internet was alive with the fact Craig Whyte was not all he was hyped up to be. Whilst Rangers “had a bright future”, the internet was alive with the fact a financial meltdown was heading their way. With regards to both of these examples, the “Internet Bampots” were proven to be correct. Now, as the club who are “too big to go under” teeter on the brink of the abyss, will these people be proven right one final time as Rangers plunge towards their final resting place?
J is for…”Jealousy”
On the 25th of May, 1967, Celtic Football Club became the first team in Britain to win the European Cup. Since then, Rangers, the team who consider us to be their greatest rivals, have never been able to replicate this feat. In truth, they will never replicate it, at least not in their current form. They have come closer in some seasons than others, but they have always been unsuccessful. This jealousy has, in truth, been partly responsible for their demise, as they chose to throw money they didn’t have at the problem, bringing in expensive players and paying extortionate wages, all with one goal. Jealousy, it’s a terrible thing…
K is for…”Kennedy”
Brian Kennedy, owner of the Sale Sharks, initially bid for Rangers alone, before joining forces with Paul Murray and the “Blue Knights” in an attempt to persuade Duff & Phelps to grant them the status of the “preferred bidder”. However, Duff & Phelps instead granted this to American trucking tycoon, Bill Miller, who proceeded to walk away after only a few days of looking at the club’s finances. Exasperated, the “Blue Knights” and Kennedy called a press conference on the 11th of May, where they announced they were withdrawing their bid for the club. Whilst highlighting “this is about the survival of Rangers Football Club”, Kennedy went onto say something very telling. He said, “We see the only way forward for the club is to effect a CVA. There is no time left to effect a successful CVA and to exit the club in a healthy capacity from that process.” Don’t worry though, Charles Green still hopes to achieve a successful CVA. It looks like you may need to keep hoping, Charles.
L is for…”Lies”
These have permeated this whole rotten affair since it’s earliest days. As long as the same “internet bampots” who were discussed earlier have been asking serious questions, responses have come from Rangers, Craig Whyte, and Duff and Phelps, amongst others. A significant number of these have been proven to be lies. These repetitive attempts to deceive both the Rangers support and the public as a whole has now led to a distinct lack of trust in what these outlets are saying. People now have to seriously question whether the truth is actually the whole truth, whether it is a half truth, or whether it is sheer fantasy. Importantly, with every lie, the individuals involved have been made to look more and more silly, and they have not helped Rangers situation in this regard. Lies are fine, providing they are kept secret. Largely, that is the purpose of a lie; to say one thing (which is false) to prevent the potential fallout the truth may bring with it. However, the caveat is that when a lie is discovered and proven to have been just that, a lie, the fallout is often worse than that which would have come with the truth itself.
M is for…”Murray”
Sir David Murray owned Rangers Football Club for twenty-three years, from 1988 to 2011, when he sold his shares to Craig Whyte for a single pound coin. However, simply because he has cut his ties with the club officially, do not be fooled into thinking we have heard the last of Mr Murray. For two decades, he ploughed money into Rangers and, while success came along with it for a time, it was his financial overloading and high risk strategies that have helped to cripple the Ibrox club. He made the decision to use EBT’s to pay players and staff, and has been shown to have taken loans from the Bank out against his personal business (Murray International Holdings), in order to pay off the money Rangers owed to, (yes you’ve guessed it), the Bank. Make no mistake, Mr Murray must shoulder a vast proportion of the blame for the mess Rangers are in, and for their potentially likely demise.
N is for…”Naivety”
There is no doubt in my mind that “naivety” has played a significant role in the saga of Rangers Football Club’s finances. Despite repeated warnings, not only from bloggers and websites on the internet, but even from items that did actually make it to the mainstream media, the Rangers support have done nothing (with the exception of their “fighting fund” at a very late stage in the game). Personally, I don’t think most Rangers fans conciously chose to ignore the warnings. I just think they were too naive to consider what they were saying.
The mentality which says “we are the people” and “no one likes us, but we don’t care”, goes hand in hand with “we’re too big to go under” and “Rangers cannot die”. Despite what some people will say this is not down to stupidity. I believe it’s down to the way different sets of supporters think, and the media they digest. When Celtic were in financial peril, a mass movement calling for the sacking of the then board became a force to be reckoned with. When Fergus McCann asked the fans to buy shares, the queue went far past Kerrydale Street and down London Road. Celtic fans have always had the “underdog”, “anti-establishment” mentality to some extent. However, Rangers fans largely possess the opposite. They have always been the “establishment” club, and the fact they believe themselves to be “superior” to everyone else may have helped allow the death of their club. In the middle of the last decade, with debts soaring, Rangers, under Sir David Murray, had a share issue hoping to raise £50 million. They raised a little over £1 million. Even the fighting fund has struggled to raise more than £1 million. Some of their supporters cannot get away from something summed up best by two little bears in the famous internet cartoon. One says to the other, “Rangers cannot die. We will be around for another one hundred and forty years”, to which his friend says, “Why?”. The response proceeds to be “because we are the people”. Quite.
O is for…Oligarch
Rangers fans should have been crying out for one of these for years, and there is a simple reason for this. The only person wealthy enough to save Rangers in their current form is likely to be a Russian Oligarch, or an Arab Sheikh. With the “Big Tax Case” verdict still waiting to fall, and potential sanctions from governing bodies, as well as a potential ban from European football, only someone so wealthy that they would be willing to throw, for argument’s sake, £100 million they never want to see again at the problem, can help them now. The club leaks money like a sieve, and has done so for many seasons. They have not been profitable, and will be even less so in the coming years. This is not an inviting sign for any potential buyer. It is also not encouraging that, despite being available to purchase for some time, no Oligarch has come forward, begging the question, “Will one ever come?” On the off chance any Oligarch did appear, they would only be purchasing the club as a play thing, and that could be very risky indeed in the long term.
P is for…Precendent
Rangers are not the only football club in Britain to have used EBT’s. In fact, Celtic even had one at one time, for Brazilian play-maker Juninho, but decided to discontinue the scheme as they doubted it’s legality. They also paid the tax due on it in full, hence HMRC are not at our door. Nonetheless, make no mistake, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have much bigger financial fish to fry. Football clubs have been known to “play the system” for decades, and perhaps without the global recession they would still be allowed to. However, as the State’s finances begin to become more stretched, they begin to look elsewhere for money. Whilst Rangers could owe HMRC, for example, £60 million, clubs in England, such as Liverpool, who pay much higher wages to both staff and players could owe the tax man hundreds of millions of pounds, if found guilty of misusing EBT schemes. This means that Rangers could very well be the proverbial “test case”. Due to the fact HMRC know this case will set a precedent, it is very unlikely that they would accept any minute pence on the pound deal. They also possess a high enough percentage of the debt (should the “Big Tax Case” go against the Ibrox club) owed to creditors by Rangers to be able to block any CVA should they choose to do so. After all, they say “there are only two things that are certain in life, death and taxes.” It looks like we may be about to see a football club experience the former.
Q is for…Quiet
Rangers appointed administrators in February of this year, almost four months ago now, and what has changed? Ok, we’ve all had a good laugh at their expense, and they were docked ten points, but at the club itself, what’s changed? The answer is very little. Both Gregg Wylde and Mervan Celik left voluntarily, and many of the other playing staff took temporary wage cuts after weeks of negotiation. Duff and Phelps simply have not done their jobs and acted in the best interests of the creditors. For example, when Dundee once went into administration, their manager was questioned about how his team were going to cope in the league, because almost the entire first eleven (i.e. the highest earners) were told they were no longer required by the club’s administrators on their first day at the football club. Very little of any great impact has happened, and very little cost cutting has gone on, while Duff and Phelps have made approximately £5.5 million from the affair so far. Now, let me ask you this. Put simply, if there was any positive news the administrators could publish at a time like this they would undoubtedly release it and show they were making progress, correct? Therefore the silence of late could be very telling.
R is for…Results
Rangers need one thing above all else as they look to any potential future in their current form. They need sustainable income. Rangers need to have as much money invested in the club as possible from people involved at every level. Obviously, a lot of this money would need to come through ticket sales. Even if Rangers can survive until next season, and even if they are allowed to remain in the SPL (lots of “even if’s” I know), they will likely have a significantly weaker squad than they do now. This means that both performances and results will continue to drop in terms of quality. However, Rangers will need to ask a lot of their fans financially because they need the money. However, this is a club renowned for lower attendances accompanying lower quality, so attendances would only go one way in the long run, down. This lack of income, both from ticket sales and from poor league performances, presuming they could also not play in Europe, would undoubtedly harm the club’s chances of survival.
S is for…Sanctions
As previously discussed earlier, after Rangers’ trip to a civil court, the matter of deciding an applicable sanction for “bringing the game into disrepute” through the non-payment of VAT, PAYE and NI still lies with the SFA. They can either decrease the punishment to a fine, or increase it to a temporary ban from the Scottish Cup, suspension of the club’s SFA licence, or expulsion from the Football Association altogether. In the days after the initial appeal Rangers made to the SFA, they panel said they found suspension (etc.) to be too harsh, and a mere fine to be far too lenient, which leaves the SFA at a crossroads. Do they decrease the severity of the sanctions and look like gutless fools? Or do they increase the penalty and look like they are in control of the situation? I think the question answers itself. There is also the matter potential sanctions in the future if they are proven to be guilty of any more of their alleged crimes (eg dual contracts, tax evasion etc).
T is for…Time
“Tick Tock, Goes the Clock” is a phrase I have come to use fairly often. Interestingly though, it is actually a very apt description of the matter at hand. Rangers have been running out of time for months, if not years now, and the sands of time may already have run out. In May, Brian Kennedy said (as described in “section K”) that the best lawyers in Britain could not achieve a successful CVA in time for the start of the new season, and that was a month ago when he said that! There is also the question about whether it is now too late to resurrect and form a newco to be parachuted into the SPL (even if allowed to do so) in time? Time ticking away is one thing when everyone is running around crazy working hard to achieve a common goal, but it’s very different when very little progress is being made and there’s still the potential for incredibly long, drawn out arguments to come. While your average Rangers fan may think “no news is good news” because a vast proportion of the news about their club over the past few months has been bad, it may, in fact, be terrible that there has been no news (at least for them). The silence is deafening, and the clock continues to tick.
U is for…UEFA
Ah yes, UEFA, European football’s premier governing body. We all know that they’ve had their “run in’s” with Rangers in the past, having punished the club for it’s fans repeated sectarian singing, and having witnessed thousands of their supporters rampaging around Manchester after the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. Like their big brothers FIFA, UEFA do not tend to look too favourably upon clubs who decide to take footballing matters to a civil court, instead of dealing with them in what is considered to be the appropriate manner (just look at what they did to FC Sion). They especially don’t look too favourably upon it when it involves a club complaining about being punished for the deliberate non-payment of tax. Don’t count UEFA out of this whole scenario just yet…
V is for…Victory?
I use a question mark there for a reason. After all, undeniably, Rangers have enjoyed several victories, both domestic and European, since Sir David Murray took over the club. Everyone at Ibrox, from the directors to the average punter paying to go through the gates, will have enjoyed these victories. However, the question many may soon be asking themselves will be, “Was it worth it?”. They all had fun, of that there is no doubt, but in the same manner a bank robber can enjoy his money while he is free, he may soon regret his actions once he is confined to a prison cell. Rangers and their fans have loved their proverbial “swag”, but now they’ve been caught, those not involved in the decision making have to seriously question the actions of those who were, and if there isn’t some regret inside them somewhere, I’d be surprised. However, we still await any sort of apology for any wrongdoing at the stricken club.
W is for…Wages
Some time after entering administration, members of the playing staff were eventually persuaded to take temporary wage deductions, in order to help the club survive. These deductions only applied until the 31st of May. This means that late next week, when the Rangers players are due their wages, they will, once again, be owed the full amount’s written into their contracts (well, their first contracts at least). I seriously doubt the club have this sort of money, and the only way this matter will become clear to the public is with the imminent departures of big name players at Ibrox. How much, if any money, the club will receive for these individuals is up for debate, but without the money to continue to pay heavily inflated wages, players will likely leave in numbers.
X is for…Xenophobia
“Truck off Miller. Yanks no thanks!” – Just when everyone thought that some members of the Rangers support couldn’t act any more foolishly than they normally do, they proceed to hold up banners with that slogan written on them. This message was, of course, aimed at the potential new owner of the club, American businessman, Bill Miller. Mr Miller, a man with a reputation for turning around ailing companies was granted the “preferred bidder” status by Duff & Phelps, before a combination of Rangers woeful finances and woeful actions from some supporters became clear. When Mr Miller withdrew his interest, his company sited not only how difficult a job it would be to save the club, but also the hundreds of threatening phone calls and emails they had received since Mr Miller became the preferred bidder. Essentially, a foreigner was made to feel unwelcome at Ibrox. I’m sure that’s a first…
Y is for…”Yes Men”
As the perennial establishment club, Rangers have almost always had a bit of sway that other clubs have not had. This amount of sway only increased under the reign of Sir David Murray, as a line of “yes men” came and went, helping the club in one way or another. In the mid 1990’s, an obvious example of one of these individuals was the late Jim Farry, the man who intentionally delayed the registration of new Celtic striker Jorge Cadete so he would not be eligible to play for the Hoops in an upcoming match against rivals Rangers. This is not speculation either, this has been proven to be fact. It is debatable who the current “yes men” in Scottish Football are, but I’ll highlight the man whom I feel to be the most obvious one at this moment in time. Campbell Ogilvie is the current President of the SFA, and a powerful figure in Scottish Football. He was a director at Ibrox Park for more than two decades, a period that included years of the continuation of the “no Catholics” policy and the introduction and use of EBT’s. In fact, Mr Ogilvie even had his own EBT, into which £95,000 was paid into during part of his time there. “Yes men”? No thanks.
Z is for…Zero
This word sums up the chance of Rangers Football Club (1872) surviving (at least in my personal opinion) without a super-rich Oligarch or Sheikh saving the day. The obstacles which need to be overcome by the club (those current and those that may present themselves in the future) simply pose too great a challenge. Rangers are on the precipice of a football club sized grave, and when they do die, it’s likely it will not be pretty. Obviously, as a Celtic supporter, I do not like Rangers. I never have, but putting footballing rivalries to one side for a moment, surely we can all see that Rangers have cheated every football fan in Scotland for at least a decade, and this is a crime for which they must face adequate punishment.
One hundred and forty years of history is about to come to an end, right before our very eyes. One day, this saga will be confined to the history books, and yet we are living through it. I do not have all the answers, I can only highlight facts, and my own opinions.
Time is running out. One way or another, we are approaching the endgame…