A Football Scandal of Epic Proportions
Earlier today, it was confirmed that Rangers Football Club (now defunct) had lost their so-called “Big Tax Case” battle with the folks at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. This verdict has, of course, enormous ramifications on several levels, but for the moment I would like to focus on the effects it has on the average Scottish Football supporter. Before continuing, I would like to highlight two things.
Firstly, Rangers cheated. Although this has been well known for some time, today’s verdict simply adds to the proof of that fact. If for any reason you disagree with this point, I’d advise you not to bother reading the rest of this article. Secondly, this is not a “Celtic-Rangers” issue, nor should it be construed as such, because Rangers cheated Scottish Football as a whole, with victims across the length and breadth of this country.
Now, if we now consider the financial aspect of all of this from the supporters’ point of view, the devastating impact of this scandal begins to emerge. For the sake of clarity, allow me to state that the following figures are estimates. Should anyone wish to attempt a thorough and detailed investigation of the true cost of this sordid affair, I would very much encourage you to do so as I have no doubt it would make interesting reading.
Say the average season ticket between 2001-2010 at Celtic Park cost £400. There were cheaper and more expensive seats, but I’ve chosen this nice, round figure as a happy medium. Adding in the extra cost of travel, food, programmes and perhaps the odd home cup match, I feel it is safe to assume that the average fan will have spent at least £600 per season attending Celtic’s home ties.
In many cases, this individual expenditure will have been far higher, as long distance trips and away match costs cannot be easily estimated. During the period in question, the average attendance for league matches at Celtic Park was about 58,000. Therefore, a quick bit of maths suggests the total spend of Celtic supporters to watch their team compete in home ties during the decade of debauchery could have been about £350 million. I’m aware this calculation presumes all 58,000 people are adult season ticket holders, which would obviously not have been the case, but even to make a very conservative estimate it is apparent we have spent over £300 million watching home matches in competitions which did not boast a level playing field.
One can only speculate about the true total cost of this affair, but if we add in the potential impacts of each of the following factors: Celtic fans attending away matches, Celtic fans attending domestic cup matches away or at Hampden, fans of every other Scottish team attending their own home and away matches as well as domestic cup ties, corporate ticket costs, television subscriptions, travel expenses and many other such costs, we are easily entering into the range of several hundred million – if not a billion – pounds.
Make no mistake about it, the average Scottish Football supporter will never see any of their financial investment from this time repaid. Nor indeed, will the agonising memories of league or cup final losses be erased. However, the historical record can and must be set straight so as to ensure the deceptions of this decade are not forgotten and are never allowed to repeated by any other club. The perpetrators of these crimes and anyone complicit in them should be publicly shamed for their role in a scandal of epic proportions, and they should never be allowed any future official role in Scottish Football.
It is abundantly apparent to all but the most blinkered individual that Rangers’ intentional tax evasion allowed them to attain players whom they would otherwise not have been able to afford. Pictured above is the Rangers squad of circa 2004. Every player with a red dot over their face received one of the much fabled – and illegal – EBT’s, and therefore were ineligible in each and every professional match they took part in whilst enjoying benefiting from these payments. This, I would suggest, is an undeniable image of a “sporting advantage”. Therefore, it is entirely just and valid to wish to see all of the honours which the defunct club “achieved” during those years expunged from the record. In simple terms, they should be stripped of their titles and cups. For such cheating to go ignored in many other sports would be considered sacrilege (see drug use in athletics and cycling as prominent examples), and as such, we cannot allow this shambolic tale to be quietly swept under the carpet (again). It must be dealt with openly, fairly and honestly.
Regardless of whether my crudely estimated calculations are particularly accurate or not, it is certain that a mind boggling amount of money was spent by fans of all clubs to watch a game which, fundamentally, was not fair. That alone should cause an uproar from every Scottish football fan, be they a Celt, an Arab, a Don, a Hibee, a Jambo or whatever else. As a Celtic supporter, I predominantly like to read and write about Celtic, but this matter is of such importance I felt compelled to discuss it today.
Gracefully, our national sport will survive and hopefully enjoy a bright and transparent future, unlike the Football Club whose sins ultimately sent them into a financial abyss from which they could not escape. They are not, and shall never be, missed.