RTC’s principal article highlights some very salient points. Similarly, Mr Graham Spiers’ article in yesterday’s Herald provides, at long last, a serious national article that points the gun at the wrongdoers in our game– both those who have played an active part in bringing about this unsavory mess, and those who have been, and who seek to be, passive perpetrators of manifest injustice and immorality.
A few days ago, Roddy Forsyth sat in a BBC Scotland studio, and spouted forth that what he deeply regretted was that throughout the last number of years, there has been an absence of business journalists who have seriously questioned the business activities of David Murray and his MIH group of companies. It was this gap in the journalistic world, claimed Roddy, that represented the real failure on the part of the 5th estate when it came to reflecting on the Rangers disaster. Yet still there is a great deal of focus on Craig Whyte and what should have been discovered about him at the very outset, and less about the readily available info on the demise of MIH. Only last week, the press pages rolled with the great news that MIH had made a profit– only for the likes of Douglas Fraser of the BBC to come back from holiday and go public with the real facts– basically that Sir David was talking utter rubbish, that no such profit had been made in real terms, and providing a clear marker that certain sections of the press at least are no longer prepared to tolerate the Murray myths.
I just wonder how many e-mails Roddy received from business journalists falling his claim that they have failed the Scottish Public over the years?
However, I believe that there is an ever greater bogey man who is yet to be revealed in this sorry affair. A Bogey man and a Baddy who may well yet make every single constituent member of Scottish Football sit up and take a long good look at themselves and everyone else in the game. Yip– a real Rank Badjin, who roamed through the land with Murray and others in their posse– but who were never around to face the Sheriff, the cowboys and even the guys from the ACME and Pickering Newspapers.
Let me introduce you to the concept of the jam in the sandwich. You know, the filler in between the two ends of the loaf, the bit in the middle trapped between the two ends!
Let’s start with certain, seemingly unrelated, facts.
David Murray “bought” Rangers in 1988 by effectively providing a guarantee to the Bank of Scotland in respect of the overdraft that had been run up by the previous regime under Lawrence Marloborough. Whatever way you want to look at it, Marlborough and the Lawrence family had spent money bringing in Souness and so on but were not prepared to go any further in terms of money. Nor would it appear were Bank of Scotland. Marlborough wanted out of town, but needed someone to take over the ranch– and at that time David Murray comes a wandering into town.
To get a hold of Rangers in the first place, it is said that Murray approached Gavin Masterton. Masterton at the time was a senior figure at Bank of Scotland with his specific sphere of influence being corporate lending. He later went on to become both Managing Director and Treasurer of BOS as a whole. The story goes that Masterton tossed a coin, and told David Murray that if the coin came up heads, then he would accept Murray’s guarantee and he could therefore take over Rangers. Until then BOS had a security over Rangers in return for £6M– now they had that and a Murray guarantee. No need to even part with the nominal £1!
Davd Murray replaces Marlborough, and starts on his spending spree that sees Rangers climb to new heights- literally. There was the redevelopment of Ibrox and the creation of the club deck with of course a massive use of steel which came from…. Murray International Metals! That company of course had to be paid for its product services and expertise– and so Bank of Scotland allowed Rangers to borrow and spend.. and borrow and spend… and borrow and spend………. and on it went.
Now, consider this, that at that point Murrays core business was open cast mining and metals- mostly steel. He sold the metals business in 2005 for the price of £112M after profits rose from £5.5Million to £21.9Million in the course of the immediately preceding fiscal year. The company was bought by an American consortium called Jeffries Capital Partners. At the same time, Murray closed two open cast mines in Lanarkshire making dozens of people redundant. The metals business and the mines represented about a third or more of his then business empire…. according to Sir David at the time. We will come to that phenominal rise in profits later. Yet by that time MIH had increased their borrowings to over £500Million pounds!
You do the maths!!!
In other words, Murray put no money into Rangers to buy it, the borrowing pre Murray (1988) was at a £6m level and was not getting higher and so something somewhere must have changed to justify the kind of borrowing that was definitely off the table for both Rangers and Murray pre 1988.
Before or After the date of acquisition of Rangers, Bank of Scotland came to fund every other club in the SPL as far as I know— including Celtic.
Murray, would come borrow phenominal sums from HBOS— borrowing of an extent and style which were just not to the taste of Lloyds when they came to take over the HBOS reins! I am told by someone in the know that when Lloyds took over HBOS.
Not long after the banks “merged”, I understand that Sir David Murray was told that Lloyds were taking immediate control of MIH, that no one in the Lloyds team could in any way fathom HOW Murray had ever been allowed to borrow what he had from HBOS, how certain facilities had been granted. [redacted]
Now, less than six years after Murray took control of Rangers,with a debt of £6m, and started to markedly increase their borrowing to improve a decrepit and non compliant stadium, The very bank that funded Murray, sought to liquidate Celtic with a debt of £5m and a stadium that was also in need of renovation and improvement. By this time, the justification for increased Rangers borrowing was the improvement of the stadium, the commercial use of adjacent office facilities, the extra income that brought, and the resulting ability to seemingly “afford” an ever better football team on the park! Yet, this supposedly successful business model was not to be encouraged when it came to Celtic by the very same bank! Now that is curious!
As was later proven by Fergus McCann, the improvement of that stadium did lead to an increase in revenue and safety in financial terms– as was supposedly proven by Murray to the same bank a few years before. Of course the first thing that Fergus did was to ditch HBOS. Until 1990, Aberdeen Football Club worked without an overdraft with great success, and after Souness’ arrival at Ibrox Aberdeen were the nearest challengers to Rangers.
However, in 1990, Aberdeen had to go to the bank to upgrade Pittodrie to comply with the Taylor report. They went to HBOS who provided the funds to upgrade Pittodrie. Similarly with Dundee United as I understand it and many other clubs. The Bank of Scotland then really got its teeth into Scottish Football and would go on to have a huge influence in everything that happened within the game– that grip still exists to a certain extent to this day– although whether it is exercised in exactly the same way as it has in the past is yet to be seen.
In October 1990, Gavin Masterton is appointed Director of Dunfermiline Football Club– he is the longest serving Director of that football club, and he has remained a Director of that club long after he retired from Bank of Scotland in 2001. When he did retire from the Bank, Peter Burt, the main man at HBOS, paid tribute to him in the annual accounts of the bank as follows:
Finally, I must thank Gavin Masterton for his remarkable contribution to the Bank over the past 44 years. In my opinion, Gavin is the most CREATIVE and effective banker in the UK, a view shared by many of those who have dealt with him. I have learned much from Gavin and I am grateful for that knowledge and his help and friendship since we started working closely together more than twenty years ago.
Note the word “Creative”—- within 7 years the bank which described itself as the “efficient” goes bust!!
The Banks accounts for 2001 are here: 

When Masterton retires, he continues to be involved in both the bank and football, not only through Dunfermiline but also through Stadia, the company he formed with HBOS finance, to help clubs redevelop their tired stadia into moderm grounds complete with offices and ancilliary business opportunities—— all a la the Murray proven model– although of course by this time the idea has been underlined and proven to be a great success by wee Fergus. However, by then, we get other clubs in crisis– possibly because by then, the very same Bank are putting the squeeze on the facilities that they have provided to these clubs in the past. The Thompsons have to take over Dundee Utd, Romanov comes to Hearts in 2005 after that club had sought a buyer for years ( remember much of the ground round Tynecastle has been bought up by Murray and the son of Wallace Mercer ) amidst never ending rumours that they will be forced to sell Tynecastle.
I invite others– the more Accountancy types among us- to look at the Corporate history of every other club in Scotland between 1990 and 2008– and compare the dates when they they all individually seemed to struggle for money– and how and what steps were taken to alleviate that financial pressure!  By 2001 Masterton,has started up the Stadia Business and is effectively repeating the exercise that Murray was allowed to complete at IIbrox re the rejuvenation of the stadia– he builds them for the clubs etc– and I just wonder where he gets the steel?????  Remember Murray sells the metals business in 2005 already owing HBOS over £500Million on the back of profits somehow jumping from £5m to almost £22m at the very time Stadia is at its pomp.
Wonder how that happened?
So look at this article from 2004, after Stadia, under control of the Bank “Guru” fails miserably and is threatened with winding up by HMRC for not paying its taxes? You will see some familiar names in there who just happen to be prominent once again today.

Then consider this article from Ian Fraser- who is the leading journalist anywhere covering bank corruption whether that be HBOS or The Royal Bank.  Again there are some familiar names here but most importantly look at the date where the bank’s attitude hardens– June 2003. 

Celtic have just come back from Seville and of course lost the league on the last day when Rangers beat a Dunfermiline team who dropped their bags at the airport before heading on to Ibrox. Of course, a Director of the visiting team— Gavin Masterton.  RTC raises the spectre of events re the Rangers team that took to the field in 2005 against Hibs. Of course Celtic lost the league that day by not putting Motherwell to the sword– and it is the fault of the Celtic team on the day that they were not crowned Champions, but the point is that RTC is making it plain that the “figures” for that Rangers squad were gerrymandered in so far as contracts and taxes were concerned.
For years now, Ian Fraser has been reporting that certain figures surrounding businesses which were banked by Bank of Scotland, were also Gerrymnandered and are open to scrutiny and criticism. At the bottom of this post I link numerous articles on what has now come to be described as the policy of “Handshake” banking that was prevalent within the Bank of Scotland at the time. Just look at the major names in Scottish business who are mentioned in there — many of whom have now been contacted by the Police who are conducting a massive investigation into the activities of the Corporate Lending Sector of HBOS. This is the very section that was headed up by Gavin Masterton and later Peter Cummings, who was taught all he knows by Masterton, and who retired from the bank in his early 50?s with a lifetime pension of circa £9,000/week based on his “performance” as the Banker to Scotland’s business “names” such as David Murray.  The police investigation has recently been widened and benefits from increased manpower. The FSA are monitoring the position– badly in the eyes of sum.  However, most importantly, it is said that those within the bank used what would otherwise have been confidential financial information provided by their own customers, for their own benefit and to ensure that certain businesses remained either profitable for the bank, or that the business some businesses were deemed insolvent with the result that the favoured clients and executives within the banks made a profit out of the sale of assets belonging to HBOS customers whose businesses were pressured by the same bank!
The bank stand accused of such underhand dealing in court– where there is a class action by numerous Bank customers against the policies of the bank and its officials– which policy and practices are effectively the subject of criminal investigation.
Against this background, I pose the question when did the wheels come off the Bank of Scotland Bogie? When did the Corporate Lending section of the Bank of Scotland morph into an institution where the bank executives played fast and loose with moral and ethical business practices in order to maintian a bonus system based on their ability to be “CREATIVE” and gather an ever bigger lending book and relationship with the big businesses and players in the UK?  To what lengths– ( allegedly criminal and fraudulent lengths ) did the bank and its officials go to ensure that success was achieved, and as far as football was concerned, did they ever get to a position where they had lent out so much money to one particular club or its owner, that it became in the banks interests that they did everything they could to ensure the success of their chief borrower?  Remember Murray sells ( or is forced to sell ? ) MIM for £112MILLION – supposedly one third of his empire and yet his borrowing is a massive £500M at that point (2005)- but somehow within the next 3 years that borrowing is allowed to grow to over £750Million — something I repeat that Lloyds would have had no taste for!
Dunfermiline as you can see have had massive questions asked about how they support and sustain their overdraft- which hardly maches Rangers borrowing– but at the same time their borrowing is greater than Livingstone’s who have been forced to go to the wall as a result of…well… it would appear Masterton’s mismanagement of Stadia.  How does that work for one club, but not for another? By the way, today, Dunfermiline is effectively owned by a parent company and is financed by way of “soft” loans from The Directors and said parent company. Go on– you will never guess who owns the parent company……Did I hear you say Gavin Masterton?  Where is the rest of Scottish Football?Celtic are Independent, but the rest are all, or have been, in hawk to the Bank of Scotland/Lloyds in varying, and possibly ever decreasing, levels.
In short, the Bank of Scotland have been all over Scottish Football– every aspect of it— for two decades or more and Where you get HBOS over that period you get– Masterton or Cummings– and where you get Masterton or Cummings you get Murray.
Ian Fraser has already highlighted the fact that the Corporate lending section of the Bank of Scotland is the subject of Britain’s biggest corporate fraud investigation. See his blog for repeated references to Operation Hornet and to his questioning the practices and integrity of the bank and its officials.  Where am I going with all this?
Well there comes a time when it is in the Bank of Scotland’s interest for Rangers to win and be successful. European Football is essential, as we know that not being top of the pile means lack of money and a shortfall and a reduction in the ability of Rangers/MIH/Murray to repay debt.  We also know ( without rushing to judgement ) that there are those within HBOS at this time who gained from squeezing HBOS clients, recovering assets, selling them to themselves or their favoured customers, and then sharing the uplift on resale with HBOS trusted partners. It is alleged that the benefactors of such practices included David Murray/Tom Hunter/Sir Philip Green/Rocco Forte and others. They have all been spoken to by the Police as part of Hornet apparently.
So, at some stage, did the Bank of Scotland squeeze the other clubs in Scottish Football– partly to recover monies but also to ensure one of their biggest clients with a football team had the greatest possible chance in the sporting arena and so maximise the money and the corporate solvency?
Did Rangers have the money to buy players from other clubs in Scotland and pay rediculous wages– Novo, Gow, Dodds ,Goram,Boyd,Webster,McCann, Whittaker, Naismith, Duncan Ferguson, Iain Ferguson,Kenny Miller whoever– strengthening the own squad– but at the same time weakening the league opposition? Didn’t matter if they ever played or not.  At some point, did Murray’s borrowing get so mental that it reached the stage that from the HBOS perspective it was essential that Rangers must win?
I recall being at a business meeting with some of those linked to certain recent goings on at Ibrox. Rangers were really in the ascendancy, right in the middle of 9 in a row, Celtic were poor also rans. But there was hope with Di canio, Cadete and van Hooydonk. A comment was made which I ignored at the time– which was that the corporate guys at Rangers were desperate for Celtic to win — something– even the league– but preferably the cup– because Rangers were so far ahead that the bears had stop coming, stopped spending and stopped throwing money at Ibrox. The borrowing was up and the income- despite on field success– was reducing– because there was no edge to the matches with Celtic because they were no real challenge.  But the bankers wanted money– and for there to be money there has to be rivalry between the big two. Whereas before HBOS wanted to put Celtic out of business, it was now the case that a challenge from Celtic at least was seen as essential to getting the Ibrox revenue up, and so help reduce or service bank debt.  We have always taken the view that there has been something not quite right about Scottish Football– many things in fact.
Now we know about Bain, EBT’s, double contracts, and oh so many other things. We also know that there are those who speak with some authority and who allege that the bank was rotten to the core.  In light of all this, what role has the Bank of Scotland played in Scottish Football over the period and are its hands clean?
Review of the various clubs accounts may well reveal certain bank debt patterns. Ian Fraser may well have a whistleblower somewhere- he has in the past— but if you sit back and think about it the advance of Rangers with bank debt and the decline of other previously successful teams with the same bank must have some correlation and connection.  See the articles linked below! Maybe these journalists are just nutters with access to a keyboard and the net like the rest of us on here. Or maybe, like the rest of us, Roddy Forsyth just doesn’t read the papers. But questions have been asked about the Murray model and its veracity etc, yet the football guys ahve just not picked it up!
The other clubs might just want to look at their own accounts over the years and their relationship with the bank at certain key moments in time.. and maybe give that a wee bit of a review. They might just descern a pattern of behaviour.
Then again– maybe I am just a paranoid tim?