It is clear to any fair-minded person that whether one uses the words administration or liquidation, Rangers are seriously if not mortally wounded. They have brought this pain upon themselves and are not deserving of any sympathy never mind special treatment. The facts speak for themselves.
The fact that Rangers paid its players EBTs (Employment Benefit Trusts) is not in dispute, however the manner in which they paid them is. Suffice to say that Celtic also toyed with the idea of using the same system of payment, but under closer scrutiny decided that such transactions were too risky and verged on the illegal.
Rangers gained an unfair advantage over its competitors by being able to attract top class players by allegedly illegal means. The figures do add up and point to financial doping on a truly massive scale spread over a long period of time. After all, how else does one explain the fact that at its zenith, Rangers debt exceeded 80 million pounds? How was it possible for Rangers to pile up such a debt especially at a time when they were virtually unchallenged on the domestic front and CL money poured in?
Very simple really, players’ wages. As the current administrators at Ibrox have repeatedly pointed out, the single biggest expenditure for Rangers is the money the footballers earn. If we cast our mind back to the distant days of Dick Advocaat we see the nemesis of Rangers. To attract the likes of the De Boer twins, Van Bronkhorst, Numan, Mols and the other Dutch mercenaries would have required vast amounts of money. To ensure they got their men, Rangers did not declare the true amount being paid. The suggestion is that guaranteed non-taxable income under the guise of EBTs was the key factor in bringing them to Glasgow.
If David Murray agreed to these illegal payments, who oversaw them in his official capacity as club secretary? Step forward one Campbell Ogilivie.
Ogilvie’s fingerprints are all over this matter, the single biggest issue which is facing Rangers. What is in question is the man’s character, did he knowingly approve these alleged transactions? After all as company secretary at Rangers, Mr Ogilvie had primary responsibility to ensure Rangers complied with the necessary legislative requirements, including registering payments to players.
Article 12.1 of the SFA’s Articles of Association states, “all payments, whether made by the club or otherwise, which are to be made to a player solely relating to his playing activities must be fully recorded”.
Fully recorded? That is the question. There is mention of players having two contracts, the official one and the ‘other’ one. If this is true, then it is illegal. This is what is at the heart of the ‘big’ tax case. After leaving Rangers in September 2005, Ogilvie enjoyed a meteoric rise in Scottish football, culminating in his appointment as successor to the notorious George Peat as President of the SFA.
In other words, he is the senior official of the organization which is investigating the same club that he represented at the very time of the alleged misdemeanours. There is clearly a clash of interest here, but in Scotland that doesn’t seem to count. Mr. Ogilvie sails on regardless, and according to the Scottish media his word is good enough. They have circled the wagons and will sit out the storm, that is their intended course of action.
It is worth pointing out that the SFA had change forced upon it last year, when after several tussles with Neil Lennon and Celtic, those leading the SFA did not even seem to know their own rules. The late great Paul McBride laid bare their incompetence and dishonesty for all to see. The latest events would seem to suggest that they have learned nothing from last year’s public humiliation.
Another interesting development has been the universal condemnation of Craig Whyte. Whereas it is fair to describe Whyte as a conman and a charlatan, it is also fair to say that he is merely the symptom rather than the cause of Rangers’ predicament. The very same people who announced the arrival of the ‘billionaire’ with glee, are now the first to turn on him. Why? Because apparently he lied to them. The irony is delicious.
It was David Murray who handed over power and the keys to Ibrox to the ridiculous Whyte under a blaze of hyperbole. Murray has been central in trying to distance himself from the club that he sank with his febrile spending. If there was ever an opportunity for some serious investigative journalism in Scotland, it is now.
Murray’s decline mirrors that of his Edinburgh buddy and fellow diner, Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin. The fate of Scottish Banks and Rangers are intimately linked, as both go hand in hand. Scottish banks under Fred’s mad leadership harboured crazy ideas about conquering the world by being the biggest bank on the planet. Insane takeovers and even crazier lending meant that disaster was always on the horizon. In the mad world of casino banking, huge risks were taken and the customer lost out. Murray took full advantage of the Banks’ generosity by borrowing to the hilt.
Murray was very much the brother that Fred never had. The parallels are uncanny. Both conspired to lose relatively vast amounts of money in their respective fields. Both were driven by megalomania and a total belief in their own abilities, both were knighted for their ‘services’ to the country.
The difference is that Fred Goodman is now a reviled figure, stripped of his knighthood and facing the real possibility that he will face legal action from customers who lost money through his greed and stupidity.
Only when Murray faces the same degree of scrutiny will we sense that things have really changed. He has his placemen in the Scottish media, but there is a sense that this era of Murray fawning is coming to an end. Questions are now being asked that were never asked before and as events move towards their inevitable denouement, it might just be up to Celtic F.C. to administer the final coup de grace off the field. In Peter Lawwell we trust.
Paul McBride R.I.P.