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Sir David Murray slams agenda-driven SPL investigation into EBTs

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Since selling the Ibrox club to Craig Whyte last May, Sir David Murray has popped his head out of the parapet very little, taking pot shots before disappearing back into the trench away from the flak aimed his way.

In a statement published through the Press Association, Murray has accused the Scottish Premier League of acting outwith their rules and to having an agenda against the Ibrox club.

Murray sad: “I have decided to issue this statement because of the concerns which I have at the continuing attempts to inflict further punishment on Rangers Football Club.

“While the “Newco” Rangers was rejected for membership of the SPL on the publicly stated grounds of sporting integrity, I would question whether this was the underlying motive for many who took this decision. I am not totally convinced by the explanation that they were reacting to the opinions of the supporters of their individual clubs.

“This, in my opinion, is a suitable answer to cover many other agendas.

“I applaud the decision of the SFL to accept Rangers for membership and respect the decision of the member clubs of the SFL to admit Rangers to its Third Division.

“The problems at Rangers have brought no credit to Scottish football and are a tragedy for the Club and for all those connected with it and who support it. They cannot be condoned and it is appropriate that there should be a proportionate penalty for the Club for the events over the last year.”

Murray failed to mention though who was to blame for said troubles at the club. He would have certainly been pointing the blame at Whyte, but what of himself? The man who was responsible for racking up so much debt and for implementing and profiting the most from the EBTs. Sadly no mainstream journalist has actually held Murray accountable in an interview with him – many still living the life of succulent lamb with the former Ibrox owner.

Murray added: “However, I urge all those connected with Scottish football to bring this sad affair to a close – now. Bayoneting the wounded is neither justified nor proportionate.

“Nevertheless, I cannot be anything other than angered at the suggestion that Rangers should be stripped of titles or other competition victories.

“This suggestion is an insult to the staff and players who achieved these successes thanks to skill, hard work and commitment and for no other reason.

“It is also an insult to the thousands of Rangers supporters who spent their hard-earned money to support the Club they love.

“I hope that those presently in charge of Rangers show sufficient resolve when it comes to resisting this move, despite the incentives being offered to do otherwise.

“I believe that there is a misconception which may lie behind this suggested penalty and accordingly it is my duty to clarify certain matters.”

Again Murray fails to regard the act of financial doping as a form of cheating, thinking that it was right and just to bring in top players while paying them a significant amount of money under the table away from the eyes of the SPL, the SFA and HMRC.

He continued: “During my stewardship of Rangers no rules were breached or circumvented and I reject and resent any suggestion that anything was done which amounted to cheating.

“As was required of a PLC, all accounts were fully audited and made available to all entitled parties. All football rules were complied with. All enquiries from entitled parties or organisations were answered.

“To those who criticise certain actions undertaken on behalf of the Club, I suggest that they familiarise themselves with all relevant rules before they come to any conclusions or express any opinions.

“This is particularly relevant to the SPL rules where it would appear that there are efforts to retrospectively rewrite laws to incorporate items not previously covered.

“The SPL rules variously required disclosure of all contract of service matters and all payments from a club to a player.”

And yet Mark Daly’s BBC documentary on Rangers and the use of EBTs for 38 Rangers players & officials, states differently to that of Sir David.

“It would now appear that these are to be rewritten to incorporate non-contractual loans from independent third parties and other non-contractual matters.

“If this is the case then press comment over the past few years would appear to indicate that several clubs other than Rangers may well have fallen foul of the soon to be changed historic laws.”

Yes, we know that Celtic had an EBT with former Brazilian forward. An EBT inherited from the Brazilian’s time at Middlesborough, but an EBT that was found by the club to be a potential tax liability and thereafter former Chairman Brian Quinn negotiated a deal with HMRC to sort it out. Celtic even informed the Scottish FA of this fact, when did Rangers inform the Scottish FA of their 38 EBTs? Did Murray inform HMRC of the 38 EBTs? Or the £6 million he received through the EBT scheme?

Murray added: “It would also appear that the SPL is once again seeking to invest itself with a power of retrospective penalty beyond that prescribed in its own rules.

“Much has been said and written about EBTs. It should be noted that the tax treatment of these is an issue as yet unresolved and it is wrong to prejudge the outcome.

“It must be stressed that the tax tribunal will determine the appropriate tax treatment in respect of the arrangements operated.

“This is not a criminal matter and there is presently no question as to the legality of these schemes.

“Rangers agreed contracts of employment with its players (and staff). The EBT scheme involved the contribution of funds into an offshore discretionary trust managed by independent trustees.

“The trustees could and did make loans to individuals carrying interest with scheduled repayment dates.

“There was no contractual or beneficial entitlement to the funds on the part of any individual and the monies paid to EBTs were not “remuneration” in terms of any rules applying to the Club.

“Since 2001 when the EBT scheme was introduced, the amounts contributed were disclosed in the audited financial statements of the Club. These audited accounts were provided to the SFA and SPL as required.

“As the law stands, it is the right of every taxpayer to minimise his tax liability.”

A comment that goes against the Rangers fans currently commenting on Neil Lennon’s ‘right’ to minimise his tax liability, through a scheme which is now being investigated by the tax authorities also.

“For example, taxpayers are entitled to maximise contributions to pension funds and benefit from the resultant tax allowances. Tax AVOIDANCE is a right. It is tax EVASION which is a crime.

“In December 2010, as a result of legislation changes introduced by HMRC, EBTs were rendered tax inefficient. Thereafter the Club made no further contributions to EBTs.

“For the avoidance of doubt, many thousands of employees in many areas of business and commerce have benefited from EBTs.

“Rangers sought only to provide financial security for players (and staff) within the rules of law and football. To suggest that this amounted to cheating in the sporting context is an allegation which is without any foundation.

“I, of course, wish the “new” Rangers every success for the future. I have no doubt that the present generation of players and staff will make a positive and beneficial contribution to the SPL and, in due course, return the Club to a position of pre-eminence in Scottish football.

“However, I am determined to support those who served the Club with such dignity and integrity during my stewardship.”

At no time does Murray hold his hands up in this whole mess. At no time does Murray mention that he profited the most from the scheme rather he mentions ‘to provide financial security for players (and staff)’. I thought he was a millionaire? Likewise many of the players who profited from this scheme were on very sizeable wage structures as well as the directors of the club. If it were the admin staff or the ticket office staff then of course that would be seen as providing ‘financial security’, sadly his comment on this doesn’t wash with me and it will certainly not wash with many others – given how ‘financially secure’ many footballers are nowadays.

We would like to hear your take on Murray’s statement. If you have something to say please comment.

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scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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