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Green’s no show stance will harm Rangers defence over EBTs

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In a lengthy statement on the club’s official website, the Yorkshireman stated that the hearing was ‘fundamentally misconceived’ and that the SPL nor the commission have any authority over the club now that it is not in the top flight.

Green said: “The Rangers Football Club Limited will not attend tomorrow’s hearing (Tuesday, September 11) of the SPL-appointed Commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the use of Employee Benefit Trusts by previous owners of the Club.

“The Club cannot continue to participate in an SPL process that we believe is fundamentally misconceived. Neither the SPL, nor its Commission, has any legal power or authority over the Club because it is not in the SPL.

“For that reason it has no legal basis on which to appoint its Commission. The Club ceased to be subject to the SPL’s rules when it was ejected from its league.

“Our lawyers have made that point repeatedly to the SPL in correspondence and yet our requests for an explanation from the SPL have been completely ignored. The SPL’s silence on these issues is deafening. The outcome of the SPL’s process will have no legal effect.”

As Green and his lawyers would know though, the SPL could not be seen to comment on the issues that the club have raised, given that the hearing has yet to take place and could be seen detrimental to the commissions work.

He added: “First and foremost, I would like to explain this decision to our supporters across the world whose loyalty and commitment to the Club in very difficult times has been unwavering and heart-warming for all those involved at the Club. Our decision regarding this commission is approved unanimously by the Board and the Manager Ally McCoist.

“Since the decision was taken by HMRC on June 14 to reject administrators’ proposals for a Company Voluntary Arrangement, the fate of Rangers FC lay firmly and clearly in the ability of the consortium I led to form a new company and corporate entity that would ensure that Rangers had a future as a football club.

“At all times we were fully transparent in our dealings with the football authorities, be they the SFA, SPL or the SFL. There was no ambiguity whatsoever regarding the status of the company when it made an application to join the SPL.

“As we all know, 10 SPL clubs decided against the admission of the new company to the league and The Rangers Football Club Limited subsequently applied to the SFL for membership and we are grateful for their acceptance. In short, what was decided by the SPL membership is that Rangers was finished as a member of the SPL.

“Despite this, the SPL now see the new owners of the company, and the new company itself, which owns all the assets of Rangers FC – including SPL championship titles – as fair game for punishment for matters that have nothing to do with us at all.”

It is surprising that Green states that the SPL see ‘the new owners of the company as fair game for punishment’. I believe that the commission is not investigating Sevco Scotland Limited but Rangers Football Club itself. Since the phrase being banded about – Rangers then, Rangers now and Rangers forever – is the new buzz word, if it is indeed the same club then should the alleged rule breaches not stay with the club? For it was the club that profited on the field of play while the company profited off it. The football debt stays with the club no matter what company owns it – Green has already agreed to this So why not the alleged breaches of football rules and regulations?

Green continued: “….let’s be very clear about what this Commission is. Although the SPL goes to great lengths to emphasise the independence of its Commission, the Commission is not independent of the SPL. It has been appointed by the SPL. It follows SPL rules and its process is managed by SPL staff. I don’t question the impartiality of the individual panel members but whatever decision they reach is a decision of the SPL.”

There has been much talk from all sides of potential punishments, if Rangers are found guilty of using EBTs to obtain an unfair advantage over the other SPL clubs. One course of action is to strip Rangers of those titles and trophies they won during the years of utilising the EBTs.

However, Green made it crystal clear that any such action would face the ‘stiffest resistance – including legal recourse’.

Green warned: “To make it crystal clear, the new owners purchased all the business and assets of Rangers, including titles and trophies. Any attempt to undermine or diminish the value of those assets will be met with the stiffest resistance, including legal recourse.”

It is not the first time that Rangers took legal action against a governing body in Scotland. After the Scottish FA imposed a 12 month transfer embargo on the club, they took legal action and won the right to have the decision reviewed by the SFA appeals commission. With UEFA and FIFA taking a keen interest in proceedings and issuing their own warning in regards to a law court’s jurisdiction in football rules and regulations, Rangers relented after certain assurances were given and the embargo was imposed at the end of the summer transfer window.

Despite the rhetoric from Green, he did make some valid points including why it took the SPL so long to investigate the club when the issue had been made public.

Green continued: “Why did the football authorities do nothing to address an issue that was public knowledge for at least two years, and was reported in the Club’s accounts for several years, before the Club went into administration and was subsequently taken over by new owners? HMRC contacted the SPL regarding EBT matters in October 2010, they met to discuss what documentation the Club had lodged with the SPL.

“Did the SPL launch an investigation? Did they appoint a Commission? Did they ask to see EBT correspondence? Did they ask any questions at all? No. They did absolutely nothing.

“What compounds the breathtaking hypocrisy of the SPL in this whole saga, is that the SFA, the SPL and us – as the new owners – took part in numerous discussions regarding the new company’s league status during which it was made clear that a deal was there to be done where ‘the EBT issue’ would be dealt with as part of a package of sanctions which would be implemented in return for membership of the SFA and a place in either the SPL or Division One.

“We do not accept that people who are willing to come to an agreement on such matters then have a right to instigate a full-blown inquisition when matters do not unfold as they thought they would.

“In our view, it beggars belief that an authority which can be heavily involved in these discussions to the point that the Chief Executive Neil Doncaster repeatedly stated he was not interested in stripping titles from Rangers can lurch from that position to setting up its own Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Nimmo Smith.

“I must make it clear that we are not questioning for a moment the integrity of Lord Nimmo Smith and his colleagues but we believe the SPL have been hypocritical in their approach to this matter.

“Quite apart from their negotiations with our consortium, I know the SPL were well advanced in their discussions with another bidder and his representatives where EBT issues were raised and there was again an understanding that the EBT issue could be dealt with by agreement if new owners were to take over at Ibrox.

“Why is the SPL rushing to judgement now when it has been sitting on the matter for two years? Their haste is particularly difficult to understand when the tax tribunal judgement is imminent.

“The factual issues in both cases are identical. We have to ask why is the SPL so anxious to issue a judgement in this matter before the tax tribunal’s findings are made public.

“The position is even harder to understand when one of the reasons the SFA did not pursue any form of disciplinary charge on EBT matters following Lord Nimmo Smith’s April report was because it was felt unwise for the SFA to pursue the matter when the tax tribunal judgement had not been made public.

“Nothing has changed as the judgement still has not been made public. Why is the SPL rushing ahead when in April the SFA felt it unwise to do so?”

The Scottish FA also stated that because the SPL were launching an investigation into the use of EBTs, then they would not pursue the matter as they would then have to hear any appeal. A comment that Green failed to comment on in his statement – why?

Green then dealt in some whataboutery when he made a not-so-subtle pointing of the finger at city rivals Celtic, who disclosed to the Scottish FA that they had one EBT. An EBT that was inherited from Middlesborough, when Celtic signed Brazilian midfielder Juninho from the North East club. Soon after Celtic chairman Brian Quinn, on the advice of legal experts negotiated a deal with HMRC to payoff the liability. Again Green failed to mention this fact – why?

“Rangers was not the only club in Scotland to use EBTs yet nothing was done and little has been heard about it. Also, Rangers stands accused of achieving sporting advantage unfairly – yet there is little debate over the fact in all the years EBTs were in existence at Ibrox, the Club often failed to win either the league title, or the main cup competitions. Furthermore, the period concerned saw a significant downsizing of the playing squad both in money spent on transfers and players wages.”

“The decision we have taken has not been taken lightly. There are powerful representatives from Clubs within the SPL – not all of them by any means – who appear hell-bent on inflicting as much damage on Rangers as possible.

“It is lamentable that the Board and executive of the organisation have not been able to deal with this appropriately. We do not hold every SPL club in the same regard. Several clubs were placed in an invidious position and we believe their interests were not best served by those in more powerful positions.

“Furthermore, as a Club we are not satisfied that the issue of conflict of interest relating to advisers to the SPL has been satisfactorily dealt with.

“Once again I would thank our supporters for their patience and tolerance. They have been asked to take it on the chin time and again and we stand united in saying: No more.

“As far as I am concerned, Rangers Football Club has won a world record 54 league titles, and, whatever the decision of the SPL Commission, these titles cannot and will not be taken away from us and our Manager Ally McCoist is in total agreement.”

Again Green’s rhetoric has changed since before the CVA was rejected. Back then he threatened that if the CVA was rejected that the history of Rangers FC would end. Since he bought the assets Green’s tune has changed – mostly to win the fans on side to provide much-needed revenue to help towards the running costs of the club.

One thing Green and many Rangers fans forget is that the SPL titles do not belong to Rangers nor Celtic. They belong to the Scottish Premier League and as the rightful owners of the trophy they can and could successfully strip any club deemed in breach of their rules and the rules of Football in general.

Rangers history books may state they had won those titles that could potentially be stripped from them, however the SPL, Scottish FA, UEFA and FIFA would deem that they had been stripped of said titles.

Rangers and Charles Green only need to look as far as Italy, with Juventus being stripped of their titles due to match fixing. They still claim the titles but the Italian governing body, UEFA and FIFA rule that they were stripped of said titles.

Maybe just maybe, Rangers should have sent representatives- including a lawyer – to take on the commission and those providing evidence etc. Or is this just another example of the ‘new owners’ using the issue as a means to an end – getting fans through the turnstiles, to ignore the real issues at the club and create a mentality that everyone is against them.

Green peddled the bigotry word to claim that the SPL clubs and their fans were targeting Rangers due to bigotry – that was Green trying to get the Rangers fans on board. He then stood and clapped when the fans chanted ‘if you hate Stewart Regan clap your hands’, another issue of Green using the issue in his favour.

This present issue is being used by the new owners to continue their ‘siege mentality’ tactic, however it could ultimately come back to haunt them if they are indeed stripped of titles. Rangers use the tag line – ‘the world’s most successful club in the world’ – but if stripped of said titles then their Northern Irish friends Linfield could be deemed as such.

Green may be able to buy the assets and claim to have bought over the history and the titles, but when it comes to the history books he cannot rewrite them to suit himself and the club that he now owns. No amount of money whether fan-contributed or invested from a rich benefactor, can tell those in the know what happened from Rangers view point.

Those who would believe it and swear blind to that being the truth are those who already believe what is peddled to them from the Ibrox corridors. The same corridors that peddled the lines of Craig Whyte throughout his tenure. The same fans who supported Whyte throughout his tenure until it was plain to see that Whyte had pulled the wool over their eyes.

Are the new owners of Rangers doing likewise? Only time will tell.

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About Author

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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