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Are Rangers and their fans really the victims & innocent party?

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Within seconds of the Big Tax Case appeal verdict being announced, Rangers fans took to their blogs, forums and social network sites to proclaim victory, to vent their anger at how they have been treated and how they were the victims in a witch hunt against the quintessential British club, perpetrated by the Scottish FA and Celtic’s Peter Lawwell.

One fan group even claimed they were going to look at taking legal action against HMRC, the Scottish FA and even hold the BBC accountable for them reporting and how they reported Rangers’ use of the EBT scheme.

Despite the verdict going Rangers’ [or should I say Rangers oldco]way the repercussions have only began. After several years of seeing their club rise from the ashes and battle to the Championship after two successive promotions against part-time opposition, Rangers fans are looking for targets to blame. They want sackings and they want blood.

As the verdict was published, Rangers fan mouthpiece Chris Graham targeted journalists Alex Thomson and Graham Speirs. He then published a statement as Union of Fan representative – claiming as mentioned above, that they will be looking to take civil action against those parties responsible.

Are we really surprised?

This is a man who published a list of individuals within Scottish football, he labelled as Enemies of Rangers. He has frequently targeted football journalists in this country for daring to have an opinion that does not brown nose Rangers Football Club and attacks people for saying that Rangers were guilty – when in fact they were guilty, of breaching SPL rules. Hence the fine imposed on the club following an independent commission set up by the SPL to look into Rangers’ ‘alleged’ breaches of football rules.

Let me set the record straight – the use of the legal loophole which saw the EBT scheme established may have come down in Rangers’ favour – but they are far from innocent and neither are their fans in this whole fiasco.

The club failed to pay £14 million worth of PAYE and national insurance payments, this led to HMRC taking proceedings against them, leading to Whyte placing the club into administration [a plan backed by Union of Fans spokesperson Chris Graham at the time]. They also failed to adhere to the agreement signed between Sir David Murray and then-prospective owner Craig Whyte, in which the tax bill referred to as the wee tax case would be settled by Whyte as the new Rangers owner.

Rangers were found guilty.

After an investigation by the SPL’s independent commission, chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith, Rangers were fined £250,000 after the club failed to disclose EBT payments to the football authorities in Scotland.

The commission’s statement back then, said: “Between the years 2000 and 2011 The Rangers Football Club Plc (now known as RFC 2012 Plc (in liquidation) and referred to in the decision as “Oldco”), the owner and operator of Rangers Football Club (“Rangers FC”), entered into side-letter arrangements with a large number of its professional players under which Oldco undertook to make very substantial payments to an offshore employee benefit remuneration trust, with the intent that such payments should be used to fund payments to be made to such players in the form of loans.”

“Those side-letter arrangements were required to be disclosed under the Rules of the Scottish Premier League (“SPL”) and the Scottish Football Association (“SFA”) as forming part of the players’ financial entitlement and as agreements providing for payments to be received by the players.

“Oldco through its senior management decided that such side-letter arrangements should not be disclosed to the football authorities, and the Board of Directors sanctioned the making of payments under the side-letter arrangements without taking any legal or accountancy advice to justify the non-disclosure.”

On the issue of payments being legal or not, the SPL commission ruled that said payments ‘were not themselves irregular and were not in breach of SPL or SFA rules’. But added at the scale and extent of the contraventions of the disclosure rules’ meant the club were handed a ‘substantial penalty’.

It continued: “The relevant SPL Rules were designed to promote sporting integrity, by mitigating the risk of irregular payments to players. Although the payments in this case were not themselves irregular and were not in breach of SPL or SFA Rules, the scale and extent of the proven contraventions of the disclosure rules require a substantial penalty to be imposed.”

Lord Nimmo Smith and his two legal colleagues ruled that Rangers, despite failing to disclose said payments to the SPL and SFA, did not secure an ‘unfair competitive advantage’ in the league and therefore no sporting sanction would be imposed on the Ibrox side – therefore securing the club’s five titles which were won during the period that EBTs were used.

It said: “Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage from the contraventions of the SPL Rules in failing to make proper disclosure of the side-letter arrangements, nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play, and for this and other reasons no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed upon Rangers FC.”

You don’t get a fine for being the victim.

Sir David Murray, who was owner when the EBT scheme was created, in a statement released soon after the verdict was announced, claimed that there were ‘no victors’. That may be true, but there are plenty of blame to be handed out despite Murray’s earlier attempts in trying to shift the blame solely onto Craig Whyte.

Murray oversaw the EBT scheme, in fact he benefited from it significantly and HMRC’s pursuit of tax allegedly owed to them started long before Whyte came on the scene. It was a well-known fact that Murray wanted rid of the club after he ploughed in tens of millions of pounds into the Ibrox side to buy domestic and European success. With the liability of the Big Tax Case hanging over him – despite claims that his lawyers were confident of victory – he sold the club to Craig Whyte.

Was he duped as he claimed or was it convenient to use Craig Whyte as a scapegoat?

The club didn’t just own money to HMRC, they owed millions to other creditors across the country – HMRC were just the biggest creditors on the books and their rejection of the CVA pushed Rangers into liquidation and thereafter Charles Green’s grubby hands.

Craig Whyte, a man who will forever live in the memories of Rangers fans as the anti-christ, was responsible for putting Rangers FC into administration. A process that ended with the club’s liquidation. Whyte bought the club for the princely sum of £1 from Sir David Murray – despite the then-Rangers board warning Murray that Whyte was somewhat dodgy.

Whyte was culpable in dodging paying National Insurance and PAYE, along with the agreed debt of the wee tax case that was around £2 million. The Motherwell-born businessman subsequently put Rangers into administration – as part of his master plan. A plan backed also by the previously mentioned Union of Fans representative AFTER the club lurched into administration with Rangers fans outside Ibrox protesting and calling Whyte everything under the sun.

With the CVA rejected, a decision that would call time on Rangers’ history according to Charles Green, the multitude of creditors lost money owed to them. From face painters to local garages to the NHS and the Ambulance service – they all lost money. The creditors are the real victims, the real innocent party in this whole fiasco not the club and not all the Rangers fans.

The Rangers fans were the ones who abused and criticised Murray and the then-board headed up by Johnston and Bain for trying to block the sale of the club to Craig Whyte. They also ignored factual reports of Whyte’s past dodgy dealings, claiming that it was an anti-Rangers crusade by the media to shame their new billionaire owner.

These were the same fans who demanded success year in year out under Murray and to lure the best players possible to the club. They failed to question Murray on how he would pay a tenner for every fiver Celtic spent, in short they didn’t care how they beat Celtic just as long as they beat them.

While most fans would want that over their closest rivals, they rounded on Murray near the end of his tenure for not spending more money and for not defending the club when a negative headline was published. This also helped to persuade Murray to ditch the club he had spent 20 years of his life funding – with help from the Bank of Scotland.

It may be somewhat harsh to lay blame on the fans also, but they believed the mince published in certain media outlets handed to them by Whyte and his PR representatives. They wanted to believe that the glory days under Murray would continue under Whyte and while they can be seen as gullible they certainly cannot be blamed for Whyte’s activities as soon as he took control of the club. Everything that Whyte did as Rangers owner, was as the figurehead of Rangers Football Club and therefore it is guilt by association – there is no separating the club and its owner here.

Of course not all Rangers fans targeted those who spoke out, who researched and who broke stories – of course a lot of Rangers fans lost money. Think of those 6000 Rangers fans who were owed around £7.7 million for helping fund a stadium expansion. They are the real victims – dedicated Rangers fans who spent their good hard-earned money only to be shafted and have they been paid back?

So while the usual suspects go looking for blood and for retribution – the same suspects who demanded the club spend more money than Celtic to secure silverware – my sympathy and my thoughts are not with the fans,nor the likes of Sir David Murray. But of the creditors who lost money – as I mentioned before they are the real victims. The ONLY victims in this sordid mess perpetuated by Rangers’ greed.

The full list of unsecured creditors, and victims in this whole fiasco, revealed at the time:

A K Ray, Ross Hall Hospital, Glasgow £150

ADI UK, Preston £7620

AS St Etienne, France £252,212.39

ASL, East Sussex £2514

Acies Group, Edinburgh £2340

Adrian Coll, Balloch £1600

Alan Duncan, Glasgow £1400

Alexander West Property, Glasgow £2807

Alison Walker TV, Bearsden £600

Alliance Video, Surrey £204

Aon Limited, London £14,151

Arena Imaging, Derby £336

Argyll and Bute Council £406.80

Arsenal Football Club £136,560

Astra Hygiene Supplies, Dumbarton £61.27

Audi Stirling £396.05

Azure Support Services, Macclesfield £523,949.71

Azzurri Scotland, Burnley £34.63

BTWShiells, Belfast £2917.39

Barr Environmental Limited, Cummnock £264

Base Soccer Agency, London £52,560

Bauer Radio Ltd (Radio Clyde) £702

Beyard Services, Beith £5559.60

Bhutta’s Newsagents, Glasgow £567.45

Big Think Agency, Glasgow £14,265.60

Blooms UK Limited, Glasgow £70

Brabners, Manchester £12,999

Brentwood Estates, Manchester £42,963.06

Brian Proudfoot, Glasgow £2,802

British Gas £1,562.42

BT £1,292.13

Business Cost Consultants, Glasgow £6,240.60

Business Stream, Edinburgh £9,727.22

CNP Professional, Cheshire £719.96

CRE8, Gloucester £68,406.70

Cairn Financial, London £4,127.60

Cairns & Scott Caterhire, Glasgow £762

Cameron Presentations, Glasgow £8,795.99

Campbell Medical Supplies, Paisley £3,386.73

Camtec, Herts £552

Canniesburn Taxis, Bearsden £269.69

Capital Solutions, Edinburgh £11,423.40

Capito Ltd, Livingston £1,049.69

Carberry’s Coaches, Portadown Co Armagh £1,200

Carnival Chaos Production, Edinburgh £672

Carol Govan, Glasgow £600

Cask Productions, Glasgow £1,980

Cask Sports, Glasgow £2,919.60

Catercare Scotland, Stewarton £420

Charlton Chauffeur Drive, Glasgow £792

Chelsea FC £238,345.43

Childcare Vouchers, London £1,143.74

Chilli It, Chester £416.52

Chris Clarke, Kilmarnock £150

Christine Siebelt, Milngavie £1,100

Citrus Office Solutions, Lancashire £4,304.24

City Electrical Factors, Glasgow £215.40

Clyde Productions, Glasgow £180

Coca Cola £10,133.91

Colin Suggett, Sunderland £741.80

Collstream Limited, Derby £5,779.37

Collyer Bristow, London £40,691.22

Colours Agency Glasgow £1,980

Computer Links, Livingston £2,146.32

Computershare Investor Service, Bristol, £23,855.03

Craig Services & Access East Sussex £900

Culture & Sport Glasgow £10,338.96

Daily Record & Sunday Mail £312

DealBureau Commercial Finance, Southend £10,000

Decco Limited, Glasgow £174.72

Dell Computer Corporation, Berkshire £272.85

Direct Medical Imaging, Lancashire £230

Disclosure Scotland £372

Dominique S Byrne, Nuffield Hospital, Glasgow £160

Dr David A S Marshall, Bridge of Weir £160

Dundas & Wilson, Edinburgh £24,027.84

E.ON £8,827.14

Eagle Consulting, Inverness £40

Eagle Couriers, Bathgate £96.60

Eden Springs, Blantyre £644.64

Edinburgh Audi £5,197.08

Electrical Was te Recycling, County
Durham £18

Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Stirling £9,000

Events Audio Visual, Clydebank £300

Exchequer Corporate Finance , Surrey £4,000

Executive Hire, Harlow £1,060

FES FM, Stirling £80,874.93

FL Memo, London £116.86

FX Signs, Glasgow £15,546.56

G Media Mangement, Cheltenham £995

G4S, Surrey £295,036.24

GTG Training, Glasgow £396

Gareth Neil Design, Glasgow £3,200

Gerry McGeoch, Glasgow £150

Glasgow Audi £1,041.62

Glasgow City Council £5,000

Glasgow City Council (Council Tax) £2,008.21

Glasgow Leading Attractions (The Willow Tea Rooms) £1,525

Glasgow Taxis £TBC

Glencairn Crystal Studio, East Kilbide £354

Gordon McKay, Blackridge £150

HOBS Reprographics, Glasgow £270.15

HSS Hire Service £67.10

Hamilton Brothers, Bishopton £115.56

Hay McKerron Associates, Milngavie £3,600

Hepscott Water Systems, Morpeth £1,190.28

Hrvoje Bojanic Beethoveova, Zagreb, Croatia £2,898.42

Hutchesons Eductational Trust, Glasgow £550

ILC Media, Preston £2,040

IMG Media, Chiswick £180

Impact Signs, Cumbernauld £9,482.79

Integrated Cleaning Management, Hampshire £3,329.19

Iris Chorus Application Software, Devon £5,973.60

Iris Ticketing, Devon £37,210.42

Iron Mountain, Livingston £1,271.16

JCM Business Consulting, Paisley £2,745

JJB Sports £19,390.59

James Gordon (Engineers), Galston £1,437.68

Jewson, Glasgow £930.60

Joe Lennon Picture Framing, Bearsden £840

John Deere, Gloucester £41,191.59

K7X, Ayr, £240

Kalamazoo Secure Solutions, Birmingham £4,017

Keith Hawley, Glasgow £2,600

Kevin Cameron Radio Service, Paisley £600

Kube Networks, Glasgow £7,672.08

L & S Litho, Glasgow £17,035.04

Lothian Power Clean, Larkhall £194.34

LSK Supplies, Glasgow £178.58

Lawrie Furnishings, Paisley £607.20

Limelight Networks , Arizona £2,333.49

Link Seating Limited, Worcestershire £606.98

Loomis UK, Nottingham £2,248.08

Louis Grace Electrical, Glasgow £1,087.84

Lyco Direct Limited , Milton Keynes £2,381.27

MSM Solicitors, Paisley £420

MacGregor Industrial Supplies, Inverness £106.76

Mackinnon Partners, Gourock £200

Manchester City FC £328,248.71

Manea Florin Bucharest £37,500

Mar Hall, Bishopton £5,511.90

Marsh Ltd UK, Norwich £779.10

Martin Dawes, Warrington £654.74

Media House, Glasgow £19,200

MediaCom, Edinburgh £11,544.42

Menzies Hotels, Derbyshire £257.40

Michael Douglas, Glasgow £100

Milngavie Mini Market £413.29

Modular Property Holdings, Glasgow £20,930.22

Motif Promotional Clothing, Glasgow £27.29

Murray Group Holdings, Edinburgh £278,964.30

Nairn Brown (Glasgow) £1,492.50

National Car Rental, Leicester £162.52

Navyblue Design Group, Edinburgh £6,960

Newline Products, Glasgow £7,001

Newsquest (Herald & Times £1,500

Nexo S.A., France £1,799.37

Nicola Young, Glasgow £3,500

Noble Grossart, Edinburgh £18,612

Nordic Scouting, Oslo £20,000

North Glasgow College £11,041.80

OHSS, Edinburgh £234

OfficeFurnitureOnline.co.uk, Dumfires £338.40

Ooyala, California £733.92

Opal Telecom £169.72

Orebro SK £150,000

Oxford Hotels & Inns (Carnoustie) £3,709.96

PR Newswire Europe £300

PTS – Plumbing Trade Supplies, Leicester £30.42

Paramed, Howwood £1,050

Parklands Country Club, Glasgow £500

Parks of Hamilton £7,256

Paton Plant, York £1,450.16

Perform Group, Middlesex £346,097.43

Pineapple Aroundshot, Co Durham £2,316.96

Pineapple Photographic, Co Durham £5,875

Ping Network Solutions, Glasgow £4,020.25

Plum Films, Edinburgh £3,000

Posh Deli, Glasgow £260

Postage by Phone, Essex £510.80

Premier Cash Registers, Glasgow £12,600

Prime Commercial Properties
Management, London £10,805.53

Professional Pre-Season Tours (Libero), Glasgow £60,000

Quick Shift Tyre Service, Glasgow £48

R.F.Brown, Hamilton £1,681.44

RBS WorldPay, Cambridge £180.66

RS Components Limited, Northants £204.95

Rangers Lotteries Ltd, Glasgow £105.80

Reed Business Information, Surrey £2,764.80

Renfrewshire Council HQ £108

Restore Scotland, Paisley £579.74

Rigby Taylor Limited, Bolton £10,762.16

Rodgers Sercurity Systems, Glasgow £342.50

Ross Hall Hospital, Glasgow £770.50

Ross Promotional, Glasgow £1,022.88

Royal Mail £3,262.54

SDL Group, Glasgow £1,350

SG World, Cheshire £577.56

SIR Teknologi, West Sussex £TBC

SK Rapid, Austria £1,011,763.44

STRI, West Yorkshire £17.28

Saffery Champness, Glasgow £31,028.01

Scot-West Business Forms, Glasgow £749.60

Scotprint, Haddington £7,514

Scotrae Productions, Greenock £17,058.94

Scottish Ambulance Service £8,438.40

Scottish Hydro Electric £62,527.30

Scottish Power £302.44

Search Promotional Merchandise, Buckinghamshire £6,240

Shanks Waste Management, Southampton £122.58

Sharon Agnew, Glasgow £460

Shawfield Timber, Glasgow, £786.24

Shell UK £7,637.94

Shields Land Rover, Glasgow £246.75

Shred-it Glasgow £444

Sign Plus, Dunfermline £2,473.22

Signature Industries, London £1,507.90

Simplewaste Solutions, Clydebank £17,626.26

Sinclair Pharmacy, Glasgow £1,909.79

Slater Menswear , Glasgow £688.31

Solutions.tv, Glasgow £2,652

Sound Acoustic Productions, Glasgow £12,000

Souters Irrigation Services, Cumbernauld £456

Spike Multiedia, Giffnock £5,312.50

Sporting iD, Tyne and Wear £144.70

Sportopps.com, Belfast £150

Sports Alliance, Bury £2,006.65

Sports Revolution, London £5,034.52

Stellar Football, London £72,000

Stirling Fire Protection £1,149.30

Stockline Plastics, Glasgow £258

Strathclyde Police £51,882

Striking Imagery, Cumbernauld £113.51

Stuart MacMorran, Clydebank £422.50

Summit Asset Management, Surrey £70,555.88

Susan Thomson Your Sonsie Face, Glasgow £40

TNT £1,255.39

Tabs FM, London, £1,980

Tellcomm Limited, West Midlands £6,435.89

The Arco Group, Hull £443.43

The Brite Bulb, Bishopbriggs £3,209.64

The Burnbrae, Bearsden £1,403.88

The Business & Property Bureau, Bearsden £7,376

The Business Incentives Group, Glasgow £1,893.60

The City of Edinburgh Council £90

The Fees Company, Edinburgh £118.16

The Financial Times £3,480

The Scottish Football League £3,859.92

The Premier Property Group, Edinburgh £103,210.96

Thistle International Freight, Paisley £128.42

Thistle Storage Equipment, Cumbernauld £140.40

Thomas Cook Sport, Manchester £129,216.56

Ticket Team, Netherlands £873.36

Ticketline Network, Manchester £11,668.67

Trade UK (Screwfix) £77.01

Trident Trust Company, Jersey £40,689.90

UK Fast, Manchester £689.78

US Citta di Palermo, Italy £205,513.04

Umbro £1,756.05

University of the West of Scotland £135

Vodafone £204

Voicescape, Manchester £786.84

William Henderson, Glasgow £275

Yuill & Kyle Solicitors, Glasgow £1,486.80

Celtic FC £40,337

Dundee United FC £65,981.49

Dunfermline Athletic FC £83,370.13

Heart of Midlothian FC £800,000

Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC £39,805

SPL £22,500

SFA 11,089.04

HM Revenue & Customs £14,372,042

Ticketus, London £26,700,000

Debenture Holders (various) £7,736,000

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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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