Liquidation, Litigation, and Losing the Plot !
It looks unlikely that we will be able to celebrate Hallowe’en this year in our usual way-shutting the curtains and pretending we aren’t in! Nor even,at this rate,Valentine’s Day next year by treating our most dearly beloved to something romantic in the hope that she doesn’t notice that we got them at the last minute from the 24-hour garage round the corner.
And people wonder why I’m still single…
Of course,as Celtic fans we will still be able to celebrate in the first instance the eighth anniversary of the huns officially entering liquidation and in the second instance the ninth anniversary of Jelly and Ice-cream Day. But our joy has been tempered greatly by events since,and really had we been paying attention,not putting our faith in judicial process where the rules are hard and fast and allow little room for manoeuvre and instead paid heed to precedent,we would have,should have,realised that the huns would get away with it. And that somebody else would get the blame.
THE EXILEDTIM and others warned us on CQN and elsewhere that it would happen. A THING OF BEAUTY told me quite clearly at the time that I was a bloody idiot if I thought that Scotland and its legal and judicial system wouldn’t be closing ranks against any prosecution of the guilty. And I know that they don’t take any pleasure in being right,that they too wish that the law had been applied in this case without fear or favour.
Yet it was blatantly obvious that rules were being casually ignored by Rangers under David Murray for years before these events took place. Who can forget the ludicrous appearance in court by Andy Goram in the late 90s where his brief showed documentation to the court that his client was paid £1000 a week by his club? Or the ludicrous claim in an interview by David Murray-in the face of criticism of the performances of Ronald de Boer-that he was only at Ibrox for the equivalent of petrol money,waving the contract in question to the assembled reporters? I said on both occasions that there must be two contracts at least for each player,and that I wondered how many others this applied to.
And why? Well,we soon found out.
In 2004 the losses at Ibrox were so great that Murray announced a rights issue for £50m which was so popular with the hordes that his own company MIH was forced to underwrite 98% of it-except that MIH couldn’t afford to do that and had to add the £49m to the already burgeoning debt owed to HBOS. Since even that gargantuan sum was only about 5% of the total owed it really was a case of In For A Penny,In For A Pound.
The £50m didn’t last too long and a mere two years later,along came Walter Smith riding to the rescue of his beloved and beleaguered club,and on a white charger too. The spend initiated by him to challenge a resurgent Celtic under Gordon Strachan was eyewatering and amounted to around £30m in fees alone. This was money that Rangers could ill afford,and indeed most of it came via an increased overdraft from,as usual,his fraternal buddies at HBOS. And since the club couldn’t afford to pay the associated wage bill for such expensive players,Murray simply upped the ante on some tax “avoidance” schemes which he had initiated under the heady days of Dick Advocaat.
It still wasn’t enough to prevent Gordon leading us to a trio of titles though,and by this time it was imperative that the money starts rolling in to pay the bills.
The only way to do that was by playing in the lucrative Champions League. And the only route was by winning the league. And since the last few years had shown that Celtic were more likely to do that,another few goalposts had to be moved. Witness the intervention of the referees as they really went to town on the questionable interpretation of the laws of the game,depending on which teams they were in charge of on any particular day.
And even at that,they only won two of their three successive titles because we threw them away in the final stages. But it was enough to keep the wolf from the door-but for one momentous event. The financial worldwide meltdown in 2007/2008. This was a game changer for Murray and Rangers for many reasons. It wasn’t a good time to have a huge amount of steel stockholding tied up in a deep recession where there was little call for it,nor in his new pet project of commercial property-where there was even less. And it wasn’t a good time to have debts to a bank,not when your debts vastly outweighed your assets. Worst of all was that the bank itself was a busted flush and was duly taken over by Lloyds Bank-a bank which had no fraternal relationship with him,and which wanted their money back.
But worst was the debt at Rangers-exacerbated by an HMRC investigation into the avoidance schemes which they declared to be simple evasion. Illegal,and likely to lead to imprisonment-but more to the point,a bill for £49m including interest and penalties. It was this,more than any other event,which led to the decision by Murray to get out of Dodge,selling the club to Craig Whyte for the princely sum of £1. And it was this,allied to an abject failure to qualify for Europe in McCoist’s first season in charge,which led to the events of February,June and October 2012
And how we all laughed. And celebrated like there was no tomorrow. The problem with that though is that for all of us there will only be one day in our lives that there is no tomorrow,and that’s a day which can bloody wait! Since then,the losers in this scenario have done better than the winners,and I’m still at a loss to understand how and why.
Though THE EXILED TIM and A THING OF BEAUTY wouldn’t be too long in explaining it to me.
Firstly,although Rangers had to spend four years out of the top division,they haven’t been too financially hamstrung by events. They shouldn’t even have been allowed back into the Scottish League at all,as they relinquished their place due to liquidation and clubs like Spartans and Whitehill Welfare were ahead of them in the queue. Three years ahead of them,had the existing regulations been applied. They are now continuing to outspend us,even as we all wonder where the money is coming from-because it sure as hell isn’t coming from the usual football sources like season ticket sales,merchandise,etc.
Yet,as usual,the authorities don’t want to know.
So Rangers are effectively carrying on as usual,without heed to financial regulations within the game and with the tacit approval of the authorities and of course the media. While all those pesky debts-alleged at the time to be c£140m at the time in 2012-vanished like magic.
Murray did even better,managing to get rid of the £140m Rangers millstone to a patsy-who hilariously duped him!-AND negotiating with Lloyds to cherrypick the best parts of his MIH empire for peanuts while handing over the keys to the rest of it,costing Lloyds-and by extension,the TAXPAYER!-an estimated £850m at the time. And bearing in mind he had already walked away from a £49m debt to HMRC,that beggars belief.
The administrators of the original Rangers did very well too,Duff and Phelps running up a bill of c£6m in eight months before handing over the reins to the liquidators,BDO,who in eight years since have probably sucked the carcass dry by now,leaving nothing for the creditors,small or large.
Someone,of course,had to be blamed for this shameful and embarrassing episode in the history of Rangers FC-because even though they are undergoing liquidation and have been since June 2012,there is a continuing official narrative that they are the same club! Step forward anyone who wasn’t David Murray,including the chaps from Duff and Phelps,Craig Whyte,Charles Green and Imran Ahmad-who refused to return from Pakistan,stating that he wouldn’t get a fair trial in Scotland.
It is to the shame of our country that no-one could refute such an allegation,and subsequent events have proven him 100% correct. In fact,the shitshow which resulted from all this is a stain on the Scottish justice system from the top down,the only saving grace being that the defendants may have been bounced into court by a bent system,but it was no kangaroo court that they entered. All defendants were exonerated,and the resultant legal claims are pushing the cost of the investigations towards and probably beyond £100m.
I hope you are adding all this up,btw.
And meantime,what about Celtic? What did they know and when did they know it? How did they react at the time,and since?
Well,they certainly knew about the financial chicanery over Southside long before it came out on Timternet. Brian Quinn is alleged to have warned David Murray around 2002 that his schemes were illegal-and the subsequent ones considerably more so,of course,and for far greater sums. They certainly knew that the spend under Smith in 2007 was unsustainable unless it achieved Champions League qualification to pay for it and they certainly knew about the chicanery of the refereeing fraternity.
They did the square root of sod all about any of it,allowing those three seasons to be stolen from us,and with them the c£50m bounty that we should ourselves have been receiving from the Champions League.
They did nothing about the reform of Rangers and their placement back into the league structure in 2012 despite absolutely clear information available that it broke League rules on entry qualifications. They did even less about the ridiculous notion of no sporting advantage being achieved by the decade or more of financial doping nor the ludicrous suggestion that players could be imperfectly registered,as arrived at by the infamous Lord Nimmo Smith “investigation” into events,nor about them being allowed to keep not only the trophies “won” during that period,but all of them from the year dot,in clear contravention of phoenixing laws.
Since then,they have done very little at best to reinforce our advantage over our despised rivals and if anything have supported them every step of the way,even to the extent about lying about events to shareholders at an AGM.
I could go on,of course. For there’s a lot more. But as soon as it became clear that they were being allowed to phoenix and return as “the same club with their history intact” in 2012,I knew that it was time to agree with another thing that THE EXILED TIM and A THING OF BEAUTY said at the time,that the fallout from this is going to damage us long term more than it will damage them. What is worse,with no disrespect intended whatsoever to the two fine gentlemen,is that the intervening years have shown that MAGS and AWE NAW were absolutely correct when they told us that we are not only supporting one half of The Old Firm,but that by doing so-even if we hope for better days and wiser leadership ahead-we are complicit in it.
What a bloody shambles. We would have been better to have paid Murray’s tax bill ourselves and somehow got an unbreakable commitment-from a totally untrustworthy snake of a man-to live 100% within the means of his club as well as the letter and spirit of the rules. It would have angered me hugely at the time,but not as much as the cumulative events of the last eight years and more of this shitshow of deception and disdain from our club has done. And it would have saved the taxpayer around a billion quid,which could certainly have been used better elsewhere.
Liverpool have The Spirit of Shankly. What have we got?
The above by BMCUWP.