Does Dave King deserve a second chance at Rangers?
So is he the Messiah? God alone knows. But he most definitely has been a very naughty boy – and when it comes to Rangers FC then Monty Python is as good a frame of reference as anything else these days.
For perhaps only Cleese, Palin, Idle et al could come up with the current potential hattrick for the stricken club.
Tax own goal 1 : Sir David Murray’s tenure at Ibrox results in years of legal wrangling over whether the club (where the bosses paid no income tax) was avoiding or evading income tax. That one rolls on and on.
Tax own-goal 2 : Craig Whyte’s tenure after Murray where tax issues resulted in the police being called in; him being banned from Scottish football for life and the club restarting several leagues lower in the Scottish football league system. Scottish Police say the investigation continues.
Tax own-goal 3 and the possible hattrick?
Enter Dave King as would-be Rangers saviour from all this nonsense once and for all.
And he could be. He just could be… He’s a man of means. Rangers to the core and makes all the noises a lot of fans want to hear.
Just one issue though – yup – tax. The very naughty boy bit.
Dave King is a convicted tax cheat and now wants to own – of all things in the land – Rangers, probably the most tax-toxic sporting institution in Britain.
So given this blog is largely for those outwith Govan, Glasgow – indeed Scotland – it is worth reviewing the Dave King charge sheet.
In August 2013 a 13-year battle with the South African taxman ended with King pleading guilty to 41 charges at Gauteng High Court in South Africa.
King was fined R80,000 (about £4500) on each charge, totalling R3.28 million (about £187,000). The convictions relate to contravening the Income Tax Act; wilful failure to make required disclosures in annual income tax returns and failure to submit tax returns for two of his companies Metlika and Ben Nevis.
Further, King agreed to pay a Criminal Assets Recovery demand of R8.75 million (£499,000) within 30 days.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) sought recovery of R706.7 million (£40,281,000) from an indictment of 322 charges relating to fraud, tax evasion, exchange control requirements, money laundering and racketeering.
It is worth returning again at this point to the words of the South African judge Brian Southwood a few years earlier in King’s long battle against the taxman. Judge Southwood said the unanimous opinion of the High Court was that Dave King:
“…is a mendacious witness whose evidence should not be accepted on any issue…”
“…showed no sign of embarrassment or any emotion when he conceded that he had lied to the (SARS) commissioner in a number of his income tax returns. In our assessment, he is a glib and shameless liar.”
Returning to Glasgow recently and poised to try and control the club, King says he has learned his lesson and all this behind him.
So Scottish football may now have its very own Ched Evans syndrome. Should a man with a past be given a second chance to have a high-profile position in (potentially) big-money football?
Of course many will rightly point out that rape is not tax-dodging. King pleaded guilty, Evans did not. King speaks of remorse, Evans speaks of denial. An on-pitch star cannot be compared to an off-pitch suit when it comes to being a role model.
All true – but then again of all the clubs it is Rangers – and the issue is tax.
That has to take the issue straight to questions of governance and the words ‘fit’, ‘proper’ and ‘person’ in the mind of any reasonable onlooker who cares about probity in the game – or safeguarding what remains of it in money-driven big football.
So what will happen? For the time being nothing. King wants the current board out. Current board wants in and ain’t for budging. But if…if…there should be a change of directorship then that would trigger notification to the SFA’s professional game board which would indeed discuss words like ‘fit’ and ‘proper’. Hopefully in depth.
Or they may do so and pass it all on up to the full board of the SFA in due course. The board or PGB must weigh the pros, (that presumably King would still be trading; still working as a director quite legally and not disbarred by any trading authority along with all mitigation), against the obvious cons that a man with this kind of form should not be let loose at Ibrox nor anywhere else in football.
In a sport where money talks ever louder, that might not be the easy and obvious judgement those for and against King are quick to make, with all the usual passion.
It could be that Mr King should be given a second chance. But surely only if the governing body, the PGB/SFA, runs a serious slide-rule over what is at stake here and endeavours to nail down the promises King has made to fans along with his colourful past.
Failure here means an unspeakable hattrick for Ibrox and the credibility of the SFA absolutely on the line. Should it come to it, they will need to get into, and all over King and be seen to do so, for the good of themselves, of Ibrox and of the game
But like I say, right now all the SFA needs to do and should do – is nothing.
Read more from Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo