29 Jan 2013

After Rangers, English football warned: put your house in order

The long-running tax investigation in to Rangers’ elaborate tax-avoidance programme has now washed up on the shores of the British parliament in the shape of none other than George Galloway.

He has tabled an early day motion asking for the law to be tightened to avoid the age-old process of fly-by-night companies liquidating and thus avoiding their responsibilities to the British taxpayer. The motion is as follows:

“That this House notes that the owners of the club now playing in the Scottish Third Division called Rangers claim that it is the same club with the same history as the liquidated club also known as Rangers; further notes that 14 million in VAT and PAYE was withheld in the run-up to administration by the previous Rangers; further notes that the club is now cash-rich through a share issue which raised in excess of 20 million; condemns the use of insolvency laws to avoid paying tax owed; and calls on the Government to take steps to reclaim the outstanding monies from Rangers and to bring forward legislative proposals to prevent clubs and companies sidestepping their liabilities through liquidation and then carrying on trading with effectively the same name and in exactly the same business.”

And lo! It came to pass that  The English finally began to wake up and smell the coffee! Today the culture, media and sport committee of MPs says it is so fed up with the English football authorities’ inability to offer anything meaningful to get the game run better that it’s put the pistol to the heads of the blazers. Many fans will cheer loudly.

The MPs say the Culture , Media and Sport Department must now tell the English game to make the changes necessary to enshrine proper financial management and real fan involvement for the sustainability of the game, and given them a year to do it. If they don’t , they pledge legislation should follow.

And why have our MPs down here in London town finally woken up to the way casino-sport is being run? Well, yes, because of the toxic smell the former mismanagers of Rangers emitted all over the game north of the border.

The report notes:

“The severe financial problems faced by some clubs as the result of overspending, underregulation and financial mismanagement were underlined by the liquidation of Rangers Football Club in June. Though the club was part of the Scottish Premier League and regulated by the Scottish Football Association – and therefore subject to different rules from English clubs – it is a powerful example of the excesses of professional clubs in competing with one another, and the consequences for their community when mismanagement leads to financial collapse.”

And thus far – surprise surprise – the response from the English game (like the English media, to be frank) has been as if Glasgow is in Tierra del Fuego.

Committee chair John Whittingdale MP assessed the response by English football to his invitation to get its house in order, in the following terms:

“…the financial proposals were hugely disappointing: the financial risk-taking by clubs is a threat to the sustainability of football as a family and community-orientated game, which it should be. This is a central issue which must be addressed and real solutions – and the will to make the necessary changes – have been glaringly absent from the proposals so far.”

The Scottish game may very well not have learned any lessons from the Rangers implosion. The English game gives every impression of never even having heard of Rangers, or Scottish football, at all. They simply appear too absorbed in the real issues like making sure their latest signings have the paint-job finished on the Bentley.

Follow Alex Thomson on Twitter

Tweets by @alextomo