9 Nov 2015

Rangers cheated at football: the fraudulent silverware must go

Cheats get punished  in sport. You commit a foul: free kick. Bad foul: yellow card. Dangerous foul: it’s a red. You foul to gain unfair sporting advantages. It is cheating. It is punished.


Let’s widen it a bit. If you cheat off the field of competition you get punished. Lance Armstrong…Ben Johnson…you can add into the familiar rogues’ gallery. Again, the cheating is done to gain an unfair sorting advantage. Again, it is punished.

Let’s widen again a little to group cheating by a team. If you field an ineligible player to gain sporting advantage, you are punished.

So it is that the game is now up for Rangers FC and only a successful Supreme Court appeal can now save them from what must now ensue.

After the biggest organised cheating scandal in the history of Scottish football – probably British football and possibly in British sport for all I know, the former Rangers owners now face at last paying the British state the tax and NI they dodged for all those years.

But that is only one side of the cheating. Because as we know, as Rangers people testified , the club cheated because they want to get an advantage on the football field.

Eh? How do we all know this to be factually true? Why, because of “Mr Black” of course.

The Rangers Tax Tribunal was held in secret because many of those under HMRC scrutiny wanted it that way. So witnesses in the Rangers case testified under codenames of colours: Mr Red, Mr Yellow and so forth – all a bit Reservoir Dogs meets Extreme Cluedo for Suits.

Step forward “Mr Black”.

Here is how the Tax Tribunal describes him: “While Mr Black had been involved in ‘signing and selling’ 350-400 players in 20 years of involvement at Rangers, he had not, and could not, because of all his commitments, devote any real time to detailed contractual negotiations. At the start of each football season he would meet with his manager to decide on which players might be possible recruits.”

Who on earth could that possibly be, we wonder? What role for instance did Sir David Murray himself play? We need to know. We have, of course, approached Sir David, but we’ve yet to hear back from him.

Why did this powerful but busy character introduce a scheme of wholesale – and now proven to be unlawful – avoidance of NI and income tax?

Why – so the club could gain advantage on the pitch, of course: sporting advantage. By attracting and keeping players they otherwise could not afford. How do we know?

Because the powerful but talkative “Mr Black” was good enough to spill the beans to the Tax Tribunal: “Mr Black did not consider the Trust as a means of tax avoidance, but rather as a means of retaining and rewarding loyal employees. So far as Rangers was concerned it enabled the Club to attract players who would not otherwise have been obtainable.”

Sporting advantage.

“Mr Black” didn’t see it as a tax wheeze at all, he said, but a football wheeze. Sadly for him if you’re now found to have been cheating the taxman you’re also cheating football – so now his unfortunate admission is a smoking gun

There is more: “As for Mr Black, he denied that the scheme was for tax avoidance in cross-examination, though he went on to describe the scheme as ‘a method of us acquiring, especially football wise, better players in a more cost effective manner than we would be able to do so’; that the club had been ‘very ambitious at that time’; and ‘it was seen as a correct and proper way for us to proceed’; that Rangers ‘have been very successful, because we’ve been able to attract players of a certain standard that, perhaps, we may not have been able to otherwise’.”

One more time: “especially football wise better players in a more cost effective manner”. Sporting. Advantage.

Of course when he said this “Mr Black” thought it was all legal. Sadly for him three Law Lords have now unanimously disagreed in uncharacteristically pungent language.

Rangers – obstructive, unhelpful and evasive, according to the Tax Tribunals – are now found to be tax cheats on an industrial scale by the Law Lords.

Which is why “Mr Black’s” candid admission – Rangers did it to again sporting advantage – now matters so much. His evidence could not be clearer.

When Lord Nimmo Smith’s commission found no such sporting advantage they did so:

1) on the basis that the tax avoidance was legal

2) on the basis of the information they had, though this turned out so much had been withheld from them

The Appeal Court judges have now changed all of that. “Mr Black” now needs to come out and be held to account for cheating at football and income tax. He is far from alone.

It is time Campbell Ogilvie explained his conduct – the man who played a part in the tax avoidance and personally benefited before going on to be SFA President.

It is time Sir David Murray – the conductor of this disastrous orchestration, by overseeing EBTs at Rangers – is similarly held to account for what he did and now, why Rangers did it for advantage on the field: cheating.

Above all, it is time the SPFL members came out from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and beyond to denounce cheating as cheating and take action as fans from Kelso to Thurso are begging them to do.

All the titles and silverware from all the years Rangers cheated at football, as they cheated at tax, must be null and void and wiped from the record.

Let nobody try and tell me it isn’t the same club – I have always said it is and now Rangers have to take the consequence of that reality right on the chin.

Turnbull Hutton RIP – how your godforsaken Scottish game needs you now.

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