24 Feb 2014

Rangers court battle: what next for Ibrox?

And so the lawyers have gathered in Edinburgh and the so-called Rangers big tax case begins another round.

Like everything to do with Glasgow football the mere mention of this excites a certain degree of comment shall we say?

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So in the spirit of setting out for us all what is actually going on, here goes. This is largely from HMRC and the Courts and Tribunals Service.

The current appeal was lodged by HMRC against the previous majority tribunal verdict.

It runs from 24 February until 21 March in Edinburgh, or at least that is the time set aside. It is an appeal on points of law so at present it appears no witnesses will be called.

Should either party wish to appeal after this to the high court on points of law and only on points of law, that may be granted to the high court.

So whatever happens this is not necessarily the end of it should either party wish to appeal.

Read more: Red, Whyte and blue: the Rangers saga continues

In brief HMRC say the Employment Benefit Trusts (EBTs) used by Rangers under former owner Sir David Murray were a way of avoiding income tax.

Sir David Murray contends they were lawful and he won by majority which is now under appeal on points of law.

The case matters greatly to HMRC because of the precedent at stake.

HMRC contends that EBTs were used by more than 5000 companies across these islands including not a few large football clubs in England.

So for HMRC there is a great deal more to it than Rangers. RFC simply happens to be the test case. Football and football fans would do well to see this reality for what it is.

So the implications for that across companies in UK PLC are obvious and wide. It. Is. Not. About. Rangers. Or at least insofar as trying to reframe UK tax law is concerned.

Read more: Rangers FC: the taxman ain’t walking away

However in footballing terms it very much is of course, about Rangers. At stake the very governance of the game in Scotland.

The eventual issue of whether or not what used to be one of the biggest clubs in football cheated its way to silverware year after year, remains an open question.

This is a major problem stretching far beyond the gates of Ibrox. The implications for the Scottish Football Association (SFA) should not be lost on anyone.

Equally – Sir David Murray and Paul Baxendale-Walker (the stuck-off solicitor and pornographer who brought the EBT concept to the club) could very well turn out to be the greatest financial wizards of modern Scottish football. Right now, in law, they most certainly are. We know why they did it because they said so.

Read more: Craig Whyte’s lawyers send Letter Before Action

Here’s Andrew Thornhill, the lawyer representing the Murray Group, on the final day of the previous tribunal hearing: “Because the whole point of the remuneration trust was it enabled the club to take on players that it otherwise couldn’t afforded (sic) to pay if it had to pay the grossed up wage.

“This was Sir David Murray’s way of putting it. It was a way of getting hold of players you otherwise couldn’t afford.

“So the last thing the club would do is say to a player: now, if you don’t like having remuneration trust we will pay you gross instead. It just couldn’t afford to do it. It wasn’t an option.”

They recruited players they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Yet, in a ruling which raised many an eyebrow, an Independent Commission in Glasgow said that buying players you cannot otherwise afford who then go on to win you silverware year after year, is not buying sporting advantage.

Read more: You couldn’t make it up: Rangers ban the BBC

But what if buying those players was unlawful? Is tax law one thing and football law something other? If HMRC win, this is where the questions will pile up.

And what of dear old Campbell Ogilvie, the key Rangers finance official whilst all this was happening and recipient of an EBT himself. He remains SFA President even though that organisation describes him as “heavily conflicted”.

Yet still no hint of standing aside or gardening leave until this matter is settled. It’s not the way things happen round Hampden way. And again – what if it does turn out to have been unlawful?

So that is why it all matters. That is why it is not over. That is why there has never been a final verdict.

And that is why Rangers – rightly – made that clear to their fans when the previous tribunal reported.

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21 reader comments

  1. BJS says:

    Not a chance rangers will be stripped of any titles.. Have you not learnt yet Alex?
    The other clubs continue to let rangers cheat and have done in all my years watching football. Why dont you do a piece interviewing the other clubs and ask why they put up with it.? That to me is the real story.

    1. Jimmy says:

      Other clubs LET Rangers cheat ?

      Are you 10 years old ?

      Officially,Celtic have had more penalties than Rangers in Scottish football history so how does fit in to your cheating scenario ?

      1. Ray says:

        So how did these penalties occur? Did they bribe the officials?

  2. Bruce67 says:

    ‘Yet, in a ruling which raised many an eyebrow, an Independent Commission in Glasgow said that buying players you cannot otherwise afford who then go on to win you silverware year after year, is not buying sporting advantage.’

    Couple of points re the LNS commission – First, it actually found them guilty. Second, it wasn’t actually about the rights or wrongs of the EBT’s. It was about whether or not all the paperwork had been filed and the players had been improperly registered. The LNS Commission concluded that players had been improperly but that no sporting advantage had been gained. This latter conclusion was down to the bizarrely perverse evidence of the SFA’s head of registrations who declared that while the players were improperly registered, once he had accepted those cheating registrations then as far as the SFA were concerned that was that, they were in fact registered. Now, this was a truly extraordinary piece of evidence, at odds with both the SFA’s standard practice when dealing with improper registrations (heavy punishment, usually expulsion from the appropriate tournament) and the real world – if you conceal things from an insurance company (or any organisation), make a claim and they find out you were dishonest, do they take the point of view that since they accepted your information in the first place its okay? No, they throw the book at you. And lets not forget that the reason given by the SFA for not launching its own investigation was that it was the appellate body for the SPL Commission. How could it have held an appeal when its own evidence was crucial?

    So, if the UTT goes HMRC’s way, it raises the necessity for the SPL to look at Rangers and the EBT years once again. But without hiding behind adsurd interpretations of the rules this time.

  3. Thomas says:

    Thank you Alex, not a sole up here is mentioning this, you would also think there would be at least some interest in any ‘missing’ names on the EBT list, SFA & Journos?

    1. LennonMustGo says:

      a dover sole? Ya poor wee soul

      1. Ray says:

        Only on Fridays I hope.

    2. Alan McPherson says:

      Aye, very fishy Thomas.

  4. Eddie Murray says:

    That is a very fair summation of an issue which has divided the divided for years now. You made some very valid points here; Rangers’ EBTs are a tax avoidance issue and they bought players they could not afford to win titles they did not earn fairly. Alex McLeish stated that Sir David Murray was desperate to win the European Cup. These are the results. Keep it cut and dried without the waffle. Rangers cheated, Rangers cheated again and subsequently died as a result. If their titles are not removed due to their cheating, the game will decend into farce and will be more of a joke than it currently is. The way it has been handled is unbelievable and I am at a loss to explain to my kids how this has been allowed to happen. You’ve rightly highlighted the sectarianism in Scotland in your previous writings and this issue only serves to underline your thoughts on the matter. Scottish football is a disgrace, lacking in integrity as we see from the corrupt administration which governs our game. We need more writers like you to bring these issues into the public domain as the MSM are disgracefully compliant to a dead club. Keep up the good work.

    1. rab says:

      go boil yer heed

  5. Philip Edwards says:

    Alex,

    “Is tax law one thing and football law something other?”

    I know nothing of law, English or Scottish – but isn’t it impossible to “contract out of law”? If that is so, and they oppose the body of Scottish law, Scottish FA regulations aren’t worth the cartridge paper they are written on with quill pen. And the Scottish courts will say so.

    Meanwhile, I repeat, we English have no room for smugness. You need only view the bankruptcy rate of clubs here, plus the “doubtful” shenanigans in the Premier League.

    One of the main roots of this is the level of top players wages. They must be capped. The other main root is main shareholder values and sales for profit. They too must be controlled. If this doesn’t happen we will simply get the same thing in other clubs in both Scotland and England.

    The real victims will, as always, be the fans who just want to see a game of football and support “their” club.

  6. Philip Edwards says:

    Alex,

    An additional but minor point:

    If Rangers Football Club was to disappear…..who would Celtic loonies find to hate then?
    :-)

    1. connemara says:
    2. Bruce67 says:

      Rangers did disappear. We don’t need to hate anyone. That’s your thing.

    3. Ray says:
  7. Prince Charles says:

    Liquidation.

    The writing is on the wall,yet again and,the lemmings of Scottish football are on the edge of the abyss.

  8. Alan McPherson says:

    Ho hum, here we go again Alex, usual nonsense, FTT have adjudicated no case to answer, Lord Nimmo Smith says no sporting advantage, where will you go when UTT find in favour of SDM? Oh i see you’ve already covered that, High Court on points of law only. Meanwhile we all await Craig Whyte’s legal challenge your ‘source’ assured us was coming ~ how many weeks ago now?

    Point is though that this case has got nothing to do with Rangers FC, it is against previous holding company.

    How about an investigation into the emerging scandal of Celtic FC’s acquisition of land from NHS and Glasgow City Council and soft loans from the Coop Bank ~ or doesn’t that fit your agenda?

    1. brain storm says:

      hey alan,just a wee point,
      you mention the previous holding company,lol,that was RFC,now you are saying you are still RFC,but with a different holding company,lol,so if RFC go bust again,we shall wait and see,will RFC just set up another holding company,lol and start again.
      you do know to enter European completion you must have THREE years full accounts,as you are a new club entering Europe for the first time,see uefa rule book.,you will be playing in Europe in 2016(just in time for the 100th anniversary of the EASTER REBELLION),thats if you are not liquidated again.
      there will be a new book added to the bible soon,with the amount of reincarnations RFC have had,

    2. Bruce67 says:

      The point of law being appealed is that that the two judges who backed Rangers chose to agree with the minimal evidence supporting Rangers claims and ignore the greater body of evidence showing that, of course, the EBT’s were not loans but payments. They even acknowledged the validity of that greater body of evidence when the dissenting opinion went with it.

      As for the ’emerging scandal’. There isn’t one. Its the bitter obsession of the Sevco support to drag up any dirt on Celtic. The ‘case’ falls apart at the slightest perusal of the facts and dates. After all, GCC was also offering land transfers to Rangers and its development plans pre-liquidation and didn’t David Murray’s group get a big chunk of land in Edinburgh for very little?

  9. true blue says:

    well if rangers cheated
    surely celtic cheated too
    with the loans etc from the co-op and I am sure more will come out of this
    a very lot of haters still wont let it lie
    rangers have been punished enough
    they were battered bruised and thrown to the bottom division
    surely it is time to leave all this alone and put it to bed once and for all
    rangers won all their titles fair and square the 11 players on the field won the titles not the boardroom
    if all the haters want a new topic to talk about why don’t they talk about celtic and pacific shelf a lot of skeletons hiding there I bet

    1. Bruce67 says:

      ‘well if rangers cheated surely celtic cheated too’

      Your logic is as non-existent as your punctuation.

      In what way is getting a legitimate loan cheating?

      Rangers haven’t been punished, they’ve been liquidated.

      Your bitter, desperate need for Celtic to have skeletons has no bearing whatsoever on reality.

Comments are closed.