28 Feb 2013

Rangers’ player payments ‘not cheating’

In a nutshell , Rangers broke the rules right, left and centre and have been fined £250,000 for so doing because they did not inform the Scottish Football Authorities of the payments they were making to players under the old, now liquidated company, run by Sir David Murray.

The management of the old Rangers company decided that side-letters concerning payments to players “should not be disclosed to the football authorities…” and they did this “…without taking any legal or accounting advice to justify the non-disclosure…”

But because the independent commission chaired by Lord Nimmo-Smith has ruled that this non-disclosure did not result in any competitive advantage, the club will not face footballing sanctions such as being stripped of any of its silverware.

All in all it is extremely good news for Rangers long-suffering fans in that the silverware and championships remain intact but perhaps more importantly they were not found to have gained any competitive advantage according to the commission.

So finally one of two large clouds over Ibrox has disappeared as the fog lifted from Govan this morning to reveal a perfect, clear and sunny day.

In short, it did not amount to cheating:

“Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage…nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play and for that reason no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed upon Rangers FC.”

In other words the commission ruled that not telling the authorities in full about all monies given to players does not mean they were ineligible, which rather begs the question as to why the full-disclosure rule exists in the first place?

The answer is clearly the desire for financial transparency and the obvious point that ‘secret’ payments quite clearly could be the route to cheating. But in this case it was not ruled to be so.

The commission also distances the present new club set up from the ashes of the old liquidated club and that will be further welcome news for the current owner Charles Green who spent so much time being rude about the very commission which has delivered so much for him.

So finally one of two large clouds over Ibrox has disappeared as the fog lifted from Govan this morning to reveal a perfect, clear and sunny day.

The tax case still hangs over things of course and will do so for many a month yet. But today’s decision makes it easier at last for football to return centre stage and for the club to move on from a dark period in its history. There are still unanswered questions over the player payments and irregular tax arrangements under Sir David Murray.

Rangers find themselves in fourth-tier football after the flagrant approach to income tax taken by the notorious Craig Whyte. On the Big Tax Case, the case continues.

Equally the club was not doing anything which amounted to cheating according to today’s judgement and the club’s silverware remains in tact.

Many will feel this is bizarre. The football world in Scotland had it as a bedrock belief that failure to disclose payment renders a player ineligible and that is that. Ergo: unfair advantage and thus cheating. Lord Nimmo-Smith has ruled that this is not necessarily so and not so in this cases – or cases. There will be many out there today who will see this as utterly bizarre, if not perverse. But that is the judgement.

Debate will continue long and hard on the green side of Glasgow and among all fans – but ultimately folk cannot have it both ways. You must accept the judgement of guilt where passed, and accept exoneration in equal measure.

In Rangers’ case, so far, this only means they are not guilty of cheating.

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