16 Jun 2012

Walter Smith – questions for the Rangers’ legend

What goes around…comes around…

It is a familiar routine now at Rangers where men come in making big promises and they are ritually hailed as ‘heroes’ and ‘saviours’ and all the rest of it and few realistic questions are asked, few real facts offered.

And if one of the men has ‘legendary’ status in the club not only are the requisite questions not asked but it causes grave offence if anybody does begin to suggest a question or two. Tragically for Rangers we have seen it all before with Sir David Murray and the Big Fat Promises and living the dream and outspending everyone and everything at Parkhead.

Then along came Craig Whyte with poor old Sir Dave suddenly ‘duped’ by Craig’s vision and ‘off the radar wealth’ and all the rest of the now-traditional Alice-In-Wonderland guff. Except most of it rather less well-written than Lewis Carroll.

But you cannot question a legend. John Greig is a legend. Or so they tell me. So when Channel 4 News revealed he was on an EBT (Employee Benefit Trust) pointing out this simple facts caused squeals of pain and derision from some Ibrox fans unable to deal in facts. Because he is a ‘legend’ he is, somehow, beyond question.

All of which is not simply stupid. It’s dangerous. Dangerous for Rangers.

12 rangersbanner2 602 Rangers: the taxman will not walk away

So today, I shall be asking some questions of the latest legend/saviour/hero/Christ/delete as applicable. A man called Walter Smith who, they tell me is a legend. When legends wander in and out of Ibrox everyone should be asking questions.

So why did Walter Smith leave it so very late in the day to come over the hill like the cavalry with the backing of money-men like Jim McColl? We do not yet know. Not only that, Mr Smith’s group is already making the large promises, exactly the kind of pathology which has condemned Rangers to catastrophe in the past:

“I have been assisted by Jim McColl, Douglas Park and other prominent Scottish businessmen with a shared objective – that Rangers Football Club should be in the hands of Rangers people who will stabilise the club and protect it from future situations like we find ourselves in today”

So who or what are these ‘Rangers people’ and how are they going to be different from the Rangers people in the past which was so destructive for the club?

Well, weirdly, Walter Smith is of course one of those Rangers people of the past – hence the legend bit of course.

Walter Smith (Getty)

If he really is different then he should be coming clean right now and explaining with openness, candour and honesty exactly what HIS Knowledge of or involvement in Employee Benefit Schemes Was during and after his time at Rangers.


Because candour and transparency are precisely what is still lacking from all the ‘Rangers people’.

Campbell Ogilvie, still stunningly not on gardening leave although ‘hugely conflicted’ according to his own boss at the Scottish Football Association, is eventually brought before selected, house-trained journalists in Glasgow to explain his EBT benefits.

Eventually. Will the SFA allow him to be interviewed by Channel 4 News? Unlikely.

This is the mindset, the refusal to explain or declare until it’s deemed absolutely unavoidable which continues to characterise the way things are in and around Ibrox.

The men who walk away do so and do not explain from David Murray onwards through director after director. And here’s what’s really crazy – nobody says there’s even anything wrong (yet) in getting EBT money.

Walter Smith now needs to show the courage, integrity and simple cojones so lacking in all those who’ve left Rangers. He must simply explain what his financial involvement has been, thereby proving he really is the ‘new Rangers person’ this club needs – and not simply another old retread who cannot handle the difficult issues, any more than all the previous Rangers people who walked away.

Because the club’s liquidated.

That means the HMRC boys can take the gloves off and they will absolutely go over all the money and how it worked.

 And that means you Mr Smith, No hiding behind all the ‘I’m just a football man’ claptrap with which so many Rangers fans have been insulted. He asked for and got the big money from Sir David Murray. He bought – and true he sold too. The Revenue are going to come looking. They will not just stop at Murray, Whyte et al. They will follow the money. They’ve waited a long time for this. They are not going to let any one spoil their party now.

Around 2007-8 under Walter Smith and with David Murray’s largesse, Rangers Football Club was buying big and financing massive players’ wage bill through the EBT schemes. Thanks to BBC Panorama we now know players like Mendez and Davis were being paid in this way. Perhaps Walter Smith will just plead the tired old ‘ football man’ mantra but that is not likely to convince HMRC as it should not convince any journalist in or out of Glasgow right now.

That is just one instance where Mr Smith will come under scrutiny and one could pick many more. That is the significance of liquidation as I pointed out earlier this week. It will not go away. In truth it has not even begun. All Mr Smith has to do to create real credibility now, is to answer openly all questions people wish to put about his financial arrangements with Rangers.

Instead, what are we getting at the moment?  Silence on this and yet again a whole cacophony of noise about …legends…heroes…promises. As the noted Scotsman Macbeth had it:

“It is a tale told by an idiot

“Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Have Rangers fans not had their fill of idiocy? Do they not deserve a few facts?

Follow Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo

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