Leader: Ways must be found to keep Rangers in top flight
SO WE are to witness the end of Rangers Football Club as presently constituted.
That is the stark reality of the decision taken by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs not to agree to a company voluntary agreement proposed by owner-in-waiting Charles Green, a move which will lead inevitably to the club going into liquidation.
For Rangers fans and for Mr Green, who had hoped to get agreement to the CVA, the tough stance taken by HMRC in rejecting a deal which would have given creditors, including the taxman, some 9p in the pound, will be seen as hammering another nail into the coffin of a once-mighty Scottish footballing institution.
Whatever fans of other teams may say, it is hard not to feel sympathy for the ordinary Rangers supporters, the people who attended the games and made the club it what it is. They have had no say in the financial wheeling and dealing which has landed their club in this sorry mess. Yet, however despondent they may feel, they should remember that Rangers will never lose its proud history, regardless of what name the owner company carries.
While some may criticise HMRC for refusing to go along with the CVA, there is a harsh unyielding logic to its stance. Every day, to maximise the return to the taxman, HMRC rejects plans for CVAs from companies where there is evidence of “non- compliance with their tax liabilities”. Why Rangers be treated any differently? It should not.
Leaving aside the so-called “big tax case”, which centres on trust funds created to avoid paying tax on players’ salaries during David Murray’s ownership, HMRC will want further to pursue, among other avenues, the money it is owed by now former owner, Craig Whyte. It will have calculated it is likely to bring in more money through liquidation. It is HMRC’s role to best recover taxes. It can take no view on wider issues.
The SPL, on the other hand, has a different role. As a legally constituted governing body, its 12 member clubs have to decide whether a “newco” Rangers, effectively a new club, can remain in Scotland’s senior league. In terms of the letter of the SPL law, the case for insisting Rangers start again at the Third Division is a strong one. It went into administration. By operating in the way it did, Rangers had an unfair advantage. There is an argument that it has not upheld the principles of sporting integrity.
All that may be true, but the SPL is not HMRC. It has a wider responsibility to ensure the future of football in Scotland. It must recognise the reality that without one of the two big clubs, takings for all 12 teams will drop because of smaller crowds and a reduction in television revenues. Difficult as it may be for fans of other clubs to swallow, to keep Scottish football at even the level it is at today, the pragmatic decision for the 11 other members of the SPL is to find a way for a “newco” Rangers to continue in the top league.
Swinney sets a bad example
Scottish Enterprise’s statement of its aims is commendably brief for a quasi-public sector body. The organisation exists to “work with businesses across Scotland to stimulate economic growth and improve the business environment”.
Although there have been debates in the past over whether taxpayer’ money, some £200 million, should be spent promoting business, the economic development body now enjoys cross-party backing.
This consensus should make the job of SE’s chief executive, Lena Wilson, easier. With the support of the SNP government and opposition politicians, she can lead the drive to stimulate growth and create much- needed jobs.
Last night, that cross-party agreement was in danger of breaking down as opposition parties attacked Ms Wilson’s decision to take on a role as a non-executive director with an FTSE-100 company, earning £55,000 a year on top of the £200,000 she receives from SE.
The issue is not whether it may be good for the enterprise body, and therefore Scotland, that Ms Wilson gains private sector experience with a major company – she may well gain valuable insight – but rather its impact on pay policy.
Finance secretary John Swinney had made much of banning bonuses in the public sector and yet he agreed to Ms Wilson taking on this extra job with its substantial pay package.
Ms Wilson may have had noble motives in taking on this role, but by accepting the additional money she, and Mr Swinney in giving his approval, have set a bad example at a time when most public sector workers pay is being frozen or cut.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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