SPFL ‘a million miles away’ from deciding on Rangers titles

Neil Doncaster is chief executive of the SPFL Board, which held an emergency conference call yesterday. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Neil Doncaster is chief executive of the SPFL Board, which held an emergency conference call yesterday. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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THE Scottish Professional Football League board has been given a “factual update” following oldco Rangers’ tax battle defeat by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

League officials were not due to meet until later this month but yesterday held an emergency conference call to discuss the fall-out from the latest twist in the long-running Ibrox saga.

Rival fans have demanded Rangers are stripped of titles won between 2001 and 2009 after three Court of Session judges ruled a number of companies run by Sir David Murray, including the now-liquidated oldco Rangers, failed to pay millions of pounds in tax.

Murray’s Rangers used Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) to boost the salaries of dozens of former first-team players and staff.

However, neither Murray’s firms nor BDO, the liquidators currently working on behalf of the oldco’s’ creditors, have yet confirmed whether they intend to appeal the ruling to the UK Supreme Court, meaning angry supporters will have to wait for the SPFL’s official response to the so-called “Big Tax Case”.

A spokesman for the body would only say: “The SPFL can confirm that its board held a short conference call this afternoon to allow for a factual update on the recent decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session.”

However, a league source revealed that yesterday 
afternoon’s call would be a “million miles away” from deciding whether Rangers would be subjected to title stripping or other sporting sanctions.

The Scottish Premier League, the SPFL’s forerunner, asked Lord Nimmo Smith to investigate the use of EBTs by Rangers and whether they breached league rules two years ago.

He ruled the use of side letters to players and staff detailing the EBT payments did break league regulations and fined the oldco £250,000 as well as ordering it to pay £150,000 in costs. The Ibrox newco are challenging attempts to force them to pay the fine.

However, at the time of Lord Nimmo Smith’s ruling, EBT payments were not considered to have been taxable earnings, a matter which led the Lord Nimmo to rule that Rangers had not received a sporting advantage by making the tax-free payments.

Now that the Court of Session has ruled that the payments should have been taxed, the eight-man SPFL board are under pressure to look again at Lord Nimmo Smith’s report.

The SPFL Board is made up of chief executive Neil Doncaster, chairman Ralph Topping, Duncan Fraser (Aberdeen), Eric Riley (Celtic), Stephen Thompson (Dundee United), Eric Drysdale (Raith Rovers), Mike Mulraney (Alloa Athletic) and Ken Ferguson (Brechin City).

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