IN THE cast of characters in the recent history of Rangers, the unreliables have come to outweigh the upright with near Apocalyptic consequences. Paul Murray can be counted in the second category, a guy you could hang your hat on to do what is right for the club or, to put it another way, an endangered species in this brutal saga.
The former director has plenty to say about what is happening at Rangers. The damage caused by Craig Whyte, the desperate uncertainty created by Charles Green, the role of the administrators Duff and Phelps in allowing Green in the door in the first place and the changing fabric at Ibrox. Among other things, Murray suggests that when – or, perhaps, if – calm is restored in the club then a new constitution should be drawn up to make clear what Rangers ought to be about. Some of that has been lost along the way.
“Whoever is involved going forward has to look after the club’s interests first and their own interests second,” he says. “You are a custodian of the assets and you’re passing it through the generations. That’s your role. They should actually write a new constitution for Rangers which says that everybody who goes on the board has to agree to core values and if they don’t they can’t join. It sounds preposterous in some ways but I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
“All of these people arrive and talk about global brands. We’ve heard all this stuff before, for years and years and it’s not there. I’m a Rangers supporter and I’ll defend the club against anyone, but Rangers are not Manchester United, let’s be honest. It’s good to aspire to be, but we’re not. It’s a different financial landscape altogether. So all these guys who arrive and talk about global potential and brands...Get your feet back on the ground and look at the reality.
“The club should be run on a break-even basis based on domestic revenues. What you raise from domestic football you invest in the club and if you generate funds from European football you use that money to invest in the playing squad and the infrastructure. We should also get back to some of the values that were there under Bill Struth and William Wilton and the club’s founders where you had a bit of decorum and a bit of dignity in the club. It will be a long time to rebuild that after everything that’s happened, but we should try.”
Decorum and dignity, alien concepts in these dog-days when a fraudulent former owner is running amok, when a former chief executive and self-confessed liar embarrasses the club with a racist comment, when a now former commercial director is rumoured to be an abusive secret contributor to a website and when the entire institution is seemingly in jeopardy because of the actions of chancers.
BDO, Deloitte, Pinsent Masons are all delving into various strands of this horror show to try to determine who owns what and who ought to go on trial, and possibly, jail because of what has gone on at Ibrox.
“You have Charles Green who said he had no involvement with Craig Whyte and that was patently not correct,” says Murray. “The problem is that when you get found out on these things you then start to question other things. And one of the most important things in all of this is the SFA. The SFA sought very direct and specific assurances that Whyte was not involved and Charles Green gave them those assurances and I’m not sure that was actually correct.
“If Charles Green had a set of documents that proved that Whyte is lying then this thing would have been put to bed in two minutes, but it was then discovered that what Whyte was saying was broadly true. Then you start thinking, ‘Hang on, if that’s true then what else is true?’ I’m not saying he does, but say Whyte owns the assets but on the other side he’s just lost a multi-million pound claim to Ticketus. Are we saying that Ticketus would then own the assets by default? And if they own the assets they’ll want to be paid in order to give the assets back to Rangers, but how will the club do that bearing in mind that it had an IPO [Initial Public Offering of shares] that is potentially not valid? It’s a legal mess and it all needs to come out in the open, even if it’s bad news.”
Murray spoke to the Rangers’ liquidators, BDO, for the first time last November. BDO and the police, too. Their original intention was just to examine the circumstances surrounding Whyte’s purchase of the club from David Murray and his subsequent activity at Ibrox but now that web will have to widen, says the former director. Paul Murray, of course, was part of the Blue Knights consortium that was defeated by Green. The events of last year have never sat well with him. They don’t pass the “smell test”. In this regard he’s talking about the performance of the administrators Duff and Phelps, another key player in the wretched situation of today.
BDO asked Murray for his thoughts on Duff and Phelps. He said he was very surprised that they were allowed to take the job in the first place given that one of their partners, David Grier, was involved with Whyte in the takeover of the club and was one of the people alongside Whyte on the day they marched triumphantly through the door at Rangers with the acclamation of the support ringing in their ears.
“Then lo and behold, Duff and Phelps get appointed administrators,” says Murray. “Every insolvency practitioner I spoke to in Scotland was absolutely staggered that they were made administrators. They had a conflict of interest. It’s been reported that the only time that people within Rangers ever saw Craig Whyte panic was when he thought Duff and Phelps would not be appointed. That sums up the whole thing.
“When I was involved in getting a bid together last year the administrators said to me almost every day for four months that HMRC would be sympathetic in terms of a CVA as long as Whyte wasn’t involved, that they were sensitive to Rangers socially and culturally, that I wasn’t to worry about it. That wasn’t the case because HMRC said later they never had any intention of voting for the CVA. And Duff and Phelps also said to me, every day almost, don’t worry about Craig Whyte, he’s an irrelevance and that was patently not right. It doesn’t pass the smell test.
“Duff and Phelps’ conduct will be looked at by BDO. They had a conflict of interest at the start and the role of David Grier has to be looked at very closely and his relationship with Craig Whyte and the allegations that Craig Whyte has made in terms of Sevco 5088 and Sevco Scotland and all these transfers. Pinsent Masons will be looking at that as well.”
Murray stated last weekend that there are only two people on the current Rangers board that he trusts without reservation – the chairman Malcolm Murray and his old chum, Walter Smith. Malcolm Murray, though, needs to talk more, he says. “Malcolm has said that the money from the IPO is still there and there’s no cause to worry on that front and I trust Malcolm. He has Rangers’ interests at heart, no question, but I do think that he ought to communicate more with the media. The problem with this is that there has been a massive vacuum created and when you have a vacuum you have gossip and innuendo and rumour and anxiety and panic and so I think he needs to be a bit more communicative. I know it’s a public company and there are certain restrictions but that doesn’t prevent other public companies being open and transparent in terms of telling customers (or supporters) what is going on. That’s something he should do a bit more of.”
In the interests of transparency he would like an independent chairman sitting above the current commission, a retired QC or chartered accountant that has no link to Rangers and who the commission would report to. It probably won’t happen, but he thinks it should. “The issue is not just about being independent but about being seen to be independent.”
This was a concerned Rangers man talking, a former director but above all, a fan. Just like John Brown is a fan. “Bomber” re-iterated his views on the Green takeover on radio during the week, saying that he knew Green was a “conman” and that he went to key personnel inside Ibrox and told them what he knew, but they did nothing about it. He spoke to Walter Smith and Ally McCoist. Nobody did anything.
“I know John quite well,” says Murray. “He’s a great guy who cares for the club. When I saw him giving that speech outside Ibrox last summer I was a bit bemused. I had the same concerns about Charles Green. The circumstances surrounding Charles Green suddenly appearing on the scene were very, very strange. So I had concerns about who was involved with him, but I had no proof. I had a high level of suspicion about Duff and Phelps but I didn’t have documentary proof that Craig Whyte was involved.
“So John stood up and was quite specific about things but after the speech there was nothing produced in evidence. John didn’t step forward and say I have four documents that prove that Whyte is still involved in this thing. Had he done that it would have been a completely different story, but he didn’t, for whatever reason. That was probably why Walter and Ally didn’t do anything. What action could they have taken? You can’t make allegations without documentation. I’ve spoken to John subsequent to that. It might turn out that he was absolutely right. The frustration is that if he had something at the time then he probably ought to have stepped forward with it.”
The only people that need to step forward now are Deloitte, Pinsent Masons and BDO. After two years in the fog, Murray longs for the clarity their reports will bring.