We asked readers of The Scotsman: ‘Should Rangers be stripped of their titles won between 2001 and 2010’ following Wednesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court in favour of HMRC over the club’s use of Employee Benefit Trusts.
By yesterday afternoon, more than 26,000 readers had responded by voting in our online poll. Of those, 69 per cent said the club should lose their titles won during the EBT period while 31 per cent voted No.
Here, we invite our regular Fanzone contributors to have their say.
The use of EBTs by Rangers has two implications: (1) It was a method used to avoid tax on wages paid to players, allowing them to employ those of a calibre they otherwise couldn’t afford, thus creating an uneven playing field. It was financial doping. (2) It was a deliberate failure to disclose these arrangements to the SFA, in breach of player registration requirements, designed to hide these payments from HMRC.
Multiple other sports have provided the lead on dealing with historic doping, from cycling to athletics. The consequences of illegally gained advantages are clear. In Scotland, the fielding of irregularly registered players leads to forfeited results. Fans will not stand by and let the SFA deal with this by living up to its acronym and doing SFA, as it is trying to.
Since the collapse and reincarnation of Rangers in 2012 all decisions have been made in interest of one thing: money. From the botched attempt to parachute the reformed club into the Championship, to the terms of reference of the LNS enquiry and the five-way agreement, the “blue” pound was seemingly worth more than others.
The ruling that Rangers’ use of EBTs was illegal means 14 trophies were won and 1.8 million tickets sold for games in which players were illegally and deliberately mis-registered. Those who administered that scheme are still involved in the game and those who have turned a blind eye are also sweeping it under the carpet.
For this period to be correctly recorded the game must take notice of not just the blue pound. Transparency is the only justice.
31st May, 2003. After 93 years of hurt, we had a chance to end our Scottish Cup hoodoo against a treble-chasing Rangers side. Despite matching them throughout, an Amoruso header halfway through the second half was enough to seal the treble. With so many glaring chances going astray, it was heartbreak.
Although it grates on me to imagine what could have been, I have to remind myself that my own club were not exactly paragons of financial prudence. We and many others were lucky to avoid Rangers’ eventual fate.
Would being told 14 years after the fact that our cup final defeat was scratched from the record, or even awarded to us, change my memories? I’d rather we ensured the whole sorry episode never happened again.
So the “big hoose” has lost the “big tax case” and once again football is being held up to the spotlight of sporting integrity.
It’s an interesting debate as my club were denied silverware during the EBT years. The sporting advantage argument is based on the premise that Rangers could play and pay players that, had they paid the correct tax, they wouldn’t have been able to afford.
Livingston, Hearts and, to a lesser extent Gretna, won trophies with a backdrop of debt (including tax) that would ultimately come back to haunt them. The difference is that Rangers evaded tax deliberately and gained an unfair advantage. As in athletics for drug cheats, stripping of titles is the correct punishment.
It’s impossible for me to feel any sympathy for Rangers. By not paying their taxes, they cheated by hiring players they couldn’t otherwise afford and won trophies under false pretences. This ruined the Scottish game as other clubs spent money trying to challenge them and they cheated the taxpayer out of millions of pounds.
Lord Nimmo Smith’s baffling verdict that they gained no sporting advantage has been shown to be wrong.League titles and cups won during the financial doping years should be expunged from the record books.Sporting integrity needs to be maintained.
Footballers may disagree and say that trophies were won on the park, but I don’t think they can get away with this. Letting the records stand would be to condone what was done.
So the “Big Tax Case” has been settled in the way we all probably expected, victory for HMRC.
Other clubs may fear the consequences but what of Rangers? The debate about old club and new club is great ammunition to goad their fans, but for some it is more than that, and the question of which club was liquidated and which has the history and the trophies is real.
The other issue is if Old Rangers broke the tax laws should they lose trophies won in that period? We all have opinions but some also have agendas. If the SFA stripped them of cups, no trophy would be awarded but SPL titles could in theory remove all RFC results and see who would win. For me what’s done is done and risking legal action helps no one.
Celtic have most to feel aggrieved about following the Supreme Court’s confirmation of Rangers’ financial cheating. But what about all the other clubs who may have been relegated, denied cup wins or European spots, or simply the pleasure of victory, due to results during the Ibrox club’s years of impropriety?
Of course the titles should be stripped, along with any other trophies “won” during that period, but they should be left void as a warning from history of the consequences of greed in the pursuit of glory. It won’t happen, due to lack of courage and will, but Rangers’ success in that period is now so irretrievably tainted it can never again be referred to other than as a shameful epitaph to the ultimate fate of Rangers FC.
Inverness Caley Thistle
For the fans of so-called “diddy” clubs it’s been a “popcorn week”. First Rangers were dumped out of Europe and then the “big tax case” found in favour of HMRC.
So when asked to write this piece from an ICT point of view I thought it would be easy. How wrong I was. I did a bit of a straw poll among fellow ICT fans on Twitter re Rangers and found a theme in most replies. Most are fed up with hearing about this sorry saga and want to move on. There is also a general feeling that cheats should not prosper, but mainly a concern that Scottish football needs to get its house in order re governance and that a level playing field is needed for all clubs. There was also a lot of scepticism regarding that happening.
Many weird and wonderful things make up Scottish football but sadly the need for fans to become experts in tax law is not one of them.
The Supreme Court ruling that Rangers were indeed “at it” with their financial arrangements is unlikely to surprise anyone outside Ibrox.
However, while fans of one club are likely to be searching for pitchforks and burning torches, the majority of the rest are underwhelmed.
The apathy towards justice comes not from indifference but wide acceptance that the SFA is not fit for purpose.
Those running Scottish football have regularly proved to be lacking competence. If you don’t expect them to run a competition properly, why get overly wound up about who wins?
The Supreme Court’s verdict on the Rangers tax case should have come as no surprise to anyone. The facts were laid bare if you read about the case and understood the tax laws. What has been more of a surprise has been the lack of remorse shown by the old club and their fans.
They now face two options as far as I can see: either admit and face up to their club’s wrongdoing or blame the old club and admit they are a new one. The trophies that the old Rangers won were obtained through cheating the sport. There’s not a chance that guys like De Boer, Nerlinger, Prso etc would have come to Scotland. In my eyes all trophies during that era should be wiped from the record books and those complicit in the SFA should be gone as well.
Rangers should have already nipped the title - stripping nonsense in the bud. At the end of day Rangers were fined by Lord Nimmo Smith for the use of side letters. That should be the end of it. Rangers won the trophies during those years on the field of play. It’s not Rangers’ fault the rest of the clubs couldn’t beat us on the park.
Furthermore, Celtic won more league titles during that period than we did, so the notion of cheating is utter nonsense. We have been punished. It’s finished. If anyone comes after titles, all because of their clubs’ own incompetence on the park, Scottish football should be stopped.
It’s absolute nonsense driven by hatred and jealousy. Have you ever seen an EBT or side letter score a goal or save a penalty? Exactly.
It was no surprise to hear calls for action following the Supreme Court judgement. There will be no action taken by the football authorities,and pursuing any action would be meaningless and a mere distraction, wasting time and money.
Sadly, the impact of the judgement in HMCR’s favour will affect the other creditors who will now suffer significantly more from the financial mismanagement that resulted in insolvency. Contrast that with the beneficiaries of the scheme, who it is thought will be unaffected.
There are bigger problems the football authorities need to address to help clubs achieve qualification for the European group stages aside from throwing money at it. Don’t hold your breath.