Tom English: Unfolding Rangers’ Dave King saga

Dave King took in the action at East Fife yesterday, but it's unclear how he can get involved in Rangers without the say-so of the SFA. Picture: SNS
Dave King took in the action at East Fife yesterday, but it's unclear how he can get involved in Rangers without the say-so of the SFA. Picture: SNS
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TO VENTURE an opinion on the Dave King saga is to take a trip down memory lane to when Charles Green was in his pomp at Ibrox, blasting out his bombast to the delight of so many Rangers supporters.

Back then, if your message was questioning of Green then you got it in the neck on social media from the faithful. Challenging the Yorkshireman on his stewardship of the club – his daft and groundless boasts among other things – resulted in volleys of flak and accusations of hating Rangers. In Scotland, the messenger doesn’t just get shot, he gets hanged, drawn, quartered – and then shot.

Some Rangers folk don’t want to hear about King’s past history in South Africa. They don’t want to acknowledge that their would-be saviour was convicted of non-compliance by the tax authorities.

The word “convicted” appears in the official document that sets out the biggest tax case in South African history. King pleaded guilty to not paying massive amounts of tax. These are not opinions, these are facts. King was once branded a “glib and shameless liar” in a court in his adopted land. That, also, is a fact. The only reason he is not in jail is because he had the financial wherewithal to accept his guilt and then settle the whole business 
for somewhere in the region of 
£45 million. Anybody denying this is being wilfully ignorant.

Any journalist mentioning this stuff is branded an obsessive Rangers-hater by some among the club’s support, but what else is there to do? Are we to ignore King’s history? Are we turn a blind eye to some of the remarkable commentary from tax court judges in South Africa that painted King as a stranger to the truth in his epic battle with the revenue services?

All of this must be thrown into the pot when assessing King’s suitability for a place on the Rangers board. Some Rangers fans wish to interpret the analysis of King as a witch-hunt. No. It’s a merited debate. Given some of the chancers who have darkened the Ibrox door in the recent past then it is a debate that Rangers people should welcome instead of trying to silence.

There is nothing at all stopping King from investing in Rangers in the same way as Dermot Desmond does at Celtic. Desmond has power but no responsibility at Parkhead. That’s Peter Lawwell’s domain. As difficult as it may be to stomach, the role Desmond plays at Celtic is the role King really ought to be playing at Rangers, if the Easdale boys allow it, which they may not. Controlling everything from a distance. He wouldn’t need approval from AIM London Stock Exchange or the SFA or anybody else, bar the bus tycoons.

King is many things, rich and enigmatic being two of the characteristics of the man who arrived into Glasgow on Friday with the intention of preparing the ground for a return to Rangers. He has had six meetings – or will have had six by the time he departs for Johannesburg. On Friday he stated that he was supremely confident that there is, and will be, no impediment to his return to Rangers. He said that there would be no issues as regards his conviction on 41 counts of non-compliance in his tax affairs.

“I wouldn’t be here otherwise,” he said on Friday when asked if he thought he would be allowed by the authorities to take a seat on the Rangers board. “I’ve checked this fully with the relevant people.”

The relevant people? Who are the relevant people? It’s fair to say that King’s comments were interpreted as him having received the green light from the SFA and AIM. Relevant people must have included the football authorities, right? They’re pretty damn relevant to all of this. Without the say-so of the SFA, King cannot take a place on the Rangers board. Stewart Regan went on BBC Radio Scotland yesterday to refute the assertion that the SFA had given King any reassurance about anything.

He was pretty clear-cut in his view. Not only had nobody from King’s team been in touch seeking clarification, nobody from Rangers had been either. There has been no contact. Of his six meetings, none was with the SFA.

“I’ve checked this fully with the relevant people.” Apart from one of the two bodies that can actually stymie your grand plan, that is.

The SFA remains adamant that King has spoken to nobody about any of this since June 2012 and back then it was purely a conversation about procedures and protocols. There was no commitment given to him. No reassurance. Not even a hint, says the SFA, that he might pass a test, if it ever came to it. He might, of course. But Hampden is categoric about this. No guarantee has been given to King. So what is all this about having “checked this fully with the relevant people”?

Who has he checked it with?

Yesterday King sought to clarify what he meant. No, no, he said. He wasn’t referring to the SFA on Friday, he was referring to the AIM exchange. Make of that what you will, but people are entitled to say that King wasn’t exactly being clear when he said that he had spoken to the people who mattered.

Certainly, Regan took King to mean that the SFA had given him the green light because on Friday evening he picked up the phone and spoke to Brian Stockbridge about it. Stockbridge said he didn’t know what King was on about. Regan further reiterated that no reassurance has ever been given.

King has a long road to travel before he warrants some of the premature headlines that are being written about him. Sometimes you get the feeling that some observers have got his name the wrong around. Instead of Dave King it could be King Dave given some of the eulogies.

He has to do a deal with the Easdale boys, which will be a feat in itself. If that happens, and he wants to become chairman, he has to get the approval of AIM and the SFA. He will have to explain about his conviction in South Africa and how that could possibly square with fit and proper rules. He’s a formidable operator, King. And he’ll need to be.