Rangers takeover: After 140 illustrious years, now the ignominy of liquidation

HMRC will vote against a Company Voluntary Arrangement proposal. Picture: PA
HMRC will vote against a Company Voluntary Arrangement proposal. Picture: PA
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ONE hundred and forty years of football history were brought to an end yesterday when Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) announced it will not support a bid to take Rangers out of administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

English businessman Charles Green had hoped to secure the agreement of HMRC and other creditors to his CVA proposal at a meeting to be held tomorrow.

Instead, HMRC’s announcement means that Rangers, who played their first games in 1872 and have been Scottish champions a record 54 times, will go into liquidation.

Mr Green has already agreed to buy the club’s assets, such as Ibrox Stadium and the Murray Park training complex, from administrators Duff & Phelps.

They have been running the club since 14 February, when previous chairman Craig Whyte put it into administration. Mr Green will form a new company, or “newco”, which will take the Rangers name and continue playing at Ibrox.

But under European football rules, the newco will not be allowed to play in continental competition for three seasons, and its future in the top flight of the Scottish game is also in doubt.

Scottish Premier League regulations state that any transfer of a club’s share from one company to another must be approved by at least eight of its 12 members.

Rangers will vote for their continued existence in the SPL, but officials at several other clubs have already stated their opposition.

There is also growing discontent among supporters of other clubs, who want a newco Rangers to be told to apply for membership of the Scottish Football League, where, if admitted, it would have to start off in Division Three.

An SPL general meeting must be called to vote on the issue, and there is a 14-day notice period.

Even if the new Rangers is voted into the SPL by member clubs, it could still be kicked out of the league structure altogether by an appeals tribunal due to be convened by the national governing body, the Scottish Football Association.

An SFA investigation into Rangers’ conduct under Mr Whyte imposed a 12-month transfer ban which was later ruled illegal by a judge. As a result, the tribunal hearing, the date of which has yet to be announced, will consider three other possible sanctions: suspension from the Scottish Cup, suspension from the league, or expulsion from the league.

However Rangers, who took the legal action against the transfer ban, could change their minds and accept it, knowing that would mean the other sanctions could not be applied.

Mr Green’s CVA proposal offered creditors a maximum of 9p in the pound.

HMRC is owed £21.5 million by Rangers – although that amount could treble if a tax tribunal held earlier this year (known as “the big tax case”) finds against the club.

In a statement explaining its decision to oppose the CVA, HMRC said: “A liquidation provides the best opportunity to protect taxpayers, by allowing the potential investigation and pursuit of possible claims against those responsible for the company’s financial affairs in recent years. A CVA would restrict the scope of such action…

“So the sale is not being undermined, it simply takes a different route.

“Liquidation will enable a sale of the football assets to be made to a new company, thereby ensuring that football will continue at Ibrox.

“It also means that the new company will be free from claims or litigation in a way which would not be achievable with a CVA. Rangers can make a fresh start.”

Paul Clark of Duff & Phelps explained what would happen as a result. “As soon as the CVA proposal is formally rejected, Mr Green’s consortium will move towards completion of an acquisition of the business and assets of the Rangers Football Club plc,” he said. “That transaction will be completed within a few days.

“The sum payable to creditors will be £5.5m, most of which has already been paid over to us by the Green consortium.”

Mr Green said that he and the other members of the consortium would strive to revive the stricken club.

“The solemn promise I can make to Rangers fans today is that this club will continue as Rangers Football Club and will continue to play at Ibrox Stadium. We will be liaising with the football authorities at the earliest opportunity to establish our position regarding the SPL.

“I, along with my investors who believe that Rangers can have a bright future, will fight tooth and nail to ensure the club recovers from this catastrophic phase in its proud history.”

“The fans deserve better and we will work tirelessly to realise their ambitions.”

Ticket firm Ticketus, owed almost half of the club’s £55m confirmed debt, had not decided on its approach to the CVA before yesterday’s announcement but it plans to pursue Mr Whyte for the shortfall.