Aberdeen chief backs SFA decision to reject review of Rangers tax case

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne has backed the Scottish Football Association's decision to reject an independent review into the Rangers tax case but a national fans group has called the stance 'unhelpful'.

Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne. Picture: SNS

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The SFA wrote to member clubs on Thursday to announce it would not take part in any review proposed by the Scottish Professional Football League, claiming “raking over the coals” would damage the game.

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Both Milne and the Scottish Football Supporters Association have claimed the game’s image is at risk but each has a completely different view as to how to move forward.

The SFA decision is likely to strengthen resolve for a judicial review of how the football authorities handled the Rangers tax affair.

A group began taking legal advice after both the SFA and SPFL announced they would not be reopening disciplinary action into oldco Rangers’ use of Employee Benefit Trusts, after a Supreme Court ruled the club should have paid tax on about £50million of payments to players and other staff in the first decade of the century.

The SFSA, which has about 70,000 members, claimed on Friday it was “essential to have proper evaluation and scrutiny of the administration of our game to learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past”.

Chairman Simon Barrow added: “We believe it is unhelpful for the SFA to try to avoid such scrutiny at this time. We also believe that this highlights the weaknesses in the board structures at Hampden Park that need addressed in the future.

“It is our view that is essential for the SFA to reverse its decision and to start to repair some of the significant damage done to its image and reputation by being open honest and transparent to all its stakeholders.”

Milne later called for supporters to move on.

In a statement given to Press Association Sport, the Aberdeen chairman said: “I have said it previously and I will say it again: there has been too much negativity in Scottish football for the last few years and it is not healthy for the game.

“Both the SPFL and Scottish FA engaged top-level QCs to give advice on the situations presented to them and dealt with by them. We now must focus our collective efforts on taking Scottish football forward and stop dwelling on the past.

“It is my wish that we all work together to make this happen. The current situation does nobody any favours.”

However, SFA compliance officer Tony McGlennan is set to investigate whether Rangers should have been granted a licence by UEFA to enter European competition in 2011, following court testimonies over a separate £2.8million tax debt.

The letter stated: “In 2011, Oldco indicated there was an ongoing dispute with HMRC, but the evidence in the (former Rangers owner) Craig Whyte trial suggests that Oldco knew by early 2011 that it had no defence to HMRC’s claim.

“This matter has been referred to the compliance officer for further investigation following receipt of information of a written opinion from senior counsel.”

Rangers were fined £250,000 by the Scottish Premier League in 2013 over non-disclosure of the EBT payments following an investigation led by Lord Nimmo Smith.

However, the commission’s verdict that Rangers gained no “unfair competitive advantage” has come under serious scrutiny since the Supreme Court issued its final ruling.