AT the height of Rangers’ financial meltdown last year, Ally McCoist famously coined the phrase ‘We don’t do walking away’.
But as he reflects on the outcome of the SPL’s Independent Commission on the Ibrox club’s failure to fully disclose details of an Employee Benefit Trust scheme for players, McCoist has revealed he would not have remained as Rangers manager if a deal had been struck to strip them of five title wins.
That was the proposition put to newco chief executive Charles Green last summer as part of negotiations which would have allowed Rangers to remain in the SPL.
Green resisted, Rangers found themselves in the Third Division and, on Thursday, the threat of those championship successes during the EBT years being annulled was removed by Lord Nimmo Smith’s verdict.
For McCoist, who accompanied Green to many of the meetings last summer as part of the so-called five-way agreement on the Rangers crisis, title-stripping was a highly emotive issue which he regarded as non-negotiable.
“I would never have been the Rangers manager if we were going to accept titles being taken away from us,” said McCoist. “For me, that was a total non-starter. The club could have over-ruled me on that but, such was the strength of feeling on the subject, there was no way it was going to happen.
“There was categorically no way that I personally would have been responsible for any admission of guilt over title-stripping. The fact that the question was even asked was wrong. Charles Green had just arrived at the club, but he knew the depth of feeling about it. It was made clear within the club and when we met the supporters.
“At the meetings for the four or fiveway agreements, which were never agreed anyway, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing regarding title stripping.
“Why would you agree to something like that? Not when you are 100 per cent certain in your own mind that no wrong-doing has been committed in that way.
“There was wrong-doing by the oldco, but not in terms of cheating, which is what we were being accused of in terms of possible title-stripping. Gaining an unfair advantage, call it what you will. It is cheating and it is the worst thing in the world to accuse any sportsman of having done.”
McCoist insists he has no wish to play down the significance of the guilty verdict imposed by Lord Nimmo Smith for failure to disclose side-letter agreements with players, earning Oldco Rangers a £250,000 fine, but believes being cleared of gaining an unfair competitive advantage over their rivals from 2000 to 2011 was the most significant finding in the report.
“I’m not trying to disguise or water down anything we did wrong,” added McCoist. “I totally accept there were things we were guilty of and which we did wrong. But what we were accused of, and what we have been found guilty of, are like night and day. We have clearly been vindicated. The fact players were registered to play means that, consciously or unconsciously, there was no illegal playing of players. The contracts were legitimate, the titles and trophies were earned. That was the biggest thing we wanted to prove.”
McCoist is aware that Lord Nimmo Smith’s findings have not been universally welcomed throughout Scottish football but he believes the time has come for everyone concerned to put the issue firmly in the past.
“I would hope there would not be a lingering feeling about it for years,” said McCoist. “It is time for Scottish football to move forward, because the wider issue is that the game is not in a good place at the moment.
“Let’s not kid ourselves. When you look at Hearts, Dunfermline and ourselves, this is a communal problem. So I hope the decision doesn’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth which can’t be diluted. That is no use to anyone.
“Rangers have to move on as a club and also for the betterment of Scottish football. It was the result we wanted and we are happy with it.
“There has been a black cloud hanging over this club since we went through administration and liquidation but that has just about dispersed and we can see some light at the end of the tunnel now.
“When I woke up this morning, I had to ask myself what Rangers did to get placed in the Third Division. We went into administration for just £9 million of non-payment of PAYE in the end and that hurts me.
“I have no doubt the tax case taking so long put off potential buyers who could have saved the club from administration. Why did the SPL board form their commission ten years after the EBTs had been in our accounts from day one? Was it, by chance, that it was started as Rangers were going into administration? Those questions need answered.
“Whether people will be held to account for it is not for me to say. I will not be holding my breath for an apology. My job now is to move the team forward and get us into the next division.
“We will get back into the top flight and I will not hold any grudges against any of the teams who are in the SPL now. I know for a fact that a lot of them did not see putting Rangers out of the SPL as a must. A lot of clubs were rail-roaded down that track by certain individuals within the SPL, which is fine as that happens in boardrooms and committees.
“It is very difficult because I have been at a lot of meetings in the last 18 months where self-interest has been evident and understandable but there should be more to it than that.
“There is a bitterness with a lot of trivial stuff still going on. It is very much a case of ‘my dad is bigger than your dad’ and I don’t care.
“That kind of thing has been here for a very long time. We give a lot of credence to this kind of thing and people who promote that kind of that stuff, rather than people who have clear thoughts and hopes for the game. Scottish football has massive problems. We have to get our act together and I mean everybody within the game.”