Celtic press SFA for inquiry into Rangers financial saga

Celtic are still pressing the Scottish FA into agreeing a probe into the roles played by governing bodies in the run-up to, during, and after Rangers' administration and subsequent liquidation in 2012.

Peter Lawwell wrote to the Scottish FA in May 2012. Picture: John Devlin

According to The Times, the Scottish FA are still to respond to Celtic’s request from two months ago for a full judicial inquiry.

The newspaper is reporting that Celtic are of the opinion that ‘more stringent rules, checks and balances’ should be put in place partly to ‘restore confidence in the Scottish FA’ but also to ensure that Rangers or any other club are unable to accumulate such insurmountable debts in the future.

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Rangers fans demonstrate outside Ibrox in February 2012. Picture: Jane Barlow

The Times also reports that a letter sent by Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell to Scottish FA chief Stewart Regan in the spring of 2012 called for a judicial review of the saga but also pressed for title-stripping and the removal of national cup victories between 1999 and 2010 to be included as part of sanctions against Rangers.

Between 1999 and 2010, Sir David Murray had utilised the Discounted Option Scheme, and Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs). The club admitted liability for the former but not the latter.

Using the two schemes allowed Rangers to make tax-free payments to players, staff, management and former employees as ‘loans’ or discretionary bonuses.

Murray took more than £6 million worth of net payments in EBTs while the likes of club captain Barry Ferguson (£2.5m), goalkeeper Stefan Klos (£2m), Croatian striker Dado Prso (£1.9m), manager Alex McLeish (£1.7m) and Dutch boss Dick Advocaat (£1.5m) were among the other major beneficiaries.

Rangers fans demonstrate outside Ibrox in February 2012. Picture: Jane Barlow

Celtic were of the opinion that the involvement of players who had benefited from the EBT scheme in league and cup matches during the 11-year time period should render the club’s results void, if it was proven that the schemes had been misused.

In a letter sent on May 25 2012, Lawwell wrote: “If the allegations of ‘double contracts’ for players are true, and a breach of SPL and/or SFA rules is established, the eligibility of those players to have competed in domestic league and cup competitions will be called into question.

“In turn, the integrity of the football results achieved by using those players would by necessity also fall into question.

“Any wrongdoing then established would have to be subjected to fair and proportionate sanctions, including retrospectively, if appropriate.

“However, at a higher level, in our opinion this whole affair is causing lasting damage to the reputation and integrity of Scottish football.”

The letter goes on to call for the Scottish FA to ‘act decisively’, saying: “The initial inquiry should now be reconvened or a new independent panel led by a judge or senior lawyer should be formed to investigate and report upon the Rangers EBT issues and consider whether there has been any further breach of the Association’s rules, including those in dispute.”

The letter continues: “The roles of individuals (past and present) subject to the jurisdiction of the Association shoulod also be examined. This should take place as quickly as possible, irrespective of the SPL’s own investigations.”

In July this year, five Supreme Court judges ruled that EBT payments were in fact liable for tax. Rangers had initially denied the existence of letters to players about extra payments - most of them performance-based - to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the football authorities but they were discovered during a police raid on Ibrox.

Murray admitted in court earlier this year that the EBTs gave Rangers the chance to bring in players that would otherwise be unaffordable.

Following the Supreme Court’s announcement, the Scottish FA brought out a statement saying they would take no action, based on legal advice.

The SPFL board - which includes Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson - has also called on the Scottish FA to agree to an impartial probe into how the ruling bodies approached Rangers’ financial saga but is also still waiting for a response.