Celtic stand firm over Rangers title stripping

CELTIC have moved to underline their contrasting stance to Rangers chairman Dave King’s claim that the Ibrox club received no sporting advantage from their use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs).

Celtic released a statement through the club website. Picture: John Devlin

Celtic reiterated their position less than 24 hours after King released a defiant statement warning other clubs and Scottish football authorities against stripping titles from Rangers. The issue has been reignited after Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs won its appeal against previous rulings over the contentious EBT payments made between 2001 and 2010.

The Parkhead club released a short statement “in response to considerable interest from supporters, shareholders and media representatives”.

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The statement read: “We are aware of last week’s Court of Session ruling, which we note is subject to potential appeal.

Celtic released a statement through the club website. Picture: John Devlin

“Celtic’s position on this issue is consistent – that this remains a matter for the courts of law and also the Scottish football authorities whose rules are intended to uphold sporting integrity.

“In 2013, we expressed surprise – shared by many observers and supporters of the game – over the findings of the SPL Commission that no competitive or sporting advantage had resulted. That remains our view.”

An independent commission comprised of judge Lord Nimmo Smith and two QCs, which was appointed by the Scottish Premier League, issued a £250,000 fine to oldco Rangers in February 2013 for their failure to disclose dozens of payments to players. But the commission stopped short of stripping titles as it ruled that Rangers gained no “sporting advantage”.

However, last week three Court of Session judges argued that players would have taken their services elsewhere had the scheme not been in place, as they ruled in favour of HMRC.

The judges said: “If bonuses had not been paid, the employment would have been significantly less attractive. Any contrary argument seems an affront to common sense.”

That prompted calls for the Scottish Professional Football League to reopen the case and its board held discussions over the ruling last week. Rangers warned against that on several occasions, culminating in King’s statement on Thursday, which said they would fight any fresh attempt to strip titles.

He claimed the team gained no advantage from the £47 million tax-free payments as shareholders would have funded expensive signings anyway.

King – who was on the board throughout the period until the club was consigned to liquidation – had previously apologised for the tax scheme and was quoted in June 2012 as saying: “I follow the logic of the argument that if we lose the tax case then we probably gained some competitive advantage.”