RANGERS’ hopes of getting out of administration in time to be eligible for European competition next season have been cast into doubt by the men put in charge of the troubled Ibrox club.
Administrators Duff & Phelps said at the weekend that they were unable to ascertain when a verdict on Rangers’ tax tribunal would be forthcoming – and without a speedy, positive outcome for the Scottish champions, they would be unable to play in Europe.
Rangers chairman Craig Whyte has claimed they could be out of administration within a month. However, that would be dependent not only on a positive verdict in the ‘big tax case’, but also on Duff & Phelps being able to clarify the financial picture at Ibrox.
They need to do that, and Rangers must publish audit accounts, by the end of March if the club are to meet Uefa’s licensing requirements. If they do not do so, they will miss out on a potential multi-million-pound income which could go a long way to repaying the £9 million currently owed to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
Speaking before Rangers’ 1-0 league defeat by Kilmarnock, Paul Clark of Duff & Phelps said he had received some information which would help explain what had gone on at Rangers since Whyte took control last May. The most positive news he could offer the club’s supporters, however, was the information that HMRC had no intention of trying to close the club down. If anything, the government body had been lenient in its dealings to date, and is ready to agree that Rangers pay off what they are due over several years.
“The message from HMRC is that they would like to work with us to make sure Rangers Football Club survives,” Clark said. “Their work before administration, it is fair to say, was very, very supportive of the club. If you set aside the big tax case, they agreed several pay arrangements which the club didn’t meet. There’s only so long you can fund a loss-making business through non-payment of taxes. The position was unsustainable. There comes a point where HMRC have to say enough is enough.”
Rangers face a bill of at least £49m if they lose the big tax case, though Whyte has claimed that amount could rise to £75m. However, if the club wins, its bill will be zero.
Yesterday, a key witness in the tribunal said there was still a very real chance that the club could win. Speaking in Scotland on Sunday, the source said there was nothing to suggest Whyte had been leaked word of a negative outcome for Rangers.
“Until a fortnight ago, it was widely reported that Rangers’ chances of winning the tribunal were 50-50,” the source said. “Now it is said they will lose. Yet nothing can have changed in that intervening period, with the tribunal ending last month. It has been said Whyte must have got wind of the outcome ahead of the club being placed in administration, but he can’t have done so. The opinion of the judges must remain strictly confidential until they make public their decision.
“If Rangers won the EBT case, their future should have been secure. Now it won’t be and, in that scenario, serious questions must be asked of Whyte.”
Celtic’s 5-0 romp at Hibs yesterday took them 17 points clear at the top of the SPL. They have two more games – against Dunfermline and Motherwell – before Rangers play again, meaning they could be 23 points ahead by the time Ally McCoist’s team play at Inverness on Sunday.
Celtic are already odds on to claim the championship before the split, and it is now a distinct possibility that they could claim it at Ibrox on 25 March.
However, Cetic striker Anthony Stokes said: “We’re not thinking about them, honestly. We’re just focusing on us.
“It doesn’t matter where or when we win the title. We just want to win the league.”