Glenn Gibbons: The £48m shadow over Rangers

Craig Whyte chats with former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston and Dave King
Craig Whyte chats with former Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston and Dave King
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POSTERITY has a way of colouring historical figures with such purposeful application that the original image can be blurred by the layers of over-painting.

Examples abound, but the most extreme cases would certainly include those who argue to this day that the world was a better place for the presence of Adolf Hitler.

Of course, an extensive range of views and perspectives is both inevitable and understandable, as the most momentous events invariably involve so many different vested interests. And it would be a great rarity were the most significant happenings of any era not re-visited and re-examined by future analysts, able to make judgments from a seemly distance.

It is, however, equally unusual to witness the re-writing of history while the episode in question remains in a state of flux and a long way from resolution. Yet this curious phenomenon has been inescapable in the days since the First Tier Tax Tribunal found in Rangers’ favour, relieving the Ibrox oldco of a potential tax liability too burdensome to have been settled.

The verdict triggered a predictable, mildly hysterical reaction among those supporters who have felt that their club has been unjustifiably reviled over the past 18 months or so. The fact that, in practical terms, the outcome of the notorious Big Tax Case was virtually meaningless was understandably overtaken by the collective urge to snipe at the snipers.

But others who should know better rushed to make the preposterous claim that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, along with former owner Craig Whyte, was to blame for the financial devastation that took Rangers into administration and, ultimately, into liquidation.

Their argument was founded on the proposal that HMRC’s claim for back taxes on EBTs had cast an ominous shadow over the club – former chairman Alastair Johnston famously called it “the gorilla in the room” – and made it impossible to find a “good” buyer for the business. The result was that it had fallen into the hands of the thoroughly discredited Whyte.

To anyone whose senses had not been scrambled by the fever, it would be perfectly obvious that this ludicrous claim missed the most fundamental point of all. It is that, without the excesses and profligacy of the David Murray regime, Rangers would have had no need for a “good” buyer, but would very likely have appealed to any number of prospective owners with acceptable credentials.

Yet, in the tumult that has followed the publication of the findings of the FTTT, Murray has barely been mentioned, not just partially concealed under the new paint, but apparently airbrushed from the picture entirely. The “vested interests” referred to earlier do not, of course, merely include those Murray disciples (including his famously compliant media poodles) who now appear to be, metaphorically speaking, spiriting him away under cover of darkness.

Also numbered among them is Dave King, whose £20 million stake in Rangers dwindled to worthlessness as surely and as quickly as if he had thrown it down a well; and Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis of the English National Investment Company (ENIC), whose £40 million worth of shares in no time lost four-fifths of their value and were sold for a paltry £8 million mainly to prevent their suffering the same fate as King’s by reaching rock bottom.

Amid the clamour of the past ten days, the most striking aspect of the reaction to the tax tribunal’s declaration has been the near-total absence of anger among Rangers fans at the revelation that £48 million had been given to the beneficiaries of the EBT system. Not only did these rewards take the form of “loans” that 
appear extremely unlikely to be paid back, but they were made to some seriously moderate players; could it 
really have been a matter of urgency to pay £1.2 million – and this in 
addition to his wages – to keep Nacho Novo sweet?

It is a shock in itself that Ibrox supporters are not shocked to the point of staging demonstrations of their 
resentment at such wastefulness.

These are, after all, sums that could have saved the old institution from financial wounds that might easily have proved fatal. And they were being lavished long before any of us could even spell HMRC or Whyte with a Y.

Retrospective justice remains far from ideal

MOTHERWELL goalkeeper Darren Randolph’s two-match suspension by the Scottish FA for a deplorable attack on Hearts’ Callum Paterson last Saturday simply indicates that retrospective justice is as flawed as the instant variety. The outcome of the disciplinary action of the association’s compliance officer, Vincent Lunny, did, however, also confirm that the present system is a welcome improvement on its predecessor.

The imperfection derives from the detail that Lunny, quite properly, considers Randolph’s deliberate kick on Paterson as the goalkeeper rose to take a high ball as a red card offence. Were justice to be properly served, the teams would re-convene at Fir Park and re-start the match (of which a full 78 minutes remained) with a penalty kick to Hearts and Motherwell reduced to ten men.

The impracticalities of such a solution render the ideal impossible and it was for precisely that reason that the old disciplinary system did not allow an appeal against an ordering-off. It was not difficult to see and agree with the authorities’ argument about the impossibility of re-enacting what might have remained of a game (it could have been anything from one to 89 minutes) with the victim of the unjust dismissal back in position.

But, by not allowing an appeal, the travesty of an unwarranted sending-off was compounded by the victim’s having, in addition, to serve an automatic suspension.

Very few things in life have any right to be perfect and humans and their games are certainly not among them.