There was plenty of contradiction to be found among the words of the Rangers chairman, but in the end does it really matter? asks Craig Fowler.
Wasn’t it time to move on?
Many have suggested King performed a complete 180 by issuing the provocative statement a mere three days after urging the SPFL to “move on” as “Scottish football has suffered enough”. This might not be entirely accurate. The latest statement was attributed to King. It was even titled ‘Dave King Statement’. Monday’s issue was called ‘Rangers International Football Club Statement’. It’s possible, even plausible, that someone else drew up the previous statement, before King decided it wasn’t enough and there was a few things he wanted to get off his chest.
But hadn’t King seen the previous statement? If he wasn’t contradicting himself then he was at least contradicting someone. The motivation is the same: Rangers want to keep their titles and don’t want this issue to drag on further. The tone is very different. While the first statement may be a freezing cold, icy grip handshake of friendship and forgiveness, at least it’s there. In King’s statement he’s basically removing his jacket and saying “come ahead”.
Sporting advantage – yes or no?
From Thursday’s statement: “First, irrespective of the final outcome of the tax appeal (which might take several more years) the football team had no advantage from any tax savings from the scheme put in place by the Murray Group.”
King goes on to suggest that money saved through EBTs helped the shareholders and the company, not the team. And that if EBTs weren’t used then the same people would have reached down a little deeper into their pockets, covering the gap for the first-team budget.
He also suggests players who wouldn’t sign without EBTs – which, let’s face it, if they were still going to get the same money regardless, as King suggests, no player would care about how the cash was arriving in their bank accounts – then they would sign players of equal quality for the same money.
It’s not the most water tight of defences but you at least see where he is coming from, even if you don’t believe it.
However, it is somewhat at odds with comments he made three years ago in an interview with the Daily Mail.
Speaking in 2012, he said: “With regard to EBTs, I was on the board so I have to take some responsibility. And I follow the logic of the argument that if we lose the tax case then we probably gained some competitive advantage.”
Fair enough he’s busy earlier in the week and misses the previous statement. But this is something he said himself. Why not at least mention it? Try to explain. ‘I was misquoted’ is a classic. ‘Misinterpreted’ is another. He could have said he was under a certain amount of stress; didn’t know what he was saying at the time; realised the error of his ways. Anything!
Who are those guys?
King: “Finally, it is extraordinary that representatives of other Scottish clubs – who admit the damage done to Scottish football by Rangers’ removal from the Premier League – should even wish to re-engage with this issue.
“It is time those individuals, who represent other clubs, recognise their legal and fiduciary responsibilities to their own clubs and shareholders rather than submit to the uninformed ramblings of a few outspoken fans to whom attacking Rangers is more important than the wellbeing of their own clubs.”
Who are these representatives? Everybody has been very quiet on the issue for a number of reasons. You have to feel pretty strongly to put yourself in such a position if you work for another club, because a certain amount of grief will come your way.
There have been Scottish football personalities who have called for titles to be stripped, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call Darren O’Dea a representative of Celtic.
Of those who are representatives, it’s likely King has heard some whispers of people trying to influence the process and he’s lashing out in return. Or he’s sending out a warning before anyone actually does call for titles to be stripped.
Does any of the contradiction matter?
Of course not. In normal business practice, King’s statement would have been a PR disaster. But we all know football clubs are not normal businesses.
If Starbucks brought out a statement claiming any allegedly dodgy practices (mind, the Big Tax Case could go to another appeal) in the past gave them no advantage, the press would vilify them and their customer base might start heading to Costa instead. No Rangers fan is going to Celtic Park as a result of this. Quite the opposite in fact.
The Rangers support are, at best, frustrated and, at worst, angry about the BTC going against them and this whole debate starting up again. The last thing a football fan wants to hear is that a trophy they celebrated their team winning, with the wondrous blissful joy that comes with being a happy football fan, was gained through any sort of unfair means.
King has now stood up for those people. Even if he has made himself look foolish, the Rangers fans will be behind him more for doing so.