THREE days after issuing a statement urging Scottish football to “move on”, Rangers chairman Dave King has re-ignited the debate on the potential for title-stripping by issuing a threat to any opponent who dares question his club’s history.
King came out fighting yesterday following a previous statement, released on Monday, where Rangers claimed the issue of whether the club’s history remained theirs or not was “beyond debate”.
If the history of our club comes under attack we will deal with it in the strongest manner possibleDave King
Using even more intemperate language, King warned: “If the history of our club comes under attack we will deal with it in the strongest manner possible.”
He accused others of wanting to “re-write history” out of bitterness. He said that if the question of title-stripping continues to be debated – the Scottish
Professional Football Board last week held discussion about the implications of the “big tax case” ruling – then “we will deal with it in the strongest manner possible”.
It is not clear the exact course of action King is threatening should debate continue on the matter. Given that the subject has preoccupied Scottish football in recent years, continuted discussion seems inevitable.
The South African-based Rangers chairman added: “[We] will hold to account those persons who have acted against their fiduciary responsibilities to their own clubs and to Scottish football.”
King has been perturbed by the continued fall-out from last week’s decision by the Court of Session to uphold HMRC’s appeal that tax ought to have been paid on Employee Benefits Trusts, a policy pursued by the now liquidated “oldco” Rangers between 2001 and 2010 to attract top players to the club.
BDO, the Rangers oldco’s liquidators, have yet to signal whether they intend to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court.
Lord Nimmo Smith, who chaired an independent commission launched by what was then known as the Scottish Premier League into the issue of sporting advantage gained by Rangers, declared two years ago that the Ibrox club had not gained an on-pitch benefit.
But three Court of Session judges last week argued that a number of players would have taken their services elsewhere had it not been for the £48 million tax-free payments.
Former Celtic player Darren O’Dea very publicly branded Rangers “cheats” earlier this week and called for the titles won between 2001 and 2010 to be stripped from the Ibrox club.
But King has ridiculed this, blaming other teams for not being good enough to beat Rangers at the time. As for the unfair advantage complaint, King reasons that even if Rangers had not been able to offer the attractive salaries made possible by the EBT scheme, he is confident other players of “equal ability” but conveniently lower wage demands would have been unearthed from somewhere.
But King’s take on the matter has not been consistent. He has previously apologised for the tax scheme and was quoted in 2012 as saying: “I follow the logic of the argument that if we lose the tax case then we probably gained some competitive advantage”. However, he has now adopted a different stance.
“This is a misguided attempt (that will ultimately fail) to rewrite history and defeat Rangers off the park when their teams could not do so on the park at the time,” he said. “The history of many other clubs would have to be rewritten if this illogical argument was to be consistently applied.
“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. Throughout the period in question the shareholders were committed to providing funding to the club.
“The tax scheme may have reduced the need for shareholders to provide higher levels of funding so, as I have tried to make clear in the past, any advantage gained would have been to the company and its shareholders, not the team.
“Certain players may not have signed for the club without the perceived benefit of personal tax savings but there was no general advantage for the player squad, or the performance on the pitch.
“We would still have signed players of equal abilities if one or two had decided they didn’t want to sign under different financial circumstances.”
The SPFL last night declined to comment on King’s statement.