Glenn Gibbons: Unmerited EBT pay-outs highlight Ibrox profligacy

Nacho Novo: Allegedly received �1.2 million via EBT. Picture: Jane Barlow
Nacho Novo: Allegedly received �1.2 million via EBT. Picture: Jane Barlow
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NOBODY who watched the BBC’s compelling investigation into the Rangers scandal this week could have taken long to reach the conclusion that the Ibrox club’s former owner, David Murray, had managed to take the concept of profligacy to a new level; that is, to an unprecedented depth.

The most striking aspect of the list of employees – these ranged from the owner/chairman himself through fellow executives to players – to have been beneficiaries of the disputed EBT scheme was the breathtakingly high number of blatantly undeserving recipients.

Even Murray’s stoutest apologists, for example, would have difficulty in reconciling his ego-propelled charge towards financial devastation with the £6.3 million that is said to have been his reward.

As for the club’s followers, their readiness to acclaim many of their so-called heroes will surely have been diluted by the revelation of the extraordinary amounts of money allocated to distinctly ordinary ‘talents’.

Chief among these is the perennial reserve, Nacho Novo, a ‘player’ whose almost constant omission from Walter Smith’s starting line-up amounted to a declaration of the manager’s contempt for his abilities. Smith’s low opinion was undoubtedly vindicated when the fans turned Novo into what is commonly known as ‘a cult hero’, one of football’s great euphemisms for a player of seriously limited capabilities. Perhaps the adulation for the little Spanish ‘striker’ sprang from the style with which he kissed the badge. The staggering, tax-free £1.2 million he is reported to have received in addition to his declared salary certainly could not be justified by his rather paltry 47 goals in six years.

Novo, of course, does not have a monopoly on obtaining an obscene return for a moderate contribution. Michael Ball, the full-back signed from Everton, was said to have secured a ‘loan’ amounting to £1.4 million, but, in his four years, he did not play often enough to determine whether or not he was any good.

Ball, in fact, should have been recognised as a fairly early marker for the potentially deadly course on which Rangers were set. One of the reasons he could have been named after a Damon Runyon character (the Seldom Seen Kid) was that a certain number of appearances would trigger payments to Everton which Rangers – this was back around 2004 – were already having difficulty in affording.

But, apart from Novo and Ball, it requires merely a quick scan of the list to reveal at least 20 non-entities in receipt of around an aggregate £10 million. For Rangers supporters, of course, the most distressing element of the entire affair is the possibility that the haemorrhaging, even now, has not yet been staunched (q.v. Tax Case, Big).

A NUMBER of strands emerged from Mark Daly’s documentary on Wednesday, not least of which was the unmistakable, malodorous whiff of suspicion surrounding the ‘performance’ of the court-appointed administrators of the stricken Rangers, Duff and Phelps.

Various allegations were made against the competence – and, more seriously, even the professional conduct – of the company’s representatives at Ibrox, which may yet become the subject of retaliatory legal action. For mere observers, however, there is already sufficient material in the public domain to warrant bewilderment.

You could fire a scatter gun into a lift crammed with insolvency experts and not hit anyone who understands an administration process which, after three months, does not boast a single redundancy. There is also widespread bemusement over Duff and Phelps’ achievement in sustaining losses of over £1 million a month, precisely the amount they themselves insisted that Rangers were obliged to save in order simply to fulfil their SPL fixture list.

There is also, of course, the lengthy series of ‘deadlines’ set for such imperatives as nominating a preferred bidder, for lodging offers from prospective buyers and an entire series of insistent pronouncements that were later retracted as the D & P representatives, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, became experts in the verbal somersault.

All of this leads to the impression that you could take the administrators’ utterances to the bank – but you would almost certainly be charged with attempting to pass counterfeit currency.

The Scottish FA’s so-called “fit and proper” test in relation to club executives has been made to look risible by their own president. Campbell Ogilvie’s alleged involvement in the EBT scheme during his time at Rangers may not make him culpable of an offence, but public figures have never needed guilt to remove them from office; credibility, or at least the loss of it, is usually quite sufficient.

Ogilvie’s association with the excesses of the Murray regime at Ibrox – as well as his rush into denial – has rendered him pathetic among the football public. Surely someone at Hampden HQ will advise him of the appropriateness of making a voluntary departure to avoid the embarrassment of an enforced eviction.

US trip akin to a holiday

NO SOOTHSAYER was ever likely to be a contender for the Clairvoyant of the Year award on the back of predicting that there would not be a single withdrawal (a happening surely without precedent) from the Scotland squad summoned by Craig Levein for the trip to Florida.

“This is not a holiday,” insisted the national team’s assistant manager, Peter Houston, “we are going there to work.” This solemn proclamation, complete with its implied condemnation of sceptics among the public, was followed by gloriously displayed photographs of day one of the expedition.

These showed our heroes attired in polo shirts, shorts and golf shoes, gliding over verdant swards in motorised buggies and slogging over the kind of work the vast majority of people would probably like to tackle, but couldn’t actually afford.