After a humiliating week on the park for Rangers, as they were knocked out of Europe by minnows Progres of Luxembourg, club chairman Dave King has fired the first volley in what looks to be a war of attrition over the Rangers EBT scandal.
The Supreme Court ruled this week in favour of HMRC following a long-standing dispute over the club’s tax avoidance scheme, known as the Big Tax Case.
Around £50 million was paid to players, managers, and directors between 2001 and 2010 as the club signed players that they would not have been able to attract otherwise, as former Rangers owner David Murray admitted in court during the Craig Whyte fraud trial.
In the wake of the court ruling, several fans groups have called on the football authorities to take action against the Ibrox side and strip the titles and trophies they won during the 11 years they used the EBT scheme.
But King has claimed that the club won their titles ‘fair and square’ during the EBT years and further claimed that the scheme only benefited former owner and chairman David Murray in reducing his investment in the club.
The South African-based businessman, on the official Rangers website, said: “Put simply, the Murray Group tax scheme helped David Murray reduce his overall investment into Oldco while simultaneously reducing any reliance on increased third-party bank finance.
“The benefit went exclusively to David Murray and the Murray Group.
“Whether the scheme was in place or not, or whether it survived tax scrutiny or not, made no difference whatsoever to the playing squad of the Club during that period and hence had no impact on the performance on the pitch. We won all of our titles fair and square.”
King targets Celtic once again
King also hit out at the Celtic board for attempting to ‘influence the footballing authorities’ and ‘typical bouts of hysterical reporting from certain sections of the media’ as he called on the fans and club to ‘continue to ignore those responsible by boycotting their publications and outlets’.
He added: “The Celtic board issued a statement agitating for a re-opening and reversal of the decisions previously made when, in fact, nothing has changed. It is disappointing that they have attempted to influence the footballing authorities to alter its historic football honours by calling on administrators and lawyers to achieve off the pitch what its teams failed to do on the pitch.”
His comments are sure to anger Celtic, who earlier in the week said: “Celtic’s position on this issue has been consistent – that this has always been a matter for the courts of law and also the Scottish football authorities, whose rules are intended to uphold sporting integrity.
“In 2013, we expressed surprise – shared by many observers and supporters of the game – over the findings of the SPL commission that no competitive or sporting advantage had resulted. Today’s decision only reaffirms that view.
“We are sure now that the footballing authorities in Scotland will wish to review this matter. Celtic awaits the outcome of their review.”
King praised the Scottish FA for their statement, adding: “It is reassuring to note that the SFA promptly and correctly put out a statement confirming, against Celtic’s attempt to influence, that the final tax ruling has no impact whatsoever on the practical and legal findings already made. This is now another matter that we can finally put behind us.”
However, there was no mention of the SPFL statement which read: “The Board of the SPFL notes today’s judgement of the Supreme Court. We will now take time to examine the judgement in detail and to consider any implications for the SPFL.”
With the SPFL the organisation who would be responsible for any title stripping, unlike the Scottish FA who’s only jurisdiction over competitions won would be the Scottish Cup. In the case of league titles and League Cup trophies, the Scottish FA would sit as the appeal body if the SPFL decides to take any action against the Ibrox side – another aspect escaping the planet that Dave King lives on.
Despite players, managers and officials profiting from the EBT scheme, King claimed – somewhat laughably – that the scheme ‘exclusively’ benefited David Murray and the Murray Group.
Before adding: “Whether the scheme was in place or not, or whether it survived tax scrutiny or not, made no difference whatsoever to the playing squad of the Club during that period and hence had no impact on the performance on the pitch. We won all of our titles fair and square.”
King contradicting himself
His stance following the court ruling is somewhat different to the one he took in 2012 when he gave an interview to the Daily Mail.
On the EBT scheme, at the time, King admitted: “I think we should be sorry – and I am certainly sorry. We owe both the Rangers fans and the Scottish footballing public an apology.
“Some of the representations made have betrayed more of a victim status. But I think somebody needs to apologise.
“Clearly, that is not for Charles Green to do. But I am happy to say that I really believe we should be saying sorry and I think there is something to be sorry about.
“And as a former director when these things were going on, I am minded to do so.
“With regards 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.
“I believe that, on behalf of myself and most of the board members who were with me and probably agree with me, that we should apologise for that.
“I know that the Murray Group might not say that, because it might be tantamount to admitting it.”
His comments and contradictions in the press are sure to anger many quarters of the Scottish game, none more so than the fans groups who are slowly and surely making their feelings known quite clearly to their respective clubs and the game as a whole.
It was fan pressure that forced the then-SPL and Scottish FA from parachuting the new Rangers into the top flight – in clear breach of sporting integrity – and it was fan pressure, coupled with the leadership of the late Turnbull Hutton of Raith Rovers, which prevented the football authorities from handing the Ibrox side a place in the First Division – despite real threats and levels of corruption which Hutton publicised angrily on the steps outside Hampden.
Spending money they have not go
King further admitted that the Ibrox side are ‘deliberately’ spending more than the club are making, as they continue to live off handouts from board members and what revenue they have brought into the club in recent weeks.
He commented: “As we rebuild the squad we are deliberately and transparently spending beyond our income.”
What does that say about the SPFL, the Scottish FA’s governance and UEFA’s own rules on Financial Fair Play – when a club chairman openly admits to spending money that they don’t have.