Over four years ago, I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post where I cited Rangers’ misuse of the Employee Benefit Trust scheme as the biggest scandal in Scottish football history.
I have come to the conclusion four years on that this was understating the level of cheating that Rangers undertook and now I am of the opinion that it is the biggest scandal in Scottish sports history.
Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling has firmly set in stone the simple truth that Rangers cheated by dodging tax to pay for players they would not have otherwise been able to afford.
Now fans across the country are calling for Rangers to be stripped of the 14 trophies they won between 2001 and 2010 – the years when they used the EBT scheme. However, it seems that the bodies that govern our game are once again shirking their responsibilities when it comes to the club operating out of Ibrox.
Not content with trying to shoe horn the new club into the SPL then the First Division in 2012, both the SPFL and Scottish FA have yet to make a statement on the recent news that Rangers chairman Dave King broke takeover rules when he took control of the Ibrox side in March 2015. Neither body has questioned his fit and proper status, despite the convicted tax dodger being involved in two businesses breaching regulations in both South Africa and in the UK – and that is before you take a look at his convictions for breaking South African tax laws.
Why are both bodies so hell bent on bending over backwards for both Rangers and more importantly Dave King?
After Wednesday’s ruling, we had the Scottish FA issue a statement which declared that ‘no further disciplinary action should be taken by the Scottish FA at this time’. You can read this in two ways, either the Scottish FA is washing their hands of the whole affair and hope that it blows over or they are holding off waiting to see what the SPFL say and do.
The SPFL, in all their wisdom, have issued a statement that you can fit on the back of a stamp. It stated: “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.”
Both organisations are playing the game superbly, with both not wanting to upset the new club down Govan way.
Cheating is cheating no matter the sport
There has been clear breaches of our game’s rules – even before you consider the damage it has done to the integrity of the sport in Scotland. If neither organisation takes action against Rangers, then not only are both organisations and their officials credibility shot to piece, so is our games.
The cycling authorities stripped the most famous cyclist in the world, Lance Armstrong, of his titles over his use of steroids and cover-ups to secure an unfair advantage over his opponents. Yet when Rangers commit financially doping to try to gain an advantage over Celtic and the other clubs in the league, the powers that be rule that it was merely 11 years of ‘admin errors’ and fined them £250,000.
Former Rangers manager Alex McLeish, admitted in a BBC documentary, that the club used EBTs to buy players they could not afford and in a bid to keep pace with and try to better rivals Celtic – a club who worked within the law and to a strict business plan. A club that is now reaping the rewards of being run soundly. The same cannot be said of the new club playing out of Ibrox, who are living off hand outs from their directors to stave off another insolvency.
But with Rangers use of the EBTs now being ruled as illegal, questions must be asked.
How many players lost bonuses due to Rangers EBT scam?
How many players, managers, club employees and the clubs themselves, lost out on silverware over Rangers EBT scam?
How many fans paid good money to watch their team play week in week out in good faith? In a game that had already been rigged by Rangers over their EBT scam.
The majority of fans I have spoken to, before and after Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling want the titles stripped, but don’t want these tainted titles handed to any other club. They want justice, they want Rangers stripped of their silverware between those ten – eleven years, that Rangers won thanks to players that would never have played for the club if they had been given money on the sly and out of the sight of the tax man.
Anyone associated with Rangers can argue until they are blue in the face over claims they cheated. Wednesday’s ruling, by the highest court in the land, has given Scottish football the official notification that the Ibrox side broke tax laws and subsequently cheated their way to success.
The definition of cheating is, as follows: “to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage.”
Just like Kyle Lafferty faking a headbutt from then-Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew in 2009, like Arsenal striker Eduardo taking a dive against Celtic in their Champions League qualifier and like Lance Armstrong – they cheated and so did Rangers.
The horde resort to basic animal instinct
Rangers fans are actually revelling in their club’s use of the EBT scheme as it angers the opposition, but today’s decision has fuelled calls for the club to be stripped of their titles and this has angered the Rangers fans.
Former Rangers Supporters Trust spokesperson, David Edger, posted via twitter: “Come for our titles and we’ll burn this whole fucking game down. You want a fight? You’ll get one.
While another, a disgraced former director of the club,adding: “You need to have an engrained loser mentality to try to removed titles won fairly on the pitch. But of course, we are dealing with losers”.
Here is a hypothetical question for you all – would Rangers fans be so accepting of the use of EBTs and breaches of the rules of our game, if Celtic or Aberdeen were profiting. I think not and that is the crux of the matter.
Rangers fans know they cheated, they know David Murray financially mismanaged the club, they revel in the fact that they cheated and screwed over the rest of Scottish Football.
And that shows them up to be the undignified and classless mob that they are.
When confronted with the cold hard facts of the case, Rangers fans become angry, venomous and threatening in their language and their demeanour. They may have escaped paying their creditors what they are owed, they may have escaped significant punishment over breaking the laws of the game and they may claim to be the ‘same club’, but for as long as Scottish football exists, Rangers will forever be remembered for the EBT scandal and their trophy haul will be looked on as tainted.
For the good of Scottish football
Scottish football was told by the mainstream media, Rangers and the governing bodies that we should all move on for the good of our game.
That we should have ignored the Court of Session’s verdict against Rangers, for the good of Scottish football.
And that we should not demand that Rangers are stripped of their titles won during the EBT years, for the good of Scottish football.
For over five years we have been fed hyperbole by every quarter of our game and the media – that Rangers and their fans are the victims in all of this. I beg to differ. Rangers are the perpetrators of the biggest sporting scandal in the history of Scottish sport, not just football.
Their fans were party to that scandal.
They didn’t care how they won, as long as they secured titles. None of them can claim to be victims in this at all.
The real victims are the fans who paid good money to watch a game that was already rigged in favour of Rangers.
The real victims are the players, managers and clubs who lost out on trophies, due to one club rigging the game in their favour.
The real victims are the creditors who will now unlikely receive the monies owed to them.
The real victims in all of this is the Scottish game as a whole. Our game and our governing bodies have lost all credibility and now it looks as though they will continue with their ‘See no evil, hear no evil’ mentality.
The Scottish game lost a stalwart in Turnbull Hutton in 2015, a man who took on the corruption and threats from the Scottish FA, the SPL and angry Rangers fans in 2012.
Sadly our game is bereft of individuals like Hutton and has far too many Doncasters and Regans in positions of power.
The last time that our clubs took a stand against the powers-that-be was due to fans threatening action against their own clubs if they did not uphold the integrity of our game. Now it is apparent that fans of all clubs must unite once again to secure proper justice for our game, against a club and a support that believes they can do what they want, when they want and screw everyone else.
For the good of Scottish football, our governing bodies must hold Rangers accountable for their 11 years of pre-meditated and systematic cheating.
For the good of Scottish football, their titles must be stripped.