Outgoing SPFL chairman Ralph Topping has admitted that the SPFL will do all it can to block any attempts to strip titles from Rangers after the Supreme Court ruled that the Ibrox club had broken tax rules over their use of EBTs.
With supporters groups calling for Rangers to be stripped of their trophies won during the 11 year period that EBTs were used, and Celtic calling for a review of the Lord Nimmo Smith commission back in 2013, Topping – who quits his role next month – is confident that they can defend any potential legal challenges.
The Scottish FA were quick to dismiss any further disciplinary action after the Supreme Court ruling was announced, while the SPFL issued a generic statement saying that they are ‘considering’ the implications of the tax case verdict.
Topping, in an interview with The Scotsman, claimed: “In these circumstances you have to rely on legal minds. We have not gone to a solicitor in Arbroath. We have gone to the finest solicitor in the land and taken his view, which we were duty bound to do. He has given us what we think is very sound legal advice.”
“We [the SPFL board] sat with him on what must have been four occasions – and he was challenged from everyone,” said Topping. We wanted to make sure we were ready for any challenges subsequently. And I think we are. I think we are.
“That won’t stop people having views. It won’t stop people talking about it for years to come. It’s useless to say keep quiet. The fact is they won’t.
“There are a lot of wealthy people who support football clubs who will fund certain activities around challenges. The authorities just have to accept it and be measured in their response.”
A statement from the league’s governing body is expected to be issued next week.
Topping’s successor has already been announced as media exec Murdoch MacLennan – a man who calls Andy Coulson a man of ‘integrity and honour’.
MacLennan, at the time of Coulson’s trial in 2014, said: “I have always admired Andy’s professionalism. He has huge achievements to his name at the News of the World which are easy in the current climate to forget. He is very loyal and I believe this has earned him a great deal of loyalty.”
Coulson was hired to do PR for the Telegraph, by his loyal friend MacLennan, after the former News of the World exec was jailed for 18 months following the phone-hacking scandal.
In 2015, MacLennan was criticised by Peter Oborne, former chief political correspondent at the Daily Telegraph, for allowing commercial interests to affect the paper’s editorial coverage with MacLennan blocking ‘negative’ stories about HSBC tax affairs – a lucrative advertiser of the paper.
Will the SPFL’s incoming chairman put commercial interests before sporting integrity as his predecessor has? His working practices at the Telegraph seems to say he would.