As usual, it was interesting to read Tom English’s thoughts in today’s Scotland on Sunday. His column discussing the forthcoming boycott of Tannadice and our stance with regard to the events of the last year or two seems to be the direct result of some discussion on Radio Scotland the previous evening. Rangers clearly remain the most important topic in Scottish football.
Moving on, at the risk of the readers thinking I’m about to tell a politically incorrect joke I actually think English (of proud Irish stock) is one of the better contributors to the flawed Scottish media (as is his Scotsman employer) so his assertion that the Rangers family want to ‘paint the club as innocent’ was rather disappointing.
First of all, I think it’s important to explain why I find English that little bit more credible than others. While I don’t always agree with his opinion (in fact I disagree a lot) at least he’s prepared to share his public platform with supporters. Be it on Scotsman web-chats, Twitter or on radio phone-ins, the guy is happy to engage with people and I think this does influence his commentary – possibly a bit more than he’d care to admit. For that he deserves some credit. As a result I’d hope he’ll read this article and absorb its comments.
Thus, let’s get one thing straight – we do not paint our club, ourselves or key club figures as innocent. Indeed, throughout this saga, our fans have been clear in their want for a full investigation into what happened at Rangers. This very site has called for an independent judicial inquiry into the behaviour of Craig Whyte, Lloyds Banking Group, MIH and others for a long time now. We do so again here as one of the few ways our national sport can move forward is by having everything in the open and discussed by informed neutrals. As a first step, let’s hope BDO are supported in the difficult job they have over the coming months.
Clearly, with MIH (currently) absolved of any blame in their risky EBT schemes of the last 10 years, the issue basically comes down to the sale of the club. With huge (and apparently inaccurate) media coverage surrounding the EBT schemes, there’s also no doubt this sale was pushed through because of the uncertainty surrounding tax tribunals. Equally the lack of due diligence into Craig Whyte’s plans by MIH, LBG and the integrity stalwarts at the SFA/SPL also contributed – as did the eagerness of our fans to ignore the warnings about Whyte. A broad brush is required at the point of sale then. No-one is innocent.
Moving quickly on and it’s is obvious to all that Craig Whyte caused the club to fall into administration and the company that owned the club to be liquidated. His behaviour – along with those that worked with him – was shameful. To not pay PAYE/NI and to lie his way from one crisis to the next means he’ll be the most hated figure in Rangers’ continuing history. However, our fans are still entitled to ask why HMRC and the football authorities were absent in their protection of our club. We can also ask why Hearts (or Vladimir Romanov if we’re consistent) seem to conduct their financial affairs with scant regard for the rules. Some may also want to explore the tax avoidance schemes of other clubs. Rangers were and are not alone in looking to minimise their tax obligations.
From this point, events moved quickly. Whyte was running out of excuses/money and eventually the club was rightly called to account. The club per se may not have been able to stop Whyte’s criminal(?) activities but neither could it not be punished. And it has been; as have our fans; clearly the most loyal in Scottish football. We’re in the Third Division, we’re without European football, we’ve lost several expensive players; our reputation is tarnished forever and we’re light years behind our greatest rivals as they (to their credit) do well in Europe.
Yet still some want to push harder. The SPL appear desperate to strip our club of honours legitimately (according to the FTTT) won on the field. The SFA have done nothing – nothing – to aid the recovery of our club. The media demand ‘contrition’ from our support whilst some SPL clubs take umbrage when we refuse to finance their own failing operations.
All the above isn’t rocket science and the timeline is easy to follow. The people responsible for what happened are easy to spot and we all hope will answer for their crimes – no more so than Rangers support. However, many others have contributed to what happened so it’s no surprise that our fans want to highlight their hypocrisy where appropriate.
In fact, if we’re to speak in plain English, then those with an access to public platforms should be looking to examine the whole sorry picture instead of empirically wanting to blame those that have already been punished. If we’re to reconstruct and improve Scottish football then let us be prepared to scratch more than the surface of what was a complex sequence of events with many guilty parties.
Tom English is more than capable of doing that so should be leading from the front in ensuring the whole sorry episode is explained while not jumping on bandwagons wanting to continue with the ridiculous conclusion that Rangers Football Club and its fans are to blame for everything wrong with our national game.
Sometimes, just sometimes, Rangers fans are actually worth listening to.