Before I start on the main point, I want to say one thing for the record.
To me, this matter ought never have to gone on so long or come so far. I understand why BDO are appealing the decision, because it’s money for the creditors, but I don’t know how we got here overall because to me this issue was never about courts or the law of the land.
Last year, I had the pleasure of watching the brilliant American Crime Story drama The People vs OJ Simpson. It’s a phenomenal piece of TV, because although we know the verdict beforehand the machinations of the defence, the crumbling of the prosecution case based on some crazy decision-making and a blindness as to the bigger picture, are all worth watching. You may know where that ended up, but you probably won’t know how we got there.
Everyone who knows the smallest thing about the case understands that verdict was a travesty.
There is one scene in the show, where the prosecutors are taking a break from it all, and a bunch of guys are sharing their theories with the woman who’s trying to convince a jury. She listens to these with some amusement, and then she knocks them all down in one go, shredding the theory of the fit-up in a way that just removes that possibility from the board entirely. It is so forensic and brilliant that for a minute you stop and think “And the jury found in this guy’s favour?”
Except that she doesn’t prove his guilt in that moment; she simply demolishes the central tenant of the theory that he was framed. But we all know the jury found him innocent based partly on that belief, and it’s still an astounding verdict today.
Simpson certainly did that crime; few doubt it. There’s no moral rehabilitation for him, partly because he never did time for it. Sure, he ended up in federal prison on completely unrelated charges, but on that one everyone knows he got a pass.
Justice came around, some say, but not really.
In the same way, everyone knows what Rangers did. It’s not a secret. As OJ had smart lawyers so too the club was able to afford good tax advisors and a legal team which is batting for them even today, with that club out of business. Up until the final verdict is in, once all the appeals have been exhausted, we’re not going to know whether they “got away with it” or not. And that’s pretty ridiculous since we all know the facts as they stand.
We know they concealed documents from the SFA, which the association has already given them a free pass on. But if a club signs a form with the wrong date for a cup tie they can be kicked out of the competition for doing it, so you tell me what we’re to make of that? These are blatant violations of the rules, going back a decade or longer, and we never got justice for those and there are people determined to make sure that we never will.
A lot of smoke gets blown when you try to discuss this with people who don’t want to hear it.
You get the “no sporting advantage” garbage thrown back at you a lot, but no-one wants to be reminded that this ridiculous assertion was predicated on the initial verdict which found in HMRC’s favour, and the idea arising from this that other clubs had this shady road open to them too. They will also “remind you” as if it they know the full facts of it, that Celtic flirted briefly with the idea and paid Juninhio one. Yeah, and blah blah blah, because they never bother to tell you that he got it after he left Celtic, that it involved no hidden contracts and that Brian Quinn was so troubled by the idea that he informed HMRC of it anyway and we paid tax on it.
I remember, at the time, hearing how “baffled” McCoist was that the SPL were satisfied with our handling of that and thinking what a full-on idiot he must be or simply too blinded by his own hate for our club to realise what a clown he was making of himself.
It’s only baffling to those of low IQ or who wilfully embrace ignorance to further an agenda.
Celtic’s legal team knew this was a dodgy scheme. They knew the whole thing was wide open to legal challenge and probably would result in HMRC sanctions. Other clubs looked at it, and they similarly decided not to bother.
This was a £50 million scam. That’s taxpayer’s money, and if you look at the wretched history of Rangers in the Murray years and how much of their spending power came from his cosy relationship with the bank you’ll know that virtually the whole thing ended up being paid for out of our pockets.
It’s outrageous in so many ways, and the notion that having eaten that particular pill and tolerated years of their boasting and egocentricity on top of it that we should now just “get past it” and move on … you’ve got to be joking.
This was a scandal, and I have never given a damn whether they crossed the I’s and dotted the T’s and kept it strictly “legal” and neither should anyone else.
They decided that they would pay their players out of brown paper bags. They hid contracts. They cheated the tax payer. So what if it turns out that they did it “within the law?” If there were loopholes for drug smugglers would we let them pay for their next transfer splurge out of the proceeds of that? OJ had good lawyers too but people who’d known him his whole life got away from him after his release as fast as they could run.
Because they knew what he did.
And we know what Rangers did.
If it turns out that this was “legal” well bravo to them. The irony of this is that the case was a contributory factor in what crushed Rangers. I won’t even bother to pretend I don’t smile at that, much as the families of Ron and Nicole must harbour more than a little ironic satisfaction from Simpson walking out of one courtroom a free man only to end up doing heavy time on an unrelated offence a little farther down the line.
But they know that wasn’t real justice.
If the judgement in this case comes in and finds Rangers guilty of dodging taxes and scamming Revenue and Customs then that’s a different matter entirely, and the fig-leaf of “no sporting advantage” will be ripped away. And I don’t want to hear garbage about guarantees of not re-opening the book on this … they aren’t worth a damn and everyone involved knows it. Rangers will have won those titles by fraud and the record can’t remain unaffected by that.
In a sport which we still struggle at times to believe is a “level playing field” this stuff matters.
When Sevco is racking up debts, and is run by a criminal and could still get waved through a European licensing process ahead of clubs who’ve played by the rules, this stuff matters.
In austerity Britain, where public services are being cut to the bone because people aren’t paying their fair share, this stuff matters.
Is the game clean or not? That matters.
Does the SFA run it for the benefit of all the clubs, or just one? That matters.
Does our own club view the past as something better left alone, or do we want to set an example for the future that says we’ll stand up for ourselves and for the greater good of the game? Believe me, that matters.
It’s the second day of HRMC’s hearing before the UK Supreme Court. And the verdict on Rangers is a wider verdict on what the SFA and others allowed to go unpunished. If they find that club guilty then the pressure on these people to strip those titles will be relentless.
And it should be.
What that club did might have been legal, but it was purely and simply wrong by every acceptable moral standard, and that alone is reason enough to take those tainted trophies away. If it turns out that it is what we’ve always said it was – a scam – then all bets are off.
This stuff matters.
Don’t let anybody tell you different.