I have lost count of the number of people who’ve emailed me and spoken to me over the years who has asked me “what’s the big deal? What’s worth all this time and trouble?”
I am astounded that five years after the crisis which wiped away Rangers that there are still people who Just Don’t Get It, who’s understanding of what happened here is limited to what the consequences were for the Ibrox club and its fans, who’ve either yet to look at or failed to understand the bigger picture. This is why they don’t get animated over title stripping or the Survival Lie or any of the other myriad issues this thing has thrown up.
They’re just not seeing all of it, the totality of what was done and because of that they aren’t fully grasping the significance of what they think they know.
When this started out, I had a nearly gleeful take on all of it; the crash at Ibrox, which I had been writing about for four years at that point, was finally happening before my eyes.
Their club had run out of money, at last.
I had confidently written, in 2008, about how just one year outside of Europe could prove catastrophic for them. That article can be read at this link. What happened at the end of that particular football season, 2008-09, was that Celtic failed in its historic quest for four in a row.
We failed, as I put it in that piece, to “stick a hosepipe in their mouths.”
Had we won the league that year, the first year when the tremors of the global financial crash first started knocking down banks and demolishing cosy relationships which had made some people appear very rich and made others obscenely rich – Murray was in the former category, with a lot of wealth on paper, and tied up in debt – it would have been over.
I knew the days of his – or rather, of the Bank of Scotland – bailing the club out when it was in need were over with. It was before Lloyds took over that bank, before they put their man on the board, before the Tax Case had even been heard of it.
It was easy to see it coming; the numbers don’t lie.
Rangers, as a club, was built on debt. None of it was ever real, all the years of mammoth spending, it was all done on someone else’s credit card.
The club never lived within its means, it could never afford the Gascoigne’s and the Laudrup’s and those other players the Sevco fans are now convinced defined the club they used to be … they never were that club in the first place.
Except for the largesse of a bank that ended up the subject of the biggest corporate fraud investigation in UK history, and who’s entire board of directors was publicly named and shamed as corrupt and reckless beyond belief, except for that institution, one that was being run by madmen if not outright crooks for years, none of it would ever have happened.
Those signings would never have been made.
We talk a lot about EBT’s and the damage they’ve done, but what surprisingly few realise is that the scandal of Bank of Scotland and the impact it had on Scottish football actually dwarfs what Murray and his crooked friends were up to with their tax scam. The social consequences of it were a hundred times bigger than how much money the nation lost during Murray’s decade long waltz around the Treasury which just finished in the Supreme Court.
When the Bank of Scotland was sold to Lloyds at the height of the banking crisis, in a deal which was done so quickly the negotiating team from the Black Horse had no idea precisely what they were buying (as incredible as that sounds, it’s true) its debts were so enormous that almost as soon as the deal was done Lloyds had to inform the Stock Market that they were revising their end of year projections in anticipation of a £10 billion annual loss.
That was small beer next to the real size of the hole.
Almost £800 million of HBOS’ overall debt was owed by the Murray Group.
And you know what happened to those debts? We ate them. The tax payer. The vast bulk of what Bank of Scotland was owed was written off. Just £1 in every £6 – £11 billion – was recovered. The rest was erased, swallowed in the public purse, when Lloyds (which had, ironically, been very well run) was part nationalised in the second phase of the banking bailout.
In other words, we paid for all of it.
Forget EBT’s, this was always the bigger scandal. This was always the greater crime. And most football fans of other clubs, all of whom paid into the tax system which bailed Murray out, all did their bit to deliver titles and trophies to Ibrox.
The flow of those trophies should have come to an end in 2008, when the crisis at HBOS was starting to cause people sleepless nights, when they cut the cord and told Murray there was nothing left to loan him. Had Celtic won four in a row, Rangers would have collapsed.
And what happened instead? They went on to win three titles on the bounce.
Those titles literally saved their skin, that and the European income that went with them, and it was substantial, with the Groups in 2009-10 and again the following year, in which they also dropped into the Europa League last 32, and actually reached the last 16.
It says a lot that in the aftermath of those two years they had not a penny put away in case of an emergency. Everyone knew about the tax case by then, and they took no precautions whatsoever for the eventuality that they lost it.
It mattered not. Whyte was already in place. Murray had his patsy.
The club had been ripe for collapse for years, and on 3 August 2011 Malmo knocked them out of the Champions Cup which they ought not even to have had a license to play in and 22 days later Maribor ended their Europa League chances with a 1-1 draw at Ibrox.
Rangers was not set up for a season without European income.
Whatever Murray or others now say about the club being in good health, we know it’s a lie. From the moment the fulltime whistle went that night the great unravelling of Scottish football’s most potent myth – that Rangers was a massive club instead of a massively inflated one – had begun.
It was certain to end in administration, at best.
Everything you need to know about what happened next is contained in those previous paragraphs, and in the next bit.
It’s all there, in what I just said.
The SFA knew that tax bill was due and should have been paid. They were told that, and more. They also knew that if a European license had not been granted that the club would have filed for administration almost immediately.
So they granted it.
Knowing the truth.
They looked the other way.
And in the event, Rangers went out and crashed anyway.
Having already lied for them and covered for them, did the governing bodies feel honour bound (if you can use that term) to go the extra mile when Whyte called them and told them the club wouldn’t survive, or did he use what he knew about the license to force their hands?
In other words, did they co-operate out of some misplaced altruism or did they have their arms twisted by intimidation or blackmail in what came next?
Who knows? Who cares?
Their motivation doesn’t interest me and never has, only their actions do.
And they didn’t do what good regulators have a legal, and moral, responsibility to do when they are told that one of the organisations they are responsible for over-seeing is engaged in a planned bankruptcy and debt dumping, which is to immediately insist that it desists from doing further business and enters immediate administration … no, the SPL and the SFA not only covered that up, even from their own members (initially anyway) but offered to help.
That’s the part a lot of people just don’t get … the seriousness of this just hasn’t sunk in.
All those creditors who were screwed when Whyte engaged their services with no intention of ever paying the bills were, at least in part, conned by Scottish football’s governing bodies as well as Whyte himself.
They were, effectively, co-conspirators in the fraud.
Rangers was trading whilst insovlent for more than four months by the time Whyte pulled the plug in February 2012.
All the whilst they were signing contracts, paying salaries, taking money, running up debts and dodging the taxman … and the SFA and the SPL knew all this and more. They knew what the endgame was, that Whyte wasn’t planning an administration at all … he was planning to liquidate the lot of it and start again.
How much of this do I know for a fact?
All of it. Every bit of it.
How much of it can I prove?
All of it. Every bit of it.
The evidence is there, in the public domain, and it’s always been there … the Charlotte Fakeover materials, authenticated now by the Whyte trial, as bought by Dave King, are the smoking gun, but they only confirmed what a lot of us knew anyway.
In October 2011, Whyte told senior officials at the SPL that the club would be liquidated.
The SFA were on board shortly thereafter.
They should have stopped him there and then.
They had a duty to football to halt that scheme, and not just to football but wider society. They had regulations. They had responsibilities and those extended beyond the game. It doesn’t matter what their motives were, they failed on every level. They helped him con people.
And as far as mere football goes their job went from being one where they represented the best interests of the game, and protected its integrity, to being one where they acted as salesmen for a corrupt scheme operated by the dodgiest geezer to get hold of a Scottish club until Dave King and his 80 odd convictions rolled back into town two years ago.
They took on the task of helping Craig Whyte facilitate the liquidation and then sell the rest of Scottish football on the idea of his phoenix club moving straight into the top flight, free of every financial obligation it had.
Even if it’s legal, it’s as corrupt as you’ll get.
It is morally indefensible.
None of those men should have survived that effort.
It is the most corrupt plan ever to take root in our sport, and Regan and Doncaster were not just game for it but they did everything they could to carry it through to the finish.
Here’s what it comes down to.
If after October 2011, you did business with Rangers and you were owed a debt, and that debt was never paid, if you are one of the BDO creditors, then you should consider the SPL a co-conspirator in a scheme whose intent was to defraud you. You should consider the SFA a co-conspirator in a scheme whose intent was to defraud you. Because the people who run Scottish football knew what Craig Whyte was doing. They allowed him to continue trading, through four months when they could have hit the brakes anytime they chose … and your debt is on them because of it, and you should consider your legal options in light of that.
If a bank had given you a loan to invest in a fraudulent company, and the bank itself knew it, you could go after the bank as well as the company.
Sadly, a civil case is probably beyond you.
There is a statute of limitations on making a damages claim directly against the SFA and the SPL, providing the SPFL is legally responsible for anything the SPL did (a question I sort of half posed in yesterday’s piece). That was confirmed, in law, ironically enough at the Supreme Court in the case of David T Morrison & Co Limited v ICL Plastics Limited & Ors which arsose from the ICL Plastics Factory explosion.
But there is no statute of limitations against raising a criminal complaint for fraud.
And if I were you, and in your shoes, I’d do exactly that.
Maybe then, we’ll see some media interest.
Maybe then people will get the picture.
Maybe then we’ll get some recognition that this is not about “punishing Rangers”, no matter what the colossally ignorant, like Derek Johnstone, or those in it up to their necks might say.