The quest for justice over Resolution 12 is in the endgame. There is little doubt that this issue is about to come to a head. Fans have been waiting for the denouement since the day and hour the matter was raised. That wait is almost over.
Celtic has worked harder on this than most people are aware.
They know things that most fans can only imagine. They have explored avenues which most people thought they had ignored. I can say that with total confidence. There is one last push to be made, and if the club does things right and uses the information it has in the right way we will see a show.
It’s not the show most people will be expecting though.
I’ve seen much of the information the club is sitting on.
I’ve held documents in my hands which lay it all out in detail.
The smoking gun is real.
At the very least the circumstantial case is very strong indeed, and only a some as yet unknown factor or unforeseen Bryson type interpretation can weaken it.
At best, notwithstanding any unknowns, what Celtic have in their hands is informational dynamite.
There is no doubt whatsoever that it lays bare a pattern of deception at Ibrox throughout 2011 and covering up at Hampden since August 2011, if not before, when sheriff officers moved into Ibrox to collect overdue tax.
The most important thing to bear in mind is this; their campaign was never about Rangers and it’s not about Sevco.
It is about what the SFA allowed on their watch.
It was about breaches of their fiduciary responsibilities towards our club and other clubs in the league. And you do not have to believe that they were pro-Rangers or anti-Celtic to conclude that they were lax at best and at worst downright corrupt.
Look, the Wee Tax Case, which lies at the centre of the Resolution 12 campaign, did not come out of the blue.
Scottish journalists, bloggers, the governing bodies, the fans … all knew about it from before Whyte took over.
All knew it was a running sore.
All knew that bill had to be paid; indeed, Whyte is alleged to have told the club that it had to be paid before he took over … because he would not be paying it himself.
Do you doubt that?
Remember the famous online radio argument between Jim Traynor and Chick Young in April 2011?
That bill was not a secret, nor was it a secret that the club was pleading “no contest” to it. We now know, in fact, that by 21 March HMRC had a formal acceptance by Rangers FC that there was tax payable dating back to 2001/03 under PAYE terms.
It had to be paid.
When Rangers submitted their license application for the following season it remained unpaid and, in spite of assertions to the contrary, including that of David Findlay QC in court, it was still uncontested at that time.
I have always understood that there was more going on here than the public was aware. I have always suspected that the governing bodies were far more clued up about the precarious position Rangers found themselves in than they were, or are, willing to admit.
I know for a fact that Celtic knew that the Ibrox club was in peril as early as 2009.
At least three Celtic bloggers – Paul Brennan, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and myself – were already writing about the crumbling ground beneath them at that time. Paul’s articles on the financial state of the Ibrox club were clearly being steered by information from inside Celtic Park. Phil had written a seminal piece called The Fall Of The House Of Murray. I followed that up in the same year with the article entitled The End Of Rangers?
What’s most notable about this is that all three of us were writing those articles prior to the moment most people regard as the game-changer; the 2010 bombshell which Phil dropped about HMRC and their EBT demand letters, the article that informed the world that Rangers had been engaged in a tax scam which threatened the existence of the club.
All three of us knew before that issue ever reared its head that the crisis facing David Murray’s business empire and the banks which were funding it was so serious that the club would have to either scale back its football operations massively or face the prospect of at best administration and at worst outright collapse.
The Bank of Scotland and the Murray empire were tied together with so much string that problems with one imperilled the other. The banking crisis of 2008 was sweeping the landscape clean. The foundations of Murray’s business portfolio – real estate, natural resources – were being eradicated.
The sup-prime mortgage crisis, which had precipitated the banking one, had shattered the real estate markets. Steel was rusting in warehouses because the international market for it had virtually collapsed. Murray and his bank were in dire straits.
There was no doubt in any of our minds about the danger Rangers was in.
Things went critical when HBOS was bought by the Lloyds Banking Group, in a deal so dark and dodgy that the buyers had no idea of what they gotten their hands on until it was much too late; far from buying what they thought was one of the biggest financial institutions in the world, they had in fact taken control of a company in ruins and who’s directors were sitting on a multi-billion-pound black hole. Over a half a billion was owed to HBOS by Murray himself.
During the Craig Whyte fraud trial, their directors admitted that Murray was “insolvent” by 2009, and that the club had considered administration. He did, in fact, put them up for sale and whilst they awaited a buyer Lloyds, in their quest to make savage cuts, stuck their own point man Donald Muir onto the Ibrox board; they weren’t asking nicely by then.
EBT’s weren’t to hit them for another year, yet already everyone in the hierarchy at the club was well aware of the danger they were in. With so many friends on the SFA board you have to assume that the governing body was equally aware of the situation.
Bear in mind, Rangers won the SPL titles in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. These were the critical periods. Had they failed to win any of those leagues I am 100% certain that they would have circled the drain prior to Whyte even having his hands on the keys.
And the reason those league titles were so important is obvious enough; the club needed European football – Champions League football in particular – just to keep the lights on. If anyone doubts it, they only have to consider that Rangers exit from both European competitions in 2011-12 is what precipitated their collapse into administration. From that moment on, Whyte knew they would run out of money. And people must have known of that certainty beforehand.
Young and Traynor’s argument actually references the club’s financial position at the time; the possibility of the club entering immediate administration should there be no European football was one that was clearly haunting the thoughts of many inside and outside Ibrox.
What the SFA was being asked to judge on, therefore, was in essence the future of the club itself. Had the European license been rejected in the summer of 2011, the club would have been in administration the very next day. They were not simply being asked to rule on a procedural issue, they were being asked to do something that would have rocked the sport to its foundations, and I can fully understand – even if I don’t condone – their not wanting to do that.
I think some of these people convinced themselves that opening this can of worms was not in the best interests of the game. I think they made themselves believe that they did it for altruistic reasons. It is misguided, it is lunatic, it is corrupt but I have always thought that it started out with people who thought they were doing the right thing.
Listen to Regan talk in the aftermath of the Whyte administration; he spoke of Armageddon and he believed every word of that. Had he been told of the consequences of depriving Rangers of a European license how do you think he would have acted?
When you step back and look at this, it is difficult not to conclude that what you see is not a swirl of confusion and chaos but a clearly thought out, intentional, cold-blooded decision by the parties involved at Hampden and Ibrox not to apply UEFA rules as UEFA intended, but circumvent them in order to waive through something that individuals, themselves ebt recipients, and in positions on the SFA Board or Licensing Committee, knew did not stand up, and they did it because they were worried that if they played it straight and by the book that Rangers would collapse.
The irony, of course, is that Rangers collapsed anyway and amidst the wreckage the dirty little secret was uncovered. Who could have seen that coming? In truth, anyone who thought beyond their own wee bubble could have. McCoist was a disastrous appointment, as was readily apparent even at the time.
There was always a risk of his being unable to get them through the necessary European qualifiers.
Rangers were playing with fire.
There was always a chance of their getting burned, but nobody at Hampden thought it would scorch the earth.
They were wrong about that, as with so many other things, and to compound the mistake it was Murray’s own decision to appeal the initial guilty verdict in the Big Tax Case that led to the Supreme Court hearings where so many of his and the SFA’s executive pets were trooped onto and off of the FTT stand after making deadly admissions under oath.
Celtic knows everything that happened here by now.
Much of the information is actually publicly available, so putting it together wasn’t terribly hard.
But they have a lot of inside knowledge as well, and there’s no doubt within the walls of Parkhead that our club and others were lied to and stitched up and treated with an unbelievable lack of regard as Hampden scrambled desperately to make sure there was a football club playing out of Ibrox.
And so Celtic will soon have a decision to make; do they stay silent and keep quiet about what they know went on here, or do they make a statement and renew their demand for an investigation into all of this, from Resolution 12 to the EBT scandal itself, and dare the other clubs to say that it’s not important any longer?
In truth, the decision really isn’t much of one at all, not for us. It’s a decision for the rest of the game here. If we tell the clubs what we know, if we make that information public, then the onus falls on them to decide on what they want the game here to look like.
Do we find out the full facts, do we pull up every rock, or do we – do they – allow the game to rot from the inside?
What happened here was corruption.
Turnbull Hutton, standing on the steps of Hampden, and telling the press that he and other clubs felt bullied and threatened and using that word, didn’t know the half of it. Celtic knows all of it. We are not content to leave the game in this state, we have at least tried to fight the good fight.
If our club does the right thing here, at the finish, it will soon be for others to decide whether they allow Scottish football to carry these stains on its soul forevermore or whether they finally accept that what happened here cannot be allowed to go unanswered.
It’s almost time.
We’ll find out what Celtic – and other clubs – are really made of.
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