There are those who think that what goes on at Ibrox is “none of our business.” There are some who claim to be embarrassed at the focus some of us place on their financial state. There are some, in other words, who just don’t get it at all.
Of all the facts about the David Murray era, here’s the one that those people struggle most to get their heads around; we paid for it all. Murray himself was not the genius he seemed. When the global financial crisis struck in 2008, he had run up debts worth £200 million plus with his bankers. And remember, that was before the sub-prime tsunami hit.
By the end of that period he probably owed double that. Amidst it all was Rangers, who’s debts he simply folded into the rest. That club did not operate on a sustainable basis for years before he stepped down the first time, to hand it over to John McLelland, who made a modest attempt to run it on a break-even basis before Murray returned for one last splurge.
Two things happened at that point. Lloyds bought the Bank of Scotland and then realised they had bought a toxic debt mountain, and in an effort to start clawing it back they stuck their placemen at various companies who owed them big money. One of those placemen was put in at Ibrox to get the spending under control. His name was Donald Muir.
One of Muir’s recommendations to his bosses was that they get out of the football sector quickly, and Ibrox in particular. They told Murray they were turning off the taps. They warned him to sell. He did, of course, to Craig Whyte, with the Big Tax Case still looming.
We know what happened to Rangers after that. We know that liquidation and death followed. We also know that a bunch of chancers, probably working for Whyte the whole time, did everything they could to create a phoenix club … and that we, the fans of every Scottish club, prevented it. We know that the entire process of administering the club was dodgy, so much so that a slew of criminal charges followed. We know that not one ever resulted in a conviction.
That’s where reports today come from. The cost to the tax-payer, for those investigations, is over £40 million and still rising. All I can say to that is “add it to the rest.”
Because what many people fail to appreciate is that the tax-payer ate the lot of it. All those debts which Murray accumulated over the years he was running Rangers vanished into the larger mess of Murray International Holdings. The bank didn’t swallow those debts; the tax-payer did when the bank was nationalised. We paid – all of us paid – for their nine in a row.
The money that was owed to the tax-man and the club’s creditors when they went into administration, we ended up eating that as well because the tax payer didn’t get more than pennies in the pound. Ibrox writes the cheques and we all pay the bill; that’s been the way of it, for years now. This is why some of us pay close attention to their finances.
The modern day scandal pales into insignificance next to the scandals of 2008-2011, but the press coverage of them gets no less surreal. They show a fundamental misunderstanding of events; this is not a conspiracy against people who tried to do right by them.
This is a group of police officers and figures in the procurator fiscal’s office who were so blinded by anger and the need to get revenge for their club that they did a botched job of going after some of those who were involved in its destruction.
For the record; I think there were cases to be made against Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the administrators. It seems clear they were operating in tandem.
The public – especially the footballing public – were entitled to answers. None of us ever got them. Those men were all trooped through the courtrooms and exonerated. They then sued for damage done to their “reputations.” What a joke that is.
But I’m not laughing and none of us should be. This was an enormous scandal which unfolded in full public view and those who were most responsible filled their pockets once and then were able to fill their pockets again. This time from the public purse.
None of this would have happened had the company involved not been based out of Ibrox. Whatever you call the enterprise which operates there now, it follows the same path as the one there before, and we don’t know how much more the tax-payer may have to eat before it’s over.
What we do know is that, to paraphrase Ian Archer, this country would be better if Rangers hadn’t existed. You could say the same about Sevco.