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July 2021

What you read about administration, liquidation, corruption and Rangers might not be the whole story.


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by Tony Attwood

Years back, when I started to work as a journalist, one thing struck me very hard.  There was an agenda.  No matter what area I worked on, there was an agenda, a message, an approach, a vision.

In football, for example, it was “Liverpool are good”.  You couldn’t knock them, suggest that it was odd just how many penalties they got in the last 10 minutes of games, or anything.  They were untouchable.   “Write another piece like that sunshine,” I was once told, “and there won’t be any need for you to write anything else.”

We see the same today.  If there is any suggestion that football is bent, then it must be accompanied by clear evidence that it is the football of these silly foreigners that is bent, not British football.   If it becomes too obvious that something is wrong with British football, then we must put it down to foreign gambling syndicates.  The notion of an Italian style scandal in which clubs influence which referee they can have refereeing their match, is just not on.

Much the same is true with football finance.   Clubs are not run by crooks, even when the people running such clubs (from Portsmouth to Darlington to Rangers) have some unfortunate brushes with the law in the past.  Clubs go into administration (that story can’t be ignored) but it is just the British way.  Besides it is usually the fault of the greedy Revenue and Customs.    Anyway, the clubs always come back.  As for football clubs being used for money laundering – that’s just something that Untold Arsenal says.  No one else says it, so it can’t be true.

Besides, it has always gone on.  Accrington were the first league club to go bust in 1896 – although by then they had resigned from the league, and it has been happening ever since.  It even happened to Arsenal in 1910.

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But the Arsenal case was different from today’s cases, because the man who took over the club – Henry Norris – paid off every single penny of every debt, football or otherwise, from his own pocket.  He even paid off one huge debt concerning the building of one of the stands at the Manor Ground which was not shown on the accounts when he agreed to take on the club.  He then invested much of his fortune in the club and built Highbury.  That’s called being honourable.

Today it is a little different.  Portsmouth are going into admin for the second time in two years.  Rangers are going bust owing the tax man (ie you and me) £70m or a lot more.

Rangers have been to the Scottish press what Liverpool were from the 1980s until a couple of months ago.   Untouchable.  That Craig Whyte, Rangers’ chairman, is under investigation over his acquisition of the club is generally left unsaid.

What’s more, as far as I can see, Rangers have not been paying money owed to other football clubs for quite a while.  So the small clubs who get a boost to their crowds when Rangers come to town are massively out of pocket, having had to pay for much bigger than usual police activity in the ground, but getting not a penny back from Rangers.   If this is true, paying off the football debts first could be difficult, because the football debts are just too big, even before the tax debts are looked at.

The simplistic notion put about by many Scottish football writers and writers on Scottish football (not always the same thing) is that if Rangers go bust, there can be no league.  This is rubbish – for of course there can be a league.  There can be a league which is the same as now, but without Rangers, or there can be a completely different sort of league created to deal with this situation.  I’ve often suggested that Arsenal Reserves ought to play in the Scottish League, others speak of combining the league with that from other countries.  There are many options.

Now we hear that there is a chance that Rangers will go into administration and come out the other side within weeks as Rangers 2012.  But they might not.
My experience comes from a situation about 5 years back when Company A who owed my company (HHM) money for some copyright material they had leased, went into administration.  Company A had only bought the rights to use the copyright material themselves, and even then had only got those rights once they had paid my company for the rights.
And so since Company A was going into administration and would soon not exist, I contacted the administrator and told them that I had good reason to believe that Company A had items that were the property of HHM, and that under no circumstances should the administrator allow that material to be sold on to any firm buying up Company A.
The administrators refused to co-operate, and said that looking for data on computers was not their business.  I said it most certainly was – they now knew that some of the property in Company A’s computers was not theirs to sell, and to allow it to be sold would be a criminal offence, but they wouldn’t budge.   Then I found that the administrator was about to sell Company A to Company A (2005) Ltd – the same guys who owned Company A buying the company back, in a new name, but walking away from all their old debts. In other words they would get the data, without paying for it.
What the administrators were doing showed a corrupt link between themselves and their client.  I passed the documentation to the Office of Fair Trading, and they investigated, and arrested both the directors of Company A and the administrators.  1-0 to Tony.
Do we have a cosy agreement between the administrators of Rangers and Rangers FC?  Of course I have no evidence and make no allegation.   But… to do the quick turnaround into Rangers 2012 Ltd that people are now talking about 75% of the creditors needs to agree to the deal.  But the administrators admit they don’t know how much debt there is, and whether they can get away with a “football creditors” deal.  Rushing it through would seem suspicious.

Further we do know that David Grier of Duff & Phelps the administrators of Rangers was with Craig Whyte the Rangers owner at a game last season.  Duff & Phelps also own a consultancy firm that did work for Whyte as he bought Rangers.

There is much talk that Rangers will rise from administration within a month or two but I am not 100% sure about this.   The people who for the past two years have been saying “Rangers is in very serious trouble here” are now telling me two more things.  I can’t verify them, I don’t have the background knowledge, and once again I make no allegations – just pass on the gossip.  One group tell me that Rangers will go into liquidation and that gives the SPL a problem.   The other group tell me that Craig Whyte will come out of this owning the Rangers ground, but not the club.  He will then try and lease the ground to the club for a mega profit.

Which, curiously, is a variation of the story of Arsenal in 1893, as you will be able to read when Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football” is published later this year.  In Arsenal’s case the ploy failed, the evil baddy didn’t get his way and Arsenal reformed to become Woolwich Arsenal FC.   Watch this space.

23 comments to What you read about administration, liquidation, corruption and Rangers might not be the whole story.

  • Arun

    Great article Tony as always.As far as media has concerned, I have to agree with you regarding agenda. Every media has got their favourite club and will try to defend it no matter what the performance of the club is now.You can see this about liverpool if they win the carling cup next weekend. There are a lot of papers already talking about a wembley double for them.

  • nicky

    A couple of questions.
    1. In your opinion, has the Rangers situation have anything, even vaguely, to do with the so-called “religious divide” with Celtic?
    2. Is there a formula for reimbursement of “small” Clubs when
    visited by the Big Boys and, if so, is it based mainly on the cost of additional policing?

  • nicky February 17, 2012 at 11:03 am

    A couple of questions.
    1. In your opinion, has the Rangers situation have anything, even vaguely, to do with the so-called “religious divide” with Celtic?
    2. Is there a formula for reimbursement of “small” Clubs when
    visited by the Big Boys and, if so, is it based mainly on the cost of additional policing?

    —- —- —- —- —-
    Nicky, in relation to question 1.
    Rangers had a signing policy up until 1989 of not signing Roman Catholics, the club had links with both the Orange Order and freemasonry at it’s inception. Their current problems have nothing at all to do with Celtic Football Club.

    Celtic had, on the other hand, was, and still is open to all, and are in fact a well run profit making Football Club.

    Celtic Football Club revealed 6 monthly figures showing a profit as recently as 4 days ago.

    The situation rangers find themselves in is partly due to alleged illegal use of EBTs (Employment Benefit Trusts) and spending outwith their means for approximately 23 years, under the ownership of MIH.
    This week HMRC sought to place Rangers in administration based of tax debts (VAT, NI, PAYE) of £9m accrued in the last 9 months.

    As a tax payer, I’m appalled that denying the public purse of this much needed money has been overlooked.

    The suggestion HMRC will accept a ‘pennies for a pound’ deal from Rangers (or their administrators) seems as good a reason as any for me and my fellow tax payers to with-hold any monies due to the government, until we can negotiate a ‘pennies for the pound’ deal

  • The Celtic supporters that I know have always argued that Rangers get a special deal from the SFA and the government because of their overt patriotism.

    Certainly Celtic have never done themselves any favours by not stamping out the singing of pro-IRA songs. Not that anything other than a minority do this, but it is there. Of course Rangers are just as bad with their insulting Famine Song.

    Beyond those commonplace observations,I can’t really go.

  • Shungle

    Great insightful article. This kind of analysis is missing from the Scottish press. The punters are asking questions and the majority of sports writers (a small number of men who write for several papers and appear on TV and radio,talk shows give out one story from all these outlets).

  • nicky

    @Gerry S
    Much obliged for your info.
    Can anyone explain this reimbursement business? Does it happen in English football?

  • MB

    Tony, prepare yourself for this article being found via Twitter by ‘the peepil’ and the subsequent avalanche of abuse, insinuations and allegations along with the possibility of intrusion into your background, both personal and private that will come with it. That’s what you’ll get for daring to criticise the Establishment…

  • anthony

    First off can i say that was a very well written and informative peice and let me continue by saying that rangers f.c have been given carte blanche to do as they please within Scottish football for years and years. They are ‘the establishment club’ allowed to prosper with no questions asked when continually posting losses of £60m and £70m, the media in Scotland are culpable as they lapped up the trophies and multi million pound players without asking where this money was coming from, well now it appears that the money was coming direct from you and I (i.e the taxpayer). This success (we payed for) was also to the detriment of every other club in Scotland by way of teams being denied trophies and European places due to rangers winning trophies with players they bought with money they simply did not have!!. in the last few days we have had first minister Alex Salmond and prime minister David Cameron both commenting, saying they hope HMRC can reach an agreement with rangers to allow them to continue to flourish!! well I for one would like to see every penny owed in taxes repaid, how many hospitals could £50-70m build?? I will include a link to an online petition calling for no state bail out of R.F.C i urge you to circulate this petition and sign it if not only for the public purse but also for sporting integrity.

    the link is above thank you

  • Rhys Jaggar

    1. There is no football creditors rule in Scotland – I didn’t realise this either until recently, but I read it either on the BBC website or on the DT website, written by an experienced scottish journalist, so I kind of think that is true. That means HMRC doesn’t get bumped by players, Craig Whyte or anyone else. Nor do the Scottish police, ambulance services etc etc.
    2. As the HMRC will possibly or probably represent more than 25% of the outstanding liabilities, I don’t think any agreement, be that a CVA or whatever, can happen without their say-so. I don’t think they’re minded to write off their debt this time.
    3. The biggest unknown is how much Rangers actually owe the HMRC. This is due to arguments about ‘image rights issues’ i.e. what percentage of Rangers’ revenue comes from global marketing and, hence, can be allocated to jurisdictions outside the UK. Sir David Murray, former owner of Rangers, was rather aggressive in using Employee Benefit Trusts for this purpose and that is what HMRC and Rangers may end up discussing in the Court of Session in Scotland. Until that is worked out, it seems hard to see how Rangers can come out of administration because you can’t write things off before knowing whether they exist or not.

    It absolutely amazes me that if Directors need to put a company into administration that they should be the people to appoint the administrators. It should be done from a central independent body which would no doubt be busied by numerous such events across the entire economy. Perhaps David Cameron, on his personal moral crusade to reintroduce morals into British life, could make it happen sooner rather than later??

    Of course, if your aim is to run up huge debts, write them off in administration, then do the same again, appointing administrators who play ball is part of the game.

    I still maintain that if a consortium of Rangers’ supporters comes up with £50m they can own the club very rapidly.

    They must decide whether they want Craig Whyte owning Ibrox Stadium instead of Glasgow Rangers pretty sharpish. Because if they don’t they’d better start raising cash pronto.

    These image rights issue things are, after all, something even Arsenal has had to negotiate with the Revenue about. I note statements that they have settled their disagreements, but it does say that it was a common practice and not one to be ascribed the term ‘criminal activity’, at least not by those who consider Arsenal to be the model of a law-abiding football club in the UK.

  • DC

    Nice article Tony.
    The Rangers situation is not isolated in British football but unfortunately for the elite Scottish game, the financial mismanagement is less well masked or illogically explained away than in the EPL. This I’m sure is in no small measure because the figures involved are less mind-boggling or the individuals involved are less well-loved and establishment-friendly!
    I think that the issue of “employee benefits” (or player’s image rights or bonuses, as clubs usually like to term them) is indeed being looked into already by HMRC. Unfortunately for Glasgow Rangers, they didn’t have the same media/accounting/legally manipulative back-up that you need to escape such investigations!

  • DC

    I fully support such a petition but knowing Cameron, the issue of Scottish Independence could find it’s way into this ugly episode. Imagine the Tory-led coalition government riding into the matter on their white-horse to show how much they care for one of Scottish football’s two biggest clubs! Just call me cynical but how many “NO to independence” votes could that apparent goodwill influence and sequester from the Scottish population?!
    I fully agree with your point on the appointment of administrators; it has always baffled me how the process is undertaken!

  • goonergerry

    Rangers may have gone into administration-and Arsenal’s owners may look at their current balance sheet with satisfaction. Arsenal’s owners and Directors I am sure are walking around with a warm glow after an unidentified person reportedly paid 20% more for a few shares than what Usmanov is offering. They will be looking to make another 20m plus profit this year on the sale of our top goalscorer. Does making a profit by selling your best players make you a well run club?

    Aside from the personal wealth of shareholders of the club, in a practical sense there is not a lot of difference when it comes to future options – when it comes to strengthening our respective teams on the field.

    If Rangers can be saved-or recast as a different business-their transfer and spending strategy in the foreseeable future will have a lot in common with that of Arsenal-like us they will have to make do with kids and unknowns and hope that one or two come good. Whilst their transfer strategy will be enforced-our austerity policy and our decline in success on the pitch is one of choice. The most that can be said is that at least our existence is not threatened-for now at least.

  • finsbury

    I’m not the biggest fan of the Gruniad (James Richardson excepted) but this was interesting:

  • Anthony

    @DC I appreciate your point but would I be right in saying you are not from Scotland? lol as rangers and their support are by far and away the MOST unionist group of people/supporters north of the border so Mr Cameron will have no worries on that count! in fact I believe it’s our own Alex Salmond who has shot himself in the foot judging by the public backlash up here, many people want independence but won’t vote for a man who will use a company cheating the public purse out of £50-£70m (at te low end of the spectrum) as a means for political point scoring or vote winning. again I would urge you to sign and circulate the petition as there are a great many public services that could be using this lost revenue in these tough financial times.


  • Gooner Gal

    @ Tony, I am very glad you wrote this article as I am still struggling to get my head round how a well supported club of that size and in that league could end up in administration. Reading some of the confusing stuff out there swirling around could lead you to believe that it’s all entirely the taxman’s fault. What has amazed me with this and other large organisations like Vodaphone and Portsmouth FC are allowed to get to a stage where they owe millions in tax, when I know the taxman has harassed elderly pensioners for months for a couple of grand.

    It is begining to feel like we need much more stringent regulation and a review of the ‘fit and proper’ test for ownership of a club. I am not sure what role if any FIFA needs to play in this, but the ordinary taxpayer shouldn’t have to keep picking up the costs.

  • DC

    I’ve lived, studied and worked in Edinburgh for a cumulative total of 20 years; and up north, i’m a Jambo for my sins! Consequently, I’ve got a pretty descent grasp of the politico-cultural issues in Scotland and its footballing links.
    What I meant by Cameron’s involvement, as with the banking crisis at RBS and BOS, it will be another exceptional opportunity for the seat of power in London to show the WHOLE populous of its ability to be a concerned and generous centre when its semi-devolved neighbour needs assistance.

  • DC

    I’ll definitely pass the word about the petition. Ta!

  • Gooner Gal

    @ gonnergerry, where have you been hiding? I see you’ve started talking about areas you have previously been found very wanting in again. From reading your post, your time away was not spent doing any research or fact finding then.

    @ Finsbury, that is a great link and article.

  • Anthony

    @DC sorry to hear about the Jambo thing!! also sorry about that thrashing the other week altho you should have had a goal at the start. you will no doubt be aware that your club is an unsecured creditor to the tune of £800k regarding the Wallace transfer which you may not receive, the thing that astounds me is that I have heard many voices within media and political circles coming out and saying help rangers but I’d much prefer these people, especially the politicians to do their job and say they would like to see the monies repaid.

  • DC

    The ref was shocking and against the old-firm, as you well know, you need those decisions to be correct and all of the luck you can get!
    The Wallace deal with Rangers makes transfers a complete joke! Alarm bells should have rang when a club like Rangers can’t even afford to pay a measly 1.2mill for a player! I’ve always believed that ALL of the transfer fee and payments should be paid up front and completed before ANY PLAYER is allowed to leave their selling club! If you can’t afford to buy the player outright straightaway, then you should go and buy someone cheaper! It’s not like your buying a f**king washing machine on a “buy-now pay-later” agreement from from Comet!
    Our financial problems are well reported and we’ve never been in line for any support or bail-out from the incompetent and egotistical mess that Romanov’s put us in! It all makes you sick in the stomach these obvious inconsistencies as if we’re all stupid and not meant to notice! Utter garbage!

  • Interesting little postscript. The guy who anonymously writes the blog Rangerstaxcase has a column in the Guardian today, and say the following, which is rather similar to my opening point about there being an agenda in football journalism

    I quote…

    The Triangle of Trade to which I have referred is essentially an arrangement where Rangers FC and their owner provide each journalist who is “inside the tent” with a sufficient supply of transfer “exclusives” and player trivia to ensure that the hack does not have to work hard. Any Scottish journalist wishing to have a long career learns quickly not to bite the hands that feed. The rule that “demographics dictate editorial” applied regardless of original footballing sympathies.

    The last vertex of this triangle is the reader – the average football fan. Fed a diet rich in sycophantic rubbish, he lost the ability to review critically what he was reading. Super-casino developments worth £700m complete with hover-pitches were still being touted to Rangers fans even after the first news of the tax case broke. Along with “Ronaldo To Sign For Rangers” nonsense, it is little wonder that the majority of the club’s fans were in a state of stupefaction in recent years. They were misled by those who ran their club. They were deceived by a media pack that had to know that the stories it peddled were false.

  • Anthony

    @DC fully agree about the game, also agree about transfer fees, I think the way forward would be for a transfer window before the start of the season then u register a 22 man squad then as the season goes on if you are stuck with injuries/ suspensions your allowed to use 5 players from your reserve team and none of this 28 year olds in the reserves just your youngsters!! in regards to Romanov he’s a lunatic who has moaned about being hampered by the Scottish football ‘mafia’ but it seems to me he has taken every opportunity to set your team back himself!! wonder if he would be willing to put in a bit of cash now as it seems like rangers will be hamstrung financially for at least a couple if seasons?

  • DC

    Your squad proposal sounds good and an excellent way to ensure that young talent are given priority whenever possible! I also agree with Arsene that the loan system should only be permitted for those players under 21 years of age!
    Wrt Romanov,he is incredibly self-centred and whatever he does, will not be for the betterment of Hearts but primarily for his own ego and self-advancement! If he thinks that he can get that free CL spot, he’ll invest, take the adulation for himself and pick the side during the group stages. He’ll keep pocketing the CL money for himself for as long as he can!