27 January 2013
The Rangers scandal has damaged Scottish football on a massive scale. The only thing that can save it is justice.
A forthcoming SPL inquiry, headed by Lord Nimmo Smith, will determine whether Rangers failed to declare all relevant documentation for the club’s player registrations, leaving it in breach of the rules every other SPL club abided by. It’s hugely important; the judgement could find Rangers players were fielded ineligibly. The ultimate sanction could be the stripping of titles.
It comes as no surprise that the new club’s PR man has offered up the Sevco view. That view must be put into context. Jim Traynor is no longer a journalist, his job is to represent Sevco’s interests in the media and further the club’s objectives. After the revelations of the past 12 months, it’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Given the perilous state of print journalism – and the recent figures which indicated an 8.8% drop in circulation at the Daily Record – perhaps Mr Traynor took the leap into PR at just the right time.
However, after tax avoidance on a huge scale, the refusal to pay bills and the attempt to re-brand a new club with the Rangers name and carry on business as usual, Mr Traynor really does have a PR job on his hands, particularly when UK prime minister David Cameron is not on board with the rhetoric and has pledged millions to crack down on the practice of tax avoidance.
It’s a job that won’t be made any easier by calls at the UK parliament to reclaim the millions of pounds of tax monies owed by Rangers from Sevco. After all, if the new club insists it is the old club, there should be no problem in paying its bills.
In Mr Traynor’s latest PR release, he claims that Rangers are ‘innocent’ of all wrongdoing regarding the controversial EBT tax avoidance scheme. However, Rangers were found liable to pay tax in a number of cases, and in the cases in which the practice was deemed tax avoidance, not tax evasion, HMRC has already set the wheels in motion for an appeal. It is far from over.
EBTs aside, Rangers owed unpaid tax money from both the Craig Whyte era and the Sir David Murray era. A £4.2m unpaid tax bill from the turn of the millennium, the wee tax bill, which was a result of a scheme utilised by Murray before EBTs, is rarely even mentioned. Is the use of the word innocence appropriate given the context?
With 276 creditors left unpaid by Rangers, Jim Traynor’s approach as the Sevco PR man has been weak, to say the least. His offerings scream ‘conspiracy!’ not ‘sorry!’. It is exactly what Sevco fans want to hear, and that is important; those fans stumped up millions during awful economic conditions and in the run up to Christmas to buy into a share issue, and those same fans donated to the Rangers Fans Fighting Fund (RFFF), which has, bizarrely, agreed to pay for the legal team defending Rangers in the SPL inquiry.
One would think that the new club’s owner, Charles Green, would be heading up the campaign to stop any title stripping. However, Mr Green is not cooperating with the inquiry and it’s left to the fans to stump up the cash.
Scottish football fans have been left with a deep sense of betrayal. A quote from Mr Traynor’s piece is striking.
“If there is any attempt to take away titles deep divisions will be created with Rangers fans feeling they shouldn’t set foot in any other grounds. Scottish football cannot afford that.”
On the contrary, if there is any attempt to prejudice this inquiry, each and every fan of Scottish football may feel they should no longer set foot in any ground. Fans of SPL clubs paid hard earned money over the time of Sir David Murray’s Rangers tenure and if the game wasn’t a level competition, the very least they deserve is justice and a belief that it can’t happen to them again.
Fans of The Rangers will undoubtedly feel that justice leaves them behind. My belief is that they are looking for justice in the wrong place. The questions they need to ask are ones only Sir David Murray can answer. The SPL inquiry does not seek to cause them further pain or embarrassment, it seeks to establish the truth.
Lord Nimmo Smith and his inquiry should be taken in good faith and given space to view the facts and make its judgement. Any attempts by Mr Traynor to influence it should be dismissed. Jim Traynor is no longer a journalist, and he does not represent the interests of Scottish football.