Three years ago today the creditors of the oh-so-incorporated Rangers Football Club, said “f*ck this” and pulled the plug on a self-styled ‘institution’ which had run-up massive debts and left itself utterly exposed to a great big tax case when it might instead have decided to
- rein in both spending and ambition for a while; and
- set aside some money to settle with however much Hector finally won in the tax tribunal system [NB remember that some of the cases have already been conceded, while others are either subject to appeal or have been referred back to the lower-tier tribunal following earlier ‘defeats’ for HMRC]
The story of Rangers’ self-inflicted collapse, and subsequent liquidation is very familiar.
And it continues to loom large in the thinking of every football fan in Scotland, and in the mind (and depleted bank balance) of every one of those stiffed creditors.
Why is that?
Firstly, people like to point and laugh. It’s unedifying (no, really…) but it is human nature.
There is a large element of schadenfreude amongst those who believe Rangers got their just desserts after years of spending money they didn’t have, and using some very interesting financial instruments and administrative practices to win trophy after trophy.
Secondly, there is the ludicrous concept of the “survival myth”. As you can see from the picture at the top of this piece, the Daily Record, like every other newspaper, was in no doubt about the meaning of liquidation.
According to Scots Law, the nature of UEFA FFP Article 12 and the Clumpany dictionary, it clearly meant annihilation and death.
It meant dismemberment in the hope that the 276 creditors might be able to get something – anything – back from the corpse.
It’s not a difficult concept to understand. It is very straightforward indeed.
But fast-forward to 2015 (in fact fast-forward to the end of July 2012) and the Daily Record (like other papers) would probably completely disown its front page of 13 June 2012. Only the story about the “Teacher In A Million” exists in their eyes.
An incredibly convoluted narrative was created to maintain a fiction that simply doesn’t stand even the most cursory bit of scrutiny. Where once we had football clubs – which were generally incorporated bodies – we now have flights of fancy based on ethereal entities.
Simply to avoid speaking the truth.
An example of the lunacy of the survival myth was (ironically) provided today by Rangers’ own liquidators, BDO. Their latest report to creditors contains this interesting snippet:
“Since our last report, a further £77k has been received in respect of book debts, principally the balance of £75k due from Everton in respect of the Jelavić transfer to Hull”.
If the ‘club’ is eternal, then surely the money should be going to fill the Ibrox warchest ahead of the new season? Rather than the creditors of some ‘holding company’.
But of course, the club isn’t eternal.
Rangers liquidated, and liquidation means death.
As any journalist on Twitter will tell you, the merest suggestion of Charles Green FC being the same club as Rangers is always met with howls of derision.
Some would have you believe that it is because ‘we’ are ‘obsessed’ and ‘unable to move on’. ‘We’ would say it is because the media (without any half-decent evidence from a single governing body) is telling us a lie. A barefaced one that is so obvious you would laugh if it wasn’t so insulting!
The media can keep lying (and they will), but they’ll never find us willing to sit back and let it pass. A media that won’t speak the truth isn’t doing anyone any good at all.
The Clumpany can appreciate that repeating The Lie helps to sell newspapers, and attract listeners and viewers. But it is still a lie.
And it is a sign that the media themselves lacked the imagination or love of sport-for-sport’s-sake to “move on” following the events of June 2012.
The unrelenting narrative is that there must be a Rangers, and it must be a strong one. The game isn’t worth much without it.
This is despite all the great stories surrounding other clubs, and the amazing heritage and history of the Scottish game as a whole.
There must be a Rangers and it absolutely must be the same one that won all those trophies.
But we must never speak about the stiffed creditors.
Which brings us to the third reason why the liquidation of Rangers still resonates…
We are repeatedly told that this is the ‘same club’, and the fawning media has cheered on some of its ‘former’ directors as they sought to take control and ‘rebuild’ it.
And they have been given an incredibly easy time as both they and it have lurched from one problem (and loan) to the next.
The lack of a discernible plan or investment simply hasn’t set any alarm bells ringing, and the efforts of a significant shareholder and major commercial partner to protect his interests are being met with considerable media hostility.
At no point has the press called out the new regime over the possibility of looming calamity. Despite the fact that they tell us how important the Ibrox brand is, and despite the fact that the death of the previous club caused chaos and allegedly brought the entire game to the brink of ‘Armageddon’.
They may wish to avert their gaze but I do not!
The Clumpany has seen what happens when an Ibrox-based entity goes under. It isn’t pretty and we are expected to bend over backwards to accommodate its successor.
I’d like to stay ‘on guard’ in case of a repeat performance, thank you.
We were even treated to a spectacular bit of ‘same clubbery’ by Baron Bouffant today at the EGM called by His Big Mikeness. When referring to the aspiration to have RIFC shares listed on the ISDX exchange, he said
“The Club has been on ISDX when it had different name.”
So Sevco is the same corporate entity that was previously listed on ISDX, Paul?
It has just changed its name?
If that wasn’t such manifest drivel, BDO would probably be writing to Sevco this afternoon, asking them to pay back all of Rangers’ creditors!
As for the EGM itself, it was pretty uneventful. In a move unlikely to thrill Sevconians, the Komedy King himself was unavailable to chair the meeting owing to being away on “club business” .
The hope of listing RIFC shares on the ISDX wasn’t given any serious scrutiny. Especially in terms of the exchange’s capital requirements and the need not to have a ‘going concern’ warning in the accounts.
The injunction and interdict – which were apparently served on Directors personally last night – closed down any possibility of discussion about commercial contracts with Sports Direct. This led to lots of Board responses along the lines of “I can’t comment on that”.
Baron Bouffant informed shareholders that the ‘club’ would look to present a resolution at the AGM to disapply the voting rights of any shareholders who contravene the SFA’s dual ownership rules.
He said that Sevco could have been fined up to £1 million, been banned from the Scottish Cup, and restricted from signing new players following the recent charges against them and HBM. But they had negotiated with the SFA and accepted fines totalling just £5,500.
Negotiated and accepted fines of only £5,500, and avoided a Scottish Cup ban?
Really Paul? What a heroic performance!
As I said in a previous piece, this sounds like grandstanding, and it would be a brave board that tried to put it into effect.
However, from a comedy perspective, it could be very rewarding indeed.
There was also talk at the EGM of it being right to honour the contract of Gardener Ally – with the irony of wanting to renegotiate the Sports Direct contracts remaining unspotted!
We were also told that there had been positive talks with two potential Nomads to replace WH Ireland, and that Sevco were surprised when they had opted not to take the gig.
When challenged about repaying the Sports Direct loan, John Gilligan reassured shareholders that
“We are asking for the trust of the shareholders in this matter that it is not in the best interests of the club or the business to repay the loan”.
The Clumpany wonders whether shareholder Mike Ashley trusts them on this matter?!
But just in case anyone was still having doubts about the financial position of the ‘club’, there were some further reassuring words from Gilligan:
“Dave King, Douglas Park and George Letham and George Taylor, if you count their share purchases, their investment in the business is over £8 million. That’s not a sum to be dismissed”.
The Clumpany doesn’t wish to rain on their parade, but it might be worth pointing out that the money to purchase shares went to existing shareholders, and the other ‘investment’ has taken the form of loans which may ultimately be converted to equity.
It’s not exactly war chest-tastic stuff is it?!
In a statement that was almost as impressive as the content of Dave King’s hilarious letter to fans, Baron Bouffant sought to reaffirm reasons for Sevconian optimism, explaining that the directors
“will offer whatever finance the club requires to restore its position in Scottish and European football”.
And that was it! All over in around half an hour, and the results of the voting should be revealed on Monday.
On the face of it, it seemed slightly odd that neither Sports Direct nor MASH sent representatives to the meeting to ask questions.
But why would they?
They have made the Sevco directors squirm and speak publicly on difficult matters. They had already issued their own statement on why the meeting was needed. And they had fired a shot-across-the-bows by obtaining an injunction and interdict to protect commercial confidentiality, and disrupt the PR offensive against them.
HBM has made a point. A big one.
Oh, and he has ticked a box marked ‘give the shareholders and directors every opportunity to repay the £5m loan’.
It is just possible that this is the end of the matter as far as HBM is concerned.