Scottish Football, SFA, SPFL

The Biggest Lie of All?

Good Evening.

The picture at the top of this piece is a pretty ordinary one, but it represents something very substantial.

It is (obviously) a football. And the chances are that if you saw one of many Rangers players kick one during the first decade of this century, you were being lied to.

And if you saw a player in another Scottish side kicking a ball in a competition involving the late Rangers Football Club you were also being lied to.

Thousands of passes. Hundreds of goals. Dozens of tournaments.

All a lie.

And if you invested a single penny or shred of emotion in Scottish football during that period you were being cheated. 


Because the implication of today’s victory for HMRC in the Big Tax Case (assuming there is no successful appeal at the Supreme Court) is that Rangers (IL) fielded players they couldn’t otherwise afford by using payment schemes on which due tax went unpaid.

As today’s judgement says

“Furthermore, so far as the footballers are concerned, at least, it seems to us that if bonuses had not been paid they might well have taken their services elsewhere. We realise that the fifth respondent [RFC 2012] was in, potentially, a difficult financial position, competing for good players in an international market where other countries may not have the same rigorous approach to taxation as the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the law is clear: the payments made in respect of footballers were in our view derived from their employment and thus the payments were emoluments or earnings.”

While Rangers were doing this, other clubs took expensive care to render into Caesar what was Caesar’s.

You might say that these clubs were at a completely unfair disadvantage as Rangers hoovered up more of the trophies that apparently made them the ‘World’s Most Successful Club’ (sic).

How does that make you feel?

It makes me feel rather pissed off that for the best part of a decade our wonderful game seems to have been a lie. All those goals, all those matches, and all those tournaments.

The reaction of many fans today has been to demand that action is initiated to examine what happened during that decade, and have the option of title stripping on the table.

And they are absolutely right to do this. The implications of the HMRC victory raise too many questions about the very worth and integrity of our game to be swept under the carpet.

The SFA must institute an independent inquiry or process to get to the bottom of the matter, and consider whether sanctions are merited. These issues were most certainly not resolved by the SPL-sponsored Lord Nimmo Smith Commission which looked into the use of side letters. 

The game needs to be cleansed, and no stone should be left unturned. Only then can we all try and move on.

Voices are already being raised in the media, questioning the need to go over this ground.

This piece by Graham Spiers rightly calls out Rangers’ cheating and the stain it will always leave on their memory, but then goes on to say

“The judgement of illegal activity by Rangers – if or when this saga is concluded – will leave an ungodly mess to be sorted.

The club paid the ultimate price in 2012 – liquidation. That event has left Scottish football poisoned, with acrimonious debate about Rangers’ history going into overdrive in recent years. But the “newco Rangers” – whatever your interpretation of that – will not be financially affected.”

“A guilty Rangers – if this is the end of the matter – also leaves the Scottish FA in a precarious position. Retrospective title-stripping looks a futile business to me, but it goes on in other sports, and the SFA stand accused of being timorous in the face of the wrongdoing.

Is title-stripping an option? Yes, it is, though I wouldn’t assent to it. The misdeeds have been done, and Rangers FC paid a high price.

What is to be gained in trampling back over history and spearing a liquidated football club with further punishment? There always will be an asterisk in the public mind beside these dodgy Rangers years. I cannot see the benefit in the retrospective expunging of trophies.”

Well that’s all well and good Graham, but the current Ibrox entity continues to maintain that it IS Rangers, and clings to the titles that were apparently stolen from Scottish football. And that doesn’t sit right with me and many others.

Are we seriously meant to buy the fiction that 

  • a liquidated company ran a scheme on which tax should have been paid,
  • to maximise its player budget,
  • which an ethereal ‘club’ then used to win trophies that can’t fairly be stripped?

Aye. Right.

Personally, I find it difficult to believe the SFA will do anything other than try and avoid instituting a process which might remove trophies from Rangers, and which risks incurring the displeasure of Sevco fans.

But we have seen a similar movie before. Back in 2012, Heaven and Earth was moved by the authorities to try and place new club Sevco in the top two tiers of the game. The ‘No to Newco’ campaign brought fans of many clubs together to stand against gerrymandering and protect the integrity of our game.

I suspect that something similar may now be required if the SFA is to be persuaded to take action in response to today’s judgement.

And that means politely pestering the boards of our clubs to say that we are not prepared to see the SFA washing its hands of this mess. 

All our clubs. 

Not just Celtic. Because if Celtic tried to act alone (and I doubt they would), it instantly becomes portrayed as an ‘Old Firm’ (sic) issue, and therefore a pantomime.

Think about it. 

And if you conclude that our game deserves better than the epic lie of the previous decade, and if you believe that wrongs ought to be set right, why not contact your club to let them know?

There’s no time like the present.