Pandora my dear, open the box

There was a touch of farce to the Celtic blogger’s article in today Daily Record. It appears that the words “tax evasion” were overlooked by the Record’s editorial team, clearly leaving the newspaper potentially liable to legal action. Notwithstanding the subsequent correction, it provided a valuable insight into the narrative at work. Perhaps the words “tax evasion” and “cheats” have been so thrust with such force to the front of the narrative that even seasoned pro’s like the editorial team of a national newspaper are willing to accept it without question.

Not that further proof was required, but the one dimensional aspect of this current Rangers bashing campaign was totally exposed courtesy of a non-Rangers fan Alex Mooney, a retired journalist. Alex asked both Brian McNally and Alex Thomson whether they intended to extend their campaign for sporting justice to other clubs such as Arsenal. Not only was no answer forthcoming – he was subsequently blocked by both of them. There is no debate, just a one dimensional campaign to inflict damage on Rangers, and much, if not all, is driven by jealousy and hatred.

However the hypocrisy monster had not yet finished preying on Rangers. A Dundee United blogger was then given exposure in the Daily Record suggesting his club had been the victims of the sporting advantage gremlin in the 2008 league Cup Final.  The problem is some of us are able to recall the successful Dundee united team of the Jim McLean era. Additionally, we also remember the contracts many of these young players were tied into as later being declared unlawful. Should we re-visit that era and see which honours warrant forfeiture? Because surely sporting advantage is sporting advantage and has to be applied consistently. That’s assuming it is about upholding sporting integrity and not just punishing one club.

None of the current agitators wish to apply their arguments against Rangers to those other clubs who have benefited from EBTs, from accumulated debts being written off by banks or contracts which were subsequently declared to be unlawful; furthermore there is no moral outrage at players and officials from a variety of Scottish clubs who availed themselves of tax avoidance schemes now coming onto the radar of HMRC. The latter of course was what Rangers did, availed themselves of a tax avoidance scheme which until the Court of Session ruling last week was seen as a legitimate form of reducing tax liabilities. It’s just their treatment for doing so which is different. It’s also why the tax community has expressed such an interest in this case with a whole series of experts offering various viewpoints on the subject, as well as the need to review current tax avoidance protocols and procedures.

But bubbling away, out of sight, in the cauldron of the Scottish legal system is an issue may prove to have greater meltdown potential for Scottish football than anything we have seen to date. I refer of course to the alleged fraudulent scheme to acquire Rangers assets, and which ongoing legal procedure prevents me from discussing in any detail, other than what is already in the public domain. But it is not difficult to envisage the potential liability of punishing a member club who were victims of crime.

One might reflect on the sporting disadvantages they have been subjected to, the unlawful punishments imposed upon them and the loss of revenue and trophy opportunities as a consequence. Perhaps then people will learn that deviating from the facts, acquiescing to hate driven agendas, often based on lies, has severe consequences.

Pandora my dear, open the box if you wish, but be crystal clear of the consequences.

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The Title Stripping Inquisition

There was a considerable response to my last blog “Gunning for Rangers”, with surprise support and agreement from some elements of the Celtic fraternity with whom I’m normally “jousting” with on Twitter. Of course they were in a minority compared to those who wished to point out that Arsenal paid the money due to HMRC. When I use the term minority – I refer of course to social media given that a number of high profile ex Celtic players and an ex-manager have already publicly stated they have no desire to see Rangers forced to forfeit honours.

This is of course was a fact already alluded to in the blog but it served to underline the problems the “title stripping inquisition” have created for themselves with the “sporting advantage” argument. If EBTs are used as a tax avoidance measure, does it really matter in terms of sporting advantage if retrospective payments are made to HMRC? If the sporting advantage has been gained it is utterly preposterous to suggest that retrospectively paying the back tax nullifies or negates the alleged sporting advantage which was gained at the material time, in Arsenal’s case 2001 (Perhaps Earlier) – 2005.

Of course some still don’t get it – despite us having a wealth of tax experts such as Jo Maugham and Richard Murphy providing alternative opinions on the subject. But the reality is they don’t want to get it they just want to see Rangers punished or in some cases eradicated.

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One is reminded of the atmosphere which was the catalyst to one of the best narratives I read in those dark days of 2012 – Alex Mooney writing for the Rangers Standard.

http://www.therangersstandard.co.uk/index.php/articles/current-affairs/196-the-witch-hunt-that-shamed-scotland

Any hopes that lessons have been learned from that period are fading fast. The usual suspects within the media, and some new additions, are already leading a very anti-Rangers narrative. Those familiar with the Allport’s Scale of Prejudice will recognise the motivation behind this Tom English tweet following the Rangers statement today.

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For those who are not familiar with Allport’s work let me lay it out in its simplest form  – How dare the victim have the audacity to stand up for themselves. Shades of 2012.

Unsurprisingly, in a narrative which talks about sporting advantage, living beyond your means and signing players you could otherwise not afford, there has been a deathly silence with regard to those clubs who benefited from having their debt written off by the bank. Would they be signing the players they have in recent times if they were still saddled with their accumulated debt? Does this fit the narrative of sporting advantage, living beyond your means or signing players you couldn’t  otherwise afford; or is there an essential part of the narrative missing  – Rangers.

Will the many Scottish individuals from Scottish football who availed themselves of the tax avoidance schemes operated by Inside Track Productions, Ingenious Film Partners 2 LLP and Ingenious Games LLP find themselves subjected to the adjectives applied to Rangers these last few years?

http://news.stv.tv/west-central/308290-high-profile-scottish-football-figures-in-sweat-over-tax-avoidance-scheme/

Im not sure whether it will prove to be a Greek tragedy or farce, perhaps both, but nonetheless these lines seem very apt :-

“Pandora flung herself at the box. She caught the lid and managed to fit it on.

But it was too late. All of the awful things were out of the box”

Gunning for Rangers

The reaction to HMRC’s victory at the Court of Session in respect of the action against Murray Group Holdings and others, has been a mixture of both expected and unexpected. I think many of us Rangers fans expected the implosion from fans of other clubs, most notably Celtic, calling for titles to be stripped and cups to be taken away. Perhaps the unexpected element came from some sections of the media, with the exception of course, of some of the usual suspects.

The notion being promoted is that not only were we “cheats” with “tainted titles” but Rangers, through use of EBT’s, and failure to disclose side letters, gained an unfair sporting advantage – a notion previously dismissed by the SPL Independent Commission chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith.

“Rangers FC did not gain any unfair competitive advantage from the contraventions of the SPL Rules in failing to make proper disclosure of the side-letter arrangements, nor did the non-disclosure have the effect that any of the registered players were ineligible to play, and for this and other reasons no sporting sanction or penalty should be imposed upon Rangers FC.”

There is a particularly Scottish flavour to this clamour for retrospective punishment by way of honours forfeited. Rangers are not the only club to have fallen foul of HMRC over use of EBT’s with Arsenal previously coming to their attention, resulting in a considerable dent in their 2005 accounts as they paid back monies HMRC deemed they were due.

http://www.theguardi…ewsstory.sport9

Arsenal’s use of the EBT scheme came to light in July 2004 during Ray Parlour’s fairly acrimonious divorce from his wife Karen. During the course of the court proceedings it was discovered that Ray Parlour had only paid 22% on a salary of £1.5 million in season 2000/01.

The merits of this case and the considerable contrast in reactions to Arsenal and Rangers use of EBT’s were discussed in detail in an excellent article by Colin Armstrong writing for the Rangers Standard in 2013.

http://www.theranger…he-untouchables

As Colin points out in that article Ray Parlour was not the only Arsenal player with an EBT, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Dennis Bergkamp also recipients.

Whilst it may well be that Arsenal were operating EBT schemes prior to the 2000/01 season, for the purpose of this article we will only review the honours won by Arsenal between that season and 2005 when the bill was settled. These were as follows:-

2 League Championships (2002, 2004)

3 FA Cups (2002, 2003, 2005)

2 Charity/Community Shields (2002, 2004)

Despite the fact that during this period Arsenal did not pay what was due HMRC there are no demands for them to be stripped of the honours won during this period. They are not accused of cheating or gaining an unfair sporting advantage. No journalists were snubbed by the FA. No children were deprived of schoolbooks nor soldiers sent into battle without the necessary equipment. No, this appears to be an issue exclusive to Scotland. Which of course will come as no surprise to many of us after all…

It’s all about the Rangers.