Paul Simon wrote about ‘a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires’ but if you want to raise money to rescue a company you need more than a loose affiliation. ‘The rebels’ at Celtic managed this in 1994 (somehow), but Paul Murray’s Blue Knights affiliation unravelled over a few days.
While Duff and Phelps were casting aspersions on the SPL for spiking their plans to announce a preferred bidder last week, the Blue Knights were already struggling to pull £0.5m together as a covenant to secure a period of exclusive rights to buy the club.
18 years ago a Celtic supporter walked into a branch of Bank of Scotland and paid £1m into Celtic’s bank account to bring it back under agreed limits and prevent the club going into administration – without any security or negotiating rights. A discrete but hugely important act by a man still on our board. No one from the Rangers consortium was prepared to gamble half as much last week, they even asked Ticketus, finance provider for Craig Whyte’s doomed venture, to stump up the non-refundable cash! The ticket agency declined.
The Celtic consortium soon fell apart with a modest degree of acrimony but personal issues were put to the side until the job of securing the club was complete. Paul Murray’s group was less fortunate. As a chartered accountant Murray would have been fully aware of the Employee Benefit Trusts which brought the club to its knees. What he knew and whether he benefited are likely to be some of the questions other consortium members were asking. He was not best placed to lead the recovery.
Murray also tried to keep a broad church together, from wealthy but detached Rangers fans to various elements of the support. This sounded ambitious from the off.
The most important comment from the Blue Knights yesterday was “The consortium believes that the whole deal process has become incredibly complex and it is critical that a preferred bidder is appointed this week.”
If it’s possible for the words “incredibly complex” and “critical” to be an understatement this is the occasion. The Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League announce their fixtures in the middle of June. If Rangers are to phoenix before then they better hurry up and die. The liquidation process will take weeks (if it goes smoothly) and can be open to legal challenge. Stadium ownership has also to be secured and the claims of Ticketus and Andrew Ellis have to be satisfied.
Add to the mix creditors, the big tax case, punishments from the SFA for their on-going inquiry into the last takeover, potential punishments from the SPL inquiry into improperly registered players, increasingly widespread opposition from within the SPL and the rest of Scottish football to a place being created for a phoenix and you get the picture.
The last few years reads like a lesson in how to destroy a huge football club. Chances of SPL football at Ibrox next season? No more than 50%.
Bids for the original canvass painting of Neil Lennon by US based artist, Joseph Gormley, have hit an incredible £500. Keep an eye on the auction, which ends on Thursday, here.
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