So the day has come. Several of the alleged conspirators in the Great Football Swindle have arrived at the High Court in Edinburgh to face their charges.
It will be four years next week since I first asserted that Rangers would be liquidated, with all of the consequences that would entail. For the last two years I’ve tried to stay away from the subject and to concentrate on the matters which brought us together in the first place, but this issue deserves coverage.
In 2012 the illegal Discounted Options Scheme and Employee Benefit Trusts (only some of which are still subject to appeal) put HMRC in a position to demand payment, and subsequently reject administrators’ attempts to agree a CVA. Thank you, Sir David.
Charles Green must be a great poker player. He raised enough seed capital to buy the rights to pay £5.5 for Rangers assets in liquidation. From that moment, we thought one of two things would happen:
Green would pull Newco together and within a few years things would look like the old days.
Or, Green would be undermined by those he out-manoeuvred, leading to a likely insolvency for Newco.
There were suggestions early on that Green and Whyte were acting in concert, but, as someone with more experience than I have on matters like this pointed out to me, to be convicted for this type of crime you need to take a billboard advert out explaining your misdemeanours, it’s so difficult to prosecute. Or you need to be very stupid and fall out with your co-conspirators.
Stupidity is alive and well.
Green’s claim for legal fees against RIFC will have a profound impact on the club’s finances within weeks, but the bigger issue at hand is what happens at the outcome of the various criminal charges relating to the disposal and acquisition of the assets of Rangers Football Club, now in liquidation.
If it is proven that the assets were acquired criminally, the transaction is likely to be struck down, meaning the club currently trading as Rangers would lose ownership of whatever assets they have, including stadium and the name “Rangers”, irrespective of who actually controls those assets.
I’ve discussed this matter with many well-informed people and no one actually knows how it will play out, or what the consequences of guilty verdicts would be. The only thing that is known for sure is that outcomes are currently indeterminate, cannot be planned for, and contingencies cannot be made.
The club itself has to get on with business as best it can until whatever happens, happens, but no one should believe that a Duff and Phelps-type liquidation-bounce is normal, or remotely possible again. Assets could be hamstrung for years and left derelict.
Back in 2012 I said the only way forward with any certainty is to start with a clean sheet. Find a tiny club on the brink (there are enough of them), change their name, give them blue shirts, ask St Mirren or Partick Thistle to ground-share, and build your way up the leagues. Let the courts take their course and bid for the assets you want when the dust settles.
But that’s not going to happen. It would require more strategic thinking than is possible right now. My guess is they’re finished. Finished.