Here we look back at the summer of 2012, the events that led up to that being a landmark period for Scottish football and the blow by blow incidents that ultimately led to the liquidation of Rangers FC. Here’s what happened…
June 2001: Christian Nerlinger joins Rangers. Little be known to the rest of Scottish football he will be the first player paid by an EBT (an Employee Benefit Trust) which will later be declared illegal (as administered by Rangers) by HMRC.
Summer 2004: Jean Alain Boumsong rejects English Premier League sides to sign for Rangers on a free transfer. Six months later he is sold (January of 2005) to Newcastle in an 8million deal. This deal is later investigated by the City of London police who raided Newcastle and Rangers in June 2007.
A later report from Lord Steven remarked:
“There remains inconsistencies in evidence provided by Graeme Souness – a former manager of the club – and Freddy Shepherd – apparently acting in an undefined role but not as a club official – as to their respective roles in transfer negotiations.”
April 2010: HMRC hit Rangers with a tax bill of £24m before penalties for non-payment of taxes on monies remitted to players and staff via the EBT scheme.
27th March 2011: A new blog appears on wordpress named Rangerstaxcase.com. Little did we know the impact it would have on Scottish Football.
6th May 2011: Craig Whyte buys Rangers FC PLC for £1 from David Murray with his holding company Wavetower taking over 85% of the Football club.
Mid-May 2011: Craig Whyte changes the name of Wavetower to ‘Rangers Football Group Ltd’, the holding company for Rangers FC PLC. He immediately claims he has cleared the Rangers debt to Lloyds Bank and is ready to invest in the team. He quickly removes Alastair Johnston and Paul Murray from the Board and suspends Martin Bain and Donald McIntyre.
5th June 2011: RTC uncovers a MG05 document filed at Companies House showing that Rangers have assigned 4 years of season ticket sales to another company. This is later denied by Craig Whyte, but later turns out to be the mechanism by which Whyte funded the takeover.
19th June 2011: Craig Whyte is asked about the RTC blog, remarking:
“I’m aware of a website that has dedicated itself to talking about our tax case, I’ve looked at it. What they’re saying is 99 per cent crap”
August 2011: Rangers are knocked out of Europe by Maribor. A seemingly irrelevant event, but one that leaves a £15m hole in Craig Whtye’s budget. One that he meets by not paying the tax man. Internet Bampots questions in October where this money was coming from…
10th September 2011: Court papers from Martin Bain related to his employment case against Rangers explode across the internet. Within them there is a plea from Bain’s lawyers to freeze the claimed compensation as they feel there is a question mark over the club’s solvency. Further it exposes the assignment of ticket sales to a third party and shows that the debt owed to Lloyds Bank has not been discharged completely. RTC analysis of these ‘Bain papers’ is concluded with the following:
While Rangers’ supporters might not be in any mood to thank anyone for helping shed light on this situation, it is good for their club (if not its current and previous owners) that this information is in the public domain. It is especially good for our national game as a whole that we discuss the problems of the last decade openly. Rangers supporters need to ask themselves why they have meekly stood by while the future of their club has been imperiled and whether their “friends” in the media have done them an injustice by becoming complicit in the cover-up of this story.
Unfortunately, despite the information being exposed to all, the Rangers fans failed to listen…
October 2011: In the first mainstream feature on the case, the BBC air a documentary proving that Craig Whyte had been banned from holding a director position in UK companies for 7 years for ‘putting assets out of the reach of creditors’. BBC are banned from Ibrox and Whyte claims he will sue the BBC for presenting false evidence – but later admits that he was disqualified. Rather amusingly he admits this the same day he reveals Rangers have reduced their debt to £14m…. (they hadn’t).
The SFA stay silent on the matter and the writ received by the BBC in February 2012 has since vanished.
30th November 2011: Rangers PLC release unaudited accounts for the year 2010/2011 revealing profits of £2 million and NET Assets of £76m. The accounts are NOT signed by an auditor leading to rumours all is not well in Ibrox.
January 2012: RTC explains in detail Succulent Lamb Journalism…the phrase becomes a defining point of the story, along with ‘internet bampots’, coined by Hugh Keevins.
18th January 2012: The ‘Big tax case’ concludes.
13th February 2012: Rangers file papers at the Court of Session giving notice of their intention to enter administration within 7 days…
14th February: HMRC petition the Court of Session to allow them to appoint administrators. After a short hearing, HMRC withdraw the motion and Rangers PLC promptly appoints the now infamous Duff & Phelps as administrators. Craig Whyte stands on the steps of Ibrox and announces to the angry mob the unthinkable… Rangers FC PLC is now in administration.
That evening it is confirmed that HMRC had pushed for administration over £9 million in unpaid VAT, PAYE and NI since the Whyte takeover. This later rises to £18m.
99% what Craig?
15th February 2012: The SPL immediately deduct Rangers (IA) 10 points for entering administration, as per league rules. Possibly the last time they follow their own rules throughout this saga.
David Murray, in typical fashion, professes surprise at events which RTC and others warned about 12 months earlier while Murray was still in charge. Murray also says:
“Firstly, there has been no decision, and there is no present indication as to the timing of a decision, from the first-tier tax tribunal concerning the potential claim from HMRC of £36.5m excluding interest and penalties.
“Secondly, legal opinion on the strength of the club’s case remains favorable.”
21st February: Daily Mail confirm what RTC told us last year, by confirming that Ticketus bought 100,000 season tickets at Ibrox over the next 4 years. It was this money that Whyte used to buy the club. Rangers fans are up in arms. Even though they ignored the warnings a year earlier.
The SFA announce that Lord Nimmo Smith will chair an inquiry into the circumstances leading to administration.
25th February 2012: The Sun on Sunday launches by printing what they claim is a ‘side letter’ given to Rangers players. A financial expert tells them:
“Number one, you are going to get £122,000 and number two you get £1,200 for a first-team game.
“It equates to salary as far as I am concerned. I would say this sort of letter will be a central thread in the big tax case.
RTC later confirm they are correct.
27th February 2012: The SFA confirm they will start an investigation into these ‘side letters’.
3rd March 2012: D&P admit Rangers have no chance of making Europe the next season, as they admit audited accounts by the 31st March would be almost impossible.
However, in a baffling move, one month later D&P reveal they are ‘appealing’ the decision to ban Rangers from Europe. UEFA respond by saying:
“Licence applicants must demonstrate that as at March 31, 2012, they have no payables overdue towards their employees or social/tax authorities as a result of contractual/legal obligations to their employees that arose prior to December 31, 2011.”
8th March 2012: Lord Nimmo Smith forwards his report to the SFA Judicial Panel. The report contains prima facie evidence that Craig Whyte was not a ‘fit and proper person’. A hearing is set for the 29th March. This is later postponed at the request of Whyte.
9th March 2012: With no redundancies in sight, Rangers players agree to pay cuts, ranging from 75 – 25%. It is later revealed that these are not ‘pay cuts’, but pay deferments which must be repaid in the summer, otherwise Rangers will be in breach of contract.
5th April 2012: D&P reveal in their first creditors report that Rangers debts could top £134m, with HMRC claiming £93m of the total.
The report also details debts to football creditors of around £2.3m. It also details debts of hundreds of creditors, such as that for Susie Thomson – a face-painter from Glasgow owed £40. These were the real human losers in this story.
Interestingly, assets are valued at £116m, as per the 2011 accounts.
23rd April 2012: The SFA’s independent panel finds Rangers (IA) guilty of 5 different breaches of SFA rules relating to disrepute charges and are handed a £160,000 fine, the maximum available and a 12 month transfer embargo. The judicial panel state that the offenses committed by Rangers were only one step “lower than match fixing”, and reveal that they considered the punishment of suspension of license or expulsion from the SFA. They determine a fine would not be enough given the seriousness of the charges and thus impose a transfer embargo.
In the judgement, the panel make reference to evidence given by the Rangers Financial Controller who said invoices to Ticketus were such that they “appeared as though Clip Art computer processes had been involved in their creation.” The Financial Controller tells the panel he had never seen them.
24th April 2012: The uproar from Ibrox is loud, with the Bears taking their anger out on the SFA. McCoist makes a rallying call, demanding to know “who these people are”. He admits the next day he knew all along who ‘these people are.’
As a result, a poor director at Raith Rovers takes his family into protective police custody, and Raith are forced to hire round the clock security after arson threats to their ground. Finally, in August 2012, McCoist is charged by the SFA for his remarks.
Rangers blame the SFA for not stopping Whyte earlier, despite warnings before he took over.
“Why did the SFA not investigate when they said they had suspicions before Christmas rather than wait until the club went into administration?
9th May 2012: American tycoon Bill Miller walks away from a proposed offer for Rangers (IA) after being subjected to threats from the Ibrox crowd and discovering a £30 million black hole in the Rangers accounts.
11th May 2012: Rangers reveal they will appeal the transfer embargo and fine imposed. The SFA inexplicably name the 3 man panel that will oversee the decision, going against SFA rules agreed by ALL clubs, including Rangers (IA).
17th May 2012: SFA uphold the transfer embargo against Rangers (IA) . The SFA state that it was “proportionate to the breach, dissuasive to others and effective in the context of serious misconduct, bringing the game into disrepute.”
The Rangers Fighting Fund along with D&P announces they are paying a lawyer to challenge the SFA in the Court of Session. The SFA say nothing.
22nd May 2012: It is now May, 3 months since the SFA/SPL announced an investigation into side letters and unauthorized payments to players from Rangers FC. RTC once again provides evidence of a ‘prima facie’ case by revealing details of Christian Nerlinger’s EBT letters.
23rd May 2012: BBC air a damning documentary revealing details of EBT payments and side letters to Rangers players since 2001. They also uncover emails showing that D&P’s David Grier seemed to have prior knowledge of the Ticketus deal. D&P and Craig Whyte threaten legal action, but none is forthcoming. The BBC also hint at payments made to managers not employed by Rangers at the time, including Graeme Souness.
29th of May 2012: D&P reveal their CVA proposal. One that was doomed to fail, offering creditors little or nothing. It also revealed if it was rejected then the ‘assets’ would automatically be sold to Charles Green and Sevco 5088 for just £5.5m (the ‘new’ value of the assets. No evidence has yet been presented on how these ‘assets’ were valued.)
On the same day Rangers ‘win’ at Court of Session, with the court ruling that the SFA had no powers to give a transfer ban. They decide to refer the decision back to the SFA judicial panel to decide on a new punishment.
Lawyer Gregory Ioannidis remarks:
“If the Scottish Football Association decides to not take action against Rangers, in relation to Rangers submitting the application to the Court of Session, then Fifa can actually penalise the SFA, and the individual club, and the national team of Scotland, and impose an international ban on all of them.”
No action is ever taken by the SFA or FIFA.
12th June 2012: HMRC release a statement saying that they will reject the CVA. Given that they have over 25% of the debt, it makes the creditors meeting scheduled for the 14th irrelevant.
“A CVA would restrict the scope of such action. Moreover, the liquidation route does not prejudice the proposed sale of the club. This sale can take place either through a CVA or a liquidation, so the sale is not being undermined, it simply takes a different route.
“Liquidation will enable a sale of the football assets to be made to a new company, thereby ensuring that football will continue at Ibrox. It also means that the new company will be free from claims or litigation in a way which would not be achievable with a CVA.
14th June 2012: The CVA is formally rejected. D&P immediately sell the assets to Sevco 5088 Ltd and Rangers FC PLC (IA) cease to operate as a football club. The assets are later assigned to Sevco Scotland Ltd. SPL rules state that a club that ceases to function as a football club should immediately relinquish its share and membership. This does not happen.
15th June 2012: Ian Hart denies being part of the Green consortium buying the Rangers assets. Green had earlier named him when pushed to name his backers. So starts the misinformation campaign from Sevco.
17th June 2012: Rangers FC are excluded from the fixture list for the forthcoming SPL season, replaced instead by ‘CLUB 12’. It is widely reported, that if Sevco Scotland are refused a place in the SPL, then Club 12 will be Dundee. The SPL give no reasons why.
17th – 27th June 2012: Walter Smith, Allan Stewart and Stephen McKenna, and then John Brown all turn up in the papers making ‘bids’ for the assets which Green has already bought.
22nd June 2012 – Lord Hodge seeks report from D & P re: a potential “conflict of interest”, after information given to him by the BBC.
25th June 2012: The BBC reveal that Sevco Scotland will not be granted admission to the SPL, after 6 clubs publicly declare their opposition, after season ticket sales fail to materialize as fans make their views known.
27th June 2012: John Brown stands on the steps of Ibrox and pleads with Rangers fans not to buy season tickets until Green reveals who are his backers and who owns Ibrox. This question remains unanswered.
4th July 2012: Despite weeks of pressure from the SFA, SPL and MSM, the SPL clubs reject the application from Sevco Scotland to join the SPL.
Stewart Regan warns of Armageddon for Scottish Football if Sevco are not admitted to SFL1 instead.
5th July 2012: Stenhousemuir reveal details of a talk given to them by Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan, where SFL clubs are threatened with bankruptcy if they don’t vote Sevco Scotland into Division 1. Figures presented are ridiculed by the internet bampots. r
Clyde and Raith Rovers emerge as the cheerleaders for sporting integrity in the lower leagues, with both clubs openly speaking out against what they describe as “irresponsible”. Raith Chairman Turnbull Hutton suggests the SFL clubs send their mascots to vote on the proposal for Sevco to enter SFL1.
9th July 2012: the SFA refuse international clearance for players who decided to leave Rangers (IA) when the assets were sold, as were their rights under the TUPE laws.
Meanwhile, Sevco director Imran Ahmad, when asked what he felt was the exit price to sell Rangers/Sevco was, replied:
“On a bad day the club is worth £50m.”
13th July 2012: Expiry of deadline for submission of report on D&P conflict of interest. News suggests that Lord Hodge is on holiday. No news has been heard of this since.
13th July 2012: Sevco Scotland are allowed to start life in the 3rd division, subject to gaining an SFA licence, after SFL clubs vote to reject the proposal to allow Sevco Scotland into the 1st division. There is no sign of Armageddon.
15th July 2012: FIFA write to the SFA asking for reasons why former Rangers IA players are having their registration transfer blocked. The players claim they are free agents and have rejected the TUPE arrangements with Green’s new club.
24th July 2012: Ian Black signs a 3 year deal with Sevco Scotland. It was unclear how he is registered or who he is contracted to.
9pm, 27th July 2012: Just 48 hours before the first scheduled match for Sevco Scotland the SFA grant an unheard of ‘conditional’ membership to Sevco Scotland. It is reported that Sevco Scotland have agreed to a 12 month transfer embargo, conveniently starting on 1st September 2012. They also agree to pay all football debts of Rangers (IA).
Sevco, playing in strips of Rangers (IA) defeat Brechin City in extra time to record their first ever victory. Ian Black plays as a trialist, despite signing a contract with Sevco Scotland earlier in the week. It is further unclear whether players are registered to Rangers IA or Sevco Scotland, and if the former, how?
31st July 2012: At an EGM of Rangers FC PLC (IA) the directors change the company name to Rangers 2012 (IA). At the same time Sevco Scotland pass a resolution to change their name to ‘The Rangers FC Ltd’. Companies house data shows that Charles Green owns more than 10% of The Rangers FC Ltd, despite his claims that no one person would own more than this. No one from the MSM thinks to ask this question.
3rd August 2012: The Rangers FC Ltd are granted full SFA membership after having the membership of Rangers 2012 (IA) transferred to them. Under what rules this was possible is not clear.
ESPN follow SKY in agreeing a new deal with the SPL for TV rights. No sign of Armageddon.
15th August 2012: Dundee United in a short statement reveal that they have not been paid by Sevco/TRFC for the unpaid debt relating to last season’s Scottish Cup with Rangers (IA). Despite an agreement with the SFA to pay these debts, Charles Green blames the SPL for going back on a agreement made in May to pay this out of money owed to Rangers (IA). Dundee Utd, and other European clubs remain unpaid, as does the poor face painter from Glasgow.
It is unclear how the ‘conditional’ membership works if the ‘conditions’ have not been met.
STV further report that SPL clubs still do not know how much TV cash they are going to get from the new SPL SKY deal. The SPL make no comment.
17th August 2012: Lord Nimmo Smith is appointed to chair an independent commission into Rangers (IA) making undeclared payments to players from 2001 onwards. They are unlikely to sit before October.
22nd August 2012: ‘The Rangers’ announce they have signed a joint venture with Sports Direct for the merchandising rights. Companies House shows that the new company, ‘Rangers Retail’, is owned 100% by SportsDirect.com
23rd August 2012: There is still no word on who are the investors in Sevco Scotland. The SFA have not released any details to explain how Green passed the fit and proper person test. No details of proof that Sevco Scotland have the finances to last the season. The question of where are Ticketus is silent. Lord Hodge has still not returned his findings on a conflict of interest in the appointment of D&P. The FTT result is still awaited, just like BDO await the liquidation of Rangers 2012 PLC. Meanwhile, Stewart Regan resurfaces to announce details of league reorganization in time for next season, reducing Scotland to 3 leagues from 4.
Oh… and there is still no signs of Armageddon.
First published in CQN Magazine, issue 9, in autumn 2012. Written by StevensanPH who is an exiled St.Johnstone fan living in the Philippines.