Looking back to Issue 7 of CQN Magazine, which came out after Rangers FC went into Adminstration but before the club died in June 2012. Here Tony McCann considers the EBT scandal from some different angles…
In 1963 £2.6m was stolen by a gang of 15 men from a Royal Mail train headed to London from Glasgow. 10 of the 15 that faced trial and were found guilty of “Conspiracy to Rob”. They subsequently got between 20 -25 years for those charges alone. We got a movie with Phil Collins.
The interesting thing there is that these men, who conspired to rob Her Majesty’s Post Office got a sentence of up to 25 years for that charge alone. Brilliant, a Celtic fan writing about conspiracies. But I think it is a reasonable assumption that if you employ a scheme to not pay tax you are conspiring to rob.
The Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) scheme is a “financial vehicle”, one that Rangers are accused of using to drive funds away from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. An EBT is not illegal in itself; the use of it as the primary means to pay players is what makes it illegal given that money paid via this method is not taxed. Taking a step back and approaching this from a purely human view it would be a bitter pill to swallow if those paid exorbitant sums for what they do were also shaking their responsibilities to the State, which we fund and they use. That in itself is morally repugnant. What is harder to take, as a fan though is the general malaise we have witnessed in our national pastime and a killer blow would be delivered merciless if it could be proven to have been driven by the pure vanity of some with little or no consideration to the greater costs, especially to those who fervently funded a large percentage of what may transpire to be known as the tainted glory years.
Perhaps those that talk about dignity in their newspaper columns should tell me what is dignified about being investigated for defrauding the public interest and also providing the mindless an inane fuel to fire false debates designed only to side track justifiable outrage from where it should truly be concentrated.
The sum stolen in The Great Train Robbery is worth an equivalent of £11m today. I recall in a less enlightened era (in some circles were expenditure of “£10 pound for every £5” spent elsewhere was never even put under any type of scrutiny) that £12.25m was spent on a striker notable for being tall but not being particularly dominant in the air. Thus far we have seen figures of £75m banded about as being the total amount Rangers could owe HMRC. I think this clearly has to be quantified away from the growing Whyte noise generated by the protagonist of the hour’s daily startled mug shot in the paper pertaining to yet another court appearance combined with the nightly follow-up barrage on the evening news. If the HMRC are correct and subsequently win their case then £75m was diverted away from the greater interest and into a narrow interest; one which it could be argued as caused more harm than good.
As a thought exercise, 11 goes into 75 almost 7 times.
Not even the most blinkered Rangers fans can even now dispute the scale and seriousness of their predicament, not with their toes wiggling nervously over the edge of the Abyss. But as our Ibrox counterparts rapidly accelerate towards the event horizon with many segments of the press and some politicians convinced that all in Glasgow will be sucked into this sporting black hole, Celtic have shown robust leadership and been firm and fair in their statements to the media. Those that may seek to divide or taint us have only galvanised us, and for the first time in my life I feel there is a welcome wind of change in our national game.
It can be only to our credit that we have organically grown as we have. We have reduced our structural debt and are living within our means; we have an excellent stadium, state of the art training facilities and young, hungry squad shaped into a special team by one of our own. We have achieved this against what seemed like insurmountable odds all those years ago. Be clear that we have got here through fiscal prudence. The only answer to our strategic and measured approach by our city rivals was reckless spending funded by money that it can be arguedmshould have been invested in the interests of a broader cross section of the public. Bear in mind that many of those who scoffed at our practical approach all those years ago are those who are currently calling into question our ability to survive without our city neighbours.
In total a maximum of 30 years was handed out to 7 of the 10 train robbers on trial. 25 years of those sentences were for “conspiracy to rob”. If only they had used pens instead of shotguns.
OUT NEXT WEEK! THE WINDS OF CHANGE, the compelling follow up to the brilliant Caesar & The Assassin – order HERE.