In the event of Rangers facing financial Armageddon after the resumption of their HMRC tax hearing a quick – very quick – recovery scenario is available to them. At any point during next month’s hearing they may consider their position is no longer tenable and, unable to meet the tax bill, a new company could be formed which attempts a prepack administration.
A prepack offer from a new company, for example, Rangers Newco FC Ltd, would offer an administrator a deal for all assets of the club, including stadium and offer to meet outstanding player wages. Deals like this seldom offer unsecured creditors much but even a small percentage might realise more cash than the administrator would gamble on raising in an unstructured sale.
In such circumstances, the administrator could accept as little as £4m for the unsecured creditors.
In normal business Rangers Newco FC Ltd would begin trading and this would be the end of the story but football is not normal business. Rangers Newco FC would own a stadium and would employ some footballers but they would not be part of any league structure. They would need to apply for membership to the Scottish Football League or Scottish Premier League.
In this scenario, the death of Rangers Football Club would leave a vacancy in the SPL, presenting several financial, logistical and sporting challenges. Without Rangers, the league would have to invalidate all this season’s results involving the club, one team would be without a game each weekend for the rest of the season, current TV contracts and sponsorship deals could be jeopardised, while future contracts would be worth a fraction of their current values.
Every team in the league would have to downsize and some would have to win fresh support from their bankers, which may or may not be forthcoming.
There is, of course, a resolution to this problem.
Rangers Newco FC Ltd could present an offer to the SPL. The new company, with its stadium and thousands of potential supporters, could take the obligatory 10 point punishment for going into administration and adopt the place of Rangers FC, complete their fixtures and allow every other team in the league to fulfil commercial obligations.
If these events took place before Christmas, Rangers Newco FC could be debt-free and signing players in January to enhance their league challenge.
To force the deal through, Rangers Newco FC would require 10 of the remaining 11 SPL clubs to vote in their favour. If any two clubs stand against them, they would have to apply for membership of the Scottish Football League, but, having researched this story for several days, I expect Rangers Newco FC Ltd would get enough support to pick-up the place of the defunct Rangers FC.
Any natural sympathies towards Rangers aside (which will not exist in all places), money talks and, apart from Celtic, this league is neck-deep in debt. Celtic might be in a position to survive Rangers failing but it would cost our club tens of millions.
Crucially, if the other SPL clubs back Rangers Newco FC, they create a template for a snap recovery from their own troubles. Instead of repaying your debts, simply get yourself into a safe league position, ditch the company, prepack and start again with a clean sheet.
This would create a clear incentive to stiff creditors. While the banks will get wise and not offer unsecured facilities in future, HMRC and small traders are likely to become perennial fall guys. Why would any mid-table team pay millions in tax, rates and policing bills, when they have a sporting incentive to ditch creditors without punitive penalty, freeing income streams to buy football bling in the next transfer window?
This would make a mockery of the Uefa predident Michele Platini’s Financial Fair Play initiative and make our league the poster-boy for Financial Doping.
Scottish football will be mortally wounded if it were to parachute a club straight into the upper echelons of the game while establishing a blueprint for the abandonment of creditors.
It is incumbent on all who care about the game, in Scotland and throughout the world, that we insist Scottish Premier League clubs do not allow a prepack company to phoenix into the shoes of a dead football club.
Celtic fans, as well as those from Aberdeen, Hibernian, Dundee United and St Johnstone, together with fans from Motherwell, who could become genuine championship contenders, and from those clubs who would avoid relegation if Rangers failed, must insist their club votes against any prepack company parachuting into the league.
The SFA executive must use whatever influence it can to prevent the name of Scottish football being brought into disrepute. Politicians, who either have, or aspire to have, tax raising responsibilities, must register their abhorrence that a self-serving oligopoly should attempt to vote themselves an escape from paying tax.
Fifa and Uefa must explain to the Scottish FA that the days of shady financial deals in football are gone.
Watch the media coverage of these events carefully. If and when the decision time comes, the case to acquiesce to Rangers Newco’s demands will be overwhelming. Sincere ‘impartial’ observers will do their upmost to convince us all we must do whatever necessary to save Rangers for the good of the Scottish game. Some voices will even tell you Celtic need Rangers Newco. Whatever part of my club is dependent on Rangers I am willing to lose.
Rangers-HMRC tax hearing resumes next month, when there is also a two week international break. The most important element of making a prepack offer succeed is to offer a fait accompli: ‘Here is a solution, you have no time and you have no alternative’.
Should Rangers go into administration, I believe this is a very, likely scenario. If you are a supporter of Celtic or any other club, make your views known.