FURIOUS Rangers fans last night demanded to know where the club's millions had gone after owner Craig Whyte took the first steps towards placing it in administration.
The Scottish Premier League champions lodged a notice of intention signed off by Whyte at the Court of Session in Edinburgh at lunchtime yesterday in what he described as the "start of a road to recovery".
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The 139-year-old club now has 10 working days in which to declare formally that administrators have taken over the running of the club.
The news enraged fans who want to know how the club had gone into meltdown. They greeted Whyte with a chorus of boos and abuse as he read out a statement at Ibrox yesterday.
Rangers in crisis
Just days ago Whyte claimed to have pumped £33 million of his personal wealth into the club. It has also emerged the club raised £24.4m last year through a deal involving its season tickets, and last month it received £5m by selling star striker Nikica Jelavic to Everton.
Last night fans' leaders demanded to know what had happened to the £62.4m.
Andy Kerr, president of the Rangers Supporters' Assembly, said: "We wanted the club's audited accounts published so we could trail what happened with regards to the sale and where the money went so we could see for ourselves. This now begs the question if we will ever get these answers.
"This development for the vast majority of fans will come as a hammer blow and they will be shocked."
He continued: "The timing is a real shock. The sequence of events we expected was the accounts would be published, hopefully an annual general meeting would be organised, and then there would be the outcome of the big tax case and then a consideration of what that meant going forward, but that hasn't happened.
"On the face of it, it is catastrophic. When you look at one or two examples of clubs going into administration down in England and with Motherwell and Dundee, they seem to pick themselves up and get on with it but in Rangers' case, with all the ramifications, it's on a different scale and we are not sure how achievable that is.
"Who's fault is it? You could argue it was everybody's fault for letting it happen.
"The previous directors raised questions, raised a lot of doubt ... well this certainly indicates some of their concerns were genuine and reasonable."
Whyte – just nine months ago pronounced as the self-made multimillionaire who could save the club – yesterday laid some of the blame for his decision to head towards administration on the ongoing court case with HMRC over the club's use of Employee Benefits Trusts.
He said the verdict, which is due soon, could leave the club with a £75m bill it would be "unable to pay".
Speaking to fans outside Ibrox stadium last night, Whyte insisted he and Rangers were "here to stay", maintaining the legal move was made to "ensure the long-term survival" of the club. There was "no realistic or practical alternative".
The Scottish champions will be automatically hit by a 10-point deduction by the Scottish Premier League if they proceed with administration, which would all but end their bid for a fourth successive title.
In a statement, the club said it was continuing to have dialogue with HMRC in the hope a "formal insolvency procedure can be averted".
The club has stated its preference to go through a Company Voluntary Arrangement while in administration, a way of trying to reach an agreement in clearing the debt.
It would mean that, if creditors to the value of 75% of the total debt accepted a fraction of what they are owed, the club could come out of administration and carry on with no further penalty. This would allow Rangers to participate in European football next season.
The club warned that if it went into administration "in all likelihood" a
cost-cutting programme would be started "and staffing levels will be reviewed across all departments".
Whyte added: "It is extremely disappointing the club's finds itself in this position but decisions have to be taken to safeguard the long-term survival and prosperity of the club both on and off the field. The harsh reality is that this moment has been a long time coming for Rangers and its roots lie in decisions taken many years ago. If we do not take action now the consequences and the risks to the club are too great.
"In addition to the HMRC issues, it has been abundantly clear to me the club faces serious structural and financial issues which will continue unless they are addressed.
"There is no realistic or practical alternative to our approach as HMRC has made it plain to the club that should we be successful in the forthcoming tax tribunal decision, they will 'appeal, appeal and appeal again' the decision. This would leave the club facing years of uncertainty and also having to pay immediately a range of liabilities to HMRC. Even if the club were to succeed in the tax tribunal, it would still face substantial liabilities. Zero liability will not happen.
"While it appears a consensual restructuring looks unlikely outside of a formal insolvency procedure, the above steps, if agreement cannot be reached with HMRC, will bring an end to the legacy threat of closure and will provide stability required to enable the required investment to be made into the future of the club.
"I can, however, reassure Rangers supporters the club will continue and can emerge as a stronger and financially fitter organisation that will compete at the levels of competition our fans have come to expect.
"At this point I would ask all Rangers supporters to continue to show the tremendous support they have shown to the club, Ally McCoist, his management team and the players."
Alistair Johnston, the former Rangers chairman, who last week revealed he had asked the Government's Insolvency Service to clarify "certain financial arrangements" relating to the takeover, yesterday suggested former owner Sir David Murray had "certain rights with respect to recourse" if there was a default on the share purchase agreement with Mr Whyte.
He said: "The Murray Group I'm sure are considering their options - they're the one entity who can address this more aggressively than anyone else.
"How far Murray International and Sir David want to take it is up to them."
The Murray Group declined to comment last night.