From some of the reaction – especially that of some Rangers fans and even certain media commentators – you would think that was the case.
This was a very odd experience for me. I locked myself away to study in silence Nimmo Smith's findings; reading of his guilty verdict on Rangers' repeated breaches of Scottish Premier League rules and of his conclusion that only a "substantial financial penalty" could cover the club's wrongdoing.
Having digested all of this I came blinking back into the sunlight to find people declaring it a marvellous day for Rangers, even a "total vindication" of the side-letters policy at Ibrox. On television Charles Green hooted about how the stain had been removed from his club, and even more, about how apologies were now due.
I had to go back and look again at Nimmo Smith's verdict. No, sure enough, he had found Rangers guilty. He deemed the club's undeclared payments to at least 43 players over 11 years – worth something between £40m and £50m – to be a blatant disregard for the house rules of Scottish football. Yet this finding had Rangers fans punching the air in celebration.
The truth is, everyone had become preoccupied with the punishment, not the crime. The theme of "title stripping" – coincidentally something I have always been vehemently against in the context of Rangers – had become in the public mind the be all and end all of this case. So when Nimmo Smith ruled out title stripping and imposed a financial penalty as punishment, this apparently was enough for his actual verdict on Rangers to be viewed as little more than an incidental.
Briefly, let's just go back over these findings, to double-check what was found. Fundamentally, had Rangers flouted football's rules, in terms of undeclared payments to players, or not? Yes, said Nimmo Smith. The non-disclosure had been "a seriously misconceived plan" for which "the directors [of oldco Rangers] must bear a heavy responsibility." He added: "The non-disclosure [of the payments] was deliberate."
Nimmo Smith opted to explore why Rangers had deliberately withheld the fact of the infamous side-letters and stated that the evidence was "clear" that the club had feared its tax-avoiding EBTs scheme might be either hurt or compromised. "The evidence clearly indicates a view among the management of 'oldco' that it might have been detrimental to the desired tax treatment of the payments being made to have disclosed the existence of these side-letters to the football authorities."
In this regard, Nimmo Smith especially highlighted witness statements by Douglas Odam, who had been the Rangers company secretary until he left in 2003, and who had taken charge of the preparation and signing of player contracts. "It is clear from Mr Odam's evidence," wrote Nimmo Smith, "that Oldco's failure to disclose the side-letters was partly motivated by a wish not to risk prejudicing the tax advantages of the EBTs scheme."
Nimmo Smith also presented a picture in his report of various figures associated with Rangers ducking and diving, for want of a better phrase, when it came to providing documents and information which would aid his enquiry. Such prevarication or stalling tactics only served to hold up the whole investigation. This continuing failure to be transparent, wrote Nimmo Smith, was a further "serious breach of the rules".
The commission's findings cast further light on the way this EBTs scheme was operated by Rangers. Steven Davis, for example, was entitled to receive £1.2m via the scheme. Shota Arveladze would receive £990,000. Barry Ferguson, it had been previously stated, received £2.5m in total over a number of years from the scheme. These are pretty hefty sums of money being "paid" (or "loaned") without any tax being due and there are two possible conclusions to be drawn about what this meant for Rangers. Either the club saved itself millions in tax liability, or it was able to offer players a bottom-line salary it might not otherwise have been able to afford.
In this context, some in Scottish football will continue to be baffled by Nimmo Smith's conclusion in regard to no competitive advantage being gained by Rangers. In truth, it is the weakest part of his report and is a subject skirted over in a few cursory paragraphs, though he stated that, all being considered, no football advantage was gained by Rangers.
Or does he? Even here Nimmo Smith actually hedges his bets a little. "We are unable to reach the conclusion that this led to any competitive advantage," he wrote. But he also states: "If the breach of the rules by non-disclosure of the side-letters did confer any competitive advantage, then that could only have been an indirect one."
I have to admit, I'm not sure what all this amounts to. Nimmo Smith reached a judgement about Rangers not gaining any advantage but he did so in less than resolute fashion.
Having said that, for different reasons I'm glad he reached the conclusion he did about no titles being stripped from Rangers. First, because this whole saga is so convoluted. Second, because going back and erasing football history seems to me to be a dodgy exercise. And thirdly, because what would be gained by it? Title stripping of a now defunct company (or club?) would have served next to no purpose. The fact is, these titles Rangers won during the EBT years will now be forever bickered over by supporters, especially those of Rangers and Celtic.
The last 48 hours have been pretty bizarre around Rangers. The club's fans have been near-jubilant at this Nimmo Smith verdict. One media figure even said: "So, a good day all round for Rangers, then?"
I guess it depends which way you look at it. Rangers' guilt or innocence was one thing, the apparent vulnerability of five of the club's 54 domestic titles, it now transpires, was something far greater.
Contextual targeting label: