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Present tense, past imperfect

Even before today's game at Elgin City was called off, it was already something of an afterthought.

When he met the media on Friday morning, Ally McCoist was only belatedly asked about the fixture, even though it was between the top two sides in the Third Division. The Rangers manager addressed the challenge, spoke of the possible significance of the result, but still it seemed inconsequential. The Ibrox club are rebuilding and trying to move forward, but the past is never far away.

Last week was a time of vindication, at least for some in the saga that saw Rangers Football Club plc fail to make it out of administration and so stand on the brink of being liquidated. The majority verdict in Rangers' favour by the first tier tribunal exonerates the club for the use of Employee Benefit Trusts from 2001 to 2010, since they were ruled to be discretionary loans and so not subject to PAYE.

For Sir David Murray, the result was an opportunity to rebuke the widespread assumptions that Rangers were guilty of mis-administering a tax avoidance scheme, although Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs can still appeal the decision.

In an early draft of the five-way agreement to allow Rangers to regain SFA membership last summer, the Scottish Premier League even demanded that the club accept the stripping of the five titles won during the years the EBTs were in use.

An independent SPL commission will meet on January 29 to rule on whether the EBT payments breached league registration rules. Although the discretionary loans were by their nature not contractual, the tribunal ruling referred to five players who received payments on which tax is due, so those cases at least will need to be scrutinised.

Yet the mood in the summer was of punishing Rangers, and some of that mindset was driven by the belief the club had run up a huge unpaid tax bill during a decade that saw the team win several competitions.

There can be no justification for the taxes not paid by Craig Whyte, which sent the club into administration and resulted in a 12-month transfer embargo for the club now playing in the Third Division, but much of the indignation was conflated. "Within the one big issue there were two separate issues," McCoist said. "There was some nonsense about big tax bills. I have been really surprised and saddened at some of the reactions, people who prejudged the case who should have known better. Some of the vitriol shown towards the club by pre-judging it has been wrong. That has saddened me, but we need to move on.

"In any other walk of life, you wouldn't be pre-judged. Everybody is entitled to a fair trial. When I was going into these meetings [with the governing bodies], the one non-negotiable was stripping the titles.

"There has to be dialogue between groups and individuals to get to a solution, but I would never accept the nonsense of stripping the titles. The satisfaction I get is with the [tribunal] verdict, I don't get any satisfaction from people being wrong if they pre-judged it. The verdict vindicates the club in terms of the big tax case. But we've got to live with the consequences and the last year has set the club back years and years and years. It's our job to recover as quickly as possible."

The sense within Ibrox is of looking to move on, but there are still reverberations to deal with, in particular the SPL commission. Murray has also asked for a police investigation into the leaking of private information to the Rangers tax case blog and the BBC.

Much of the intense feeling the issue generated in the summer has dissipated, but Scottish football remains scarred by the aftermath of Rangers' insolvency. For the club itself, which is now owned by The Rangers Football Club and in the midst of a share issue, the future is all that matters.

"The whole thing seems never-ending," McCoist said. "The only thing we've wanted is to get an opportunity to move on. This chapter isn't closed yet, but it was definitely the result the club hoped for and thought we would get. The overriding feeling would be delight at the verdict tinged with a bit of sadness at the whole escapade."

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