HMRC yesterday indicated that its stance in opposition to a CVA was based on the desire to pursue "possible claims against those responsible for the company's financial affairs in recent years".
This could reasonably be expected to include such as Sir David Murray, former owner of the club, and Craig Whyte, the businessman who bought Rangers for a £1 last year. However, sources have told Herald Sport that the investigation could be widened to include former players.
The HMRC move has opened up the possibility of a forensic inquiry that covers all areas of payments to players over the years. The "big tax case" has still to rule on the alleged misuse of employee benefit trusts but this will not be the end of HMRC's "pursuit". "It seems the logical step now to look at the players," Dr John Beech, head of sport and tourism at Coventry University, said last night.
Last month Dr Beech, an expert in football insolvency who has written a prestigious paper on the subject for the Centre of International Business of Sport, told Herald Sport that Rangers would be "pursued with maximum prejudice" by the taxman.
His prediction was realised yesterday. "I never bought into the argument that it was a high risk move for the taxman to oppose a CVA," he said. "They are locked into a hard man mode. The taxman has to be seen to go after clubs that owe money." He pointed out the HMRC stance on Rangers was consistent with every case brought against an English club since 2009.
The HMRC investigation will now be relentless. The tax authority had previously agreed with Duff & Phelps to appoint neutral insolvency firm BDO should Rangers be liquidated. This gives unfettered access to records at the club. It is believed the records of former players will be scrutinised as part of the investigation. They are not the prime targets of the inquiry but will be part of it.
The contract situation of present players now comes under a different sort of scrutiny. PFA Scotland has always maintained that players could walk away from the club if it went into liquidation. Employment lawyers have supported this theory that the present contracts are now invalid. The administrators, Duff & Phelps, perhaps understandably, posited the contrary view.
Last night Paul Clark, of Duff and Phelps, said: "Our firm view is we think the players' contracts do transfer over to the newco. It's something I know PFA Scotland have expressed a different view on. There have been various discussions between lawyers for ourselves and PFA Scotland. It is something that will need to be resolved over the coming days."
It certainly is and it looks unlikely to be good news for the newco. There was no comment on this by either UEFA or the Scottish Football Association last night but it is believed that the football authorities are minded to agree with PFA Scotland.
The players now face a situation that is both difficult and emotive. They must wait for clarification on their position while watching their careers stall due to European bans and financial constraints.
It is difficult to see how the players could have reacted better to the crisis. They took massive wage cuts to ensure job security for the non-football workers while many believed the CVA would never be successfully completed. There was a strong belief in the group that they should stay together to see how the financial situation panned out. It has resulted in liquidation. Decisions will have to be made soon.
There is an understandable reluctance for the high-profile players to be seen to be quitting the club in its hour of need but this does not survive even the most cursory of analysis. The players are being asked to honour contracts to an entity that did not exist when they were signed and to a club that did not honour its contracts when they were signed. It is an absurd situation.
Players, too, are aware that their perceived availability has become public knowledge. Ally McCoist's comment that "the vultures are circling" is underlined by a statement from Pierre Littbarski, the Wolfsburg coach, yesterday. "We were offered some players for the positions we looked for – a goalkeeper, midfielders and strikers," he said.
He did not say who made the offer but it certainly was not agents contacted last night. The transfer window is open until September 1. The scale of the departures may constitute an exodus.