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Spiers on Sport: an endless blame-game over the demise of Rangers

There is a wearyingly familiar outrage doing the rounds at Rangers after the UTT ruling which upheld the club's appeal against HMRC over its controversial use of EBTs.

This was an important judgement because it ruled that, despite the distaste many have for EBTs and their perceived manipulation for tax-avoidance, Rangers nonetheless had stayed on the right side of the law.

What the ruling shouldn't do - and I know this only too well - is forbid anyone among us from decrying the use of EBTs, at Rangers or anywhere else, as a crude means of abusing the law and, in effect, avoiding paying tax.

Not for nothing were EBTs, when used in this way, widely referred to as "a tax loophole". Everybody and their granny came to know what was going on.

My own view on EBTs hasn't changed. There have been different outcomes at various HMRC pursuits -such as at Aberdeen Asset Management and at the pre-2012 Rangers FC - but I viewed EBTs, when used as a vehicle for disguised remuneration, as a form of cheating.

Evidently the British government felt likewise: they decided to put an end to the racket in 2010/11. At that point Rangers were force to write letters to various players saying they would no longer be able to compensate them in this manner.

The tragedy that engulfed Rangers, springing from Sir David Murray's policies, to the wretched arrival of Craig Whyte, to HMRC's rejection of the CVA in the summer of 2012, has now spawned an industry of blame and witchhunt-calling.

Some Rangers supporters remain upset - rightly - but phlegmatic about it all. Others, though, seek blame everywhere - at HMRC, at the SFA, at the (former) SPL, the media, at the BBC - everywhere except at the former Rangers itself.

The truth of the matter is that the now dissolved Rangers FC plc was done-in by the very people who were charged with safe-guarding the club. Murray, Whyte and many of the old club's directors bore a very heavy responsibility.

In June 2012 it was also HMRC who, at the crucial CVA vote, drove the stake through the Ibrox heart. A combination of accrued, unpaid debts by Rangers to the tax authorities totalling £21 million - it excluded any projected EBT bills - meant that HMRC in effect dealt the fatal blow.

This was no witch-hunt. HMRC had the mere temerity of wanting its taxes paid. On the contrary, this was dire recklessness by those charged with safe-guarding Rangers. This was self-destruction.

When I look back now to April, 2012, the words of Paul Murray, a former director of the club who tried to beat Charles Green to the rescue act, seem particularly honest.

Murray and I crossed swords on a number of occasions over the Rangers saga but he always struck me as honest and conscientious in wanting to resolve a dire situation.

Just weeks prior to the Rangers CVA being rejected, Paul Murray said: "In my view we have got to try to save the club. The CVA is the only thing that the Rangers supporters want. Speaking as a supporter, I do not want a situation where the club's history - the timeline - is broken. We are trying to save this club.

"I am very clear: the club has had a number of misdemeanours over the years, and these have to be faced up to. The club has to be punished: I am 100% in agreement on that. We have done things wrong. But any penalties we face must be fair and they must be transparent."

These days you very rarely hear such openness and clarity about the Rangers case from a Rangers principal. On the contrary, cyber lynch-mobs set after you if you dare to address the Rangers collapse as Murray did in these words.

All this said, yes, there is absolutely redress that needs to be secured over the Rangers collapse. BDO, the liquidators, should ruthlessly investigate alleged fraud around the club over this period.

So should the police who, to the best of my knowledge, still have an open book on the case. Pursuit of criminality in the destruction of the former Rangers should be relentless.

But at some point, the re-writing of history will have to stop. No vendettas did for Rangers FC in 2012. On the contrary, this was a spectacular and tragic self-immolation.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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