The word “cheating” has become highly charged and emotive around the subject of Rangers FC.

The club’s directors are embarrassed at its use. The club’s fans spit fury at the very suggestion.

The ignominy of “cheating” being foisted on Rangers around its tax affairs has become detested, and with good reason. A club that historically afforded itself a sense of dignity simply could not live with being seen to take part in some Arthur Daley-type practices.

This is all germane again following the judgement in the Court of Session today that the pre-2012 Rangers indulged in years of illegal tax avoidance.

The Lords Carloway, Menzies and Drummond Young took a surprisingly tart view of it all, cutting through impenetrable legal subterfuge to reach “a common sense” view which has been held by most people on the outside for years.

The Court of Session said it was blindingly obvious that the millions of pounds hived off to Rangers players via dubious “side letters” in the years between 2001 and 2010 were earnings which should have been subject to tax. 

The use of EBTs for tax avoidance – by which the Queen’s revenue collectors could be thwarted – was by no means peculiar to Rangers. It had become a rampant racket right across Britain. Thousands of companies used the tactic before EBTs were finally outlawed.

But in Scottish football, the spotlight fell on Rangers. HMRC pursued the club vigorously, because the Revenue’s policy is to mercilessly claw back the tens of millions it feels the national exchequer has been denied.

Rangers, it has to be said, have fought a very impressive legal case. These Court of Session lords might have deemed the wrongdoing to be obvious, but competent lawyers are capable of winning almost any argument.

In this context I have never forgotten what one prominent Rangers fan in the media said to me four years ago: “The entire world knows that Rangers have been at it with EBTs … but getting lawyers to prove it will be another matter.”

The judgement of illegal activity by Rangers – if or when this saga is concluded – will leave an ungodly mess to be sorted.

The club paid the ultimate price in 2012 – liquidation. That event has left Scottish football poisoned, with acrimonious debate about Rangers’ history going into overdrive in recent years. But the “newco Rangers” – whatever your interpretation of that – will not be financially affected.

Dave King has subsequently said he wants to “put the old Rangers back into the old company”. Heaven alone knows what that actually means, never mind whether it can be done.

A guilty Rangers – if this is the end of the matter - also leaves the Scottish FA in a precarious position. Retrospective title-stripping looks a futile business to me, but it goes on in other sports, and the SFA stand accused of being timorous in the face of the wrongdoing.

Is title-stripping an option? Yes, it is, though I wouldn’t assent to it. The misdeeds have been done, and Rangers FC paid a high price.

What is to be gained in trampling back over history and spearing a liquidated football club with further punishment? There always will be an asterisk in the public mind beside these dodgy Rangers years. I cannot see the benefit in the retrospective expunging of trophies.

As for Sir David Murray’s business empire, which actually ran Rangers FC’s tax avoidance, it has been largely scaled back, with various subsidiaries sold off. Doubtless there could be further legal repercussions brewing, which could conceivably reach the Supreme Court.

Murray will feel greatly pained over this saga. It serves little to go back over his fateful involvement in it all. He will go to his grave nursing sorrow over what befell the old Rangers. It is as grim a story as Scottish football has known.

Today was meant to be about another Rangers story. The club has just announced an annual loss of £7.5m as King and co strive to put Rangers on an even keel again.

Is King ever going to make a significant cash injection in the club? Rangers fans remain hopeful but the evidence for it is still flimsy.

The past, meanwhile, haunts the club and its support. The fact is, if Rangers FC had not tried to cut corners in paying tax, none of this agony would have occurred.

The truth remains unpalatable. And the damage is irreversible.