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Follow, Follow the Money

Douglas Fraser | 10:08 UK time, Friday, 1 April 2011

Rangers hasn't been accused of doing anything illegal in its tax treatment of player payments, the Glasgow football club wishes to emphasise.

That's an odd message for the chairman Alistair Johnston to highlight, suggesting something of a raw nerve is being hit by reporting of its dispute with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

The figures bandied around are north of £20m. That liability is being vigorously contested, and while the club says its legal advice should reassure, it meanwhile continues to leave a significant question mark over the club's accounts, with the figures for the first half of its financial year out today.

That's not to be confused with another tax bill linked to the way players were being paid between 1999 and 2003, for which £2.8m is being set aside while talks go on with HMRC.

The other unusual message from Rangers half-year accounts is written confirmation of what manager Walter Smith has previously blurted out, but which was then played down - that Lloyds Banking Group has been calling the shots.

They've reached "a template for collaboration", which most bank customers would prefer to take for granted, but "certain provisions imposed on the Club continue to compromise, in our opinion, management's ability to conduct its role with maximum efficiency".

The amount owed to creditors in the next year is up, close to £30m, and most of this is believed to be due to the bank.

One condition of an anticipated sale of Sir David Murray's majority stake to financier Craig Whyte is expected to clear that. That might explain the new-found candour.

Rollercoaster finance

Otherwise, the accounts reflect the continuing problems across Scottish football, but often magnified by the rollercoaster finances of the Old Firm.

One fewer match against Celtic in the first half of the season impacts on income, and snow reduced the number of premier league matches and income to the end of the calendar year.

But longer term, there have to be concerns at Ibrox that sponsorship is down and that season ticket income has fallen nearly 5%. Rangers is looking to league reform to revitalise the Scottish game "and its standing in European football".

Yet the Scottish game's financial challenges look more deep-seated than anything that can be solved by a different size of league.


  • Comment number 1.

    Douglas. Could you expand on your £2.8 million set aside in light of the statement to the Stock Exchange that states.

    "The exceptional item reflects a provision for a potential tax liability in relation to a Discounted Option Scheme associated with player contributions between 1999 and 2003. Discussions are continuing with HMRC to establish a resolution to the assessments raised."

    "After accounting for interest charges including an exceptional provision of £0.9m relating to the Discounted Option Scheme"

    That seems to suggest the 'exceptional item' in regard of HMRC is only £0.9 million.
    I dont see where you get the £2.8 million figure from unless you include interest in regard of normal business.

  • Comment number 2.

    Basically, the SPL is rotten, produces rubbish football, that no-one wants to go and watch. They've done little to produce any talent at the Old Firm, and rely on cheap foreign imports or hoovering up the good Scottish players from other clubs. That's 'good' meaning relatively good for Scotland, and just average by Championship standards. Training, faclities and coaching need improving in Scotland; they are about 30 years out of date in the way they train the kids. Basically, Scottish footy is diabolical, and no-one is interested. All they have to do, is glory hunt on Sky as an alternative. It's sad, but that's the truth.

  • Comment number 3.

    So Boy from Brum - teams in England don't go bust from tax bills? Scottish football isn't great but outside the top few teams in England all you find is skint mediocrity like your lot. What cheap foreign imports are you referring to - people like Petrov who you signed for £8 million and made your captain?

    I'm a Celtic fan and while I admit the SPL shortcomings I would rather see a team who wins trophies every year and has a shot at playing in the Champions League rather than Villa. A team that finally got a sniff of the Champions League (with an ex Celtic manager) but your fans still moaned. Well, you got what you deserved with that disaster Houillier.

    On the matter in hand, while seeing Rangers hit the wall would be briefly satisfying, Celtic and Rangers need each other and with only one of them the SPL would be even worse than described above.

  • Comment number 4.

    I guess there will be cracked Rangers badges on the back of the Daily Record tomorrow.

  • Comment number 5.

    boy from brum- afternoon, the problem Scottish football has is they allow the old firm to get away with murder for years why should 2 clubs rule the roust ?

    the premier league should be changed to 16 teams, 1 home and 1 away fixture , each team should field minimum 9 Scottish Players for every game, there should be a league wage structure with anyone caught braking it getting points deducted or simply relegated. Above all the clubs need to live within their means.

    Rangers caused the problem in the first place and so it is ironic they appear to be very close to going down the pan

    find it funny that the boy from brum forgets why Engerland got trounced in the world cup.It was because the supposed greatest league in the world was jam packed solid with foreign imports on and off the pitch therefore not allowing young English kids a chance to develop

  • Comment number 6.


    Nobody is stopping the other clubs from investing. It is a free market proposition. If they want to compete, they will compete......or find the means (investment) to do so.

    They should have an expanded league not a smaller one. I agree, play each other twice. While relegation is a time honored tradition in football, maybe the SPL would benefit by following a model closer to the MLS. No relegation and playoffs. After following the league for eight years now, how can you ever expect a team with a 10K (or less) seat stadium to compete with one that seats 50-60K?

  • Comment number 7.

    "They've done little to produce any talent at the Old Firm, and rely on cheap foreign imports or hoovering up the good Scottish players from other clubs."

    It makes me smile when clearly well informed people from south of the border start telling us what the problems are in a league they know hee-haw about. The names Ness, Hutton, Wylde, Forrest, and Wilson spring to mind from the last 12 months who have all made the breakthrough into the first team and look like very capable players already. I wonder how many of these you have heard of? I wonder of the ones you have heard of how often you have seen them play?

    The Old Firm have ALWAYS had a financial benefit over other Scottish clubs due to their size and support, so the signing of players from non-Old Firm sides has always taken place, much the same as most of the EPL clubs outside the Champions League spots are effectively feeder clubs. West Ham is a good example that springs to mind - Carrick, Joe Cole, Lampard, Rio, etc, etc, have all moved on to 'bigger' clubs in the last decade. If West Ham had kept all of these players, who is to say they wouldn't be challenging at the top end now?

    "Training, faclities and coaching need improving in Scotland; they are about 30 years out of date in the way they train the kids."

    Again, is this radically different to England? The only difference is English clubs actually have the shedloads of money required to invest in youth development, but in many cases choose not to. I would say that they are more at fault that the majority of SPL clubs who simply aren't able to find the money. It is worth pointing out that the only 2 Scottish clubs with money have invested very heavily in state-of-the-art youth training facilities. But I'm guessing you probably didn't know about that either...

    "All they have to do, is glory hunt on Sky as an alternative."

    If the above was actually a sentence, it would epitomise the EPL. Sky was the worst thing to happen to English football in a lot of ways.

    If it wasn't for Sky and the 'marketability' of the EPL due to the amount of money and therefore top players in it, where would the EPL TRULY rank among the top leagues in the world? Without the swathes of cash flying around each year, the EPL would be ranked similarly to the current National team standing - i.e. not very good.

    Stick to your precious EPL matey. At least there's a chance you will know something about it.

  • Comment number 8.

    Here's a novel idea. Lets have less football on TV and more of the other sports we have in Scotland. It staggers me that neither STV or the BBC cover events like the car and motorbike racing at Knockhill and other motorsport events. What about shinty? That's a great game....swimming, curling, sailing even the dreaded golf should be covered.

    Let's break football's monopoly and provide more variety.

  • Comment number 9.

    Part of the problem that Rangers face is the constant negativity thrown by the Scottish media. Celtic's debt trebled in the past year and, while Rangers' accounts are getting healthier by the year, their accounts show a club on an inexorable slide down. But do we hear of that? Not a thing. All we get is a steady stream of negative rubbish. Take Chick Young's article for instance - "Rangers could go bust!" screams the headline, while Alastair Johnston is meant to have agreed that Rangers could go bust if the HMRC case goes against the club. Rangers have already denied in a statement to the stock exchange that AJ said anything of the sort.

    And I would caution those self-styled experts of Scottish football, who probably have never set foot north of the border, to keep their ill-informed comments to themselves. They show themselves up as ignorant bandwagon-jumpers. So Rangers don't promote youth and produce decent young players? Try this list on for size:

    Alan McGregor - Scotland No.1
    Alan Hutton - Scotland's first choice right back
    Danny Wilson - now at Liverpool
    Gregg Wylde - already has Champions League and Europa League experience
    Kyle Hutton - as for Wylde
    Jamie Ness - starting to establish himself
    John Fleck - broke into the first team at 16

    There are a few more, who haven't quite made it yet, but they're not far away.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Rangers hasn't been accused of doing anything illegal in its tax treatment of player payments, the Glasgow football club wishes to emphasise. "

    That is merely a question of timing. HMRC are investigating (to be fair they are also investigating a lot of English clubs for the same reason). HMRC believe (otherwise why investigate) that the treatment adopted by Rangers is incorrect and has resulted in material under payment of NI and PAYE.

    If HMRC are subsequently shown to be correct then Rangers will have done something illegal, it is called tax evasion. The fact that lots of other teams did the same thing and had lots of advice from lawyers and accountants that said it was fine, will not change this.

    If HMRC are subsequently shown to be wrong then Rangers and their players will have been engaged in legal tax avoidance.

  • Comment number 11.

    KL - that's a rather selective rose-tinted blue nosed version of the situation. (And my name doesn't mean that I'm 'Celtic Minded'.

    Celtic's debt has increased it is still managable, predictable and well within the trading company's ability to repay it should it be required. Rangers debts are unquantifiable and claiming they are getting 'healthier' is an optimistic phrase indeed. The whole ship could be scuppered if HMRC win their case although that will still be in the Courts in five years time whenwhoever the losing party is contests the judgement as far as and for as long as possible.

    Also optimistic is the list of players you have mentoined in that Wylde, Hutton and Ness could yet be anything and have a hell of a lot to prove and might be more Sebo than special. Fleck seems to have been around for quite a while ('the new Rooney' anyone?) , McGregor made his debut 10 years ago and Hutton nine years ago and he's never been what you might call a regular at Spurs.

    Celtic too have budding young players who might be above average (Forrest, Towell, Keatings and Feruz to name a few) have tremendous potential but have to be of McGeady standard rather than Daryl Murphy mediocrity.

    What I would agree with you about is the complacency and Boy from Brum etc who can't see that their beloved Premier League is a declining product with far too many foreign players blocking the way for young local talent and financially propped up by benevolent foreign paymasters who could stop funding their clubs tomorrow.

    When one PL domino falls I think there will be many more.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    I am paid (and pay my taxes) under PAYE. All companies and staff who use tax dodges - legal or not - to avoid paying a share relating to their earnings for our country's schools, healthcare etc deserve whatever hey get. If Rangers goes bust the club directors and the greed of their staff are entirely to blame. Shame on Rangers (and other clubs) for trying this on!

  • Comment number 14.

    It would be great to see a big club go bust. It's just what British football needs in the long-term. Alas, I fear that just like Portsmouth (not a big club though, I suppose), Rangers will probably wriggle clear.

  • Comment number 15.

    kinglaudrup - I thought we (Celtic) were supposed to be paranoid!?

    as for your 'Murray Park' Conveyer belt...
    Alan McGregor - ok i'll give you
    Alan Hutton - not bad, but not great
    Danny Wilson - a good deal for rangers, but for liverpool?
    Gregg Wylde - one good cross doth not maketh a player
    Kyle Hutton - who?
    Jamie Ness - see Wylde (change cross for goal)
    John Fleck - broke into the first team at 16 - and was proved useless

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    ..the tax man cometh and the only issue is the amount of liability. MIH are heavily in debt too.

    Most didn't go down this route of paying players. But no doubt it helped haul in the trophies for them and let SDM in that famous interview 'enjoy his succulent Lamb' while spending a tenner for every fiver of Celtic. You have to say he gets a very easy ride in the media because on top of all the spend, 'the transfer warchest', chasing 'moonbeams', it was his tax-questionable accounting practices that took them down this route...

    Still not as comic as Dundee FC!

  • Comment number 18.

    Still on the upside, Chic Young seems to be bearing up very well to these events.. the moment!!

  • Comment number 19.

    It is very sad that only just over 20 years ago teams like Aberdeen and Dundee united were real conenders and winners in Europe. Now they are pub teams and the lack of weekly competition does not help.

    For the sake of scottish football i hope Rangers does not go bust. As a taxpayer (and an accountant) I find it outrageous that overpaid prima donnas like most footballers are dont pay their fair share of tax and all power to HRMC to recover it.

    Overpaid footballers no loyality moving away from the man in the street and a dangerous concentraion of power in a few teams. Little investent in home grown talent. Sounds like the where the premier league is headed (or is)

    On balance I find the loss of Rangers more tolerable than greedy footballers not paying tax

  • Comment number 20.

    Scottish football has gone down hill since it abandoned the two league system and went for an idiotic 'Premier League' because the big boys wanted the cash. Its a dire warning for the English 'Premier League' that has completely mimicked the Scottish prototype and is becoming as stale and moribund (and bankrupt) as the Scottish version.
    Think back if you're old enough. Between 1967 to 1974 Celtic were the best club side in Britain. Scotland was where the English clubs went to buy world class talent;think Baxter,Dalglish, Law, Willie Morgan,Gilzean, Joe Jordan even ones they couldn't tempt like Jimmy Johnstone Colin Stein,you could go on listing great names.Thats all petered out-foreign imports,Souness's ill judged and much imitated buying in talent instead of producing it-in fact bought at the expense of producing talent.(Another warning to their English counterparts!). Unbelievably, the Scottish Premier has made Celtic v Rangers a tedious fixture,but as its all that TV want,the SFA are stuck-just as the English league is becoming.
    Maybe they eed the guts to go back to how things were.The fans (the non armchair variety) will come back and TV might just have to raise its offer to buy into a worthwhile sporting league.....but I doubt it. Football is in the hands of the remote control.
    Both Rangers and Celtic can easily produce great sides without going into serious debt about it.They've done it all their have a number of othe club sides in the past. Dundee's euro semi final anyone? English and Scots football has been kidded into its current state. It never had to go there in the first place.

  • Comment number 21.

    If Rangers have made these payments through poor advice then surely from a legal perspective they have not broken the law. It would imagine that an action could be taken by Rangers against the providers of the given advice, which if the HMRC finds against Rangers position, is poor advice. Surely they could on the basis of 'poor advice' start a litigation against the providers of the advice for damages. I suspect that the investigation has been prompted by HMRC realising that they were losing large amounts of potential revenues through the way the payments have been made. I cannot for one minute think that Rangers are unique in making payments in this fashion. The likely-hood is that these type of payments have been part of a package to 'encourage' players into joining both SPL and EPL sides. Why would you want to come to the UK to play if you are going to be taxed at 40% if there is some way of avoiding it? The bottom line is that HMRC do not like seeing money leaving the country without them having their big fat slice of it. Generally these things hover around interpretation of the HMRC guidelines and are always a grey area until a significant usage of schemes for tax avoidance sees the HMRC act to protect revenues.

    I hope that this does not sink a club of Rangers stature.

  • Comment number 22.

    The tax case against Rangers is, as I understand it, based on Employee Benefit Trusts, which were perfectly legal provided that someone footed the bill. During the time in which Rangers invested heavily on established stars in what proved to be a fruitless attempt to conquer Europe, the EBT was an incentive so that the players concerned would not be hit too hard on the tax front.

    However, there was still a tax liability based on the income received by each of these stars. HMRC does not care who pays, so long as someone does. In the event that the players involved in this Trust are unlikely to pay (there may have even been an agreement between themeselves and the club statting that they did not have to pay)then this means that Rangers are, in all likelihood, not only liable for the tax owed from this EBT but also any interest accrued over the years in which tax payments have been deferred. It is this interest that threatens to cripple Rangers.

    The only way that Rangers may be able to avoid this liability if Murray agrees to take the hit personally, seeing as the EBT scheme was set up whilst he was in charge. This would finish Murray and seems to be the sticking point in what has been a protracted takeover which is still no nearer completion.

    Some clubs have gone way over their heads either in taking out execssive loans from the bank or through deferring their tax obligations. Leeds United followed this road and their fall from prominence has been all too public. If it can happen there, it can happen at Ibrox.

  • Comment number 23.

    typical Celtic fans on here, arrogant type. Without Rangers in the Premier League there wont be anything to play for and Celtic then would lose revenue season ticket sales would drop the league would be boring and as for yous laughing at Rangers look back 2-3 years, champions League, Europa League final League winners and contesting this years league with a very limited squad. We are doing what no other club could possible deliver 'TROPHIES' imagine what we will be like if the take over happens DEBT FREE, 15 MILLION on new players, and resuming our usual potential and competing in 4 competitions which is something Celtic have not much experience in.

  • Comment number 24.


    Turns out your trophy haul was bought on tick and you haven't been paying tax!

    Clearly the news hasn't sunk in yet: Her Majesty wants her money!! :

  • Comment number 25.

    With solvency far from obvious, I would not be surprised to see David Murray put Rangers into voluntary liquidation, selling off the stadium and rights to the club name to Craig Whyte - who would then acquire a lower-league English club, seek to change name and home stadium to Rangers FC at Ibrox (proffering a goodwill payment to the English league), thereby achieving what Rangers have long-espoused as an objective: playing in the English league set-up.

    (Unless turkeys are prepared to vote for Christmas, Rangers will never be parachuted into the Premier League down south, but should be able to play their way upwards to be within touching distance within a very few years...)


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