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SPFL clubs fear they will be hurt financially themselves if Rangers stripped of title

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Prospect of Rangers being punished for tax avoidance leads to concerns that awarding trophies to runners-up clubs will trigger impossible bonus payments


As the turf war between Mike Ashley and Rangers widened to include a court challenge by the Sports Direct billionaire to the Scottish Football Association, the possibility of the Ibrox club being stripped of titles has fuelled concern among several clubs, who fear financial repercussions.


The status of the five Scottish championships, four Scottish Cup wins and six Scottish League Cup successes recorded by Rangers between 2001 and 2011 has been called into question since the decision by the Court of Session in Edinburgh to uphold HMRC’s appeal against the rulings of two previous tribunals that EBT (Employee Benefit Trust) schemes for players were administered improperly.


Calls for the annulment of the titles won by Rangers during the period when EBTs were used as a tax avoidance scheme at Ibrox were fuelled by the observation of one of the three Court of Session judges, Lord Drummond Young that, had the trusts not existed, some players “might well have taken their services elsewhere”.


Both the Scottish Professional Football League and the SFA have referred the matter to their lawyers for scrutiny but last night one chairman, who asked not to be identified, told Telegraph Sport: “There is a strong feeling amongst clubs that this has to be handled extremely carefully because of the possible consequences.


“Suppose for the sake of argument Rangers are stripped of all the honours they won during the time they operated EBTs. Do we award those honours to the runners-up – and trigger the bonuses that would have been paid to the players who were on their books then if they had actually won the trophies?


“Celtic might be able to afford that but nobody else could. The alternative would be to withhold all of those trophies and devalue all our domestic tournaments at a time when we’ve had to go cap in hand to find sponsors.”


Another chairman, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “I certainly don’t fly any flag for Rangers and my view is that the EBT scheme was questionable and maybe even reckless from the start but they were given expert advice and they acted on it and it has taken the taxman three tries to get a favourable result.


“Rangers have paid the price for that but so has everyone else in Scottish football since the oldco went under. Right now I would say that matters are moving sideways and we still don’t know if the taxman has actually won.


“Don’t forget that the SPL clubs got solidarity payments from Uefa because Rangers were in the group stages of the Champions League as Scottish champions. If we take titles away from Rangers and Uefa demand their money back, who would be able to pay it?”


The prospect of the controversy being resolved one way or the other in the foreseeable future now depends on whether or not there will be yet another appeal in what is colloquially known as the Big Tax Case. The deadline for an appeal to the Supreme Court by Rangers’ liquidators, BDO, or Sir David Murray, who approved the use of EBTs when he owned the club, falls three weeks from now.


Ashley, meanwhile, has lodged a legal challenge to the SFA’s decision to approve Rangers’ chairman and principal shareholder, Dave King, as a fit and proper person to hold the position. King dislodged the previous Ashley-backed boardroom regime in March but had to wait until May for the SFA to authorise his chairmanship.


The judicial review of the SFA’s approval of King was originally docketed for Dec 11, but has been rescheduled for Feb 4.


The SFA refused to comment.



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How can any legal or constitutional law be upheld with might or if. The whole decision is a joke.

Players might well have taken their services elsewhere. That is like a boss who you worked with for 40 years saying you are not getting a gold watch because if we did not pay your wages you might have worked for someone else.

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I would like to know what players where in the EBT scheme and if it was a factor at all for signing for a massive club that was successful in it's domestic league in front of 50,000 fans every week and also playing in the champions league.


For that reason I assembled names and numbers in this thread ...



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Lord DY said players "might" have chosen not to sign. That's not a finding in fact based on evidence just a speculative remark. He was entitled to make that remark but observers and commentators should remember it's only a speculation and not now a cardinal principle of the law of the land.

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Lord DY said players "might" have chosen not to sign. That's not a finding in fact based on evidence just a speculative remark. He was entitled to make that remark but observers and commentators should remember it's only a speculation and not now a cardinal principle of the law of the land.


Was he entitled to make that remark? The BTC was or is about whether tax is payable on the loans ETC, not to judge whether Murray could have afforded players without the EBT'. He probably could have any way, but no balance on it just the Lord's thoughts. Why would he make such a comment on that particular aspect of the case, when it's never ever been part of HMRC's case to argue about players bought through the EBT's? One could come to the conclusion that the Lord is biased in some way here.

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I really think some expert should publish just how much we saved on tax during that time - subtracting Murray's payments as well as the fees to the accountants for administrating it. The ironic thing is that the bag of a fag, layman's calculations, it seems to be pretty low in the scheme of things, but the figures being deliberately misinforming people are much much higher - either it's the actual payments or they include penalties and punitive interest.


The "players wouldn't come" is completely erroneous, as for Murray, the most important thing was the team on the park, and so there could have been cut-backs elsewhere, more borrowing, more out his own pocket, more out the likes of King's or Lewis's pockets, share issues, etc.


The main fact is that at worst, we delayed a tax bill which is now due - but unfortunately, the way HMRC has chased us for it and multiplied it by about 5, has been so over the top that they have put the company out of business, rather than being able to collect. I realise, they don't care as it sets an example that has other companies shaking in their boots (and possibly paying more tax than they really should). For me, that's not living in a country with a properly democratic, enlightened and civilised government.


Seeing as it took them 3 goes to get a verdict against Rangers, surely that also proves no real wrong doing, and no punitive charges applicable. It seems to me that in cases like this, the tax demand should be made with market rate interest only. THEN the rules changes to close the severe ambiguity of the scheme. Future breaches can then attract punitive measures. It's not fair to punish someone for doing something that they and so many experts think is legitimate.


I also think that HMRC should only be able to back so many years - say 7. It seems stupid to allow tax liabilities to completely unknowingly build up to levels that cripple a company. We need taxes paid, but it does the nation no good to put tax paying businesses to the wall when they think they are within the rules and no complaints are made for a decade. Not only does (and has) it reduce revenues, it's discouraging businesses from thriving, people making a living, and affecting employment.


Tax is about providing for the nation, to make it a better, and fairer place for everyone. As such it should come from an attitude of benevolence to the citizens, treating them with a duty of care - while making sure the correct amount is paid. It shouldn't come in the form of witch hunts.


Look in contrast to what we did with the banks (whose crimes are massively dwarf that of Rangers) - we saved a few using tax payers money we will never get back, but doing so also saved the finances of a large number of citizens. What HMRC have done by their bludgeoning tactics has affected the lives of probably over a million citizens, and the pride of a whole nation. They have done damage to the whole psyche of the nation and as such have totally abdicated their duty of care.


Would the country be a better, happier place today if HMRC had done the "common sense" thing and settled for say, £20m over 10 years? I think so. It's pretty f*cked at the moment with divisions, hatred and bitterness towards fellow Scots as bad as they've ever been, and national pride is at a new low. It may be "only" over football, but as we know, that is something engrained on the Scottish psyche. We have enough laws and blame given to football for societies ills, so there is no excuse for massively exacerbating it by being totally inflexible over a point of tax, that seems to be pretty bendy when it comes to big companies like Vodaphone.

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