THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

14 February ~ You know things are bad when the baseball metaphors start flying about. Since assuming ownership of Rangers in May of last year, Craig Whyte has continually reminded his growing band of critics that he was the only man willing to "step up to the plate" and buy a club dogged by existing and projected debts. Now he has filed his intention to appoint administrators, Rangers fans are worried their club is about to become Scottish football's Brooklyn Dodgers. The franchise is not about to leave town, but it is on the cusp of reverting to the minor leagues.

As with every other financial announcement from Ibrox over the last decade, the only thing made perfectly clear today is that Rangers are in dire straits. Whyte's statement sums up his nine-month tenure as chairman. It is characterised by obfuscation, fear tactics, nebulous reassurances and infantile digs at the previous board and owner.

The statement makes it plain the club will go into administration in ten days' time unless a financial miracle intervenes. Yet it places great emphasis on the notion that, until February 22, everything is just hunkydory on and off the pitch. Then it continues to tell every Rangers fan that administration is the best way for the club to proceed.

When Whyte attempted to rally the supporters on the steps of Ibrox on Monday night he was roundly abused by the concerned crowd on Edmiston Drive. Having bought the club on a ticket of saving it from financial meltdown, he is increasingly viewed as the man who has taken Rangers one step closer to oblivion. This is not entirely fair or accurate.

The massive tax bill hanging over the club is the legacy of the previous owner, Sir David Murray. It was widely reported if Rangers lose the tribunal the bill would be anything up to £49 million. Whyte admitted on Monday that it could be far larger. A bill of any such size would necessitate administration, purely in order for a club with so many other outstanding debts to have any chance of avoiding outright liquidation.

Whyte has done himself no PR favours. In January he was revealed to have mortgaged £24m worth of future season ticket sales, possibly to fund his takeover. He then sold top scorer Nikica Jelavic to Everton for a knock-down price, while making a bogus attempt to buy Norwich's Grant Holt. Signing out-of-contract Daniel Cousin just hours before announcing the move towards administration seemed like one final dodgy deal from a man who was struck off as a company director for seven years. The SFA are currently investigating whether he is a fit and proper person to run one of their clubs.

Whyte's wars with the BBC and the Daily Record have not helped Rangers' traditional image, however apocryphal, as the nation's "establishment" club. Administration could strengthen Whyte's position as owner as he is also one of the club's larger creditors. He is failing to win trophies - one of the many positives Murray kept supplying no matter the accounting anomalies.

The early move towards administration, which will incur a title-surrendering ten-point deduction, seems to be changing the game to one Whyte knows how to play. He is primarily aiming to circumvent the HM Revenue and Customs, who have been bleeding the club dry by delaying the final ruling of the tax tribunal.

When all is considered – history, trophies, media coverage, attendances – Rangers make up a third of Scottish football. This is probably an underestimate of the kind that put us in such trouble with the tax authorities. But Rangers fans expect and want no sympathy. We have won one third of the domestic trophies available in the last four seasons. We have won more league titles than any other club in the world. We had the party and now we have to deal with the hangover. The schadenfreude is deserved.

If Rangers cannot satisfy the HMRC, they will go bust. The club would reform, but they would lose a swathe of support. Not least because Rangers' identity is so entwined with the ridiculous amount of success they have enjoyed over the past 140 years. The Rangers community would be decimated by having those trophies removed from the records. At a time when Hearts are on the brink and both Hibs and Aberdeen are continually fighting relegation, Celtic will be left with no one to play and no TV deal.

A gridiron metaphor may be more appropriate when it comes to Rangers hopes of avoiding administration. Previous chairman, Alastair Johnston, has spoken about the "Monday morning quarterbacks" who slate him for allowing Whyte to take over. What Rangers need now is the long, desperate throw up the pitch which characterises the last-ditch attempt of an NFL side to recover a seemingly lost game.

We are blindly hoping Murray will protect his reputation with the fans by buying the club back this week. Hail Marys have never been so popular down Ibrox way. Alex Anderson

Comments (16)
Comment by ChrisBud 2012-02-14 13:36:45

"The Rangers community would be decimated by having those trophies removed from the records."

Rangers would lose support if they were made to restart in Div 3 (although no doubt the authorities will bend over backwards to help them) and were no longer be winning things. Nothing to do with the past. Just look at the 80s. The cup tie against United the other week hinted at what may be to come. The "Rangers community" consists to a large extent of those who gloryhunt and those who follow for pseudo-religious/tribal reasons; who supports a football club for what they have won in the distant past?

In any event, any new Rangers would probably lay claim to the trophies as AFCW did to their FA Cup so it's a moot point.

Comment by TheTiger 2012-02-14 14:38:44

"The Rangers community would be decimated by having those trophies removed from the records."

Not really. For the fans it's still the same tribe. And they'll get promotions every season from the basement back to the SPL.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2012-02-14 14:56:26

Glad you think so, Chris - that's reassured me. Cheers.

I think it's easier to write off the past if it's involved more lows than highs but with Rangers being one half of a duopoly for so long then I imagined the very large number of glory-hunters we've obtained since, as you agree, 1986 would drop way off if they were suddenly associated with a club which could no longer claim to have won more trophies than another on the planet.

If you don't have any concern for the history of the game (Hampden 1987? The last Anglo-Scottish Cup tournament? No? Okay ...) then, well, perhaps your reasons for enjoying the game are as tribal as anyone else's.

Oh, and when mis-firing Super Ally was told to "get to fuck" 27 years ago as we lost to Dundee in the Cup, the crowd was 9,000 larger than when we lost to the other end of Tannadice street last Sunday. So maybe we're even worse than we were in the 80s. Or maybe it was just because it wasn't on the season ticket and on cooncil telly at noon on a Sunday - there were 44,000 there the previous Saturday. These Rangers fans like their routine and it could be about to be broken in a major way. S'whit ahm sayin.

Comment by bruno glanvilla 2012-02-14 15:33:29

Alex,

3rd Division weekend games are played exclusively at 3pm on Saturdays, so I'm sure Ibrox will sell out every week next season.

I am puzzled by your closing comments about wanting Sir Minty back. Surely it was his chronic mismanagement which has caused this catastrophic chain of events for Rangers?

Comment by jameswba 2012-02-14 15:34:01

In the (surely unlikely) event of relegation to Div 3, the support would go down in number but up by a factor of several in enthusiasm. Imagine the novelty factor in games against Montrose or trips to Glebe Park and its hedge, after years of meeting Kilmarnock, Motherwell etc four times a week.

There are no precedents for crowd numbers in such a case, as a club as big as Rangers hasn't failed like this before, but AFC Wimbledon aren't far off the levels of support the old Wimbledon had in the Premier League, AFC Telford average twice what Telford Utd used to, etc etc. Rangers would still be a hugely-supported club, no question.

Crowds were poor everywhere in the 80s - often below 20,000 at Highbury, 15,000-16,000 at Villa and so on. The sub-18,000 at Ibrox v Dundee United was probably down to TV, the noon KO, boredom at playing a familiar opponent etc etc, not part of a long-term trend.

The question of whether the club should keep its trophies should it have to reform is an interesting one. Personally, I think they should, as not all were won under a regime engaged in creative accounting. In any case, the likes of Chelsea, Man City etc are hardly winning theirs on a level playing field.

But somehow Alex, I think your hail Marys will be answered and the club will be bailed out.

The line about Whyte failing to win trophies (in 6 months?) seemed a bit harsh, but fine article otherwise.

Comment by Lincoln 2012-02-14 17:04:02

While there are no direct examples, Man City in the 98/99 season were in Division 2 and brought huge crowds with them. Lincoln almost went out of their way to accomodate them. Not sure how they got away with this but they removed seating and put in terracing in what was to become the away end for that season so that more away fans could be fitted in.

As for Rangers failing with such a huge fan backing and being part of a big two getting into serious debt, it is a shame the council aren't there to buy their training ground at way over the price before building them a nice new one

Comment by geobra 2012-02-14 19:34:20

Maybe only when a really big but heavily indebted club falls will football come to its senses and realise that it's currently in the grip of financial madness made even more insane by the economic meltdown that is afflicting the real world. It doesn't necessarily have to be Rangers, but it needs to be a club with a wider world appeal than a struggling Conference outfit.

It cannot be right that while some clubs balance their books and so more or less preclude any chance of winning things, others blithely spend money they haven't got in the belief that they are too big to be allowed to fail.

Perhaps extra points could be awarded to clubs who report a profit, with deductions for those running at a loss.

Comment by AFC42 2012-02-14 21:26:40

"......HM Revenue and Customs, who have been bleeding the club dry by delaying the final ruling of the tax tribunal."

This is untrue and should be withdrawn. Rangers football club the previous owners have dragged the issue out by appeal and legal challenge. If they had paid tax properly like a well run, honest business they would not be in this mess. They might have won fewer trophies though.

The current administration is down to non payment of tax THIS year. This kind of parasitic behaviour should be punishable by imprisonment of directors.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2012-02-14 23:52:18

@Bruno - "3rd division games at 3pm, ec, etc..." - nyaaa-haah! See what you're doing there, ya wee scamp!

As for Sir Dave's return - well it was a blind hope and a royal(ist) we. He's now saying he can't come back even if he wanted to anyway - some legal agreement on the takeover - and we've gone into administration for the first time in our history beause of the £9M in taxes which WHYTE has failed to pay since he took over in May. HMRC announced today that they weren't chasing us into admin for the POTENTIAL £49M legacy tax case - they were chasing us for the fact WHyte hasn't paid a drop of tax since walking up the marble staircase.

It took Murray 22 years to accumulate,at the very most, £49M of debt to the tax man - and it was a debt incurred as he attempted and almost succeeded in giving the Rangers support everything it ever wanted. Within 9 months Whyte has accumulated at least £33.4M of debt while embarrassing the club in the transfer market and in his boardroom culls and in the court rooms in which his sordid business past has been exposed time and again. All sounds a tad soap operatic I know but - hey - he's a bona fide bad man with absolutely no money except the fans', while Sir Dave's a sugar daddy Santa Claus who made an admin error. I'd have the Murray back in a Mintstant.

@Jaeswba - cheers, mate and thanks for taking time out your celebrations over what you did to poor Mick McCarthy on Sunday. I remember Mick losing another derby 5-1 - instigated by him heading a clearance straight onto Ray Wilkin's right peg ... aaaah, memories may be all I have soon :-) To be honest I'd rather be Rangers Fc in the Third Division, with our history intact, than Govan Athletic 2012 in the SPL and I know a lot of Buenoses feel the same ... enough to hopefully ensure it's probably a moot point but - yeah - if there's a nicer ground on the planet than Glebe Park I've yet to see it ... the Wrigley Field of Scotland (fkn Baseball again ... DOH!)

Only thing I'd say about Whyte failing to win anything is that we've won two trophies a season for the past four seasons and reached a European Final and a played in the UCL group stages 3 times. That we're out of four competitions this season - even before the ten point SPL penalty makes it five - is actually an indictment by the standards we've come to expect up here in duopolyville.

@Lincoln - hey Sincil Bank might yet have to accomodate us too, mate. And I'd hope it's coz we're working our way up the pyramid rather than the Imps dropping back down it. I'd be happy to see The Rangers become the farthest travelled in the Conference North... as long as we can keep our trophies!

Murray Park? - yeah, well, someone could be renting it back to us soon enough.

@Geobra - yes, mate but the moment football begins becoming confused with real life that's when most of us will lose interest in it. Absolutely see what you're saying and a man as close to the Italian scene as yourself will know better than most how clubs become vainglorious enterprises for fly-by-night shysters as the fans suffer the consequences. However, I was there when Rangers fans were yawning loudly at winning Nine League Titles on the trot and demanding a European trophy to guarantee their attendance - we kinda brought this on ourselves. And Sir Dave didn't spend what he didn't have - he just tried to work the system to ensure he could make more of what he did have. Employee Benefit Trusts are legal methods of tax avoidance when run correctly - our problem was that we didn't operate them tightly enough and so drifted towards the world of tax evasion.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2012-02-15 00:22:54

@AFC42 - glad to see you've got it all in perspective then.

And here was me thinking I was the one likely to be most upset on here today.

The comment isn't untrue - it's been entirely misunderstood. And the only thing which should be withdrawn is the sizeable tree trunk from your anus, as that's evidently as culpable for your misunderstanding as my piss-poor writing skills.

I am in no way CRITICISING the HMRC for their actions. I'm drawing attention to the fact that the club, far from "getting away" with anything, only needs the cloud of a POTENTIAL £49M bill hanging over it to scare off any other potential investor, sponsor or even players we might wish to buy. I'm making the point that it has suited CRAIG WHYTE to have the tax tribunal judgement made last November as originally planned because he's clearly only been interested in taking the club into administration and needed this to happen as quickly as possble after his takeover in order to retain his saviour halo. Getting hit with a major, years-old tax bill in November would have allowed him to hide his own dodgy dealing behind it - lump all the debt in together and blame it all on the previous regime.

Failure to buy any players during the January transfer window was the first serious blow to his image. If he'd had the final bill from HMRC by November, he could have blamed the sale of Nikica Jelavic on an administration which was, in turn, as he would have it, HMRC's fault. HE WOULD STILL HAVE LOOKED LIKE THE INNOCENT PARTY. This, I suspected was why HMRC decided to adjourn and delay final decisions as many times as Rangers might have - they're actually after Whyte more personally than I am. They wanted to ruin his rep with the entire Rangers support and low and behold - as you've clearly seen on Sky Sports News - today's action was beautifully played by the HMRC to expose EXACTLY what Whyte was up to.

Yeah, Whyte should be off to jail - but I think you haveto distinguish between poor judgement and wilful mismanagement. Not that you sound like you're one for subtle distinctions.

Comment by multipleman78 2012-02-15 12:39:15

hey Alex. With regard the comparisons between Murray and Whyte, i totally agree with you. Its all about intentions i think. Murray's intentions were always geared towards the best outcome for Rangers, Whyte's appear to be geared towards the best outcome for his pockets.

Of course Murray has to take some blame as he was in charge when the initial tax system may have failed (we havent lost that case yet) but he was trying to give us what we wanted. He tried to deliver success in Europe and then compete with O'Neill's Celtic but eventually had to pull our spending back.

The fact Whyte took over only 18 million of debt showed how much we had stripped back in the previous seasons while staying on top. I think our debt was over 50 million at one point. This all against the backdrop of the worst recession in our memory which i believe really crippled Murray's business empire.

To me there is no debate or contest as to who i would rather have. Murray would never do the things Whyte is doing and i think he would make things a bit clearer for all us dummies out there. Whyte appears to enjoy murky waters where you cant really see what is going on under the surface. We have hit by so many different figures in the last few days that i have been left trusting nothing. 75 million tax bill when it was 49 million. No tax paid since Whyte takeover. Ticketus money, Jelavic money, 18 million debt, 10 million annual operating debt. Whyte claims to have put in 33 million of his own money. They cant all be true cos if they were we wouldnt be in any debt or administration.

Comment by ChrisBud 2012-02-15 12:53:48

Alex Anderson:

"I think it's easier to write off the past if it's involved more lows than highs but with Rangers being one half of a duopoly for so long then I imagined the very large number of glory-hunters we've obtained since, as you agree, 1986 would drop way off if they were suddenly associated with a club which could no longer claim to have won more trophies than another on the planet."

You miss the point completely on glory hunting. These people didn't start supporting rangers in 1986 because they had won a European competition in 72 or had been dominant decades before. They started glory hunting because Rangers were winning from 1986 onwards. Likewise, as I said, Rangers will lose support if they are no longer winning or even challenging for SPL titles. Which is unlikely in any event because the authorities (and worse still, potentially the other SPL clubs) surely will bend over backwards to rubber stamp the fiscal cheating in the 90s by allowing them to continue in the SPL.

"If you don't have any concern for the history of the game (Hampden 1987? The last Anglo-Scottish Cup tournament? No? Okay ...) then, well, perhaps your reasons for enjoying the game are as tribal as anyone else's."

Of course I don't support St Mirren because of a cup win before my birth or one shortly after my birth. In fact, I grew up supporting St Mirren in its least successful decade ever and in those early years assumed that they had always and would always been that crap - I refused to believe my dad when he said they had played in the top flight and knew next to nothing of the history until several years later. I supported the team nearby that my dad took me to see - nothing to do with glory, religion or the tribal loyalty that sees so many in Scotland align themselves to one or the other ugly sister without having any real interest in following a football team home and away, week in and week out.

As for your cup attendance excuses - such a game would have been full a few years ago. League games would have been full, even without the need to falsely declare all season ticket holders present. S'whit ahm sayin.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2012-02-15 13:23:21

@multipleman78 - here here! Spot-on, Sir. With Murray it's almost as if I'm willing to take the hit to make the miracles he worked seem more real - to give an edge of realism to what were simply the happiest days of my life as a football fan.

The guy chuked in £54M of his own money in one shot - to underwrite a share issue which never really got off the ground because, frankly, there was no-one else out there willing to put their money where their extremely large, media-friendly mouths were. And crucially, as you seem to be the only other person on earth right now who is remembering, WE HAVE NOT LOST THE £49M tax case yet - the only person saying it would never be won was Whyte ... and now we know why.


I was open-mouthed at the way ORGANISED GROUPS of Rangers fans were campaigning for years to oust Murray - these were the same idiots who thought Kris Boyd knew better than Wlater Smith, mind you. There was CELEBRATION whn Murray sold to Whyte - this floored me. So, yesterday, I have no complaints if a huge part of Sir David Murray's heart was saying "THAT is what youse fu*8ing get!"

With Whyte I had a few days in May 2011 thinking "WHY would anyone want to take on a club in such potential debt?" but the moment he revealed what he'd done with the Lloyds debt it seemed to make more sense ... a bad sense ... then he was parading an SPL trophy he'd done nothing to win ... and then we found out about his CV ... and since then administration has been inevitable because we've slowly discovered it's all he can do and it's all hes ever been here for.

Only positive thing we can say about Whyte is he's brave. Neil Lennon didn't even stop us winning the SPL last season and look what the nutters did to him.

The Bears have been to Monaco before ... they know the way ...

Comment by bruno glanvilla 2012-02-15 14:22:06

Alex; really?

David Murray? Really?

David Murray racked up £90m of debt, then "restructured" it to within his wider group - never paid any of it off. I remain to be convinced he has put more money into Rangers than he took out. There was a time when his subsidiary companies were operating 65% of the contracts awarded by Rangers Ltd (catering, marketing, advertising, cleaning etc).

He spent 20 years on a gigantic ego trip which cost him the pocket money of his initial investment and nothing else. He played fast and loose with laws, with sporting integrity, and systematically turned Rangers into a basket case who dont even own any club shops.

The share issue he "underwrote" was to rescue the reckless spending of the previous decade, which was racked up against debt, not against his wealth. When no Rangers supporters would put their hand in their pocket to bail him out, he had no choice but to "underwrite" the debt, as he was already doing. If he is/was such a financial big-hitter as he has long proclaimed to be, why didnt he just clear the debt and walk away from the club and leave it in the debt-free state in which he bought in 1988?

Murray is the villain here. Whyte is merely the executioner of the last rites. Murray bought 9 titles in a row, but the fans of Rangers will pay for it for many years to come.

Rangers need to find a way to run a big club in a small league setup and turn a profit whilst doing so (actually, there is a club across town who seem to have managed this). They dont need another sugar daddy and they certainly dont need the old owner riding back into town.

Comment by geobra 2012-02-15 14:38:57

Are we supposed to feel sorry for Rangers fans? They support a club that has won umpteen trophies over the years, and now finds itself in a self-inflicted crisis. Most of us support clubs that have never won anything of note and probably never will, but we soldier on and we don't expect people to feel sorry for us. Some of us support clubs embroiled in a match-fixing scandal and have no idea what the immediate future holds. But we all know that the most important thing is not what division you're in. It is the continued existence of the club. It is having a club to support. If what is happening to them now opens the eyes of some Rangers fans to the world that most fans live in, it will be no bad thing.

Comment by kreig303 2012-02-16 11:07:35

"Brooklyn Dodgers"? That's a strained metaphor. How about Wolves circa late-70s to early-80s? Or Leeds United?

The LA Dodgers have been quite successful and are beloved. The Brooklyn Dodgers were always the poor relations to the storied Yankees. Please don't compare their situations — the Dodgers moved cos the only new ballpark they were offered was in Queens — where the Mets ended up.

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