The Scottish League season is now over and, with all cup involvement having ended a very long time ago, Rangers Football Club PLC (in administration) may have played its last ever game.
It is now twelve weeks since administrators Duff and Phelps took over the running of the cash strapped club, and there has been a tremendous amount of sound and fury. But has anything substantial actually changed in that time?
The debts are still there. Costs haven’t been cut to any great extent. And few redundancies have been made, which is unlike any other major administration situation. In fact the biggest change is that Duff and Phelps have earned themselves somewhere north of £2,000,000 in fees so far.
I won’t go through the whole fiasco, the many bidders who have come in and then walked away: the Blue Knights, Bill Ng, Brian Kennedy and Bill Miller. Suffice to say that they are all out of the picture now.
The consortium that is/ might be/ will be buying the club is led by one Charles Green. He is backed by a band of 20 or so unknown UK and eastern businessmen – the Green Knights if you will. Despite Ally McCoist’s insistence on transparency elsewhere the names of these investors do not seem to be forthcoming.
So what is the Green Knights plan to save the club? Well, we know they don’t intend to pay the debts off, that’s for sure. The £140,000,000 or so that is owed will not disappear either. Rangers’ accounts, if they actually produced any, would show a club that is insolvent. Its meagre assets come nowhere near to the sums owed.
Things are so bad that I’ve seen comparisons with the Greek economy recently. Perhaps the Greeks are missing a trick here: as far as I know they haven’t shown the EU the red card yet. Perhaps that symbolic act would make the situation better.
Still, Greece does have a long history of civilised behaviour and has won a European championship, so comparisons with the Ibrox mob are clearly way off the mark.
The Green Knights say they will offer up a CVA, putting a mere £8.5M into the pot. Now firstly we need to remember that the administrators’ fees come off that sum before anyone else gets a look in.
And secondly that our old friend Craig Whyte is still in play. He may have sold/ agreed to sell his shares to the Green Knights but his floating charge has not gone away. And that means he is next in the queue to be paid, before all of the other 200+ creditors that we know of. I’ve always said that Whyte would walk away from this sorry mess with a big profit and I stick by that. He will be owed somewhere around £20M.
Now readers with astute financial brains will have realised that once Duff and Phelps and Whyte are paid there will be zero left from that £8.5M. So what will the ordinary creditors be offered? That’s right – nothing.
That means creditors – including of course Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs – will have no choice but to liquidate the club if they are to have any chance of seeing any money at all.
At this stage the Green Knights will undoubtedly form a newco and seek for it to buy the assets of Rangers, starting a brand new club. See what I mean about nothing really having changed? We’ve been here before. Several times actually. OK, there’s no incubator this time; instead it’s a newco from a natural birth.
So rather than go through the various permutations of events that might happen next, let’s simply list some of the outstanding issues that stand between the Green Knights and the rescue of Rangers.
Yesterday saw Lord Carloway and his panel rule against the club in its appeal against the SFA’s fines and transfer ban. This means that no new players over the age of 18 can be signed until next summer. The club currently has 40 professional players, but how many of them will walk away?
The Big Tax Case appeal has still to be resolved. The overall sum owed is so large that a few million here or there in the eventual bill won’t actually make a lot of difference. But its conclusion will make HMRC more determined than ever to ensure that the club is not seen to get away with tax evasion.
The SPL investigation into whether payments made to players under the EBTs were against footballing laws. All payments made to players have to be included in a contract lodged with the governing bodies. Now you would assume that illegal payments were not included! So over many years and involving many players the rules were broken, probably hundreds or even thousands of times. The punishment could be severe.
In addition to all of this, there are football’s rules to consider. The SPL will meet again in two weeks to discuss changes to its Articles of Association. The proposed changes would give clubs the right to decide on whether to admit a newco rather than the matter being left to the SPL Board. There are also outstanding votes that could set entry punishments on a newco – The Cheats’ Charter.
And, if all of that is ever sorted out, a newco might just be able to apply to join the SPL. It could even win a vote of SPL clubs – but only if they ignore the principle set by the Hibs chairman that sporting integrity must come first. “It’s not a question of any sum of money in return for that integrity, integrity is beyond purchase,” said Rod Petrie. Well said, sir.
But it doesn’t even end there. All SPL clubs are required to have a UEFA Club License to play in the league. And a newco simply cannot meet the criteria, which include a three year playing record. What’s more, the SFA cannot grant an exemption to this rule. UEFA itself could, in theory. But why would it? Why set a precedent, why drive a nail through the heart of its own Financial Fair Play rules?
So, there is much for Mr Green and his band of merry men to do, it seems. And not an awful lot of time to do it in. The close season in football is not a long one and the time available to sort out all of these issues before next season start is short.
Will there be a team in blue playing at Ibrox come the opening day of next season? Right now I wouldn’t put money on it.