Dave King may as well have slipped in the payoff line “no one likes us, we don’t care” at the end of his statement defending the validity of Rangers’ history. Say what you want about the man (and many do), but never let it be said he doesn’t know how to play to the Ibrox gallery.
The aggressive defence not only of the validity of Rangers’ honours gained during the years that EBT’s were in use, but also the attempt to dismiss any dubiety around the ethics of using the scheme, was exactly what the majority of Rangers supporters wanted to hear. It harked back to the bombast of previous Rangers regimes prior to the club’s implosion in 2012, and left no one in Scottish football in any doubt about the robustness with which Rangers will guard their titles and trophies. And such is their right. Suddenly, we have rewound 3 years and the message coming from the Ibrox chief is clear: sink us, and we’ll sink you.
Sometimes you hear of threats being ‘thinly-veiled’, but in this case, the message couldn’t be clearer if Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson woke up tomorrow morning with a horse’s head in his bed.
All well and good, but on further inspection of King’s statement, it’s easy to point out areas where it displays claims which are, at best, debatable.
The most obvious of these is his reference to Rangers “demotion from the Premier League,” when in fact the club was readmitted to the SFL structure in the Third Division following their liquidation. It can be argued that the other SFL clubs at the time could have voted to admit Rangers directly into the top division or even the First Division, but they would then have been left with a revolt from their own supporters. As King knows only too well, and as his latest statement demonstrates, each club must place paramount importance on the feelings and wishes of their own fans. A cynical mind may suggest that repeatedly using language such as “demotion” in reference to the events of 2012 is a crude attempt at shifting the blame for the fate which befell Rangers onto other parties and re-writing the narrative of what actually took place, but let’s say it was a slip of the pen.
Secondly, his contention that “the football team had no advantage from any tax savings from the scheme put in place by the Murray Group”, as pointed out by my colleague Matthew Lindsay, is a huge contradiction to his earlier stance, when he said in 2012: “I follow the logic of the argument that if we lose the tax case then we probably gained some competitive advantage. I believe that we should apologise for that.”
Three years down the line, it appears that Lord Nimmo Smith’s verdict upon the legitimacy of Rangers’ achievements on the pitch, prior to HMRC’s recent appeal victory, is sacrosanct. If King really believes that “There is no more to be debated on the issue”, then he is clearly not a regular visitor to Kerrydale Street. Even outwith the supporters of their great rivals though, there is a strong feeling that for Scottish football to retain any sense of fair play, then the ultimate question of whether any of Rangers’ honours should be reviewed and ultimately struck from the record has to be definitively answered.
If Rangers, or BDO, appeal the latest ruling, and King hints strongly in his statement that they will, and then HMRC ultimately and conclusively win the case, then the SPFL had better be ready to make that decision and deal with the fall-out of whatever course of action they take.
If Rangers win the case, then a line can be drawn under it and we can all move on.
In the one conciliatory passage of King’s statement, he says “we wish to put the past behind us and move on in partnership with all clubs throughout Scotland to improve and restore the image and quality of Scottish football as a whole. This will be to the benefit of all clubs.” All very laudable, but only on Rangers’ terms.
Unfortunately for King, supporters of other clubs in Scottish football will not acquiesce so blithely, and questions will continue to be raised over the legitimacy of Rangers’ honours until a Supreme Court verdict puts this whole sorry affair to bed.