Hugh Adam is the man who made a huge success of Rangers Pools, and who served Rangers loyally for over thirty years. In 2002, he sold his shares in Rangers and at the same time rang warning bells about the direction of Rangers under Sir David Murray.
He warned of bankruptcy to come if the course of the good ship Rangers was not changed. He was ignored by almost all at the time, and as Rangers continued winning trophies and bringing star players to Ibrox he was seen as a Cassandra. However, Cassandra’s curse was never to be believed, but always to be right.
Mr Adam’s 2002 interview is still floating around on the web.
This time, on the news that Lloyds Bank controlled the purse strings at Ibrox, he repeated his warnings of seven years previously, telling the paper:-
“When I made those comments seven years ago I was ridiculed by some. We [David Murray and he] got on fine in the beginning, but, with David, it gets to the stage that if you do not agree with him he casts you aside.
“I did not agree with the way he operated and I told him that. It doesn’t give me any satisfaction to see the situation as it is but I did raise concerns at the time and was ridiculed for raising them.
“David was a salesman, a super-salesman. I have enormous respect for him for the adversity he overcame but when I would express my concerns to him – as I did various times – he would nod, but I knew he wasn’t listening to me. He was entitled to ignore me but I wasn’t for sitting about like a dummy.
“Even if I had the money I wouldn’t buy Rangers just now. Would you?
“If anything, I would rather buy Celtic now because they are run more prudently by good, strong people. Television revenue is not going to increase, fans are not buying into it any more and there is no prospect of England on the horizon. For guys like Abramovich at Chelsea, the television money is there, while his own commitment is relatively loose change.
“I am 84, so it is a bit late in the day for me to come up with a business plan but what I would do is lobby the Dutch, Portuguese and Scandinavians regularly to champion the cause for an Atlantic League.”
Mr Adam was 84 then and it might have been thought that the book had closed on his involvement with Rangers.
However today in the Daily Mail, he comes back, and is the first former director of the Club to speak openly and, for Rangers, negatively, about the EBT issue which makes up the “Big Tax Case”.
John McGarry’s piece deserves to be read thoroughly, but a couple of points can be highlighted.
Mr Adam states, when discussing alleged “secretive payments to players which were not in their contracts:-
“They weren’t included in the contracts. They definitely weren’t. That was the whole point of them.
‘If they’d been included in the contracts, they would have had to have paid tax on them.
‘I don’t think a lot of the other directors knew an awful lot about it. David Murray kept everything to himself.
“When I was on the board, I knew all about them. I just didn’t know the details of them. They became accepted. The revenue were seriously challenging them at that point when I was a director.
“All the directors heard about them but didn’t take them seriously because they didn’t appear in the books. People didn’t want to know about them. There was a lot of that (EBTs) going on at the time (I was there).
‘You knew it was cheating but some of them not only hoped but believed it was above board. It was just something that crept up. It was considered important but not crucial. The fans didn’t give a damn one way or another.
‘When I was asked for my opinion on the way the club had been run, I said it was quite obvious how it had got into trouble. They were doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.
‘They (EBTs) were always regarded in my time as a bit of a joke. They were getting away with it but nobody really thought they’d get away with it forever. ‘
‘The players were very naive. Few of them were the Brain of Britain, of course. If they get the money, they don’t give a damn where it’s coming from.’
Mr Adam’s statements may well be challenged by Sir David Murray and by other directors of Rangers, both past and present. However his comments appear to be an admission of secret payments being made, over an extended period, to payers which did not comply with SFA and SPL rules about payments. This would, potentially, render many of the players ineligible and create a nightmare for the football authorities in Scotland to deal with.
The position as regards the players’ contracts is as follows. The contracts require to be in a standard form, and submitted to the SPL where they are retained confidentially.
The scenarios, as I see them, are as follows.
A Rangers payments to players that were not in the contracts were not for football related matters. As far as football is concerned, the issue is closed. The taxman might still be interested mind you!
B Rangers were making payments to players for footballing activities. In that event, there were two possibilities.
B1 Rangers told the football authorities this and they disregarded it. This was either:-
B1(a) Because the authorities misunderstood what they were being told, and therefore failed to notice the breach of its own rules, or
B1(b) Because they deliberately disregarded the information despite its own rules. If so, it makes Mr Whyte’s alleged mis-deeds pale into insignificance.
B2 Rangers did not tell the authorities about the payments. In which case there are the following possibilities:-
B2(a) Rangers deliberately misled them by way of false documents for the purpose of deceiving them to their financial advantage. If so, this is a police matter, over and above footballing issues.
B2(b) Rangers innocently misled them either by making innocent errors in their paperwork or by declaring that the full documentation had been produced under a misapprehension as to the true legal and factual position.
As I said, if the answer is found in para A, then the matter is over.
If in para B1, then Rangers cannot be faulted but there would need to be an inquiry into the handling of these matters by the football hierarchy to determine whether this was a mistake or a deliberate act.
If para B2(a) applies, then, as suggested, it is a police matter. For the avoidance of doubt I am not suggesting that that scenario took place. It is merely one of as number of options.
If we are in the realms of para B2(b), then, as with a mistaken SFA/SPL view, questions will be asked, but these matters are complex, and errors can be made.
I am sure the official stance will be that all rules were complied with, but one wonders if the Nimmo Smith enquiry might be widened to cover these allegations.
What Mr Adam has done, in advance of the imminently expected EBT case judgment is to offer a smoking gun in relation to allegations that, for many years, illicit payments were being made, perhaps under a mis-apprehension as to the law, which had the effect of reducing tax.
However, it is not correct to say that these payments did not show in the books. Over a number of years Rangers’ accounts recorded how much the Club aid into the EBT’s if not how much players took out.
And the revelation in the Sun on Sunday of alleged “second contracts” suggests that perhaps agents thought that they could not trust Rangers as times became harder and their clients needed written comfort.
In any event, Mr Adam’s comments are another huge blow to the credibility of Rangers over the last 15-20 years.
It also renders Mr Ogilvie’s position at the head of the SFA untenable as he would have been party to at least some of the meetings at Rangers during his tenure there when this would have been discussed.
We await more news and developments with anticipation.