Now it can be told.
The problems of Rangers Football Club have seen the embattled supporters turned this way and that, like defenders facing a Jinky Johnstone run down the wing.
One minute there were certainties.
Rangers would spend ten pounds for every five their opponents would outlay.
Rangers would buy top quality players, or at least pay top-quality prices.
Rangers’ Scottish players would all be capped for the country.
Opposing teams would see what seemed to be many unfortunate but timely “honest mistakes” by referees in games involving Rangers.
Rangers would win the majority of the competitions they played for (except for European games where the Ibrox magic too often failed them).
But Rangers were top dogs – bankrolled by Sir David Murray and the Bank of Scotland.
All was right with the world, although, as is the nature of football fans, there were grumbles.
But then, at the very point when the Ibrox faithful were on top of the world, the seeds of destruction were sown.
A secretive cabal of “Rangers haters” was formed. Whilst not part of Celtic in any official capacity, who had the greatest motive for doing down Rangers? We have all seen the thrillers and spy films where undercover agents are dropped into enemy territory, but told that, if captured, their country will deny any knowledge of them.
So, in the same way, people were put in place who were able to influence the top decision makers at Rangers into steering the blue ship onto the rocks.
Ask yourself – is it a coincidence that Paul Baxendale-Walker, the architect of the EBT scheme which, in the way it was applied by Rangers, caused so many problems, has NEVER been seen at Celtic Park? Does that not seem like an effort to hide the motivation for his actions? After all, what possible reason could anyone have for avoiding Celtic Park at all times?
As well as the EBT scheme, the Bank of Scotland, with the involvement of Gavin Masterton somewhere in the shadows, induced Rangers and Sir David Murray’s companies into accepting millions upon millions of pounds worth of loans, and in doing so over-extended the Murray empire.
It cannot be coincidence, can it, that Mr Masterton has had involvement, direct or indirect, with at least three teams, none of whom were Celtic, which have entered administration or worse? Why should the principle of bankrupting one’s competition only apply in business and not in football?
So the combination of the looming “Big Tax Case” and the now Lloyds-owned Bank of Scotland, had forced Sir David into having to sell the club he loved (although not his first love as he had tried previously to acquire Ayr United).
That removed Sir David Murray from the picture.
However there remained a couple of problems. The conspirators could not control the sale process. They could not know who would be successful in bidding enough to get Sir David’s consent to a deal.
There was also the highly professional Rangers CEO, Martin Bain. Mr Bain had been trying to run Rangers on a proper and sound financial footing over his tenure and to rein in the worst excesses of extravagance into which Sir David had been duped. Mr Bain had also made strides towards eliminating the sectarian singing which had seen Rangers summoned to Zurich to answer, on more than one occasion, to UEFA.
Mr Bain had to be taken out of the picture too.
Here was the next element of the master plan.
The new buyer was Craig Whyte. This Motherwell-born billionaire, with his wealth “off the radar”, and his multiple business interests in Florida, the British Virgin Islands and Switzerland, as well as in Skylines Village in London, was able to persuade Sir David to accept £1 for the deal.
He bought the club, using funds sourced from Ticketus. Ticketus had of course been involved with Rangers under Sir David Murray. Sir David has denied having any previous connections with Mr Whyte and of course we must believe him, but in the same way as payday loan companies entice borrowers into an ever descending spiral of debt, is it not consistent with the masterplan that Ticketus too were a regular finance provider to Rangers, the sums becoming greater and greater, until finally the debt could not be serviced?
Ticketus looks like a Latin word, and we all know which football team has close connections to a religion in which, until only fifty years ago, much of the worship took place in that language!
So we were now in a position where Mr Whyte had been on the pitch accepting the adulation of the fans on winning the league. This, combined with the “loyal” advisers to the club who had also been whispering in Sir David’s ear, led Mr Whyte, accustomed businessman as he was, to see that he could run the club himself. This meant that part two of the plan had succeeded. He froze out Mr Bain, little realising that this was playing into the hands of his football team’s enemies. Mr Bain, unaware of the way in which he was being pushed like a pawn around the chessboard, walked away, claimed unfair dismissal and took Rangers to court.
He too was no longer a factor.
At the same time the chairman, Alistair Johnston, also had to go. He was a hugely successful businessman with a world-wide reputation. He was the type of man who could see through the smokescreen and realise that Rangers as an institution was under concerted but covert attack.
But the same tactics as eliminated Mr Bain were applied to Mr Johnston, and he exited, stage left too.
But still the plan could not succeed without the elimination of the new champion, Mr Whyte. Here came on of the most cunning parts of the plan. By duping HMRC into acting as a blunt instrument, the conspirators were able to put Mr Whyte into a position where, in an effort to sort out various tax issues, Mr Whyte could see no alternative to refusing to pay other taxes, effectively as a bargaining chip.
As was traditional, Rangers could rely on the support of the football authorities, generally always given to the biggest teams, and no action was taken against them.
However the BBC then intervened. I assume that no reader needs any further information about the BBC’s clear bias against all things British and especially Rangers?
Mark Daly won an award (as did the Rangers Tax Case blogger) for exposing details of the sale to Mr Whyte and of his past business history.
Bearing in mind how difficult it is to get information from bodies like HMRC and the Insolvency Service, then what possible explanation, apart from the clearly idiotic one of good journalism, could there be for the BBC getting hold of the relevant information? Who had an interest in doing Mr Whyte down? Not Rangers of course!
So his director’s disqualification was revealed and then the football authorities had no choice but to act against him.
At the same time, as Rangers fell from the top of the SPL, can anyone doubt this was due to malign influences? After all, the only other explanation was that the players were not good enough, and that the manager was not up to the job, and, as we know, those could never have been the case.
Next comes David Grier of Duff & Phelps. Is it coincidence that his initials, DG, also represent Deo Gratias, a response from the old Latin Mass!
He was able to persuade Mr Whyte to proceed down the administration route, brilliantly offering this excellent advice as being the best for Rangers and Mr Whyte, as, at least on one view, it was.
However, as soon as Duff & Phelps were getting ready to move in, HMRC intervened to insist on an appointment there and then. So, by mid February 2012 HMRC had secured the appointment of Duff & Phelps as administrators, and the speed with which the fell out with Mr Whyte cannot surely be explained away only by them acting as administrators as the law required, and not as Mr Whyte wanted them too. Maybe it can.
But the appointment of administrators eliminated Mr Whyte from the dramatis personae, at least for a while!
Then came the masterstroke. Working through finance houses and deal brokers, influence was brought to bear to bring together Mr Whyte, Mr Ahmad, the successful “money man” and Charles Green together.
Nobody in the traditional Rangers constituency had been serious about taking up the reins. Clearly they saw that there were people intent on destroying Rangers and the people involved in it. They made noises about involvement, but there was always a caveat or condition in the way. As a result the various multi-coloured Knights faded to grey.
Bill Miller appeared. The American businessman clearly gave those seeking to do Rangers down heart failure. He came in with a business plan. It seemed to be credible. He did not look at the world through blue-tinted spectacles. He had the temerity to suggest running Rangers as a business.
This would not do. And so it came to pass that the press wrote stories about Mr Miller and those closest to him. He decided this was not for him, so he left the stage.
This left the path clear for Mr Green. As a successful CEO at Sheffield United, and as a veteran of lucrative share flotations, he seemed the ideal man, in the absence of Mr Miller, to run the business properly and keep Rangers at the heights they are entitled to.
He soon made his deal with the administrators and, in June, one of his companies, though maybe not the one initially contracted to do so, acquired the assets. Rangers was saved!
Immediately though his efforts were sabotaged. He had, when paying £5.5 million for all of the assets, expected to realise around £8-£10 million immediately from selling players. This would have been entirely legitimate. But there were people who were able to pour metaphorical poison into the ears of the players who, as a result, told their agents to reject the transfer to whatever company had actually bought Rangers and instead to seek their own deals. Mr Green was left bereft. After all, he had paid £5.5 million, the best price realised by a fully competitive auction, to buy a handful of assets barely worth £70 million or so. And he had bought an SPL team too.
This had to be attacked as well if the plan was to succeed. Ask yourself who might have connections to the high flyers of Scottish football. Who benefited from Rangers’ decline?
Is it thus a surprise that Rangers were railroaded out of the SPL and into SFL3? It also became clear that the relevant football rules had been engineered over the years, like a bear trap, to catch the Ibrox team in this very situation.
Duly they fell into the bear trap, of SFL3.
But valiantly Mr Green struggled on.
He filled the ground most weeks.
His team gradually pulled away from the mighty Queens Park and Peterhead. OK, there were some blips on the way, but the quality in the SFL3 was unknown to a wider public until Rangers, forced to struggle on with the second or third highest wage bill in Scotland, were confronted with it.
In the previous season Rangers had struggled on occasion to beat European teams and SPL clubs. Now SFL3 teams showed that they too could compete at that level.
Despite all of the attempts to de-rail the share issue, he succeeded in having £22 million invested in the company, from fans, individuals and pension fund managers. What an achievement!
He only sought a piddling reward for doing so, becoming the largest shareholder with over 5 million shares acquired at a fraction of the issue price, but who could begrudge Mr Green that?
So the enemies saw that he had to be brought down.
Secretly they used the media as a weapon, persuading the press to actually report what Mr Green said. The press took this devious instruction to heart. They mentioned the boasts about Manchester United and the Dallas Cowboys. The claims about Adidas and international sponsors were publicised. The mention of nine or ten loan players from Newcastle was headline news.
How dare the media twist Mr Green’s words by reporting them without spin? After all, no one seriously believed what he was saying, so it was clearly an act of sabotage to report his words.
And this culminated in the double whammy of his apparently underogatory reference to Mr Ahmad and to Mr Whyte’s return.
Ask yourself this. Why would the press publish anything stemming from Mr Whyte, if not as part of a plan to do Mr Green down?
They even went as far as to publicise secret tape recordings and official forms signed by Mr Green, although, as he clearly explained, these were all designed simply to dupe Mr Whyte. How could anyone doubt Mr Green’s word? He was admitting to telling lies to get what he wanted. Was that the act of a man who could not be trusted? Of course not!
And so it came to pass that the Board decided to investigate Mr Green, overshadowing even the triumphant victory in SFL3. Why detract from a new world record – after all, no team with 54 wins in its top domestic league had them gone on to win the lowest division!
Last week Mr Green was forced out, with nothing other than his shareholding, salary and bonus to console him.
But even now the masterplan seems to be failing.
After all, there is talk that Martin Bain might return, or that Alastair Johnston is one step away from re-joining the Board, or even that, like a benevolent old Uncle, Sir David Murray could be tempted back.
So it looks as if, after all the plotting and scheming, the efforts to destroy Rangers have failed. They sit proudly at the top of SFL3, heading to SFL2 next season.
They have their highest goalscorer in the dugout running the playing side and looking only for 10 new players to conquer the Second Division.
The fans will undoubtedly turn out in droves to buy, even at higher prices, season tickets and this will go some way towards reducing the £1 million plus monthly losses. And these will be made up by selling a couple of players to the EPL combined with a run to the League Cup and Scottish Cup finals next year.
So, after all of the efforts, Rangers will survive, ultimately stronger, knowing that the combined efforts of everyone from Alex Salmond downwards has failed to damage them.
Or alternatively, a football team desperate for success, gambled on spending money it could only generate by European success or wild and excessive borrowing, combined with a legally questionable tax scheme.
When the banks wanted money back, the owner had to sell and he did so to a man who specialised in taking over distressed companies and turning them into cash, even if only by asset-stripping.
When the roulette wheel of European football turned against him, and everything having been put on black, it came up red, the gamble had failed and insolvency was inevitable.
The administrators tried to sell the assets but a CVA was always impossible and no one seriously wanted to put money into the black hole, so Mr Green, a fine salesman, together with his financial backers, saw the chance to legitimately make a few quid. To their astonishment their low ball bid of £5.5 million worked.
By brilliant presentation the share sale succeeded, but Mr Green’s plans for vast increases in income came to naught, despite some sponsorship successes. It has clearly become apparent to at least some of the board that Mr Green’s plans were not sustainable and that he had become an embarrassment, so they have said goodbye to him and are now frantically looking for a steady hand to run the ship.
What we have left is a football team, with a wage bill almost infinitely higher than its competitors, losing over £1 million per month, which will have to rely, to get to the end of next season, on spending the proceeds of the share issue. Even then it will need cost-cutting to do so, and a drop off in season ticket sales will make that even worse.
How can a business with SPL outgoings live on SFL2 income, even with SPL level season ticket sales (especially as they cannot charge SPL prices)?
I was right the first time – the decline of Rangers is nothing to do with the actions of the people who owned it and who ran it – it must all be a conspiracy by those determined to destroy it, because they could not defeat them on the playing field.
Posted by Paul “Machiavelli” McConville