Just when you thought the upheaval at Scottish club Rangers might slip out of the headlines, along comes another incredible story to hit the Glasgow based outfit.
The financial meltdown suffered by the ‘Oldco’ Rangers Football Club has been well documented over the last 18 months and the creation of ‘Newco’ Rangers, with its outspoken owner Charles Green, have kept the Ibrox club in the news on a regular basis.
The latest controversy to rock Rangers relates to a scheme set up to pay players between 2000 and 2011 which they failed to disclose to the Scottish Premier League.
The commission launched to investigate the irregularities, headed by Lord Nimmo Smith, today decided not to strip the newco Rangers of the Scottish championship titles won by the original club in this period, which it retains.
Investigators deemed that the employee benefit trust (EBT) scheme had been deliberately concealed from the SPL, but that the scheme’s operation did not represent an unfair playing advantage to Rangers and therefore no sporting sanctions were placed upon them. Instead the company responsible for oldco Rangers have been fined £250,000 by the commission.
The tribunal’s findings also clear the club’s current owners from any responsibility for the previous regime’s misdemeanours.
Rangers, who won the Scottish championship five times during the period under investigation, have also been battling with HMRC, the UK government’s tax department, over the legality of the EBT scheme.
HMRC claimed that £47.65 million paid to players and staff in the form of tax-free loans was illegal but a First Tier Tax Tribunal ruled in favour of Rangers, saying the scheme did not breach any laws or regulations. The Revenue and Customs service has appealed this decision to another Tribunal Board.
The decision by the Lord Nimmo Smith panel not to strip Rangers of any of its titles was greeted with delight by ‘Gers fans and by manager and club legend, Ally McCoist.
The former striker said, "I am delighted in many ways by the decision today,"
"As a former player, I know how hard it is to achieve success on the pitch and the suggestion that somehow Rangers sought to gain unfair advantage was deeply insulting to me and others who had worn the Rangers jersey with immense pride.”
"I found the whole approach to this matter by the SPL utterly bizarre and misguided."
The retention of the disputed league titles means that Rangers can still lay claim to all of the world record 54 domestic championship victories to their name, 11 more than their deadly cross-town rivals Celtic.