21 January 2013

The Uncomfortable Truth

By Bill McMurdo | CRO Editor-at-large

When the truth becomes your enemy, it is evidence you are on the wrong side.

This brutal fact of life has become evident to me in recent times when listening to some Rangers fans speaking in relation to the club's trials of late.

Like most bluenoses, I celebrated in euphoric glee when the verdict of the First Tier Tax Tribunal was made public. It was one in the eye to all those Rangers-haters out there, particularly people like the BBC's Mark Daly, winner of the tainted BAFTA award for metafiction masquerading as investigative journalism.

In the ongoing propaganda wars that form the backdrop to life in Scotland, it was a momentous victory for the Rangers family, so mercilessly maligned and persecuted by the wolf pack that is spread across various sectors of society.

The problem with the FTT verdict is it gave so many Gers supporters a false notion that the club had no wrongdoings to answer for, that all accusations against Rangers are ill-founded and thus wrong.

The uncomfortable truth is that this is not the case.

The FTT verdict did, indeed, absolve Rangers of guilt in respect of the use of EBTs as it pertains to the club's dealings with HMRC.

What it did not do was address the wider problem that Rangers had in terms of compliance with both SPL and SFA rules i.e. did Rangers have side letters or agreements in writing that were not revealed to the SPL? Did these documents refer to payments to players for playing services outwith the players' registered contracts?

The issue for the SPL panel investigating Rangers is not about the legality of EBTS - it is about documentation that constitutes an agreement by Rangers FC to pay players over and above what their officially registered contract detailed.

As I have said all along, the real question is not: "Are Rangers guilty of off-book payments?" The real question is: "Who else is?"

Arguing Rangers' innocence is not where the defence is to be made. If other clubs are proven to have paid players "off-book" then those clubs should also be punished for any wrongdoing.

I have made valid arguments why title-stripping simply cannot happen so anyone who believes I am backing the SPL's kangaroo court is on the wrong track. However, that is not the same as saying Rangers are innocent of all charges.

The notion that Rangers can do no wrong is dangerous but one which I have seen creeping in to the mindset of some. The fact is, Rangers under David Murray became an increasingly obnoxious presence in the Scottish game. The "No-one likes us, we don't care" mentality unsurprisingly didn't endear people from other clubs to us. Calling everyone who agreed with the not liking bit a fenian bastard also didn't help.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not coming out of the handwringing closet here. And I doubt I'll ever get to write for the blazers and brown brogue bloggers over at The Rangers Standard. But sometimes we just have to accept as bluenoses that the worst obstacle we often have to overcome is our own arrogance and stubbornness.

The fact is that Rangers under David Murray ceased to be the good guys of Scottish football. Rangers were moulded by "Sir" David into his own image and became a pompous, conceited parody of the fine, proud institution we once were. Murray's abrasive manner and sharp practices cut us adrift till we had no friends in the game. It doesn't matter that the other clubs are all bams anyway - we helped them to become more determined in their bammery.

Yes, I am determined that leaving the fetid atmosphere of Scottish football is the right way forward for the Gers - another idea I believe is frowned upon by the guys at TRS. But I am in no doubt that among our many enemies in Scottish football, we ourselves are often the worst.

The problem is, no matter how far we go, we will always take that enemy with us.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @WilliamMcMurdo and via email: bmcmurdo@thecoplandroad.org