Rangers On the Edge
These are indeed historic days for Alba, for just as Scotland’s Claim of Right may about to be asserted at the ballot box in 2014 a bastion of North Britain is terminally ill.
Once hailed as one of the great institutions of Scotland Rangers FC is now at death’s door.
Yesterday’s events in the Court of Session in part spring from the fact that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) believe that the Ibrox club operated an illegal tax strategy for the first decade of the millennium.
That case has just gone through the First Tier Tax Tribunal and the three judges have yet to deliver their judgement.
The underpayment alleged by HMRC is £24million added to this is £12million in interest accrued.
HMRC are also seeking £18million in penalties which will be dealt with by a subsequent Tax Tribunal.
If Rangers lose this case then HMRC they can appeal to the Upper Tribunal, but HMRC could push for immediate payment of the £36 Million (£24 Million + £12million) a sum that the Ibrox club, by the admission of the previous Chairman Alistair Johnston, just could not pay a total bill of £52 million.
The current owner of the club has also been assailed by controversy from all sides. The news that he mortgaged four years of season ticket money to raise £24.4million shocked the club’s supporters.
Craig Whyte’s reputation was recently shredded in court when he appeared on a matter of an unpaid bill of £90,000 to a roofing company where his veracity and his connection to reality was questioned by the Sheriff.
The Ibrox club, one of the twin pillars of the Scottish game, could be about to exit the scene.
This is almost too big to contemplate for the many in the Scottish press pack.
Apart from the old firm rivalry based on imported Irish rivalries over a century ago the cultural significance of Rangers FC as the Independence referendum approaches cannot be easily dismissed.
While the green half of Glasgow’s fitba feud celebrates their Hibernian heritage, and that often means an Irish Republican heritage, the denizens of Ibrox proclaim their Britishness.
Complete with the Dambusters March blaring over the PA and squaddies being marched across the turf this is Kipling on the Clyde. The glory that was Pax Britannica is still fondly remembered in Govan on match days, this is “last night of the proms “with goalposts.
However underneath this Battle of Britain nostalgia there are hatreds with a Bosnian edge.
The club’s support is defined a finely honed Anti-Irish racism.
The denizens of the boardroom and the dug out in my lifetime have sought to, at the very least, tolerate this.
Although the unwritten ban on catholic players in the first team was dropped in 1989 there is yet a player in the Rangers first team from a specific country.
In my 53 years on the planet there has not been a single player from the Republic of Ireland in the Rangers first team.
Yet in the past twenty years there has been a RoI full or U21 international in every other of the 190 top tier professional football clubs in Britain.
All the SPL clubs and all of the English clubs down to division two.
There is indeed no team like the Glasgow Rangers.
Where does this imperial nostalgia sit with a Scotland that has an SNP government pushing for independence post 2014?
Even discounting the HMRC case there were worries that the club had serious cash flow issues due to a lack of working capital.
In the world capital of daft football rumours no one seriously doubted that the eleventh hour sale of star player Nikica Jelavić was simply to provide cash to keep the lights on and meet another monthly payroll bill.
Once in Administration, if an agreement cannot be made with the creditors who are owed 75% of the total monies, then liquidation could result.
In the psychology of grieving, Rangers fans up until very recently, have refused to believe this scenario.
That largely changed within the Daily Record ran with a story that revealed that the owner Craig Whyte had securitised the next four years of season ticket money to raise £24.4 million from the company Ticketus.
For most Rangers supporters the denial phase was over with that article.
Although the details of the tax case had been made public in May 2010 the fact that the lights were still on and Rangers were dominant on the field assisted a sense of “crisis? What crisis?” among the club’s followers.
Now with Celtic leading the SPL pack since the turn of the year some Rangers fans had finally started to ask questions about their club’s future.
However their questioning of the people in charge of the club has been too little and too late to mobilize to save their club.
Now as Scotland might be about to take its place in the community of free nations again then it might be no bad thing if this unsporting bastion of North Britain were to quietly slip beneath the waves.
Scottish independence and the demise of Rangers might just be a coming together of fortuitous circumstances for a new beginning of the country of my birth.