Nicholas Stewart and Charles Flint, both QCs, and Nimmo Smith will continue their quest on Tuesday to establish whether or not Rangers breached SPL rules through the use of EBT.
While this case may have become tedious for many people it is actually vitally important, and not merely because the truth must be established. The game’s future stability is also at stake.
Much to the disbelief of fans of other clubs as well as commentators, so-called football writers and self-proclaimed pundits, Rangers did not act illegally through their use of EBT. Appeal or no appeal by HMRC, the fact is Rangers are innocent.
But, of course, football is a law unto itself and the SPL, in their wisdom, pressed on when they could have backed out.
They still can. Despite having suggested they had no power or influence over the proceedings once the independent panel had been formed, the SPL, if they wish, can still call a halt. They can do that right now and before the SPL meet.
Starting at 10am on Tuesday morning there will be two sessions. The board will gather and representatives of every SPL club will also sit with league construction top of their agenda.
That, too, is a crucial topic but if commonsense isn’t denied entry to the meeting rooms Rangers will come up.
And the correct course of action should then be signalled.
The game needs SPL men to act responsibly rather than be cajoled or even brow beaten into continuing with a cause which threatens to cause greater and perhaps irreparable damage.
If ever there was a time for the majority within this group to stare down the vociferous minority among them it is now. The fact is this case is potentially the single most damaging threat to the entire game and it has already cost too much.
It was wrongly reported in one newspaper that Rangers Fans Fighting Fund would be willing to use their money to pay legal costs should Rangers Football Club plc, or to be precise, RFC 2012 plc, the company which sank into liquidation, lose. In fact, RFFF have agreed to pay only the bill of the legal team defending the plc.
This has to be stressed so that SPL chairmen know that they, as a body, will not be recompensed even if the commission rules that there had been a breach of some kind. They have to understand that this case could cost them as much as £400,000 and for what?
To prove only that the paperwork connected to the contracts of a handful of players wasn’t properly filed?
That’s really all this commission is about. It has nothing to do with tax as many people still seem to think and we are talking about five players only, not dozens. Basically, bonus payments to them went through EBT instead of the payroll but these payments WERE fully disclosed in the player contracts sent to the game’s authorities.
There was no attempt to cover up any of these payments and perhaps all those who have jumped on Rangers might want to ask their own clubs if all their P11D forms have been submitted fully over the years.
It should also be pointed out that in October 2010 HMRC went into Hampden seeking any documentation which might have indicated the use of EBT, not just by Rangers but by any of the other clubs. But it was March 2012 before the SPL decided to investigate.
Yet, in Rangers’ June 2010 accounts a tax enquiry into EBT is mentioned twice. It was narrated in the notes to the accounts and also in the financial director’s report.
Rangers were open about this and actually flagged it up, pointing out they had strong legal advice that any challenge would be successfully overcome. There is an equally strong belief that Rangers will win again.
However, should they lose and should the commission put forward title stripping as a suitable punishment for an administrative error the matter will not be over. The RFFF are committed to taking this issue all the way to outside courts.
Ah, but what about UEFA? They take a dim view of clubs resorting to the law of the land.
Fine, but RFC 2012plc is not a football club and UEFA, therefore, cannot impose sanctions.
However, further action will hurt the SPL by costing them more money.
Hopefully enough will see the folly in continuing a pursuit which has been headed by a noisy few. There is, I believe, a greater recognition that it has all gone too far already but time is running out and these club leaders have this one last chance to call a halt.
When Charles Green disengaged Rangers from the process insisting the commission should not have been empowered to sit in the first place there may have been an SPL assumption that they could clatter on with their path cleared. A certain influential few probably also thought they could railroad the others and achieve their goal of title stripping.
They didn’t reckon with RFFF, not Charles Green, stepping forward to pay the defence. The fund’s gesture is admirable to say the least but it could also prove vital to the game in general because if the SPL’s case, built by Harper Macleod, falls there will be no title stripping and Scottish football can move on.
If there is any attempt to take away titles deep divisions will be created with Rangers fans feeling they shouldn’t set foot in any other grounds. Scottish football cannot afford that.
Only last week Charles Green spoke about the need to start healing wounds but these could fester and become poisonous depending on the commission’s ruling. No one wants that but refusing to do the right thing for the game now could damn us to a long period of pain and distrust. There will be no unity and clubs will suffer.
So, the majority have to speak up and silence the irrational few, who are determined to present their will as that of the entire football community. This agenda, their desire, should be tossed in the bin.
Of course, my former colleagues will rubbish this view but too many of them have acted maliciously throughout this saga and I know of one national newspaper editor who held his head in his hands when it was revealed Rangers had won the tax case. I also know of one news editor who, when told of the verdict, started shouting: ‘It’s a f****** Government conspiracy.’
There may well have been a conspiracy but not one constructed to help Rangers.
But it can all end now. Tomorrow could be a new beginning if the more reasoned gentlemen of the SPL speak up.