More “lies”? Rangers co-administrators, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse have been relatively normal in at least one aspect of their Ibrox operations. Wherever there are co-administrators, one dominant personality emerges. When insolvency practitioners such as Andrew Andronikou (Portsmouth) and Brendan Guilfoyle (Plymouth) are involved, these dominant personalities tend to be…Andrew Andronikou and Brendan Guilfoyle. At Rangers, after a few early court steps appearances from Whitehouse, Clark has taken most of the limelight, during the almost daily statements and the interviews with football journos who are unsure of the issues and are not always helped by Clark’s own uncertainty.
But Clark and Whitehouse have, of course, been ultra-busy since announcing Bill Miller’s “all nonsense” bid (copyright: Rangers Supporters Trust) as their preference. So while Clark took the initial press conference and the big BBC interview inside the ground, Whitehouse had words of his own to offer. And very interesting ones they were too: heavily-influenced, it would appear, by SPL Chief Executive Neil Doncaster’s light brush with the truth on BBC Radio Scotland last Monday.
Just as Clark had been almost vague enough to disappear off the screen when speaking to the BBC’s Chris McLaughlin, Whitehouse was reduced to speculation as to Miller’s reasons for dropping conditions from his bid. “I guess you can assume he has the level of comfort he needs to proceed,” he said of Miller’s demands that Rangers receive no further footballing sanctions, either due to the structure of his bid or the club’s spells on the football authorities’ naughty steps (when Miller talked of “no loss of history,” he only meant the good bits). He was a touch more forthright, if demonstrably incorrect, in telling Rangers TV on that “everyone accepts that Bill’s bid is the right bid for the club, in the right structure and in the right form.” This followed his meetings with “leaders of fans groups in the last week,” including those who had declared Miller’s bid “all nonsense,” just days earlier.
But the real news arrived a matter of hours later, when we discovered that “HMRC and other creditors” were “supportive” of Miller’s bid and HMRC and Ticketus – Rangers’ two largest creditors, owed the national debt of a small Central American republic – had “voted in favour of the proposals.” Informed observers may have wondered what the problem was with engineering a Creditors Voluntary Agreement (CVA) if the two largest creditors had already volunteered to agree. Alas, though, it was merely a disheartening echo of Doncaster’s misleading comments on English Football League clubs exiting administration. Whitehouse had said: “Creditors have already given us the sanction to complete the proposal… under the terms of the administrators’ proposals which have been agreed. We have been in consultation with the largest creditor, HMRC, and they are supportive of the bid. HMRC and Ticketus have voted in favour of the proposals.”
Time to break open the champagne down Edmiston Drive, then? The big house is staying open after all? Well, this was all genuine news to many…not least “the largest creditor, HMRC.” They explained that “we will consider our position when any package is put to us,” with the use of the future tense suggesting no package had been “put to” them, let alone agreed by them. So why was Whitehouse so wrong? Had the strains of a fraught “eleven-and-a-little-bit weeks” brought on hallucinations of cordial meetings with tax authorities (the equivalent of an insolvency practitioner’s particularly good acid trip)? Or was he, like Doncaster, not “wrong” at all, but wilfully creating the impression that major obstacles to Miller’s bid succeeding were not obstacles at all? Newco? Normal in England. Creditors opposed to the CVA? No, they’ve voted for it.
The key to what I believe to be Whitehouse’s attempted deception is his use of the words “proposal(s)” and “bid.” As well as “all nonsense,” Miller’s plan for Rangers has been variously called both names. But the Whitehouse “proposals” predate the “bid” by over a month. The “proposals” were resolutions attached to the administrators’ report to creditors, published on April 5th. These sought authority from the creditors for Clark and Whitehouse to continue as administrators and exercise wide-ranging powers to get a deal done. These included: “(exploring) any and all options available to realise the assets of the Company” and “(concluding) a sale of the whole, or part, of the business, property and assets… without having to obtain the sanction of the creditors.”
This is what creditors voted for. No specific bids, or specific bidders. Indeed, they could not have expressed any preference for the “all-nonsense” bid, as voting closed on April 20th, the day before Miller publicised it. Yet Whitehouse did not feel the need to make that clear, even when the headline “HMRC and creditors supportive of Miller bid to buy the club” appeared over a May 4th story by Jim Traynor in the Daily Record newspaper. It was up to journalists such as Channel 4’ News’ much-discussed correspondent Alex Thomson to press HMRC on the truth or, it turned out, otherwise (his uber-cynical report of the preferred bidder announcement was dripping sarcasm genius – even if, like me, you dispute some of his conclusions; “you’re sounding sceptical, Alex,” presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy understated, laughing).
Again, I assume Whitehouse is intelligent enough not to say this by mistake. So it must be a deliberate “error,” made to get observers so used to the idea that it becomes an accepted fact. In other words if the actual facts don’t give Miller’s newco legitimacy – especially prior to an SPL board decision on accepting it into its league – let’s make some up that do. The SPL board can then have the level of comfort they need to proceed with that decision before the end of the season. And, by happy co-incidence, the SPL clubs can vote in their properly stringent new financial fair play rules, safe in the knowledge that they will apply too late to affect Rangers. And you don’t have to be a Celtic fan to believe that that isn’t right.
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