The ability of Rangers CEO Charles Green to get up people’s noses has, depending on your opinion of him, with reached new heights or plumbed new depths of late. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the need to be hyper-sensitive when writing about Rangers – now that they are no longer “soft touches” for their critics (perceived or real) – you could say that Green is now starting to get up people’s bluenoses. One blocked nasal passage, chairman Malcolm Murray, was reportedly asked to leave by the “Rangers International Football Club” board, after recent reports that he and Green had fallen out. The only surprise to keen Rangers-watchers is that this fall-out took so long. There was an inevitable clash of public personalities… as Green has one, while for all Murray’s faults, he was/is a genuine Rangers fan and has been the dictionary definition of low-key chairman. Mostly.
Reports of “concerns raised by two supporters” about Murray’s “personal conduct” read oddly – they must be two very influential supporters indeed if their concerns led to the chairman being asked to leave. Rumours abounded that Murray had some ill-timed sniffs of the barman’s apron, while in London promoting Rangers’ recent share issue, before publicly expressing some… erm… ’forthright’ views about Green. And with Murray reportedly refusing to go, a share-price-tumbling ‘civil war’ loomed; hence some of the “institutional investors” who formed the successful part of the share issue crying “stop it, children” before their investment disappeared. So, for now, Murray stays. The views of the supporters whose concerns were thus discarded? Unknown. Murray’s ‘views’ may have echoed others’ concerns about the ‘new’ Rangers’. There is, indeed, a new ‘new’ Rangers emerging, taking an even more confrontational attitude to opponents, perceived or real, than the outraged reaction to early criticisms of ex-owner Craig Whyte.
I touched on this issue… OK I bludgeoned it with awkward satire… when writing about Rangers’ new head of communications, James “Rangers FC as we know them are dead” Traynor. Observers have labelled this new confrontationalism “pandering to the mob,” although Green has regularly, if unconvincingly, rejected such accusations. One could imagine ‘old-school’ Rangers-type Murray shuddering at Green’s and Traynor’s public pronouncements. And it appears that Murray has ‘shuddered’ out loud, twice too often. Of course, Green has portrayed Rangers as victims since his earliest Ibrox days. But his contribution to Rangers’ new vitriol has been peppered with factual inaccuracy and fake (presumably) stupidity. From nowhere, on January 25th, Green informed Rangers’ website that “the company is currently trading at a loss.” If this was news to observers, and it was, it was because they hadn’t observed properly. The website article’s author, publications editor Andrew Dickson, said “Green is adamant that was always going to be the case” and this loss was “as per projections in the prospectus made available to potential investors late last year.”
Well, unless there are two such prospectuses, that is untrue. The prospectus summary labels “profit forecast/estimate.” The prospectus itself says “no statement in this document is intended to be a profit forecast.” The paragraph “Going concern” is silent on first-year losses. “Current trading and prospects” give “the Directors confidence that the future of the company is bright.” Indeed, a loss would require a “significant change in the financial or trading position of the Group.” The prospectus, though, specifies that “there has been no” such change. So Green had to issue a short statement of ‘clarification.’ This went to journalist Bill McMurdo, not the club’s website. It said “everything will be laid bare” in the bi-annual accounts and that the “trading position of the company up to the float was in the prospectus.” McMurdo, a passionate pro-Rangers blogger, laced his comments with unintended irony. “There is a growing feeling,” he observed “that the blunt-talking Yorkshireman should be a bit more circumspect in discussing certain things,” gently admonishing Green for “statements that turn out to be less than accurate.” But he was “re-assured to know that Rangers have a leader…who talks big but is happy to be accountable for the things he says.” Such as, presumably, “the trading position of the company up to the float was in the prospectus,” which was…well…“less than accurate.” The “trading position” up to August 31st was in the prospectus. The “float” was in December.
On January 9th, Green said “my advice to the board would be the quicker we can leave Scottish football the better,” because of Scottish league reconstruction proposals, adding, correctly, that reconstructing next season would render this season meaningless. “Why should we send players out to get broken noses?” he asked indignantly, not explaining why you would send players out to get broken noses in any context. Changing promotion/relegation rules mid-season IS preposterous. But it is only an argument against reconstruction this August, not against reconstruction per se. And it is an equally preposterous reason for quitting Scottish football. Green also blamed reconstruction for Rangers’ unexpected short-term financial struggles, claiming he was “restricted to doing one-year sponsorship deals… due to uncertainty about the club’s status within Scottish football going forward.” Whether, and whatever, reconstruction proposals are implemented – the SPL’s, SFL’s or the club’s own – Rangers will be in Scottish football’s third tier next season.
So, unless they “quit Scotland”, they are currently as certain of their “status within Scottish football going forward” as any other club…and more certain than those in promotion and relegation struggles. The debate over selling Ibrox naming rights is possibly more emotive than such debates elsewhere. Selling naming rights to new stadia is largely uncontroversial. But, as Green’s pal and Newcastle owner Mike Ashley discovered, selling naming rights to old stadia steeped in history is largely controversial. Nevertheless, no stadium sponsor hoping to profit from Ibrox naming rights is going to wipe Ibrox from the name. So Green’s “fight to get the Ibrox name in the new title” is no fight at all. And, as chief executive, he can insist on Ibrox being in the new title anyway. His example of the benefits of naming rights, Newcastle buying striker Demba Ba from the proceeds of Ashley’s deal to re-name St. James’s Park, was again ‘inaccurate.’ Newcastle’s naming rights only brought in money last October. Ba was signed in June 2011.
Green’s reaction to HMRC gaining the right to appeal the “big tax case” result was odd on every level. He said the case did not “affect the operations and the financial position of the club as it stands,” which has been clear to even the most cursorily-informed observer and certainly needed no “re-affirmation” to “the club’s tax advisors, Deloitte.” Yet Green semi-lectured HMRC in a club statement. “There is no money to be gained by HMRC as the old company has been liquidated,” he said, something you’d imagine HMRC had spotted, given that they instigated the liquidation in the first place by refusing to back the old company’s proposals for exiting administration. Green claimed the appeal will “cast a cloud of uncertainty and confusion over a situation that has already been ruled on.” He asked “why they are pursuing the matter further when the original inquiry took years to reach a conclusion.” And he kindly offered to “point out the futility of such an appeal,” to HMRC. Of course, “you have to ask” what business this is of Green’s given that his business was, by his own admission, unaffected. And he should know that “they are pursuing the matter further” to seek favourable “case law” to assist in future cases where EBTs are tax avoidances schemes – as Rangers witnesses acknowledged Rangers did. So, was Green being dim or just grandstanding? It would be instructive if Green published his letter (“written in the strongest possible terms”) to HMRC. And it would certainly be fun to see HMRC’s reply.
Even where Green appeared to be right, he got it wrong. Green is fighting for transfer fees for six players who objected to their transfer to his Rangers company last June and joined other clubs for free. The issue itself – whether the players could breach their contract without sanction under regulations governing the ‘transfer of undertakings’ – remains undecided. But an SFA Arbitration Panel ruled that Green’s company did not inherit jurisdiction in the case from the old company, which seems curious, given that the contracts breached were with the new company. This would have shocked readers of the Rangers website’s description of the SFA panel’s hearing as “a successful start to the bid to win compensation.” Headlined “Compensation claim boost,” the January 10th article quoted Green thus: “I’m sure they’ll be disappointed because they wanted the Commission to throw it out,” although the article didn’t clarify who “they” were and what “it” was. Green concluded that “these players and their clubs need to realise that this is… not just going to be an afternoon at Hampden… these players won’t be training or playing, they’ll be sitting in Hampden waiting to give evidence or make statements…we are not going to let this drop, as I have said since June.”
The bit about the players not “training or playing” doesn’t seem right – players’ representatives would surely hog the Hampden seats. And Rangers’ statement on the Panel’s decision said that “suspecting this would be the outcome, the club had already filed a further notice…before the end of last year” to appeal to the SFA. So Green’s original comments were nonsense. Earlier this month, rumours were confirmed of winding-up proceedings being instigated against Rangers by a company run by recent Green associates. But Rangers’ combative, inconsistent and potentially actionable responses turned a low-grade financial spat into front-page news in Scotland. And this may have been the final straw for many Rangers people. McMurdo admits that concerns about Green’s attitude are “growing.” And whilst Rangers ex-director Paul Murray wouldn’t be Green’s first port-of-call in search of a job reference, his fears resonate.
In an otherwise self-serving interview with the Daily Record newspaper’s Keith Jackson – a noted Murray supporter – the former “Blue Knight” noted approvingly that Green had turned Rangers’ around, partly “by communicating with the fans in the way they wanted to be communicated with.” But he added that Green should “stop going on about what has been done to us” and “try to provide a vision for Scottish football with Rangers at the front of it.” Jackson himself said: “(Green) is presenting such a snarling face that it is hard for others to feel compassion for what this club has suffered. Green’s raging bull act has become a bore.” Now Jackson would no more be asked to give Green a job reference than Murray. But Green’s raging bull moments are often raving bull*** moments too, which may be more damaging to Rangers in the long-term. And it isn’t just Rangers’ enemies – perceived or real – now thinking this way. Whatever Malcolm Murray said about Green to precipitate concerns about Murray’s “conduct”, it clearly wasn’t complimentary. But it might have been right.
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