Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Rangers: Topping a breathless day

Twitter timelines were abuzz this afternoon as announcement followed claim followed counter-claim.

The subject?

Have a guess.

You're right: Rangers.

And the continuing travails of the rickety finances at Ibrox.

A drawn out process? The Icelandic economy crashed and burned in less time.

What did we learn today?

That Paul Murray and his Blue Knights - if we can allow trivial nomenclature to distract us, that is a really crap name - were rumoured to have got hold of Craig Whyte's stake in the club.

That turned out to be nonsense. Whyte has no objections to selling to Murray's men. Or, perhaps, he has withdrawn his objections. But he's done nothing yet.

"Selling" might be the crucial word: Whyte believes he's in line for £30 million. He's determined to get it.

The Motherwell-born fantasillionaire might be ridiculed and reviled. But he's not gone anywhere. He will do walking away but probably not without a fight.

Brian Kennedy was back at the table. Then he'd left the table. Then he was maybe back at the table. I'm not sure if he's now got cold feet or a cold dinner.

Kennedy did take time out to warn against US bidders Club 9. He needn't have troubled himself said Club 9: they may or may not be part of an active consortium but they've denied that they are interested in taking control of the club.

Rangers had applied for the licence they need to compete in Europe next season. Now we're told that the administrators were barking up the wrong tree with any attempt to circumvent the rules which deny any club so fiscally addled access to continental competition. And they were told that last week.

So a lot was reported today. But not very much happened.

What we do know is that the creditors will be asked to vote this week. Not about the liquidation saving company voluntary arrangement (CVA). Rather they'll be voting to extend this current period of administration until deep into April and beyond.

Where are Ticketus in this mess? Embedded deep in Paul Murray's consortium of Blue Knights? Or creditors looking for the money they believe they are owed when another bidder takes over?

That's another unknown variable that punches you in the face when you try looking for quick answers in this befuddled web of monetary madness.

Liquidation, say the fans, remains the worst option. Apparently Craig Whyte agrees with that, although he does seem something of a company liquidator extraordinaire so we might take his opinion with a Grant Holt-sized pinch of salt.

But surely, given none of the bidders seem to either have or be willing to spend Sheikh Mansour amounts of cash, liquidation does indeed remain a very real option. Maybe a tactical option or maybe an unavoidable option but most definitely an option.

With the question of Whyte's £30 million remaining unanswered, with the big tax case decision still a blot on the future landscape, with a lot riding on where exactly on the campsite Ticketus are having a piddle, we can't rule out anything.

And none of the outcomes look like being quick or free of pain for Rangers.

Meanwhile it's reported that Ralph Topping, the often elusive chairman of the SPL, has sent a letter to club chairmen giving the non-Old Firm teams something of a slap on the wrists over their rumoured cries for insurrection of late.

Sponsorships are being threatened, argues Topping, with the current uncertainty.

He makes it clear that Rangers' administrators will vote with Celtic to shoot down any moves by the "rebel" ten to upset the status quo.

That will go down like a lead balloon in some boardrooms and among a large number of fans.

The administrators will, of course, vote in a way that best preserves Rangers' interests. That is their duty.

It will annoy people, however, that the SPL would appear to be taking the side of two clubs against the majority.

The SPL chairman is, and I paraphrase, saying:

"Look, Rangers are barred from Europe, they're at the centre of the country's most recent, most complex corporate balls-up, their very future remains uncertain, they might be found guilty of shafting the taxman for a decade or more, we're investigating them ourselves to see if they've been breaking our rules.

"But, come on, Dundee United, Hibs, Hearts, St Johnstone and the rest. Get back in your box and give Rangers the respect they deserve. Because it's you lot that are causing the current uncertainty."

That's going to stick in a lot of craws.

It does, however, confirm something important: if liquidation happens, the SPL - as personified by Topping and Neil Doncaster - will vote to preserve a "newco's" top flight status.

They can't imagine the SPL without Rangers. And they'll fight tooth and nail to keep them there.

I've long argued that would be the case and I know from the reaction to those arguments how deeply unpopular a move that would be.

If nothing else that means there remains the chance of us seeing a Scottish football rammy to end all rammies.

More days like this lie ahead. Breathless days where, ultimately, nothing really happens.

Stay tuned though: this story has drama aplenty still to play out.

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