Murray angry at 'witch hunt' after Rangers fined over undisclosed payments

A Scottish Premier League-appointed commission today found the oldco club guilty of making undisclosed payments to players. Photo: PA

Sir David Murray claims Rangers have been the victims of a "retrospective witch hunt" after a Scottish Premier League-appointed commission today found the oldco club guilty of making undisclosed payments to players.

The former owner was responding after oldco Rangers were fined £250,000 for failure to disclose side-letter arrangements to the football authorities in relation to Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs).

The probe centred on the period 2000-2011, during Murray`s stewardship of the club.

The Ibrox side avoided the ultimate sanction of being stripped of titles after the commission found that Rangers did not gain any unfair competitive advantage and that players were not ineligible to play.

Murray said in a statement: "The problems arising at Rangers brought no credit to Scottish football and have been a tragedy for the club and its fans. They cannot be condoned.

"Similarly, however, and as stated previously, efforts to bayonet the wounded are equally unjustified and of no benefit to the club or Scottish football.

"Despite knowledge of the existence of EBT arrangements for 10 years, the SPL has never explained why this was only raised as an issue last year.

"The imposition of an irrecoverable fine on an entity which is now in liquidation is futile and only prejudices the ability of existing creditors to recover any money.

"It is saddening that so much time, effort and money has been expended in pursuing a retrospective witch hunt against an entity in crisis, as opposed to seeking to promote and further Scottish football for the benefit of the game and country as a whole."

"Murray International Holdings Limited (MIH) has noted the decision of the commission chaired by Lord Nimmo Smith appointed by the Scottish Premier League (SPL) to investigate alleged undisclosed payments by Rangers Football Club (Rangers).

"The decision not to strip Rangers of titles is satisfying and follows last year's ruling of the First Tier Tax Tribunal in the long running and much publicised dispute with HMRC.

"The Commission recognised that the purpose of the relevant SPL rules was to promote sporting integrity and that Rangers gained no competitive advantage.

"However, the Commission decided to ignore well established legal authority on the meaning of "payment" as set down by the House of Lords in Heaton vs. Bell (Ref: (1969) TC 211) in reaching its decision. The EBT Scheme did not provide for payments from the Club to the players. Instead, the players received loans from independent trustees and the decisions to make those loans were made by those trustees alone. The decision of the First Tier Tax Tribunal supported this.

"It is entirely erroneous and without foundation to state that a contribution to a trust and subsequent loan from independent trustees of that trust to a player is the same as Rangers making a payment to a player.

"The problems arising at Rangers brought no credit to Scottish football and have been a tragedy for the Club and its fans. They cannot be condoned. Similarly, however, and as stated previously, efforts to bayonet the wounded are equally unjustified and of no benefit to the Club or Scottish football.

"Despite knowledge of the existence of EBT arrangements for 10 years, the SPL has never explained why this was only raised as an issue last year. The imposition of an irrecoverable fine on an entity which is now in liquidation is futile and only prejudices the ability of existing creditors to recover any money.

"It is saddening that so much time, effort and money has been expended in pursuing a retrospective witch hunt against an entity in crisis, as opposed to seeking to promote and further Scottish football for the benefit of the game and country as a whole.

"Sir David Murray

Executive Chairman

Murray International Holdings Limited."

– Sir David Murray's statement in full.