Rangers owner Craig Whyte banned the BBC from Ibrox because he said a documentary they produced was “muckracking”. He should have banned them because it was just a pile of shit.
“Rangers: The Inside Story” was sensationalist and shoddy, a tangled mess of half facts and guilt-by-association. And it didn’t answer the most important question: does Craig Whyte have money to invest in Rangers? Shining some light on that would have made for a more illuminating half hour.
The main accusation was that the head of the UK government’s Insolvency Service believed that Whyte committed a white collar crime: operating a UK company while disqualified from being a UK company director. As noise in the background, the BBC also pointed out that many of Whyte’s network of companies had gone bankrupt prior to his disqualification; that he used to be in business with a man who is now in jail for fraud; and that he wouldn’t tell the former Rangers chairman where he got his money from. Another ex-board member, Paul Murray, couldn’t understand why Whyte bought Rangers while a tax dispute with the Inland Revenue was unresolved.
Whyte’s early business history doesn’t particularly interest me. Like anyone who made big money quick – and there’s little doubt he did – he would have cut a few corners along the way. Some of his many companies went bankrupt. So what? Most businesses fail. And I’m sure he has fewer skeletons in the closet than, say, Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich.
Likewise, his association with the convicted fraudster is irrelevant. Whyte says he cut ties with him a dozen years ago and the program doesn’t dispute this. So why bring it up now?
What is interesting is the fact that Whyte was barred from being a company director for seven years. This fact puts him up there with notable football dodgy dealers like Terry Venables and the former directors of Luton Town – undistinguished company, to be sure. But you can be suspended for something as minor as failing to submit accounts on time, or (ironically, considering the nature of the documentary) misrepresenting facts about a company.
Ignoring a disqualification and running a company while disqualified is a criminal offence, and the Insolvency Service head agreed that Whyte could have done time for this. But the question then becomes: if you knew this, why didn’t you prosecute? Perhaps because you didn’t have enough evidence. Kind of like this program.
Paul Murray, a former director of Rangers, was surprised that anyone would buy the club while the threat of a devastating tax bill was hanging over it. Hang on a minute – was this the same Paul Murray who in April put together a consortium of investors to form a rival bid to Whyte’s? Yes, it was. Back then he didn’t seem so concerned about the tax bill, so why wasn’t he asked about his change of mind?
We were also taken to Cleveland, Ohio – cue needless shot of reporter Mark Daly (a poor man’s Michael Moore) walking across an empty street – to meet with Rangers ex-chairman, Alistair Johnston. Johnston’s main beef was, well, he felt the Whyte hamburger had no beef. He said he asked numerous times for evidence of the £25m that Whyte was going to invest, but the secretive Whyte wouldn’t tell him anything. Finally, Johnston got a call from Sir David Murray – 85% owner of the club – to tell him to back off and that the deal was going through.
Leaving aside Johnston’s tedious drama-queen delivery, Johnston’s question is the heart of the matter. Does Whyte have any money that he intends to invest in Rangers, or is he just a monumental chancer looking for a fast buck?
Despite the hype, the BBC brought us no closer to knowing that. They parachuted one of their big-name reporters in to do a skin-deep headline-grabbing investigation into the custodian of Scotland’s biggest sporting institution instead of having people who understand football and finance ask smart questions of relevant people.
And that’s what was really criminal about this documentary.