You need a degree in accountancy to be a Rangers fan these days.
On Tuesday, the Daily Record broke the story that Rangers’ owner Craig Whyte sold four years’ worth of Rangers season ticket sales to fund his takeover of the Govan club. Later that same day, Whyte released a statement admitting the deal happened but denied this was what funded his purchase. His statement also confirmed that the club’s top scorer had been sold to a mediocre English Premiership team – to pay other bills, including wages for the rest of the season, according to rangerstaxcase.com, a Celtic-minded blog dedicated to reporting on Rangers’ long-running dispute with the Inland Revenue.
You might need a degree in accountancy to unravel all of this, but to really understand what’s happening on Edmiston Drive you should study another subject: psychology. Because understanding Craig Whyte is the key to divining the future of Rangers.
The Rangers chairman is a man of mystery. Despite the BBC’s best efforts, not much is publicly known about how much money he has or how he made it. His cards aren’t so much as held close to his chest as glued to his rib cage, so we can only guess what type of man is running Rangers.
Optimistically for the blue side of Glasgow, he could be “Alright Whyte” – a Rangers fan who finds himself in the lucky position of managing the club he loves. He thinks he can win the tax case but for tactical reasons he’s minimising his short-term investment in the club, so if he loses there’s less for the taxman to take. Information is power, so he’s withholding as much of it as he can. And like many Rangers fans, he’s prepared to sacrifice a league title if it’s for the long-term benefit of the Ibrox institution – so Jelavic hasn’t been replaced.
I want to believe this is the man we have in charge, but I’m worried it’s not.
I’m worried that we have Whyte the Shite: a monumental chancer who, despite assertions to the contrary, hasn’t put a penny of his own cash into the club. He’s mortgaged future season ticket sales to pay back his initial investment, he sold our star player to pay wages for the others, and he’s not publishing any financial information because it would reveal his house of cards. He’ll hold off the taxman for as long as he can, sell a few more players, and pay himself and his buddies a few million in salaries and “management fees” before disappearing on a private jet to Monaco.
I hope this isn’t the case, and I don’t think it is. First of all, he said he didn’t pay for his investment with future income, and the chairman of a public limited company can’t lie about this without serious consequences. But more importantly, where’s the upside for him in this? He’ll be vilified by half of Scotland, it will ruin any business reputation he has, and with creditors lining up at the doors of Ibrox every day there isn’t much room to extract cash from the club – and there are precious few assets that can be quietly stripped.
Alternatively, he could be “Canny Craig”, a savvy businessman who has made a rational investment in Rangers. If he wins the tax case, he’ll have acquired a major business for a good price and increased his profile in the process. If he loses, well, he’ll have structured the deal in a way that he minimises his losses. With the club in administration he can either walk away having rolled the die and lost, or attempt to salvage the assets of the club to take “New Rangers” forward – if it’s profitable for him to do so.
Only Craig Whyte himself knows which of these men is running Rangers. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to themselves, and lying to you.