Alastair Johnston says tax ruling means Rangers must keep titles

The former chairman of Rangers Football Club believes the threat of the club being stripped of titles must end following the tax tribunal verdict on player loans.

A tax tribunal which heard Rangers' appeal over their use of Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) delivered a majority verdict in their favour when it delivered its findings.

Speaking to STV, Alastair Johnston said that the "whole concept of Rangers being stripped of titles should go away — and go away quickly".

Rangers chief executive Charles Green issued a simialair stement on Tuesday night saying that the ruling "serves to further undermine the validity of the SPL Commission into the use of EBTs".

The report published on Tuesday detailed information on Rangers' legal view over the use of EBTs, stating they did not believe it appropriate under football rules to declare them to football authorities.

Questioned by Raman Bhardwaj about the Scottish Premier League (SPL) investigation into whether Rangers fielded ineligible players due to their use of EBTs, he said: "If indeed there was any culpability, it would have been not furnishing the information pertaining to a second contract — if there indeed was one.

"What this decision does is it totally removes any obligation that the club would have had to submit these contracts to the SFA or the SPL because they would not have been considered contracts for participation at football.

"Unless there are some very strong vested interests who are harbouring a different agenda, at this point — that goes away.

"The whole concept of Rangers being stripped of titles should go away — and go away quickly.

"The tribunal has made a ruling and we stand by that ruling."

Mr Green echoed the former chairman's comments in his statement. He said: “I am sure that all Rangers fans will welcome that a judgment has been reached on this case at last.

“That said, the judgment will not affect the operations of the club nor the proposed flotation of the business as a public company.

“This case is historic and was a matter for The Rangers Football Club plc ('oldco') which is in liquidation.

“The judgment serves to further undermine the validity of the SPL Commission into the use of EBTs.

“As we have said all along the SPL decision to press ahead with a commission was ill-timed and fundamentally misconceived.”

The SPL's postponed independent commission is considering whether Rangers fielded ineligible players between 2000 and 2010 by paying part of their wages through offshore EBTs during Sir David Murray’s reign at Ibrox.

It is unclear when the commission will next meet after Harper McLeod lawyer Rod McKenzie, who gathered evidence against the Ibrox club, was involved in a car accident at the start of November.

The commission will hear evidence on whether Rangers breached SPL rules by failing to tell the league of the EBT payments. All remuneration "for playing activities" must be declared to the league.

In their defence at the tribunal, it is repeated several times that the "loans" did not fall under that jurisdiction.

One excerpt reads: "It did not in his [Mr Red] view have to be disclosed as part of the player’s remuneration package to the football authorities. It was not a financial entitlement, he insisted, nor did it represent, in his view, a payment to a player."

Another states: "'Side-letters', he [Mr Magenta] said, were part of the “package” offered to players but were distinct from the player’s contract. The “side-letters”, Mr Magenta insisted, did not have to be disclosed to the football authorities.

"The SFA rules did 17 not extend to payments from third parties, and this, in accordance with an earlier decision by the Club, would include any trust benefits as being distinct from payments in terms of the player’s contract."

Following the tribunal's ruling HMRC said in a statement to STV: "We are disappointed that we have lost this stage of the court process. We are considering an appeal.

"The decision was not unanimous and the diligence of HMRC investigators was acknowledged by the whole tribunal.

"HMRC is committed to tackling avoidance and it is right that we challenge the type of avoidance seen in this case."

The SPL declined to comment on the tax tribunal's ruling.

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