Of Assets and Liabilities

Much has been written on this blog, and previously on RangersTaxCase.com regarding the assets and liabilities of the former Rangers football club – however little has been done to look at the rest of the SPL and Scottish Football as a whole.  Was it just Rangers making ridiculous ‘asset’ valuations or is there other clubs in real danger of following RFC to the grave?

Before we get started a quick explanation on the figures.  They were all taken from the latest accounts as appearing on Duedil.com, so some are from 2010’s figures.  I have also ‘tidied’ them up a little so that they are easily understandable, removing things such as minor stock holdings.

The big story in the Rangers case was how over valued their ‘assets’ were, and especially the freehold property.  To remind you Rangers Balance sheet in 2010 was as below:

While on paper the net assets look very healthy, we all now know that the 130m of Fixed assets was in fact worth just 5.5m in the real world.  If we change that 130m to the real life figure their balance sheet would have looked like this…

So, how do the rest of the SPL compare?  This is a list of ‘fixed assets’ for each club as noted in their last accounts.

Predictably, Celtic lead the way, but a quick scout through the notes reveals the freehold properties are valued at 45m.  Dundee prop up the table, but with no freehold properties to their name, this is not so surprising.   One thing to note is the difference in value of the assets held by Aberdeen and Kilmarnock compared to clubs like Dundee Utd and St.Johnstone – this is important when we look at their balance sheets.

As you can see above, I have broken the balance sheet down into a few categories.  We have the fixed assets we just discussed, followed by the cash in bank.  Next is the debtors (money owed to the club within the next year) and then the creditors (money the club owes to others within the next year).  A crude calculation gives us the Net Current assets or liabilities.  A red number means that club owes more money in the next 12 months than they have in the bank, or are owed.

We then move on to long term creditors (money that is owed but not immediately – more than 1 year away) which will constitute loans from banks, or from shareholders.  In the case of Hearts, who have the highest amount of long term debt in the SPL, 98% of this debt is owed to the parent company UAB, controlled by Romanov.  This debt attracts a further 4.5% interest a year, while UAB also hold a floating charge over the clubs assets.

The final column gives us the Net assets or liabilities, taking into account the fixed assets of the company.  As we saw earlier, Rangers had posted Net assets of 70m, only achieved by their ridiculous freehold property valuation.  Are Hearts and Aberdeen doing the same?  In the case of Hearts they include in their fixed assets 159,000 worth of ‘Memorabilia’…  in addition to 15m of freehold property, while Aberdeen state in their accounts that the valuation of Pittodrie is a ‘rebuild’ value rather than a likely realistic sale price.

By declaring such high values on their balance sheets though, it produces a net asset figure, rather than a large liability that, in reality, is the case.  Kilmarnock and Hibs to a lesser extent would also see their figures turn red with asset valuations downgraded.

What is heartening to see though, is two clubs with net current assets, in St.Johnstone and Motherwell.  Saints were rescued from near bankruptcy in the 80’s by Geoff Brown and have lived within their means ever since.  Motherwell likewise have been in financial trouble in recent times, but the club appears to have stabilized and is now living within their means on and off the park.

If another insolvency event hits an SPL club, the MSM will blame it on the demise of Rangers.  What can be clearly seen here though is the damage was done years ago to clubs like Hearts, Dundee Utd and Aberdeen – it will be a battle to get back to the kind of financial position that clubs such as St.Johnstone currently enjoy.  However, the message that Saints are currently sending out is that its possible to have a competitive team without breaking the bank, as long as others aren’t artificially inflating wage demands.

The accounts I used to get the above figures are downloadable here:  I was unable to find for Inverness – if anyone can find please let me know and I can add them to the table.  When time permits I will extend this to include SFL clubs as well.

Aberdeen Celtic  | Dundee Utd | Hearts  | Hibs | Kilmarnock | Ross County | St.Mirren | St.Johnstone

Three Shakes … and a Twist

Guest Post by James Forrest

Those who like to read the techno-thrillers of Tom Clancy will remember well the scene in The Sum of all Fears, when the nuclear bomb explodes in Denver, outside the stadium where the Super Bowl is being played. Clancy handles the moment in two very distinct chapters. The second is a vivid and frightening examination of the explosion’s terrible effects as they are felt, firstly in Denver and then experienced around the world.

Before that, he devotes an entire chapter to the mechanics of the explosion itself. Chapters like this are either what attract readers to Clancy in the first place or turn them off entirely. It is technical, it is complex, and the layman who reads it and fully understands it is indeed a massive geek. Of all the times he has loaded the reader with technical detail, this is probably when he risked most in terms of keeping you interested in the story. Yet it works. The chapter is not long, but nor is it short. And the events in it span not seconds but fractions of a second

It was in that chapter I first learned the term “shake”, so named for the old aphorism “a shake of a lamb’s tail”. A “shake” is a term used in nuclear physics. It represents ten nanoseconds. To grasp fully the size of that, consider that there are a billion nanoseconds in a second. The chemical process involved in a nuclear detonation involves a number of “shakes”, with a chain reaction usually completed in 50.

Clancy’s decision to devote an entire chapter of the book to a few nanoseconds came back to me over and over again during the weeks and months of the Rangers crisis. It became clear to me that, drawn out though the events following administration were, what we were seeing was not the effect of the explosion but the explosion itself. Those months were our nanoseconds. Every day, every revelation, every moment we thought was a separate event, was merely a peek inside the bomb case, at the chemical process of a chain reaction.

I would say the chain reaction was completed on the day HMRC announced they were refusing the CVA proposal. That was the detonation. It’s only now we’re witnessing the explosion, and its effects, and in my view we are still a long way from the end of that process. We have had the initial double flash thermal pulse and we’ve seen some EMP effects, but the real damage is still to come. The shock wave and the fireball have yet to spread, and their cumulative effects could yet annihilate Ibrox and extend as far as Hampden.

Am I making claims of “financial Armageddon”? No, I’m not. I never believed the collapse of Rangers would devastate Scottish football. I thought then, and now, that it was scaremongering nonsense to even suggest it. It didn’t matter to me whether the authorities were spreading those stories because of a deep-seated love of the Ibrox club, or because they had bonuses at stake, or out of their own internal, personal weaknesses. Those stories were inconsistent, based on worst case scenarios which were never likely to materialise, and insulting. The notion that the game in this country amounts to no more than one or two teams is offensive.

I love football. I always have. I’m a Celtic supporter, but my interests in the game extend far beyond my own club. At its best, football is a tremendous unifier of people, from those wonderful stories about Christmas Day in the trenches of World War I to the matches organised every year between Palestinian and Israeli children. The game has the potential for tremendous good. I am proud that my own club’s supporters have honoured the dead of Hillsborough and Ibrox. I am proud they unfurled a banner to the Benfica player Miklos Feher, and invaded Seville and showed that city how to party. I am proud of every moment when the supporters of a club applauded an injured player, or staged a silence to honour an official or competitor at another team. Although there are some who would use this sport in a divisive way, who would hijack it for their own ends, I believe this game can still be an inspiration, and find the best in all of us.

I think what happened during this summer, as the fans of every club in the land made their voices heard, was one of the greatest moments in Scottish football’s recent history. I believe it will have an impact far beyond one season. I think it was special.

My concern, as I’ve said, is that the appalling effects of the detonation at Ibrox are still to be fully realised. I am worried about the impact they could yet have on all of us.

Let me be quite specific about the two things that worry me most. They are to do with the decision to grant Sevco/Rangers a license to play in the Scottish Football League this year.

First, I believe the license was granted without sufficient guarantees being given by Charles Green and others that they would respect the decisions taken by the independent judiciary panel of the SPL in relation to EBTs, and secondly, I am concerned that not enough is known about Green and his financial backers, or plans for Rangers, for the authorities to be satisfied that the club is in good financial health. I don’t believe for one second anyone can allay my fears in these two areas. It is obvious to all that due diligence has not been done, and the entire situation at Rangers/Sevco is still shrouded in doubt, and that anything may yet happen.

The independent panel investigating dual contracts is going to have to make the most momentous decision in the history of the game in the UK. I do not believe what Rangers are accused of has any precedent. We are talking about a decade or more in which the results of every single match might be in doubt. Every single game. The rules were not written to envision such an appalling breach of faith. It would seem almost inevitable that stripping of titles will be the smallest of Charles Green and Ally McCoist’s concerns if this verdict goes against them.

Frankly, I don’t see an alternative to suspending Rangers membership of football in this country for at least two years, with points deductions and monetary fines to follow when the suspension period is done. This is not harsh; in fact it falls far short of the maximum penalty, which is expulsion from the game altogether, and as it is the authorities are going to have to do a damned good job of setting out the reasons why that ultimate sanction is not applied. It will not be enough to say it would damage the game in Scotland to wipe the club away. To allow a decade of malfeasance to pass without that ultimate sanction would create the perception that Rangers is above the law, and I cannot think of anything that would do the game more harm than for any club to be considered too big, or too important, to be subject to the regulations.

With their money on the table, I don’t see any way Charles Green and his cohorts will accept the judgement of the independent panel if it has an impact on their plans to recoup their investments. With the way he’s rallied the Rangers fans behind him recently, by essentially talking about a conspiracy against them, I don’t see how he convinces them to accept sanctions, even if he personally was inclined to do so. He has painted himself into a corner where now, if he wants his money at all, he has to fight, and keep on fighting. Without the written guarantee that the club would accept whatever the panel decides, without recourse to the law, I will be shocked if this matter doesn’t end up in the courts somewhere down the line, because I don’t think for one second he signed up to that particular demand.

I think the SFA backed down on this, the most fundamental matter of them all.

Which isn’t to say the due diligence matter isn’t worrying, because, of course, it is. Again, no-one is going to convince me that the SFA has conducted proper due diligence on Charles Green and his backers. No-one will convince me they are satisfied that this club is in safe hands, and that the game in this country will not be rocked by a further implosion at Ibrox. They failed to properly investigate Craig Whyte, because of lax regulations requiring disclosure from the club itself, regulations which are just a joke, but they can be forgiven for that as the press was talking sheer nonsense about him having billions at his disposal, and a lot of people (but not everyone!) were either convinced or wanted to be convinced by him.

To have witnessed what Whyte did, to have witnessed the Duff & Phelps “process” of finding a buyer, and having Green essentially emerge from nowhere, with a hundred unanswered questions as to his background and financing, for the SFA to have given this guy the go ahead, only for it to blow up in their faces later, would annihilate the credibility of the governing body and necessitate resignations at every level. There would be no hiding place.

At an early stage in the Rangers crisis, a couple of people told me they thought the club would not play football for at least a year. I told them of all the possible scenarios that was the most unlikely, because I honestly could see no way back for them once they had gone. There is no precedent I am aware of, anywhere, for a football club taking a “year out” only to return. Certainly, in the context of the Scottish game I didn’t see how it could be done without creating one almighty shambles, or by bending the rules until the elastic snapped.

Yet I’ve since become convinced that it was the correct course of action. The club calling itself Rangers FC is still in a state of flux. The issues still surrounding it are enormous and potentially devastating. There are any number of ways in which the entire edifice could utterly collapse. The liquidators and HMRC could yet challenge the takeover, or the coming share issue. Craig Whyte may yet emerge and take a claim to the courts. The share issue itself could be an utter failure, leaving the club unable to meet annual running costs. All of this, even without the vast effects of the EBT case, which has the potential to wash the whole club away.

Had Rangers been out of the game for a year, these issues could have been properly explored, dealt with and put behind them, and the game as whole.

Of course, it’s just possible that the worst is over. It’s possible that this particular nuclear detonation, like the one is The Sum of All Fears, is an enormous “fizzle”, that the appalling destruction unleashed will not be on the thermonuclear level which could obliterate our hopes of a fresh start, of forward motion for the whole game. It might be that everything at Ibrox is hunky-dory, that this, all I’ve written, is the product of a febrile imagination, on the same level as the financial Armageddon nonsense we spent the summer hearing about.

It may well be, but only if the people who’ve been right all along have suddenly gotten it wrong. The evidence all points to something big, and bad, coming this way.

The smart folks will be hunkering down in their shelters for a while yet.

James is a co-editor of the Famous Tartan Army Magazine, latest issue out 17th October (digital, and free), featuring women’s football


Naming the Rose

We spend an inordinate amount of time on this blog arguing about what the re-emergent Rangers should be called. It is a rather circular debate with no way of finding any consensus. The dispute between Rangers (“The Rangerists”) or The Rangers or Sevco (“The Sevconians”) and its claim to be the club that was formed in the 19th century is spurious. Whichever way you look at it, the continuity of the “brand” is undeniable and as long those who wish to keep buying that package are satisfied that the wrapping is authentic – where’s the harm?

The red herring in the argument is that “history” is important. To the average football fan, it is nothing of the kind. As a Celtic fan myself, and a bit of a student of the history of the club, I am constantly dismayed by the Thousand Yard Stare I get from your average Celtic fan who is confronted with the names of people who contributed significantly to the club’s identity. Key figures like Sandy McMahon, Jimmy Delaney, Jimmy McGrory and (God help us) John Thomson rarely elicit recognition.

Modern football fans who live in the instant gratification society of the the WWW and mobile communications may pay lip service to their clubs’ history, but that’s not what gives the modern football fan wears as his badge of honour. That is a commodity often erroneously confused with history – the bragging rights associated with the trophy haul.

The ability to claim that “we have more titles than you” is far more valuable to a supporter than which 19th century attacking centre-back won the Scottish Cup with a last minute header; and the value of said cup wins is heavily weighted in favour of the most recent (save for the honourable exception of the European successes).

The maintenance of that illusion of superiority is crucial if Rangers fans are to believe that their club is still Rangers. Perhaps in time they may even come to fully believe it themselves, but the cataract of column inches devoted to propagating that myth, both from the MSM and from information outlets controlled by Charles Green’s organisation, betrays a lack of total belief by the chief Bear-existentialists. Protesting too much may not be subtle, but that never put off your average fitba’ man either.

The upshot though is this. There is a belief – or at least a hope – amongst Rangerists that the continuity argument holds. They will call the new club Rangers. Fans of other clubs who make up the vast majority of the Sevconian tendency, believe nothing of the kind. They will call it something else.

Many will remind Rangerists that the old club died, and this is factually correct (or at least will be very soon). Rangerists will counter that the Rangers ethos lives on at Ibrox, and despite the worrying overtones (for some) contained in that statement, that is also factually correct.

Rangerists will also point out, as Rangers fans on this blog already have, that the SPL bent over backwards to assist the continuity of the club in order to minimise the financial consequences for Scottish football, and that the SFL too, have agreed that they are the same club.

Why? Simply because Scottish Football thinks it needs to help perpetrate they illusion of continuity to avoid the loss of thousands of paying customers to the game altogether.

So round one has gone to the Rangerists, with the Sevconians pretty much taking an eight-count.

So is the name thing important? I don’t think it is of critical importance. The name in itself doesn’t matter, but to merely agree that everything is as before is to join forces with the MSM, SFA & SPL who have sought to give RFC and their tax theft a pass.

Whatever happens in the future though, the illusion hasn’t worked completely. The Sevconians’ wish to call the new club by a different name was for the purpose of making it synonymous with tax evasion, however the name Rangers now evokes exactly that response. There is now a discernible pause when people mention Rangers. A pause that reflects on the dis-service they did to the country, and to the game of football in Scotland.

Which brings us to the really important point. Throughout this saga rules have been bent. Conflicted individuals, alleged to have been involved in the tax and registration scam and its subsequent cover-up, have remained in positions of authority and power, despite being under a cloud throughout. The media have been complicit, except in rare cases, in allowing the wrong-doing to go unquestioned, actively campaigning for rules not to be applied.

What we have been saying all along is this. Please play the game by the rules, and do not manufacture special cases for the financially powerful.

Call Rangers whatever you wish, but deal with their transgressions appropriately in the spirit of sporting fairness, and within the framework of the existing rules. That is the least – and most – we expect. We don’t ask for much. Just give us back some pride in our sport .