Lie Strong – Prologue

When David Murray bought a controlling interest in Rangers with a suitcase containing one million dollars – a bribe delivered by a trusted MIHG executive to Lawrence Marlborough – and a £6m loan, he lit the touch-paper on a regimen of systemic cheating, tax evasion and mendacity the likes of which we had never seen before. When he signed Maurice Johnston in 1989 he engaged in an as yet unknown tax artifice to pip Billy McNeil’s ambitions at the post. One can but assume that Sir Bribe & Lie spent the first decade of his reign flagrantly breaking the rules but little is known about this period. The second decade of his regime will live long in the memory. Murray at first introduced a Discounted Option/Value Shift Scheme to sign three players. He then graduated to Employment Benefit Trusts. He signed 55 players on this basis. That’s five teams of eleven engaging in aggressive tax avoidance. It was subsequently established at The Supreme Court that EBT were a means of disguising remuneration. Rangers had abrogated on their fiduciary duty to deduct PAYE and National Insurance at source. They had also shirked on paying their employer taxes. When Sir Bribe & Lie issued side letters he knew that he had entered the realm of tax evasion. He should have been sent down for this. With a bank betting £800m on him Murray not only avoided being indicted but in an irony that never gets old he was awarded a KBE for services to industry. Murray’s tax evasion resulted in Rangers recruiting players that they could otherwise not have afforded. Rangers pressed home this competitive advantage to acquire seventeen trophies, all of which were bent.


As Sir Bribe & Lie was financially doping at Ibrox, Armstrong was doping his way to win the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. However in 2012 when Rangers went bust owing £168.6m, Armstrong was also busted. He was banned from sanctioned Olympic sports for life as a result of long-term doping offenses. As part of those sanctions, all results going back to August 1998, including his seven Tour wins, and a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, were voided.

Which begs two questions:

1. How did Murray & Armstrong get away with it for so long?

2. Why were the trophies won by Rangers during this period not voided?


20 thoughts on “Lie Strong – Prologue”

  1. The answer to question two is that the SFA exists to further the aims of any version of a Rangers. This has always been the case. Shamefully it will never be addressed. Move on Timmy. Nothing to see here. Keep sitting at the back of the bus. Scotland’s shame

  2. Great piece today. I think it’s worth pointing out also that perhaps the single biggest factor in the suicide of Rangers was the sense of superiority and entitlement – personified by David Murray – that they didn’t have to play by the same rules that apply to everyone else.

    HMRC are not unreasonable. They will allow you to pay the tax you owe and avoid additional interest and penalties as a result and even in some cases allow a repayment plan. Rangers did in fact come clean eventually about the DOS scheme (1999 to 2003). Even in coming clean they were selective though – admitting to HMRC and hiding from the SFA in order to gain a UEFA license they would not otherwise be entitled to.

    Having and using an EBT is not illegal or even immoral. Abusing them to disguise remuneration is. Rangers were not the only club to start down the EBT abuse route. Arsenal did it too for example. When HMRC made it explicitly clear that they would pursue such schemes as evasion of tax, they sensibly settled up. Rangers not only didn’t but carried on with their use and abuse.

    It isn’t hard to understand why. A resurgent Celtic had given them real competition for the first time in many years after getting their financial affairs in order. What followed was a game of brinksmanship from both Glasgow clubs with each pushing the boat out for that elusive Champions League pot that might balance the books. It was ludicrous but the fans demanded to win. I mention it only because it’s that same folly repeating itself now under a weight of expectation down Ibrox way. Back then, Celtic blinked first and cut their cloth to size. Of course they’d have to – with Rangers diddling the tax man, every extra £1 they spent on bringing in combatants to fight for that spot went straight in the players pocket rather than seeing 40% tax and extra National Insurance applied to it. Their ‘bang for buck’ dwarfed the rest of the pack who played by the rules.

    Of course all it was really doing was delaying deliverance and stockpiling penalties. They were paying players that they could not have afforded without resorting to illegal means of payment. Think how much today’s Celtic team could achieve if their they could all of a sudden afford to bring in players on £55K a week instead of £30K with no result on the bottom line. Think how much more motivated you would be by one-off performance bonuses that now end up with twice as much in your pocket! The ‘no-sporting advantage’ argument is so absurd that it’s not even worth the effort of writing. When it came time to pay the piper they obviously couldn’t. Murray had run the club into the ground and left the carcass for the vultures. Maybe he deserves his sense of superiority and entitlement. He presided over financial carnage, illegal gains and sporting fraud on a scale that by all rights should have seen him crucified a la Armstrong, but came out of it still a rich man with his reputation relatively intact.

    For me, every honour in Scottish football now means nothing until the SFA/SPFL restore the polish to those trophies. They’ve allowed them to be tarnished and abused and did so while facilitating those who cheapened them. They are a disgrace to decency, never might a football authority.

    Last year HMRC got a few new powerful tools to fight tax evasion – the General Anti-Abuse Rule, the Register of Beneficial Ownership and the Common Reporting Standard packing the most wallop. The net is closing on those who continue to evade tax now that an era of international cooperation on tax affairs has begun. Those ‘havens’ that previously harboured funds of dubious origin will need to be compliant with sharing arrangements to remain plugged into the international market place. I’d like to hope such a fraud on the people of Britain would be much more difficult to perpetrate now.

    Sorry this turned into quite a ramble!

  3. The bit I don’t understand is how Carrillion directors are hounded, stop their wages bonuses, and pensions. Here in the land of the handshaker, Murray was allowed to cherry pick the profitable bits of his empire. The tax payer picking up his near billion pound tab. Only in Scotland. In Iceland he would be behind bars. The bit that really gets me is the first minister inviting him to Bute house for dinner, shame on her.

  4. Today’s premium piece is now available at £1.99 to members who have paid their 2018 subscriptions of £5.55 and others who value our site. Please read the ‘Contributions’ article.

  5. TJ makes a number of salient points. I DO recall being hit with that smugness and arrogance when climbing the marble stairs and on my way for a pre match lunch. This was about twelve years ago. I was genuinely intrigued that a football club, fuelled by a mountain of debt, could simply stagger on from one set of accounts to the next.

    No one asked the very simple question. When will it end? Well, I did and was on the receiving end of the usual nonsense……”too big to fail……a Scottish institution………we will be in the English Premiership in a couple of years…..”.

    Over a nice lunch and fuelled by a few glasses of claret, I merely pointed out that businesses which consistently lose money, year after year after year, eventually fold. I wasn’t rewriting Hayek’s “The Constitution of Liberty”. I was stating the obvious. What I DID find astounding was that no one bought into what I was saying. No one.

    When I met with SDM shortly after that (he was looking at further funding and teaming alliances from The City), he kept banging on about potential (Rangers) and his calling card (Rangers). I merely kept banging on about the P & L. The losses. The lack of governance and a small business which was racking up massive losses. I told him rather dryly “this club will go bust with you or without you”. David didn’t appreciate my candour nor my measured comments. We parted on rather frosty terms.

    But (back to TJ’s point), that smugness and arrogance was stuck to the fabric of the building. The solution to every problem at Ibrox was (and it seems still is according to McCoist’s latest rants) the chequbook. Ailing businesses rarely need more than short term bail outs. They need a new approach, new governance, new strategies. But under SDM, borrowed money was the solution to a failing business.

    I was at Ibrox for five minutes and sniffed decay and decadence. It’s a pity that no Scottish journalists noted the same levels of a crumbling, rotten business.

  6. A piece of today’s quality, written so simply and directly by any big name journalist in any newspaper of note, would lead immediately to an outcry that would lead to trophies being stripped and David Murray being disgraced.

    Unfortunately, in freemason-run Scotland, no such journalist will step forward and no publication would publish his piece anyway. But as Armstrong found out, and as Froome is now finding out, the truth always emerges. We can wait.

    Great piece, JJ.

  7. Say all we like about how much of a scoundrel Murray is, but something being overlooked is that he had ‘Stamped Out’ the singing of the billy boys over a decade ago. One can only presume that Reagan & Doncaster are tapping their toes in time, inside their brown brogues, to this “HATE CRIME”.

  8. Recurring monthly donation made today ending……1CXJUT, sorry it can’t be more. Great article today, keep up
    the excellent work.

  9. Once a Celt always a Celt
    JJ despite making a direct debit payment via paypal of £50.00 every month on behalf of
    my father I still have no idea of the password required to access your premium pieces.
    Today’s piece LIE STRONG being a perfect example.
    My father is getting really upset with
    this situation and has instructed me to cancel his £50.00 direct debit if he does not receive
    a password to allow him access to the premium pieces.

    1. Every time I publish a premium piece you are the first to complain. As I write no-one has been sent the password. I have asked you repeatedly to help me help you by dropping me a one pence donation by way of a prompt. I can then revert to you with the code you require. As I also have stated repeatedly there is no automated feature where passwords are passed to a select few. I value your father’s support and should it continue he will have access to every premium piece that I write this year. Your father is one of two generous donors who contribute £50 per month. The other, unlike you, just drops me a line and receives his password with a minimum of fuss. Do you enjoy having a constant kick at me? Does it make you feel important? If you continue to complain I will add you to the spam filter. The e-mails and IP numbers of haters go directly to spam. I don’t see their vile prose. This will be your last kick at me. If you were donating the £50 and not your father I would block you and happily forego the £50 that you crow about repeatedly.

    2. For God’s sake, man. Stop shouting abuse. JJ has repeatedly told readers how to access premium content, most recently in the post entitled ‘Contributions’ (the link is on the left of the page in the list headed ‘Recent Posts’). Read it and follow follow the simple instructions..

  10. I have changed my normal ‘pound a day’ ad hoc regular contribution to a paypal recurring contribution for the same quantum. I would appreciate if you can provide me with a password so I can access the premium pieces.
    And the usual Keep Up The Good Work

    JJ: Thank you. Please drop me a line, you have my e-mail address, to collect your password. I cannot do this from here as many of my readers have more than one e-mail account. The Sitonfence Speakeasy is not a forum to prompt me to send passwords. Prompts here more often than not are not approved.

  11. Having sent JJ an e-mail including a screenshot of my regular payment as requested, I received my password this morning. It’s not rocket science. Good article. Here’s hoping Froome & Wiggins get what they deserve.

  12. Regan is just a figurehead… albeit an incredibly crap effort at even that.

    Who actually runs the SFA…? who actually makes the decisions?

    The elusive, peripheral SFA board? Nope, that doesn’t work for me.

    There’s got to be another layer above that, a whole impermeable stratum that keeps the whole thing “on song”.

    Dare I mention the song… ?

    Scottish football fans are being taken for mugs… and Regan is just an ice-cube on top of the iceberg.

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