By Kenneth Roy

No sooner has an ungrateful nation disposed of Sir Fred than another less than perfect knight lines up for the chop. It would be impossible to strip the mysterious Craig Whyte of his knighthood since no one has given him one, so the knighthood-stripping industry has turned its attentions to another hate figure from Rangers Football Club, its former owner, Sir David Murray.

Andrew Neil has already Tweeted on the subject, as people do. Likewise, Professor Tom Devine has indicated to the Scotsman that the question of Sir David's honour needs to be looked at. A knighthood for Professor Devine should be conferred without further delay; Andrew Neil, on the other hand, has offended so many people that he may die without the simple prefix to which he is entitled. Few have contributed more to the enjoyment of the people than Professor Devine and Mr Neil, though not quite in the same way. But, on the subject of Sir David, they are mistaken.

I once spent an interesting morning in the company of Mr Murray (as he then was). It was 1989, my year of calling on the rich and famous for the book, 'Conversations in a Small Country', and the native entrepreneur had just acquired Rangers. He had not initially wanted to buy Rangers. He had wanted to buy Ayr United, the clapped-out little team of his native town, with its clapped-out little stadium, and put in an offer that no sensible board of directors would have refused. But that is not to reckon with the misplaced pride of small-town Scotland. The board rebuffed Mr Murray and the jilted lover bought Rangers instead.

We met in his office on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Good-looking and pugnatious, he might have stepped straight from the pages of Burns. He was informally, even carelessly, dressed and sat in a featureless room behind a big, tidy desk with a blotter covered in squiggles and figures. Within minutes of my arrival he was rattling off the facts of his business success. He was at that stage employing 1,200 people in a company 92% owned by himself. He was still in his 30s.


As he was wheeled back to the ward at half past one in the morning, having just been given 13 pints of blood, he sat up and called Louise from a public pay-phone. He still didn't know he had lost both his legs.


Mr Murray told me with a remarkable absence of sentimentality of the tragedies in his life. (His wife Louise was still alive then. She was to die young, of cancer). At the age of 15, he was uprooted from Fettes College – he claimed to have been the only Scot there; anyway, they called him Jock – when his father, a businessman with an addiction to horses and booze, went bust. 'Kaput', as Mr Murray put it. He finished his education at Broughton Secondary, a state school in Edinburgh, where he survived because he was good at sport. Academically undistinguished, he began his working life as a trainee in a small metal business. 'A £7 a week trainee' he added helpfully.

He had been running his own business for less than a year – he was 23 years old – when he was bombing along the dual carriageway to Edinburgh one evening after a rugby match in Dalkeith. A tyre exploded, his car hit a tree at 80 miles an hour, and he was thrown through the door. A rugby friend was the anaesthetist; his best man’s wife was one of the nurses who treated him. They amputated that night. As he was wheeled back to the ward at half past one in the morning, having just been given 13 pints of blood, he sat up and called Louise from a public pay-phone. He still didn't know he had lost both his legs.

'Can you imagine that?', he asked me suddenly. I couldn't. I could only ask him a feeble question. I asked him how he’d coped.

'I just got on with it,' he replied in his matter-of-fact way. 'I didn't think about it.'

I must have looked disbelieving for then he said: 'Well, I couldn't fail then, could I? It couldn't get much worse, could it? Well, it could, but I don't think about that.'

'Are you a religious man?'

'Not really. My faith was in my own ability.'

Tragedy was the spur: he worked harder and harder. He told me that working hard was a way of life for him; and, of course, one saw in this amazing character the personification of the Protestant ethic, acutely aware in his presence that it was not quite dead.

'What's the point of all this work?', I asked.

'Pride,' he said with unexpected passion. 'Pride in what I'm doing, pride in what I've built up. It's a Scottish success story. It's not about how much I'm worth, and all the rubbish that's written in the papers. It's a Scotsman that's doing this, and doing it in Scotland'.

And then he bought Rangers. He ought to have been allowed to buy Ayr United and the story might well have ended happily. But he told me he wanted to make Rangers 'the greatest football club in Europe' and, for the first time in our conversation, David Murray became less than convincing. There was now a sense of the Master Builder at work.

He was not to be stopped. He threw a slice of his personal fortune at this hopeless ambition, and the club embarked on its spendthrift ways, becoming for a while the greatest football club in Scotland. A mistake. A bad mistake. But it doesn't sound to me like the crime of the century. Am I missing something? If no one else is prepared to do it, I'll salute his personal courage.


Courtesy of Kenneth Roy - read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review

Comments  

 
# chicmac 2012-02-21 23:37
At least the past few days has explained just why the BBC turned on Rangers a couple of months back. This was a major puzzle since it was so contrary to previous behaviour. However, we now know that Rangers were always to be used as a tax avoidance example by the Brit Establishment (despite many billions of owed tax being quietly written off for other companies at the turn of the year). Whether they chose them by short straw, or for legal reasons (e.g. ease of winning the case, getting a clear scapegoat) or for political reasons, it is clear their fate was known some months ago.
Tipping off BBC Scotland allowed the beeb to turn on Rangers which has the benefit of repairing, or so they hope, the beeb's tarnished reputation in Scotland.
 
 
# Keef 2012-02-22 04:35
Good point chicmac. Though, I doubt there is anything the Biased Brainwashing Corp can do to repair their tarnished image in Scotland. That goose is well and truly cooked.
 
 
# GerrySNP 2012-02-22 04:00
Problem for Rangers with the HMRC is that they arose as a "case" just after the HMRC and its bosses (Hartnett and Gus O'Donnell) had been thoroughly shafted by the Public Accounts Committee for having too many expensive lunches with the bosses of Goldsman Sachs and Vodaphone and letting them off Billions of Pounds in tax and interest which should have come to the public coffers. They didnt want that again, just for a Scottish football club!
Mark you Sir David has to take responsibility for agreeing with the tax evasion Trust method which he personally adopted and which produced the tax case in the first instance.
 
 
# Jester 2012-02-22 06:19
As an Airdrieonian I have no sympathy for the man who was instrumental in having my club put into administration.
A couple of quotes:
Mr Murray said: "I feel very sorry for Airdrie and their supporters but we're running a business. We have given them repeated warnings and felt they were playing on our good nature."

Murray said: "I apologise to Airdrie's supporters but something had to be done about this debt. Business is business and Carnegie Sports also have wages to pay."

Good luck to the taxman and the police, I hope you find enough evidence to hang Sir David out to dry.
 
 
# velofello 2012-02-22 11:07
Great article Ken. Do you enjoy swimming against the tide?

I agree with chicmac and GerrySNP. Doing down Rangers is an opportunity for the Establishment to chip away at Scottish football and the peoples' self esteem. In comparison to other "lapses" in financial management by the UK PLC the Rangers tax debt is peanuts.
And before I draw responses from outraged Celtic supporters, I'm not proposing leniency for Rangers I'm proposing that we Scots tell the UK establishment to go put their house in order and plug the tax loopholes in the short time left for the Union.
Couldn't they do a paper transfer of Scottish oil revenue across to Scottish football to give all the clubs a lift.
Another source could be for our new best friend Mr Murdoch to invest some Sky TV money into Scottish football. That people in Scotland pay for Sky TV in order to watch English football seems perverse to me.
 
 
# Fungus 2012-02-22 15:03
Quoting velofello:
Doing down Rangers is an opportunity for the Establishment to chip away at Scottish football and the peoples' self esteem.


Anyone whose self esteem is bound up in whether eleven men can chase a bag of air around a field more successfully than eleven other men has, with respect, deep problems.

Quote:
Couldn't they do a paper transfer of Scottish oil revenue across to Scottish football to give all the clubs a lift.


Couldn't they do a transfer of oil money to the NHS or charities which help the poor, or towards providing better housing and local environments for the people who inhabit modern day slums, or to provide jobs or....

Taking public money and giving it to private companies has been tried and look what happened.
 
 
# DonaldMhor 2012-02-23 09:55
Quote:
Anyone whose self esteem is bound up in whether eleven men can chase a bag of air around a field more successfully than eleven other men has, with respect, deep problems.



Anyone who thinks that sport and in particular football has no influence on the self esteem of a country is wired to the moon. Sport has been, since the advent of the Olympics inextricably linked to national pride and self esteem. Sport in particular football is a gold mine for that very reason. Much of that gold sadly is misappropriated .

Look at the obsession with cricket and tennis in England, and the never ending BBC reports on the latest cricket results. You are not in touch with reality if you think otherwise.
 
 
# pa_broon74 2012-02-22 14:34
Reading this articles highlights just how much I couldn't give a toss about Rangers Football Club and its tails of woe.

It also reminds me to wonder why so much Scottish news output is given over to the topic when there are other far more important things to talk about.

I'm trying to think of something I care less about but nothing springs to mind.
 
 
# Robabody 2012-02-22 19:30
Quoting pa_broon74:
I'm trying to think of something I care less about but nothing springs to mind.


The other half of the old squirm perchance?
 
 
# pa_broon74 2012-02-22 23:18
That would be it.

I've written it down so I don't forget.

;-)
 
 
# velofello 2012-02-22 18:46
Er, Fungus, I wasn't seriously proposing a paper transfer of funds to resolve Rangers' tax problems.
Seriously though I'd have thought that David Murray would have taken financial and legal advice on his tax-saving wages scheme. Have the tax rules changed since?
 
 
# jim288 2012-02-22 21:17
I'm certain that he and the other directors did take very expensive advice from major firms of accountants, lawyers etc promoting Employee Benefit Trusts. Back in the 1990's till early 2000s they were used by many large companies for what they believed to be legitimate tax planning. Eventually HMRC took exception and has challenged many of them. Some no doubt will have settled others including Rangers are still fighting.

Here's one link that you might find helpful.

www.contractoruk.com/ebt/

Aberdeen Asset Management also had an Employee Benefit Trust and you can see how this ended up

out-law.com/.../...

The article is by Pinsent Masons a very large and reputable firm of solicitors.
 
 
# velofello 2012-02-22 22:31
Wasn't it recently announced that foreign athletes competing in the coming London Olympics will not be subject to income tax on their earnings at the Games? (Winnings seems too amateurish an expression).
How does this square with the current problems of Glasgow Rangers' contested tax on offshore payments to their foreign players over the past years?
And how does it compare with the allegedly nondom favourable tax position?
And then wasn't there some tax saving scheme for equity entrepreneurs? something like a 10% liability on profit after costs?
My interest in this? 250 employees at Glasgow Rangers. That only.
 
 
# davyat79 2012-02-23 00:26
I firmly believe that David Murray believed these EBT's to be legal but he must have known they were on dodgy ground and at the end of the day it was his choice to proceed with them. I'm a Rangers fan and I wasn't complaining at the time ,it was a hell of a roller-coaster ride ,but we only got on the ride because we were led to believe David Murray was picking up the tab.
With regard to Rangers current problems , is it not the role of HMRC in all this to get the best deal for the tax-payer , because if it is correct that Rangers are due the tax-man £9 million since Craig Whyte took over 9 months ago,that means Rangers normally contribute £1 million a month to the exchequer, so surely it is in the tax-payers best interests ,long-term, for Rangers to survive their current problems.
 
 
# Dubai_scot 2012-02-23 09:01
This song and dance will most likely result in Rangers going bust and the tax man getting nothing. Rangers (2012) will arise from the ashes with a clean sheet and will be back in the premier division within a few short seasons.
The ownership model I would chose for Rangers to adope to would be the one Barcelona currently enjoys.

Just like Iceland, Rangers will not dissappear off the face of the earth, but they have to take the rough with the smooth.
 
 
# mealer 2012-02-24 11:14
If Rangers are liquidated and arise as Rangers(2012) or some such,would it result in Rangers having to re-enter the Scottish league at the lowest leveel?Could we imagine going back to 2 divisions to help Rangers back into the premier league quicker ? I find it all quite intigueing.What does annoy me is the flash geezers in flash cars who get payed a fortune for playing their sport,but couldnt find it in their heart to help pay for the hospitals and schools.For the sick and the needy.Greedy selfish gits.
 
 
# Jester 2012-02-24 20:12
Quoting mealer:
If Rangers are liquidated and arise as Rangers(2012) or some such,would it result in Rangers having to re-enter the Scottish league at the lowest leveel?Could we imagine going back to 2 divisions to help Rangers back into the premier league quicker ? I find it all quite intigueing.What does annoy me is the flash geezers in flash cars who get payed a fortune for playing their sport,but couldnt find it in their heart to help pay for the hospitals and schools.For the sick and the needy.Greedy selfish gits.

Airdrieonians successor club Airdrie United were refused immediate re-entry to the league, as an example that clubs couldn't simply go bust, wipe out their debt, and start again. I would hope the same applies to Rangers 2012 or whatever they call themselves. Knowing that I'm sure that their next move would be to do as we did, buy a failing club, change the name and move it to their ground. Some of the smaller clubs should be fearing that, my own included.
 

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