For whatever reason, I end up being sent all sorts of junk by corporate PR types – principally of the football variety. Which is why this arrived in my email late this afternoon:
“Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, both of Duff & Phelps, the corporate financial advisory firm, have been appointed Joint Administrators of Rangers Football Club, as of today, 14th February 2012.
“The appointment follows a petition for administration presented to the Court of Session in Edinburgh today by HMRC following the non-payment of circa £9m PAYE and VAT following the takeover of the Club in May 2011.
“Paul Clark, partner, Duff & Phelps stated: “HMRC have been working closely with the Club in recent months to achieve a solution to the Club’s difficulties. However this has not been possible due to ongoing losses and increased tax liabilities that cannot be sustained.
“’We are working together with management and its major creditors including HMRC to achieve a solution to the financial problems which will ensure the ongoing survival of the business, which is of paramount importance to all concerned,” he added.
‘Paul concluded: “We would like to take the opportunity of thanking the fans for all their past and present support and hope we can rely on them in the future. Rangers has a long and proud sporting tradition – one we all wish to see continue…’”
Coming hard on the heels of Portsmouth’s decision to enter into administration, it is yet further proof of the madness that infects football’s finances – and how the ‘fit and proper person’ test apparently applied to all those that seek ownership of a professional football club south of the border can’t be much of a test at all.
But what interests me more about the Rangers’ story is where we all were some 15 days ago.
Because, as Russell Martin revealed to the PinkUn, Rangers were a-sniffing after club skipper Grant Holt.
At the eleventh hour, the Glasgow giants were – given that Holt is firmly under contract at Carrow Road – slapping money on someone’s table for the services of the 30-year-old Canary favourite. Money – one can only presume – that they didn’t actually have. Or rather, if they did was owed to HMRC.
“When they put in a bid for Holty it was quite late on,” Martin told the PinkUn, his quotes re-appearing on the Sky Sports website.
The story was repeated in Glasgow; the Evening Herald reporting on February 1: ‘Rangers last night failed in their attempt to sign Grant Holt as a replacement for Nikica Jelavic, with Norwich City turning down an offer for their striker and captain…’
No figure was ever quoted. But Martin knew his big pal’s worth.
“It would take a lot of money to let him go from this club,” he added, as City boss Paul Lambert sent out his own message by turning down Rangers’ late swoop.
“When the manager came out and said that no one was going, we knew as players that no one would go. We’re lucky the club has stayed strong, the manager has stayed strong and we’ve shown our ambition,” Martin added.
“It might have been easy to say ‘Yes, we’ll take some money for one of our players’ but not at all. He’s been massive for us. He’s our captain, he’s a big character on and off the pitch and it was a bonus to keep him.”
In the light of today’s events – and, indeed, those of Saturday when another two goals from the main man put Norwich within touching distance of Premiership survival – there ought to be a collective sigh of relief echoing long and loud around Norfolk.
Because imagine the ‘What if…’ scenario. And shudder.
What if money had talked. And that deal was structured in various tranches; half now, more at the end of the season; a further chunk after 50 games, etc, etc.
While ‘football creditors’ remain far more fortunate than some, there would still be an element of uncertainty as to just how much of that fee Norwich would have received if HMRC truly went to war on the money owed.
What if the deal had gone through and Grant himself had taken the High Road north? Where would that have left him two weeks into his new career? Wondering where and when his next pay cheque was coming from?
It never happened. Lambert drew his line in the sand; one that Holt was not to cross. So much of the above is all so many hypotheticals.
But the point is fairly simple. Football is littered with fine lines; decisions made in haste that come back to haunt you; decisions that are made for all the right reasons at the time can – with hindsight – appear so, so wrong.
But on this occasion, Norwich City Football Club appear to have side-stepped a very large minefield; that Lambert’s strength of purpose on the final day of that transfer window stood the club in rather greater stead than – perhaps – even he could have imagined.
As for Holt, the legend that has long been ‘G Holt’ now has another intriguing little foot-note to the glorious chapter this is his first season in the Premiership.
Fortunately all concerned can look at today’s news from north of the border with a wry smile and a raised eye-brow. But under different moons, other regimes… who knows?