Former Rangers owner Sir David Murray has denied cheating took place during his stewardship of the club after the Scottish Premier League appointed an independent commission last week to investigate alleged undisclosed payments to players.
In a statement released to Press Association Sport, Murray also accused the SPL of attempting to “retrospectively rewrite laws to incorporate items not previously covered.”
The commission will determine whether the club breached SPL rules in relation to Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) payments and arrangements for players between 2001 and 2010.
One of the sanctions which could be faced by the Glasgow giants is the stripping of league titles, a punishment the club have said they would strenuously challenge.
Murray said: “During my stewardship of Rangers no rules were breached or circumvented and I reject and resent any suggestion that anything was done which amounted to cheating.
“I cannot be anything other than angered at the suggestion Rangers should be stripped of titles or other competition victories.”
He added: “It would appear that the SPL is once again seeking to invest itself with a power of retrospective penalty beyond that prescribed in its own rules.”
Murray sold his majority shareholding in Rangers to Craig Whyte for #1 in May 2011, before the club was forced into administration in February of this year over an unpaid tax bill accrued during Whyte`s tenure.
Failure to exit administration via a Company Voluntary Arrangement meant the club were consigned to liquidation over the summer, before a consortium fronted by Charles Green purchased the business and assets of Rangers.
The Ibrox side will play in the Irn-Bru Third Division this season after SPL clubs rejected the newco‘s application for entry to the top-flight.
Murray said: “I have decided to issue this statement because of the concerns which I have at the continuing attempts to inflict further punishment on Rangers Football Club.
“While the ”Newco“ Rangers was rejected for membership of the SPL on the publicly stated grounds of sporting integrity, I would question whether this was the underlying motive for many who took this decision.
“I am not totally convinced by the explanation that they were reacting to the opinions of the supporters of their individual clubs.
“This, in my opinion, is a suitable answer to cover many other agendas.
“I applaud the decision of the SFL to accept Rangers for membership and respect the decision of the member clubs of the SFL to admit Rangers to its Third Division.
“The problems at Rangers have brought no credit to Scottish football and are a tragedy for the club and for all those connected with it and who support it.
“They cannot be condoned and it is appropriate that there should be a proportionate penalty for the club for the events over the last year.
“However, I urge all those connected with Scottish football to bring this sad affair to a close – now. Bayoneting the wounded is neither justified nor proportionate.
“Nevertheless, I cannot be anything other than angered at the suggestion that Rangers should be stripped of titles or other competition victories.
“This suggestion is an insult to the staff and players who achieved these successes thanks to skill, hard work and commitment and for no other reason.
“It is also an insult to the thousands of Rangers supporters who spent their hard-earned money to support the club they love.
“I hope that those presently in charge of Rangers show sufficient resolve when it comes to resisting this move, despite the incentives being offered to do otherwise.”
Murray claimed that no rules were broken with regards to payment of players while he was at the Ibrox helm and said the SPL are seeking to re-write their own rules.
He added: “I believe that there is a mis-conception which may lie behind this suggested penalty and accordingly it is my duty to clarify certain matters.
“During my stewardship of Rangers no rules were breached or circumvented and I reject and resent any suggestion that anything was done which amounted to cheating.
“As was required of a PLC, all accounts were fully audited and made available to all entitled parties. All football rules were complied with. All enquiries from entitled parties or organisations were answered.
“To those who criticise certain actions undertaken on behalf of the club, I suggest that they familiarise themselves with all relevant rules before they come to any conclusions or express any opinions.
“This is particularly relevant to the SPL rules where it would appear that there are efforts to retrospectively re-write laws to incorporate items not previously covered.
“The SPL rules variously required disclosure of all contract of service matters and all payments from a club to a player.
“It would now appear that these are to be re-written to incorporate non-contractual loans from independent third parties and other non-contractual matters.
“If this is the case then press comment over the past few years would appear to indicate that several clubs other than Rangers may well have fallen foul of the soon to be changed historic laws.
“It would also appear that the SPL is once again seeking to invest itself with a power of retrospective penalty beyond that prescribed in its own rules.”
Murray also moved to clarify Rangers` use of EBTs.
The club is awaiting the first tier tribunal’s verdict on the ’big’ tax case, which could result in a tax bill of £49million if Rangers lose the dispute with HMRC.
Murray said: “Much has been said and written about EBTs.
“It should be noted that the tax treatment of these is an issue as yet unresolved and it is wrong to prejudge the outcome.
“It must be stressed that the tax tribunal will determine the appropriate tax treatment in respect of the arrangements operated.
“This is not a criminal matter and there is presently no question as to the legality of these schemes.
“Rangers agreed contracts of employment with its players (and staff).
“The EBT scheme involved the contribution of funds into an offshore discretionary trust managed by independent trustees.
“The trustees could and did make loans to individuals carrying interest with scheduled repayment dates.
“There was no contractual or beneficial entitlement to the funds on the part of any individual and the monies paid to EBTs were not ”remuneration“ in terms of any rules applying to the club.
“Since 2001 when the EBT scheme was introduced, the amounts contributed were disclosed in the audited financial statements of the club. These audited accounts were provided to the SFA and SPL as required.
“As the law stands, it is the right of every tax payer to minimise his tax liability.
“For example, tax payers are entitled to maximise contributions to pension funds and benefit from the resultant tax allowances.
“Tax AVOIDANCE is a right. It is tax EVASION which is a crime.
“In December 2010, as a result of legislation changes introduced by HMRC, EBTs were rendered tax inefficient. Thereafter the club made no further contributions to EBTs.
“For the avoidance of doubt, many thousands of employees in many areas of business and commerce have benefited from EBTs.
“Rangers sought only to provide financial security for players (and staff) within the rules of law and football.
“To suggest that this amounted to cheating in the sporting context is an allegation which is without any foundation.
“I, of course, wish the ”new“ Rangers every success for the future.
“I have no doubt that the present generation of players and staff will make a positive and beneficial contribution to the SPL and, in due course, return the club to a position of pre-eminence in Scottish football.
“However, I am determined to support those who served the club with such dignity and integrity during my stewardship.”