Gordon Smith: People left the club in the mire...but it was not club's fault

GORDON Smith was well aware of the financial issues Rangers faced when he accepted the job of Director of Football from new owner Craig Whyte.

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Gordon Smith believes it is madness Rangers are now playing in the Third Division
Gordon Smith believes it is madness Rangers are now playing in the Third Division

The implications of the Ibrox club losing the ongoing First Tier Tax Tribunal – of being hit with a £49million bill by HMRC – were severe indeed.

The once unthinkable prospect of the Glasgow institution going into administration and possibly even out of business altogether was very real.

Yet Smith's affection for Rangers, whom the former striker had represented for three years in the late 1970s, made the new position too great a chance to turn down.

The chance to combine his understanding of the transfer market and experience of football administration seemed ideally suited to the one-time agent and SFA chief executive.

He accepted the offer of the newly-created role in June 2011 and promptly set about attempting to satisfy the remit he had been handed by Whyte.

"We were trying to change the cost structure of the club," he recalled. "We were trying to reduce the wages being paid to players and reduce the amount of money being spent on player transfers.

"We were told to look to use the market to raise funds. I suppose we were looking to do much the same thing as Celtic have done so successfully in recent years. I put together strategies."

However, it soon became clear all was not as it should be. Croatian internationalist Nikica Jelavic departed for Everton during the January transfer window for a paltry £5million.

Only Mervan Celik, an unknown Swedish winger, arrived.

Still, when Rangers were placed into administration on February 14 it took Smith completely back.

"I was totally shocked by what hap-pened," he admitted.

Smith was, along with chief operating officer Ali Russell, one of the first employees to be made redundant by administrators Duff and Phelps nine days later.

In the days and weeks that followed, as the non-payment of over £13m in taxes became public and anger grew among the Rangers support, many asked why he had not done more.

The 58-year-old, who had no inkling whatsoever of the clandestine business practices of Whyte, was stung by accusations that he stood idly by as NIC, PAYE and VAT were withheld.

"It annoyed me to a certain degree," he admitted. "Some people insinuated that I knew what was going on.

"They said I must be stupid not to have been aware what was happening.

"But if you work in a company and you are not involved in the finan-ces of that company then how do you know what is happening?

"I didn't know at all. I wasn't a director of the club. I think some people thought I was a director because my title was Director of Football."

Smith added: "I actually didn't speak all that often to Craig Whyte during my time at Rangers.

"My main working relationship was with Ali Russell, the chief operating officer.

"I generally spoke to Ali. But even he, the chief operating officer, who was based at Ibrox, knew nothing about what was going on.

"On the few occasions that I did speak to Craig Whyte I asked him if administration was a possibility.

"On both occasions he said to me: 'It all depends on the Big Tax Case'.

"Therefore, when it actually happened, when the club was placed into administration, I was totally shocked as the Big Tax Case had not been decided."

A subsequent SFA investigation and a statement from Duff and Phelps had soon absolved Smith from any blame in the sorry financial demise of Rangers.

The aspersions that were cast on his own character, though, were of less concern to him than the plight of the actual club.

At one stage during a turbulent summer it looked a distinct possibility that manager Ally McCoist would be unable to put a team on the park.

Seeing the club play against part-time opposition in the lowest tier of Scottish senior football, the Third Division, has been preferable to them not playing for him.

Still, the former SFA supremo feels it is nothing short of madness for Rangers to be playing minnows such as Annan, East Stirlingshire and Montrose.

And he has serious concerns about what the financial repercussions for the game in this country will be from having arguably its biggest club consigned to such a low level.

"I am pleased in the respect that Rangers are still here and they are still playing football," he agreed.

"But I still feel that a club like Rangers should not be playing in the bottom division of Scottish football.

"The club has been put down to that level because of what happened on the business side of Rangers.

"To a certain degree I can understand that. But I think people should be looking at Scottish football as a whole.

"Certain individuals let the club down. It is not the fault of the club itself.

"Rangers are a top, top club, renowned in Scotland, Britain and even in Europe.

"I think it is terrible that a club like that is playing at such a level."

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