x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

From the desk of Frank Kane: Old Firm and old men with new ideas

Celtic fan Frank Kane finds himself rooting for Rangers following their filing for administration.

The National's business editor has told me not to write any more about my English Premier League football team, Tottenham Hotspur (he's an Arsenal fan). So instead I've decided to write about my Scottish football team, Celtic.

Imagine my shock on hearing the news that our bitter Glasgow rivals, Rangers, had filed papers to put themselves into administration, which is accountant-speak for broke, bust, potless.

Apparently there's been a wee problem with the taxman. Well, not that wee really, about £49 million (Dh283m) worth of problem. And, as things stand, Rangers don't have the cash to pay what the taxman is asking.

It's not just the ignominy of administration and the possibility of winding-up orders, disposal of assets, and the slow disappearance of Rangers into a quagmire of scandal. The club would also have 10 points automatically deducted from its current Scottish Premier League total, which would more or less make Celtic champions this season and probably for many seasons to come.

But my initial reaction - best described as having a man in a green-and-white hooped shirt jumping up and down in my head - was tempered as I realised the inevitable long-term consequences: no more exhilarating Old Firm games, no more barbed banter with Rangers fans, and, quite possibly, no more Scottish football.

The game there relies so heavily on the Old Firm that its financial future would be under threat without them.

I don't think it will come to that. Rangers have 10 days to do some kind of deal with their bankers and the taxman, or find a sugar daddy to pay the bill.

There have been suggestions before that the Gulf may be interested in the Glasgow club, with the Scottish press reporting Qatari interest. Russian investors have also been mentioned.

I hope somebody bails out The Bears. Without good and evil, yin and yang, light and dark, there's no point really, is there?

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I see the media magnate Rupert Murdoch recently announced details of his planned launch of Sky News Arabia, headquartered in the UAE, proving that there is life in the old feller yet.

The same cannot be said of his UK newspaper operations. As each day goes by, the revelations following on from the hacking scandal become more serious. What began almost as a mischievous journalistic prank became much darker when a murdered teenager's voice mail was found to have been hacked last year. Now it looks as though the steady drip of resignations, sackings and arrests has become a haemorrhage.

Last weekend, five journalists from The Sun newspaper had the early morning knock from the constabulary, who were this time investigating allegations of police bribery at the newspaper that was once the sister title to the late, lamented News of the World. More than 20 journalists or executives are now helping with inquiries.

No wonder that some employees of News International, the company that owns Mr Murdoch's UK newspaper interests, are seeking a bit of time away from it all in the sun.

I met up with one recently in Dubai. The poor chap had been in the emirate for less than 24 hours, staying at one of the big beach hotels, and you could tell: his shorts (bit risky for Dubai at this time of year) revealed legs the colour of an English winter morning - grey with steaks of frosty white.

He works for The Times, which until recently was virtually untouched by the scandal. Then James Harding, the editor, had to confess to just a little bit of hacking that had previously slipped his mind.

My pal, just beginning to shiver in the early-evening Gulf chill, told me that the common gossip in Wapping was that Mr Murdoch had had enough of the print business in Britain, was going to close down The Sun and bundle up Times Newspapers (which owns the daily and Sunday titles) for sale.

Talks had already begun with Lord Rothermere's Associated Newspapers, he said, before rushing off for a jumper and a pair of trousers. To me it had the ring of truth, and of desperation.

fkane@thenational.ae

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