Rangers still for sale but chairman warns of lack of 'genuine bids' for club

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The Independent Football

Rangers chairman Alastair Johnston admits the club is not optimistic about finding a new owner any time soon in the current financial climate.

Major shareholder Sir David Murray announced in the summer that the Scottish champions were no longer for sale. The news came just days after the Andrew Ellis-headed consortium told the Stock Exchange they were in "advanced negotiations" with Murray.

Addressing shareholders at yesterday's AGM, Johnston claimed the club was still open to offers – but only serious ones. He said: "All the expressions of interest identified to the club during this period have proved to be frivolous or have been aborted by Murray International Holdings' announcement that it is no longer actively marketing its controlling stake in Rangers.

"Although this statement would not preclude any potential buyer pursuing a takeover, the general economic climate would temper our expectations of such an approach.

"In this context, supporters' anticipation about the benefit to the club of new ownership needs to be realistic. However, the board will be vigilant in its role of evaluating any prospective new owner.

"We will be receptive to genuine and substantive overtures but, as we have already demonstrated, we will be sceptical of trial balloonists."

On the subject of an investigation into the club by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over a tax issue, Johnston said: "It is important to re-emphasise that no allegations have been made that suggest that any illegal activity has been perpetrated and tax planning vehicles of this type have been implemented by many other companies throughout the country, including several football clubs.

"The trust was established in 2001 to provide benefits to certain employees retained within the Murray International Holdings group of companies, including Rangers Football Club.

"Throughout the period of utilisation, the MIH group and Rangers Football Club have sought and acted upon expert tax advice.

"HMRC has challenged the taxation treatment of aspects of the trust and the appropriate forum for these matters to be resolved is a tax tribunal.

"We are vigorously contesting HMRC's views and continue to receive very reassuring opinions from our tax, accounting and legal specialists. If HMRC were to be successful in the tax tribunal, this could create a liability for the club in an amount that has not yet been established. The case is scheduled to be heard by a tax tribunal and we will get the decision in due course."

Rangers' financial results recently revealed the club had reduced its debt by £4m to £27.1m. Johnston said: "One of the most satisfying elements of the past year has been the results on the field have been achieved in conjunction with the stabilisation of the club's financial position and an overall strengthening of our balance sheet.

"Our much-maligned debt levels have been reduced significantly in terms of the credit facilities provided by Lloyds Banking Group as well as the near elimination of funds owed for players.

"I believe our working relationship with Lloyds has improved significantly as our bankers have developed an understanding of the necessity of reinvesting in our playing squad."

Colin Calderwood has been confirmed as the new manager of Hibernian. The 45-year-old has signed a three-year deal with the Edinburgh club. He replaces John Hughes at the helm, after he parted company with Hibs earlier this month.

Calderwood leaves his position as assistant manager at Newcastle to take up the post with the SPL club. The former Scotland defender was also manager of Northampton Town and Nottingham Forest before joining Newcastle in January 2009.

He now faces the task of improving results at Hibs, with a poor run leaving them eighth in the table ahead of this weekend's game at Aberdeen.