There is much about modern football to make decent citizens nauseous, but high on the list must be the football creditor rule. This is only marginally more comprehensible than the offside rule, but it says, in essence, that if a club goes bust, everyone on the inside gets paid in full before anyone on the outside gets a penny.

You might think that such a rule would be well offside, but it has survived for decades, resisting all attempts to challenge it – partly because the outside creditors include small local suppliers and the St John Ambulance brigade, which lack either the resources or the determination to crack it. Now, finally, the taxman is trying to dribble his way through the Premier League’s defences.

The rule has always been unfair, but the awesome sums paid to the few at the top, and the fortunes so casually spent on trophy asset clubs by owners of doubtful pedigree make it grotesque. Today there is serious money at stake – especially PAYE and National Insurance –  and the lost tax effectively amounts to a subsidy from the poor to the rich. As HMRC argues, this should be “unlawful and against public policy.”

However obvious this may seem, the League’s defence may prove hard to break down. When what is delicately described as an “insolvency event” occurs, the money hose from media rights and sponsorship is immediately diverted away from the club to the football creditors. This underwrites the unedifying spectacle of the hugely-rewarded players and managers getting paid in full while small suppliers may get a few pennies in the pound.

The League argues that without the rule, its fixture list could be disrupted by a bankruptcy. The answer to that, surely, is insurance. The owners of the clubs would have to pay the premiums, at levels reflecting the financial discipline of each. Those which do not currently understand the meaning of that phrase would get an expensive education.

The case kicked off in the High Court this week and is expected to run for a fortnight. Come on, you taxmen!

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