Which Way Now For Scottish Football?

By on Jun 29, 2012 in Finance, Latest, Scottish Football | 10 comments

While the European Championships have been chugging along neatly in the forefront of most peoples minds over the last couple of weeks or so, football in Scotland has reached a crossroads, the ramifications of which could be felt for many years. The saga of Rangers FC and the debate – some might even say argument – over where The Rangers, the club that has emerged from the ashes of perhaps the biggest financial collapse in the entire history of British football, will start next season is now set to drag into July, with the distinct possibility of reaching a conclusion that will satisfy absolutely nobody whatsoever.

The Rangers had applied to join the Scottish Premier League for the start of next season, but this has already been blown out of the water. With many supporting the placing of the club in the Third Division of the Scottish Football League, it was with no little surprise that the news coming out of the Scottish Football Association and the Scottish Football League had the distinct whiff of compromise about them. What, however, was being compromised and what might be lost if, against the wishes of many supporters in Scotland – including many Rangers supporters themselves – if this compromise is what ends up happening for the start of the new season?

A considerable proportion of the problem stems from the pure fact that The Rangers is a new company. The blocking of the clubs CVA by HMRC a couple of weeks ago – in line with a stated policy that is available for all to see on their website – knocked the final nail into the coffin of the previous incarnation of Rangers Football Club. Without the agreement of HMRC, and HMRC have seldom in recent years been terribly interested in reaching agreement with football clubs on any subject whatsoever, there was, effectively no chance of the club being able to continue to trade. It was, by any legal or semantic definition that anyone could choose to apply, insolvent.

This set of circumstances has come to lead, however, to something of a dead end. What to do with the club that intends to play in blue, white and red, with the word “Rangers” making up at least a part of its name and hosting its home matches at Ibrox next season. As in England, the Premier League of the countrys football leagues is a seperate entity to the divisions below it, and this means that Rangers would have to apply to join the Scottish Football League instead.

There is, of course, a problem with all of this. Unlike England, Scotland doesn’t have a pyramid system. There is no meritocratic way in which a club can be demoted to the bottom of the game and fight its way back to its former position, as has happended so many times south of the border. There are those who would have it that The Rangers should be ejected into the relative nether regions of the junior leagues, but this seems unlikely. There is, after all, a vacancy in the Scottish Football League that now needs to be filled for the start of the new season.

But should this new club automatically take preference over anybody else that may wish to apply for this sudden and somewhat unexpected vacancy? As a point of principle, many would say yes. There is, however, an alternative viewpoint on the subject which argues that, out there in the real world, bills have to be paid, sponsors and television companies have to be satisfied and a place simply has to be found for one of Scottish footballs two biggest clubs, somewhere. Given that there is no question of Rangers being allowed into the SPL for next season, advocates would argue, the reality of the position is that a space has to be found for the club somewhere in the Scottish Football League.

Yesterday, however, the BBC threw a spanner in the works by leaking details of a proposal that would see Rangers parachuted into Division One of the Scottish Football League, with certain conditions put in place that they seem to regard as being put in place to maintain the integrity of Scottish football. Under the plans, the club would have to have to accept the football debts and fines of the old Rangers club whilst waiving any rights to legal challenges over decisions already made. Elsewhere, play-off matches between the top two divisions will be introduced in time for the coming season, parachute payments would be increased for clubs relegated from the SPL and a pyramid system would be put in place from the start of the 2014/15 season.

Some claim that Rangers – and in particular their support – have been punished enough. Others, meanwhile, see such compromises as being little more than a sop to public opinion with the real aim being to get the club back into the SPL at the earliest possible opportunity. And it is this sort of schism that is at the heart of perhaps the most fundamental problem that Scottish football faces. There is now a disconnect so great between Celtic and Rangers and the rest – and, of course, between Celtic and Rangers themselves – that the reconciliation that Scottish football needs seems impossible. The gap has been massive for years, jealousy and resentment has grown and Scottish football now finds itself in a position in which every action, every announcement and every decision is seen through a malign prism.

The key culprits in all of this are not the clubs, the biggest of whom have been indulged beyond repair, or the supporters, whose interests have often seemed like the very last thing on anybody involved with the actual running of the games lists of priority. The buck ultimately has to stop with the SFA and the SPL. If football requires regulation – and if we have learned nothing else about Scottish football in recent months this must be that it does – then that regulation must temper the worst instincts of anybody’s self-interest. The enmity that now exists, the feelings of resentment, the accusations of ulterior motives from all sides on all matters ultimately come down to the fact that this very culture has been allowed to fester by the only people that were in a position to do anything meaningful about it.

If Rangers start next season in Division One, it will be regarded by many as kowtowing to a powerful club. If they drop into Division Three it will be regarded by some as an excessive and vindictive punishment on the basis of their previous success. It is this sort of uncirclable square that Scottish football needs to address if any sort of peace is ever to be found for the game there. As things stand, there hangs a feeling of toxicity over Scottish football and the worry is that this feeling will carry over into the new season. If this causes disturbance at any matches, no matter what division those matches are being played in, we can rest assured that many will rush to heap scorn upon the supporters involved. No-one should ever seek to mitigate people that throw punches or sing songs from the viler end of the spectrum, but it is difficult to avoid that conclusion that the ultimate responsibility for the problems of Scottish football – past, present and future – lays with those that have governed it and continue to do so, and we can bet a pound to a penny that they will remain safely in position should chaos come to reign, just as they have over the last few months of chaos.

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    10 Comments

  1. I think most understand the financial considerations of Sevco going to the 3rd division,but if they are popped straight into the first division there is a realistic chance that fans will turn away from football.

    This is no empty threat and the SPL recognised that by refusing Sevco entry to the SPL.

    Like many others I’m going to play golf on a Saturday if this disgraceful SFL ‘proposal’ is forced through.

    And hell mend them.

    Carntyne

    June 29, 2012

  2. There is not possibility of Rangers ‘dropping to Division 3′. Rangers are coming to and end. There is a new club called Sevco who are trying to join Scottish football and leapfrog a number of others.

    “If they drop into Division Three it will be regarded by some as an excessive and vindictive punishment on the basis of their previous success”

    As already stated this would not be a demotion. Secondly, this ‘success’ you speak of has nothing to do with what fair-minded fans want to happen. Besides, it was a hollow ‘success’ built on other peoples money and illegally registered players. Had they played by the rules one wonders how much they would have won.

    pat

    June 29, 2012

  3. A strong article and gets to the heart of the matter. Rangers are the establishment team in Scotland, and have been protected for years by those running the game up here. David Murray and others oversaw a period of cheating and fraud during which Rangers won a substantial number of trophies which, arguably, they may not have won had they been running their off-field activities properly. Now that those years have caught up with them and they faced legal challenges, penalties, sanctions or even expulsion, those who are entrusted with the game in Scotland have stepped up a gear to protect a variety of things, integrity, honesty and sporting values, not being among them. It is a shameful episode for football in Scotland and, much as I love watching Scottish teams compete on a European and International level, I fear those days may be over once FIFA and EUFA consider the outcome of the omnishambles that is being perpetrated by those employed or elected to protect the game. I wanted to use the word ‘sport’ there, unfortunately, I no longer feel It appropriate. A final word, I feel truly sorry for those genuine Rangers fans, a number of whom I class as friends, and also relatives. However, I have no sympathy for those who lord it over everyone else in the game, spouting vile and superiority – and believing it too.

    Michael

    June 29, 2012

  4. “Under the plans, the club would have to have to accept the football debts and fines of the old Rangers club”

    Did the Beeb (or the source of the leak) explain how this particular part of the proposal might sit with Rangers’ non-football creditors? Or exactly how this sort of arrangement might apply with company law?

    I totally agree with your “malign prism” by the way. It seems almost impossible for anyone to hold an opinion on any part of this debacle without being automatically labelled either a sympathiser or hater of Rangers.

    For the record, I fail to see why Rangers Take II should be treated any differently to Gretna Take II. To make a special case purely because they are (or rather, were) Rangers just calls the whole integrity of Scottish football into question.

    Simon Cope

    June 29, 2012

  5. I may be wrong but are not the Rangers we are talking about a new club.
    So this club has no previous history.
    A new club or newco, whatever it is called should start in Division 3.

    John

    June 29, 2012

  6. I think this refusal to consider the new Rangers as anything to do with the old one is crass in the extreme.

    Its the same people who in one breath say a football club is not a business, its the fans who are the club not the owners. These people then turn and say that this Rangers is not the same as the old one even though it has the same fans, the same ground, the same name, the same colours and even some of the same players.

    Hypocrisy I’m afraid.

    Martin

    June 30, 2012

  7. martin I think you are forgetting that the new owners (and fans)have got to the present state of affairs precisely because of the name change. it very conveniently allowed them to ditch their debts. now they want to resurrect the old name again as if nothing has happened. thats hypocrisy.

    p groom

    June 30, 2012

  8. @Simon Cope

    I can think of one possibility. The Newco, in order to be admitted to SFL D1, will have to issue bonds to whom football creditors the Oldco owed, in the same amount sans what they are paid after liquidation (or, some negotiated amount).

    If this goes through, football will sooner or later become essentially single entity in the American model, since clubs can just liquidate year after year, with all registration held by the league.

    Michael Tsui

    June 30, 2012

  9. Thanks Michael. Surely any such arrangement along the lines that you propose would be subject to legal challenge by all the non-football creditors? I’m no company law expert – bar what I picked up during the downward spiral of Scarborough FC to its inevitable liquidation in 2007 – but surely you can’t even hint about doing some creditors of OldCo a favour under your NewCo guise?

    Simon Cope

    July 1, 2012

  10. There really isn’t anything complicated about this situation. Rangers FC is dead. That’s all there is to it. As far as the question of how Scottish football will cope without Rangers is concerned, we’re about to find out.
    If somebody wants to form a Rangers Tribute Band FC to cash in on a perceived gap in the market, then they’ll need to get a move on but as things stand, there is no such entity.
    No Rangers Tribute Band FC is registered with the SFA.
    An unregistered club cannot sign and register players.
    Any club which wishes to apply for membership of the professional senior football leagues in Scotland must submit audited accounts for a minimum of the previous three years.

    It really is as simple as that.
    There is no Rangers now. Furthermore, right now, there is no viable successor club to Rangers. It will take at least three years before any new club can satisfy the league’s criteria for even submitting an application to join.
    It is ludicrous to speculate about which division of the Scottish league a non-existing entity should join.

    The only people who are having trouble seeing this are those who still cannot accept the fact that Rangers have self-destructed. Their denial of the true position makes it pretty well impossible for them to chart the correct course ahead, even more so when they’ve just driven themselves over a cliff.

    Henry Clarson

    July 2, 2012

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