Last weekend, there were a number of observers wondering why today’s vote on whether to accept a new “Rangers” into the Scottish Premier League next season…next month (ulp!)…was taking place at all. Eight of last season’s SPL clubs had already publicly, and at times passionately, stated their intention to vote against the application to transfer Rangers’ league share to “Sevco Scotland Limited”, the company wholly-owned by its chief executive Charles Green. Given that eight clubs needed to be in favour of the application for it to be successful, and given the proximity of the new Scottish League season, it made perfect sense to formally reject the application and to use yesterday’s meeting of SPL chairmen for any practical business arising from this or any other issues impacting upon the SPL. So they held the vote.
Sevco Scotland’s application was “overwhelmingly” rejected. This initially was a little harder to quantify than might normally be the case, as rejection required three votes less than a simple majority. But it could scarcely have been more “overwhelming” than ten votes against, with Kilmarnock abstaining. Even Celtic, the biggest losers financially in the event of there being no Rangers in the SPL, said no. It is therefore safe to evaluate the gargantuan efforts of Green, his SPL counterpart Neil Doncaster and certain parts of the Scottish media to persuade certain SPL club chairmen to depart from their and their club’s public stance and accept Sevco’s application for the share. They were a gargantuan disaster. Given Charles Green’s leading role in these efforts, this is understandable. His “no-nonsense” public demeanour suggests that privately no four-letter word is out of his bounds…except ‘tact.’ (“Bullshit in a china shop,” you might say).
Leaving aside, for this article, the legal argument on the issue, his oafish handling of the transfer of players from their old employers, Rangers FC PLC to his new Sevco company cannot have persuaded many to reject the prospect of a huge wage hike in favour of loyalty to Green’s new regime. If any of the eleven players who left the club were genuinely in two minds, Green’s bullish, threatening intervention will not have helped his cause – even if his interpretation of employment law was remotely correct. His intervention on this issue has been similarly “unhelpful.” He and his lapdog chairman Malcolm “Rangers comes first, my wife knows that” Murray gave a presentation to the SPL chairman’s meeting. So “overwhelming rejection” ought not to have been that much of a shock (is it too cheeky to suggest that Rangers only voted in favour themselves because Green himself cast the vote? Probably. Just).
That it was ever in doubt was down to the efforts of Doncaster and like-minded media people. A chief executive’s role ordinarily includes giving professional, factual advice to voting bodies within an organisation. And Doncaster’s professional advice was quite clear, “vote Rangers into the SPL, or the puppy gets it,” or words to that effect. stance was obvious from early yesterday, when he created the impression that: “(SPL) chairmen are expected to delay an anticipated vote on where Rangers should play their football next season”, as the BBC website declared after the corporation had interviewed him. Plans, you see, were in the making for a new option, conditional acceptance of Rangers into the SPL.
The “conditions” being applied to Sevco’s application for Scottish FA membership were laid bare on Monday night when they were leaked on the internet. They included acceptance by Sevco of “such sanctions as are proposed by the SFA in relation to current proceedings…and…responsibility for any breach of the (SFA’s) Articles by oldco which has so far not come to light.” And according to a Daily Record front-page exclusive on Tuesday, Green was prepared to accept a not dissimilar “six-point punishment package” which included accepting “responsibility for past misdemeanours” and making a “public apology” for them. This aspect of the story was backed up by Murray’s apology of sorts on Monday night, in which he said that “Ally McCoist, the staff and the players have nothing to apologise for.” He added that “the club needs to make an apology,” leaving the words “otherwise we’ve got no chance of getting back into the SPL” unwritten. (Incidentally Murray’s statement on the club website features a link to “twit vid,” the pertinence of which I could not possibly comment upon). Other aspects of the Record story failed to withstand similar scrutiny (see below).
The SPL view also shone through the briefing document sent to SFL clubs last Thursday, which supposedly laid out the reasons why the SFL should accept “Rangers” into its top division straight away. Of course, you might think that the SFL would gain financially by accepting “Rangers” into its third division, thereby guaranteeing three years of the “most successful club in world football,” – and even if you are minded to dispute that last bit, three years of one of the two largest-supported clubs in Scotland. And it wouldn’t be a shadow of “Rangers” former self, either, with the vast majority of fans of the old club positively in favour of joining the third division. So the financial gains would be very significant.
Indeed, you might think that the only way the SFL would not significantly gain financially would be if the SFA and SPL artificially created special circumstances with the sole and specific intent of punishing SFL clubs who favoured Rangers in Division Three. Like, for instance, an artificial choice between the “moral/sporting question v. financial collapse,” although the SFL would hardly “collapse” financially. Or the scenario of “Rangers” going to an “SPL 2”, which, the document states, would create a “bigger divide.” This divide would occur because a proportion of SFL clubs would be cut off from this newly-expanded SPL – such as, to pick a criterion purely at random, those who didn’t vote “Rangers” into “SFL 1.”
The document also referenced a “one-off fee to buy out the Rangers media value (£1m), thus protecting the contracts in place.” A cynical reaction to this might be “bribe, what bribe?” But it also suggests that “Rangers” stay in the first division is only envisaged to be a year. The logical extension of these arguments is that “Rangers” had better win promotion next year, or “financial collapse” is a year away. In fact, all the financial calculations connected to a “Rangers” placement in the first division appear to assume a one-year stay. So, if “Rangers” were to be three points from a promotion challenge with one game to go… Among the major mainstream media movers towards a “yes to newco, on condition” stance was the Daily Record’s James Traynor. Scottish readers will know the drill here. But the extent to which Traynor has skewed his news stories towards the views of his opinion columns still has the capacity to surprise south of the border.
Traynor’s view is that Rangers have been punished enough and that anymore punishment would kill Scottish football. And, yes, Dad’s Army and Scottish stereotype fans, he said the game would be “doomed.” So he broke the story on Monday night that…er…the game would be doomed if “Rangers” were refused entry into the SPL (the article in question included details of Green’s “punishment package” – above). This doomsday scenario was based on “frantic talks” which were “held in secret” (though not that secret, obviously) “between Charles Green and a number of SPL chairmen who fear at least three of their members could be shut down” if “Rangers” had to apply to join the SFL’s third division.
These fears centred on fears that TV money would disappear, including the £645,000 due to SPL clubs on August 6th, two days after the start of the season. In fact, “fear” was the key word, fending off challenges from “armageddon,” “meltdown,” “abyss” and “oblivion.” However, you would search in vain for any concrete evidence in the article that such fears were founded. Yet this three-pronged attack served, if anything at all, to harden the SPL chairmen’s resolve. So they were either displaying suicidal tendencies, or the financial arguments presented to them simply did not tally with their own direct experience of running their clubs (after all, Doncaster wasn’t quite so armageddon-ish last night).
The suicide theory has found predictable favour with Rangers fans. Their leanings towards Third Division status are at least as much down to “let’s see how you manage without us” as “let’s do the right thing.” The tone of many texts sent to the BBC in the hours after the SPL’s decision was along the lines of: “Deluded and small-minded fans have just sent Scottish football into freefall.” “Good luck SPL, Rangers will be here in 10 years, how many SPL sides will…Goodnight,” said another. While other texters had even less faith in SPL clubs’ survival chances: “Let’s see how many of these clubs are still around in three years…when we get back to the SPL…fools.” And the view prevails that the SPL chairmen have simply “pandered to the wildest and most vile elements of their supporters,” as Rangers Supporters Trust board member Mark Dingwall noted in a personal blog on the FollowFollow website last week.
It would be interesting, however, to have sight of the “workings out” behind the various doomsday scenarios expounded this week. The details behind the presentations to the SPL chairmen yesterday and to the SFL on Tuesday should be published. Then not only will the largest group of affected people, the supporters, know the extent of any problem, they’ll be in a position to offer solutions (or even be a major part of the solution). And, of course, the veracity of the wildest claims of financial meltdown could be tested. I mean, they could be true, and Neil Doncaster et al have only just noticed this past week. More likely, of course, is that these scenarios were only designed to scare Scotland’s football clubs into voting in the interests of Charles Green and his new football club, rather than the Scottish game as a whole. And you don’t have to be a Celtic, or a small-minded, deluded, wild and vile fan to believe that that isn’t right.
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