Rangers' collapse an opportunity for others
SOCCER ANGLES:There is a chance for Scottish football to reorganise. The east coast clubs surely recognise that. It’s some time since football there has been this intriguing, writes MICHAEL WALKER
WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON, Hampden Park, Glasgow, and finally some communication: after hours hanging around the foyer waiting for news from the Scottish Premier League meeting upstairs, an email arrived.
The time was 14.14, the message said: “SPL clubs today voted overwhelmingly to reject the application from Rangers newco to join the SPL.”
Short, and not too sweet for Rangers, this was historic. Rangers, who were formed in 1872, have never been outside Scotland’s top flight and had won the league title a record 54 times.
Rangers were the establishment.
Now they were no longer welcome.
The revolution was being televised and reaction would be long and loud. Emails winged in. At 15.26, a leading bookmaker sent this message: Celtic had been cut to 1/25 to win the SPL next season. Some thought that depressing, predictability being a fundamental problem within Scottish football. Not since 1985 has the league been won by a club outside Celtic or Rangers.
But others clearly thought 1/25 represented an opportunity. At 15.31 another email: Celtic were now 1/33 to win the SPL.
Around 90 minutes later, we had moved from the second floor to the sixth. That is where the SPL reside, as do, along the corridor, the Scottish Football League, as do, further along, the Scottish Football Association, the governing body.
On a shelf was an SFA brochure. Its title? “Scotland United: A 2020 Vision”.
Its second paragraph begins: “Traditions and heritage are the foundations of our national game. Yet they can also be a barrier to progress.”
A few minutes later and the SFA chief executive, Stewart Regan, was seated at a boardroom table being passionate about what must happen next: Rangers must go into Scottish Division One next season. If not, Regan mentioned the possibility of “social unrest” and of “a slow, lingering death for Scottish football.”
The morning papers had brought images of Monty Python’s dead parrots due to a remark from the gravel driveway voice of Raith Rovers’ chairman Turnbull Hutton; but in terms of alarmist language, which Scotland is not bad at, Regan had again raised the bar.
SO, WHERE ARE WE?
Regan used the phrase “we are where we are” several times inside that boardroom, but many wonder where that is.
On February 14th, Rangers entered administration. They had been pursued by the British Revenue and Customs over unpaid tax dating back years and more recently, over a sum of around €11.3m unpaid tax since businessman Craig Whyte took over the club last year.
The instant punishment for entering administration was a 10-point deduction that ensured Celtic won the 2011-12 SPL title.
In March, the SFA announced they would investigate claims that Rangers had paid players via methods other than club contracts. In April, the SFA censured Whyte for disciplinary breaches and later banned him for life. Rangers were also handed a 12-month transfer embargo.
In May, a former Sheffield United director, Charles Green, agreed to buy Rangers from the administrators. It means Rangers’ last two owners are called Green and Whyte. This tickles some.