There’s only one story in Scottish football at the moment, and it isn’t the aftermath of the Slovenia v Scotland friendly last week (decent performance, nothing to write home about). So I make no apologies for writing about Rangers again.
The club has been in administration for almost a month now, and still speculation outweighs fact by many orders of magnitude – but the way forward is becoming clearer. Here are the potential outcomes.
Option one is that Rangers strike a deal with the people to whom they owe money – a “Company Voluntary Arrangement” – and come out of administration with reduced debts and as the same organisation i.e. Rangers FC plc. Someone, ideally a supporter-led group, will take over the club, invest new funds, and take the club forward. There will be redundancies and/or pay cuts, but the club will carry on.
If this happens before the end of March (which is highly unlikely) then Rangers will play in Europe next year. If not, they have to wait until 2013 to re-enter European competition.
Rangers’ director Dave King said in a statement on Wednesday that he didn’t believe this would happen, and that liquidation was “inevitable”. In this case, Rangers FC plc (“old Rangers”) would dissolve and the club would start afresh as a new company (“new Rangers”). They would almost certainly apply to enter the SPL directly – replacing old Rangers.
The SPL articles allow this, if 10 of the 11 teams agree, and the SPL board agrees, and the SFA agree. How likely is that? I don’t know. Ethically it’s wrong, but football clubs rarely put ethics to the front of their decision-making. They will simply consider if having a debt-free Rangers in their midst is in their own interests.
There are a couple of twists to this scenario. The SPL could allow new Rangers back in, but impose an extra punishment – for example, docking 10 points per season for three seasons. This would preserve the current SPL TV deal (which requires four Old Firm games per season) while giving other teams a chance at outperforming the tarnished side.
Also, UEFA rules require a club to have a three year history in their national association before entering European competition. New Rangers would not, so even if they could win a cup or place well in the league, they’d have to wait until 2016 to re-enter Europe. This would mean lower revenue for the new club, and it would also hamper their ability to attract players to Govan, as there would be no Champions League lure.
If the SPL don’t vote to allow New Rangers back into the top tier, the club could apply to join the SFL. There would be a vacancy at the bottom of the SFL because the SPL wouldn’t relegate one of their members this year, and this would cascade down the divisions. New Rangers could apply, probably in competition with the likes of Gala Fairydean and Huntly, for a spot in Division Three. From there, they’d have to “do a Gretna” and work their way up through the leagues.
This would be a big financial hit to New Rangers. They would have lower TV money, no European cash, and massively lower ticket income. (Fifty thousand turning up to see Rangers v Elgin City? I doubt it.) The playing squad would have to be rebuilt – the captain of the US National Team won’t do his World Cup chances any good in Scottish Division Three – but New Rangers would likely still end up back in the SPL after three seasons.
There is a twist on this scenario. Rangers could do an Airdrie: take over, relocate, and rebrand an existing SFL club. The rules allow it, but I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, and I doubt it will.
Those, then, are the possible outcomes. But there is another option being kicked around by some Rangers fans which might suit everyone better.
Based on the non-outpouring of support for Rangers from their competitors in Scotland, it’s pretty clear that Scottish football believes it would be better off without the club.
So what’s stopping New Rangers doing a Wimbledon instead of a Gretna? They could apply to join England’s Northern League and work their way up to the Premiership.
Next season, Horden Colliery Welfare and Seaham Red Star; ten seasons from now, Arsenal and Manchester United. New Rangers would have its nose in the Sky’s Premiership trough, and fans would have the chance to sack Manchester twice a season, not just once every century. Glorious.
The Bosman case allowed freedom of movement for players. Why not freedom of movement for clubs?