“The butterfly effect” is a classic illustration of chaos theory: an insect flapping its wings in Macau can, weeks later, cause a hurricane in Miami. The point is that in a complex system, a seemingly insignificant act can cause a major change at a faraway time and place.
I think the butterfly effect helps explain the situation Rangers are in today. The action of an individual bigot in Eindhoven in March 2011 led Rangers, via chaos theory, to administration – itself a state of chaos where bids are on, then off, then on again; where Duff & Phelps’ deadlines come and go; where rules are changed on the fly by the SPL and seemingly arbitrary punishments are handed down by the SFA.
On the face of it, the reason Rangers are in this mess is because back in February Craig Whyte filed notice to put the club into administration. He did this because despite mortgaging three years’ worth of season tickets, selling his top striker, tawdrily disposing of Arsenal shares owned for a century, and not paying VAT or PAYE for nine months, he knew that there wasn’t enough money in the club to keep it going until the ‘big tax case’ was resolved.
Why, less than a year after buying the club, did Whyte find himself in this position? Because he didn’t do his homework. Former chairman Alistair Johnston told the BBC back in October that the new owner spent very little time looking at the club’s cashflow before the takeover. Just before folding his hand, Whyte himself was banging on about a “£10m funding hole” at the club.
Why was there a funding gap, when in the previous two years the club was cashflow positive and had reduced debts by around £12m? Because Rangers didn’t qualify for the Champions League this season. The club earned upwards of nine million Euros from TV rights alone the previous year, and adding in gameday revenues, you’re looking at a total European income well north of – you guessed it – £10m. Gordon Smith, Director of Football at Ibrox during Whyte’s reign, spoke of Whyte’s “panic” in the aftermath of the club’s Champions League exit – because he knew then his bluff was going to be called, it was just a matter of when.
Why did Rangers fail to qualify for Europe’s richest club competition? They fell out of the tournament in Malmo, Sweden, when a 1-1 draw wasn’t enough to overcome a surprise 1-0 defeat from the home leg. Rangers’ cause wasn’t helped by playing with nine men after Steven Whittaker and Majid Bougherra were red-carded, but they were also missing something else: supporters. Rangers fans were banned due to sectarian singing at Rangers’ previous European game, at PSV Eindhoven back in March – the third time Rangers had been hauled in front of UEFA for this offence in five years.
There were only a few thousand Rangers fans at that game in Eindhoven, and perhaps just a few hundred singing bigoted songs – but the singing must have been started by one man. I don’t know his name, so I’ll call him Billy Butterfly.
Let’s look at this butterfly’s effect.
Billy Butterfly starts a rendition of the Sash. People around him join in, encouraging others, and it’s heard on the television. UEFA get to know about it and decide enough is enough – they give Rangers fans a travel ban. Without any support in Malmo, Rangers can’t hang on to a 1-0 lead over there and are knocked out of the Champions League. Without Champions League income, Rangers can’t pay their bills. Whyte has no money to fill the hole, so he puts Rangers into administration.
So, Billy Butterfly and your ilk: instead of lashing out and blaming the SPL, the SFA, Lloyds Bank, HMRC, unspecified “Fenians”, Dick Advocaat, Craig Whyte, and Sir David Murray, think about your own behaviour.
Because maybe it’s your fault.