Fans are against the Glasgow club being readmitted to the top tier, leaving SFL members with a terrible dilemma
The scale of the crisis engulfing Scottish football is such that it would be bold to assert the new season will actually get under way as scheduled. Lost in the melee of the never-ending and routinely toxic Rangers affair is the imminent scrap between Dundee and Dunfermline over who will replace the fallen Glasgow giants in the Scottish Premier League, which could become a legal battle.
There have been various culpable parties in Rangers' slump into liquidation, the overwhelming majority of them having had a previous connection to the Ibrox club. Last week Malcolm Murray, the new chairman, issued an extensive apology on behalf of Rangers for a string of damaging events. There is no doubt Rangers' previous attempts to shift blame for their troubles has been detrimental to their hopes of garnering external support.
What also cannot be disputed is that those in charge of some Scottish Football League clubs are guilty of no wrongdoing whatsoever in this sorry saga. Yet it is towards these clubs that focus, pressure and in some cases intimidation will shift at the end of this week. It should not concern Peterhead, Forfar Athletic or Albion Rovers what league Rangers will begin the new campaign in but because of weak leadership higher up Scottish football that is the reality.
The Scottish Premier League's decision on Wednesday to reject an application from a newco Rangers to be included among the elite represented a rare modern-day case of supporters influencing boardroom policy. Fans had made clear their vehement objection to Rangers being readmitted to the SPL, leaving their chairmen with a terrible dilemma. They decided that offending, and possibly losing, their own customers was not worth risking just to retain the commercial clout of Rangers – that is, Sky's influence in the SPL's TV income. Sky seek four Old Firm games per season as part of their agreed but as yet unsigned extension to an SPL agreement.
Amid page after page of emotive language, the upshot is that those in the SFL are in the unenviable position of voting on whether or not Rangers should start at the bottom of their setup, Division Three, or be parachuted into the First Division.
The latter option is touted as preferable to SPL clubs and their broadcasting partners, whose own silence on the topic is one of countless disappointing issues. Sky would object to the claim that they can dictate terms to Scottish clubs, but with so many of them in a perilous financial position, it is a fair inference.
The odds are just in favour of Rangers appearing in the tier immediately below the elite, however a deal can be cut to achieve that. It appears a simple case of calling Ally McCoist's bluff now that the Rangers manager has said the Third Division may be the most reasonable stage to restart Ibrox life. Cue panic from some of those further up Scottish football's food chain.
Unsurprisingly, there are anomalies and ironies within this tale. It seems curious that so many teams should make noises about financial Armageddon for their business without Rangers or TV money. Given the recently compact, competitive nature of the SPL outside of the Glasgow clubs, it would only be sensible if the others had a worst-case financial plan in the event of suffering relegation and failing to instantly return to the top flight. If the upshot of such a scenario would be pushing clubs towards the brink of closure then bad management has occurred somewhere along the line. When the manager of Rangers, Walter Smith said Scottish football would benefit without the Ibrox club, which he wanted to play in a European league.
It must also be remembered that the SPL showed little regard for the rest of Scottish football when breaking away to form their own self-interested clique in 1998. The SPL's failure to operate a reasonable promotion and relegation system has blunted competition and damaged footballing standards lower down the scale; some will raise a smile, then, given that the top clubs now need support from those they have done precious little to engage with previously.
The collective inability to settle on Rangers' fate has only illustrated a lack of suitable governance within the Scottish game. Not one body has taken responsibility. Should financial meltdown have happened to a smaller club, its fate would have been settled long ago.
It would be folly to ignore the commercial issues and pressures attached to the affair. Yet a fine opportunity for much-needed restructuring, redistribution of wealth and attracting people back to matches is in serious danger of being passed up as Rangers' carcass is picked over. This includes those who have no interest whatsoever in the long-term health of Scottish football but want Rangers battered around the head simply for reasons of spite.
Stewart Regan, the Scottish FA's chief executive, was criticised after bizarrely stating there could be "civil unrest" if Scottish society proceeded without Rangers. There has been no such bother. Restless night after restless night for those in charge of Scottish football clubs? Another matter entirely. Read More
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