On June 14, 2012, 140 years of Scottish sporting history ended with the liquidation of Rangers Football Club, following the rejection of the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) which Rangers administrators Duff & Phelps had presented to the club’s creditors.
Rangers Football Club no longer exists. It follows Third Lanark, Airdieonians and Gretna as Scottish clubs who have gone out of business in the past 50 years.
With the death of the Rangers, one controversial issue in Scottish soccer is rendered irrelevant—how to punish a club who had systematically cheated their way to dozens of league titles and cup wins?
A dead club cannot be punished.
However, this being Scottish soccer, and this involving Rangers FC, the story does not end there.
As I reported in a previous article for Bleacher Report, Scottish soccer’s governing bodies will now be asked to admit a successor club to Rangers FC into the Scottish soccer pyramid.
This being a successor club to Rangers FC though, it’s not quite as simple as that—this club wants to be readmitted at the top, not the bottom of the pyramid, and things are gonna get messy.
First off, following the rejection of the CVA by UK tax authority HMRC, Rangers’ administrators sold Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park to Sevco Ltd., the corporate vehicle for a consortium led by Yorkshire businessman and former Sheffield United FC Chief Executive, Charles Green.
Sevco have since announced that they will henceforth be called “The Rangers FC,” and have applied to join the SPL.
It’s like me buying a set of golf clubs that once belonged to Jack Nicklaus, changing my name to The Jack Nicklaus and claiming Jack Nicklaus’ place on the PGA Tour.
On the basis that they now own Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park, The Rangers Football Club now claim that they should be allowed to join Scottish soccer not in the Scottish Football League Division Three, but in the SPL.
This gives Scottish soccer’s governing bodies a decision to make. Several long-established Junior clubs have previously applied to join the Scottish Football League when vacancies have arisen, and many would argue that they are far more deserving of a place than The Rangers FC.
The Rangers FC have not only never played a match—at the moment they have no players and have never been a member of any soccer league.
Either the SFL will treat The Rangers FC like any other club, or they will treat them as a special case. If they choose the latter course, professional soccer in Scotland can no longer make any claim to be a sporting competition.
Let’s consider what the Green consortium is attempting to do.
It is taking advantage of a situation whereby a soccer club with huge support has recklessly spent other people's money, fielded ineligible players and defrauded the UK tax authorities and numerous other creditors over almost two decades.
The Green consortium is now trying to persuade the supporters of this club that their club somehow lives on in The Rangers FC.
What Green is in effect saying to Rangers FC creditors is, “Tax bill? Unpaid transfer fees? Unpaid debts? Sorry buddy, that was RANGERS FC—nothing to do with us, we’re THE Rangers FC.”
On the other hand, he is telling the Scottish soccer authorities and former fans of the now defunct Rangers FC, “54 titles? 33 Scottish Cups? 27 Scottish League Cups? 1972 European Cup Winners Cup? YEAH! That’s us! We’re still alive!”
Green is no Rangers fan. He is an outsider chasing a quick buck from the desires of legions of Rangers fans who believe their club lives on.
He is attempting to cash in on the desire of the Scottish soccer authorities to keep some form of Rangers FC alive, partly out of pro-Rangers sentiment (SFA President RC Ogilvie is a former Rangers FC director who received cash payments from Rangers FC’s EBT scheme), and partly out of purely financial considerations.
There is not sporting argument for allowing Green’s The Rangers FC into the SPL. It is based purely on greed and would establish the principle that Scottish soccer clubs can dump any amount of debt they run up chasing silverware, then promptly phoenix and rejoin the SPL with no meaningful consequences at all.
The story doesn’t end there.
After Rangers FC were liquidated on Thursday, former Rangers manager Walter Smith rode in on a white charger proclaiming his desire to “save” the club, making a last-ditch attempt to take the assets from under Green’s nose.
If this was an attempt to save the Rangers, it would be like (as one Celtic fan put it so memorably on twitter) trying to stop JFK’s assassination by travelling to Dallas today and shouting, “Duck, Mr. President!”
Smith claims to have the financial backing of a group of prominent Scottish businessmen with impeccable Rangers-supporting credentials. It would appear that they retain an interest in buying Ibrox Stadium and Murray Park from Sevco.
Like Green, Smith and his consortium had no intention of paying Rangers FC’s debts, and hoped to buy the assets at a knock-down price and start a new club to take the Rangers’ place in the SPL.
It now appears likely that there will be a battle for the hearts and minds of the former fans of the now-defunct Rangers FC, with Green holding the assets of the liquidated club, while Smith and his backers very definitely have the fans on their side.
It is thought likely that at some point in the not-too-distant future, Green will sell to Smith’s consortium for a healthy profit.
One final consideration.
Rangers FC, the now-defunct football club with 140 years worth of history behind them, had a deadline to meet on June 15, (the day after they were liquidated). They had until then to lodge audited accounts for the financial year with the SPL. This was required so that they could be granted a license to play in the SPL next season.
Now, The Rangers FC, if they wish to be granted a license to play next season, must submit three years worth of audited accounts to obtain a license to play in the SPL. As a brand new club, it would be impossible for The Rangers FC to submit even one week’s worth of audited accounts.
It now falls to the SPL clubs to decide whether to allow The Rangers FC membership of the SPL. They require the support of eight of the 12.
At this moment, it is thought that Celtic FC, Aberdeen FC and Hibernian FC intend to vote against, while Dundee United FC, Heart of Midlothian FC and Motherwell FC are undecided, but not looking favourably upon the application.
This being Scotland, the BBC reports that the now-defunct Rangers FC will actually be allowed to cast a vote on allowing The Rangers FC to join.
Two things are clear today:
1. The Rangers FC are NOT Rangers FC, which has been liquidated and no longer exists. The Rangers FC merely own some bricks and mortar which once belonged to the now-defunct club. There is no sporting argument for allowing The Rangers FC into the SPL.
2. The Rangers FC, Scotland’s newest football club, have never played a game and have no players. The governing bodies of Scottish soccer must decide whether money or sporting integrity is the most important consideration when they decide what to do with the sporting equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster.
Follow Daniel O'Connell on twitter @DanielOConnel18