In a week’s time, Rangers will know whether or not they will re-enter Scottish football in the second or fourth tier of the Scottish Football League.
It is fair to say that Rangers could end up at either level, though to listen to the heads of the SFL and Scottish Premier League, you would think Scotland will disappear as a nation if Rangers are driven to the bottom of the game.
So much is the wailing from the heads of the SPL that the perceived “SPL 2” option is gaining more steam by the minute.
This brings up a rather important question: If the SPL clubs knew ahead of time that sending Rangers to the hands of the SFL clubs had about a 50-50 shot of seeing them end up at the bottom of the barrel, and that the repercussions would be great, why did they do it?
Maybe it’s because the clubs listened to the fans rather than their pocketbooks for once.
Unfortunately, the SPL and Scottish Football Association authorities have no such fans to listen to.
And they’re not about to let their jobs go without a fight.
Much has been made of the “SPL 2” letter that was released to the media a week ago. (Full letter here) It detailed, for lack of a better term, why the SFL should simply accept Rangers as a SFL 1 squad.
In the noted scenarios, it describes the possibilities of each level of Rangers’ return (from the non-SPL return through suspension of all play for next term) but then simply says why the SFL squads should be putting Rangers in the second tier.
There’s no explanation outside of “ruin” for anything other than Division Two play while somehow maintaining “sporting integrity.”
Taken at face value, this screams as a “Bail us out!” moment for the SPL.
And not necessarily the clubs, either. This looks more like a case of the SPL, SFA and SFL crying out for the structure to remain intact so that they themselves will not have to lose their own jobs.
Certainly there is a financial hit that will be taken without Rangers. How much so is open to debate as there are no concrete figures that have been laid out by the three organizational heads.
It’s entirely conceivable that the sponsors might all pull out and sue for damages. They could also simply shift their support only to Celtic and cut some of the cash flow.
Saying that all the television rights are based solely on the Old Firm fixture is denying the appeal that Celtic have by themselves.
Certainly, in tandem with Rangers, they would have a broader reach than without them. But to say the whole of Scottish football will lay in tatters if Rangers aren’t admitted into the second tier is downright fear-mongering.
It is a desperate message sent out by the three organizations to scare clubs into sending Rangers into a division where the governing bodies can still profit from them, after the SPL teams voted the Glasgow club out of the league..
Knowing this, perhaps it is no surprise that SFA chief Stewart Regan went on an outlandish verbal spree after the SPL vote was handed down.
Some of the best highlights include the following (from the Scotsman):
“Without Rangers, there is social unrest and a big problem for Scottish society,” claimed Regan. “They have a huge fan base and to contemplate the situation where those fans don’t have a team to support, where those fans are effectively left without a game to follow, I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues, all sorts of problems for the game."
“There is a lot of emotion around this subject because Rangers are a huge institution in Scottish football history and they are where they are. Their fans have been hurt, they don’t know what’s happening. There hasn’t been a great deal of leadership at the club and there hasn’t been a huge amount of communication from the football authorities."
“The only solution for the game now is that Rangers come into the Scottish Football League and they come into it in the First Division. If Rangers were to go anywhere other than the First Division, then there would something in the region of £15.7 million worth of losses to the game."
Quite clearly, Regan is off his rocker.
There are a couple of conclusions one can draw from these statements:
1. Rangers fans are a derelict group of miscreants and that taking their placebo away will cause mayhem of unprecedented levels.
2. Rangers fans are uneducated masses who have no idea why they’ve been booted from the SPL. The new ownership is incompetent. The football authorities in question, obviously, are not people like Regan, according to the man himself.
3. Having said that, Scottish football is squarely based on Rangers, and that any failure to accommodate them will kill the league where it stands.
What Regan's full interview really should have said is something like this (translated by this author):
“We’re in a situation we never foresaw coming and even when we knew that Rangers had entered administration we sat on our hands and figured they’d take care of things.”
“Once that wasn’t the case, we still figured the SPL clubs would nail them with sanctions galore but let them stay in the top league.”
“Once we figured out they had no intention of keeping Rangers around, we decided we needed to put safeguards in place to ensure that once the SFL votes them into the second tier, that we can still look authoritative without punishing them to the point of not making back to the SPL in 2013.”
“Once we figured out that the SFL clubs have no intent to let them into the second tier, we’ve decided to hell with the SFL and we’ll make our own league and make sure that Rangers get back to the top quickly so our money doesn’t run away.”
If the organizational heads would simply let this play out, then Scottish football would stand a chance of restructuring in a way that actually benefits all levels of the game.
Instead, the SPL figureheads intend to get their own way or make a league of their own to cover their own backsides.
If they wanted a way to smash Scottish football into the ground, they might have just found it.