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Scottish Football: Will Rangers' Placement into Third Division Kill the League?

The loss of the Old Firm rivalry between Celtic and Rangers may doom Scottish football.
The loss of the Old Firm rivalry between Celtic and Rangers may doom Scottish football.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Mike MillerContributor IIIJuly 17, 2012

Rangers were voted into the Scottish Third Division Friday by a 25-5 vote of Scottish Football League members. The vote ensures that Rangers will not play in the Scottish Premier League for the next three years as the club attempt to climb back through the ranks.

The effects are already starting to be felt among other Scottish clubs, especially in the Scottish Premier League. The Scottish Premier League members had previously voted the new Rangers consortium out of the SPL on July 4th.

Five clubs could be forced into administration within weeks, St. Mirren chairman Steven Gilmore said in an interview with The Telegraph. This is a result of a potential 16 million pound loss of television revenue per season due to the loss of four telecasts per year of the Old Firm rivalry with Celtic.

A new television contract with BSkyB and ESPN, which was agreed to in November 2011, was set to begin this season. However, the contract, which was worth 80 million pounds and would run through 2017, was never signed and required both Celtic and Rangers to be in the Scottish Premier League according to an article in The Guardian.

Inverness Caledonian Thistle chairman Kenny Cameron took an even dimmer view of the future of Scottish football in the same article from The Telegraph.

“None of us will escape the financial fallout from this,” Cameron said. “There was an opportunity on the table, in terms of the joint agreement tabled at [Friday’s] meeting for us all to come together and a genuine willingness to improve the game substantially over the coming years."

“But it now looks as though this will once again be kicked back in to the long grass. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring forward change may well have been lost," Cameron continued.

“The loss of either our fans or our sponsors was never going to leave any of the clubs in Scotland in a healthy financial position and for some this could spell the end of football as we know it.”

Scottish Premier League chief executive Neil Doncaster is trying to save the SPL and keep Rangers within striking distance of the SPL by forming SPL2, which would be made up of Rangers and several teams currently in the Scottish First Division.

Teams in the lower divisions will be affected as well. Yes, teams in the Scottish Third Division will surely get a bump at the gate when Rangers make their two visits to town each season. But teams in the lower three divisions may not receive their 1.9 million pound settlement payment from the SPL that was agreed upon when the Scottish Premier League broke away from the rest of the Scottish Football League.

It's no sure shot that Rangers will even gain promotion this season. Several players, including Steven Naismith, Steven Davis, Steven Whittaker, and Allen McGregor, refused to have their contracts transferred to the new Rangers and became free agents.

Meanwhile, Rangers have allowed international players Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Doran Goian to leave the club after being voted into Division Three, according to the BBC. Rangers are still under a transfer embargo, so the club cannot add any players until the embargo is lifted. The current Rangers squad would be a mix of holdovers and youth players.

If the Scottish football pyramid further deteriorates, the long-standing rumor that Celtic and Rangers would abandon Scottish football and join the English Football Association may gain weight.

The Sun reported in June that Rangers were looking into buying Bury FC, who currently play in the npower League One, the third tier of English football, and take their spot. Without Celtic and Rangers, the Scottish football league structure would surely crumble. While that plan looks very unlikely at the moment, it shows how close to the brink Scottish football is because of a few bad decisions.

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