Scottish Football: Bad Moon Rising

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GUILTY MEN


The whole debacle is a series of dry technicalities that have to be explored and explained in order to form a view of what will happen, what might happen and what definitely won’t happen. If you didn’t know, every SPL club holds a share in the company that is the SPL. NewRangers have applied to the SPL for permission to receive the share that the OldRangers to this day holds. This would essentially mean that NewRangers takes OldRangers place in the SPL… playing with their strips, badge and name. This was predicted to happen for a long time and fans debated it and formed views way before they actually applied. In this time it became clear that fans of other SPL teams and even some from OldRangers felt this was beyond the pale for the ‘sporting integrity’ of the league. Suddenly the teams of the SPL who would decide whether to approve this share transfer were stuck in a dilemma, alienate almost all of their fans or kiss goodbye to future revenue which may destabilise your club. The natural course after rejection of this share transfer would be that another SFL1 team, either Dundee or Dunfermline, would take the place of OldRangers. NewRangers would then apply to the bottom rung of the SFL, Division 3, where a vacant space would then exist.

For a while it seemed like the chairmen and custodians of the SPL clubs were doing the right thing for the sporting integrity of the league. They seemed to be queuing up one after another to say no to NewRangers. A brave and bold message you would presume. It’s only brave and bold if you see it through. You should know there’s a bad moon on the rise. Plans to place Rangers in SFL1 instead of SFL3 have been in place long before these clubs started saying no and every one of them knew about it, because I did. This is not a compromise and it’s definitely not brave and bold, it’s a scandal. To publically state you don’t need NewRangers and seek goodwill from your fans is good PR. However doing this while behind the scenes constructing a situation which will sit just as badly with your fans as the proposal you claim to reject is cowardly. A dirty deal done behind a smokescreen of statements designed to appease us.

The plan is to set up a new league structure, the Scottish Professional Football League. This would be a merger of the Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League. The idea is that it gives Scottish football a new start, fairer income distribution & more fluidity in movement between the top two divisions. A pyramid structure would then follow which could open the door to ambitious clubs lurking below the recognised league structures in Scotland. It all sounds good except it has one condition. The SFL have to accept the fact that NewRangers will leapfrog twenty of their members and start life as a brand new entity in the equivalent of SFL1. Dundee would be promoted and that would be that. The entire game sold out for a parachute payment and a playoff.

For this to happen clubs need to approve it. I don’t like predictions, if you get it wrong you look foolish and if you get it right you can’t gloat because you look foolish. However here is a prediction in the spirit of trying to inform you based on information I believe to be correct. SPL and SFL clubs will vote to approve the reconstruction proposals. You might be thinking… “Why are you saying that? Some SFL clubs have already come out saying they don’t want it. Why would SFL2 and SFL3 vote for this?” The plan is that the SPL would technically relegate OldRangers though a mechanism in the current handbooks and articles that is not yet clear to me. This means that SFL clubs would not even get to have a say or a vote on where Rangers would start in the SFL were it to happen, they would simply exist in SFL1. The SFL would be voting on the reconstruction proposals almost separate from the Rangers situation completely. Forced upon them and forced to act in a toxic situation.

League reconstruction is inevitable, it has been discussed within Scottish football for years and if it’s not agreed now then it will be agreed next year. The SFA have been actively trying to make it happen sooner rather than later for at least the last 8 months. The SFL and SPL have dragged their heels along the way, unable to agree on what they perceive to be key to an overhaul. If the SFL clubs vote now for reconstruction they will receive a bounty greater than they ever would have in more normal circumstances. Increased TV money payouts and a promotion playoff is the stuff SFL1 clubs’ dreams are made of. It truly is a magnificent carrot dangling in front of them. Not only that, the SPL hold all of the power in Scottish football.

Clubs from the SPL, including both those who have stayed silent and those who have publically said no, have made it clear to the SFL that their long term stability depends on NewRangers starting a rung below instead of three rungs below. If the SPL decide to set-up an SPL2 and invite NewRangers and any club which votes for the proposals they can do that. If they then want to close the door on the bottom of SPL2 they can do that too. Before you know it the SFL is the equivalent of the juniors. Everything is at stake for them. These aren’t pie in the sky proposals, these things are on the table, behind the statements you see which say “we don’t need Rangers”.

There are two spanners which can halt the machinery that proposes they be placed above their station. One is the previously mentioned viability of NewRangers and Sevco 5088. There are massive question marks about whether they will be in a position to compete anywhere next season. For my money the biggest hurdle to whether Rangers FC owned by Sevco are competing next year is themselves. Ibrox is rumoured to be on the brink of being sold to parties unknown, presumably they will seek to let it out for football activities but who knows? An urgent deadline is tomorrow when then SFA have demanded Sevco provide all the documentation required to decide on whether or not to approve the SFA membership transfer from OldRangers to this NewRangers. Only eleven players reported for their first training session after the Summer break and three of those were out of contract. It seems they are in limbo at the moment and work needs done there more than anywhere to ensure they can play.

The other spanner is you. That’s not an insult, one of the positive strands in recent weeks within the whole saga was the few blissful days when fans felt like they had a voice in Scottish football. For the first time that I can remember we had real power in deciding the direction our game was going. Clubs were saying no to NewRangers and it seemed like it was a direct consequence of fan opinion, campaigns, polls and reluctance to shell out money. You still have a voice. The BBC published the proposed plans in full and to the best of my knowledge it is not mischievous story planting by NewRangers, the SPL or anyone else, the proposals are real. If the backlash is strong enough then perhaps the custodians of our clubs and of the game itself will realise that this isn’t an option Scottish football can take. Time is running out in this respect and it’s important not to take for granted that any positive outcome for NewRangers will not happen simply because you don’t want it to.

NewRangers must go through the same processes any other new team would in order to compete in our game. Anything else is a scandal that validates over a decade of the worst corporate and sporting behaviour you could imagine from a football club. This is true whether they start in the SPL or the SFL1. Compromise is a great word to use when it’s not you that is compromising. Don’t let them tell you that’s what it is.

 

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