Old Rangers, the newco and the plight of Scottish football


By a Newsnet reporter

The demise of Rangers hasn’t quite sunk in yet, not if the Scottish media is to be believed – apparently it is they who are still going strong and Scottish football that is on life support.

The Glasgow giant ceased to exist as an entity several weeks ago, yet reading the columns of several Scottish newspapers and listening to the multitude of pundits on the TV and radio, one could be forgiven for thinking that Rangers are still alive and breathing.

Moves are afoot to bring back a Frankenstein resurrection of the former Glasgow giant – shoehorned into the SFL’s First Division.  “Bullied, railroaded and lied to” was how one chairman of a ‘diddy’ team described the machinations. 

Juribrox park will soon see the return of tyrangerssaurus rex, the once extinct beast who will shortly roam the football grounds of Scotland devouring the diddy teams.

The revelations that the ‘Board of Management of The Scottish Football League’ will grant Rangers a passage into SFL Division One as soon as the board accept that changes are “in the best interests of the game, how it is structured, how it is governed and how it is financed” is as clear an indication that things are about to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible.

Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton caused quite a stir with his forthright views immediately after a meeting last week between SFL club representatives and those of the SPL.  “What kind of game are we running here? It is corrupt,” said Mr Hutton.

When SFA Chief Stewart Regan issued what looked like an implied threat, after the newco had been refused entry to the SPL, saying that the situation would lead to “social unrest”, one wondered if corruption was the worst accusation that could be levelled against Scotland’s football authorities.

Irresponsible is another word that comes to mind to describe Regan’s poor choice of words.  He should consider himself lucky he didn’t issue his “social unrest” comment at the height of the London riots.

Mr Regan had obviously forgotten that accident and emergency wards, in Glasgow especially, are already experiencing the symptoms of the ‘social unrest’ that accompanies the so called ‘best football match in the world’, namely the Old Firm derby.  There is also the all too frequent attacks resulting from this ‘rivarly’.

And let’s acknowledge that although unsavoury ‘sectarian’ elements exist within the fan base of both clubs, that Rangers have a considerably greater problem to address than that of their East End rivals, Celtic.

The predictions of Biblical catastrophe that would descend on Scottish football should both the Old Firm clubs not simultaneously feature in the top flight for several years is nonsense of course.  The carrot of TV money was turned into a stick years ago and football in Scotland has suffered as a result.

Unpredictable kick off times, rendering travel from places like Aberdeen and Inverness, to the Central Belt, impractical is killing the game.

Fans who would otherwise have taken their sons to matches find that the TV set, now increasingly dominated with images from the English Premiership, is the only way to access football.

The result of course is that as the fan base shrinks then the TV money becomes ever more important.  It is a vicious circle.  TV cash has become the class-A drug and clubs need the fix in order to maintain any semblance of survival.

Sir David Murray’s pursuit of European glory was the overdose that destroyed Rangers.  Rangers fans, more than most, have enjoyed unnatural highs due to what Neil Lennon termed “financial doping”.  As with all addicts the come down was always going to be bad.

However, faced with the stark reality that the SPL model, with its reliance on two fattened big beasts, and its worship of the SKY god, was flawed, the reaction from the Scottish media beggars belief.

They seem hell bent on ensuring the self-same model remains in place.  You cannot survive without the Old Firm, is the mantra.

Journalists like Jim Traynor shouting loudest and enjoying the amplification of BBC Scotland, tell all that Scottish football will crumble if a new Rangers is forced to re-enter the league ladder on the bottom rung. 

Last night Mr Traynor (again given a platform by the BBC) claimed that an un-named club chairman, whose season tickets had been boosted by his vote against newco-Rangers, said that the club would go out of business as a result.

The truth is that it isn’t Scottish football that will suffer, but journalists like the aforementioned Mr Traynor who have built a career building, hyping and exaggerating the Old Firm rivalry to such an extent that it eclipsed almost every other aspect of the game north of the Border.

Remove Rangers from the top flight for three seasons and you remove the reason for many people to buy newspapers like Mr Traynor’s Daily Record.  With the Herald also trying to re-build its readership base using a similar Old Firm rivalry model, then you begin to see just why there is so much support for a newly created replacement for Rangers to re-enter the top flight as soon as possible.

Scottish football deserves better than this.  The opportunity for change that this situation has presented should be embraced.

Let’s wean clubs away from the paltry funding offered up by SKY and return the game to the communities it is there to serve.  Scottish football in its present state is not a product that many outwith Scotland want to watch.

The big attraction was always the unsavoury rivalry of the Old Firm and the unfortunate baggage that turned the encounter into a grotesque and ugly spectacle.  The very journalists now bleating about the demise of one of the two ‘giants’ are part of the same media machine that fostered the bitterness.

So, let natural justice take its course and let the new Rangers start next season in Division Three.  Let’s also remove the straitjacket imposed by TV and return to Saturday 3pm kick-off times.

Let’s also return to the community oriented model that uses the 3pm game as a centre-point for an afternoon of entertainment that will have families wanting to attend.  We need imagination and creativity to ensure fans return to watch their teams instead of sitting in front of the TV being force fed a diet of alternating Rangers and Celtic games.

Let’s put this nonsense, that Scottish football cannot survive – without Rangers and Celtic together in the top flight – to bed once and for all.  There will be a short term financial penalty, no question, but long term the prognosis is a healthy one.

The only people who will suffer from a return to a more community led, natural competition based league structure are the people who rely on Rangers and Celtic, and that isn’t other clubs – it’s the assorted journalists, pundits and pontificators who are currently predicting doom and gloom.

One final thought before the vote next Friday.  As with all ‘cunning plans’ there may just be a fly in the ointment, this from the FIFA rules (page 64).