Could Rangers make a virtue of their moral and financial crisis?

Yep, £170 million. That’s a shocking figure to rack up. It hardly helps the club’s case for decent handling that the last owner of the club takes such a cavalier attitude to the club’s predicament.

His remarks came in response to the latest directive from the SFA that they cannot sign any new players for another 12 months. The comments of the club’s administrator Paul Clark is worth quoting at length:

“All of us working on behalf of the Vlub are utterly shocked and dismayed by the draconian sanctions imposed on Rangers in respect of these charges.

“It appears that on one hand the disciplinary panel accepted our central argument that responsibility for bringing the Club into disrepute lay with the actions of one individual – Craig Whyte – as is evident from the unprecedented punishment meted out to him.

“It is difficult to comprehend that the disciplinary panel has seen fit to effectively punish the Club even more heavily than Mr Whyte. As everyone knows, it has already been decided he is not a fit and proper person to run a football club and any further punishment on him will have little or no impact.

“However, for Rangers, a ban on signing players will seriously undermine the Club’s efforts to rebuild after being rendered insolvent.”

“Furthermore, we do not know how bidders for the Club will react to these sanctions and what affect they will have on their proposals.”

Indeed. Mr Clark is going to need a backer with the depth of pockets of the sovereign fund of an oil rich Arab state (how’s Man City working out for you then Abu Dhabi?) to soak up a black hole of those proportions.

Rangers is probably the most extreme of all such cases, but bankruptcy is increasingly common in both the English and Scottish leagues.

Des Cahill on RTE this morning made an acute observation on all of this. “You can’t allow clubs to be so reckless. But do they want no league at the end of it? And later, “It’s all about the big clubs. The money comes from the Champion’s League tonight and they no longer care about the smaller clubs”.

If you count the fan numbers, Rangers is a big club. And whatever happens here, they will remain big if only by that count. But, as argued here previously, the fan’s contribution to a club’s financial success or failure is minimal these days.

As for Rangers, the punishment is unlikely to be over yet. Douglas Cameron with a fan’s eye view:

For McCoist the top six would be the aim with the absolute maximum that could be achieved fourth place. I think he may be optimistic if a business and assets deal is done and we have a 10 point penalty for two seasons and are only permitted 25% of SPL revenue for three seasons. Since we can’t play in Europe for the next three seasons you can question how much this actually punishes Rangers.

We certainly won’t win the league with a diminished squad and a 10 point penalty. The interesting question would be what happens in the third season? At that time there is no points deduction and you would be looking to at least win a return to Europe. Is that though realistic with the players we would have?

The alternative punishment proposed by most non-Rangers fans would be Rangers playing in the SFL3 next season. (95% plus were quoted as favouring this in an online survey) If Rangers were to win consecutive promotions then is it unrealistic to think we could gain European entry as a First Division club by winning the Scottish Cup? Back in the SPL and back in Europe after three years?

Rather than die of a thousand cuts, Douglas reckons the club (pending the necessary re-structuring) should take matters into their own hands:

The more i think about it the more I think that we should announce our intention to resign from the SPL with effect from the last day of this season. We will go through whatever restructuring of the corporate company is required to save the club. We also announce our intention to apply for membership of SFL3 with effect from the first day of next season. The football implications of a business and assets deal are the only impediment I see to pushing ahead with this option. Perhaps rather than fear the punishment we should embrace it. In the eyes of the rest of Scottish football we would accept our punishment.

Any calls for further punishments would rightly be dismissed as vindictive. For Rangers’ support there is the prospect of delivering a financial blow to those currently preaching “sporting integrity” while really just seeking to protect their own bottom line. As a pure act of defiance I would imagine Ibrox would regularly have 30,000 provided realistically priced. With a reduced wage structure the club would be able to rebuild properly off the park while giving itself the full benefit of the talent being produced on it.

And as an aside, towards the end, he remarks, “I really fear that if still in the SPL the demand to remain competitive would stifle attempts to live within our means.” Well, it’s a bit of an ask within a sport where money and success have become symbiotic. The days of a club the size of Notts Forest picking up a European Cup (x2) purely on the basis of footballing talent are long gone.

And the “it-will-do-us-good-to-get-relegated” meme is something many fans of big English clubs have happily told themselves only to find the journey back a lot more problematic than they thought. As I well recall, Manchester City in the old Third Division was a cup final for every hole-in-the-hedge club in England. Whither Rovers, Wednesday, Leeds or Southampton?

In Rangers’ favour, there is no successor candidate club likely to replace them in their absence. Yet even after a future re-entry into the SPL it could take years to catch up financially with the only European horse in what would by then be a one horse town of Scottish soccer, Celtic Football Club.

It’s a bold and morally attractive idea. But as even Douglas admits, the real bugbear may be the length of time it takes to a square businenss deal that allows the club to plan strategically ahead once more…

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