Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

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

Tue 24 April 2012, 10:05am

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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Comments (28)

  1. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    To say I have no fondness for Rangers is akin to saying Dianne Abbot has no fondness for the black & white minstrels but I heard the latest news this morning and I got a sense that there is spite (against RFC) involved here. I had the same feeling some months ago but that’s all it is, a feeling.

    I can’t see the motivation for this coming from the SFA not a fek’n mission) or other forces within Scottish soccer but would hazzard a guess at political motives being afoot

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  2. rabthecam71 (profile) says:

    Mick:Your statement is the most honest I have read since 14th Febuary.
    Clear and honest.

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  3. Dec (profile) says:

    ‘We will go through whatever restructuring of the corporate company is required to save the club.’

    Presumably longhand for squirming out of repaying the millions of pounds they swindled off the tax-payer. And we’re supposed to feel sorry for this lot?

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  4. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Erm, Dec, where exactly was I looking for sympathy?

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  5. Pat Mc Larnon (profile) says:

    Paul Clark stated,

    “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.”

    Conveniently ignoring the fact that Rangers were abusing the EBT loophole as far back as 1998 and continued to do so until quite recently. Clark can hardly stick that one soley on Whyte.

    One can only wonder at the lack of action by Celtic in this whole affair. Surely they should testing the water with legal action to ascertain whether those trophies that Rangers achieved by means of financial doping should be set aside?

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Well, considering Whyte chose the administrator before HMCR got a chance to, I think we might read into this the distance that has been travelled between the two in a very short time indeed.

    As for Celtic not looking to claim almost every domestic trophy they haven’t won over the 12/14 years, I would say that might come down to taking some care not to completely blow the Old Firm gaffe?

    ‘Financial doping’, how are ya?

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  7. PaulT (profile) says:

    I think £170 million is the worst possible, the HMRC cases are still been considered.

    A big omission in this blog is the value of Ranger’s assets, £100 mill on paper, prob 40-50 mill in reality, as this 40-50 mill would be repaid if the club was broke up and deal to keep it alive has to offer at least that amount back.

    Several bidders have had a look, those still in the process seem worryingly reluctance to even handover the 500,000 fee to move forward.

    A big hole in the arguement above is 1) thinking 30,000 fans would show up to watch even a league one side let alone a lower league. 2) Those leagues don’t have the infrastructure to host those crowds.

    An other elephant in the room is the fact that two other clubs are on the brink because they have’t been paid by Rangers, there’s no fat in Scottish football. Even without the wage bill its unlikely they could afford to run Ibrox without keeping the fanbase at currant levels.

    More cracks are appearing that are more disturbing, thought the lad Lafferty would have got a mention on this blog being Northern Irish and the latest to go.

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  8. Dec (profile) says:

    Mick

    I was referring to Douglas’s tract.It’s not often you see 20 year tax evaders proposing their own punishment and announcing that further sanction beyond that would be ‘vindictive’. Rangers deserve all the sympathy they displayed towards the now defunct Airdrieonians F.C. over a £30000 debt.

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  9. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    I’ve just heard on the radio that Rangers fans think the SFA have it in for the club. That’s insanity given that it is not in the SFA’s interest to lose one of their biggest money earners.

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  10. Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    There is this interesting thing in football supporting, isn’t there, about supporting a small / struggling club being more morally worthy than supporting a big one. It’s because, I think, football support is first and foremost about loyalty, which is only tested when your club hits hard times. If you haven’t been through it, you’re not a real fan (As a Utd fan I get a lot of this from people who don’t realise my team got relegated the second season I supported them (73-74) and didn’t come close to winning the title in my first 20 years as a fan.)

    Much to the amusement of my English friends during recent golden years for both clubs, I’m also a Rangers supporter. But I never really enjoyed the glory that much. I didn’t really kick in with Rangers till I about 1979, by which time Celtic were ruling the roost in Scotland, Rangers were in free-fall. I saw myself as backing the underdog both in England and Scotland (and I didn’t even get the Protestant / Catholic thing at that age – my Dad even favoured Celtic).

    Which autobiographical ramble goes to explain why part of me would actually quite like it if the Gers went down a division or two. There’s something exciting and energising about crawling your way back up from disaster. Years of high living (in Scottish football terms – so kind of like haggis with truffle oil) erodes your sense of excitement and edge when the club achieves something. Perhaps for Rangers, there is chance of reconnection and reinvigoration.

    It’s a great opportunity too to reform the club more radically and rebuild it as the club most fans want – that is, one that is proud of its heritage but expresses it positively and has zero tolerance for sectarianism. I do think Rangers and Celtic have more potential than any other institutions in Scotland or NI to change attitudes towards sectarianism. The clubs have been saying the right things for years, but I’ve not seen all the fans taking heed. This period of change for the Gers is an opportunity for the club to really make a new start and tell the more knuckle-dragging of my fellow Bluenoses they need to shape up. In every crisis there is an opportunity.

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  11. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Denis Law’s excellent back heel? City never saw light much again after that momentous occasion…

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  12. john (profile) says:

    Its only fair that Rangers if not saved by a sugar daddy reform under a new co and start in the lowest league and not the SPL which will inevitably happen. Third Lanark or Clydebank were not given special treatment nor Gretna so why should Rangers be any different. As noted earlier its probably the best thing that could happen so they can re-structure properly and with their fan base they will bounce back a few years later. I dont remember the same save Celtic campaign back in the mid nineties when Celtic were hours from going bust. Fergus MCCann bailed them out at his own expense. There is a big difference with McCann and the guys sniffing around Rangers. McCann had the money and loved the club.From what I see Miller and NG want to make a quick buck.Murray and his blue knights are obviously fans but not such big fans to lose loads of money in the venture. Kennedy is the only genuine guy his problem is it is financilly out of reach for him and he is only chancing his arm with offers – fact is he simply cant afford it!!!

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  13. Canisp (profile) says:

    There is indeed much vindictiveness apparent in the recent SFA punishments – Motherwell were in administration in the early 2000s for a full 2 years, without a peep from the SFA or SPL about fit and proper personage (indeed the same man was owner/chairman post-admin), transfer embargos and not a single point deducted (that rule came later). More recently, Gretna were given a loan from the SPL to ensure they completed their fixtures in the 2008 season.

    With that background of previous positive assistance for troubled clubs, it’s quite a trick for the Scottish football establishment to manage to sit so firmly on their hands (at best) while simultaneously giggling up their sleeves at Rangers’ plight.

    The aforementioned beaks had should be careful they don’t cut off their nose to spite their face though. Sky/ESPN have a get-out clause from their new SPL TV contract unless both Rangers & Celtic are involved (who wants to watch a one-horse race? It’s bad enough with two), and the smaller clubs are much more dependent on TV money than Rangers & Celtic, despite the unequal carveup (it’s probably 20-30% of the income of a club like Inverness or Dunfermline). Hearts & Kilmarnock may well be next into admin without TV money. Added to that, the league has no sponsor after next season, and you begin to wonder quite what the SFA/SPL will be presiding over if the justifiable anger the more atavististic amongst the Rangers support feel is given full expression and the club starts again in the SFL 3rd Div (or indeed, the English football pyramid?)

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  14. Canisp (profile) says:

    I seem to have invented an new word in the final sentence of the above post. Should read atavistic.

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  15. redhugh78 (profile) says:

    It seems the penny still has to drop with alot of people re the situation rangers are in. All this talk of ‘the club’ and ‘re-structuring’. The stark reality is the ‘the club’ is going into liquidation, of that I have no doubt.

    Whatever entity arises from the ashes of rangers it will not be Rangers Football Club 1872. The chickens are coming home to roost for years of tax evasion and unfair financial advantages.

    p.s Mick, might I suggest a modification to the crest you have at the top of your piece, it was one the Scottish media were keen to use when Celtic were in financial diffs and several times since but unsurprisingly are some what reluctant to use for Scotland’s establishment club http://i35.tinypic.com/23lmrls.jpg

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  16. Ulick (profile) says:

    From Alex Thomson’s latest blog:

    http://bit.ly/HYCxF0

    “Under pressure from Holyrood. In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, it was Mr Regan who said he’d told the Scottish government to get its tanks off the SFA lawn in no uncertain terms and allow it to govern Scottish football, and not interfering politicians whose actions have been well documented by this programme in recent weeks.

    Under pressure too from Uefa. We are told if there is one thing Michel Platini – the Uefa boss – really cares about, it is Financial Fair Play. Very much his project, so far as we can judge. The SFA HQ at Hampden Park knows it is being watched carefully by Uefa, as are Rangers FC in particular, as well they might be. Their imperative to act and seen to be acting, underlined then from Edinburgh and Switzerland.

    Pressure too from within these islands but outside Scotland. For too long, to many it appears that the cosy old-boys’ networking and structure between the biggest clubs and the Scottish Premier League, on the one hand, and the Scottish FA on the other, has been allowed to go on unchecked and unremarked upon.”

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  17. john (profile) says:

    canisp you seem to think Gretna have been treated well in comparison to Rangers. Lets be honest what does it matter if Rangers completed the season or not they cant win and they wont be allowed in Europe next year so its all for nothing. Unlike Gretna who reformed and started at the bottom of the pile I will be amazed if Rangers 2012 or whatever they will be called are not voted back into the SPL straight away – how fair is that! As for Motherwell being in administration for 2 years by the looks of it Rangers have been in admin for 10 its just no-one bothered to do the sums until now. The SFA may well have been able to give Rangers a little loan if it was a couple of million but 170 and counting – they need another Abramovich and not the little men who have come forward. None of them have the money or are prepared to risk the money needed so why is this saga still going on when we all know it can only end in liquidation!!

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  18. articles (profile) says:

    Surely this is a potential investment for NI PLC. Buy the Gers lock stock and barrel and transport them to Belfast while remaining in the SPL. Guaranteed entry into Europe each year with attractive cosmopolitan home games, guaranteed 50,000 at each match (OK maybe 40,000 locked outside the ground), guaranteed tourist footfall increase; all in all leaving the local teams to play their matches every second week when the Rangers are playing away.

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  19. lover not a fighter (profile) says:

    If a country was being run properly would the carry-on that has been going on at many football clubsbe allowed.

    Its not surprising that the banks use goverments as muppets when the so called business that run football clubs actually run financial riot.

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  20. DT123 (profile) says:

    The irony of the whole debacle being that if Rangers are no longer in the SPL ,Celtic will lose god knows what percentage of their income and will be all the weaker for it.Their salivating fans should be very careful what they wish for.

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  21. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    The current honours record puts Rangers at 54 league championships, Celtic at 43.

    If Rangers were to be stripped of all their honours post-1998, with all their championships and cups going to the runners-up, it would reduce Rangers to 47 championships. Celtic would increase to 50, and their recent league victory would have been their fifteenth in a row – coming hard on the heels of Rangers’ nine-in-a-row of ’89-’97.

    Honestly, for all that sectarianism in Scottish football is decried, is there really any other reason anyone would be interested in it? Outside of the two Glasgow giants, there’s no real competitive spark to speak of, and God knows the football isn’t much to look at.

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  22. andnowwhat (profile) black spot says:

    Judging by today’s statement on 5Live, Mc Coist is resigned to going way down in to the lower leagues. To quote Andrew Neill today, this doesn’t pass the smell test

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  23. Mike the First (profile) says:

    redhugh78

    “Whatever entity arises from the ashes of rangers it will not be Rangers Football Club 1872.”

    There’s some logic in that. Closer to home, would you apply the same to Derry City and to Coleraine?

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  24. Billy Pilgrim (profile) says:

    Mike the First

    ‘…would you apply the same to Derry City and to Coleraine?’

    Technically, yes. In the real world, no. I doubt anyone other than a few accountants and taxmen regard either of those clubs as anything other than the same as they’ve always been.

    I think I’m right in saying that the full, official name of the club is ‘Rangers Football Club.’ No doubt it will be replaced by a new club going by a name like, say, ‘Glasgow Rangers Football Club,’ who will play at Ibrox and, I daresay, in blue. And no-one but accountants and taxmen will regard the new club as anything other than the old club.

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  25. The SFA, FIFA, UEFA and Rothman’s Football yearbook will give a threadbare look to the Rangers history though

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  26. Dec (profile) says:

    ‘Judging by today’s statement on 5Live, Mc Coist is resigned to going way down in to the lower leagues.’

    Which will be still several divisions above his now-tattered reputation following his comments yesterday.

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  27. Mark (profile) says:

    McCoist should know the difference between a BBC Question of Sport studio and a serious interview setting about a serious subject at this stage in his career?

    .Last year was the whisper that nearly had a city at it eachothers throats ( I know ) and then yesterdays call to arms .

    What is it with Scottish managers ( barring you know who ) ? Dalglish was a car crash PR disaster during the Suarez embarrassment and now McCoist .

    I can remember himself and Grantie and Durrantie and his auntie at an old firm game in the posh seats at the sideline and the celebrations after a Rangers lucky goal was boarderline Combat 18 ( Andy Goran was there as well I should add ).

    .He should know better and he’s lucky it didn’t all end in tears if one of the SFA members ……… .

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  28. Noticed that McCoist wasn’t recorded as asking why Rangers fans didn’t get the names of those around Whyte who droppoed their club in the mess they’re in. Very selective.

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