Crisis-hit Glasgow Rangers ready for life in Scottish first division
GLASGOW Rangers’ opening league game of next season will be on August 11 at home to Dumbarton in the first division of the Scottish Football League, if major moves behind the scenes to resolve the Ibrox crisis are successful.
Informal but intensive talks involving several parties have taken place and will continue throughout the week.
The belief is growing that the single solution with a significant chance of achieving a consensus will be the readmission of Rangers to the Scottish Premier League as a newco - but with the sanction of immediate relegation because of past misdeeds. Several obstacles have yet to be negotiated for this outcome to prevail.
For a start, most chairmen of non-Old Firm clubs want a change in the voting structure of the SPL, from the current 11-1 majority required for key issues, such as distribution of TV revenue, to a 9-3 majority. Some hope that the consortium headed by Charles Green, which achieved control of Rangers last week, will agree to a pact on the voting process - which would leave Celtic as sole supporters of the 11-1 rule – before the general meeting of SPL clubs considers the application for admission by the Ibrox newco at Hampden Park on July 4.
However, if Rangers are relegated, Celtic would no longer have their Old Firm ally to veto any such proposal for change, which Dundee - last season’s first division runners-up and next in line for promotion - would support on their admission to the top league.
Meanwhile, the SPL has stated that charges, in respect of unregistered payments to players when Sir David Murray controlled Rangers, will be brought once the status of the club is clarified. While this raises the question of how far the new entity should continue to be punished for the sins of previous owners, it also allows chairmen of other SPL clubs - who are under pressure from their fans not to permit free access to a newco - to minimise the potential all-round damage by demoting Rangers and gambling on the assumption that the Ibrox club would regain their top-flight status within a year.
An additional and crucial calculation - that has yet to be verified by the broadcasters - is that the SPL’s TV contracts would not be affected materially if Rangers were to be absent for a single season, despite the loss of by far the biggest fixture on the schedule, the Old Firm derby, which guarantees substantial viewing figures four times a season. Telegraph Sport understands that if the broadcast contracts should be torn up, there will be an immediate move to set up a dedicated SPL TV channel.
A number of first division sources – whose club representatives met yesterday – have told Telegraph Sport that they want the SPL to compensate them for agreeing to accept Rangers into their ranks. “If Rangers play to their potential we are effectively competing in a dead championship for the next year,” one said last night.
The SPL’s response is likely to be that the presence of Rangers in the lower league would increase the other clubs’ revenue by up to £250,000 apiece, but the mood within the SFL is to play hardball on that issue.
As for Rangers, Green has previously stated that the best outcome would be simple admission to the SPL as a newco and he returned to the theme on Wednesday when he said, on his club’s online TV channel: “Look, we’ve always said that we bought the club because we want to play a team in Europe, we want to rebuild the image of this club, and everybody wants to play in the Premier League. Whether that can happen is out of my control. It’s in the hands of the other members of that league but my emails are blocked at the moment with fans thanking me for saving their club and making it very clear that Rangers fans will unite whether we play in the SPL, the First Division or Third Division.
“I know Rangers fans will not desert this club but it’s important, not just for Rangers but for the whole of Scottish football, because the financial implications for the whole of Scotland, not just for SPL clubs, is a massive, massive problem to face up to.
“There is no easy solution. It’s something we all have to deal with, we all have to take responsibility for and we all have to come up with something that works, not just for an individual club, but for the whole collective.”
Green added: “I think some of the views we see and some of the comments are not based on business and, of course, the criticism I regularly get burdened with is, for me, every decision is about business. It’s not about passion, it’s not about commitment to a cause. It’s purely about doing what is right financially because if there is no money - and that doesn’t just include Rangers FC, it includes the SFA, SPL and the old mantra of going right down to grassroots football, we go out of business.”
Green’s mention of the SFL third division was a reference to the publicly expressed belief among some Rangers fans that it would be better to start at the bottom of the league pyramid and work back to the SPL over three years - during which the newco is, in any event, banned from competing in Europe - in a self-imposed exile that would have the additional purpose of inflicting pain on top league clubs by depriving them of TV, sponsorship and corporate revenue.
That prospect is diminishing, Telegraph Sport has learned. One SFL chairman described the prospect of Rangers playing through Scottish football’s bottom tier, as “an invitation to carnage.” He added: “It raises too many questions about policing and resources and also a gross mismatch of resources. In fact, there is now a greater chance of the SFL refusing to allow Rangers admission if they are rejected as a newco by the SPL - so where will they play and who will they play against if that happens?”
More immediately, Green stated that he and Ally McCoist will meet the players on their return from holiday next week to discuss their status. It is his belief that their contracts shifted automatically to the newco, a view disputed by PFA Scotland.
“We, as a newco, started having discussions and, as far as we are concerned, all the contracts transferred under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment). They’ve also been having holidays and taking their families away so it has been more difficult with the playing staff than the non-playing staff.
“We’ve been speaking to the PFA though and to individual agents and, as the players come back next week, Alistair and I will be sitting down with them and explaining where we are.”
Also on Wednesday night, two Glasgow property developers - Alan Stewart and Steve McKenna - claimed to be preparing a bid worth £11 million for the club. The men are directors of a scaffolding firm in Glasgow but their business past includes an episode which will resonate in depressing fashion with fans. When matters were seemingly going well for them in property development – in 2007 - they claimed to have a turnover of £134 million a year and to have constructed 14,000 flats worldwide. Three years later their original company, Stewart & McKenna Ltd - which was founded in 2005 - was placed in the hands of liquidators, Buchanan Roxburgh, after being taken to court by HMRC over an unpaid tax bill of £78,000.