We were struck by a thought this morning. Between them, measured by average attendances, Rangers and Celtic between them command more support than the other 40 clubs in senior Scottish football put together. They pull in somewhere over 100,000 paying customers at a time to their home games, (and could probably attract considerably more had they the stadium capacity to accommodate them), while the other 10 SPL clubs struggle to get half that many combined.
It’s a massive dominance, and obviously is particularly the case in Glasgow, where the vast bulk of Scotland’s media is located. So it’s weird that offhand we can’t think of a single print or broadcast journalist anywhere in the entire Scottish media that admits* to supporting either one of them. If every writer in the country who claimed to support Queen Of The South or Albion Rovers actually turned up to either of those sides’ games at once, they’d pack their stadia to the rafters rather than having crowds you can count on fingers and toes.
The question arose in our minds when pondering a couple of pieces in today’s papers.
The first is a rather odd article in the Herald, penned by its chief football writer Michael Grant, demanding a voice for all the supporters in Scotland who back a Newco Rangers being admitted to the game at some level higher than SFL Division 3. We’re not sure who it is that’s preventing these people, should they exist, from speaking up at the moment – the anonymity of the internet would surely permit them to offer their views in safety – but Grant appears convinced that they must nevertheless lurk somewhere in the darkness, cowed into silence by the majority.
Weirder still, though, is a column from the Daily Record and BBC sports correspondent Jim Traynor. As recently as last Tuesday, Jim was penning a piece entitled “Sending newco into Division One isn’t justice and isn’t sporting integrity”, but today he seems to be having doubts, asserting that “If SPL & SFL kick Gers out of football they will kill our game“.
It’s a curious premise from the off – we’ve heard nothing to suggest that there’s any imminent prospect of Sevco 5088 FC being expelled from the Scottish game entirely, only that they might at worst be forced to start in SFL3 like any other new club entering the league. But the actual text of the feature is even stranger.
“By arguing and pressing for more severe punishments and demanding that Rangers newco be stripped of titles and trophies won in the EBT years by another business entirely, they are inflaming and prolonging an agonisingly painful and damaging period. Anyone who believes that stripping the old Rangers of baubles will help solve this meltdown should be ignored, pushed aside because we are way beyond bragging rights.
We, Scottish football, are on the brink of total collapse.
Those who are consumed by petty matters and the settling of old, ancient scores have made it harder to find the solution, the compromise agreement that’s badly needed. One day the truth about the subterfuge, deception, and downright spitefulness used to prolong this saga might be told but right now those who are trying to save what is left of the game need to be given space.”
This seems something of a straw-man argument – whether Oldco Rangers FC has its tainted honours from the last 10-20 years officially stripped or not is an issue we’ve seen no evidence of serious discussion about, certainly not at the administrative levels of the game, and it’s pretty irrelevant to the fate of the new club either way. If any team plays at Ibrox next season with the word “Rangers” anywhere in its name, its fans will consider it to be a continuation no matter what the record books say.
Next up, Mr Traynor offers us his view about what should happen – a view which appears to have been refined somewhat in the past six days:
“Another misguided step or irrational utterance and Scottish football will be in total free fall so tomorrow the SFL must do one of two things.
Either they decide to let Rangers newco – who already know they don’t have the support of enough SPL clubs to get the share that would let them begin again at the top – kick off in the First Division or the way is cleared for them to start in the bottom tier.
But research has shown the game will lose £16million if Rangers are dumped in the Third Division and frankly that would be too great a loss to an already impoverished business.”
Hang on a minute. “Research has shown”? Has it? Where can we read this “research”? As far as we’re aware the only source for that figure is an assertion in the laughable SFL reconstruction proposal, which is backed by no sort of evidence whatsoever. But in any event, what happened to “Sending newco into Division One isn’t justice and isn’t sporting integrity”, Jim? After all, you’ve apparently just called for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rangers to be admitted directly into Division 1 – the very thing you yourself decried as unjust less than a week ago.
At least we can take comfort in the fact that you’re taking a harsh pragmatic view of the financial realities and not trying to paint this shoddy compromise as “justice”, though. Can’t we?
“But here are a few questions those ‘just’ men should ask themselves as they file into their meeting rooms on Hampden’s sixth floor over the next couple of days:
Is losing all credibility, standing in the game, SFA licence, SPL share and being treated with the utmost contempt not punishment enough?
No. None of that, in fact, constitutes “punishment” at all. Rangers were already regarded with the utmost contempt by everyone other than Rangers fans, so there’s no loss there. It seems certain that they will regain their SFA licence, and the loss of the SPL share is a direct and inevitable consequence of the club that held it being liquidated due to its own fiscal incompetence, not a punishment levied by anyone.
“Then ask yourselves this:
Is going out of business, struggling to emerge as a newco without fan support and being banned from playing in Europe for three years and being branded pariahs not punishment enough?”
Clearly the answer is still no, because none of that is “punishment” either. Rangers went out of business solely as a result of its own actions, it was not put out of business by anyone else. Any lack of fan backing due to distaste for the new owner is entirely a matter between the new club and the old Rangers support. The club has NOT been “banned” from Europe – no new club in any country may participate in European competition until it’s been in existence for at least three years. Those are simply the rules of UEFA, not a “punishment” that anyone has handed down on Rangers. As for being “pariahs”, see above – that status is entirely self-inflicted, in both short-term and long-term senses.
“If the answer is still no then there is no justice.”
So anything short of being parachuted into Division 1 is now unjust? When a week ago, it was that very same outcome that “isn’t justice and isn’t sporting integrity”? We hope Mr Traynor will forgive our confusion.
Most Scottish fans – reluctantly – accept the likely prospect of Rangers being admitted into SFL3, although even that requires quite considerable compromise on the part of the football authorities (given that the newco does not fulfil the financial requirements for SFA membership) and preferential treatment over a number of existing clubs who HAVE played by the rules.
It stretches the bounds of credibility some way beyond breaking point, though, to insist that such an outcome to the circus of the last five months would somehow represent an unfair victimisation of an Ibrox side who have no right whatsoever under the rules to be playing professional football anywhere in Scotland this coming season.
If you’re out there, Jim, maybe you could let us in on what’s changed your mind.