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Wings Over Scotland

No-one here gets out alive

Posted on June 20, 2012 by

We don’t even like the Doors, but we’re going to reference them twice in the first 30 words: this really is The End for Rangers FC. We’ve passed the evening absorbing and analysing the most recent developments in the saga, and as far as we can see they’re the last straw – there is now simply no remaining way back for the Ibrox club.

Tens of thousands of words have been written on the subject in newspapers and online this week alone, and tens of thousands more are going to follow, so we’ll make this as concise as humanly possible. These are the obstacles in the way of The (New) Rangers Football Club participating in Scottish football in season 2012-13 and beyond:

The deadline for Rangers to appeal the Court of Session’s decision on the disrepute case expired today. The Tribunal will now be convened, we suspect as quickly as possible, in order to determine the replacement punishment. The options are well known, and it seems highly likely that at a minimum the club’s membership of the SFA will be suspended for a season.

However, purely for the sake of argument and to stop the feature ending right here, let’s instead imagine that they get off with the least severe conceivable sanction – a one-year suspension from the Scottish Cup.

On July 4th, the 12 members of the Scottish Premier League (including Old Rangers) will meet to discuss New Rangers’ application to join. The consensus of opinion seems to be leaning more firmly with every passing day towards the conclusion that that application will be rejected, with Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee United, Hibs and either Motherwell or St Mirren (or both) voting against, on pain of seeing their own supporters walk away in thousands.

But once again, let’s give New Rangers the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say the other SPL clubs have a massive rush of cowardice to the head and vote to let them in, but with hefty conditions attached – a change in voting rights, a points penalty and a large deduction from sponsorship money for several years, to be used to pay back the clubs they owe money to.

Here’s the big one. The SFA has stated that should Rangers be admitted to either the SPL or SFL the new club will be held liable for the sins of the old, and the dual-contracts case will be heard between July 4th and the start of the new season. BBC Scotland’s documentary “The Men Who Sold The Jerseys” doesn’t seem to leave much room for doubt as to the outcome of the case, and should Rangers be found guilty it’s absurd to imagine that anything less than crushing punishment could result – we are, after all, talking about systematic deliberate Europe-wide cheating over a period measured in decades.

But yet again, just for shigs and gittles let’s somehow convince ourselves that they get away with that too. Let’s paint a picture where either the SFA fudges its findings, or hands down a sentence that somehow stops short of outright expulsion (maybe a transfer ban, permissible this time, or suspension from the League Cup too) and allow the zombie club to stagger on. What then?

The situation that New Rangers FC – and in particular its owner Charles Green – would find itself in would be an unimaginably dire one. With the Walter Smith consortium out of the picture, the chances of securing the wholehearted backing of the Ibrox club’s supporters would seem to be complete pie in the sky. So immediately Green would face a huge gap in his finances from the lack of season-ticket money.

UEFA rules bar the club from European competition for at least three years, so that potential revenue stream is blocked off. In our scenario they’re banned from both domestic cups too, so there’s no cash to be had there. Either the half-decent players will have all left as free agents when Smith disappeared over the horizon, (immediately removing millions of pounds of assets from the newco) or they’ll have stayed and be on the same crippling wages as before, which is a lose-lose situation for Green.

Let’s not forget: Rangers got into this mess in the first place because they couldn’t turn a profit even WITH European and cup competition, WITH a stadium packed to capacity with season-ticket holders every week, WITH the lion’s share of TV revenue and WITHOUT paying their taxes. Rangers’ operating costs are vast, and Duff & Phelps didn’t reduce them by a penny during the months of administration, because the only significant way to do so would have been to make players redundant, thereby substantially reducing the value of the business at a time when they were (ostensibly) trying to persuade people to buy it and keep it alive through a CVA.

(The issue of whether D&P did in fact discharge their responsibilites as administrators in good faith will have to wait for another day. One could argue that retaining the players was the cynical but smart thing to do, knowing that the cost of paying them for months – at full salary for most of the time – would ultimately be paid by creditors when the CVA failed, as it was all but certain to do.)

There’s no way of filling the black hole – Green will have nothing coming in from Europe or cups, and in our best-case (for Rangers) scenario much of any sponsorship/league placing money will be going to pay off their football creditors under the terms of their readmission to the Scottish game. (And of course, they might also be playing in SFL Division 3 – reducing gate receipts dramatically – or not playing at all for a season or more, causing further financial chaos.) They’ll have almost all of the costs that Old Rangers did, with a fraction of the income.

In short, The (New) Rangers Football Club will be an absolute economic basket case. It’ll be losing money hand over fist, with no prospect of that situation improving for years to come. That’s not what Green or his investors (such as they are) signed up for. There’s nothing for them in continuing to run the football club – none of them are Rangers fans, remember – except the chance to throw their money down a giant bottomless pit, which they don’t fancy. There’s only one thing they can do.

With no buyer on the horizon likely to want this radioactive chalice, Green’s only rational option is to shut the club down all over again and sell off the physical assets to anyone who’ll take them. As we’ve already examined, the real estate and any remaining players should fetch more than enough money to recoup Green’s investment and get him out with some sort of profit. And here’s the killer – even if they don’t, they’ll lose him a lot less money than continuing to run a football club he doesn’t want will. It’s better to gamble and lose a little than to keep chucking good money after bad.

(The last straw Rangers fans are probably clinging to is the notion that the Smith consortium’s withdrawal is a risky negotiating gambit, made in the hope that the club will survive the Gauntlet Of Doom and Green will then snatch their hands off to get rid of it at a knockdown price. But why would he, when he can get more money from a fire-sale? And why would they want a club in such a catastrophic state anyway? If they want to rebuild their beloved Rangers at any cost, which will mean pumping tens of millions of pounds into it over the next few years, why haggle over a few measly million now? Jim McColl and Douglas Park are worth the thick end of a billion quid between them – they could offer Green £20m now out of their petty-cash tin, secure the playing staff before they scarper for free, and get on with it.)

All of this, you’ll recall, is predicated on the premise that Rangers can survive the three great trials we’ve listed above. (And several others we haven’t even touched on to try to keep things simple.) The chances of that, we’d suggest, are pretty close to zero anyway. But even if it happens, Charles Green will still find himself in a hideous hall of mirrors with only one exit. And as far as The (New) Rangers Football Club is concerned, that exit is through a trapdoor with a rope hanging above it.

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13 to “No-one here gets out alive”

  1. charlie

    all well and good, but the old phlegm always come out on top

    can’t get into the euros – too depressed about playing TRFC next year 😉

    i hope you’re right tho


  2. douglas clark

    Great bit of polemic.
    There is a way back for Glasgow Rangers.
    It is to down the route that Manchester United supporters followed when they didn’t like what was being done:

    I think that that is their only way forward.
    Else they will always be owned by money men and not fans.
    Frankly, all football should be run by fans, not money men who see a team as a mere extension, or replacement, for their libido.
    Can I just add this?
    It seems to me that Scottish football, especially Premier League Scottish Football, is at a crossroads.
    It will not prosper if cheats, nor the sons or daughters of cheats, are:
    1 – allowed to retain a history shown to have benefited from cheating, and
    2 – that a Phoenix club plays on in their name.
    Given that I am a pretty unattached fan these days, I just see this as a simple moral dillemma that could fall either way.

  3. Appleby

    Do you really think that the fans or boycotts will have any real impact? As far as I can see you can nip out a turd on a football fan’s cornflakes and he’ll still stump up for the tickets and overpriced shirts. It wouldn’t be a first for someone to show naked contempt for the fans and them still supporting the team financially.
    What do you think will happen assuming a total fire sale? Will there be a New Rangers formed to capitalise on the fanbase of the old?

  4. Seamus1967

    “The SFA has stated that should Rangers be admitted to either the SPL or SFL the new club will be held liable for the sins of the old”
    I do wonder if anyone has confirmed the legality of this with UEFA/FIFA.

  5. douglas clark

    Appleby @ 1:18am,
    Apparently supporters are not buying season tickets whilst this fiasco continues.

    I can, kind of, understand that attitude. It would be the one way for fans to pressurise the money men to do the right thing. The money men are forced into a cleft stick. Either they lose their existing fan base or they lose the income they get from playing Glasgow Rangers / the current SKY TV deal.

    Rev Stu had a post a while ago that suggested that, financially, Rangers are not quite the big deal for other clubs that they think they are.

    I don’t know what depth of feeling there is for this, but supporters the length and breadth of the land seem to be taking this seriously, if on-line opinion polls are anything to go by. Along with other, perhaps anecdotal, evidence that it really is happening.

    Whether the evidence stacks up to support this is perhaps moot at the moment, after all the claims of cheating are unproven at this moment in time. Perhaps Rangers EBT’s were indeed legal. We await the outcome of the appeal against HMRC’s opinion with bated breath.

    But the football governance arguement against them – that they weren’t declared to the governing body – appears to be beyond a rumour. Rangers have, apparently, a prima facie case to answer.

    Quite what that means for a Newco is however, debateable.

    My guess is that newco may well be admitted to Division Three. For one of the interesting things has been that the more light of day there has been on this story, the more the suits have changed their public utterances.

    It is on the basis of what they have said that I begin to believe that that is the likely outcome.

    This whole thing has been an education for most of us in insolvency law and we all probably know more about it now than we ever cared to.
    Lastly, what is, perhaps, fascinating about this whole story is that the anonymous RTC has won the Orwell Prize for revealing a lot of dirty linen than a lot of the rich and the famous would prefer to have seen remain well and truly hidden.

    It is, in my opinion, the shining light in a change in the how and the modus of journalsim. The press is on the back foot on this story and citizens are running with it. It seems to me that the genie is out of the bottle.

    If that is not, at the very least, interesting, then I don’t know what is.

  6. douglas clark

    Fanboy stuff for this site:

    I am a fan of an internet for good. You, dear reader, do not enjoy the dafter end of the spectrum of internet sites. You read here.

    That shows some positive discrimination, by you, in terms of taste and judgement.

    It seems to me that a huge amount of the internet is dreck.

    But, to paraphrase Robert Sheckley,
    “90% of science fiction is dreck. But so is 90% of everything else.”

    So, why are you here?

    Perhaps it is because this site is in the 10% that is not dreck, or perhaps you just struck lucky.

    I come into the latter category.

    To return to the question.

    Who are you, dear reader?

  7. Seasick Dave

    Obviously, with Rupert Murdoch being the owner of Sky, all right thinking Rangers fans will be returning their Sky dishes.

    I’m sure that Johann would be in full agreement.

  8. MajorBloodnok

    I wonder if Johann watches Sky – or would that be against her ‘princples’?

  9. Appleby

    Obviously the real question is how can Alex Salmond be blamed for this? There’s got to be at least one “SNP/Alex Accused” headline in all of this…

  10. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “I do wonder if anyone has confirmed the legality of this with UEFA/FIFA.”

    I did address that possibility in a previous piece:

    But the bottom line is that the SFA can impose pretty much whatever conditions it likes on a new member joining its organisation (not the same situation as punishing an existing one), and in any event it’s reasonably safe to assume that the SFA would clear any such deal with UEFA and FIFA in advance.

  11. Rev. Stuart Campbell

    “Do you really think that the fans or boycotts will have any real impact? As far as I can see you can nip out a turd on a football fan’s cornflakes and he’ll still stump up for the tickets and overpriced shirts. It wouldn’t be a first for someone to show naked contempt for the fans and them still supporting the team financially.”

    Quite a few undoubtedly will keep trudging through the turnstiles no matter what. But for a lot of long-suffering fans, I think we just found out where the line is drawn.

  12. RandomScot

    @douglas Clark. It was not Robert Sheckley but Theodore Sturgeoyou somewhat apropos for a Nat blog)

     I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud.[1] Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.

  13. Doug Daniel

    “Quite a few undoubtedly will keep trudging through the turnstiles no matter what. But for a lot of long-suffering fans, I think we just found out where the line is drawn.”

    I hope so, because football fans are the worst for making threats and then not following through with them. How many club chairmen have weathered mass protests by fans, safe in the knowledge that they’d come running back the next week?

    Most football fans are like junkies who, upon being told by their dealer that the price has gone up, stamp their feet and declare they’ll never come back, only to do exactly that five minutes later. The current situation calls for fans to finally grow a pair collectively.

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