A Permanent Embarrassment And An Occasional Disgrace
30/05/2012 5,597 Comments
The late, great Ian Archer wrote the famous words in the title above for an article in The Glasgow Herald in October 1976. Rangers supporters had just rioted in Birmingham following a friendly with Aston Villa. Back then, football clubs generally were shamed by the actions of fans. I doubt that Archer could ever have imagined the scale of boardroom malfeasance that now surrounds Rangers. The revelations of how the club funded its success in recent years make a mockery of our game as a fair sport. The damage done goes far beyond mere trophies. Almost every other club tried to keep pace with Rangers by throwing fortunes at often second-rate foreign players while ignoring the need to develop domestic talent.
When making claims about the damage created by Rangers previously, some accused me of exaggeration. Yet after yesterday’s events- including the court drama that overturned the club’s 12-month signing ban- few observers could avoid drawing the conclusion that Rangers are now simply a disaster for the Scottish game.
Sporting integrity has been shredded. Speaking of which- have Rangers complied with the SPL’s demands for access to the commercial documents regarding the ‘unofficial payments’ issue yet? If not- why not? There comes a point where you have to start wondering what documents were destroyed by those “Shred It” machines for which the club has not yet paid.
Scottish football creditors will get almost nothing in the proposed CVA. In the choice of paying football creditors to limit punishment from the SFA & SPL versus the certainty of HMRC refusing to sign off on the deal, Duff & Phelps have chosen to screw the clubs who sold players to Rangers the past year or so. They will never get the money they were promised. (More on the HMRC’s conditions for a CVA later).
All manner of underhand methods appear to have been a routine part of putting in a shift at the top of the marble staircase for at least a decade.
And now, just when things seemed as if they could not get much worse, Rangers have invoked the threat of mutually assured destruction for the SFA & SPL. As has been well documented elsewhere, going to court to get the SFA’s 12-month registration ban thrown-out places all of Scottish football in jeopardy. FIFA and UEFA will not take this lying down.
In all of this pandemonium, there has not been anything vaguely like an apology from the club or the individuals responsible for leading our game to the precipice. There has been nothing except snarling arrogance plus a stream of veiled threats and intimidation from people who should really know better.
Throughout this entire saga, I have not wanted Rangers expelled from Scottish football. I did not think that it was even remotely possible and I would have questioned whether it would have been in the best interests of the game. I did want an acknowledgement of what happened. I did want meaningful punishment. However, there comes a point where enough is enough.
Is the SPL such a roaring financial success that its current formula must be preserved at all costs? No. Is it possible that with the dead-weight of Rangers’ boots lifted from the Scottish game that attendances at many other clubs will rise along with their fans’ hopes of actually winning something? Absolutely.
Those who argue that Scottish football cannot succeed without Rangers have failed to quantify this fear-mongering. Yet posters on blogs like this one have demonstrated- in numerical detail- just how few additional home fans need to start attending at most clubs to wipe out the benefit of Rangers’ away support. The TV deal? It is not as if it delivers fabulous riches to any club as it stands. Clubs can trim costs (as they should) and would survive fine in the short-term. In the medium and long-run, there is every reason to believe that Scottish football would be revitalised. The last time Rangers were in “crisis”, Scottish football thrived- with Aberdeen and Dundee United regularly sharing the spoils, financial as well as sporting, with Celtic during the early and mid-1980s.
There comes a time when Scottish football must act to prevent further damage. In doing so, it has a chance of making the stain of embarrassment less permanent. Of the options available, a one year ban from all competitions would seem to be a starting point for considering apt punishment. The next penalty down the list of official sanctions- exclusion from the Scottish Cup- would be far too lenient for a club that appears to have completed the entire 2011/12 season without paying any PAYE or NIC. Other clubs had to cut costs and make tough decisions to get through the year. Other clubs had to take roughly half of their staff budget and hand it over to HMRC. Even in administration, Rangers got to avoid cutting their playing squad by screwing the British taxpayer over yet again. Allow them off with a wrist-slap and many fans will just see Scottish football as a form of professional wrestling with Rangers FC as the scripted winner.