When I woke this morning (Pacific time), the first thing I wanted to see was the result of the Scottish Premier League vote on whether or not to transfer the SPL certificate from the liquidated “Rangers Football Club plc” to the new corporate structure “The Rangers Football Club”. The new entity required yes votes from eight of the 12 SPL members (including the old Rangers Football Club plc). In the run in to the 4 July vote over the past two weeks, enough clubs had publicly stated that they would be voting no such that the newco’s bid to join / remain in the SPL appeared doomed.
Last night (PDT) both Radio 4 and Radio 5 were reporting noises indicating that several of the declared no votes were getting cold feet, and the vote would be deferred. As I argued elsewhere, it would be surprising if the other clubs in the league did not re-admit Rangers as the Rangers – Celtic rivalry is the financial engine of Scottish soccer. Lose Rangers, both the Sky and ESPN contracts for the SPL (and the concomitant trickling-down of pennies to the lower three divisions of the Scottish professional game) come into question.
Rangers ultimately failed: “At today’s General Meeting, SPL clubs today voted overwhelmingly to reject the application from Rangers newco to join the SPL.” 10 no votes, Kilmarnock abstained, and (old) Rangers voted yes. I’m surprised that Celtic voted no instead of abstaining, but there was no possible response from Celtic that wouldn’t open them to criticism from some quarter. Now Rangers have to apply for the Scottish Football League, comprising tiers two through four. They obviously want to qualify for the First Division. They would only require a majority, but at present 11 of the 30 clubs want them in the bottom tier.
This is all a bit bizarre to me. When Rover or Woolworths were liquidated, they were gone. Rangers ltd owe somewhere between £75 million and £130 million to various and sundry creditors, including Inland Revenue, but the newco was able to buy its most valuable assets, Ibrox, their training ground Murray Park, and the name, for £5.5 million (but not the players, who have lined up at Glasgow Airport destined for anywhere else) and theoretically continue on as if nothing had happened.
For a soccer club to go bust and vanish completely is not entirely rare. Gretna FC died in 2008 after one disastrous year in the SPL (and here is a list of defunct Scottish clubs). But this is obviously different. It would be more analogous if Ajax, Porto, or Anderlecht were liquidated out of their respective leagues rather than the non-existent financial and competitive loss incurred by the absence of Newport County FC in 1989, or the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Speaking as a Celtic supporter, it’s going to be a less interesting year (or three) in the domestic league, and the inevitable league championships that Celtic collect can’t possibly have the same meaning.