Home / Dave Brockington / Scottish Soccer and the Demise of Rangers

Scottish Soccer and the Demise of Rangers


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.

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  • Dave

    One less thing for bigots to get worked up about. So all to the good, really.

    • Furious Jorge

      They’ll find something. They always do.

  • amok92

    What keeps Celtic from jumping to the BPL? I’m sure there are plenty of things holding them back but it seems like something will have to be done within the next 2-4 years if they are to survive.

    • Sheetrock Bobby

      FIFA said that they would oppose such a move, although the only source I can find for that is from ten years ago, via Wikipedia.

      Although there have been rumors to that effect recently.

    • harebell

      The BPL doesn’t exist.
      FIFA aren’t the only ones who would resist either. The four home nations have a particularly powerful position in world football and have between them the same number of votes on the International Board as the rest of the world.
      Any attempts to blur the lines of division further than already occurs with respect to Welsh clubs playing in England, would result in a redrawing of the boundaries of power.
      That’s why there was such a stooshie over the UK team at the London Olympics. The UK does not have a representative team officially because the four nations that comprise the UK do.

    • Watusie

      1) There is no BPL.
      2) I assume you meant EPL. No one in the upper echelons of English football would ever approve a club parachuting into the top echelon. It is a massive injustice to the other clubs who dream of making it to the big time. This isn’t American sport where money alone gets you a seat at the grown-ups table. You’ve got to get there by winning.
      3) The conduct of the Celtic and the Rangers supporters is, at times, disgusting. And not only when they are facing each other. Yes, it is only a small minority etc. etc., but even so, English cities are not thrilled with the prospect of hosting them.

      • They’re referring to the Barclays Premier lLeague.

        • Watusie

          Oops, my bad. I thought B=British. I was not aware that anyone who was not contractually obligated to do so referred to it as the Barclays Premier League.

        • KadeKo

          Yes, Barclays…speaking of things which may not be around for the start of the next season.

          • That ought to be an interesting renaming derby.

  • Tybalt

    Dave, I have been repeatedly told via the BBC’s superb Scottish Football podcast that 23 of the 30 clubs must agree to allow Rangers to join the SFL. Presumably that would not happen unless they get Rangers in the division they desire. I still think as I have all along that Rangers will start in the Third.

    amok92, there isn’t any space in the Premier League to admit Rangers, and Rangers frankly wouldn’t survive there anyway (football-wise, as opposed to financially). Joining England’s Football League is a longer-term possibility but I think the Football League clubs would be disinclined to bring the extra problems that Rangers and Celtic bring with them (especially from a fan perspective) and while FIFA/UEFA tolerate (barely) the existence of a few Welsh clubs in the English leagues, they have tried to put the kibosh on any more joining.

    As a fan of a Football League club (Watford), I can’t imagine many developments less welcome than Rangers and Celtic joining the English pyramid. They bring nothing to the table but a host of problems – especially fan trouble, inevitably increased by Scotland’s (and Celtic’s, and Rangers’) inferiority complex. Without significant changes to the professionalism of management, they also wouldn’t be able to hack it in the Prem, meaning they’d be in the Championship.

    As a fan of Scottish football generally (Hamilton Accies in particular), it would probably be a very good development for the game there in the long term to be rid of Rangers and Celtic, but my preferred solution has always been simply to expel them the next time one of the long-running outrages recurs. Both clubs are essentially poison.

    I am hopeful that this process will purge Rangers, and provide them with new ownership (eventually, I hope, fan ownership) which would therefore have the guts and the tough love necessary to expel the rogue elements and begin to heal and eventually become a normal football club again. Hopeful, but not illusioned… it almost certainly won’t happen.

    • amok92

      Great points Tybalt but wouldn’t it be sad to see both of them gone someday especially Celtic? You don’t have to like the team or Scottish football at all to understand what a great story the Lisbon Lions were. And even if 1967 was a long time ago shouldn’t UEFA care a little about one of the few teams to win the Major European title, a feat that a bunch of supposedly “big teams” like Chelsea and Arsenal have never done?

    • harebell

      I’ve got to take issue with the slur against Scottish fans you made. During the 70s, 80s and 90s it wasn’t the Scots who were the violent hooligans it was the English and even the Welsh at the S Welsh derby.
      The Tartan Army since the early 80s have been welcomed where ever they went while S English fans were treated with suspicion and derision by host after host after host. Remember it wasn’t Scottish clubs that were banned from European competitions because of the atrocious behaviour of their fans at the Heysel.

      • Thlayli

        … it wasn’t the Scots who were the violent hooligans …



        You were saying…?

        • harebell

          read your link
          there was celebration on the field and the posts did get a bit of a doing but I’ve seen this at US college football games and it was described as wanton violence then.
          As for the night long riots leading to a cessation of the home championships 7 years later; well that’s a hell of a gestation period for folk to realise some rioting had occurred.
          There was drunken rowdiness that was on a scale similar to a normal London weekend when the capital’s teams were at home.
          The reason the championships were terminated was because England thought it was in a no win situation and demanded more money. When they were told to go away they sulked and went home with their ball.
          Wikipedia is not a good source.
          As for the old firm game in 1980, I do believe that there was no collateral damage as one group of neds confronted another group of neds. I’ve seen this and sometimes it is more entertaining than the match itself.

      • Tybalt

        While I could take issue with the specifics like Thlayi, in general this is a good point – Scottish fans have travelled to Europe much better than English ones over recent history. One might hope for the same of Scots coming down to England in the Prem or Championship. I’m not that sanguine and wouldn’t be keen to see them at Vicarage Road. Then you get to the point that Celtic and Rangers – fans, players, managers and administrators alike – behave abominably when they play each other. The English leagues don’t need that nonsense and would be well advised to keep shut of it.

        We certainly don’t need the big-time Charlie political antics that Celtic and Rangers commonly pull. Both clubs should leave their bullying north of the border. In the ideal world, they’d play each other 30 times a year and leave everyone else the hell alone.

        • contrast

          Or you could just omit Celtic from your initial observation and change “Scots” to “Ranger fans” and you would almost be right

          2003 80K Celtic supporters went to Seville for the UEFA Cup final and none were arrested. Celtic supports later win the the Fair Play for their conduct.

          2008 100K Rangers supporters went to Manchester for the UEFA Cup final and hundreds decide to riot.

      • Warren Terra

        It’s good to hear that the roving bands of randomly violent soccer hooligans are an English rather than a British problem, but you’ll have to admit that Glasgow is globally notorious for violence between fans of Celtic and of Rangers, and between fans of either and anyone they take to be sympathetic to the other side.

        • harebell

          but unless there is a religious angle to the fixture, most English clubs would have nothing to worry about, Watford especially.
          The Manchester teams as well as the two big Merseyside outfits were formed along much the same lines as the two Glasgow outfits, they just let the history fade. When Rangers went to Man U, they saw Celtic lite.
          History is a bitch especially when it is reinforced at every turn in life from workplace to the pub.

  • Warren Terra

    The price sounds ludicrously low for a brand name as famous as Rangers, let alone for that plus the stadium and other facilities. The idea that a reconstituted Rangers wouldn’t be permitted to resume playing football seems from my admitted position of thousands of miles and significant ignorance to have always been absurd – and so this isn’t just a respected brand name, it’s also a arable sports franchise in an established and successful league. The creditors probably should sue, and I’d not be surprised if there were a criminal fraud angle.

    That said, selling a famous brand name from an entity that has gone bankrupt and letting the new owner try to make a go of the enterprise is entirely normal and appropriate; the real question here is about the shockingly small amount of money paid to the creditors for what the new owners received.

    • Warren Terra

      Damn iOS. arable s/b valuable, and that’s an odd spellcheck result even for the execrable iOS, heir to Newton.

    • Bill Murray

      Rangers will be allowed to play football, the question is in regards at what level they will be allowed to start. Maybe the Highland Football League will take them.

      • Does Orkney not have a league? Maybe Shetland would like to have them for a season?

        • harebell

          Whoever takes them I will see something that I never thought I’d see, Alloa Athletic in a higher division than Glasgow Rangers – yah f**kin’ beauty

  • The only hope of survival for the SPL is to become a summer league. As it is, Rangers are toast, and Hearts and Hibs and at least half the other clubs are roadkill without the income Rangers brought, probably even with it.

    It’s sort of like Scottish independence, there is no chance of survival with it, and no chance of Alex Salmond not demanding it. Suicide pacts sell well.

  • Thlayli

    What odds are the bookies offering for Celtic going unbeaten in the league next season? It’s about the only challenge they’ll have.

    • dave brockington

      Don’t put it past Celtic to lose the odd match to Hearts, Hibs, or Caley Thistle. We’re a shit club, and due to the Rangers demise, only going to get (ironically) more shit.

  • msj

    The spl is a joke. I mean who can take seriously a league where only 2 teams every win or even have a chance of winning the title?

    • And also gain no traction in Europe. You’re some of that in Spain as well, but at least other Spanish teams do well in Europe.

    • co-efficient

      During the past 25 years, a team other than Barca or Real has won La Liga three times.

      The SPL is a minor league and the proper comparisons are with the Belgian and Swiss leagues not La Liga and the Premiership.

      In addition to playing better football, the teams in spots 3-5 in La Liga usually bring in more revenue than Celtic and Rangers let alone Hearts, Hibs and Dundee.

    • As opposed to the E/BPL of the past fifteen years? What are they up to, three different teams? OK, four, now counting ManCity…

      • arte et labore

        The people of Blackburn insist you include the champions for the entire 20 year history of the Premier league. Those from Leeds and Liverpool believe 26 yeas is the proper time frame when discussing English football champions.

      • dave brockington

        Five. You’re forgetting Blackburn Rovers. Man U, Arsenal, Blackburn, Chelsea, and Man City. Shame you can’t count Leeds Utd, as they won the last of the old First Division titles.

  • wengler

    These leagues desperately need some form of revenue sharing. I think Scotland has the highest fan support per capita of anyplace in Europe but their domestic league is a mess(and their national team a separate mess).

  • jbp

    The FA has stated that if Rangers or Celtic want to join, they will have to come up through the ranks just like everyone else. Blue-Square Premier League to League 2 and so forth. They can’t be parachuted into the group.

    Absolutely short-sighted by the SPL. This may spell the end for Scottish Football.

  • Leeds man

    Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation

    • Henry Holland

      Love your avator, Leeds man, though Starless and Bible Black is a better album.

      • Leeds man

        No, Henry! Larks’ Tongues, Red, then Starless!

  • Henry Holland

    *sigh* If only the red scum Liverpool FC had the same fate befall them a few years back (financial ruin + demotion to the lower levels > all their Prem-worthy players leaving > being stuck in the 4th division for eternity etc.)

    • Leeds man

      You forgot the bit about the lamentation of their women.

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