The Scottish game from the Borders to the Highlands & Islands and beyond
So the vote was finally carried, and a Rangers ‘newco’ are not to play in the SPL next season. Sporting integrity has been restored and everyone can be thoroughly pleased with themselves.
Sorry: afraid not.
This whole sorry saga hasn’t finished yet as the Ibrox club contemplate life in the lower divisions and it’s just another shameful episode in the history of Scotland’s newest football governing body.
Since the SPL came into being back in 1998, they’ve presided over episode after episode of catastrophic incidents of self interest and have been accused of making the rules up as they go along. The whole Rangers farce is another example of that.
In a time when more and more clubs are falling into financial hardships, the SPL have failed to react accordingly and while they implemented a 10-point penalty as the fallen Glasgow giants went into administration, the fact their return was even up for discussion was astounding.
One thing that’s become clearer in recent days is the fact that a decent majority of Rangers fans are happy to play in Division Three this season. Basically the club starts again from the bottom and that’s the end of it.
No place like home: What division will Ibrox host games in?
It’s a view shared by the Rangers’ Supporters Association general secretary John McMillan, who told a tabloid newspaper earlier this week: “I have some sympathy for some of the chairmen as they are in an impossible position. However, at the start of this they said they would listen to their fans and their fans said they wanted to put Rangers into the Third Division.
“All the SPL clubs said that they wanted to protect ‘sporting integrity’. Where is their ‘sporting integrity’ when they are trying to do a deal to put Rangers into the First Division and why are they not listening to their fans?
“It appears to me that they want to suck the blood out of Rangers while continuing to suck the money out of Rangers. I think that some of the chairmen who have been speaking publicly have been very hypocritical.”
PREMIER PRESSUREHowever the SPL don’t see it that way. Panic set in as they started fearing for their own self-interest with the prospect that Sky TV would walk away without one of the Old Firm there to provide some level of audience.
So instead of letting things run their course, the SPL tried to influence the SFL, who govern Divisions One, Two and Three to try and get the Gers into the highest division possible. It has since emerged that the SFA also backs the idea, with chief exec Stewart Regan warning Scottish football faces a "slow, lingering death" if they make the newco start in the third tier.
Stewart Regan: Insert "turns his back" jibe
The document – sent out to all 30 clubs – tries to cajole the clubs to vote Rangers into Division One, help push through league reconstruction and even merge with the SFL. The stark warning is that if they don’t, the top flight would seek to breakaway with a second tier (SPL 2) and leave the lower clubs with even less money.
This unveiled threat has enraged football people across Scotland – perhaps none more so than Raith Rovers chairman Turnbull Hutton, who delivered this venomous verdict: “In essence, the SPL is like a dead parrot. It’s financially unsustainable. It hasn’t worked for the past 14 years, it has been a FAILURE. It’s all gone belly-up.
“There are rules we feel should be followed. They should apply for the Third Division. We are being bullied, railroaded and lied to. We are also being lied to by the Scottish FA and the SPL and being threatened and intimidated.
“It was a ridiculous document which came out last week whereby the threat was there that if you don’t vote for an acceptance into the First Division, a breakaway SPL2 will come along. Those who didn’t vote wouldn’t be invited.
"What kind of game are we running here? It is corrupt. My view is that there are rules in place and that’s the view I’ve stuck to rigidly.”
But with Rangers having been denied a place in the top flight, it’s now up to the SFL to decide their fate after all, with accusations of buck-passing levelled at the top 12.
DONCASTER: ALL CHANGE?There will be claim and counter-claim but SPL chief exec Neil Doncaster has certainly not come out of this situation well – and while he can still try and talk up his organisation, the feeling remains that it serves nothing but its members' own interest.
Even his claims on a radio station questioning the “viability” of Rangers going into Division Three are laughable. The reality is that it looks more viable now that the SPL vote has kicked them out of the top flight.
Facing the music: Neil Doncaster this week
But from the ludicrous (and eventually binned) 10,000-seater rule to the maligned SPL TV idea to this current reconstruction rush-job, Scotland’s top flight has overseen one disaster after another.
Whether Doncaster survives this latest episode remains to be seen, but the SPL’s original vision of emulating the English Premier League's wealth creation simply hasn’t materialised, leaving the league in tatters with one of their biggest members now out of it.
The fact is that with less than a month until the start of the season, no proposal was put in place to replace Rangers – whether it be with Dundee, who finished second in Division One but have had their own financial problems recently, or Dunfermline, relegated from the SPL in May.
There’s every chance this whole shameful time could spell the beginning of the end of Doncaster’s tenure and perhaps even the SPL. As for Scottish football as a whole, the after-effects could be felt for a while yet.
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