Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rangers: An end of sorts

Nine minutes.

Not a long time.

But that's all it took for creditors to reject a CVA proposal and condemn Rangers to liquidation.

Before those nine minutes: months of uncertainty and years of greed, lies, broken promises and charlatans running a historic football club into the ground.

Today was expected. We learnt this week that HMRC would block the CVA. The end was coming before even that.

In a story where little has been guaranteed, the only rule has been that bad news today will likely be followed by worse news tomorrow for Rangers.

That we sensed liquidation was inevitable has maybe inured us to its impact.

Take a moment to think about it, ignore the whirlwind that has come since.

This has been a remarkable day.

Rangers. Scottish football's most successful snaffler of domestic honours, a financial powerhouse, the club that saw itself as an institution to rival the pillars of Scotland's establishment.

None of that was enough to save them.

In a sport dominated by business here is proof that historic achievements and continued success can't insulate clubs from the destructive attentions of the rogues and crooks who see football as a way to massage their egos and feather their own nests.

A salutary lesson for our times.

What next?

Charles Green has taken control of the old company's assets and sets up a new company called The Rangers Football Club.

He will expect the SPL and SFA to rubber stamp this manoeuvre and the team to start next season unhindered by historical controversy - but with their histoic achievements intact - and free of any debt except any that which he's created to fund his takeover.

He thinks he's got a big football club on the cheap, the creditors already stiffed, a fine opportunity to make himself richer.

It's a solution that has always looked problematic.

The other SPL clubs, with the vocal encouragement of their fans, seem to have been hardening against the newco option as the weeks have dragged on and those running Rangers have continually groped in the dark to find others to blame for their predicament.

And Green himself presents a problem. The only character references forthcoming describe him as something that sounds a lot like "a total runt" and in his public utterances he's displayed either a worrying naivety about the realities of the challenges ahead or an inability to tell the truth in his bluff Yorkshire accent.

And now another twist.

We were promised just a short window between this morning's confirmation of liquidation and Green's bargain basement hoovering up of the assets.

A short window. But enough time for Walter Smith to attempt to lead a new cavalry to the rescue.

Suddenly Smith had the backing of, amongst others, Jim McColl and Douglas Park and wanted to buy the Rangers newco. Here was Walter, the stony-haired sage, urging Green to step aside and let proper Rangers people help a newco phoenix rise from the ashes of financial arson.

An oddly dramatic flourish from Smith and the money men standing four-square behind him. It certainly had an impact.

Although Rangers' representatives had somehow apparently convinced their SPL colleagues that liquidation was not "on the radar" it had become inevitable.

That being the case, proper Rangers people didn't want blood on their hands. Far better to let Craig Whyte, Duff & Phelps and Charles Green take the heat of liquidation then ride to the rescue once the deed had been done.

That was a guaranteed way of seizing the initiative and the narrative: Green killed Rangers, Walter wants to help them rise again.

Simplistic of course, but that seemed to be the plan, to reach into Rangers' past to find a figure that gave hope for the future.

Too late?

Green confirmed that the transfer of the assets to his consortium has already taken place and applications for the transfer of SFA and SPL membership were ready to be submitted.

The key to staging a last-minute heroic intervention is timing. Walter's watch was slow.

That doesn't mean the Smith consortium is dead: they could buy the newco from Charles Green tomorrow and deliver him a tidy profit for a very short commitment to Scottish football.

Or is Green stubborn enough to hold out? He might well be. You don't make the number of enemies he made at Sheffield United and then try to get back into football if you don't have a healthy contrary streak. For now he looks to be king of the castle.

His statement confirming the purchase also made a great play of contradicting today's Daily Record and standing by Ally McCoist: he's not going to give in to one Rangers legend but he's keeping another to comfort the fans.

Yet Smith's backers must always have known that Green was likely to move quickly, they're unlikely to be put off if they have to buy the club from him.

Even as Green spoke to press Ian Hart - publicly announced today as a member of his consortium - was saying "who me? Nah, I'm backing Walter's mob."

An inauspicious start. We can be confident that Walter Smith will not take Green up on his invitation to become chairman tomorrow.

With Smith's group on the sidelines Green can also look forward to fans - and sections of the media - barracking loudly and agitating for him to sell up. He's going to endure an uncomfortable few days.

The ownership question will have long term implications for Rangers and might also colour the club's approach to the SPL's newco vote.

If Smith's consortium do seize control I'd expect a very different Rangers approach, a contrite board talking of rebuilding the club within a stronger Scottish game - even if Smith himself find himself answering question about his own experience with the EBT payment scheme operated during David Murray's tenure.

Charles Green's approach is likely to focus more on bluster, talk of deals and high level talks that are based only loosely in reality, pandering to a fanbase that would do well to not get fooled again.

There are still high stakes to play for.

That might be another reason for the lack of shock today.

Ranger were liquidated. But closure on this tumultuous era doesn't seem much nearer.

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