Friday, June 29, 2012

Rangers newco: A cowardly compromise

Scottish football has had a sickly pallor for some time. An anaemic game, given to petty squabbles and entrenched self preservation.

A game that at times looked determined to throttle itself to a slow, painful death.

A game with only one real talent: an unerring ability to make a bad situation worse.

This propensity for own goals, for punching itself repeatedly in the face, for encouraging ridicule surfaced again yesterday.

The Rangers saga had appeared to be drawing to something of a conclusion.

A conclusion that was never going to satisfy everyone but a conclusion nonetheless.

Against what might have been their better financial judgement the SPL clubs were gradually declaring their voting intentions.

If sporting integrity was becoming an increasingly weary phrase, the intent was at least clear: Rangers had erred on a grand scale, the Rangers newco could not be readmitted to the SPL and other clubs appreciated that they had to vote not for TV contracts or sponsors but for their own fans.

With the SPL route cut off Rangers would have to apply to join the SFL.

Most of us expected that application to be accepted. Rangers would join the third tier and work their way up. Much like we'd expect any club to do if they'd been so warped by greed, hubris and misguided ambition that they'd spent themselves into oblivion.

And then something changed.

Suddenly the SFL clubs wouldn't be asked to vote on the new Rangers entering the bottom division.

Now they'd be asked to OK Rangers entering the First Division. The SPL would give the SFL a million quid for TV rights, bring in play-offs after next season and the two organisations would be merged.

If the SFL clubs refused to agree to this fait accompli then there were dark hints of a breakaway SPL2 lifting the drawbridge on promotion and relegation.

Comply or die.

Let us cling to the positives if we can.

Are there any? Perhaps. Many of us have long agitated for some kind of league reconstruction, we've argued for a merger of the failed SPL and the SFL.

But we wanted these things to help shape the long term future of the game.

We didn't want them because Rangers had died. We didn't want them rushed in just four weeks before the league gets underway. We didn't want them to shaft every club in the Second Division and every club in the Third Division.

Who's behind all this?

The SFA's Stewart Regan and the SPL's Neil Doncaster?

Some SPL clubs are already trying to distance themselves. If it is indeed the case that Doncaster has gone off message, waging a guerilla war then there is a simple solution: when the newco vote is taken next week the meeting can end with a request for his resignation and with an apology issued to the SFL clubs.

Don't hold your breath.

The tragedy - one of the tragedies, this whole affair is now an avalanche of tragedy - is that nobody has stopped to ask what they're trying to preserve.

They want to keep Rangers because that will sustain and protect the current SPL business model.

But that they're going to such lengths is because Rangers failed - a failure that surely condemns that business model to history.

We need to reinvent the wheel. Instead Doncaster, Regan and whoever else - and there are undoubtedly SPL clubs up to their necks in this ridiculous salvage operation - are rummaging in their sheds to find bits of string to tie it back together again.

They're also putting a hell of a lot of faith in Charles Green, current owner of the newco Rangers. More faith than a - belatedly - suspicious Rangers support seem keen to invest.

They're going to be in trouble if it turns out they've prostituted themselves and gerrymandered the Scottish game for another purveyor of bullshit.

And the sheer cack handedeness of it. The document circulated to the SFL clubs is flimsy on detail, big on unsubstantiated claims and quite stunning in its naivety.

It's most telling line might just be this perceived benefit of the plan, an opportunity, say the authors, to:

Allow fans to engage in the bigger picture

The author of that line doesn't just fail to understand Scottish football, they're a very real danger to Scottish football.

Where does this end up?

With Rangers in the First Division I suspect. Or an SPL2 - a concept that was basically rubbish when Rangers weren't liquidated and remains rubbish today.

A miserable compromise that seems to please almost nobody aside from a few men in power. A bullying fiddle dreamt up by cowards and charlatans.

When did we get to this stage?

When did we wake up one day and realise that the idiots we despised at school were somehow running the game we love?

How have we let that happen?

Is it our fault for not doing enough to hound these folk, not doing enough to get the game we wanted rather than the game that some marketing confidence trickster who was crap at Norwich and has been even crapper up here wanted?

Maybe it is.

So why not just get on with it Neil? Take it away Stewart.

Get Rangers into the First Division. Enjoy the benefits of your preserved TV deal and accept the congratulations of your sponsors the next time you meet them at a hospitality lunch.

When Rangers get promoted back to the SPL next season allow yourself some satisfaction and think: "I did that."

But when our stadiums empty, when clubs that have acquiesced in a culture that defines them as bottom feeders lose sponsors, when players refuse to sign for teams that not only didn't object to a duopoly but actually craved that domination, when people laugh at Scottish football, chuckle at this backward game that only felt safe in the embrace of a bankrupt club, when every Scottish child asks for an EPL replica shirt from Santa.

Then you can think: "Yeah, I did that as well."

STV is the place to be for coverage of this unmitigated disaster

Wings over Scotland demolishes the SFL document