Day after day, the saga continues, with only desperate fans and even more desperate journalists enthralled. The rest of us would just like it all to end.
Today’s instalment? Apparently the administrator at Glasgow Rangers FC has three options – “none of them palatable” according to the sages (sic) that witter on about football stuff on Radio Scotland every evening.
I’ve avoided blogging on it until now, despite being a keen football fan, largely because others have said all that I would say – opportunity for supporters’ buyback, Whyte and Murray to blame both, they should pay their tax like everyone else has to – but a burd can only keep her beak shut for so long.
I have broken my silence simply because – as with the banks that were supposedly too big to fail – the limping, wounded beast that is Rangers FC is threatening to bring down other teams. And the rest of us, who care passionately about Scottish football must start demanding action from the footballing authorities to prevent this from happening.
Rangers, as the club it is now, is finished. And despite what some might think, I take no pleasure in writing that statement. But no club that needs an astonishing £10 million to make it to the end of the season and has a hole of £4.5 million to plug to do so can be considered anything like a going concern. The longer Rangers is allowed, by everyone, to continue in its current form, the more likely it is that other dominoes will be toppled. Far better to cut the club adrift now, enabling the possibility of it returning one day, some day.
Already, with Dunfermline Athletic’s plight, we are seeing the whole of the top flight in Scottish football begin to unravel. It is unforgiveable and unconscionable for Rangers to take ticket money for games and keep the share that rightly belongs to other clubs. Surely the laws that govern the game have something to say about that? And even if not, isn’t there a moral code that allows the SPL and SFA to step in and prevent it happening? Okay, how about the criminal law of the land then?
Of course, the clubs could act on this themselves, and simply start refusing to play Rangers. In the past, when a show of solidarity has been required, on anything, someone somewhere has always broken ranks. But surely self-preservation demands a different response this time?
The fact is that Rangers’ success in recent years has been achieved by duplicity and by operating a financial chimera that made it seem like the club had plenty of money to slosh about for player transfers and wages. It did not: it helped itself to Scottish silverware by not paying its way nor its fair share. It created a scheme to help itself and its players avoid paying tax in this country.
And this revelation, becoming clear only with Craig Whyte’s purchase of the club, begs a question. If tax-avoidance on a grand scale was being practised by Rangers, was it – is it – also happening at other clubs in Scotland? Or indeed, across the UK?
This is what needs to be investigated by er, someone. Anyone, in fact. It is unacceptable at any time, never mind in these times, for wealthy footballers to ply their trades in our communities and pay not a penny of tax, or at least pay far less than their fair share. It is also unacceptable for clubs to enable and condone such behaviour, given that they rely on the hard-earned cash of fans, most of it handed over after having tax deducted (in the main), to continue.
Not in a monetary sense, for as the clubs are wont to remind us, our ticket money doesn’t pay for diddly squat, but in a continuity sense. It is fans, not TV money, nor big names, nor shirt sponsors, nor even managers which have kept Scottish clubs going, sometimes for over a century. Without fans, and the baton of support being passed on from generation to generation, clubs have no soul. They would shrivel and die, as many have done in the past when local support dried up.
And if Scottish football wants to keep fans coming back for more, then it needs to take itself by the scruff of its neck and sort itself out. Otherwise the whole of the game as it is currently structured is at risk. If those in charge of clubs feel even a twinge of responsibility for the duty of care they owe to the supporter base and the communities within which they exist, then they must act in their clubs’ interests first. And that must mean that they all turn their backs on Rangers.
This is one occasion where the clubs are not stronger together. Many of the SPL clubs are already tottering on the brink. Protecting Rangers and colluding in its supposed right to continue to exist as a football club, will add to their debt and their woes, and constitutes living badly, madly and dangerously.
And some of us would prefer it if the football governing bodies, authorities and clubs themselves did not proceed lemming-like to follow Rangers over the cliff edge.