I’ve given up trying to make sense of the Rangers saga. Suffice to say, it’s beyond mess. Schadenfreude is in plentiful supply, but so too is sympathy. Fellow fans recognise that for those individuals and families who have passed the mantle of supporting Rangers down through the generations, the pain is visceral and tangible.
But a view from the sidelines. Duff and Phelps might well go down in history as the worst administators ever: even an insolvency novice like me can sense that lots of things don’t add up in their handling of this affair. Craig Whyte might have been the catalyst but the rotten, tax-avoiding practices were well embedded in the club’s operating culture long before he arrived. Charles Green is not quite what he appears to be and far too many loose ends exist in his model for any fan to find anything but cold comfort.
Anyone who has played a role either as a Director or a senior employee in the club since the turn of the century does not have clean hands. Indeed, it’s almost worse for most of them – and that includes you, Gordon Smith, with your wide-eyed protestations of innocence – to claim that they knew nothing of what was going on. That suggests incompetence and the lot of them should be drummed out of Scottish football for good.
And then there’s the rest of Scottish football – the clubs and the governing bodies. Some of us warned, some time ago, that failure to grasp the mettle and deal decisively with Rangers might result in the downfall of other clubs and the whole precarious edifice. And lo, it has very nearly come to pass.
For months, dithering has been the order of the day, in the hope that somehow a miracle would transpire and clubs and authorities would not have to take the crucial decisions. Here we are, months on and only now is an end in sight. Yet, even though few hiding places remain, still they dither.
The SFL and SPL – the sum of football’s constituent parts, one month exactly from the start of the new season – are now contriving to pass the parcel. The SFL met yesterday to consider whether or not to allow a New Rangers entry to Division 1 rather than Division 3 – a grubby compromise no one appears to want but everyone feels obliged to accept – blethered a while and came away with a commitment to meet again on 12 July.
Today, it’s the SPL’s turn and the wires suggest that it is minded to agree nothing until the SFL has met again on the 12th and reached its decision. This ain’t no magic roundabout.
Now, it is not clubs, nor money men, nor key officials driving us to the denouement. Thank goodness for the fans. People power has at least focused the minds of chairmen and chief executives across the land and will hopefully force their hand. Good on us.
Clubs have been pushed into doing the unthinkable in recent weeks and consulted their supporter bases. Supporters have given their clubs their steer – No to Newco – and yet, the clubs still feel unable to act and compelled to dither.
Fans have not reached these decisions lightly. They are well aware of the financial consequences of burying Rangers deep in Division three and they are mindful of their role as custodians of their institutions. But it is exactly that sense of responsibility which has driven their opinion-forming. Even if those running the game in Scotland still cling to hope that somehow, a solution will fall out of the sky, supporters have reached the inevitable conclusion that the gemme is indeed a bogey.
The only way to sort the morass, of which Rangers is the prime messy suspect but not the only one, is to start afresh. Kicking Rangers into touch might well cause other clubs to go to the wall but a fresh start all round might be what is needed.
My own club, Kilmarnock, is one such standing at the precipice. The wee chicklet is a Killie shareholder, courtesy of an inheritance from his late and very great Uncle Danny. And on account of acting in proxy, me and the wee man took the last minute consultation launched last week very seriously indeed. In trying to explain to him what the club was asking of fans and what the decision might mean for the club and for Scottish football, I found myself wondering what Danny would do.
A pragmatist, he would have been uneasy at the thought of voting potentially for his beloved club’s demise and he would have been very mindful of the economic consequences of voting No to the Newco. But he would also have believed – as so many of us do – that fans would rally round. Kilmarnock might face a shortfall of £300,000 in income this year if a new version of Rangers is not in the SPL, and it might require an additional 1000 season tickets to be sold to come close to plugging the gap but the Chairman has to hear his core supporters and trust in their judgement that making the right decision for the right reasons will cause the community to rally to the club’s aid.
Ultimately, Danny, like the rest of us, would opt for integrity, for the rules to be followed, for justice to be applied. He was that kind of a man.
As so many other fans and supporters of clubs have proven to be. Indeed, it has been life-affirming to see supporters take charge of this rudderless ship and lead the clubs where they do not want to go. One rule for all is the core premise and by standing together, we have a chance to clean up Scottish football and put it on a footing that gives it a future. It might not be a comfortable future but none of us is afraid of hard work. In any event, living beyond our means – collectively and individually – has long since been unsustainable, on an emotional and a practical level.
So the fans have decided that Rangers must be allowed to die and rise again, if the club can, from the ashes of the third division. Today, their clubs must decide; there can be no more dithering. They must follow their fans’ lead. Today, it is time to do or die.