Rangers use 'colts' idea as a deal 'maker or breaker'

Posted by John Gow

AP Photo/Lynne CameronRangers CEO Charles Green is looking to leverage the 'colts' side to strengthen the club's reconstruction plans.

As regular readers know, these pages have often rallied against the notion that league reconstruction in Scottish football should be rushed through so that all SFL3 results for season 2012-13 are null and void.

The idea that the Scottish Football League (SFL) and Scottish Premier League (SPL) should collectively decide, a few games before the end of the campaign, that every team in SFL3 should stay in the bottom tier for next season, is so against normal rules of fair play in any walk of life -- never mind sport -- it's mind-boggling that it should be considered.

The counter-argument that Rangers (if we assume they win the league) will be the same distance from the premier division, and the journey to the top will be the same length of time, is to totally miss the point. You can't change the rules of a competition with a few weeks left so that every team is promoted.

Let's look at Celtic's recent Champions League campaign. They did terrifically well to qualify from their group alongside Barcelona, and leave Benfica and Spartak Moscow in their wake. That was why it was an achievement, not because they went into the knockout phase.

What if UEFA had decided on a whim after the group was decided, that every team should go through to the knockout phase? The reply that Celtic were still promoted as before would be seen for the shallow excuse it is. Celtic and the Scottish media would be in uproar, yet that is exactly what is being proposed in Scotland.

It's therefore encouraging to see Rangers release a statement from the Chief Executive, Charles Green, where he points out that for all the talk of 'sporting integrity' during 2012 about Rangers, there is none on show today. He says, "It would be manifestly wrong to deny any team promotion having won the competition they have entered into at the start of the season. Equally, teams which have been relegated should not benefit unfairly from any a restructuring of leagues."

Quite right. But worse, as Green points out, "There is already a precedent for this situation, established by the SFL at the end of the 1993-94 season when Stranraer, winners of the lowest of three divisions, were promoted to the new second tier on the basis they were champions of their division and merited promotion. Indeed, recently the chairman of Stranraer FC referred to the matter and supported the prospect of Rangers being promoted in the event of a 12-12-18 outcome. There has been no shortage of voices banging on about sporting integrity over the last year but sporting integrity must cut both ways."

Spot on! But let's be honest, why would the bottom tier SFL clubs not want another year with Rangers stuck with them? For a league in which a few hundred people can turn up to a normal game, Rangers are bringing thousands to their gate, giving them a nice financial cushion for a few years ahead. It's self-interest, but who can blame them? It's exactly what they should be doing. (Never believe anyone in Scottish football who tells you they don't put their club first. The goal is enlightened self-interest, not selfishness dressed as altruism.)

But Rangers in the bottom division would only be for another year, and here is where Green may have pulled a master-stroke. He has promised that if a Rangers reserve side, commonly known as a 'colts' team, is allowed in the bottom league, ticket revenues will be guaranteed for lower division sides.

"[Rangers] guarantee other clubs the ticket revenue equivalent of 300 Rangers fans turning up for matches. This initiative would help smaller clubs who have no choice but to generate revenue any way that they can. I should point out that such a proposal would often double the gate at in the lowest division. In fact, such a scheme would have virtually doubled the attendance at the weekend at one Division 1 fixture."

This is extremely clever. For many clubs it would ensure almost double their gates for colts games, but that is the minimum. The amount of Rangers fans going to these matches will almost certainly be higher. And if Celtic do the same, then great. And even if they don't, their fans will still go to their colts matches in similar numbers anyway.

What the Rangers CEO has done for some SFL chairmen is take an abstract concept and give it reality. He is saying: support the reconstruction plans for Rangers to follow the precedent of Stranraer, and although you will lose the one year gold bonanza of Rangers in your league, you will be guaranteed a longer-term increase in finance.

Or in a worst case scenario where rushed reconstruction is the only option and Rangers are being condemned to play another season in the bottom league of Scottish football, he is putting enough doubt in some minds so that it won't go through.

It might not work, but the club have done their best from a weakened political position. In summary, well played Rangers!

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