Rangers step into the SPFL unknown

Posted by John Gow

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesRangers fans are nervous about having to deal with SPL powers once again in the new SPFL.

So the vote is in and there will be a merger between the Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football League (SFL). The SFL clubs finally accepted joining the top division in a vote carried by 23 to 6 on Wednesday afternoon. The new body, at the moment known as the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), will be ratified at a formal meeting in the next few weeks.

What does this mean for Rangers? It's not yet confirmed, but it seems the club will probably be a full member instead of the associate membership they have at the moment with the SFL. (It's often wrongly stated that Rangers are an associate member of the Scottish Football Association (SFA), this is untrue, otherwise it would be a new club.)

Assuming this to be the case, there would be advantages in networking and voting rights. Over the last twelve months it's been an obvious (or deliberate?) problem for Scotland's biggest club not to have any influence over the fate of Scottish football.

Technically, nothing much else will change since the format of the leagues will still be 12-10-10-10 and the Ibrox club will have the same amount of time to get to the top.

There is some talk that trialists will not be allowed in the new SPFL setup, and if true, new signings would be unable to play until the registration embargo is lifted on the 1st September. This, however, will probably be changed and even if it isn't, Rangers should still cope easily.

Formally the new setup should not bring any further problems but informally there could be. Officially this is a merger, but in reality the SPL will be taking over the SFL, which will cease to exist. As the SFL President Jim Ballantyne admits, "It is a takeover. We are joining their company, their organisation. They have swallowed us up. We could use nice words about it, but it is a takeover."

Since many Rangers fans believe the SPL treated their club abysmally in 2012, with some clubs questioning fairly won titles even with no evidence of cheating -- as the SPL's own independent report finally admitted -- there is still concern among the Rangers support. They do not feel comfortable with the SPL once again in control while the Gers are still in a weaker position than normal.

Maybe this is an exaggerated fear, but the SPL no longer needs to worry about joint TV rights or sponsorship and ill-will still exists. If anyone wanted to investigate Rangers again (for whatever reason) then this would be the perfect time to do it.

Whether this has any substance or not, the Rangers board under the Chairmanship of Walter Smith needs to find its voice and direction to surmount any issues, real or imaginary. The 'civil war' in the boardroom over the last few months has been embarrassing and damaging. The club is still in a precarious position if wrong, stupid or selfish choices are made.

Even if the new SPFL treats Rangers no differently than anyone else, the lack of normal revenue is still an obstacle course that needs careful deliberation. Whether this new league reconstruction hinders or helps, the club needs to remember its own motto and be 'ready' for whatever challenges they will face. And they will face them.

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