Wednesday, June 27, 2012
The great big 'no'
North of the Border
THE GREAT BIG 'NO', PART ONE
Another huge week in the Rangers story unravelled piece by piece. Sometimes there is a feeling that these events are governed more by momentum than anything else.
It started with Rhys McCabe. The young midfielder became the first player from the club that will soon be liquidated to refuse the transfer of his contract to the new Rangers. The old club's last season was a breakthrough one for McCabe, revealing himself to be a technically adept central midfielder, most notably in a stand-out performance in his only Old Firm appearance, a 3-2 win over Celtic. He was contracted until 2015 but now, aged 19, he is a valuable free agent.
McCabe's story broke on Friday and the following day Sone Aluko announced his objection to the transfer of his contract. Aluko was a brilliant pick-up mid-season by Ally McCoist but his contribution was almost lost in the circus of administration. He was neither developed by Rangers nor did they invest in him substantially, but his short time at Rangers gives him a strong hand in the what remains of the close season.
That prompted Charles Green, the head of the Sevco consortium that purchased the assets of the old company to form a new one, to release a misguided statement concerning players chasing signing on fees at new clubs as free agents. This was in stark contrast to the next statement we heard.
Steven Whittaker and Steven Naismith, two Scotland internationals, announced their refusal to join the new company at a press conference, dressed in funereal black suits that matched their mood. Yet when they discussed the reason they were leaving as free agents, the players reminded Green that they had agreed to wage cuts of 75%, donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to prevent redundancies between the club entering administration in February and the end of the season.
"We collectively saw this as the only way to get Rangers Football Club out of administration by way of a CVA [company voluntary arrangement] and thereby protect the staff jobs and the history of the club and give the creditors who had also entered into contracts with Rangers in good faith the best chance of being paid," said Naismith.
"Both Steven [Whittaker] and I and our agent fought hard with administrators during negotiations to insert clauses that offered protection to staff and players at the club. I am extremely proud of the actions we took but I am disappointed and angry that Rangers Football Club no longer exists in its original form.
"My loyalty is with Rangers, not with Sevco [Green's company name], who I don't know anything about."
The last statement was a dagger in the heart of the owners of the new company, who are fighting a PR battle to take the support of the old Rangers with them, wherever they may go next. At the same time as the players announced their intentions, decisions were made elsewhere to exclude the new club from the SPL.
THE GREAT BIG 'NO', PART TWO
It started with Vladimir Romanov. The owner of Hearts has left his own club so financially exposed that it appeared as if they would support Rangers in the vote on whether the new club should keep the SPL shares of its predecessor. However, that was to ignore Romanov's personal vendetta against the Old Firm and his wild conspiracy theories of refereeing, media and administrative plots in their favour.
So Vlad came out with another showstopper of a statement. While offering his "condolences" to supporters who had been "lied to for years" he let rip at his old enemies. "There is a saying about digging a grave for someone: you get it for yourself." Once more, it is not necessary to fully understand Vlad to appreciate his Genghis Khan-style attitude to sports governance.
As soon as a potential "Yes" vote fell to the "No" camp, the momentum pushing the door to the SPL shut to Rangers was irresistible. Dundee United followed on Friday. Over the weekend, a statement by Hibs, whose chairman, Rod Petrie, was the first to champion "sporting integrity" over finance confirmed their position. On Monday St Johnstone, Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle confirmed Rangers' fate.
Almost all of the statements from these clubs mentioned that both choices involved financial losses for their companies through the actions of another, often with an acknowledgment that the course they had taken was the more costly. And almost all included reference to the lobbying from their supporters, whose voice in this process was louder than it ever has been in any decision made by those governing Scottish football.
The vote will be confirmed on Wednesday July 4, but the new Rangers will play their football in either the fourth or second tier of Scottish football, although no coherent argument has been put forward for the sporting case of allowing a new club to begin life in the First Division. Martin Ritchie, the chairman of Falkirk, who were denied promotion as First Division champions in 2003, stated on Friday that clubs should only consider that outcome as part of a radical restructuring of the league system: play-offs for extended promotion and relegation; a single, more equitable model for distribution of finances and a more democratic voting model would be the starting point in such discussions.
When Falkirk were kept down, there was no relegation from the SPL and that is the precedent behind which Dunfermline chairman John Yorkston now "fully expects [Dunfermline] to be the team in the SPL next season".
One thing is certain. It will not be Rangers, in any form.