Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where Now for Glasgow Rangers?

The media clamour that followed Rangers' plunge into administration has now diminished somewhat with even the Daily Record only dedicating around a dozen or so of the front pages to the topic now. Like most scandals, reality TV stars or just general bad news it becomes boring very quickly for the masses. Rangers are just another bankrupt football club - c'est la vie.

The difference with Rangers as has oft been stated is the knock on effect for the wider game in Scotland and the implications of the possibility of liquidating the club. Whilst that eventuality has been delayed - but still very much exists - by the voluntary wage cuts amongst the playing staff there is little doubt that Rangers as a whole remain in great peril.

On the surface, there seems little downside for Rangers going into administration. They will not be able to enter European competition in any event next season as they cannot submit their accounts. Even after a ten point deduction and a horrible run of results, they remain in 2nd place on goal difference. The difference in sums of prize money in the SPL render their final position irrelevant other than in the event of relegation given that they cannot compete in Europe next season.

As usual it seems with any troubled club with a large support and long history, there are a long list of suitors with the term 'knight' having to be used in the loosest possible terms. It is a shame as the people with the genuine best interests of the club at heart become lost amongst the bile of the many trying to generate publicity through association with the club's name despite having neither the means nor the will to seriously bid for the club.

The reality is that with an unresolved tax case and with Craig Whyte's deal with Ticketus under dispute, no businessman with any level of aptitude would go near such a deal. Any offers available to Rangers as an alternative to liquidation are unlikely to provide the means or finances to offer the remedies that the club requires.

And so to Craig Whyte. Whilst not the man that set Rangers on so reckless a course, clearly someone that in no way acted to assist the club despite having executed 'due dilligence' on their highly precarious financial position. Whyte lied to all at the outset about his own personal money paying off Lloyds.

What he in fact did was to mortgage Rangers' future season ticket revenues to pay off debt to Lloyds Bank and for the princely sum of one pound installed himself the chairman and most importantly as the main creditor with rights over both Ibrox and Murray Park.

Following that line of logic, anyone with a quid in their back pocket could have put no money into Rangers, put the club into administration and then sat with their fingers crossed hoping to get some loot when the creditors are paid out. Anyone still defending this man should be embarrassed.

The fact that the players asked for clauses in their newly reduced contracts giving them the right to walk away should Craig Whyte reappear is damning. The man is a fraud and a charlatan as his complete disappearance from the scene of the crime would back up this up. Walter Smith's recent comments about the panic that engulfed Whyte after Rangers' defeat to Malmo also bear testimony to this.

The other chief villain amongst this veritable rogues' gallery is Sir David Murray. It's hard to know what to make of the man now and it is particularly painful given the revere with which he was once held. His years of excess have been well documented but his biggest crime it would appear was his selling of the club to Whyte.

It is possible that Murray has simply been lucky in his life time of financial dealings and he simply has no business acumen whatsoever. His running of Rangers and his being 'duped' by Whyte - someone that many people could see was a fraud - conjure images of a toddler with a phone and a keyboard with two buttons, 'buy' and 'sell'.

Given Murray's other business successes however, another conclusion can be made. That of an unscrupulous businessman with a strong desire to be liked and to be popular.

The word 'egomaniac' might not be one normally associated with an outwardly reserved and well spoken man, there are however tell tale signs. There was his eager association and friendship with Graeme Souness at the outset. Then a huge level of personal involvement in the financially catastrophic and ultimately poor  footballing decision to keep Brian Laudrup until his contract ran down.

There was his desire to bring high profile but troubled names such as Paul Gascgoine to the club (rather than make a move for the equally priced Gary McAllister) which belay a man seeking the public eye. Colin Hendry - well into his thirties - sat alongside Murray in a tartan suit on signing day, no one it seemed had asked Dick Advocaat however whether he wanted him.

It is hard to see that Murray could not see in Whyte what others so readily could and it may well be that Murray knowing the end was nigh needed a stooge to take the fall in which case it was an arrangement that benefited both. Murray would have his fall guy and would be able to walk away.

Whyte, a Monaco resident caring little of what the blue half of Glasgow thought of him bought himself for a pound, an option to have himself listed as Rangers' main creditor using their own funds to install himself as chairman - he is certainly not stupid.

Whyte's position is clearly untenable and the administrators (who seem equally culpable given their non disclosure to the FSA) can also clearly see him for what he is with their vociferous rebukes towards his claims on the club, all of which will see Whyte worse off by a pound at the most - no doubt that pound was borrowed from someone else in any event.

All of this will take time to play out and even if new buyers are found it is unlikely that the club will be in anything resembling a stable financial position for years to come, especially if the Ticketus deal is found to be enforceable meaning that Rangers have effectively no income for the next three seasons.

Liquidation would see Rangers have to be reformed, something that Fiorentina went through several seasons ago. Given the current level of competition with Scotland, Rangers would promote themselves back through the divisions in the shortest possible time, assuming Ibrox remained intact then plus or minus Murray Park they would be roughly back where they started in a few seasons time.

Rangers do seem to have unearthed small pockets of youth talent via Murray Park but the current playing staff is hardly of the highest calibre and so rebuilding the squad to an SPL level would not be a particularly onerous task such is the sad reality of Scottish football nowadays.

The chances of Rangers in some format or other simply ceasing to exist appear to have diminished for the time being at least. No matter what the national delight at their predicament, that is a good thing for Scottish football.

Should Rangers drop down through the divisions as the result of liquidation then the SPL would suffer in the interim as the removal of the television revenues from Rangers' fixtures and the loss of the Old Firm games would be a severe blow to television and sponsorship revenues.

Should Rangers remain in the division with a vastly reduced quality of squad then the status quo would remain to a fair degree.

The biggest question ironically would be for Celtic. Do they wish to retain a squad that will win the league by thirty or forty points yet is not good enough for Europe or do they wish to trim back their own squad to one that would win the league by ten points and is still not good enough for Europe?

During the nineties, Rangers spent vast sums and achieved a succession of league titles mainly at a canter, embarrassing flops in Europe and a huge debt. Celtic could now face this reality unless they are prudent as revenues are so much lower and they will have to cut their cloth accordingly.

No one is suggesting that Celtic is not being run properly but the financial reality of a now one horse race must be realised.

The future for Rangers is for once less than orange and should the full force of the tax evasion case be brought to bear then liquidation will not be an option but a necessity. The likes of the SPL and the newly regretful Campbell Ogilvie are trying to absolve themselves from all blame and it is entirely pathetic to watch.

The ease with which a man with no assets - certainly none that he was willing to pledge - such as Craig Whyte was able to buy Rangers makes a mockery of all those associated with the process. The SFA is bringing charges against Whyte and Rangers now (as they should) but who is taking the SFA to task for approving his ownership in the first place?

This sorry mess is entirely of the doing of those who have been in charge of Rangers both now and then but as always with these things it is the fans that suffer. Rangers is on its' death bed but the reality for all who follow Scottish Football is that they must hope for a recovery, they can rest assured it will be a slow and painful one in any event - No Nonsense.