Three weeks into administration and things go from murky to murkier. With no clear view on the club's security, no certainty of fulfilling fixtures until the end of the season, no conclusion on the Ticketus monies and only understandably vague revelations of potential bidders it seems there will be no immediate end to the uncertainties surrounding our club. I have said repeatedly that the end game for me is a sale of the business and assets, i.e. everything that constitutes the club, to a new company (newco). For me the current company is simply the ownership structure of the club and Rangers will survive. The fall out in terms of punishments and demotions though make many uncomfortable with such a resolution.
I thought at this juncture it was worth considering the recent performance and position of the key protagonists in the current drama.
The Scottish Press
There seems to be a polarisation of opinion on Rangers' fate from the papers, radio and TV experts. Either it will all be ok because well, eh, we're Rangers or there will be liquidation and the club will disappear forever. The subtleties of our current predicament are being lost. Someone who writes for a tabloid newspaper's sports section is viewed as a journalist. This conveys a certain gravitas. This week we had 6 players being made redundant. No wait it is 11. No hang about it will be 8. It is today. No today. No it will absolutely be today...The sense that this amounts to either guess work or simply stating whatever line they are fed from inside the club is inescapable. A key quality of a journalist is the ability to question. Scepticism and verification of sources are conspicuous by their absence when considering the approach of the tabloid press in considering Rangers. Conversely someone who writes exclusively on line is considered to be a blogger. The very name hints at amateurism and inferiority. In truth, it is the rangerstaxcase blog which has been leading the way on this. Perhaps then it is time we revisited the distinctions. Right now on the basis of the last week it strikes me we have either bloggers or blaggers.
Paul Murray has been in the press all week with his Blue Knights consortium. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude he has the best of intentions. His actions though are misguided and nothing I have read suggests this is in anyway a credible option. If your funding comes from Ticketus and pledges via a fans' website then you are clearly struggling to raise the funds to buy the business and assets. The reality is true wealth does not conduct its business in the red tops. A consortium will emerge. As I have stated before there are enough people with the wealth and desire to ensure Rangers do not disappear to make this happen. They will not though purchase the shares of the company. This is too expensive and too uncertain an approach. Many unknowns remain about the liabilities and there can be no warranties given. Ultimately they will buy the business and assets. Such a deal is only possible now because we are in administration as neither SDM or Craig Whyte would ever have countenanced this. We will go through a liquidation but that process will be the club's ultimate salvation not its death. The biggest obstacle will be transferring the SPL share. If approval is blocked (and it will be) then we are looking at potentially starting over in the third division. I believe if costs are reduced to the level of a non Old Firm SPL club then provided we can still attract 20,000 plus regularly the club can rebuild from this. If Hibs can break even could Rangers in this position actually turn a profit? We could conceivably be coming back to the SPL having built some surplus cash with which to hit the ground running. Such a scenario would be painful and it is by no means certain the fans would all be carried through the process. What is certain though is that this has to be the end game. It is the only logical conclusion. What do you think? Am I blogging or blagging?
The administrators have been portrayed by some as out of their depth. Certainly they will have come to understand very quickly I am sure why no Insolvency Practitioner in Scotland would even consider taking on the Rangers administration. There is no question the hesitation displayed in making redundancies suggested weakness and an uncertainty of purpose. Ultimately the success or otherwise of their time in charge will be the return they achieve for the creditors. The gamble they took this week in retaining players all came down to retaining value. Again we come back to my conclusion that there will be a sale of the business and assets. In simple terms this achieves a far better return for the creditors than selling the assets off individually.
The Rangers Support
Disbelief and denial are happily giving way to a determination to do what is needed to see the club continue. I was initially sceptical of the red and black scarf campaign but the more I think of it the more the merits are apparent. The symbolism clearly takes its cue from the Man United green and yellow anti-Glazer scarves. The visual display of solidarity is important and preferable to the defiance and solace some sought in turning back the clock with recent songs. It is a proactive approach and in using Govan's historic red and black is a clear statement of the club's importance to our community.
I am slightly less comfortable with the notion of contributing to the proposed fighting fund. How much responsibility for the reckless actions of directors can be laid at the feet of your ordinary fan? I find something distasteful in the notion the average working Bear who has bought his season ticket and replica shirt should now be parting with hard earned cash for what exactly? The opportunity to do the same again next season? Helping pay players' wages? Certainly they deserve credit for accepting pay cuts but 25% of £20,000 a week is still way more than most in the stands earn. Each to their own I suppose and ultimately if needs must then needs must.
Slowly there is a growing acceptance that some form of punishment is coming IF the second contract issue is as clear cut as we are lead to believe or we go into liquidation. Provided this is in line with the existing legal and footballing regulatory framework I think there cannot realistically be any objections. Right now there is a growing acknowledgement this may well mean lower division football. For some this is purely based on the need for the rules to be applied. For others there is a definite sense of "f the lot of them let's see how they get on without us".
If we want Rangers to survive then it will. If we are prepared to accept the business and assets being bought by a newco is still Rangers then it is still Rangers. As ever, hold your nose and eventually the stink will go away.
There is a notable silence from Celtic right now. Beyond Lennon's understandable snap at Hatley and Burley any comments have been confined to sympathies for the trials and tribulations of our players and management. Make no mistake though Celtic are preparing themselves. My understanding is a legal team have been engaged for weeks now examining all the relevant domestic and European football regulations with the explicit aim of ensuring the maximum possible punishment is exerted on Rangers. (The one positive from a Rangers point of view is the conclusion that there is no prospect of stripping us of any titles. I should imagine that advice didn't go down too well.) The underlying aim in all of this is providing Celtic with a free run at Champions League monies for the foreseeable future. Celtic's board are well within their rights to pursue whatever course of action they wish. They are after all a plc and the directors are there to work for the good of the shareholders not the good of football. Business is business but let us dispense with the notion this is all about sporting integrity. Maybe for the average guy on the street but most assuredly it is not for the guys in the board room. True or false? Blogger or blagger?
The Other 10
The non Old Firm SPL clubs are shortly to have a meeting amongst themselves. Sources have leaked to the press that this will not involve any discussion of pursuing an even split of gate receipts. You don't need to be Malcolm Tucker to conclude from this explicit denial that the Diddy Summit will most assuredly have a discussion on a change to the split of TV and sponsorship money, as well as probable changes to the voting rules. Again these clubs are well within their rights. An SPL without Rangers gives them a once in a generation chance to achieve a rebalance of power since there would be no effective Old Firm veto. (The majority of key voting changes require an 11-1 majority). Again though I must question whether at board room level this is about sporting integrity or a power/money grab.
Passions are running high right now throughout the Scottish football community. Non-Rangers fans are justifiably focused on punishment. Rangers fans are justifiably struggling to think beyond self preservation. As I explicitly stated in my last blog whatever happens the authorities must be absolutely clear that any punishment they impose is within the existing rules. The current crisis has the potential to tear the game apart. Whatever our views and whatever our team of choice the one thing that unites us all is our love of the game. The authorities need to be clear that this is not about saving Rangers, it is about saving the game. I get the distinct impression the disrepute charge may be a means to deduct the points won this season under Whyte's ownership. This would inevitably mean relegation and could allow the SPL to duck any potential vote on share transfers or relegations. Any failure to apply existing rules or any attempt to create new ones has the clear potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of supporters which our game cannot afford. They simply have to get this right. I for one do not envy the grief and the decisions the next few weeks are going to bring for them.
To buy a red and black scarf - link