With every revelation, with bids new and failed, and with documentaries laying out for all to see the misdeeds of previous boards my faith in how this would play out has wavered. Ultimately I have tried to keep promoting my key beliefs both of which I now feel will just about come to pass.
1. A business and assets deal would see Ibrox, the training ground, the intellectual property , so far as they wish, all employees and, if approved, the SPL share/membership sold to a newco.
This has saved the football club while the old company will go on to be liquidated. I had been told a long time ago that when it came to the crunch a group of wealthy bears would step forward. These were guys who didn't really want to own a club and would not wish the hassle of the day to day running. For a while it looked like I was wrong on this but all that changed with the emergence of the McColl and Park group this week. Walter is the man needed to front it and guarantee support but be assured they will call the shots in ensuring the acquisition is successful. Many are questioning why it took these guys so long? We need to be honest here, the process of acceptance amongst the Rangers support that The Blue Knights weren't just going to ride into Govan and make all this disappear with a large cheque has been an understandably slow one. The thought process roughly went:
1. We will only accept the company being saved and no sanctions
2. We will accept the company being saved and there being some sanctions
3. We can just about live with Bill Miller's temporary newco
4. We will accept a newco
People are rightly sceptical about Green and his consortium but the rush to demand he steps aside for Smith, McColl and Park is not particularly pleasant. Green and his consortium put up the money needed. They invested the time, effort and money in advisors needed to steer us through this process. It now seems clear others were willing to let them do the dirty work. That is more than understandable. Equally though it must be recognised the Green consortium took a significant risk and will rightly be looking to make a proportionate return. If Green can ensure approval is given for the transfer of the SPL share from oldco to newco then their investment immediately becomes more valuable. I would say a price of £12 million would not be unreasonable. Maybe if they stay on for another three or four years and get Rangers back winning leagues and in Europe that might increase to £30 million (roughly Celtic's market cap) but do they wish to invest further time and probably money? No of course not. If the transfer of the SPL share is not agreed the price would probably be closer to £9 million. These are business men and they will rightly take a quick return. Such a scenario must have been in their thinking all along when they decided to steer Rangers through the newco process.
2. Punishment must follow but must be in line with existing rules
For me nothing has really changed in terms of the existence or history of my club. Rangers? The Rangers? Same difference. Or even the same difference.
I have cited precedents previously for the notion this change of corporate structure is of no real consequence. The chairman of Middlesborough Steve Gibson this week offered his views on how they came through a newco process and gave the sort of perspective so often lacking in Glasgow's gold fish bowl when he noted "nobody will notice any difference".
In stating this is the same Rangers I am of course claiming our history. You cannot though cherry pick your history so it is our entire history and clearly includes the two disasters, the sectarian signing policy and Manchester. Crucially it also means the immorality and alleged criminality perpetrated by owners and directors in recent years. There can be no shying away from the fact this is very much a part of the Rangers story.
The financial misdeeds have criminal and legal consequences for the old company and more importantly the individuals involved. HMRC's actions this week were a strong signal of intent in this respect. Right now the prospect of Murray and or Whyte in court is as exciting for me as any cup final ever could be.
Punishment is also due for the breaching of football regulations. This is a separate issue though from the above and people over simplify matters when they equate a breach of tax/legal rules regarding EBT use with breaches of football registration rules. Similar issues but completely different wording and different rules. I personally feel that if existing footballing rules can be shown to have been broken then existing punishments must apply. As a support we are perfectly correct to assert our belief that our club survives even if the old company must be liquidated. In doing so though we must accept that the club continues to have responsibility for what went on historically and so punishment must follow.
The recent court case win struck me as an attempt to rightly ensure the authorities and other clubs were not able to simply impose new rules and punishments not specifically laid out in the regulations to suit their own desired outcomes. In reality I think a whole host of issues are going to be negotiated away though in the coming week as part of the approval for the SPL share transfer. The SPL have been advised by their lawyers they can only have a simple yes or no vote, conditions cannot be attached. In reality I think Rangers will advocate/accept that the share is transferred and they are allowed to be recognised as the same club with history intact but in return they will have to accept sanctions need to be imposed. Is that the enforcement of the rules? No. Is it justice? Well that is for you personally to decide. For me it is a realistic compromise. Sorry but that is how the real world works. The most likely scenario for me is therefore Rangers remaining in the SPL but with a points penalty for two seasons of say 20 points. There is likely to be a forfeiture of prize and sponsorship money too. Where it gets difficult is regarding the transfer embargo. I would expect the SPL clubs would want Rangers to accept this stands but unless there is certainty enough of the current squad are retained it would be hard to agree to. The new consortium are unlikely to have agreed an acquisition swiftly enough to offer any certainty on players intentions. (Green is bluffing on registration as this cannot possibly be used to frustrate the TUPE principles)
There are no doubt some reading this that are outraged by what I am suggesting. I am not saying this is right simply it is how I think things will play out. The chairmen are in an impossible position with fan opposition having to be balanced against the demands of their banks. The reality of punishing Rangers too severely by refusing SPL membership is essentially a scorched earth policy to the detriment of all of Scottish football.
It may not fit with the stereotypical view held of "huns" but I am actually someone who does care acutely about the general well being of Scottish football. I've been abroad to watch the national team and my interest in the EPL generally extends no further than looking out for the performances of our players. A notion has somehow emerged in recent weeks that all the ills of Scottish football can be laid at Rangers door and that in our absence the top division will return to some form of 1980s utopia. In that decade Aberdeen, Dundee United, Celtic and Rangers all won the league while Hearts fans must still regularly find themselves awake in the wee small hours wondering how they didn't. The ever growing wisdom out there on Scottish football forums and in provincial boozers is that it was Murray's spending and ambition that removed the competition in Scotland. Frankly that is a nonsense. Scotland is far from unique in being a league where only a small % of competitors can ever hope to lift the title. France and Germany are Europe's exceptions which prove the rule. Well, unless you count Man City being bankrolled by some sheiks as a good thing but where that sits in the "sporting integrity" debate goodness only knows.
In the 1980s Scotland regularly qualified for the World Cup. Even into the 1990s we were at 4 of the 5 major tournaments. Is the drop in the general standard of Scottish player, and in particular domestically, purely the fault of Rangers? Did nobody else buy foreigners? The truth is the advent of the EPL and Champions League brought an influx of TV money that has warped European football. The Bosman ruling also brought us to the point where any truly decent young footballer won't be with a non Old Firm club past his 21st birthday. Where in the 1980s Dundee United could thrill the entire country with wins against Barcelona now they must be happy to get through a couple of rounds against teams from minor Eastern European leagues. Our clubs are not professional in the sense that they can be compared or compete with those of major nations. Oddly rugby, arguably an even more conservative blazer run sport than football, has adapted sufficiently by creating a domestic league beyond Scotland's borders to ensure that if you watch one of our a professional clubs you are watching a standard of player comparable with those at top clubs in England or France.
A Rangers free SPL may well be more competitive. Personally I doubt it will be anything other than a procession for Celtic. Rather than casting blame in our direction a number of clubs would do well to take a look at themselves and, in failing to offer any serious proposals for change, the authorities. In Walter Smith's last game as manager in his first stint at Ibrox Rangers lost the cup final to Hearts (it was only in the years following nine in a row Rangers began to amass a debt beyond their means and utilise EBTs). Hearts then were clearly Scotland's third force. In the years since their fortunes have fluctuated but with two further cups and as the only club to split the Old Firm that remains the case. How then has Rangers spending on players significantly altered anything that has happened further down the league?
If other clubs and their fans want a competitive league that is great. So do I. You won't simply be handed one of a higher quality though by expelling Rangers. People aren't stupid. They will still recognise the product is substandard. The Sky generation are not suddenly going to be enthralled by the SPL over night.
The theoretical worst case scenario for Rangers is SFL3 but it is also the worst case scenario for all of Scottish football. That is not just a question of finance it is also about quality of player and the standing of our game. You personally may think it is the least we deserve. I personally may think it is what I would like to see happen and a sizeable minority of Rangers fans agree. It doesn't matter though as the chairmen of the SPL are unlikely to go that far. The more I think about it the more I think the actual worst case scenario for us is SFL1. If you think such a fudged scenario has not been debated by the SPL, SFL and SFA then you are naive. It is a scenario which could probably also be tolerated by Sky/ESPN. Three years without Rangers would not.
Ultimately the SPL chairmen must do what is best for them and fans of every club are perfectly correct to lobby for their desired outcome. It is impossible though for all parties to be satisfied with the outcome.
Events seem to be moving at a frenetic pace where once we had the purgatory of a D&P run administration. This week should see a vote on the transfer of the SPL share and hopefully progress with the McColl and Park acquisition. It is also rumoured to bring a conclusion on the registration investigation. The clamour for titles to be stripped for as yet unproven registration breaches remains as frenzied as ever. As before, my understanding is Celtic have been advised by their lawyers this will not be possible. Time and possibly a whole heap of legal fees debating the merits of blazer drafted regulations will tell.
Over the course of the last few months to be a Rangers fan is to have your morality and decency questioned on a daily basis. It is to experience people you consider friends wish you ill. If you are anything like the Rangers fans I am friends with then you will have endured all this because you chose to support Rangers since it is who your dad/friends support or because they are your local team. Those who wish to deny us our past and prevent us from having a future will never be satisfied. This has been a painful process but the financial and legal complexities are almost at an end. We must now get through the footballing implications and must accept punishment is required. Through all this though remember who you are and why you support our great club. Remember the first game you went to. Remember the joy you had from a Rangers win when your life was falling apart. Remember the 66 who went to a game and never came home. Remember we owe it to ourselves and to every other fan that ever cheered the team in the last 140 years to ensure we recover from this.
They'll never kill the Rangers.