22 Jun 2012

Bin the succulent lamb – it’s humble pie for ‘Rangers’

So – 4 July. US Independence Day. Ten in the morning. Hampden Park. The Scottish Premier League gathers for easily the most momentous decision in that League’s brief history (unless there is a change of plan).

Which means they’ll postpone, evade, sidestep or otherwise duck out of lancing the carbuncle once known as Rangers Football Club.

Or not.

For there’s precious little time, a league to be run and tellingly a lot of clubs saying they’ll vote how their fans wish.

Well, Mr SPL Club Chairmen, if that’s really so then you have to vote unanimously “NO” if my unscientific poll of around 1600 emails and tweets is anything to go by.

And I do mean unanimously – not a single message received saying new Rangers should be allowed to play in the SPL.

First up and first prize for wit, verve and style goes to this missive from an Aberdeen supporter, when I asked what club chairman should do on July 4th:

“Wearing a t-shirt, holding a sign and sporting a cap all with the word ‘NO’ written on it, the Aberdeen chairman should walk in denying it is a nice day, saying no, he didn’t ‘have a good journey’ and declining any offer of refreshment. At the start of the meeting, before the prelims are over with, Stewart Milne should stand up and shout ‘No’ across the table. He should repeat this mantra all the way to the car like a very poor 2 Unlimited tribute act and should not stop until he is safely out of Glasgow and up the M9. Just for the avoidance of doubt, ye ken?”

Scores of you say you’re unsure this vote should be taking place at all. As one emailer puts it, it should be a ‘no’:

“However, my main concern is that I am unsure a vote should even be taking place on that date, and the confusion which surrounds what the necessary majority should be for any such vote.”

There does seem a lack of clarity from the SPL about what majority is required for what exactly they are voting on in transferring the SPL share (membership in effect) from old to new Rangers. All I can say is I will try for clarity on this from the SPL next week when I’m back in the UK.

‘It’s a joke, Scottish football is a shambles’

Let us go to Edinburgh, a city currently harbouring some colourful club owners unafraid to speak their minds on the beautiful game. But we’ll reach Vlad in a second. First this:

“I’m a Hearts Fan, Hearts must vote no to a NewCo Rangers on 4 July.

Rangers have been getting away with cheating for years, they got 2nd place last season while withholding Tax and NI, what do the SPL & SFA do??? Absolutely nothing.

It’s a joke, Scottish football is a shambles.”

Not strictly true since the SFA have acted and arguably the SPL have sort of acted.  Yet so say all of yous, it seems, inwith and outwith Edinburgh too. The sense runs deep across fans that (fines, buying-ban, points deduction notwithstanding) “Rangers” have just not been punished. A feeling all the more profound given “Rangers” almost clinical inability as an institution to say the word “sorry”.

At the risk of coming over all Elton (well Bernie Taupin to be exact) sorry does seem more than the hardest word for Bain, Greig, Whyte, McClelland, Ogilvie (still incredibly not on gardening leave), Whyte, Murray, Smith, Duff and Phelps oh you do this I’m bored with lists and this one goes on and on…

So Vlad? Well I think I can say it’s a No from Hearts owner and media-critic Vladimir Romanov who wrote:

“Without these people football will become cleaner and stronger. Without Murdoch the whole of society will improve, in particular sport and culture.

“Supporters deserve a new beginning and have to accept the fact that their club has to start from the lower league, keeping order in the SPL and without creating unfair competition.”

Vlad’s on fire, wishing to take Murdoch Money out of the SPL along with “Rangers”.

I’m trying to contact him in Lithuania, I sense an interview though on legal grounds, possibly pre-recorded don’t you feel?

Ah..Vlad the Impaler…. Makes Alex Ferguson look like Shirley Temple.

Along with the ‘noes’ a huge consensus over what a ‘yes’ will mean. If fans are to be believed a mass exodus from the game from lifelong loyals across Scotland is likely. Let a Hibs fan speak for you all:

“I would like those running Hibernian FC to vote no to Newco. If Newco get into the SPL Scottish football is finished as far as I’m concerned, I’ll not be back. It will no longer be a sport, it’ll be nothing more than a corrupt business as far as I’m concerned and I will not put another penny into that.”

Calling your bluff?

But will he? Will you all? Will you really (as they say) “walk away”? If it’s a ‘yes’ then every ‘yes’ vote is a statement to call your bluff, the sense that fans cannot, will not, let go, no matter what they say.

Meanwhile in Motherwell, the sense from so many that too many with too much power in Scottish football are causing revulsion among fans by acting is if it’s about money, money, money, oh – and money:

“As a Motherwell fan, I’m sure I represent every fans’ views here by saying no to the newco. The club must put integrity before money. I would be disgusted with my club should we not show courage.  

What if …We take out a 500m loan, buy Messi and Ronaldo, pay their wages via EBT.

Next season we will win league, and domestic cups. We will liquidate next season but come back as newco “the Motherwell ” not paying any of the debt/tax, keeping our “tainted” trophies and sail back into the SPL?”

Well – UEFA? Far-fetched? Of course, but in principle not so far different from Ibrox in practice. The notion of phoenix-like ascending from the fires of liquidation to the cool green turf of the SPL top-flight is just plain offensive to many people, let alone fans of other SPL teams.

Or take this view – which if my inbox is anything to go by, would be endorsed by many “Rangers” fans too, here argued with eloquence and wit:

“From every fan I’ve sat in the pub with chewing the fat over this ongoing farce, from my seemingly torture tolerant friends who follow St Mirren to Inverness on Boxing Day for the meaningless 0-0 endurance tests, to the Green Brigade fanatics who won’t rest until “Sevco” are sent to Wales without a football to play with – all in unflinching agreement that they will not return to the stands next season if Rangers are involved in anything but a cup wildcard fixture –  it surely can’t be argued that Scottish Football will be better off, financially or otherwise, with a newco Rangers involved. 

If they are demoted though, justice is seen to be done by the public, Rangers (who will celebrate three league wins in the first three seasons, so hardly a tale of woe there either) are seen to be made to pay for their wrongdoings and clubs like Hearts, Motherwell and Dundee United start a season with a realistic crack of playing Champions League qualifiers in Malta or Albania the following year.

Everyone outside Govan feeds off the new sense of fair play and competition which has a proven record of boosting attendances in any sport and Celtic fans are chuffed with winning the league before having to decide what to buy the kids for Christmas.

They say that the TV stations always win in the end and even though they have little say in the vote this time, I fear it will be ESPN and Sky who benefit most with a huge uptake in the sports packages next season… and Old Firm games still available to broadcast.”

If there are big holes in this last scenario, I for one would like to know, as would lots of “start-again-in-div-3” Bluenoses. Seems a win-win all round.

And then there’s Falkirk. When I asked for SPL club supporters that’s pretty much what I got. Except Falkirk. Annoyed of Falkirk. What about Falkirk? Not fair of Falkirk. Falkirk of Falkirk.

So I give in. Patsy that I am. For sheer persistence and…and…whatever, here’s Fakirk speaking for fans of Scottish Football League clubs:

“Many clubs have slogged it out year after year for well over a century in various leagues and they all aim to reach the top. The idea that a new club are able to apply for SPL membership yet, clubs who have been in the game all this time are not allowed the same opportunity frankly bizarre. We could well be bypassed in our ambitions and over 100 years of effort, by a new club and we have no say in the matter. As far as I know not even courtesy of other clubs asking for an opinion or offer of an explanation.”

Ok – Falkirk. Happy? Happier? 

Finally let me leave you with this. It’s an extract from one of hundreds of letters from fans’ currently pouring into SPL clubs across Scotland imploring chairmen to vote ‘no’. Or here, to go with fans in the grounds, not the TV money from those in the sitting rooms. Dundee United in this case, but that’s irrelevant:

“A YES vote would be going against the wishes of more or less the entire United support. It would show that you value the money generated by the typical armchair fan – who rarely, if at all, attends matches in person) more than the hard earned money from the loyal fans who pay to watch United week in week out, season after season, decade after decade.”

We now know ESPN/Sky will fund SPL football they say, regardless of “Rangers” absence, if current indications are anything to go by.

The boss up at Inverness says the club’s had so many ‘No’ letters it cannot possibly answer them in person. The chairman says the club will base its vote on the overwhelming ‘no’ vote of Inverness Caledonian Thistle fans.

But…but…he also mentions the need to consider business implications too. Spot the get-out clause Mr Chairman.

For all the noisy, hysterical clamour from sections of the Glasgow press that “Rangers” must somehow be saved because, well because it sells papers – every day posties across Scotland rather more quietly send another message to football club chairmen all over Scotland: bin the succulent lamb – it’s humble pie for “Rangers” sake and for football’s sake.

You can follow Alex on Twitter @alextomo

Tweets by @alextomo