30 Jun 2012

People at Hampden foresaw Rangers meltdown

An extraordinary conversation with a senior Hampden Park insider. Best not to say which organisation this person works for, for reasons which will become obvious. This person asked that I do not quote them directly and I respect that wish, of course.

What follows is essentially for those who matter most in all this: fans.

Fans long convinced the governing bodies in Scottish football do not care to hear their views and are interested in little beyond the pursuit of money and the preservation of Rangers at all possible costs. That view’s never been entirely fair – not entirely.

However, there is at least one person inside Hampden who agrees with much of what fans say and feel.

For the first time I’ve encountered a football official in Scotland who actually seems to appreciate the game from a fan’s point of view. Who thinks – as so very many Rangers and other fans do – that the plan to try and parachute a football club which scarcely even exists in law at the moment, into the Scottish First Division, simply stinks.

The emails currently inundating club chairmen the length and breadth of Scotland are being noticed – to put it mildly – as they were noticed with devastating effect during the recent SPL shoe-in attempt. And they are being noticed in Hampden at the offices of the governing bodies, too.

There are people in those offices who have long predicted the Rangers meltdown. Officials who insist there is no possible way the club met the financial criteria for SFA licensing last season and question why they were playing football last season at all.

I have – once again – been taken at length through the details of licensing rules for the Scottish Football Association, which governs teams in the Premier League and Football Leagues.

There appears to be no loophole. The comments of the Football League chief executive first, saying there was no way a Rangers newco (new company) could be admitted into Division 1 as opposed to Division 3, and then soon after saying they were looking at doing just that, were described as the words of a man and an institution (the second oldest football league in the world, I was told) in a state of utter panic.

The proposals for the SPL two-tier league were described to me as a “coup” and a “blatant takeover bid”, and I was advised not to think for a second this has anything at all to do with integrity. It was , I was told, about nothing at all except the preservation of Rangers and about money, money and money.

Equally I was warned not to take the acceptance of the SFL clubs as given, even with the not-so-veiled threats about the breakaway top two leagues if the league clubs don’t buy it.

Again, the scenario that so many fans talk of was suddenly – for the first time in months of investigation – coming from the mouth of a serious player in Scottish football governance. If Rangers Newco (new company) is simply invited into the First Division, what’s to stop any other club simply going bust and demanding the same treatment. Forget all this pedantic rulebook stuff about application to Division 3 and doing your time if you’ve done the crime.

Civil war between the offices of Premier League, Football League and Football Association at Hampden Park might be overstepping into hyperbole. But only just, judging from what I’ve just heard.

From my source, utter incredulity that the old Rangers FC could even attempt to transfer its share – its official league status, if you like – from the old company to the new during a period of insolvency. My source was quite adamant that this is simply not possible for the SFA to accept. Clearly the SFA thinks there is some way this can be done but SFA Article 14.1 was quoted to me carefully and in detail. Since checked again, it does appear unambiguous on this issue.

In sum, my source spoke of feeling absolute and utter contempt for what is being proposed by the Scottish Football League in the PowerPoint paper published yesterday by Scottish TV.

When I pushed on this, the response was the lack of information to back up some of the frightening figures in the headings on this presentation. The statement that income would fall 30 per cent in football if Rangers entered even Division 1. Talk of financial meltdown left unexplained.

No doubt that adds little to what fans already knew in terms of fact. But I believe it adds enormously when you consider how shut out of this attempted diktat Scottish football fans feel. All I can say is there is at least one sympathetic ear at Hampden, as there are others in various football league boardrooms. And just look at what happened to the Great SPL Rangers Escape Plan when fan power turned the anger on chairmen across Scotland.

Fans sent them home to think again over the SPL. Can they do it again over the SFL Division 1 idea?

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