Regular old firm matches, which have been a fixture of Scottish football for over a century, look set to end. “New Rangers” have been voted into division three after the old company went bust.
Despite the potential financial consequences to the Scottish game, the clubs that make up the Scottish football league in its entirety have decided to force the once-mighty Rangers to compete in the lowest division next season.
The annoucement comes just over a week after the Scottish Premier League (SPL) decided to oust Rangers – formerly one of the dominant forces in top-flight football in Scotland. The clubs that make up the SPL voted to throw Rangers out after overwhelming feedback from football fans across Scotland that Rangers’ misdemeanours – proven and unproven – should not be forgiven.
What are the odds for Rangers to make 3 successive promotions? Will be a good journey for Rangers fans. #RFC
— Alan Shearer (@MrAlanShearer) July 13, 2012
Doubt was immediately thrown over the prospect of the new Rangers club having to fight its way back up through the divisions, with the suggestion from the club itself that a break-away scottish premier league – SPL2 – might now be set up.
However a letter from Charles Green – owner of the new Rangers club – was later posted on the same website apparently accepting the decision. In the letter, Mr Green says:
“We are grateful to be accepted as members of the SFL and accept their decision to vote us into division three … from the outset, we made clear we would play where we were told to play and we just want to get back to playing football.
“This decision maintains the sporting integrity that clubs and fans across Scotland have been calling for but it also impacts massively on Scottish football as a whole and only time will tell what the consequences will be.”
— Rangers FC Official (@RFC_Official) July 13, 2012
The humiliation of one half of the old firm – Celtic being the other – follows a tumultuous year in which the club has battled scandals, takeovers and financial ruin.
The first indication of problems at Rangers came in April 2010 when the club admitted that it was being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs, accused of avoiding 10 years’ worth of tax and national insurance by paying employees through offshore trusts. The outstanding bill for the payments through these offshore trusts, known as EBTs, is believed to be £75m. And that is not the only bill the club owed the taxman.
A year later, Scottish tycoon Craig Whyte bought the club for just £1, but it was later revealed that he had borrowed £24m against Rangers’ next three years season ticket sales to pay off club debts.
In February 2012 Whyte put the club into administration. Despite Charles Green agreeing a takeover deal for the club with the administrators, HMRC would not agree to the proposed terms of the deal, and in June it forced Rangers into liquidation so that any wrongdoing in relation to the tax affairs at the club could be thoroughly investigated.
Known across Scotland as “the ‘Gers”, Rangers were once the establishment club of Scottish football. Their Glasgow rivals Celtic will now be strong favourites to retain their Scottish league title. With the Old Firm duopoly broken, at least for the next three years, they have no obvious challengers.