Following the tumultuous events of the last week, it has become quite clear that previous reports of Rangers’ (potential) demise were not exaggerated after all….
The Ibrox club’s descent into administration may have rocked Scottish football to its core, but it has been painfully obvious for some time to many that this outcome was almost inevitable. On that basis, the degree of bewilderment exhibited by some fans and commentators at the news has been frankly astonishing.
This reaction, it seems, is predicated on the assumption in some quarters that a club the size of Rangers could never succumb to financial woes, however hellish the state of its finances became.
Time and again, be it within the sports pages, or radio phone-ins, we were fed the tired old line, which went thus: ‘Yes, the debts are huge, but hey, Rangers is more than a football club – it’s an institution, and it simply won’t be allowed to disappear. Not a chance.’
Borne out of devout loyalty to the club, or simply an ignorance of the realities of the serious nature of the financial position – or perhaps both – this refusal to face up to the club’s perilous situation has rebounded in quite devastating fashion. Rangers are now staring into the abyss, and it must be painfully clear to even the most blinkered of fans that burying heads in the sand it not going to get the club out of its current wretched predicament.
Some people, it seems, must have short memories. As recently as 1994, Old Firm rivals Celtic were within hours of going to the wall, and were only kept alive at the last minute by Fergus McCann’s millions.
When he bought Rangers from Sir David Murray last May, we were reliably informed that Craig Whyte would perform a similar white knight role in restoring the fortunes of the blue half of the Old Firm. However, Whyte, whilst admittedly not the architect of Rangers’ long-standing financial woes – that distinction obviously falls to Murray - can safely be assumed to have worsened the situation during his brief tenure at the helm.
Given the gravity of the situation facing Rangers, the comments of the administrators appointed last week have been surprising. During the weekend, they reported their confidence that Rangers will continue as a going concern, and therefore liquidation is unlikely. We were also told that HMRC has no stated intention of putting Rangers out of business.
However, let’s consider the facts for a moment. The club has yet to discover the outcome of a tax case, which if lost could result in a bill of somewhere in the region of £49m to £75m according to estimates. Additionally, the administrators admitted they could not account for the sum of £24m, secured through season ticket sales for the next three years, but which has so far failed to materialise in the club’s accounts.
And, of course, there’s the small matter of £9m in unpaid taxes which has accumulated since Whyte took over last year, and was allegedly the catalyst for Rangers being plunged into administration last week. Against that backdrop of uncertainty, then, it’s difficult to comprehend where the origins of such relative optimism concerning Rangers’ existence can be traced.
Whatever the case, Rangers’ current travails will have sent a shiver down the spines of club chairmen across the land. Scottish football as a whole is struggling financially, and for all that Rangers’ woes are the result of their own fiscal mismanagement, you can understand that others will be keen to get their own houses in order lest they too fall victim.
In recent years, we’ve had administrators knocking at the door of other well-established clubs. Motherwell, Airdrie, Livingston and Dundee (twice) have form, and fans at those clubs will know only too well the impact administration can have on everyone associated with a club. Certainly, events on the field of play become almost inconsequential when survival is the name of the game.
Meanwhile, across the city, Celtic finds itself almost out of sight at the summit of the SPL in light of Rangers’ automatic ten-point penalty deduction. Predictably, (and understandably) hoops boss Neil Lennon has been warning against complacency as his side look to take advantage of their great rivals’ misfortune. Although it must be acknowledged that, long before the unfolding of last week’s incredible events, Celtic had already assumed the mantle of likely league champions.
That much was further emphasised over the weekend, when Rangers lamely went down 1-0 at home to Kilmarnock, and Celtic responded by thrashing Hibernian 5-0 in Edinburgh to rub salt into their great rivals’ wounds.
Craig Whyte didn’t attend the emotionally-charged game at Ibrox, which was probably a good idea given the vitriol that has been directed towards him by Rangers fans over the past few days. Sir David Murray has also been keeping a low profile over the last few days, his legacy at Rangers having been tarnished – if not completely obliterated - given his own role in this sorry mess.
Indeed, you wonder whether Murray thinks back to his time as Rangers chairman, and his ill-advised and egotistically-driven rant that ‘for every fiver Celtic spend, we’ll spend £10.’ How obscenely misguided those words sound now. Words which may yet be carved upon the gravestone of Rangers FC.