RANGERS’ future in the top flight of Scottish football will be up for debate at an SPL meeting today, with uncertainty surrounding the outcome after club chairmen offered conflicting opinions on what should happen.
Proposed new financial fair-play rules would impose tougher sanctions on clubs which underwent ‘insolvency events’, and to avoid those sanctions Rangers’ preferred bidder Bill Miller would have to have his ‘newco’ in place by a week today. If Miller’s attempt to take Rangers out of administration goes on longer, the Ibrox club’s destiny would be decided by the SPL board.
Ultimately, however, the board is the servant of member clubs, and the men running two of them, John Yorkston of Dunfermline and Michael Johnston of Kilmarnock, issued statements over the weekend which differed widely in their views of what should happen to Rangers, who have been in administration since 14 February. A third, Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson, described it as a “lose-lose” situation and said he was finding it “very stressful”.
Yorkston said he understood the financial arguments in favour of keeping Rangers in the SPL, but believed that sporting integrity should hold sway. Rather than allow a newco Rangers to take over the SPL share of the old company, the Dunfermline chairman would relegate them into the Scottish Football League.
“That’s what I will be arguing for,” Yorkston told Scotland on Sunday. “But I do understand that others will look at the financial side, and that will have more sway than sporting integrity. I would guess I’ll be almost a lone voice, but it doesn’t stop me from having my say.
“Everyone agrees that there should be severe punishment, but there are a number of chairmen who will look at the financial thing and say, ‘do we want an SPL without Rangers?’ It will be a question of sporting integrity against financial necessity. That is the choice facing chairmen.”
Johnston said his choice would be to keep Rangers in the top division, because commercial necessity outweighed other considerations. “Members see the commercial benefits of having Rangers, even as a newco,” he said. “The clubs are mindful of a sporting integrity aspect, but the commercial benefits may outweigh that.
“We need more talks before we can move on. There are still lots of discussions to be had with the SPL and with Bill Miller over his plans for Rangers. We need more clarity on his plan and how it will be structured.”
Thompson, speaking before Dundee United’s 1-0 win over Celtic in the SPL yesterday, explained the dilemma facing the club chairmen. “This season we got £1.4m from the SPL. If we only get £200,000-300,000 then how do we fill the £1m?” he said. “But fans are talking about boycotts. It’s a lose-lose situation.”
Thompson said that he has received emails and letters from angry supporters warning him that they will stay away if a newco Rangers are voted back in. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I am finding it very stressful, as are most of the board,” he added.
“We are in a very, very difficult situation and at a crossroads for Scottish football. I understand how all the fans feel and I have great sympathy for them.
“But I have a legal responsibility to run Dundee United and a legal responsibility as a director of the SPL. We’ve got to think about our own clubs and about the whole of Scottish football. It is impossible.”
Thompson would not be drawn on how he plans to vote, adding: “I am not wanting to show my hand yet because I am still mulling over everything.
“But you have all the contracts, we don’t know where Sky and ESPN sit in all this. If we did it might make the decision a bit easier. We have put a lot of money in as a family. We can’t continue to do that; no football club can continue to rely on one individual, as we’ve seen in the last few months. I am just trying to weigh up all the options before we make some decisions.”
Rangers manager Ally McCoist said he understood that supporters of other clubs did not feel sympathetic, but urged them to recognise that what was in the interest of his club could also be in the interest of theirs.
“I just hope it’s a favourable result for us on Monday,” McCoist said after his team’s goalless draw with Motherwell on Saturday. “I can understand that the SPL and the SFA have got big decisions to make and they won’t please everybody.
“A radio reporter said the phone lines on the radio station have been jammed with non-Rangers supporters saying we should go down to Division Three and all that kind of stuff. I can understand that, but it’s not just as simple as that, because I do believe there would be a threat to the livelihood of maybe some other clubs in the SPL if that were to happen.
“That’s not something I would say lightly, but in terms of the finance of Scottish football - sponsors and television money and things like that - it’s a massive issue. The right thing to do might be the wrong thing in the long run. It’s a big problem.”
Meanwhile, sources connected with Miller’s bid for the club have played down a suggestion that the American businessman has yet to commit himself to keeping McCoist on as manager. Headlined ‘Rangers manager in the dark about job future’, the story quoted McCoist as saying: “I’ve spoken to Bill on numerous occasions. He knows that I’d be very keen to do it [remain as manager], but that’s his right if and when he buys the club.
“If I was buying an organisation, I’d want somebody in that I could trust and I would feel would do a good job. He’ll be absolutely no different.”
Pointing out that the quotes from the manager did not amount to his being “in the dark”, the sources said it was clear from their discussions with Miller that McCoist was very much in his plans. Miller also stated some weeks ago, to The Scotsman and other newspapers, that he wants McCoist to stay on as manager.