MANCHESTER United have firmly rejected claims by Rangers chief executive Charles Green that they would welcome the Scottish Third Division side into the English Premier League.
• Charles Green: Rangers have more fans than Arsenal and Manchester United are not hostile to Rangers joining the Premier League
• Rangers chief executive believes Barcelona and Real Madrid would welcome the chance to play the Ibrox club instead of teams like Getafe
• Peter Lawwell mentioned the possibility of expanding leagues beyond borders to create regional leagues within Europe
The Old Trafford club were responding to an assertion by Green that Europe’s biggest clubs – including United, Real Madrid and Barcelona – would “definitely want Rangers in their league” due to their extensive fan base. On a day that Celtic reiterated their desire to be involved in discussions regarding a European League, Green was talking up Rangers’ own ambitions to leave Scottish football as he prepares for the club’s flotation on the London Stock Exchange.
He said: “As a football club, if Rangers were in the Premier League only Manchester United would be bigger. Arsenal haven’t got more fans than Rangers. The fan base is so big.”
England’s top flight clubs have previously dismissed talk of Rangers and Celtic moving south, but Green added: “I don’t believe the Premier League are hostile towards it because I think it’s a generalisation. Speak to Manchester United. They are not hostile to Rangers joining. Why would Man United want to play Southampton? Why, when they could play Rangers? Sixty per cent of the Premier League don’t want Rangers. Of course they don’t want Rangers. Why would Southampton, Swansea, Wigan, Aston Villa? Why would any of them want Rangers or Celtic in their league. It threatens their existence.”
United, however, dismissed talk of welcoming Rangers into the world’s richest league. “We are not in favour of it at all,” said club spokesman Phil Townsend. “Our view is it’s the English Premier League and should remain that way.”
Such an emphatic refutal of his views did not deter Green, however, who went on to outline a future for Rangers on the global stage. He said: “Ask Barcelona and Real Madrid if they would like Rangers and Celtic in their league. They definitely would. Why wouldn’t Barcelona want to play Rangers home and away as opposed to playing Getafe? They would sell (those) games out.
“What will change football over five to ten years is this insatiable demand for the big clubs to play each other,” he added. “And this is not the insatiable demand from the west Midlands or from north London. This is the demand from the Middle East, Asia, the Far East.”
While present-day reality dictates that Rangers will today be taking to the field to face East Stirlingshire at Ochilview rather than savouring the amphitheatres of Old Trafford or the Nou Camp, Green appears to be placing his faith in leaving the Scottish leagues on a three-year Uefa experiment which has allowed 16 women’s teams in Belgium and the Netherlands to form a cross-border league.
“The difficulty is that historically I don’t think Celtic and Rangers would have been allowed to consider leaving Scotland,” he said. “What is now going to change things is now we’ve got this cross-border league for women.”
League reconstruction is currently a hot topic in Scotland and on that subject Green took the opportunity to take the latest in a series of swipes at the SPL’s refusal to grant his newco Ibrox club entry to the top flight last summer.
“The SPL told us face-to-face, ‘We don’t want you, you aren’t welcome’,” he said, adding that any revamp of Scotland’s leagues would also keep the issue of whether Celtic and Rangers would leave the domestic game top of the agenda – something he says the Scottish game’s governing bodies have always been keen to play down.
He said: “What we understand is that any restructuring will also revisit the taboo. A bit like, ‘Don’t talk about the war to the Germans’. ‘Don’t mention Rangers and Celtic leaving Scotland’. It was always ‘Shhh don’t mention that’.
“I think the taboo of that is going to be lifted. Scottish football without Rangers and Celtic might actually become more competitive within the remaining clubs rather than having these two monsters sat above them.”
Whether or not such lofty visions for Rangers ever come to pass, Green’s stewardship of the Ibrox club was yesterday praised by goalkeeper Neil Alexander, who has welcomed the decision to bring back former manager Walter Smith as a non-executive director.
Alexander, who was previously managed by Smith, said: “We trust that Charles Green is taking the club in the right direction and I think he has done a fantastic job. I think he’s the right man to take the club where it wants to go.
“Having someone like Walter Smith back is just fantastic for the club. He is one of the best – of not the best – managers I’ve worked under.
“With someone of his stature back to guide the club in the right direction is really positive for the future.”