RANGERS say they plan to make their voices heard within the corridors of power at the new Scottish Professional Football League after being granted full membership status.
The Ibrox club were barred from voting in recent debates on the future of the Scottish game following their formation as a newco in the wake of last summer’s liquidation crisis. New clubs joining the Scottish Football Association at that time were forced to serve five-year spells as associate members before they were given full voting rights. But the SFA’s 93 member clubs voted to scrap associate memberships at the governing body’s annual general meeting earlier this month, meaning Rangers are now able to re-join the rest of Scotland’s 41 league clubs to have their say on major issues.
Rangers’ chief executive Craig Mather said: “This is the status Rangers should have and we look forward to playing a full and leading part in the rebuilding of Scottish football. That’s what all of us, everyone who cares about the game, should be working towards. It is also important that Rangers’ voice be heard because this club is too big and too important to be ignored. Stage one has been completed but the journey continues and we hope to meet and make many more friends along the way. However, now that we are full members we will be determined to make our own views on the game’s future known.
“Everyone knows Rangers have had to tread carefully but we will now be moving forward with greater purpose and determination on and off the pitch as well as within the corridors of power.”
The new dawn for Scottish Football was evident at Hampden yesterday as the first round draw for the Ramsdens Cup was carried out watched by staff from the Scottish Football League and the Scottish Premier League as well as both their chief executives. Rangers were handed an away tie against Albion Rovers, scheduled for 27 July.
SFL boss David Longmuir hosted the event at the National Stadium where Gus McPherson, who was a winning manager of the competition with St Mirren pulled the balls out of the hat along with Ramsdens financial director Colin McLaughlin.
Just a few hours after agreeing the way forward at a midnight meeting, Longmuir said: “When I first hosted a draw for the Challenge Cup six years ago there were five people here including me. There has certainly been progress under a great sponsor.”
The presence of Rangers in last season’s competition had already increased interest in the knockout competition that is contested by the 30 teams in the three lower divisions with the addition of two sides from the Highland League.
The Highland League has only one representative this season, Formartine United who will entertain East Stirling. Two members of the newly formed Lowland League, Threave Rovers and Spartans, will play off to decide who meets holders Queen of the South.
Longmuir added: “I am delighted that this draw marks the launch of the Scottish Professional Football League. We have both sets of staff here and this event marks the start of everybody working together to take Scottish football forward.”
Longmuir and his SPL counterpart Neil Doncaster will now jostle for the top job in running Scotland’s leagues with Doncaster delighted that years of hard work have seen a resolution.
Doncaster said: “The meeting yesterday ran on for longer than anticipated but that can happen when negotiations are taking place. The main thing is that we got there in terms of one unified body. It has been getting worked on for years and it is what fans have wanted and what the Henry McLeish report wanted as well. I am not sure what caused the delays yesterday but sometimes meetings stretch to fit the time available. What is more important is what happens going forward.”
Albion Rovers have probably more cause to look forward to the new season after landing their first game against Rangers since 1978-79. The Coatbridge side’s Cliftonhill ground has a capacity of only 1,200 but finance director Frank Meade reckons that they would be cut further should the game go ahead there and that may lead to a move.
Meade said: “We were the club that was missing out on Rangers working their way up the leagues as we were relegated to the Third Division and they were promoted. This makes up for that in a lot of ways.” I remember the last game which was a League Cup tie that I am sure we dominated before losing something like 5-0. I followed the club for 50 years and during that time we have never had a game at Ibrox so I suppose that is my only disappointment.”
Rovers may look to Lanarkshire neighbours Airdrie to host the game with Meade explaining: “Our capacity has been set for 1,200 without the need for segregation. However, I would reckon that the police would look for segregation and that would mean that we would only have one thousand at the game.”We have a small support but a very loyal one and we will make sure that they get home tickets before anyone else does, but we know that this game will generate a lot of excitement so we may need to look elsewhere.”
The police, broadcasters and the SPFL could all be involved in determining where the game takes place.
Formartine United v East Stirlingshire
Stenhousemuir v Arbroath
Forfar Athletic v East Fife
Elgin City v Montrose
Cowdenbeath v Dunfermline
Peterhead v Brechin City
Alloa Athletic v Dundee
Raith Rovers v Stirling Albion
Annan Athletic v Morton
Berwick Rangers v Livingston
Queen’s Park v Ayr United
Queen of the South v Spartans or Threave Rovers
Albion Rovers v Rangers
Clyde v Falkirk
Stranraer v Dumbarton
Airdrieonians v Hamilton Academical
• Ties to be played on Saturday, 27 July.