IF THE ten Scottish Premier League clubs who are meeting this week consider there is a place for a motivational speaker, they should give Steven Pressley a call. The purpose of gathering without Celtic and Rangers is to construct proposals to alter the voting structure and revenue distribution in the top flight.
These could be pushed through if the Ibrox club were liquidated and so the ten then had the 90 per cent voting block required. These changes would be the “tariff” extracted from Rangers, and Celtic for that matter, for allowing a “new-co” Rangers to weave their way through a moral maze and find themselves straight back in the SPL.
All of this fits into Pressley’s plan to progress Scottish football. The penurious state of the Ibrox club could be the point, according to the Falkirk manager who has named Irn-Bru First Division manager of the month, to push the game’s powerhouses into a position where they can put themselves in others’ shoes.
“I don’t want to see Rangers liquidated,” he says. “If they are and form a new company then we need them. What I want is to see a strong Rangers, a strong Celtic and a strong Scottish football. That will only happen with every club working together. At the moment I don’t see that. I want a Rangers and Celtic that are far more sympathetic to the needs of the other clubs in this country in terms of the distribution of wealth and trying to help other clubs, and not deny other clubs. They have a responsibility and I think, for the last ten years, there has been so much self interest in this country that has affected the development. I think the resentment towards Rangers now is because they haven’t been more sympathetic to others.
“If you actually look at how much the TV money makes of their finances, it is a minimal amount. Our country isn’t just about two football clubs. Although they do generate [two third of the money], if their business is run in a professional manner and adheres to the budgets of their football club they won’t need to chase the TV money they’re after. The problem has come because of historical debt that makes every single penny a prisoner for Rangers. They are continually chasing the money. [If they are liquidated] what we need to come back is a club with financial stability that can allow greater distribution of money. I hope this current situation may open people’s eyes and have them say ‘we do need to work with other clubs’ if there is restructuring”.
Pressley finds himself in a curious position. Were sporting principles to be followed in the event of a new Rangers requiring to be formed, then Dunfermline would likely be relegated at the end of the season, Ross County promoted and Falkirk invited in by the SPL to fill the vacancy created by the demise of the old Rangers. The Falkirk manager sidesteps the question as to whether, in that scenario, Falkirk would deserve top-flight status more than a new Rangers. “I’ve never considered that, and that’s the honest truth,” he says.
Yet his thinking is that Rangers need to be treated differently and more sympathetically, in essence. For he is accepting of the fact that a phoenix company playing out of Ibrox would be parachuted into the SPL… as would not necessarily happen were, say, Falkirk liquidated while in the top flight but threatened by relegation.
“The game is driven by TV money and that will have a huge influence,” he says. “We need to change the cycle, not be so dependent on TV money and get more people through the gates. But that period of transition might take clubs time to adjust, to cut their cloth accordingly. If we had a situation where the Sky money was to disappear tomorrow that would have huge impact. That is why Rangers may be a special case because the TV money will be dependent on them. But if they were to have to come back in, clubs should let them do that with the proviso that the percentages [for prize money, which currently sees 32 per cent claimed by the top two in the SPL] change and there is greater distribution of wealth, which should include the SFL as well. We need to start building clubs again.”
Pressley contends that Rangers are guilty of what he considers the most serious wrong-doing. “There has obviously been mismanagement along the way at Rangers,” he says. “Everybody knows that. Now it is about finding the solutions and addressing the issues, and not allowing this to happen again. With many clubs there has to be a better financial model that meets criteria within the SFA. We have seen too many clubs signing players one month then being unable to pay their wages two months later. That could almost be described as fraud. We need to eradicate that from our game and there has to be greater scrutiny of clubs’ finances.”