There haven’t been many times in recent years that members of the Rangers hierarchy and supporters of other Scottish clubs could speak with one voice. However, Ibrox director Paul Murray provides such unanimity on the issue of any scrambled summer league reconstruction.
Earlier this week Falkirk manager Peter Houston contended that the shortcut to an enlarged top flight would be his club winning the Championship at the expense of Rangers and Hibernian. That, Houston explained, would see all obstacles to a 16-team Premiership – for which there appears a growing clamour – solved in an instant to spare the Ibrox men and the capital club another season in the second tier.
In the unlikely event that Mark Warburton’s men do not earn promotion, the conciliatory Murray wouldn’t just “absolutely not” want Rangers to be playing top-flight football in 2016. He would actually add his voice to the chorus of disapproval sure to be deafening from other clubs’ fans.
“Even speaking as a Rangers director there should be a backlash [in that event],” he said. “We need to be successful on the pitch. There is only one place to get us promotion and that is on the pitch.
“I think if you spoke to most Rangers supporters they wouldn’t want to get in through the back door. After everything we have been through in the past three or four years, we don’t want some league reconstruction or some artificial structure to make this thing work.”
Echoing the sentiments of Warburton on Thursday, Murray maintained: “Big clubs such as ourselves, Hibs and, to an extent, Falkirk, we’ve got to win promotion on merit. We can’t go on the pitch and, just because we are Rangers, expect to win. We have to go and do that.
“There should be no question of us being shoe-horned into the top league; that just shouldn’t happen.
“It probably would be the right thing commercially for the game for us to be in the top league but we have to be in on merit.”
At least at executive level, the acrid air between Rangers and others in Scottish football might be blowing through by comments from Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne this week. Asked by STV if titles earned by Rangers should be stripped if a recent judges’ ruling they misused EBTs last decade is upheld at a Supreme Court appeal by the old club’s liquidators BDO, Milne said: “We have to move on… what’s happened in the past has happened.”
Reconciliation that Murray willingly offers would, many argue, require a recognition that the former Rangers of which he was a director wilfully broke the football rules and – appeal notwithstanding – sought to create an elaborate ruse that denied considerable sums to the public purse and provided a telling sporting advantage. Murray is savvy enough to know that those who would suggest the successes by teams in Rangers colours from 2001 to 2010 warrant having an asterisk placed against them remain. Whatever commercial imperatives might be shaping Milne’s mood now.
“The subject has been battered to death obviously, but we believe that we should move on and we think that most clubs in Scotland want to do that. Maybe some don’t, but we think it’s important to move on. I do welcome Stewart’s comments, but whether that’s the views of all the clubs I’m not sure.
“I think we have to do our bit as well. It’s not a one-way street. I think we have to engage in Scottish football and we have to engage with others. I said at the very outset when I got back on the board that we had to get Rangers back into mainstream society. Doing things like the involvement with Gala Fairydean Rovers we have announced is what football clubs do. This is normal business. We didn’t do this kind of stuff. It is important to do things the right way.”
Extending the hand of friendship has taken the form of Rangers chairman Dave King writing to those in similar positions at other Scottish clubs asking to meet – this communique appearing on the website of journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain.
“We are disappointed that was obviously leaked by someone,” Murray said. “I think that was actually pretty poor and not very professional. But, yeah, I think Dave did do that and I think it’s the right thing to do.”