Ex-Rangers chief accuses Old Firm

FORMER Rangers chief executive Bob Brannan has savaged the Old Firm's attempts to move to England or set up an Atlantic league, comparing their treatment of the Scottish Premier League with the near-fatal damage done by Gerald Ratner to his chain of jewellery stores when the businessman mocked his own company's products.

Brannan, now the chairman of Dundee FC, has spoken out at the end of a week which has seen Celtic and Rangers openly discuss their readiness to find another competition to play in, claiming that the SPL is holding both back their progress and at the same time threatening to slowly kill off the Scottish game.

Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and his Rangers counterpart Martin Bain have admitted that they are considering other options, even if they do not necessarily agree on what is the best route to pursue. And Rangers manager Walter Smith weighed into the debate with the opinion that if the Old Firm are not allowed to go, Scottish football faces a grave future.

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But Brannan, who was chief executive at Rangers under David Murray from 1998 to 1999, hits back in an article he has written in today's Scotsman, accusing the Old Firm of damaging the game's image with constant negativity about how poor the product is.

Comparing the publicity to that inflicted on Ratners by its owner, Brannan says: "By constantly bleating about why they are too good for Scottish football, the Old Firm remind the public, and potential sponsors, that the standard in the SPL isn't all that great. They aspire to go and play in the English Premiership where they can hope to compete with Stoke City, Wigan Athletic or Burnley and where they would be able to attract players of the calibre of Titus Bramble, Garry O'Connor or Graham Alexander."

He adds: "By sending out the message that Scottish football is crap and occasionally proving it in their performances, the Old Firm is doing the game in our country a massive disservice.

"The reality is that they are going nowhere. Get over it. They are going to be in Scotland in ten years' time, twenty years' time, thirty years' time. They should get behind the game in Scotland. They might even wish to consider that they have a crucial role to play in improving the state of our game."

Rangers manager Smith spoke out again yesterday, attempting to clarify the remarks he made earlier this week. He said: "Football will always be played in Scotland, we will go on, we will play.

"It's not the football that I feel would die, it's the profile of the country.

"We are losing players, not to the Premiership, but to the Championship in England and that's an indication that there is a decline in the standard that we have. What we have to do is find a way out of it.

"It's no use saying we have a very healthy and competitive league if we are losing players to the Championship every season. Sixty-odd Scottish players are playing in the Championship when they should be playing for clubs in Scotland.

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"Everybody sits down and congratulates themselves and says, 'It's not that bad'. But it is.

"Somebody has to come up with an idea somewhere to try to make the league more attractive and to get people to invest in the league and to make sure that we keep as high a level of player as we possibly can.

"That's what the supporters want to come and see – players. We were losing out to the Premiership a few years ago and now it's the Championship because people in England are prepared to invest to get to a higher league.

"If we have a European league, and access to that European league, then people would be willing to invest in Scottish teams so they could get to that European league.

"Scotland will continue playing football, we have great clubs in Scotland. But, at what level and what profile will our country have?"

Smith believes now is the time for action, not words.

"I do feel that it is time for something to be done to try to help our football," he said.

"We need a level of investment and somebody has got to come up with an idea to find a situation where people are prepared to invest in Scottish football.

"So far, everybody just keeps talking about it and nobody seems to do a great deal about it. It's obviously happening in a lot of countries and not just Scotland, Scotland is not isolated in this sense."