RANGERS’ financial crash has served us up just about everything. Except, that is, much in the way of contrition from those at the heart of it. With his egregious and excruciating demand for the naming of SFA Judicial Panel members who had imposed sanctions on his club, Tuesday found Ally McCoist in full, unedifying, confrontational mode. By the time he had worked his way round to his press briefing at Murray Park the other day, the Rangers manager mercifully was cutting a more conciliatory figure, on an afternoon when the final Glasgow derby was merely an afterthought.
The 12-month ban on Rangers signing players, which the club will appeal, brought an outrage from McCoist that seemed to relate more to the predicament of the Ibrox side than the actual punishment. He maintained that “everyone is guilty to contradiction” when it comes to the situation Rangers find themselves. A situation McCoist sees shame in over the fact there are no guarantees a club struggling to avoid liquidation will pay in more than £3 million of football debt to other clubs, and up to £120m of other liabilities. With Rangers having recruited players they may not be able to pay for, and so potentially having obtained an unfair sporting advantage, what sanction did McCoist expect this week?
“I would have appreciated the opportunity for a potential new purchaser to pay our footballing debts,” he said. “Pay all our debts, in an ideal world, but especially debts to other clubs. It embarrasses and upsets me we owe money to other clubs, not just in Scotland but wherever. That embarrasses me and hurts me. I don’t think the punishment has helped us in any way, shape or form to recover from that.” McCoist went on to say the panel members were on “a hiding to nothing”, the SFA were an organisation “doing their level best” whose decisions will ever please everyone and who he just happens to finds himself in disagreement with. “It goes with the territory and you have to accept we are all big boys and we are all entitled to our opinion and to make comment.”
His tone was far removed from the “these people could kill our club” provocative language of earlier in the week that, whatever he might have subsequently said, played to the “lunatic fringe”. He at least could not be accused of that in respect of his stance on Scottish Premier League meeting tomorrow at which clubs will vote on new fair play rules.
Voted on will be various proposals. The two germane to Rangers are that clubs in administration would be docked whatever is the greater of 15 points or a third of their previous season’s tally, and any newco formed from the ashes of a liquidated club would be docked ten points and lose 75 per cent of their SPL payments for two years. It is not expected that these will receive sufficient support to be carried, an 8-4 majority required, but McCoist chooses his words carefully in questioning the time of the would-be rule changes.
“The timing is really sad and unfortunate,” he said. “Decisions on clubs going into liquidation, clubs forming a newco and all that kind of stuff, should have been down a year ago or whenever. I don’t know when it should have been done but no matter what happens now, it looks as though it is a reaction rather than proactive. With the ten points for going into administration we know the rules, so that’s fine. No problem with it. Whereas this is different and again it will please some of the people and other people will think it is [unfair].”
More disturbing than McCoist’s comments this week was the reaction to them from large sections of the media. Rangers, in part, are in their sorry mess because even when they haven’t been in the right too often they have been presented as wronged. Their sense of victimhood is too often willingly stoked. God knows, the team from the other side of the city play the victim card plenty. But when Celtic have claimed referee bias or SFA persecution, they have been rightly mocked and taken to task. Contrast that with the extension to the season Rangers were granted in 2008, the policing in the Manchester riot that year, the FARE investigation into the club’s sectarian singing, and now these SFA sanctions. In all such cases, there has been a willingness to look beyond the Ibrox club for the crux of any problems.
McCoist pulled back from that on Friday when asked again about the division of responsibility relating to Rangers being punished for their owner Craig Whyte’s failure to forward PAYE and NI contributions from the club’s employees. “Again, it’s a really fine line and people will have their own opinions of it,” he said. “I am just of the opinion that the people who haven’t done anything wrong are getting battered, be they players, members of staff, supporters. Listen, I am not daft enough to think we don’t deserve to be punished for our wrongdoing but I am deeply saddened that people who are getting hit most are the people who haven’t done anything wrong and really don’t deserve it.”
But what Rangers would deserve if the current club ceases to be is what is beginning to exercise minds. McCoist, again to his credit, doesn’t fudge what outcome should serve natural justice and sporting integrity. “Whether you are a supporter of Morton or Kilmarnock or Inverness or whoever. I could totally understand their fans saying ‘och, it should be the Third Division if they are liquidated and they are a newco’ because it’s fair. It might be fair, but is it the right thing to do? It’s probably not. It’s not a fair world, that’s what I am saying. If it was a fair world we would get the same punishment as Livingston for example. They got liquidated and ended up in division three so if it’s good enough for Livingston it should be good enough for Rangers but is that good enough for Scottish football?” The fact the answer to that is “no” tells everything about what a broken, dysfunctional environment the Scottish top flight is. Clubs wouldn’t debar a newco Rangers from the SPL as they would a newco Livingston because the reduction in revenue following the loss of the “Rangers brand” could take them down too.
We need look only to the banking crisis for parallels. Small banks were allowed to go under. Large banks were unfairly propped up with massive public subsidies because of the threat of contagion. McCoist presents his club’s case for “special treatment” in the event of liquidation as a necessary evil for the greater good.
But Scottish football doesn’t need a strong Rangers so much as it needed a Rangers who paid their bills and played by the rules.
And, instead of supporter demonstrations on Hampden, boycotts of away grounds and name and shaming of those bearing the brunt of the fact that the good football citizen down Ibrox way hasn’t existed this past decade, those who value Rangers’ name might want to replace their haranguing with humility.