Rangers newco: Henry McLeish urges clubs to look at the bigger picture

HENRY McLeish says that Scottish football needs to sort out the Rangers situation quickly before it derails all the work that has been done to try to safeguard the future of the game.

HENRY McLeish says that Scottish football needs to sort out the Rangers situation quickly before it derails all the work that has been done to try to safeguard the future of the game.

Claiming the debate over which division the newco should be placed in is a “distraction”, the former First Minister says fans and chairmen have to put aside their anger and frustration and consider the bigger picture.

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With the Scottish Football League meeting on Tuesday and the Scottish Premier League gathering on Wednesday, McLeish, the author of a 2010 report which recommended radical changes to the way the Scottish game is governed and leagues are constructed, says that the situation is grave.

“We have a crucial week coming up,” McLeish told Scotland on Sunday, “and, if the clubs can’t resolve this issue soon and find a home for Rangers, then we are facing massive fallout and it could set back Scottish football for a very, very long time and that at a time when our game is already in a poor condition.”

With so many clubs speaking publicly against the reincarnation of the Ibrox side being admitted to the SPL, it seems certain that the future of the club lies in the SFL.

But, with talk of league reconstruction being rushed through to see the newco Rangers replace an elevated Dundee in the First Division, there has been a backlash from First Division clubs. That, in turn, has led to threats of a breakaway, undermining McLeish’s vision for the way forward.

“Rangers is the immediate issue but there are bigger issues and that is the future of all of Scottish football,” he said. “The game is in a parlous state and the need for change is significant. We have got to restructure the game and we have to do it properly, not for Rangers but for the game as a whole, and we have to get that message over. We are all mindful of our own clubs and our own leagues but the clubs, the Press, the fanbase, as well as the sponsors and the government, we all need to self-help. People need to compromise.

“I understand the frustration and the anger of the clubs and the fans and know the finger is being pointed at Rangers but we can’t allow that to be the only focus, there are other issues, bigger issues and the SFL and the SPL have got to realise that the whole of Scotland is looking at them to get it right. We can’t be looking back at this in 12-18 months with regrets. I have done a lot of work with the SPL, the SFL and the SFA and the SFA have moved and put in place a lot of good reforms and have good people in all levels. If everybody in the professional game can focus their minds then we could make good progress.

“When it comes to the leagues there is a lot of frustration, a lack of trust and lack of confidence but the sponsors and the government won’t sit back as the game disintegrates further, although I’m not sure how much lower things can get, we are at rock bottom.”

However, McLeish acknowledged that was his claim 12 months ago and, since then, the situation has become even more shambolic and critical.

“We seem to get easily distracted. We now need radical change to keep the game alive and the sooner we can get Rangers housed in a league and concentrate on the bigger picture the better.”

But McLeish added that clubs and fans, of Rangers and other clubs, would have to come to terms with the fact that no solution will materialise without compromise. Citing figures which show that gates still totalled four million in the four Scottish divisions over a season, he said it was important that the clubs took fan feelings on board but felt that they were using the public anger over the Rangers situation “in defence of them taking such a hard line”.

McLeish said people now need to regain some perspective. “We can’t afford to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he concluded.