Glasgow Rangers are a systemic club. Without them, Scottish football will fall deeper and deeper into the world of also-rans. Whatever the green half of Glasgow thinks, Celtic need Rangers. The rivalry – however unpleasant it can be – is what keeps football alive in Scotland’s second city.
However, this should not prompt the authorities in Scotland to give them sacred status. Rangers have been mis-managed – the way Luton Town were, the way countless others are – and they have lived beyond their means. It’s Greece in a football shirt. What’s even more mystifying is that nobody needs to spend that much money to win the Scottish Premier League (you can forget about the conquest of Europe…).
How a club with so many advantages can get into such a mess is beyond belief. They average 46,500 people per game at Ibrox – that’s more than three times’ what third-placed Hearts get through the gate and more than 10 times what St.Johnstone pull in. Only Celtic’s 51,000 average is better in Scotland.
Rangers may go into liquidation, or a white (sorry blue) knight may emerge at the last minute. It would almost be a relief if they went, for they could quickly regroup, rebrand and start again in Division Three. That would be the fairest way to do it. Look at Division Three today, with clubs like Alloa, Peterhead and Berwick, drawing gates that would look comfortable in the Southern League in England. Rangers in Division Three would be short-lived and in three years, they would be back in the Premier. For the clubs they meet on the way, it would be like Christmas – notwithstanding a big police presence!
But the Scottish Premier League CEO, Neil Doncaster, is hinting that a “newco” Rangers will be allowed to start again in the top flight. So Rangers may yet get away with years of malpractice. I guess he sees the writing on the wall for Scottish football, but can that be right?