Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What Is Going On At Glasgow Rangers?

Let me be honest from the start. I do not know what is going on at Glasgow Rangers. The more important question, though, is whether anybody else knows what is going on either? The situation has long since descended into farce.

When Rangers entered administration back in February, very few people could have envisaged such a drawn out affair, with such a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs. Then again, perhaps the warning signs were there when the administrators, Duff and Phelps, had to go back to court two weeks later to re-apply for administration due to not following the correct procedure in the original process.

The news today that preferred bidder Bill Miller has withdrawn his bid for the club is the latest in a long line of twists and turns that leave the club on the brink of disaster. Fingers are being pointed in every direction as attempts are made to fathom what is going wrong and exactly who is to blame for this farce.

It is easy to point the finger of blame at the administrators. They are the people in charge of the administrative process and if mistakes have been made during the process then they need to hold their hands up and accept responsibility for those mistakes. However, Duff and Phelps are administrators. Ultimately their responsibility is to the creditors and not to the ongoing success of Rangers. In an ideal world they will know that the best case scenario for the creditors is also the best case scenario for Rangers - an ongoing, recovering business that is earning the money to repay the creditors as much as possible. The point at which an ongoing concern becomes an impossibility then their focus will change to getting as much out of the assets as possible. That is both their job and their legal responsibility.

No amount of new developments, headlines or smokescreens can take away the fact that Rangers find themselves in this sad situation because of the actions of their current owner Craig Whyte and the previous ownership of Sir David Murray. Rangers lived beyond their means and now it is coming back to haunt them. As enjoyable as the glory years were, there is no doubt that The Murray regime's reckless spending has seriously jeopardised Rangers' long term future.

New Owner Craig Whyte then took on that recklessness to a whole new level, using public money to finance the day to day running of the business. The more we learn about Craig Whyte the more of a joke the man becomes - a very unfunny joke but a joke nonetheless. The failings of the past are increasingly well documented. The issue is where do Rangers go from here, and why is the process of finding a new buyer not working?

There is a strong view among Rangers' fans that the SFA, SPL and other clubs within Scotland are playing with Rangers' future with punitive punishments, delays in making decisions and a desire to exploit the situation to restrict Rangers' competitiveness in the immediate future whilst retaining the financial advantages of still having Rangers in the SPL. There may be strands of truth in these views - strong strands in the case of the financial issues - but to blame others for the current situation is overly simplistic and also misleading.

With regard to punishment for past misdemeanors then there is little room for argument. Even Rangers' manager, Ally McCoist, has publicly accepted that the club deserve to be punished. Yes the club is the victim of poor management and potentially criminal negligence in the way that it has been used to massage the ego of Craig Whyte. However, whether fans like it or not, as owner Craig Whyte was Rangers. It is a cruel fact, but Craig Whyte's actions (and those of his predecessors) have implications and consequences for the club. The transfer embargo is a harsh and severe punishment - but the offences were also serious.

A genuine source of disgruntlement is the halfway house approach of the SPL. Although no decisions have yet been made, with the SPL postponing a decision for a second time this week, there is a clear hypocrisy about the stand seemingly being taken by the other SPL clubs. Some of the club chairmen themselves have even admitted the hypocrisy. The battle within the hearts and minds of these people is one between sporting integrity and financial well-being. These people know what is right. If Rangers cannot find a solution to their current problems within the framework of the existing company, and therefore liquidate and form a newco, then they deserve to start again from the bottom of the pile - just as other clubs have done. The problem is that these people also know that their own finances are deeply tied into the existence of the Old Firm.

This should not be a dilemma. If Rangers deserve to start again from the bottom then that is exactly what should happen. If such a move would jeopardise the financial viability of the rest of the Scottish game then they should be seeking solutions to fix the game, not bend the rules. A decisive decision would also surely help Rangers. Bidders would know exactly where they stood and what needed doing. If Rangers need to start again at the bottom then let them know that that is what they need to do. Rangers are a big club. They will be back - probably healthier and stronger. The fan base will not disappear. The official position may be that this is a new club, and history and records may have gone with the old company, but the spirit and community of the club would live on in the newco. Such a newco would also gain a lot of respect and goodwill for fighting their way up the league system.

A stronger stance from the rest of the Scottish game would help Rangers. Perhaps a more realistic stance from the administrators would also help. If it is true, as Bill Miller has claimed, that the real situation facing Rangers is far worse than the picture being painted by the administrators then this helps nobody. Any new bidder that they do find will also carry out due diligence and the real situation will be discovered. All that misleading bidders does is cause delays - delays that Rangers cannot afford. Be open and transparent and let the process play out properly and swiftly - even if the outcome is liquidation. If liquidation is inevitable then delays serve nobody's interest.

There is one more group of people who will need to change their approach if Rangers are to be saved. The other aspect of Bill Miller's statement was that he was withdrawing his bid, in part, because of the hostility of the Rangers' fans. 'Yank go home' the banners said. The Yank has gone home, but he has taken his money with him. Understandably, Rangers' fans preferred the idea of a Scottish bid, namely the Blue Knights and Brian Kennedy. However, it is all very well talking the talk. When it came to putting up the money required they did not deliver. If they are serious about purchasing the club then they need to put up or shut up. If they do not do so, then the fans need to accept that alternative bids must be considered. If they are not then there will be no Rangers to support.

The situation is a horrible one for Rangers' fans and one that I would not wish upon any group of supporters. However, as horrible as it is, the fans need to accept the situation, swallow their medicine and move on supporting Rangers in whatever shape Rangers are able to emerge from this. Talk of boycotts of other clubs, sponsors and organisations helps nobody. It alienates them from the rest of Scottish football and even the wider football world. Talk of watching the rest of Scottish football die without them does not serve Rangers' interests. Fanciful talk of joining the English system is nonsense. It will never happen. Rangers needs the Scottish game because that is the environment within which they will rebuild.

I sincerely hope that a solution can be found - and soon! The club and the game in Scotland is facing a crisis. Many people will share the responsibility of ensuring the solution is a fair, sensible and realistic one. Brave decisions need to be made. As football fans we should all be hoping that those people charged with finding the solution can find the courage to make the right decisions.