By Tony Attwood
I keep coming back to the Rangers issue for one simple reason: I think we are seeing unfolding in Scotland something that could change the very fabric of football across the world.
And because I think there is a growing chance that Rangers will adopt a solution that Royal Arsenal FC adopted over 100 years ago.
But there’s more because what is happening in Scotland could well happen in England and elsewhere. My feeling is that Rangers are not the only club to be involved in corrupt practices in terms of payment of players and managers, and of tax evasion. If Rangers do find a way out of the mess then the route they follow could well be the route that will be followed by others – and that could change the very fabric of football.
So, to the latest – and the link that I now find with Royal Arsenal FC.
At present Rangers have no league to play in. The SPL clubs are about to reject them, and there is talk of them flying straight into the top division of the Scottish League. But not everyone is happy with this, and others talk of them going into the Third Division. There was a bizarre story of Rangers trying to buy Bury FC and so pilot themselves into the English league system.
But now there is serious talk that no league will have them, and they will be forced to play friendlies only.
The problem for Rangers is that there are many enquiries yet to happen, and some of these won’t happen until Rangers are in a League. And without being in a League Rangers are quite probably outside of the effective control of the Scottish Football Association – who still have punishments to hand down after Rangers took them to court.
(The court found in Rangers favour, but just said that the SFA had to find other punishments rather than the “no signing of players for a year” punishment. The options are suspension or expulsion from Scottish football or a ban from entering the Scottish Cup. Or both. Or a fine. Or all of them.)
And this is where I turn back to the Royal Arsenal scenario. When Royal Arsenal announced that it was going to be a professional club in 1891 the Kent FA and the London FA held meetings at which the clubs that were members were asked to vote on a motion to the effect that no member clubs should be allowed to play Royal Arsenal FC.
Had that been passed it would have made life difficult for Royal Arsenal, who would have had only FA Cup matches, and games against the league clubs – all of whom were in the north and midlands.
But the result of the meeting was a flop for the FAs since the votes were lost, and Arsenal continued for two more seasons playing friendlies against local teams.
The reason that the vote was lost is simple: the other clubs in Kent and London loved playing Royal Arsenal for Royal Arsenal were the biggest crowd puller all season. So the friendlies went on – along with all sorts of regional cups, which have been long since forgotten, but which were of significance at the time.
Meanwhile Arsenal looked for ways out of the issue – and started to set up a Southern League. This was on the verge of getting going when the Football League admitted Royal Arsenal – who then changed their name to Woolwich Arsenal FC and joined division 2.
Rangers has different problems from those that faced Royal Arsenal, and I’ll deal with those below – but its prime issue is the same as Arsenal faced in 1891. Who do we play?
Rangers latest problem however is a player problem. It has threatened all players who were registered with the now defunct old Rangers that if they try and sign for someone else, they will be sued. But on Sunday last Steven Naismith and Steven Whittaker (two prized players) said they would not play for the new Rangers, and were thus free agents. Allan McGregor, Steven Davis, Kyle Lafferty and Jamie Ness have joined in after declining to transfer their contracts to the new club.
Rhys McCabe and Sone Aluko have also said much the same. And you can see why – because of uncertainty. Which is why Rangers might decide to say, “hang the lot of you – we are playing friendlies next season”. Then at least everyone will know, they’ll be able to sell meaningful season tickets, and they can make arrangements.
What Rangers and some other people really wanted was to be accepted back into the SPL, but then relegated for past misdemeanours. That would have given them one year out of top level football. But division 3? Or applying from outside the league for a place against other clubs who might want to join the league – that all looks to uncertain.
Thus with even the notion that Rangers might get into the league now in doubt a radical opt-out might be in Rangers interest.
Meanwhile the Scottish Premier League has a problem akin to England in 1919 when Arsenal were elected to Division 1. Two places were available in the top league following its expansion. Chelsea got one, because they were only relegated due to match fixing by Liverpool and Man U. The issue was, should Liverpool and Man U be kicked out of the league – and who should get the one extra place (or indeed 3 places if Liverpool and Man U were indeed kicked out).
As we all know, Arsenal got that space. In Scotland Dundee who were runners up in last year’s first division and Dunfermline who were relegated in May are both in the bidding war. Their problem is that unlike England in 1919, there is no precedent in Scotland so no one quite knows. All we know is that the SPL have lost Rangers and gained Ross County.
By now you might be thinking: enough – surely there is no more.
Well…. The Crown Office has instructed Strathclyde police to undertake a criminal investigation into the way Rangers were acquired last year. The Procurator Fiscal for the West of Scotland will now work to “fully investigate” the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of “alleged criminality” during that process.
- Football has changed into a killer instinct game
- Bruce Rioch: a life of argument
- EuroWatch: England crash out, the French depart and only our German gooners remain. Plus Marco Reus transfer chat
- To find out how well refs did in 2011/12 we analysed their every move. Now we start the reports.
- Why bother with next season when you can read all about it now?