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August 2021

A bird table on the terracing. No one ever said football had to make sense.



Publication on July 20th: Woolwich Arsenal, the club that changed football.

The book that re-writes the Arsenal story.


By Tony Attwood

I’ve just finished reading the autobiography of Wally Barnes – Arsenal’s post war hero, and captain of Wales.   There’s a review of the book on the Arsenal History blog.

I mention that fact here because something in that book rang a bell with me when read about Allan McGregor, the Rangers player, joining others in leaving the bankrupt club.

What struck me as similar between the two stories was that Wally Barnes seems to have stumbled into pro football by accident, and kept on having “greatness thrust upon him” as 12th Night would have it.

Mr McGregor, and indeed the whole of Rangers don’t seem to be suffering from a surfeit of greatness at this moment (although I believe McGregor has like Wally Barnes, served his country with distinction), but they do seem to be rather accidental in their progress too.

McGregor has signed for Besiktas, leaving a Rangers team that is currently without a league to play in and is certainly banned from Europe for a while.  Rangers are seeking to block the registrations of their players (more on that in a moment) but what interested me first was the fact that McGregor (and Steven Davis) are both heading for Besiktas – who qualified for the Europa League at the end of last season.

Unfortunately, due to “financial problems” (mere details of course including non-payment of salaries and taxes) Uefa has refused Besiktas entry into the Europa this year and the next two times they qualify.

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One wonders at this as a career move.  From Rangers (bankrupt, banned from Europe) to Besiktas (“financial problems” and a similar banning order).  Is that a career move?

But now here’s the other twist.  When Charles Green purchased Rangers his payment of £5.5million included £2.75m payment to purchase the registrations of the club’s players.

This is something that happens quite often – and indeed there are regulations controlling it.  Employees’ terms and conditions of employment are protected when a company is transferred from one owner to another.

Except that normally in such arrangements the new employer has to show that he/she is offering employment in the same standards and terms as the old employer.  That is the salary has to be the same, and the job has to be the same.  So you can’t take the previous MD of the operation and ask him/her to be a telephone receptionist.

For Rangers the problem is that their players were employed as players by a club that was in the SPL, whereas now it is possible that the club will be in Division III.  I am not a lawyer, but if I was a player instructing a lawyer in this matter, that would be my first point.  Terms and conditions are not the same three leagues lower down, where the average crowd per match is under 1000.

The new owners of Rangers have apparently sent faxes letters to every club in the UK warning them off buying their players for nothing.  Despite this  Everton, Southampton and Stoke have all signed ex-Rangers players.

The issue is, of course, severe for Rangers, because if they have no players at all, they are going to struggle to put out a team quickly.  They will also have to buy in players and if they are playing in the Third Division, then this will not be that much fun for those players.

Not that Wally Barnes had a problem like this – he simply walked into the manager’s office at Southampton one day to be told “you are going to Arsenal”, which even in war-time Britain was probably a nicer suggestion than “your going to Besiktas”.  Although I am of course biased in this regard.  (Because of my religious views I would not be allowed to write a blog in Turkey, so I tend not to hold that country in the highest regard – but it is just a personal thing).

But back with Rangers for a final moment.  One of the things that keeps cropping up is that if Rangers are not in the first division then the broadcasters will cancel their agreement to show matches live on TV.   But I have seen repeated comments from those who signed the agreement to the effect that there is no get-out clause in the TV contract.

If that is so, and Rangers do go into the third division, the obvious solution is for a TV company to sign up that league for TV matches one season.   Queens Park v Rangers would still be quite an interesting local derby, after all.

As a final thought, I recall that when my old pal Roger went on a tour of Scottish football grounds he found one in which there was a bird table on the terracing. I can’t remember which club it was, and don’t know if the bird table is still there, but if it is, I do hope they don’t get forced to take it down if the club plays Rangers this season.

If you have seen a bird table on the terracing of a Scottish club, could you let me know the details?


12 comments to A bird table on the terracing. No one ever said football had to make sense.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Well I must say that when reading the title I had no idea what this was going to be about 😉
    I think this is all going to be very good business for the wallet of some lawyers…

  • WalterBroeckx

    But at my local club we have a bike stand where you can stand and watch football while sitting on your bike 😉
    Well it was possible last season but with us winning the league and as a result going up I don’t know if it still will be allowed next season…

  • Harry Barracuda

    I assume European employment law will take precedent here a la Bosman. If a player has a contract with a club and that club closes, the contract presumably is terminated.

    Registration, Shmegistration, The Rangers Football Club has no contracts with these players.

  • Richard

    TUPE – Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)- is the legislation that applies here and it does what it says on the tin. It’s there to protect the interests of the employee but only if he or she wants them protected. They are perfectly within their rights to opt out and to seek employment elsewhere if they so desire.

  • Richard – I agree with you entirely. Which is why I can’t understand what Rangers are playing at. Everyone knows that TUPE can’t cover their situation – so are they simply trying to bully their players into submission?

    If that is the case it is not a very good advertisement for themselves as an employer is not very good.

    But still, the move from Rangers to Besiktas really is bizarre.

  • Richard

    Tony – does it also not seem strange that the new owner thought that they might have ‘bought’ those contracts? In this sort of scenario I don’t think that such assets are available for sale. By all means purchase the ground and the training facilities, they have no say in the matter. But people do have a say and it sounds as if quite a few of them have spoken rather loudly.
    But Besiktas? Surely some mistake?

  • Wooby

    Hmm, now it appears that McGregor may not have agreed to a deal with Besiktas:

    Hard to say who in the media to believe on the best of days so we just have to wait for the final word to emerge in the coming days.

    @Tony, I do think it is some type of bullying by the new owner. He probably knows there is a good chance players who had already taken a pay cut, and now stand to make good wages elsewhere, will choose to leave. So the best thing to do is get out in front of it and huff n’ puff to try to prevent the exodus as much as possible.

  • If Rangers have gambled on keeping the old club’s players under contract it is one hell of a gamble. although maybe the point of the contract was that if the courts refuse to say that these players are Rangers’ players, then maybe the buyers of the club get that part of their money back.

    Certainly if they have to start getting players afresh, as seems more than likely, they will be better off in division 3. They have precious little money and at present it seems not that many people are renewing season tickets – but I only have that as informal reports from friends in Scotland.

    The problem is the cost of a season ticket in the third division is somewhat lower than the cost in the Premier League, so the income could be considerably reduced.

    Problem times for the club, and the start of the season is very close indeed.

  • WalterBroeckx

    As someone said today : Arsenal in crisis with the Usmanov thing and maybe RVP leaving? Ask a Rangers supporter if Arsenal is a club in crisis….

  • MikeSA

    It goes further than just the players.

    The liquidators move in today. Some have questioned whether the assets like Ibrox and Murray Park will be let go by them seeing as the book value is way, WAY above the 1.5 million quoted by the administrators.

    If the sale of the assets is nullified and set out for tender, then Sevco will have no grounds for training or for matches, and no team.

    Even if this doesn’t happen, I have questions as to whether Sevco will still be in business by the middle of the season or even have a team at the start.

    The Scottish football,authorities are so bent its frightening. In their own self interest in preserving their jobs they are attempting to bully the clubs into voting Sevco into the SFL 1st division, against their supporters wishes. It’s so corrupt it’s bizarre, and Green along with his mates is also still trying to bully and bluster through it as well.

    Very few are looking very honorable in this, but the chairmen of Raith Rovers, Turnbill Hutton(?), looks like one of the few with any integrity.

  • MikeSA

    Btw, Green doesn’t want the players to play for Sevco going forward, he wants them so he can sell them and raise money from them.

    Green feels that Sevco are “entitled” to the money.

    This is bizarre because the TUPE legislation requirements were not followed by Sevco, and even if they were, the players can still decide for themselves, so Green has no case.

    The truly arrogant bit of it is that the original company owe hearts 800 000 for one of the players they still have, and also still owe money to other clubs in Europe as well.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Arsenal could step in and allow some players to go there on loan to get some experience and playing time.
    Seeing that there is shared history between the two clubs this could work .They just have to ask nicely !