Could Rangers Football Club (1872) Become “Fourth Lanark”?
As Celtic celebrated lifting the Championship trophy at the end of last season, and the players paraded around the field, a young woman took to the pitch and sang the famous Three Degrees hit, “When Will I See You Again?”. One line, which I feel is very relevant to the current situation in Scottish Football, can be found below:
“Is this my beginning or is this the end? When will I see you again?”
I was far from the first person to predict the demise of Rangers Football Club (1872); be on it online, or through any other form of media. For this reason, I must take my proverbial hat off to those who have been discussing this theory, which is soon to become reality, from it’s earliest days. I’ll be honest and say that if someone had said to me five years ago, “In five years, Rangers Football Club will go bust, liquidate and cease to exist” I would have thought they were talking pushing the boundaries of believability to say the least.
I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner, I only say it to help highlight the enormity of the days we are now living through. Days like these will become the stuff of history and legend. Rangers were, at least in Scottish terms, a very “big club”. While we all enjoyed slagging them off and talking them down, we all knew they were, like ourselves a “big club”. Granted, they were never to be a member of Europe’s elite as they never won Europe’s premier trophy, but nevertheless, the fact remains they were a “big club”.
And yet, despite this status, Rangers Football Club (1872) is soon to be no more. It has, of course, been announced that the old company will be liquidated in the coming weeks/months, and therefore, it is simply a matter of time until that form of the Ibrox club draws it’s last breath, before joining the likes of Renton, Vale of Leven, Gretna and, perhaps most famously, Third Lanark, in the pages of history.
The question on everyone’s lips is, obviously, “What will become of Rangers?”
Many Rangers supporters will argue that the “newco” club (any new form of “The Rangers”, also known as Sevco 5088) should be parachuted straight back into the Scottish Premier League, to prevent the “death of Scottish Football”. Many others, mostly non-Rangers supporters, will argue that any newco should be demoted to the third division, a level from which they would have to work their way back to the highest tier in time. Others still would argue that the club should lose their place in the “forty two team leagues” altogether, so that a team currently playing in the non-leagues could take the open place.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the structure of the Scottish game, the highest division is the Scottish Premier League, which consists of twelve sides. Below this, there are the Scottish Football Leagues, consisting of Division One, Division Two, and Division Three. Each of these leagues consist of ten teams, but no one can be relegated from, or promoted into, Division Three. This means the same forty two clubs make up “professional” Scottish football every season. The exception to this “professional” rule are, of course, Queen’s Park, who have always remained true to their amateur roots.
Anyway, below Division Three are the “non-leagues”, where amateur football clubs battle it out with no hope of progressing to the upper echelons of the game. Occasionally, a space opens up due to the bankruptcy of one of the forty two “professional” sides, as we saw a few years ago when Gretna’s fairytale story came to a grisly end. This event saw several non-league teams battle to win the open spot, with Annan Athletic eventually overcoming it’s rivals and joining Division Three.
Now, this begs the question, “If the Scottish game is to be fair, and all teams are to be treated equally, should Rangers lose their place as a result of their imminent liquidation?” This is a very reasonable question. It may not be a terribly practical possibility in many people’s eyes, but it is, nevertheless, a fair question to ask.
It may be an unlikely outcome, but Rangers could simply vanish from “professional” Scottish football. At present, the club hold one of forty two places and, with their disappearance, there is an argument to say that someone else (who did not knowingly and purposefully cheat both the taxpayer and the average Scottish football fan for over a decade) deserves their place more than any newco.
Granted, any non-league team replacing Rangers would not bring with it the vast support that the Ibrox club possesses. However, some people would argue that most Rangers fans would simply go somewhere else to watch their football in time, and that Scottish Football would do what it has always done, survive. In fact, many would say the redistribution of the Rangers support to other clubs would actually help the overall state of the game in this country. Of course, Rangers fans would understandably debate this point, and will argue for their club to, at the very worst, remain members of the “professional” leagues. No one should begrudge them this argument either. After all, there is nothing wrong with them wanting to see the survival of their club, at least in some form.
Personally, I think a newco will, eventually, end up playing it’s football in Division Three. Whether or not that will be in the coming season is debatable due to increasingly obvious time restraints, but if I was to put money on one of the potential outcomes of this situation, I would back that one. In saying that, it is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen.
However, the potential for no “professional” newco remains a stark possibility, and that must send shivers down the spines of anyone who supported Rangers F.C. (1872). There is nothing to stop a current non-league team (if not several of them) from legally challenging any re-admittance of a newco into the “professional” league. This could rumble on, and on, and on.
As a Celtic fan, regardless of what happens, there will be some things I will miss about the presence of Rangers. I’ll miss certain aspects of the derby matches, and I’m sure we all will. The “buzz” before the games and the adrenaline rushes during them was “like a drug”. However, the same feelings come along with big European matches too, so they would not be lost forever without Rangers. I’d also miss the rivalry, but again, new rivals would emerge without a newco.
I certainly wouldn’t miss the less pleasant aspects of derby day, and of the rivalry. I hope the violence, the bigoted chants, the sectarian songs and the general hatred embodied by some of Rangers’ support dies with the old club. Any newco would have the chance, should they decide to take it, to acknowledge the sins of the past, apologise for them, and attempt to distance themselves from them before moving on with a clean slate. For example, they could sign a player from the Republic of Ireland, something every other professional team in the United Kingdom has done with the exception of Rangers Football Club (1872).
The survival of a newco would certainly mean the survival of the derby, and of the rivalry, but it would be a fantastic chance for the Ibrox faithful to shed some of the stuff that should have been left in the past long, long ago.
Fundamentally, for me, I do not mind hugely whether a newco goes to Division Three, or into the non-leagues. I would be outraged if a newco was allowed straight back into the Scottish Premier League, but that is another argument entirely. I support Celtic Football Club, and for that reason, regardless of the existence of a “professional” newco, I will be back to see Celtic next season, and I hope to continue to do so for many seasons to come.
In the coming weeks and months, the question that makes up the title of this article will likely be answered, at least to some degree. Will we see a newco in the SPL next season? Will we not see a newco for several years, unless we draw them in a cup competition? Or will we simply never see them again?
“When will I see you again? When will we share our precious moments? Will I have to wait forever?”
“When will I see you again?”