A Rangers takeover by Bill Miller would spark fierce battle in the SPL
The club's rivals will question their right to remain in the SPL should Bill Miller's newco plan get the final go-ahead
The sense of panic in Neil Doncaster's voice was detectable. The chief executive of the Scottish Premier League used a series of broadcast interviews earlier this week to play down any controversy attached to any "newco" Rangers competing in the top flight. It was almost a case of one protesting too much.
With Rangers hurtling towards newco formation following confirmation of Bill Miller's preferred bidder status, an immediate and fierce political battle awaits. Doncaster and the SPL clubs have had self-interest and the grasping of revenue as key motivating factors for so long that the chief executive's stance is no surprise.
It remains to be seen – firstly at a meeting on Monday where financial fair play proposals will be discussed – whether or not Rangers would be welcomed back into the SPL under Miller's plan and what penalties such a scenario would entail. If the fair play model isn't passed, the SPL's board is in the invidious position of deciding what to do next with Rangers against a backdrop of inevitable protest.
Remember, these SPL clubs have categorically failed to heed supporter sentiment towards their flawed league set-up. Despite Doncaster himself admitting such basic problems last season, no successful vote on league reconstruction ever occurred. Crowds of 5,200 at Aberdeen and 3,600 at Kilmarnock on Wednesday night provided just a snapshot of how those presiding over the SPL are worthy of little respect. They hardly have a smart record in decision making.
Rangers could in theory call the SPL's bluff and, in doing so, trigger thoughts of what surely would be an uplifting situation in many ways. The moral argument regarding at which level Rangers should emerge from next season continues to rage on – routinely in relation to matters which are as yet unproven – but even their own supporters may recognise the positive aspects of demotion to Division Three. It raises an intriguing possibility, as unrealistic as that may be.
For those Rangers fans, the prospect of having successive points deductions to the extent that Celtic are almost guaranteed to lift the SPL trophy even before a ball is kicked is hardly likely to be palatable. Add in the prospect of no European football for three years and the mooted punishment of losing 75% of SPL commercial revenue and those attached to Rangers will question why they should remain in the top division.
Sandy Jardine, the former Rangers player who has emerged as an ad-hoc spokesman on these matters, has now publicly issued such a threat. Which, quite obviously, will have Doncaster squirming. SPL clubs have become so damagingly reliant on television revenue, largely owing to their own ineptitude elsewhere, that they would descend into an almighty panic if that deal was slashed on account of a Rangers disappearance for three years. Heaven help them, those in boardrooms may have to move towards radical thought.
There is a strand of irony here. The Scottish Football League, comprising divisions one, two and three, has been financially smothered in recent seasons to the extent that many clubs are operating on a hand-to-mouth basis. Those very clubs were ostracised when the SPL chased the as yet unattainable promised land, 14 years ago. A key monetary problem for the SFL is the ludicrous system whereby only one club can gain promotion to the SPL each season.
There can be no doubt that the catapulting of Rangers into the SFL would boost lower-league revenue. A television deal would be put in place and sponsors would finally at least compete for a product in which Rangers would travel to Elgin, Montrose and Stranraer.
Such clubs would benefit from fresh focus bestowed on them and an increase in attendances with the Rangers support, or at least an element of them, attracted by the novelty value of regular visits to previously unforeseen territory. Ibrox crowds would be difficult to predict, even if cheap season tickets, belligerence and the opportunity to support a homegrown side attempting to recover pride would hold an obvious appeal. When Rangers returned to the SPL, they could do so with a degree of financial muscle behind them and legitimately believing they have served time for the wrongdoing of the past.
The position of Celtic is also pertinent. The newly-crowned champions should relish any opportunity to prove they are a stand-alone club, capable of surviving and profiting perfectly well in any event of a short-term Rangers absence. The only danger comes in relation to Europe, and the lack of competition on the domestic scene which Rangers once complained about when failing to make any impact on the Champions League. Hearts, Dundee United and Motherwell may seek the chance to play for the SPL's second place but top-flight quality and strength in depth is nothing like the late 1980s, when the Old Firm faced external pressure for the right reasons rather than on account of diminishing standards.
Miller's move to place an unconditional bid strongly suggests he knows exactly where Rangers will play their football next season. But if there is really an alternative, it could have more positive spin-offs than many would routinely pass off.http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2012/may/03/rangers-bill-miller-spl