The balance between transparency and the importance of a national institution got out of step – but it is in Scotland’s interests that the mess is fixed
The story of Rangers is one of humble origins, testing hardships, critical days and football successes and failures. The club’s first pitch was on the Fisher’s Haugh on Glasgow Green. Ibrox Park today, at almost 15 acres, is one of the largest in Scotland. In season 18820-1883 the club had to borrow ￡30 from the President to pay its debts.
At 2.50pm on Tuesday the 14 February 2012 Rangers Football Club were put into administration for the first time in the club’s history. The Scottish Premier League immediately deducted 10 points and they consequently trailed Celtic by 14 points at the top of the Scottish Premier League.
The historical argument is clear; Rangers are a Scottish institution. The fixture with Celtic is one of the oldest league fixtures in the world. In 1907-08 192,000 people watched the three games with Celtic in the Glasgow Cup Final. The fans are rightly asking about the future of Rangers Football Club and the historical answer is inevitably one of both continuity but also change. Football Clubs have gone into administration before and progressed leaner but they have progressed. Motherwell, Dundee, Livingston, Airdrie being but four and while clubs such as Third Lanark and Gretna have been lost Rangers will survive but in what form is yet to be determined.
The economic argument is also clear, the club has been living outwith it’s means and the message for all Scottish Football clubs is that the clubs have to cut their cloth according to the new economic realities that Scotland and other countries find themselves in. The tax liability facing Rangers is as a result of not paying PAYE and monies been hidden in offshore accounts. However strong the institution, it is not above the Tax Laws which ordinary folks pay day in and day out – many of whom have put money into Rangers Football Club.
The social argument is also clear communities need sustainable sporting clubs within their communities but perhaps more importantly, as any economist will tell you, happiness in part is determined by jobs and employment. Many of the players if they are released could fine new clubs but what of the grounds man, what of the backroom staff, what of the 300 employees of Rangers Football Club who are wondering how will I pay my bills next month or the month after. If anything the social responsibility that the club has not only to be transparent and open with the fans but also help its employees is unquestionably the strongest argument of all.
On Scottish Football, Scotland and unemployment one of the lessons from this is that Scotland needs strong sport, Scotland undervalues at it’s peril the power of sport to make a difference to individuals, communities and even nations. Think of the happy scenes following Zambia’s victory in the African Nations Cup Final and what that meant to the country and then reflect upon the sadness evident in Govan on 14 February 2012. Sport contributes to about two per cent of Scottish GDP and if one accepts the argument that Scotland needs strong sustainable businesses then it is but a small jump, whoever one supports, to acknowledge that successful football businesses are important to communities whether they be local, national or international.
It is important for Rangers to be transparent, open and communicative for people can cope with situations if they know what is going on but unfortunate situations can arise if people are kept in the dark and do not know what the options are.
One of the lessons from the Motherwell administration story is that the club survived, adjusted, and is currently succeeding, living within its means, and adjusting its ownership model to allow the fans to have a bigger say and own the club. Rangers has a great history but right now it has to help its fans and employees more than ever.
Grant Jarvie, Universities of Stirling and Edinburgh