It’s not just Rangers’ fans who should mourn | Kevin McKenna
A prolonged period without their oldest rivals will hurt Celtic
Soon the parents of today’s hothouse children will be obliged to consider Glasgow when choosing a good MBA degree for their gilded offspring. For the last four months the city’s street parlance has increasingly begun to resemble the argot of the Harvard Business School. This is what happens when the nation’s grandest sporting institution is brought down in the sporting world’s biggest corporate scandal. In a bar in Possilpark, on Glasgow’s north side, the following conversation actually took place recently. Possilpark is the sort of arrondissement where the local Rottweiler population is fitted with panic alarms.
“How are you Willie?”
“Ah’ve been better, Tam.”
“What’s yer problem, big man?”
“Ah’ve had to pay off the joiners today. At this rate they’ll be changing the locks on June the first.”
“Have you thought about a CVA?”
“I have, but my ex has a floating charge over the assets.”
“Get it into administration now, Tam, and change the company address before noon tomorrow. As long as you let your shareholders know then you will have discharged your owner’s fiduciary responsibil ities.”
Words like “downfall”, “ruin” and “fall” simply do not even begin to hint at what has happened to the club that was once known as Rangers. Before 14 February, the day they formally entered administration, they were the reigning champions of Scotland and held the record for the number of domestic league titles won by any professional football club in the world. They were Scotland’s establishment football club, possessing all the grandeur, disdain and entitlement normally associated with any aristocratic lineage. Now they exist only in the fevered imaginations of their diehard supporters who, like all grieving lovers, and with great difficulty, have been trying to move from denial to acceptance ever since HMRC moved to liquidate them last month.
Of course a new club will rise from the ashes of Rangers FC. The institution and everything it repre sents simply means too much to too many people for it to disappear. For the moment, though, its fixtures and fittings belong to an English businessman of obscure provenance who paid a paltry £5.5m for the privilege. Rangers, properly run, ought to be worth around £50m. This club, though, hasn’t been run properly now for anything up to 20 years. The mismanagement in this period resulted in gargantuan debt, tax avoidance on the grand scale and its forced sale. They also stand accused of breaking almost every one of the Scottish Football Association‘s membership rules. Craig Whyte ran Rangers into the ground during his nine-month tenure. It seems that every bill falling due at this time was treated as though it were instead a nice wee gift from very kind people.
The downfall of Rangers a nd the nature of their eventual recovery matters to Scottish society. Scotland’s first minister acknowledged as much when he breenged in at the start of the scandal. But it was a clumsy intervention and he was criticised for offering succour to a club guilty of Goodwinesque malfeasance when other honestly run enterprises were going to the wall on the whim of a bank manager. Mr Salmond is now being kept informed of developments at a safe distance.
Rangers, and to a lesser extent Celtic, are loathed by the atheist cabal who dominate Holyrood. At their sanctimonious worst they are insufferable. The religious tribalism manifest in the Rangers/Celtic rivalry offered them an opportunity to become hysterical and pass their deeply flawed and illiberal anti-sectarian legislation. That and the travesty of its minimum alcohol pricing policy and the new (and even more unaccountable) national police force means that the SNP government is becoming almost as reactionary as the Westminster coalition.
The closure of Ravenscraig and the destruction of the miners leave Rangers and Celtic as Scotland’s last bastion of genuine working-class culture with all its inglorious and unsightly characteristics. The overwhelming majority of each club’s support hails from Scotland’s most marginalised and deprived urban communities. To many Rangers fans a future without their club, or a permanently handicapped representation of it, will mark the end of what little hope and optimism they possess.
There has been not an ounce of compassion from any Celtic fan I know over Rangers’ downfall. Much of this is understandable; as most were brought up on horror stories of discrimination and injustice at the hands of the society that Rangers once embodied. The Ibrox club, however, have long turned their back on their anti-Catholic past. Some of their fans’ more unkind community songs are merely a collective howl as they mo urn a world that has passed forever.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of a Scots-Canadian businessman who in 1994 saved Celtic from a fate similar to Rangers’, the Parkhead club are now a model of fiscal probity. Yet I wonder if the financial arrangements of many of its postwar executive boards would have borne much scrutiny? For years it seemed that magic turnstyles were in operation on Celtic matchdays. These devices could make thousands of people disappear by the time the official attendance was published.
It is inconceivable that a prolonged period without their oldest rivals will not hurt Celtic. Which player, possessing any ambition at all, will be attracted to what will become the most uncompetitive league in world football, where the winner is always known before a ball is kicked?
Rangers must be punished severely for sustained and committed wrongdoing. The battalions of their former players who inevitably find employment in the media must also stop bla ming sinister and infernal forces for their current predicament. Dozens of Rangers executives could have blown the whistle on the wrongdoing and thus saved them from annihilation. We can only guess at the hundreds of thousands of tax-free reasons they had for staying silent.
The bout of moral rectitude that has affected us Celtic followers must also end soon, though. We have more in common with the other lot than we care to admit, and our real enemies are the same too. Read More