The business of football: What next for Rangers FC?

The decision over whether Rangers will be shunted into the first or third league of the Scottish Football League will be made on Friday. But what effect will a vote either way have on the club, and on Scottish football? MT's Paul Stone investigates.

by Paul Stone
Last Updated: 12 Jul 2012
It would be fair to say Rangers have had a tough time of it recently. In February 2012 the club went into administration, owing up to £134m to unsecured creditors. Manager Ally McCoist has lost up to 21 players since January, including top stars Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker, Kyle Lafferty and Steve Davis. The club is also currently under a transfer embargo, meaning they can’t replace those players. At this stage the club isn’t even sure of what division they will be playing in next season.

Last week, ten of the 12 SPL clubs refused to accept the Rangers newco entry into the Scottish Premier League next season, meaning Rangers has now applied to join the Scottish Football League (which represents divisions one, two and three).

The vote will take place on Friday, where the majority of teams will have to vote ‘yes’ to accept Rangers into the first division. On the one hand, this would be a smart move for Scottish football: Rangers' presence in the SPL would bring revenue through the turnstiles, not to mention some lucrative broadcast deals that would be safeguarded by a smooth transition into the first division. But it appears that a move in this direction may be unlikely: 12 clubs have already announced they will vote against it, in favour of Rangers starting in division three in order to ‘uphold the integrity of the game’.

What does this mean for the Scottish Football League?

Whether Rangers start the season in division one or division three, there will certainly be an increase in TV rights and gate revenues for the teams in that division. Stenhousemuir reckons that their annual broadcasting potential will creep up to £3million if the newco does wind up in third. But if the team is forced to start over in division three, Scottish football will face a crippling £80m loss from sponsorship and TV deals, deals that are reliant on Rangers’ footballing success. ‘Who cares?’ you ask? Well, some of this cash invariably trickles down the whole league. Less money for Rangers means less money swilling round the whole Scottish football industry.

What does this mean for the Scottish Premier League?

Well, Celtic have already been moved to an unbackable 1/33 to win the division. But with no Rangers, the prospect of a one-horse title race will be unappealing to spectators and TV broadcasters alike. ‘Financially and commercially it will bite us a bit,’ admits Celtic manager Neil Lennon. ‘It's a great selling point for Scottish football but they are not here and there's nothing I can do about that.’

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan has stated that he believes the loss of Rangers will cost the SPL clubs £15.7m a season. This means, in the short term, clubs in the SPL will almost certainly have to tighten their belts. Otherwise, they may well end up experiencing the same difficulties Rangers have faced.

Of course, with BT Vision now on the scene and looking to snap up as much football as they can, maybe there is still hope for Scottish Football yet. And with Rangers banned from European competition for the next three years, it may finally be the chance to shine for those clubs looking to break the monopoly the Old Firm currently enjoys.

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