May 7, 2012, was a Monday and it was sad. Not as sad as the day I travelled all the way to Inverness to see Dunfermline Athletic relegated, but sad nevertheless. Obviously it was localised sadness, isolated around these parts of West Fife mostly, and perhaps a few outposts where Pars fans have found homes in far-flung places. Nothing major, just football. Not even good football – Scottish football! Still, I was sad. Hibs had gone 3-0 up after only 15 minutes. Relegation was confirmed.
Oddly, although not surprisingly, less than a month later and the likelihood of relegation being revoked is growing. Rangers, who entered administration in February, are sliding deeper into trouble.
It’s difficult to know where to start when describing Rangers’ problems or which threat is most likely to relegate or liquidate the Gers first. Right now, after Rangers going to the Court of Session to oppose a one-year transfer embargo, the news is of FIFA discussing sanctions with the SFA. Reports suggest that FIFA’s preferred punishment when a club defies a ruling from a member association and seeks redress in law is relegation. If the transfer embargo is set aside, as ordered by the judge, the replacement punishment could see Rangers suspended or expelled.
Long story short, should the conspiracy to save Rangers fail, for any reason – enforced relegation, liquidation, suspension or expulsion – Dunfermline could be reinstated back into the Scottish Premier League.
Would I be happy? Yes, absolutely, I always want to see my local team in the top flight; however I suspect Pars fans are actually divided on the subject.
Many Pars fans are actually looking forward to dropping down into the First Division next season, especially with local derbies to be had against Raith Rovers, Cowdenbeath and Falkirk. For me, local derbies are a good consolation, but nothing more. Beating Falkirk is fantastic and putting one over on the wee team from Kirkcaldy is good too. The derby games during Dunfermline’s title-winning First Division campaign 2010/11 will never be forgotten, particularly Martin Hardie’s crucial free kick at a packed East End Park. There was humour too, none more so than when the dedicated Pars mascot, Sammy the Tammy, appeared in a cardboard tank to “open fire” on the Rovers fans in the away end. Unfortunately, not everyone saw the funny side. Still, Pars fan wouldn’t be Pars fans without arguing with each other about something daft. Overall though, I favour top-flight football to local derbies. Anyway, Hearts and Hibs and even St. Johnstone aren’t too far away, in Edinburgh, Leith and Perth respectively, and I’ve always enjoyed a trip to Tannadice, even if it is located in Dundee – only joking, I love Dundee really.
There’s also a huge financial benefit should the Pars stay up. Dunfermline chairman, John Yorkston, has been a little more outspoken and much more in tune with the bulk of non-Rangers fans than most Scottish chairmen – something which I think is increasingly becoming a source of pride for Pars fans – and, although it’s easy to accuse Yorkston of financial self-interest when Dunfermline stand to gain, I’m absolutely convinced he is not motivated by money. I’m not saying he doesn’t want his club to prosper (or perhaps, given the debt and cash flow difficulties, I should say survive), but he is clearly very interested in the well-being of the game as a whole.
Perhaps that’s more than can be said for SPL chief executive, Neil Doncaster, who can’t or won’t see the bigger picture. The SPL Fans Survey results collated on April 23, 2012, provided an interesting insight. Out of 16,527 responses, 15,782 (over 95%) said a liquidated Rangers reformed as a new company (newco), should not be allowed immediate re-entry into the SPL. Not only that but, in the event of a newco being allowed direct entry to the SPL, a majority of 8,630 (52%) said they would not attend any SPL fixtures at all, and only 1,957 (11%) said they would continue to attend SPL fixtures as normal.
Maybe Doncaster doesn’t believe these numbers, however, in any case, I suspect it’s not the fans who say they’ll boycott that Doncaster needs to worry about. It’s the ones who genuinely lose interest in a meaningless product, with or without a notion to boycott, that’ll cost the SPL. Boycotting probably means the person is interested. Not boycotting, but not going to as many games is much worse. That’s apathy, and it’ll kill the game very quickly. If Doncaster, the SPL, the SFA, and club chairmen can’t spot the real dangers, then Scottish football will suffer. The real dangers being loss of sporting integrity, loss of interest in the Scottish game and loss of valuable goodwill.
As far as I can see the choice is simple:
1. Sporting integrity = short-term loss, long-term recovery
2. No sporting integrity = short-term loss, long-term decline
SPL clubs face a cost for sporting integrity either way:
1. Sporting integrity = Rangers/newco fans not attending SPL games
2. No sporting integrity = other SPL clubs’ own fans potentially boycotting or losing interest
I also suspect that if the Pars had deliberately failed to pay their own employees’ PAYE and NIC for a year, failed to submit accounts by 31st March, and refused for two months to provide contractual details for an important investigation, as Rangers have done, they’d be in the Third Division, suspended or expelled by now.
How would I feel about that? Probably far worse than the trip to Inverness or the more recent defeat at Easter Road. In fact, probably far worse than any Dunfermline Athletic relegation I’ve ever witnessed. Relegation for football reasons feels bad. The relegation-decider hurts. I imagine dropping out the top flight without a relegation-decider would be much worse though. Rangers’ Blue Monday could arrive any day now, Monday or not, and it’ll no doubt be bluer than anything I’ve experienced watching football. The air will be blue for one thing, and beyond that, who knows? I dread to think.
Amongst all this twists and turns in this Rangers scandal, there are a few points I can’t ignore. Points which maybe don’t bode well for the Gers.
The idea that a club can exist as a separate entity from its debts is daft and corrupt. Clubs win together, lose together, cheat together, and go bust together. Doing a “phoenix” on a company (avoiding debts via a newco) is a well-known dirty trick in business. It’s barely legal and completely unethical. In sport, it’s known as financial doping and it’s cheating. In sport, cheating gets you banned.
Finally, for anyone who doesn’t know, Blue Monday is a song by New Order.
All the best
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