Yesterday’s vote by the SPL members not to permit transfer of the SPL share held by Rangers Football Club PLC to Sevco Scotland Ltd resulted in Stewart Regan, CEO of the SFA, giving out some remarkable and bizarre quotes. He went into full Apocalypse Now mode, and is extensively quoted in many papers, including taking up much of the back page of the Scotsman.
I have taken his quotes below from that paper, and would suggest the whole article is worth a read.
My comments are in bold beneath those of Mr Regan.
“Without Rangers, there is social unrest and a big problem for Scottish society. They have a huge fan base and to contemplate the situation where those fans don’t have a team to support, where those fans are effectively left without a game to follow, I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues, all sorts of problems for the game.
“Social unrest”? “A big problem for Scottish society”? Mr Regan cannot see a pudding without over-egging it! What does Mr Regan think will happen if there was not a team for Rangers fans to support? What will these displaced fans do which will cause “social unrest” and a “big problem for Scottish society”? Presumably the act of not going to watch football does not constitute what Mr Regan fears. What does he forecast then? If the situation is so bad, then surely Government intervention is required? After all, prevention of “social unrest” is one of the vital roles of Government.
By the end of the paragraph however he has calmed down a bit – “I just think that could lead to all sorts of issues, all sorts of problems for the game”. Huge problems for the game? That is a wee bit different from society as a whole, I think. As we shall see, Mr Regan comes across with what seems to be a remarkably low opinion of Rangers supporters.
“Tribalism in football is really important. It is part of the game. People follow their clubs with pride, it is passed down from generation to generation. There are thousands of Rangers fans whose fathers and parents and grandfathers have been Rangers fans. You can’t contemplate a situation without that and if Rangers weren’t to exist that could have real dire consequences.
“Dire consequences” if Rangers cease to exist? For society or for football? He says that a situation without Rangers cannot be contemplated. Well, it can, and it is. Indeed he is doing so himself. Does Mr Regan fear rioting on the streets of Rangers fans lose their club?
As the saga at Ibrox progressed over the last year there have been regular occasions when the rumours have spread that Strathclyde Police had cancelled all leave and were directing all spare officers to Ibrox, or that the security firm used by Rangers Football Club PLC was bussing in hundreds of stewards, in anticipation of a huge and potentially rowdy, if not actually violent, turn out by Rangers fans aggrieved at the latest disaster to befall their team. But these visions have not been true. Rangers fans have conducted themselves with restraint in their public gatherings. Fears of rioting in the streets have been wholly unfounded, and the protests organised by Rangers fans have passed peacefully, to the best of my knowledge.
However Mr Regan seems prepared to insinuate that Rangers fans cannot be trusted to behave themselves. In the context of them being left bereft by the possible disappearance of their team, that is entirely without any evidential basis, as far as I can see.
Rangers fans, like supporters of other clubs, have been criticised for many things and on many occasions, but Mr Regan’s thinly veiled fears of disorder are a calumny on the Rangers support.
What about the times, especially in the 1980’s, when Rangers’ fortunes were at a low ebb? Ibrox was almost empty on a number of occasions as the supporters, dis-satisfied with the product, voted with their feet. What happened? Was there “social unrest”? Did we have a “big problem for Scottish society”?
What about every second weekend, when Rangers play away? There are thousands of Rangers fans who do not go to away games. In fact it is a small minority of Ibrox attendees who go to away games. Whilst some go to watch reserve football or other teams entirely, most do not. Whilst this might make shopping malls busy with disgruntled husbands and fathers, it does not amount to “social unrest”.
“There is a lot of emotion around this subject because Rangers are a huge institution in Scottish football history and they are where they are. Their fans have been hurt, they don’t know what’s happening. There hasn’t been a great deal of leadership at the club and there hasn’t been a huge amount of communication from the football authorities.
One might ask Mr Regan what the SFA did about the lack of leadership at Rangers? One might ask, more pointedly, about the lack of communication from the football authorities. One might even ask Mr Regan if he realises that he is CEO of the body with overall responsibility for Scottish football? If there has been a lack of communication by the football authorities, who is responsible and what is being done to remedy that?
“The SPL have now decided that Rangers won’t be coming back into the SPL. From our perspective it’s important we set out the landscape because there is only one solution for the game now.
We should forgive Mr Regan his semantic error. The vote was not about “Rangers” coming back into the SPL. It was about the transfer of the SPL share. However, we can forgive him because neither he nor his organisation have any role in these matters which might require a certain exactitude of terminology and proper understanding of the issues…
Sorry. I must have been confusing this SFA with another one. Mr Regan’s SFA is involved in deciding what happens.
Mr Regan is one of the following:- careless as to terms he uses, ignorant of what the issues actually were, or fully aware of them but indulging in spin. I leave the reader to decide.
It is good to hear though that there is a solution, and the fact that there is only one makes things nice and easy, doesn’t it?
“The only solution for the game now is that Rangers come into the Scottish Football League and they come into it in the First Division. If Rangers were to go anywhere other than the First Division, then there would something in the region of £15.7 million worth of losses to the game.
It is good to see Mr Regan approaching the issues his body needs to determine with an open mind. The SFA has to decide, as he mentioned below, about membership. It is up to the SFL what to do about admission. There is no obligation I can see on the SFL to admit Sevco Rangers at all, although clearly that is the most likely outcome.
The impression given by Messrs Doncaster and Regan was that they were making frantic efforts to keep a “Rangers” in the SPL, on the basis that a vote against would ruin Scottish football.
Now we hear that anything less than “Rangers” in SFL 1 will cost Scottish football £15.7 million. I like the exactitude. Not “about £15 million” or “between £15 and £20 million” but instead “in the region of £15.7 million”. That suggests a team of SFA accountants working night and day through all the figures to calculate the potential losses. If so, let the public, who after all make up the customer base, see the projections. As matters stand there are many fans who would be unhappy to return to their clubs if they were seen to be over-accommodating to Sevco Rangers. If this is a matter of economic inevitability though, publicising the sums might persuade some fans that their teams, after all, had no choice.
Otherwise the assumption can be made that this is a figure from the back of a cigarette packet.
“For the bigger clubs at the top of the league, that’s half their annual distributions. For clubs at the bottom it is basically wiping out their entire distributions, for some of the smaller clubs it’s a huge proportion of their annual turnover.
If Scottish football had reached the stage where the loss of one team will cause such destruction, then perhaps the structure was unsustainable? Every bit of economic special pleading suggests that Rangers, like Celtic presumably, would be “too biog to fail” or would be “too big to be relegated”. As we have seen part of Rangers’ demise comes from the lack of European income last season. They missed the pot of gold and ended up bust (there were other factors of course).
Does Mr Regan realise that what he is saying suggest that Celtic and Rangers would have to be in the Champions League qualifiers, because without that money they could not survive? How could he contemplate teams finishing ahead of them, for all the economic disaster this would bring?
Football is a business. If a business suffers lost income, it needs to adjust. Some businesses adjust and survive and some fail. Why should football be different, especially where the business most acutely affected is where it is as a result of its own profligate and possibly illegal actions?
“The same will be true for most clubs. Perhaps clubs could survive for a short period of time but it’s not sustainable. Even if Rangers end up in the First Division, there is still going to be a £5 million loss of income to the SPL clubs. The game is not sustainable so there would be a slow lingering death for the game in Scotland. It would then trickle down to the SFL. From our perspective as the governing body and we cannot allow that to happen.
Is he talking of the SPL, or of all SFL clubs too? “Trickle down” is a good phrase to describe what makes it to SFL3 from the rich man’s table at the SPL.
The fact that Mr Regan sees the presence of “Rangers” for even one season in the SFL as leading to a “slow lingering death” for Scottish football is surely a recognition that he, and those at the top of the football governing bodies, should quit for so hopelessly having mismanaged the sport?
As the governing body, “we cannot allow that to happen”! What does that mean? What if one of Celtic or Rangers was relegated? What if one of them was found to have cheated so seriously that they had to be expelled from football, or suspended for a season or two…
Wait a minute. Mr Regan has managed to cause issues with the independent Appellate Tribunal. If it decides to expel “Rangers” on the assumption that it has a membership, then the Appellate Tribunal would kill Scottish football?
Dear Mr Regan, please engage your brain prior to speaking!
“If we allowed that to happen, it would simply be a dereliction of duty. Therefore, this whole decision-making process has been one of the most challenging and complex decisions that I have ever been involved in in 27 years of business as sport.
“Some clubs in the SFL are afraid of the implications of the decisions. There is the moral argument, the fear of a fans’ backlash and there are financial implications to consider. But when we look at the alternative, it is not possible to think about it without thinking of the game withering on the vine. We cannot contemplate that and the message has to be that Division One for Rangers is the only show in town as far as the future of Scottish football is concerned.”
So we will ignore the moral element, the fans’ backlash and the financial implications, because nothing else can be contemplated? What steps have the SFA taken to see if there might be increased TV interest in coverage of SFL3 if Sevco are admitted to there? What about the financial benefits to SFL3 and 2 and 1 teams as Sevco Rangers move up the league? What about the SFL agreeing a new way of distributing gate receipts so that away teams benefit financially from visiting Ibrox? What about suggesting some ideas Mr Regan?
“We have had dialogue with the broadcasters and we understand what the various stakeholders from Sky television, ESPN, Sport Five and a number of the SPL’s other commercial partners are likely to do in the event Rangers are not in either of the top two tiers. It’s not pretty. That’s why we cannot sit back and let that happen without trying to get all parties to accept this is the only solution which can keep the game afloat.
Tell the fans what these parties are saying so that they can make their own decisions. If Sky wants to pull out of Scottish football, then the fans should know so they can decide if they still want to subscribe. Sky have publicly said they do not want out. IS Mr Regan saying they are telling lies?
Why not try to sell the game to the sponsors on the basis that, in fact, this episode might create new interest and vibrancy in the sport. How on earth talking it down with mentions of social unrest and lingering death in any way fulfills his remit, I have no idea.
“Without Old Firm games, the value drops, the overseas deals are almost exclusively about the Old Firm derby and that would go immediately. Then you look at the rest of the game and what it is worth. It is fair to say the broadcasters would live with a year without Rangers in the SPL, because it could be a fantastic story for them, which is why I think First Division rights will be an interest as people will want to see how this club is going to bounce back.”
Maybe, as I said before, the teams should have to live within their means? After all, Celtic have said that they have a business plan which is not dependent on any other team. If Celtic, who stand to lose most money from the disappearance of Rangers can budget for that, why can’t other teams? Or is it the case that the lack of communication from the football authorities has not left other teams time to do so?
“If Rangers don’t get promoted, then the game has got another year to suffer with the financial consequences that brings. I can’t predict what will happen, because Rangers at the moment are a weakened team because of everything that has gone on. They are a newco at the moment, they have got very few players on their books. They are going to be entering the SFL in whatever division with a weakened team and I don’t think it’s by any means certain they are going to come back in the way they or their fans might like them to recover.
So what if they do not get promotion in the first season? Death for Scottish football. As Mr Regan has already said, more than one season outside the SPL cannot be contemplated for “Rangers”. How does he propose to get round the need actually to play games and have a competition?
“It’s going to be a slow recovery to get back to the football fitness they have shown in the past. So we can’t look into the future and say ‘what if they don’t operate in a certain way?’. We can only look at building the foundations, to change the game for the better and provide an infrastructure that can bring financial certainty to the other 41 clubs.”
Why up to now, one might ask, have the football authorities been complicit in a structure where the fate of 41 clubs rests on 1? Is that not an admission of a dereliction of duty?
“The SFA have to transfer Rangers’ membership from oldco to newco. That can be done with any conditions attached to it that the SFA board deem fit. We would expect a newco to carry some of the sanctions which would have related to the club had it still been in the previous incarnation. The membership cannot be transferred on financial grounds alone. It has to have a degree of sporting integrity and that means sporting sanctions.”
A “degree of sporting integrity”. That could be Mr Regan’s epitaph. And why should a newco only carry “some” of the sanctions? If newco is taken as a continuation of oldco, then surely all sanctions should apply? Who decides what sanctions are and are not applicable? Will it be the Appellate Tribunal, Mr Regan or the SFA Board?
Addendum – I had joked that undoubtedly Mr Regan would claim to have been misquoted. Imagine my surprise to find the following story on the BBC website – Rangers: SFA chief Stewart Regan clarifies “social unrest” concerns.
“It’s important to stress that the reference to social unrest was in the context of no Rangers being in existence. My discussions with a number of media outlets last night centred on what may or may not happen to Rangers in the future.
“In the event there wasn’t a Rangers, that’s got dire consequences of the game and for Scottish society, generally. The economic impact and social unrest are all things that could result as an impact of having no Rangers.
“However, I think the main focus last night was talking about what happens to Rangers in the immediate future after yesterday’s decision by the SPL and trying to focus on which division Rangers will play in next season.
“That matter will be considered next week by the Scottish Football League and, hopefully, there’ll be an outcome whereby Rangers will be accepted into Division One of the SFL; which would allow some financial stability for clubs in the country.”
It was to be expected that Mr Regan would seek to clarify matters. However his clarification makes little or no difference to what he said.
It is quite clear that his comments were in the context of there being no Rangers. However, it still takes us no further forward in understanding why there will be these dire consequences for the game and for Scottish society should a football team cease to be.
Mr Regan holds a vital role in Scottish football. He heads the overall governing body and as such has a duty to act in the interests of his members and also in the interests of the game of football itself.
The economic welfare of Scottish football is part of his responsibility, but that is more the remit of the Leagues. The SFA is meant to be above these matters, looking to address the good of the game.
The whole situation with the administration of Rangers Football Club PLC however is totally distorting the fabric of Scottish football entirely. The structure and survival of the game seems to be predicated on the welfare of one team.
That team is in its present position not because of some force majeure. It is where it is, which involves all its assets having been sold out from the insolvent company which operated it, because of deliberate non-payment of taxes, which were then used to fund the team, and as a result of the weight of a huge and allegedly illegal tax reduction scheme which did not just break the rules regarding tax, but also is alleged to have done the same with those of football.
Mr Green and Sevco appeared in an effort to pick up the pieces. However the adamant insistence that his company is the old one, well, except for paying debts etc, means that any goodwill that might otherwise have come from neutrals is in short supply.
The frantic efforts of Mr Regan to maintain “Rangers” in the SPL, and now in SFL1, or in a newly created SPL2, do his organisation a dis-service. It looks as if Mr Regan is an advocate for “Rangers” and that one team controls the destiny of forty one.
Predictions of the collapse of society should there not be a Rangers, and the collapse of Scottish football unless they regain a place in the SPL in one year are nothing but nonsense. If Mr Regan believes them, then he is either deluded or has seen evidence so stark that he has been terrified to reveal it to anyone else. I would not want to suggest that he is engaging in deliberate scare-mongering to terrify his member clubs into compliance.
If a trenchant critic of the SFA wanted evidence for criticism, then these statements by Mr Regan hit the nail on the head. Lack of communication; lack of business acumen; lack of planning; over-reliance on one team to the potential dtriment of all others…the list goes on.
I posed a number of questions for the SFA earlier. Perhaps I missed the obvious ones – are there any lengths to which the SFA will not go in an effort to promote the interests of the entity now under the name of Sevco Scotland Ltd. And in that event, why?
Posted by Paul McConville