With the unbridled joy recently experienced by Rangers fans at escaping the appalling governance of the SPL and the explicit persecution of the club which came with it, there is undeniably a feel-good factor about the place right now. Even Ally McCoist is revelling in the new surroundings of Division 3:
“In the last week or so, I can feel a sort of feel-good factor coming back around the team, club, fans and everybody.”
Yesterday’s result would have woken up many of those within the blue persuasion, however, to the increasingly-dawning reality that Division 3 is not going to be a walkover, as some may have alluded to. Despite the SPL-standard squad Rangers mostly have, lower league sides will thrive on the notion of capturing the biggest scalp in their club’s histories by beating the Ibrox men, and will undoubtedly ‘raise their game’ in order to do so. Peterhead came remarkably close to achieving that feat, and it was indeed a wake up call to those assuming life in this division would be a stroll.
However, there is a much bigger picture than ‘merely’ the football. It is an issue which comes under the ‘cross that bridge when we come to it’ category, and it is one which Rangers fans are rather avoiding right now, understandably.
That issue is the future. Specifically, the club’s destination in years to come.
Rangers fans and indeed the club have decried the SPL, a shoddily-run league with dire mismanagement and dreadful PR. Similarly the truly woeful SFA has been condemned; by fans, CEO Charles Green, supporters’ groups and of course McCoist himself. Certain slogans have been devised by supporters, delighted to be away from the SPL which promote the new division the club is in.
However, this creates an inescapable contradiction, and near-paradox. McCoist and supporters, while decrying the top flight, have also described the notion of getting the club ‘back to the big time’ – sadly, in the case of Scotland, this is the SPL.
The division we despise and hate and never want to return to, is the division we need to return to.
There is an issue here, and it will require consideration – Rangers cannot live in the lower leagues forever, and desperately, there is no departure route to England on the cards given the chairmen of the English flights have already rejected the club’s entry:
“We have absolutely no intention of having any discussions with any club from another national league regarding them attaining membership of our competition.” – EFL Chairman Greg Clarke
“If Rangers sent an application letter to the Conference they’d get a letter back saying we couldn’t accept them because we’re signed up to The Football Association structure.” – Brian Lee of the Conference Leagues.
“Our rules are simple. It says we’re a league formed for clubs that play in England and Wales. I don’t see that ever changing. I don’t see that changing on my watch, not that my watch may last for long. There’s more in it for them than there is for us.” – EPL CE Richard Scudamore.
|If he says no, it’s pretty much a no.|
So there is no way ‘the big time’ will ever be England – which means, for Rangers, it has to be a return, eventually, to the top flight of Scottish football – the very place the club and its fans despise and do not wish to engage again.
How do the Rangers and its supporters handle this? It is an inalienable truth that in order to return to where the club needs to be in order to properly move forward, the only possible outcome is eventual promotion to the SPL. Even potential league restructuring by creating SPL2 does not eliminate that problem given the same people will presumably still be in charge of it all and the same clubs who voted ‘no’ will still of course be there.
David Longmuir, of the SFL, the lower leagues’ ‘Stewart Regan’, if you like, has dealt with the entire situation extremely well – if only someone of his integrity had been the SFA’s head, or indeed the SPL’s. But that is not the case – and these top-end authorities remain the governing bodies of the game in this country. And they are the ones Rangers are, like it or not, endeavouring to return to residence under.
Furthermore there is the entire can of worms that is the football side of the SPL, and the distinct hate which has now truly surfaced within the Scottish game, particularly in the relationship between SPL clubs/fans and Rangers. That is something hardly appealing to return to either.
Rangers are in a difficult position, but the one saving grace is it is not, as stated earlier, an immediate problem.
But it will be in the future, and dealing with it will be a real conundrum.