Stewart Regan, the chief-executive of the Scottish Football Association, when speaking of what might happen should the reformed Rangers not be allowed to carpetbag their way into the top-flight (or at worst the second tier) of Scottish football, came out with this pearl of not-so-wise wisdom:
There were snorts of derision then and they continue to this day. Rightly so because one could not imagine the SFA’s headman pulling out all the strings and quoting the Book of Revelation for a club that had not been as successful as Rangers, a club that did not have the large fanbase of Rangers and a club that didn’t have as much TV appeal as Rangers (certainly on a Scottish scale anyway).
No, the likely scenario for that club would have been what happened to Airdrieonians 10 years earlier. The Lanarkshire club had their own financial difficulties which led to the club being killed off (a small trifling debt to , ironically, Rangers being one of many contributory factors). They reformed as Airdrie United and were told they would have to contest an election with other clubs for Scottish League membership. They lost and only got into the SFL with a somewhat distasteful takeover of struggling Clydebank which stripped that club of their location and name.
Rangers when being let into the third tier of Scottish League football were spared that – and some would say they got a huge break in being let off that (after all, a run-off with the prudently-run Edinburgh club Spartans could well have been a close call).
But what of Regan’s prophecy of doom? It hasn’t really materialised. Sure Celtic have turned the top-flight’s title race into one big long coronation but even had the new Rangers been allowed to jump the queue, would they really have made it a close-run thing given how the Ibrox club has been run since its reformation?
Aberdeen and Dundee United have got their finances in order and seem to be developing good young squads with the former back amongst the silverware last season. St Johnstone won their first ever major trophy and the Scotland team appears to at last be getting its act together and proving itself to be a tough team to beat.
In the capital, one could try and impose the Armageddon theory here but it would be a laughable attempt. Hearts’ financial problems were set in stone long before David Murray drove the Rangers bus to the edge of the cliff with Craig Whyte taking over the wheel to drive it off while Hibs’ problems only stemmed from continuously getting it so wrong when choosing their managers. Both Edinburgh clubs appear to be sorting themselves out with Hearts in a far healthier financial position than they have been in a long while and Hibs announcing today that they have shed the bank debt and will be reforming itself to a fan-owned model in the near future. Not to mention the very real prospect that both may be back in Scotland’s top flight next season.
No, the only case in point where the Armageddon scenario can be applied is at the door of Rangers football club itself. Instead of seeing the fortuitous break given to them by the powers that be in not making them contest an SFL membership election process with the likes of Spartans, Gala and Cove, they continued to behave as if nothing had happened. Throwing money around like confetti in giving huge contracts to players and management even though they would, for the first two years at least, be up against part-time teams. Millions spent just to beat teams consisting of players who combined proper jobs with football?
The route that Hearts would subsequently take in revitalising the youth system could have been taken instead. While the promotion races of Divisions Two and Three might have been closer than they were, you would have still fancied Rangers to come through with points to spare and at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention the support could have galvanised itself like Hearts’ in putting in place the framework for a club that would one day be owned by the fans. After all, Rangers’ support base dwarfs that of the Edinburgh club and could have been done. Instead, their support lay dormant and once again let the snake oil salesmen wheedle their way back into Ibrox.
Of course all that has led to the ‘Punch & Judy Show’ that is being played out in Govan right now. The only thing is, with this version, no one’s laughing and it could get a whole lot worse with the very real possibility that the events of 2012 could be played out once more.
If that happens again, this time, SFA head honcho Reagan would be advised to be quiet. After all, Armageddon has only appeared to threaten one club.