The sorry mess of Scottish football didn't just appear the day Rangers entered administration on the 14th February. Problems ran deeper than Craig Whyte's tenure in charge of the great Glasgow club. Problems started by David Murray some 20 years ago, which are only now coming to the surface as an internal investigation from every side of Scotland prods and pokes at the infrastructure of a damaged, debilitated and nearly dead club.
News of liquidation rocked Scotland to the core, and left football facing the grim reality of playing without one of its most illustrious sides. Luckily, a consortium led by Charles Green is in the process of forming the club as a newco and Rangers will continue, albeit not as Rangers FC, to compete in Scottish football. Where though? No-one knows.
Until the Scottish Premier League vote on 4th July to decide whether or not the newco will be introduced to the league for the coming season, there is a great deal of uncertainty around the future of staff at the club. Several key players have moved already to signal their intentions that they won't transfer their existing contracts over to the newco, instead opting to leave for free. A decision taken after a host of SPL sides vowed that they would vote 'no to newco' which would see Rangers ply their trade in one of the lower SFL divisions.
So, faced with the impending ruling that they will compete in either the Third or, more realistically, the First Division of Scottish football, what does it mean for the Rangers players?
The situation bears an uncanny resemblance to the Calciopoli scandal which engulfed Italian football in the summer of 2006. Although this concerned match-fixing at board-room level all the way down to the pitch, it also brought shame on the champions of their country.
Juventus were heavily fined, deducted points and demoted to Serie B as punishment for their part in the scandal. Sanctions which were received differently according to Italian writer Gino De Blasio 'It was a mixed reaction from fans of the Old Lady. Differing from one degree where it was the right thing to do, to another where the punishment was the greatest conspiracy since the Kennedy assassination' - a reaction shared by many Rangers fans as they face life outside the SPL.
Personal opinion will determine which offence you consider more severe.
Whereas Juventus' offence was an organised and sustained act of corruption, Rangers have effectively cheated the system by the improper use of EBT's which contributed to a major tax bill owed to HMRC.
Some will argue that Rangers not only cheated their opponents, but swindled society by failing to pay the required amount of tax when running their business. Others feel the club is being punished for financial mismanagement from directors and owners who should have known better. No matter whom you are there will be some varying level of guilt and embarrassment at the crime committed, and a feeling of injustice at how it's all been dealt with.
The players will feel the same. Like the Calciopoli, no player came under direct punishment as they played no part in the wrongdoing. There's an understandable sense of frustration and worry among those involved at Rangers with Steven Naismith insisting there is 'too much uncertainty' surrounding the newco. He leads a line of key players who have, in the last week, vowed to leave the club on a free and seek football elsewhere. There is uncertainty everywhere, not least financially for the squad, but are the Rangers players right to make this move before the SPL vote on the 4th July? There could be suggestions that they might not be right at all.
When Juventus were dealt with demotion to Serie B in the summer of '06, they lost influential and experienced players like Patrick Vieira, Fabio Cannavaro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lilian Thuram among others. Crucially though, they retained an Italian spine through their team with Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon dovetailed by Claudio Marchisio and Federico Balzaretti. The presence of Pavel Nedved post-demotion was also a huge bonus which showed immense loyalty to a club that had served him well.
Now, players such as Steven Naismith, Alan McGregor and Sone Aluko have abandoned Ibrox and the fans who idolised them during the most successful spells of their career. Why is there no Juventus-like loyalty?
As Naismith said himself 'We owe no loyalty to the new club. There is no history there for us' and he may well be right, but is it as black and white as that? Rangers fans are quick to say the history remains, so why do the players feel differently?
Ultimately, it is down to the league. Existing contracts mean that the higher-earning players will continue to be paid well while in Division 1. Alternatively, if they remained, Charles Green could be in a position to sell some of the more valuable assets for a cheap price which would help the newco fund itself. That's where their loyalty should lie. In repaying the fans that will support the newco as well as the old one. Fans that will be eternally thankful for the collective pay-cut the players took mid-season. Fans that will continue to support regardless of the name. Fans that need something to hold on to.
Would dropping down to the First Division have that much of a detrimental effect on the careers of the majority of the Rangers squad? Possibly Lee McCulloch because of his age, but even he has promised to help restore Rangers to their former position with a year in the SFL. Gianluigi Buffon suffered one season in Serie B while at the peak of his powers following Italy's World Cup win in '06. Del Piero too.
If those players can do it, then why can't the majority of the Rangers squad? No disrespect to the standard of the First Division, but this current Rangers team would run away with the league and be back where they belong in a year. If not, I'm sure the 'gers' fans would join together in wishing their stars the best elsewhere.
It's an understandable decision they have taken, but will it prove to end any chance of an immediate Rangers revival? Only time will tell.
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