As we enter the second month of 2015, the saga looks nowhere near finished and instead on the verge of a collapse, as battle-hardened Rangers fans throw in the towel and choose instead to stay at home. The sharp fall in attendances, and one could argue support, within the old ground looks to have hit the club hardest of all, as she struggles to make it from day-to-day, with one financial disaster following another. My colleague Chris McLaughlin has written an excellent article on the Rangers debate, and I urge you all to check it out.
But, as the Editor of the sporting section, I find it odd to commit words to paper essentially killing a club that has stood for over one-hundred years. A club that has survived disasters – this month marking the forty-forth year from the horrific Ibrox Disaster – monumental upsets on the park and even the near death experience of its greatest rival, Celtic FC. How those of a green and white persuasion in the city must look on Rangers and wonder. Wonder just what went so wrong in the famous red walls as to push one of Europe’s biggest ever clubs towards the continued risk of liquidation and certain death.
The reasons for this may never be all that clear but one thing is becoming ever clearer as the days drag on and on. The heart of Rangers FC – or The Rangers FC as they are now known – has been torn from her chest due to nothing other than human greed. Greed on behalf of Mr Murray and his personal quest for European glory, which led to the infamous Employee Benefit Trusts that would eventually cripple the club in the eyes of the taxman. Greed on behalf of the players who have turned out in the famous royal blue with no motives beyond their massive wage slips, in no small part boosted by the EBTs, playing with the passion expected of your average accountant and not of an iconic Old Firm player.
But, worst and most damaging of all, the satanic greed the men who now make up the crumbling Rangers boardroom have destroyed anything left which even slightly resembled the aforementioned Bill Struth’s famous club. With the club struggling to keep herself afloat, and with a new cast of pompous villains squeezing every penny it can from the weary fans, the club is now a mockery. Almost every week, newspapers like this very one are filled with tales of struggle and sacrifice, as the Rangers board continue to wrestle with their own greed and the needs of the club to keep her afloat.
Just this week the board appeared tempted to give in to the demands of Mike Ashley and hand over the rights to Ibrox in exchange for a meager £10 million which would probably have disappeared by the beginning of next season, lining the pockets of the detested Easdale brothers and perhaps more maligned Kris Boyd. A rightful outcry from supporters and fan groups alike appears to have been the only thing which swayed the pendulum away from the sweaty grasp of Mike Ashley and closer – albeit marginally – to the true club. Sadly, though, for the foreseeable future, Mike Ashley will continue to dictate the future of Rangers.
But, perhaps I could argue that the demise of Rangers – and arguably of Celtic – was merely an inevitable consequence of the violent thrust forward football has taken into the world of television rights and celebrity. Players such as John Greig and Billy McNeill, true legends of their respective Old Firm clubs, played in a time where kicking a ball about was considered more of a sporting endeavor than a celebratory lifestyle. And perhaps the change from this lifestyle has killed the Old Firm clubs, pulling them down from their self-proclaimed thrones and into the doldrums of mediocrity. Many years ago, it would have been disgraceful for Celtic FC to lose to NK Maribor of Slovenia – who were only founded seven years before the great Celtic triumph of 1967 – but now it is inevitable.
The Rangers saga is a long running and altogether sickening one. One of the greatest clubs in the history of the game, with a length of titles longer than any other, finds herself thrust into the depths of the Scottish game, tainted by a guise of previously held superiority. Rangers, and in some ways, Celtic’s demise is disheartening. In their long and illustrious histories both clubs have faced many challenges, but never more so than now. Whilst Celtic’s bitter struggles for survival in the eighties and nineties mirrors that of their famous rivals, the fall from grace of the Scottish game, from the top of the ladder, to the levels of our great Hungarian brethren, makes the Rangers scenario more desperate than theirs ever was.
Rangers FC has been betrayed by enough pantomime villains in recent years to last most institutions a millennia. What brought the drastic downfall on the club was that of pure human greed. The same greed that now threatens to destroy the club before its journey back to the top is complete.