The biggest club death in British football
June 14 ~ Tuesday's news that HMRC would reject and therefore kill the pence-in-the-pound proposal from Rangers' administrators reached me around noon; 12pm on 12/06/12 is a fittingly poetic time of death for The Rangers Football Club plc. The club will now be liquidated. One of the richest histories in world football will be wiped out. Punters and pundits have already moved seamlessly into debating what happens with the inevitable newco Rangers. In what tier will it be allowed to re-enter Scottish football? Businessmen are claiming the history can be transferred like any other asset.
There has been no pause to acknowledge the biggest club death in British football. For Rangers fans this is the nadir of months of existential angsting. What exactly constitutes the club you love? For some, liquidation is a mere technicality. For others, it is the end.
After months of uncertainty, the endgame was swift. Two weeks ago the administrators announced their best plan to save Rangers. It was never very convincing but it was at least a clear strategy, notionally workable and out there. Having been in limbo since mid-February, Rangers fans were desperate for any sign of progress.
Creditors were asked to accept between eight and nine pence in the pound, amid promises of their loyalty being returned when Rangers were back on their feet. The latest consortium trying to buy the Ibrox assets will, despite their media protestations, regard yesterday's rejection of that Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) as the beginning of their true business model. Such is the debt at Ibrox, starting again from scratch was always the best option for any new owner.
Charles Green was previously involved, badly, at Sheffield United. When he appeared at Rangers' last game of last season, wearing a club tie and using the first person plural pronoun whenever a microphone was in the vicinity, he seemed as shady as every potential saviour of late. However, Green's bid was the type one always hoped could save the day. It came in late, apparently from nowhere, without any hoop-la and with a cartel of "private" investors behind it.
Green's enigmatic list of overseas backers is as questionable as his own business past but he claimed to have placed £8.5 million into a Rangers pot of working cash now totalling £10.5m (less than we paid for Tore Andre Flo 12 years ago). From that, a sum of £4.9m would be offered to creditors currently estimated to be owed £55m, including the likes of HMRC, St Etienne, Arsenal, a local newsagent and a face-painting artist.
The CVA required the agreement of creditors totalling 75% of the debt. Revenue & Customs are owed 39% of the total (a total which does not include the £70m potentially owed by Rangers in the ongoing tax case that set the wheels of destruction in motion). On Monday they met the administrators and rejected the CVA. Green and the administrators claimed surprise. Yet HMRC have a stated policy of pursuing liquidation where companies have abused the tax system as Rangers have over the last year.
All this as the long-awaited season ticket renewal forms hit doormats across Scotland. The covering letter, from Green, was sickening in its attempts to blackmail Rangers fans with their own history. Worse still was the inclusion of a ballot paper on re-naming the (Sir David) Murray Park training facility. The late great Davie Cooper's name was prostituted for PR designed to obtain first instalment payments for who-knows-who for god-knows-what before the end of this month.
Among Rangers fans, the blame game will last the rest of our lives. Today it is inconsequential. As is the new company being set up by Green, or whoever may yet choose to outbid him. The only blame that counts today is that Rangers have not paid their taxes. This is "our" fault, as much as any trophy win was "our" achievement. We are to blame and HMRC are exercising their moral and legal right to punish us.
The club I have loved for 35 years, from age seven, is dead. A world record 54 league titles is consigned to the waste bin of history along with 33 Scottish FA and 27 Scottish League Cups, one European Cup-Winners' Cup win and three other European finals.
Many in Scotland, including most Rangers fans, will hope all that has been unsavoury about Rangers down the years will also die today but the newco, I'm afraid, is there to carry that on into what will be either the most toxic or most disinterested atmosphere the Scottish top flight has ever known. All sides are looking to avenge something or other. No change there then.
If the new Rangers are allowed straight back into the SPL, as sponsors and rival chairmen initially wanted, then half the existing Rangers support will abandon the game before one single Celtic, Aberdeen or Kilmarnock punter. Watching a new Rangers would become inevitable for many. Same colours, same stadium, same friends in the stands. What else are we going to do. But if that new club started any higher than the third division of the SFL then, instead of a rebirth, we are watching a dead body having an electric current passed through it. If we're "starting again" then start at the bottom as any new football club would have to. Otherwise it's a zombie club, a tribute act – just one big class reunion.
Like so many Rangers fans, I love all aspects of the game. I have innumerable anorak lists to tick off which see me frequenting plenty of non-Rangers club games each season, in Scotland, England and abroad. But when I attend a German third division match, a friendly at Selhurst Park or a Junior Cup tie in Aberdeenshire, it's the life-long commitment to and love of my own club that lets me know I'm no tourist, that on some level I'm welcome. It lets me understand fully the emotions going on among other fans. The Rangers of 1872 were my ticket in. Now one of the largest supports on the planet is locked out, wondering what the hell to do. Alex Anderson