03 January 2013

Why Rangers Fans Should Not Fear Title Stripping

By Bill McMurdo | CRO Editor-at-large

More than a few bluenoses are waiting with trepidation for the results of the SPL inquiry into Rangers' use of EBTs and side letters.

There is a genuine fear among the Rangers support that the end result of this inquiry will be the stripping of several SPL titles.

I believe this to be something we shouldn't fear - and for very good reasons.

Make no mistake, I think there are those in the SPL who would dearly love to try and strip Rangers of titles. However, the momentum has been lost in terms of their ability to do so. Rangers FC is no longer on its knees, defenceless against the brute savagery of those who were lining up to kick us.

No, the club is strong and getting stronger. The playing squad is nowhere near the acceptable Rangers standard yet - but there is no need to sign players of that calibre while we work our way through the divisions. On top of this, several of Coisty's Cubs show signs of being able to grow into the quality of player we will need in a few years time.

It has to be remembered that the SPL is in real trouble. If its proposals for reconstruction are booted out, it must continue in its present downward spiral or capitulate to the SFL proposals. If and when that happens, there will most likely no longer be an SPL in its present form. A new amalgamated ruling body will be created - one which will be much more heavily influenced by David Longmuir and his colleagues. In fact, it is very likely that Longmuir will be the new supremo of such a body.

So the SPL has a very limited window in which to pursue any title stripping. It also has to factor in the repercussions of taking such action.

Firstly, there is the enormous reaction this would receive from both Rangers fans and the club itself. Stripping Rangers of titles would really be akin to declaring civil war in Scottish football.

Then there are the literally global repercussions. As pointed out by my fellow blogger David Leggat, any ruling that Rangers players were unlawfully registered - i.e. effectively unregistered  - will not just apply to domestic games played by those players but will also apply to European and international fixtures which these players were involved in. Theoretically, any club or national team would have a right of appeal to FIFA if they lost games featuring these unregistered players.

This actually could reflect badly on the SFA as they may be sanctioned by FIFA for fielding unregistered players in international matches!

On top of this is the fact that stripping Rangers of honours won on the field of play will spark off legal action by the players who won the silverware. Does the SPL have the funds and resources to fight this massive legal battle? I am aware that more than a few Rangers players from the time in question are determined to go to court should the SPL take the title stripping route.

It is also entirely feasible that corporate sponsors of the SPL could seek legal redress as their involvement would be, in effect, completely devalued by the nulling and voiding of titles. I am sure that television companies who bought the rights to show SPL games will also take a dim view of being told they bought a pig in a poke.

All of these things are powerful incentives for the SPL to consider binning the whole idea of title stripping. But there are two even more compelling reasons why Gers fans should sleep soundly in their beds and not fear.

Firstly, reconstruction must and will happen in our game. If the SPL tighten the noose round their own necks further by stripping Rangers of titles, then the solution is very simple:-

As a non-negotiable term of Rangers being involved in any reconstruction plans, the reinstatement of any and all stripped titles would be demanded by the club.

In a nutshell, reconstruction cannot happen without Rangers' participation. It should be made clear that such participation will NEVER happen until the title stripping decision is rescinded.

It should be remembered that reconstruction will very likely take place under the auspices of an amalgamated body, one which will feature prominent inclusion and involvement of those clubs presently in the SFL. It is entirely possible that Rangers can procure from the SFL itself a commitment that reinstating stripped titles would be demanded as part of any bargaining process.

The second compelling reason why we should not fear the plundering of titles is arguably the biggest of all.

I am talking about Sky Television.

It is my understanding that Sky are more than prepared to play hardball on Rangers' behalf should the farcical SPL continue to downgrade the product by pursuing their Rangers-hating agenda. It may just be Sky executives who tell the footballing authorities in Scotland that stripping Rangers of silverware is a big no-no if they want to retain their television-funded lifestyles.

And finally, there is one other aspect of this whole business that I have referred to more than once. It is the real question about side letters and off-book payments. That question is not: Are Rangers guilty? It is: Are all the other teams innocent?

It's only a  matter of time before at least one other club is exposed for finding creative ways to pay a player for his services on the field outwith his contract. I know such things are a part of the game here in Scotland, as do others. Let's just say that you wouldn't go broke selling brown envelopes to football teams in Scotland - or anywhere else for that matter.

Those caught up in a Rangers-hating frenzy and bloodlust to strip the Gers of silverware should ask themselves if they really want to open Pandora's Box.

Bill can be found on Twitter at @WilliamMcMurdo and via email: bmcmurdo@thecoplandroad.org