11 January 2013

Rangers: Moving South?

by Alan Clark | CRO Contributor

It’s that time again: the time when Rangers fans think about just how great life would if we could fulfil the true potential of our great institution by playing in England’s prestigious Premier League.
It’s also the one time when Celtic supporters rarely feel the same way. But of course now that they have a super sponsorship with Magners, completely separate from “Sevco”, they can make plans on their own.  Or so we are told.
The rest of Scottish Football meanwhile comes out in force with witty and completely original retorts such as “close the door on the way out” and “the league would thrive without the ugly sisters”. Thankfully, they haven’t given up the day jobs.
The debate about Rangers and/or Celtic joining the English leagues has bubbled to the surface  again this week as Rangers’ chief executive Charles Green commented about the club leaving Scottish football after league reconstruction proposals were put forward. Green mentioned looking into every option but was honest enough to concede that there didn't appear to be one at this point in time. That of course hasn’t stopped the media twisting and deliberately misrepresenting his words. But what else did you expect?
By now everyone will know that the three governing bodies have agreed in principle plans to have a 12-12-18 league structure with the two top-tiers transforming into three mini-leagues of 8 after 22 matches. The supporters, the ones that really matter in all of this, have voiced their concerns at the plans and, more importantly, the fact they have been completely ignored.
It therefore shouldn’t surprise people that Green uttered those words about considering a way out of Scottish football for Rangers, especially with events of 2012 and the upcoming SPL commission which could potentially lead to the stripping of titles.  
At this moment in time, though, there is simply no easy option screaming out for the Rangers board to examine. Talk of an Atlantic or European League has never taken off and is unlikely to do so anytime soon  meanwhile English Premier League chiefs have said in the recent past that the club and rivals Celtic should certainly not hold their breath waiting on an invite.
Joining the Premier League directly will never happen. It is a pipe dream. Managers like Arsene Wenger of Arsenal and QPR’s Harry Redknapp today spoke glowingly about having Rangers and our rivals in their league. At the end of the day, though, their opinions are not the ones that count. Put simply, the clubs’ boards will never allow us in. It would mean the lower half of the league is pushed downwards while the top-half has another two fierce competitors. The cliché ‘turkeys don’t vote for Christmas’ springs immediately to mind.
It could be argued that, with the television revenue gained in the Premier League and with the current and potential size of the two clubs, that Rangers and Celtic could be title challengers within a period of ten years to the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea. While that would certainly be attractive to broadcasters, the clubs themselves are unlikely to look quite so positively at such things.
A possible route for the club to actively look into could be joining England’s sixth-tier, the Conference North. This league currently has 22 teams, as does its regional sister the Conference South, and the winners then go into the Conference National which has 24 teams and where finishing second to fifth would see you enter a play-off system.
For me, joining any league above the Conference is just not viable. In fact, even joining the Conference National would still be likely to upset the apple cart. Therefore joining the 22-team Conference North seems to be the most plausible and likely option.
Our addition would most probably mean promotion is denied for the winners of the Northern Premier League and the other NPL play-off team. Some might say that it is completely unfair but not perhaps when you consider that every winner of the NPL since 2006 has refused to be promoted to the Conference North due to issues such as the increased cost of travel and such likes.
Also, I highly doubt that any right-thinking person could possibly turn down Rangers over the likes of North Ferriby United, Hednesford Town and Witton Albion. It just wouldn’t make sense. That surely has to go in our favour.
Given the fact that Rangers have played in the FA Cup and have therefore been members of the FA, this is one avenue that Green and the board should look into and evaluate whether the authorities south of the border would go for it. Some have even speculated that the club never relinquished its membership from the 19th century. It would certainly worth taking a closer look at.
We have seen the financial boost that Rangers Football Club has given the Third Division this season. I’m sure that many clubs in the Conference North, who are mainly semi-professional, would love the financial boost that having the Teddy Bears in their league would bring, as well as the increased coverage. Everyone’s a winner.
It would be fascinating to see the response that an application to the Conference North would bring for Rangers. After all, it is in all honesty the only possible route that the club could take in order to gain access to the hugely wealthy Premier League. Realistically, you would expect Rangers and Celtic to get consecutive promotions through winning the league or through the play-offs up until the Championship. That’s where the quality is really stepped up and initially I’d wager that both clubs would be frustrated in their promotion attempts.
In time however I believe that both would reach the Premier League and, once there, the two would thrive and grow considerably. With worldwide exposure and the television money that EPL clubs are awarded, it certainly wouldn’t take long before the top four or even the title was firmly in our sights.
Taking into account everything that has recently happened in Scottish football, and is still continuing to happen, it is definitely something worth considering.  Or is it perhaps just something to ridicule? I suppose I’ll leave that up to you guys.