Debt, mismanagement, corruption, lawsuits, missed payments and boardroom crises have finally inflicted the worst damage they can: on what happens on the pitch (Image | The Daily Mirror).

The sorry tale of Rangers Football Club is a sad refrain. In the latest blow to the club and its supporters, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) announced last night that it even considered throwing Rangers out of Scottish football. The same Rangers that has 54 league titles and currently holds the record for the biggest number of trophies won by a UEFA-recognised team. The blame game is well underway, but it is worth revisiting the causes of the club’s all-consuming crisis.

The cracks began to appear with the sale of Rangers from David Murray to Craig Whyte, around this time last year. Although Ally McCoist’s side went on to lift the league title, all was not well. This was confirmed when, on February 13, the Ibrox outfit went into administration, an act which saw Rangers docked 10 points and the title in effect handed to arch-rivals Celtic.

Even in April 2010, just five months after it was announced that Rangers’ debts had risen to £31m, the club confirmed that it was being investigated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over offshore payments to players. The total bill from this, it was said, could be £49m.

In the course of Whyte’s full takeover at the club, former chairman Alastair Johnston left his post, as did director Paul Murray. Chief executive Martin Bain and director Donald McIntyre were suspended. Both Bain and McIntyre pursued legal cases against Rangers, and it emerged in November last year that Whyte had formerly been disqualified as a company director from 2000-2007.

This was a problem, because an investigative television programme in Scotland claimed that Whyte had been a “de-facto director” of a company, known as Re-Tex, during this period. Other criminal actions were alleged against the 40-year-old.

Craig Whyte has been subjected to a £200,000 fine and had a lifetime ban from Scottish football rightly imposed upon him, but does this punishment go far enough? (Image | The Daily Telegraph).

So who is to blame for the above? Many supporters point the finger at Whyte himself. The club did have huge debts, as detailed above, but a reduction was being made, leading to a total of £14m in November last year. The problem was, however, that rather than investing his own money in the club, as new owners tend to do, Whyte simply mortgaged future season ticket sales in order to raise funds, to the tune of £24m.

From there came the failure to pay off the £9m bill to HMRC, which directly caused the club’s descent into administration. On the pitch, McCoist has seen his work cut out, particularly with the sale of top scorer and talent Nikica Jelavić to Everton for £6m. While few could deny that the club needed the money, firstly the Croatian’s 14 goals in 22 games ought to have commanded a higher free, and secondly, the money was not invested in a replacement and the deal was completed with insufficient time remaining to do so.

Scottish newspaper The Daily Record reported on the SFA panel’s verdict on Whyte’s 10 months in charge in Glasgow, calling the venture capitalist a “liar” and describing his style of ownership as “typically slapdash.” The article in question said that the panel had concluded the following: Whyte presided over a “complete breakdown of corporate governance” at the club and engaged in “scandalous business activities.”

The report added: “Craig Whyte’s interests lay only with Craig Whyte”, and alleged that his conduct not only brought Scottish football into disrepute, but was “intentional and calculated” and had had “a corrosive effect on the reputation of a proud club”.

It is worth noting that when the panel made its conclusions and slapped a £160,000 fine on Rangers, as well as a potentially debilitating 12-month embargo on signing players, Whyte was not present. Rangers were found guilty of five charges, and although the disgraced former owner has been hit with a lifetime ban from Scottish football, some feel this punishment is insufficient.

Whyte described himself as a “Rangers supporter” and said, upon purcashing the club that he wished to help it “secure its future as a leading force in Scottish and European football.”

He added: “Rangers is a great club with a great future. It has the best supporters in the world and I will do everything possible to protect and enhance the club’s standing going forward.”

Few would blame manager Ally McCoist from walking away from the Ibrox catastrophe, and indeed, a lesser man may have done. (Image | The Drum).

It would appear that the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions, as Whyte’s actions have unintentionally brought an even bigger storm on an already flagging institution. To move back to football briefly, the club’s transfer embargo has decimated any title chances it might have had, and ensured that even more than usual, the Scottish title race will be a dead rubber.

In terms of the rules Rangers broke, the panel said that “only match fixing in its various forms might be a more serious breach” of the regulations the SFA adheres to. One cannot condone the decade of mismanagement at Rangers, and clubs cannot be allowed to accrue such debts, but once again, the actions (or indeed inaction) of an owner have led to the ruination of football as it should be played: on the pitch, not in the boardroom.

The club’s disaster impacts on everyone. Players, many of whom have accepted pay cuts of up to 75%. Fans, for whom the next year will undoubtedly be a wasted one; and finally, the manager, McCoist, who having seen his best player sold from underneath him without warning, will now have to preside over a team severely hampered in more ways than one.

Back to Football

Follow The Armchair Pundits on Twitter (@armchairpundit2) or “like” our Facebook page for new articles and exclusive content.

Advertisements